Grand Marshall

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday July 28, 2007 in

I had an amazing and wonderful thing happen to me. I got a call from the Camas-Washougal chamber asking me if I would be the Grand Marshal of this year’s Camas Days Parade.

What an honor! I mean, it’s not something you say no to, is it. I published the book Washougal this year, about the town of Washougal. Pat Jallota’s book Camas, about, you guessed it, Camas, last month. The books have been very well received and so…presto! An amazing invitation for Pat and I to serve as co-Grand Marshals for the parade.

Pat was in Ireland. I am sorry for her….though being in Ireland is pretty good, too. lol. Still, I know she must have been disappointed.

And that meant (wow!), I was the lone (attending) Grand Marshal.

Question is…. what should I wear ?!

The theme for the parade was ‘Bringing Home the Tropics.’ lol.

In a year where historians are Grand Marshals, this is a very tricky theme! I mean….there is nothing island-tropical about Camas/Washougal! Norwegians? Fins? Poles…yeah. We got those. We have ferns, too. And rain.

But orchids? Parrots? Not so much.

Originally thought I’d wear something pioneering: a shawl, bonnet, gloves. But with a tropics theme, that pretty much goes out the window. Camas/Washougal isn’t very tropical, but the Pioneers, especially, were not! lol. Can’t you see it? Those sturdy men and women stopping in Minnesota to pack their wagons full: beans, flour, a chest with their grandmother’s china, a few hula skirts and a big basket of conch shells. One last big luau, and then BAM!, it’s out they go across the prairie.

But you know…there is a historical connection. (So quit giggling all of you!) That connection is Captain Robert Gray, the Columbia Rediviva, and the fur trade. Robert Gray was part fur trader, part explorer. In 1792, he sailed the his ship, the Columbia Rediviva , across the sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River—thereby “discovering” the Columbia River and claiming it for America. They stayed 13 days on the river, and then Gray, as a good fur trader captain, got back to work, sailing now to China to trade for spices.

Between the Pacific Northwest and China, Robert Gray stopped in Hawaii. That’s right, beautiful tropical Hawaii. There he replenished his supplies, rested his crew, and also picked up young Hawaiian men who wanted to work in the fur trade. They traded their work for ship’s passage to new and different lands.

In the early days of the Hudson Bay Co., there were a number of Hawaiians and Polynesians who worked in what would become Oregon/Washington Territory. They came as workers and from what I understand, most of them were willing—though it might not have turned out quite like they expected.

[Note to 18th century Hawaiians: Why? Why go to work on a cramped, slimy European ship surrounded by the stink of unwashed, lash-happy shipmates, when you might otherwise live in the perfect paradise that is Hawaii?]

[Note to self: I should research this. It’s very interesting!]

Anyway. The Hawaiians worked for fur trading companies like Hudson Bay Co. in Clark County long before there was a Clark County and at least through the 1860s. The earliest pioneers tell of seeing Hawaiians at the Hudson Bay trading posts under John McLoughlin. Hawaiians worked alongside Irishmen, Welshmen, Scots, French, and the Chinook as trappers, bundlers, and general laborers.

OK! There’s the real-life historical connection between Camas/Washougal and the tropics. I can keep my ‘historian’ dignity intact and still have a whole lot of fun with the Camas Days parade theme.

But….what to wear???

In the end I decided on a ship captain’s coat and tricorne colonial hat. Ok, ok, so the costume was more ‘Craft Warehouse’ than ‘The History Channel,’ lol. Fine. But I was Captain Robert Gray, complete with lei and orchids, waving to the crowd from the Columbia Rediviva (a red convertible mustang, in this instance) and loving it.

[Note to my driver Craig and his assistant Conner: Thank you!!]

Though to most everyone I passed I just looked like a pirate, (Gray was also missing an eye, but I didn’t wear an eye patch because that would have made me WAY too pirate-y) it didn’t matter. I was historically correct—in the conceptuals, anyway.

[Note to readers: Wow! What a long blog! Sorry about that. It’s just that this was such a big event. And I’m still so excited.]

I had an absolute fabulous time. Being ‘Grand Marshal’ is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Well, usually it’s a never-in-a-lifetime thing. And Camas/Washougal is a really great place. I think Camas recently came up 37th on the top 100 small towns in America, so it isn’t just me who thinks so.

