Wednesday, October 18, 2017

John P. Couture

John Couture 1972 - 2017
In the course of our ordinary daily routines, we are sometimes thrown a curve-ball and are forced to face the fact that life is precious and sometimes, painfully too short. Last week - specifically Sunday, October 8th, 2017 – John P. Couture, my 1st cousin on my Mom's side, unexpectedly passed away at
the ripe old age of 45 – just 3 years my junior.

He taught English at Marquette University and was pursuing his doctorate in English. He was a lover of books, art, music, basketball, learning consummately, family and all people in general. He was intelligent, witty and kind-hearted. But for me, he was my mostly my cousin. Among his other titles of son, nephew, brother, friend and teacher, cousin is a humble title, but one I am so grateful he wore.

We, along with our brothers, sisters and cousins grew up together spending holidays, birthdays, family events and random visits with each other. He is part of some of my earliest memories. I remember being told Auntie Marianne was going to have a baby. While not completely understanding that at 3 years old,  I do remember meeting my new cousin who we called John-John for the first time. At family gatherings, we talked as kids talk – silly and giggling. Go ahead; imagine it. It sounded just like the silly kid-banter you had with your childhood loved ones – the memory of its content is long gone, but the sound of the giggling remains. At the time, little did we know one of us would grow to become a learned intellectual.
John on the Right w/Jimmy Danko (my Bro) &
Mark Couture (John's Bro) in 1978




As we grew older, the conversation changed to school, sports, music, teachers and random teenage topics. -- Go ahead imagine those conversations; you had them, too. Giggling was still ever present. After all, it was the 1980s which were immortalized by MTV videos...but so, too, we dipped into current events, our future plans and figuring our place in the world.
As adults, those conversations changed to things we learned and wanted to learn. The adult conversations continued to be sprinkled with giggles but were also filled headier topics. We still spoke of music for we had similar tastes -- admittedly through John, I did learn to appreciate Bob Dylan's lyrics in a different light. We had a long conversation about his father, my Uncle Will. Uncle Will passed away when we were just kids. Although my memories are through the eyes of a 10 year child, as a niece they were different from John's as a son. I remember when Uncle Will spoke to me, I felt like I was the only person on earth who mattered. He never spoke down to me, and never like I was only a kid. At one point, I told John that he reminded me so much of his Dad. I never did tell him that the biggest similarity was when speaking with John he made you feel as though you were the only person on earth who mattered.
So fast forward, to last week Monday, October 9th. The call came in the morning while I was at work. I could not believe John had unexpectedly passed. You can imagine there was shock, tears and questions. In what order, you ask? I don't remember. I do remember sitting outside the office building sobbing. Thoughts turned his brothers, sister, and my Mom's sisters. Before long, I was picking up my sister, brother and Godchild at O'Hare at different times over the course of two different days, but no matter. We just wanted to be together. Ironically -- or maybe not -- I am sure John simply would have wanted us to be together.
Over the next few days, there was time spent with my husband, parents, sister, brother, aunts, and cousins. This time included watching the Packer game on TV because...well...it is Wisconsin ,and it is just what you do. The topic of conversation always turned to John, his life and our memories of him. Ultimately, it was time to celebrate his life during a funeral mass at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Milwaukee on October 16th.  Amid the hugs, kisses, and tears the words "Fog" and "Dream" entered each conversation. Together in that Church at that moment everyone present shared completely common ground no matter our walk of life or background -- family, friends, colleagues, and students. Disbelief. John so vibrant and present in our lives was suddenly just gone.
As we moved to the cemetery, there again we stood, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncle and the ever-present cousins all saying goodbye to John. We, the same cousins who grew up together, sometimes misunderstood one another, yet are bound by love for one another all stood together at the grave. This was different. At this family gathering, we were being forced to say final goodbyes to one of us with whom we never had enough hellos. I think we were supposed to disperse before the coffin was lowered into the grave (or maybe not, truthfully, it is an experience before now I never knew), instead, we all stood and watched. All silent. All still. Some close. Some not. We watched and said goodbye in what I can only describe as a fog on a beautiful sunny day.
The story of Monday doesn't end there. Monday's story ends with spending time together sharing toasts, food, stories, hugs, and giggles. There in that foggy unbelievable dream, were us cousins bound by love for one another and realizing perhaps for the first time we need to be there for one another even when time and modern life make it difficult. John was present the whole day, I am sure. He brought the sunshine, toasted and giggled with us...if only we could hug him. Throughout the day, each of us stated maybe this could be part John's legacy. A legacy of making sure we, as family stay, in touch and lean on each other. It is something I am fairly sure John wanted in this life, and a legacy of which anyone would be proud.
I am not certain any of us who knew John will ever make sense of his passing. We may know he is in peace with the Lord, but our human hearts need ample time to heal. I am certain anyone who knew John Couture simply believes he passed at least 45 years too soon.

