Tag Archives: connections

Collingbourne Mills, Grandpa Green, Harriet, Jean and Me

Among the items I brought back a while ago from my mother’s house is an old briefcase that was full of crochet or tatting thread and embroidery floss, a newspaper clipping about a temperance leader, a family tree and receipts for various purchases a Harriet Switzer made in the 1920s. Much of the thread and floss was in a tangle, but I managed to save a small plastic grocery bag of thread to be given away. One bunch of floss caught my eye because it was made in Elgin.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was made by Collingbourne Mills. I’ve written about Collingbourne Mills before, but not on this blog. One of my Grandpa Green’s first jobs, and likely the reason I am here to tell his story, was as a sales representative (read traveling salesman) for Collingbourne Mills. His sales route took him to Two Rivers, Wisconsin where he met the woman who would become my Grandmother.

The only thing I really remember my Grandpa Green saying about Collingbourne Mills was that ONT meant Our New Thread. I don’t know if that is true or not. The thread I found says A.B.C.

In 2010, at my father’s funeral, a woman approached me and told me she was the little girl who’d grown up across the street from me. We became friends on Facebook, and only then did I realize she’d married a Collingbourne. I asked if her husband was any relation to the Collingbourne Mills family and she said they were.

So here’s another connection between my pre-existence and childhood and present life with some detours in-between. I love connections.

Interesting fact: Harriet and her husband, Howard, lived just down the street from A.B. Collingbourne, the president of Collingbourne Mills. (Harriet’s address was on some of the receipts and A.B Collingbourne’s address is on the Internet.)



Lovin’ Loving Frank

I guess I just like books I can connect to — and I’m finding a lot to connect to in Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

Growing up in Northern Illinois, I could not help but at least be aware of Frank Lloyd Wright. Driving past Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva always elicited a mention of the house that Frank built by whomever was in the car. Because the only thing I really remembered about Fabyan Forest Preserve was the large Dutch-style windmill, I thought Frank Lloyd Wright built buildings that looked like windmills. Luckily, before I could make a fool of myself, I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright built other kinds of buildings. Although it seems, he did build a windmill after all! I may or may not have seen the actual house built by Wright at Fabyan Forest Preserve. I’m guessing not.

Anyway, in the early 1980’s a friend moved to Oak Park, Illinois and I had the chance to walk the streets there and see some of the homes built by Wright. I don’t remember being terribly impressed — except that Frank Lloyd Wright was famous and I was walking the area where he once walked.

Then, on one of my birthdays while we lived in Pittsburgh, my soon-to-be husband took me to see Fallingwater near Ohiopyle State Park. I finally realized why Wright was made such a big deal of. His arcitecture fit in with the natural surroundings. I’ve since been back there a few times and have visited a few other buildings designed by the man.

So, none of that — except the Oak Park part is why I’m loving this book. Or maybe all of it is plus some other things.  As I said before, it is all about connections.

On page 28 of the book the narrator mentions Lorado Taft. Now, I may or may not have come across that name in The Devil in the White City, but I cannot find it in the index. It turns out that Lorado Taft was a reknown sculptor and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright and not the outdoor education enthuasiast and Native American researcher I’ve always believed him to be.

Backpack patch Why would I have such a misconception? Here’s why — Students in the teacher education program of Northern Illinois University were (maybe still are?) required to take an outdoor education seminar. The location for the seminar was, and still is, at Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, Illinois. This seminar, although I dreaded it, was one of the highlights of my college experience. I was not a birder at this time, but watching the bird banding demonstration might have planted the seeds for my interest in birds. I was afraid of heights, but the repelling exercise down the side of a tall wooden building made me realize I could do things like that when few others would. I also remember learning basic tree identification — and I’m still interested in that.

So, I figured that Lorado Taft was the name of whomever founded the outdoor education facility in Oregon, Illinois. I thought he liked Native Americans because of the very tall Blackhawk statue near the entrance to the campus.

It turns out that Lorado Taft Field Campus used to be Eagle’s Nest Art Colony which was founded by the famous sculptor Lorado Taft whose Blackhawk statue overlooks the grounds.

It is highly possible that they told us all about this at the time, but obviously I was not listening.

I wonder what else I’ve missed in my life by not listening or not paying attention. Probably a lot.  We’ve got friends whose relatives own a Frank Lloyd Wright house and they’ve converted it into a B&B. We’re planning on spending a night there sometime — perhaps for our 25th wedding anniversary celebration.

Man — this post is pretty convoluted and messy. Oh well, I’ve got a book to finish.

Lorado Taft's Blackhawk

Clare and Andrew looking fierce

The day the lights went out in Bethesda

So our electricity is back, along with Internet access and telephone connections. I’d say, “its about time,” but I liked spending time with my two very bored teenagers.

The electricity went out during a severe thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon while Clare and I were driving back home after a meeting at her school. We heard a transformer blow as we neared our house and feared for our power. Andrew greeted us at the door with news that the power was out. We told him of our frightening drive from school (the rain and trees were blown sideways some of the time).

That afternoon, in between complaining about no electricity, television and Internet, the kids read books, jumped on the trampoline and listened to the battery powered radio about storm damage. When it got dark, Clare studied for her upcoming final exams by the light of about 16 candles. Andrew went to bed early.

On Thursday, since there was no school because it was graduation day, the kids alternated between studying and playing. Clare’s anxiety took over and she ended up going to work with Dean to study. Andrew read the first 150 pages of The Overachievers then helped me untangle some crochet yarn. Then he made a potholder with a loom I’d just bought.

When Clare got back home and after we’d eaten dinner, the three of us sat on the porch until dark, untangling yarn and talking.

Sure, we could have these kinds of interactions any day; the electricity does not need to be out to do so. But I think we’d all be thinking about what we could be doing — watching TV, writing blog entries, visiting Facebook — you know what I mean.

Today when the kids come home from school, everyone will be at their own screen doing their own thing and our interactions will be either non-existent or half-hearted.

At least I now have an imperfect neon green and orange pot holder as a visual reminder of our near-perfect day together.