Doo Dah Doo Dah
Now, some years ago, I got quite interested in genealogy. Of course, my interest was sparked after most (if not all) of my aunts, uncles, and grandparents had passed on, but I got bitten nonetheless. I do wish, all of the time, that I had listened to the oldsters' stories when I was a younger brat. Alas. Regrets.
Anyhow, one of the things I learned in research (knew from the stories, if I thought about it) was that my grandmother was a Stevens from Stevensville. Never quite knew if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Stevensville was named for Peter or Aden stevens... can't remember which one... who came down round about revolutionary war time to settle the area. See, NorthEastPA (how natives refer to it?) wasn't settled by whites until the early 1800's - it was still Indian territory and quite a number of settlers found that out the hard way.
Anyway, I have always wanted to take the time to track down Stevensville to see where it is. So he told me where when I asked, and I googled it. Sure enough, there it is, too small for the map, next to Camptown.
Now that's a story I remember: either Grandma or Aunt Florence telling me about Camptown - the big town next to Stevensville, and of Camptown Races fame.
30-35 years later, I'm like, yeah right. There have to be a dozen Camptowns in the US. What are the chances the fly speck on the map of PA is the one Steven Foster wrote his song about.
Guess what? I should trust Aunt Florence's stories more. It really was.
And I should have known. She's been proven disturbingly correct before. I remember back in high school, I was sitting at their kitchen table doing my homework. Aunt Florence came out to talk to me.
"Whacha doing there?" (this is my memory of her voice, though I could be making it up)
"French? Why would you study that? They don't even have running water over there."
(at this, I stopped copying my 4th copy of conversation blah blah... Philippe nage a la picine. Phillipe plonge! and looked up, quizically) "What do you mean?"
"When Jerry was there, they didn't have running water."
Now, Jerry was Aunt Florence's second husband. (As opposed to Dick Bohner, her first, much lamented, infelicitously named and short-lived husband. I shall leave it to you, dear reader, to decide if the lamentations were due to the name or the importune passing.) Jerry was much older than Aunt Florence. He had, in fact, served in the war. The Great War. World War I. In France.
So, yeah, in 1917, the war-torn area that he... visited didn't have running water. I'm sure I did the teenaged eye-roll. "I don't think many people had running water in 1917. They probably have it by now."
"Them French are dirty. Don't know why you'd study French. Heh heh." My memories of Aunt Florence are of her often laughing at strange moments. Again, I may be imagining this in retrospect, but I don't think so.
I just shook my head and studied my French. Mademoiselle Marshall was quite the taskmaster, after all.
Fast forward 20 years. Mr. Birdwoman and I went on our Big Trip Before Kids. We spent a fortnight in Britain. One of our last days there, we decided to take the new fancy-schmancy chunnel tunnel train over to Paris. One day in Paris to end out or adventures would, as Ma Bennet might say, set us up just right.
So we got over there, and Mr. Birdwoman had to pee. And he could find nowhere to pee. Nowhere. Found a urinal at a museum, finally, but it was a few hours.
Eventually, we decided to buy a meal before heading back to London.
In the restaurant, I asked the waiter where the WC was. He smiled, gave me directions and a coin. I looked at the coin and then at him. "You need to pay to go." So I did, and I did. To open the door, you had to pay. It was a tiny litle toilet, hardly worth the fee, but I really had to go.
A minute later, John asks where the men's room is, and if he can borrow a coin. The waiter smiled and said, "Men don't pay."
Oh, I was too astonished to be angry. But as I waited for John to come back, it really started to bug me.
And then, he came back. And he was pale and looked quite disturbed.
I asked what was wrong, and he said, "later..."
So, when we were safely ensconced back in the train, heading back to England, I asked what the problem was.
"Well, men didn't have to pay for a reason. There was no urinal, no toilet, and no sink. Just a trough running down the wall. The #2's sat there waiting to be washed down by #1's. Worst thing was, while I was leaving, the cook went in. I can't believe they didn't have running water!"
Oh, my. Aunt Florence was right. Dirty birdies, real rap.
(Of course, I'm sure this is not most of Paris. And I'm sure my brain has exaggerated this story in the last 15 years. Whatever. It's a blog and hyperbole is allowed.)