RIP John. Love you, Cuz.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/jsonline/obituary.aspx?n=john-p-couture&pid=186952485


https://www.lifestorynet.com/obituaries/john-couture.118932
John and our Auntie Fay on 9.6.14 at my wedding

Some Cousins together at Christmas 2013. John is the tallest.

My Mom's side of the family on 4.22.16 at my sister's wedding.
John is directly behind my sister (Cathy Danko) and new brother-in-law (Chris Gloninger)


Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30th - All Shapes and Sizes...

c. Mid-1860s


Women's History Month Day 30


The photo of this unidentified young woman has a modern twist. All we know about her is what the photo supplies. This c. mid-1860s carte de visite photo was taken in Lyons, NY at C.H. Ravell Photographer (Lyons itself had a population of approx 3,200 in 1860). She is wearing a simply styled pretty silk dress which is immaculately tailored. Next to her sits her paletot (coat) and hat. She appears to be comfortably middle class which fits with the descriptions of Lyons, NY I have found.

Now here’s where the conversation takes a turn and you gentlemen may become uncomfortable with the conversation or think its odd…but that's okay. Remember, this is our month not yours so you just may need to go on your merry way…

Although we know nothing else about her, she has played an important role for several of us well-endowed ladies who sport 19th c. period clothing every now and again. Again, she is wearing wonderfully tailored clothes and has a lovely shape.  She, of course, would have known nothing other than a corset as a foundation garment, but all of us who have known modern foundation garments may initially find a corset well a bit over-whelming as is drastically changes our shape.  The first time a well-endowed contemporary woman wears a 19th c. corset, she may be very self-conscious as our assets are - shall we say - greatly enhanced. It takes a little “getting used to” and after awhile is it normal and even enjoyable…but it is initially a bit odd especially if you are used to “minimizers”.  In the meantime, this woman helps remind us that 19th c. clothing can fit attractively well on a curvy figure and women have always come in different shapes and sizes. 

As a side note: for those readers who have never worn a corset, they are important foundation garments to 19th c. clothing. They were never to be tight-laced in the 19th, 20th nor 21st centuries.  They are to fit snugly but not tightly - in fact corsets which are too loose are equally uncomfortable. 

March 29th - Aunt Lerisa

c. Early 1880s

Women's History Month Day 29


The back of this photo is labeled "Aunt Lerisa". The front of this cabinet card shows where "Aunt Lerisa" had her photo taken: "Robinson and Roe, 77 Clark Street, Chicago" 



This very stylish young woman had her photo taken at a trendy photo studio in Chicago. Robinson and Roe. It was a high-volume photo studio with one of the posing rooms stated as being the largest outside Manhattan. Robinson & Roe became known to the theatrical community, and cast photos were often taken there. The photograpers would go on to open a successful studio in Brooklyn, but would remain partners and retain their Chicago studio until 1906. 

Knowing this, I now wonder who "Aunt Lerisa" might be. Was she a young stylish woman looking to have her photo at a trendy studio? ...or was she a performer? ...or?

I encourage you to go on to read the most interesting article I found: http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/studio-robinson-and-roe

http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/studio-robinson-and-roeStudio, Robinson and Roe | Broadway Photographs, Studio, Robinson and Roe, March 29, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 24th - TGIF!

Early 1900s

Women's History Month Day 24


TGIF! - Head out for a joy ride this afternoon. The scene doesn't exclusively feature women, but its hard to miss the levity...although, the gentlemen in this scenario from the early 1900s look more thrilled than the ladies.