I hope I did my community proud. The kids especially loved the costume and the announcer introduced me as a “famous local author.” Wow. I’m blessed.

Though it took me three days to sew the coat, and I was up to 4 and 5 am doing it, getting in the spirit for the community and the parade was more than worth it. To the local kids, I wasn’t just some some boring, dusty history lady—I was a scallywag. Arrr.

That’s right. History ROCKS!

Did Monks wear Underpants?

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday July 24, 2007 in

I have been reading some pretty wonderful stuff on monastics and the ideals of the life of the monk, his relationship with his fellows in Christ, and I tell you, it all makes me very philosophical.

[Note to self: Thoughts about the democracy of brotherhood, and the idea of a single person’s ‘service’ as a sacred expression of his place within a group….really need a blog that doesn’t mention or deal in any way with underpants.]

I have been transcribing Gasquet’s English Monastic Life for the web so it can be available for the monk-enthused to read. A niche audience, I grant you. But I hope a sparkling one, questing to know the hidden secrets of monks such as: Did monks wear underpants? lol.

Answer: Yes, monks in the northern European countries, England and Scandinavia, wore underpants. The people descended from ‘Barbarians’ who liked to wear trousers, and so ‘trousers’ or ‘drawers’ were incorporated into the habits of the (cold-in-the-winter) ‘barbarian-descended’ monks of England. The Romans did not wear underpants, or trousers, until they became co-mingled with, and influenced by, the barbarous fashions of the north. (At least some Romans in Britain, for example, also wore socks with their sandals.)

(The barbarians’ love of trousers, unfortunately, does not answer the ‘what does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt’ question, because although some Scotsmen were monks, Scottish monks did not wear kilts. Sorry.)

The exception to the trousers/drawers rule was with the Order of Cistercian Monks, whose Order began in France. (A warm part, I hope.) These bare-bottomed monks kept warm under their robes by other means during English winters, and spurned barbaric drawers to follow the purer, breezy-bottom fashions of the Romans.

There you have it.

You will also be happy to know I am transcribing Gasquet’s information regarding much larger and more important questions than just the underpants question.

As an abbot, church historian, and Vatican Librarian, Gasquet’s account of Monastic life is as idealistic and as wholesome as it comes. And perhaps we know that real life monks of yester-yore did not always behave so well as Gasquet describes. In fact, we know that they behaved in the worst possible ways, at times. But frankly, it’s nice to know what was supposed to be going on—even if it wasn’t—and how the Custumals of the day exhorted the brethren to charity, solemnity, and Christian brotherhood.

Click over to my monastic page if you like and read a little. Though Methuen & Co. published the book in 1904, it is still newsy and interesting, and speaks with a clear and easy voice.

Who is Jane Benjamin?

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday June 30, 2007 in

My books are here! Well, some of them. I have three more coming. Yes!

The pics in English Seals may not be worth scanning and posting, they’re really too poor in quality and only the most basic details are in evidence.

But English Monastic Life (find my web version here )boasts three maps (one largish) of monastery plans and a number of drawings of monastic costume—what a boon! I had the hardest time trying to find anything in particular about monkish habits over the medieval centuries. I will scan and post these as soon as my office is cleaned up.

[Note to self: You really have to clean your office first. No whining.]

As to L.P. Welby, who bought the book and signed it in 1904, and Nichola Mireley, who owned it after, thank you, thank you for your book and for the maps still neatly folded. Would that I knew you both and so a little of this volume’s history.

The other book Manorial Records, 321.3 H75, belonged to Bryn Mawr College Library, with a shadow on page one that suggests an owner’s bookplate was removed at some point since. Inside the back cover is an old library pocket complete with stamp card. Jane Benjamin was the last named person to check the book out, due November 7, 1961—before I was born. Jane checked the book out twice, renewing it from September. A fresh Date Due sheet on the facing page bears a single stamp, 15 May, 1978.


What is it about history, even the smallest stamp, that is so enthralling to me? Is it that sense of human connection through time? People, events, books, minds, hopes, dreams…. Yes, I think it is.

The Real 'Debt to Society'

Posted by: Richenda at Friday June 22, 2007 in

I woke this morning with a really strong sentiment swimming in my mind. An impression from my dreams. The feeling was very strong.

