A little bit of this, a little bit of that:
I was sitting on the porch without a book or paper to read, just sitting and watching the birds at the feeder and the clouds almost at a standstill, although down here the breeze was moving rather briskly, and I remembered Christina Rossetti’s charming little poem, “Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: but when the leaves hang trembling, The wind is passing through.”
The next stanza is as simple: “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: But when the trees bow down their heads, The wind is passing by.”
All was quiet and serene. And then a plane flew over, and I suddenly remembered when we wrote “Air Mail” on our letters. We had a choice: surface mail or air mail. We also, of course, had to pay extra for the air mail stamp. That’s how we corresponded. Now it’s off to the computer, and the message arrives there almost before we go off to tend to another major accomplishment. Well, that was then, and this is now.
Thinking of the “good old days” made me remember a letter from Don Didier. He wrote that he was looking at a Wolf & Dessauer Tea Room menu dated Feb. 6, 1941. The special of the day was “W&D Tender Delicious Milk Fed Fried Spring Chicken 60 cents French Fried to a crisp golden brown that falls apart under your fork ... served with an abundance of Julienne Potatoes, Tomato and Asparagus Salad Hot or Iced Tea ...Coffee.” Any dessert was 10 cents. Times have changed, yes?
My daughter and I were talking about a column I wrote a few years ago in which I asked you to nominate what you considered the most important invention of all time. We were discussing one I considered tremendously important: the flush toilet. The person nominating that wrote how that made it possible to have skyscrapers and large football stadiums (the computer won’t accept stadii).
So my daughter said, “But, Ma, there was the Colosseum, and thousands of people went there for events.”
She was right, of course. But the wheels kept turning. When I was in Rome visiting the Colosseum we saw all kinds of gates and doors but no potties.
Well, what does one do when she is looking for an answer? Of course, she turns to our library. I posed the question of how one coped back then to Sheryl Matthews in Readers’ Services. She accepted the challenge.
Within a few days she had an answer, found in a paper titled “Colosseum Water and Sewer System.” One paragraph was devoted to “Colosseum Water System – Toilets (Latrines) and Drains.”
That paragraph starts off saying “there is limited information about this subject! There has, however, been evidence found of two very large toilets or latrines in the Colosseum ... Communal toilets, or latrines, consisted of a row of holed seats. A flow of water circulated under the seats.”
Oh, there were also drinking fountains provided. Rome in the summer gets very hot, and people were urged to drink water at the arena – not wine.
I’ll bet you never wondered about public toilets back in those days, did you? Now you have kind of an answer to your unasked question.
You know what? We ought to be very grateful that we are living in 2012, even though an occasional storm can cause a power shortage and lunches cost quite a bit in excess of 65 cents.
One last item: I’ve been requested to ask you if you have any pictures taken in the 113 Club. Seems as how the Four Freshmen will be coming to Fort Wayne, and they performed there at the beginning of their great career. Perhaps you have a picture of the interior as you were celebrating an anniversary or a birthday – or just plain took a picture.
Let me know, please. More anon.