This photo was taken in Chicago at the Chicago Photo Postal Studio. This particular photo was produced on a very inexpensive postcard which reminds me of photos taken in a photo booth.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23rd - "Regular Fellers"

"Regular Fellers" - Aug 20, 1923


Women's History Month Day 23


The handwritten label on the back of this photos is: 

"Regular Fellers" 
Aug. 20, 1923

I wish these young ladies could tell us their story, but all we have is this photo I picked up probably a decade ago in Burlington, WI. We can, however, enjoy this summer day in 1923 with them. 

Note: As I mentioned in other posts, we cannot always trust handwritten labels on photos, but it helps that the hand-writing style on this photo is time period appropriate. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22nd - Farm Journal

c. 1937


Women's History Month Day 22 


It's hump day. Take some quiet time for yourself.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA
www.thoroughlyantiques.com


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 21st - Strength

c. 1880s

Women's History Month Day 21


A few weeks ago, this portrait struck me while I was casually perusing through vintage photos at an antique store in Grafton, WI. Her eyes are piercing and there is strength in her appearance. Although we do not know who she is, she appears comfortable sporting her hair in an 1860s style while wearing 1880s style clothing. Her broach is pretty, yet inexpensive, and her garment appears to be a mid/lightweight wool.

How we relate to current fashion, has remained a constant between the 19th and 21st centuries. Like many of us, ladies of the 19th century became comfortable with a certain hairstyle or fashion and stuck with it only changing slightly. Others enjoyed updating as styles changed. Still others desired to update their hair or wardrobes, but do to extenuating circumstances, like money or health, were unable to do so as frequently as they wished. In regards to changing fashion, we ladies of the 21st century are still able to relate to ladies of the 19th century even if the styles themselves are vastly different.

Cabinet Card Purchased at Seth's Antiques in Grafton

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20th - In Your Easter Bonnet...

c. Early 1900s

Women's History Month Day 20


So it's not quite time for Easter bonnets, but it is the 1st day of Spring. There is not anything subtle about these young ladies hats...and there was not anything subtle about them when this photo was taken in Sturtevant, WI in the early 1900s.

...and yes, there is a definite possibility these crowning glories were embellished at home to add that extra special touch.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18th - On the Way...

c. 1890s

Women's History Month Day 18


Maternity photos from the 19th c. are uncommon although morés began to loosen in the 1890s. The woman on the left is more than likely expecting. This photo from the 1890s is most likely some type of summertime family gathering.

The woman in question is wearing a striped wrapper. Wrappers were common casualwear for women from the mid 19th to early 20th century. By the late 19th c., they were most often a comfortable, inexpensive garment worn around the house or to very casual events much the way we wear jeans or the summer maxi-dress. They are often cinched at the waist with a belt or apron. When a maternity dress becomes necessary, wrappers are often worn loose or purchased/sewn in a style which does not require a belt.

Photo purchased in Burlington, WI about 10 yrs ago.


Friday, March 17, 2017

March 17th - Shenanigans

c. 1925

Women's History Month Day 17


I’m not sure of the type of Shenanigans going on at Little Cedar Lake (presumably the one in WI) on July 12, 1925, but it looks like fun. May you find some shenanigans on the this St Paddy's Day...

The label on the back of the photo reads: 
(Note: The handrwriting style of the label is time-frame appropriate.)

"Little Cedar Lake, July 12, 1925 (Herbert, Alice, Clarence & I)"



Happy St. Patrick's Day! 



Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16th - Life's a Picnic

1920s


Day 16 of Women's History Month


It's almost the weekend, pack a basket, bring your enamel-wear coffee pot and head out to the lake like these ladies in the 1920s. ...Never mind it snowed this week.

I am sorry this is not a better image, but it is from an unmarked, very small and damaged photo I found at an antique store in Burlington several years ago. The photographer had technique challenges, for the photo is off center; however, they were quite successful in capturing the spirit of the moment. I love the scene of these two in their cotton dresses w/their coffee pot.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15th - Pink Flowers

1860s

Women's History Month Day 15


My husband, Karl, found this tintype in the Mid-Late 1980s in McHenry County, IL. Nothing is known of this young lady except she was dressed in what was probably her Sunday Best as modest as it may be.