The gist was practical. The dream told me that the real way that criminals who are parents can pay their debt to society is to raise their children well.

This makes so much sense if you think about it. The child of a criminal who is essentially abandoned and made ‘orphan’ by their parents (whose behavior led to their incarceration) and the state (who incarcerated them) suffers a great deal. Parental ties, even bad ones, make a deep and lasting impact on the child’s psyche. It is the starting place of that child’s development, and is the place from which that child can either stagnate in hurt and injustice, or grow and develop well.

A child raised with love and care will be a much, much better citizen than one who is made abandoned by a system that insists on incarceration as a remedy for all social evils. The parent’s effort in raising a healthy, loved child is far, far more valuable to society than is their punishment through incarceration.

Instead of simply incarcerating parents, then, there should be a kind of parent re-hab. Those who are lousy parents were often (no surprise here) the children of lousy parents. Let’s not make more criminals by allowing this cycle to continue unabated.

Rehab is surprisingly effective when done well. The parent finds themselves in a caring but firm environment where they will be asked to deal with their emotional issues (however hard that may be) and learn the brass tacks of parenting—things they should have learned from their own parents, but didn’t. Or things that just went wrong in their lives that they could not remedy for themselves.

The child, too, participates in this process, though in a much gentler way with an emphasis on creating a very safe environment for them. There are already programs in place that do this in a wide variety of places. Homes for teen mothers, for example, help mom and baby bond in a healthy way that gives that child the very best start in the world and helps mom be a good parent the rest of her life. Women’s prisons also sometimes run programs like this.

In England, there is a movement away from incarcerating women. The argument is a good one—women are not the main movers in committing crimes, they are accomplices to their husbands and boyfriends or are dragged into an unhealthy relationship and act out. There is little to be gained from incarcerating them that cannot better be addressed by removing them from their unhealthy environment and counseling them regarding healthy relationships.

These women are also moms. By committing a crime, these women perpetrate a triple evil: against their society, against their children, and against their society again when that child cannot actuate as a citizen, but instead becomes a recluse, or involved in negative or even criminal behaviors.

This is not just about moms, it is also about dads. Children need both parents—their fathers, too! Men need to be given the opportunity to atonement for themselves, their children, and their society in a positive way.

Here in the states, men are incarcerated at alarmingly high, and by many accounts racially driven, rates. What a horrible thing this is. Cycling and cycling. Can we get these parents out of prison and into their children’s lives in a meaningful way? If we are really talking about debt to society, isn’t this the greatest debt to be paid and with the greatest potential benefits? We should be pulling out all the stops to address how to heal the one generation for the sake of the next. Every one of us in our society benefits when healthy kids become healthy adults.

Of course there are crimes for which people must be removed from society for the benefit of society. And it can be a pickle figuring out exactly who can be rehabilitated and who cannot be. But I think the majority of people need intervention, not incarceration. Parent rehab, where that person’s relationship to their own parents, to their children, and to themselves—think of what we could gain by reclaiming our citizens for the greatest good of all of us.

That was my dream, anyway. A deep impression that filled my body and mind as I awoke. Something important that needed to be said. And so, I have said it. Can we do it? Can we put aside our bitterness, our desire to punish, our fear, our need for revenge—and commit to healing for the sake of all our kids?

I believe, in the better angels of our nature, that we can.

Books--Oh Boy!

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday June 19, 2007 in

Nothing like spending money on a few more books. I just ordered four through Abe and I can’t wait. They are four out-of-print ‘Antiquaries Books’ with plates included.

I plan to read and love them, as well as scan the plates for my blog—or work the plates into web pages in and of themselves as the books are all out of copyright at this point and can be shared.

As to my abbey pages…so sorry for neglecting those. I kind of got stymied because ideally I’d like to post slightly larger jpgs so that historyfish visitors can download a more printable copy. (Just take the file to your local all-mart and presto! Photographic prints!) But I can’t figure out how to load the files so they can be properly accessed, and I haven’t had ‘fiddle’ time.

[Note to self: Find some fiddle time.]

Nope. I’ve been wearing my write-it-all hat this last few weeks. I’ve started a how-to draft, finished two picture book manuscripts, and developed a board/card game.

My list is long.

But the books are coming! Yes!

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