Her dress doesn't appear to be poorly made, but it is not a difficult dress to sew and is too big on her. The bodice and skirt may not be from the same original outfit. Her bodice looks like it might be wool. She is wearing a snood and a has a cute, feminine hat with feathers and flowers. The bodice at least may be a hand-me-down --the gathering in the front is part of style but the looseness in the sleeves and around the waist indicates an improper fit. Tintypes were inexpensive and could be taken just about anywhere, so it hard to say if this is in a studio.

She is a charming young lady of modest means. Both Karl and I have wondered if she is of mixed race. Being this tintype was purchased from the Chicagoland area in the 1980s, there is a very good chance she was from the area although there is not any way to prove it (with the internet, antiques/artifacts are dispersed from area to area much more quickly then pre-internet).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 14th - BFF's


c. 1914


Women's History Month Day 14


This unmarked photo doesn't provide us with any people or place names. It does show us an nice sunny - presumably warm - day in c. 1914, and two women who share a close relationship. It's a delightfully playful moment - on a swing in their cotton warm weather garb. A family picnic? A Sunday afternoon in the park? A popular summer vacation spot?

Purchased in Southeastern Wisconsin


Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13th - Bold


Women's History Month Day 13 


We don't often think of women wearing bold prints in the 19th century, but bold prints went in and out of fashion several times over throughout the century.  This tintype from the very later 1860s to very early 1870s depicts this women owning her look in her bold print and flashy scarf.  She is a fashionable, middle class lady.

Found in Concord, MA, this unmarked tintype (as most were) leaves us wondering who she is and where she lived...but on a Monday morning just back from my vacation, I am surely sharing her expression...

Tintype purchased at Upstairs Antiques in Concord, MA


Saturday, March 11, 2017

March 11th - Moxie


Women's History Month - Day 11


No need to speak for this women in her 1930s garb... She speaks for herself. Again found in Concord, MA, who and where she is lost - but her stylish moxie comes through loud and clear.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA
www.thoroughlyantiques.com

Friday, March 10, 2017

March 10th - On the Farm



Women's History Month - Day 10


Although this photo was purchased in Concord, MA, who these ladies are and where this farm is located is unknown. Their casual charm is captured so well by the photographer. The farm, well, could be from just about anywhere in the US and/or parts of Canada.

The lady on the right is wearing an older dress from the 1920s and the lady on the left has a more current style. Neither dress is expensive, but both are comfortable cotton frocks.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA
www.thoroughlyantiques.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 9th - Bright Eyes in Brockton, MA



Women's History Month - Day 9 


While exploring Concord, MA today, I stumbled upon this young lady. Her bright eyes and smile are rather captivating. She is solidly middle class and dates to around c. 1889.  The original photo is a cabinet size card and was taken at the Astrom & Co in Brockton, MA.

I know little of Brockton, MA, so I looked it up, and found that these bright eyes were witnessing a dynamically changing city located in Plymouth County. Today, Brockton is a diverse city of around 100,000, and her generation would have begun to see this city very differently than those before her. Brockton was changing dynamically - In 1874, the city's name changed from North Bridgewater to Brockton (after local merchant, Isaac Brock). In 1881, officially became a city with a population around 13,000 and was quickly becoming "the shoe factory to the world". ...and maybe most interestingly, in 1884, Thomas Edison introduced his 3 wire electrical system to the world in Brockton, MA.

What does that mean to her and other residents of Brockton? Brockton became the first city on earth to have centralized electric power through a 3-Wire or 3 Phase system, and help Edison prove that efficient, affordable electric power could be brought to average people.  The technology was simply too new to electrify every home, but major public outlets (including schools) would be electrified. Brockton would not remain the center of his experiment, choosing instead (for many reasons) to complete his project in New York City.

How this young women with her bright eyes and smile fit into this progressive city -- along with her name is lost to history. Yet, we are still able to relate to her. She grew in or near a dynamic technologically and progressively changing community. Being so young, memories of great events which came before would be lost on her. She would never remember the Civil War, though she was surrounded by its veterans.  She would never remember Frederick Douglass speaking to the community, though she could visit the tree at the site where he gave his speech. She would never remember Brockton as a farming community nor really remember the political hubbub over its name change. She would bear witness to world changing technology right in front of her eyes, though we don't know how it personally affected her. Her name is lost to history and presuming she met a healthy adulthood, those bright eyes and smile would experience the triumphs and challenges which accompany a society driven by advanced technological changes -- not so differently than us.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA
www.thoroughlyantiques.com

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 7th & 8th - Sisters


Women's History Month - Day 7 & 8


Ready for an outing in the early 1900s these two lovely ladies bear a resemblance - quite possibly sisters or cousins. Dressed in their winter finery, these two may be ready for a fun outing in the city...or some other amusing excursion - just imagine...

...In the same spirit, I am spending time with my sister for the next few days in Massachusetts.  Although we unfortunately will not be sporting such fabulous hats as these two, we will be embarking on a some sisterly adventures.

Cheers...and may you capture special moments with the special women in your life just as these two did...

My sister, Cathy (on the left), and I enjoying fresh lobster last evening... Thank you to my my brother-in-law, Chris, for snapping this photo. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 6th - Bathing Beauty w/Beach Boots


Women's History Month Day 6 


Missed a couple days due to technical difficulties... but this bathing beauty from the 1920s and has enough to say for a few days. 

Little needs to be said about her. She clearly speaks for herself in her Beach Boots which were popular in the early 1920s. 

Interesting Note: This is part of a postcard size photo.  She was cut out of the larger photo, but this is the only portion which remains. This postcard was mailed to Waukesha, WI. It also appears she is one of 3 people in the the original photo (presumably 3 women). The remaining writing reads: "you like the Best? The Middle One?"  ....Wonder if she was the middle one? 

...and oh my, do I covet those beach boots... 

Photo Purchase in Southeast Wisconsin

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3rd - Mother & Child...


Women's History Month Day 3


These two have many of the same features...

This image of presumably a Mother and Child, is from a Cabinet Card. The photo was taken at the Holdmann Photo Studio on Grand Avenue in Milwaukee in the 1890s.

Card Purchased in SE Wisconsin


Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 2nd - Fritzi & Flinty...


Women's History Month Day 2


Label on Back of Photo: Fritzi & Flinty in front of the cabin we occupied for one night enroute. Taken at Lassen National Forest

Although labels cannot always be trusted, the handwriting style fits the this 1920s photo. Fritzi must be the lady as Flinty refers to the car. The Flint Automobile was assembled in Flint, MI from 1923-1927 when it was discontinued. (It was priced to compete with the Buick). Another interesting note: The young women in her cotton sun dress would've have most likely viewed the stiff, formal photos of the 19th century to be as old-fashioned as we often do. ...and Yes, this photo comes complete with the photographer's finger in the photo.

Bibliography:Consulting, F. C. (2017). History. Retrieved March 2, 2017, from http://www.flintmotorcompany.com/History.aspx

Photo Provence: Wisconsin Purchase.




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Phenomenal Women - Women's History Month 2017

Phenomenal Women - Today, marks the first day of Women's History Month. In the past, I've posted daily on Facebook for Women's History Month...and in fact, it's been a couple years since I have actively posted daily for Women's History Month at all. This year I choose to resume, but I do so in a different light and I'm moving it to my blog. With today's constant discourse, another voice is not needed in a sea of voices. I would rather provide the opportunity to see "ordinary" Phenomenal Women through period photos. Not much verbiage will go with the photos - instead I'll let the photos and the women in them speak for themselves. I will only add text where it may be needed. I have celebrated women who have made names for themselves, but these ladies names' may often be lost to history...yet phenomenal  they remain. My only apology is that the selection may not be as diverse as everyone may like, but the photos will come mainly from our personal collection. For several reasons, there is not much diversity in our collection - including funds at the time my husband and I were actively collecting as well as the fact most of them are from the Upper Midwest in the 19th century when diverse photos are scarce - but it is not because there was not any desire for diversity. I will try to supplement from other sources when I am able. Enjoy!

...and you may ask where I found my theme. Indeed I was inspired by the great lady Maya Angelou and her poem: Phenomenal Women...

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. 
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them, 
They think I’m telling lies. 
I say, 
It’s in the reach of my arms, 
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me. 

I walk into a room 
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man, 
The fellows stand or 
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me, 
A hive of honey bees.   
I say, 
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman 
Phenomenally. 

Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me. 

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me. 
They try so much 
But they can’t touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say, 
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of my breasts, 
The grace of my style. 
I’m a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me. 

Now you understand 
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about 
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing, 
It ought to make you proud. 
I say, 
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)