LEARNING TO GET ALONG Kate’s Journal


Episode 19 Oakland

By 1951 the patterns of our early married life were being formed, convivial, but hardly ever serene. Two diametrically opposed personalities frequently clashing.

The trucking company had been sold, and Sam went to work at the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. where he was to remain for nearly 40 years. His expertise in transportation and in safety engineering sent him up and down the West coast from Monday to Friday every week. The dye was cast for him to become “Dr. Advice” in the future.

Meanwhile I was what came to be known as a “stay-at-home” mother, just as my mother and all the women I knew then were. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, wallpaper, garden and cook. I tried my best to be perfect, still too young to realize that would never happen. (In case you wonder at the wallpaper skill, it was very important in the 50’s. Every room in the magazines had wallpaper.)

Our older women friends had long since realized that none of the above were important skills, but I still fed on their praise when I was showing off. Much like the feeling I got as a small girl when I got approval for being a “good girl”, or learning something new.

Since Sam traveled all week, and we lived in a more rural area, I thought a dog would be a good idea. Calling a pet adoption organization, I expressed the desire for a large dog. The woman said they had one but it was too much dog for me, so I took him home. Sarge was a slow, sleepy and very large Great Dane, who wanted badly to be part of someone’s family. He slept in our downstairs family room, and late one Friday night when Sam returned home from traveling all week, Sarge refused to let him into the house. Though Sarge was a family dog, it became clear that ours was not the right family.

Sam and Kayti Going to the Oakland Flower Show, Oakland in those days had a more upscale social life.

I tried to rejuvenate my painting skills, but I soon realized I needed help. I submitted a painting of my daughter to the “Famous Artists Schools” which was a correspondence school for illustrators. I received a thumbs up from them saying I had possibilities which planted a seed in my brain.

Famous Artists School

I waited for an opportune moment and announced my intention of signing up for the school. It was met with the utmost of negative reactions. As a matter of recollection he said “Over my dead body!” I believe I said OK!

Many years later I met a gentleman who had been a graduate of that school and had become a very successful illustrator of women’s clothing for newspaper advertising. This was before photographs of actual people were used.

Not being at all deterred in my quest for further education, at the beginning of the next semester, I entered the California College of Art in Oakland, sharing baby sitting with a neighbor, and walking two miles to catch a bus. The halls of higher education held wondrous possibilities, and though my intent was to someday call myself a painter, there were other avenues to pursue as well.

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THE MOTHER TONGUE


entrance

Our expectations exceed the return in so many ways. For instance, when you step into my house, I expect you to speak English. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but when I venture into YOUR house, I don’t speak your language either. This leads to confusion on both parts. Ours is still an English-speaking country, though I appreciate that this is hard to understand for many newcomers.

A teacher friend told me of a recent arrival from another country who was upset because her child was not being taught in their native language. I am reminded of an elderly Italian friend who came to this country at the age of 7 knowing no English, nor any English-speaking friends. She quickly learned the new language by listening and using sign language.

Some years ago I wanted to make a goose liver pate for a party, so I went to a likely looking market in Chinatown. As it turned out, no one spoke English and I spoke no Chinese, so I resorted to sign language. I pointed to the barbequed ducks hanging along a wall and flapped my elbows while loudly quacking like a duck. I wasn’t sure how to honk like a goose.

Two or three people came out of the kitchen, smiled and looked bewildered. It was the lunch hour, and soon someone came carrying trays of fried delicacies while smiling and pointing me to a plate and encouraging me to help myself. They all shook their heads when I offered to pay. I guess it was in return for the entertainment I had given them with my duck act. All of which shows that a smile can get you a free lunch. I did not get my goose liver from them however.

We live in an ethnically diversified community, and increasingly an diversified world.

For many years we hosted a backyard block party, inviting neighbors from up and down our street to come. Everyone brought a plate of food, sometimes a recipe from whatever country they had come from.

I learned a lesson on one occasion when I introduced two people from China to each other thinking they would have a common tie. They laughed and said they did not understand the language of the other. Later I discovered the same thing from members of my Tai Chi class, most of which had come from either China or Taiwan. It was a good learning experience for me. We need to understand one another in some way if only by language.

We are criticized for not welcoming newcomers to our society, but nothing is done to encourage them to adapt to our customs. New communities are being built with houses of many small rooms to accommodate families of several generations; children, working parents, and grandparents to care for the children. This is the norm in many places, tying into their comfort zone.

Lichen“Lichen” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

This painting of intertwined elements illustrates our society of people from all over the world. A confused mass without any connection to one another.

There is more to being a good citizen than minding your own business. Learn our language and let us learn your customs if possible.

GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO Kate’s Journal


Episode 18 Oakland, 1946-1951

As toddlers we stumble along, pick ourselves up and continue on our way; a prelude to our grownup selves. Life is not perfect, and we learn as we go to learn each lesson as we stumble upon it.

The years after our wedding were eventful learning experiences. Sam continued to work for his father while I learned more about the dentistry business than I wanted to know. We were very frugal and our mode of transportation was the old company pickup truck. It was air conditioned; as I recall, you could watch the pavement go by as you drove along.

I learned to cook by watching our older friends, I even tackled a turkey when entertaining the three great aunties from Canada, sisters of my grandfather; aunt Mae, aunt Lottie and aunt Corinne, who was an opera singer. Grandma always said that was where I got my love of singing.

When the three little ladies came to visit in our apartment, we assumed that they were teetotalers, and got in tea and lemonade. They all took their whiskey straight surprisingly.

When the turkey announced that it had cooked enough, I went to check it and it flew out of the oven and slid across the kitchen floor which had a definite dip in it. One of the aunties grabbed a kitchen towel and picked it up and announced that dinner was served. I loved her forever.

kayti cooking 2

A day’s outing hunting squirrels far out in the country, turned terrifying when an unloaded rifle suddenly went off and shot Dr. A in the knee. The unbelievable difficulty getting back home while covered in his blood has left me forever wary of guns.

Invited to a “real” cocktail party by newly met friends, we were served our first martinis. I remember the violent reaction my stomach gave, and Dr. A’s stomach was also rebelling. I don’t recall how we got home.

With each tiny step along the way, we learned growing up lessons. Sam belonged to the Jr. Chamber of Commerce, which as far as I can see, was simply an excuse for partying. I learned to fend off unwanted attentions from others on their grownup journey. But we gained a group of older life long friends who marshalled our behavior and taught by example.

We were devastated by the passing of our first daughter in 1948, which by necessity had caused us to move out of our little attic apartment and in with my inlaws. I changed jobs, going to work as a typist for Sunset McKee paper company in Oakland.

I have always believed that the answer to people who want to know if you are capable of doing a certain job, is “Yes”, whether you can or not. You only have to know one thing; you can learn anything. Climbing the ladder of “yes”, I was working in the capacity of secretary to the treasurer when I became pregnant with our oldest daughter.

A cousin recently in the real estate business, showed me a few houses to buy. Pulling up in front of a cute place near the Oakland Zoo, I went in the front door and said “We’ll take it!” We shopped and bought furniture for our little nest, which would not be delivered until after the first of the year. Hugely pregnant, we moved in three days before Christmas 1949, and our daughter was born on December 28. Close friends helped us with our move, and we sat on the floor of the kitchen drinking Moscow Mules from copper mugs while the record “Sam’s Song played on the victrola.

I cleaned and polished everyday until an older neighbor came by one day and gave me one of the best lessons; “Ten years from now no one will know if you cleaned your kitchen floor every day, but they will know if you have produced a happy child.” I do not clean every day.

In 1951, a year and a half after our oldest daughter, our tiny red haired daughter was born, the two greatest blessings of my life. We were well on our way to being grown up.

THE SECOND OLDEST PROFESSION Kate’s Journal


Episode 17 Alameda, 1946-1949

What was I thinking? I had quit my good job in San Francisco, and now my new husband tells me to “get a job”. I began tromping the streets in Oakland asking if anyone needed help. I literally had no skills except being a nice looking willing to work child bride.

I found a respectable job with an advertising dentist who happened to be the father of a friend. Is that nepotism? I wore a white nurse’s uniform including a cap, and began learning which instrument was needed for a specific task. We decided to live on my salary and save his. Rather trusting in retrospect don’t you think?

After returning from overseas, Sam’s plans to return to Cal were delayed due to the need to help his father in the trucking business.

In essence, the Silk Road became the world’s first trucking route. This modest non-road became one of the most transformative super highways in human history.

In 1907 two brothers and a a brother-in-law in San Francisco began an ambitious endeavor which in turn became a small local ‘Silk Road’. Fulfilling the need of residents living atop Nob Hill for cigars, whiskey, food and other necessities, they transported goods by horseback, referring to their newly formed business as “The Mustang Express”. As Business grew, they purchased wagons, and took in a younger brother recently graduated from school. The ‘younger brother’ was my father-in-law, Victor. The newly formed company was named RB&S Trucking, for Rasmussen Brothers and Svane. Svane being their brother-in-law. The purchase of wagons became the purchae of trucks and the name changed again to the “Inter-Urban-Express Company”, which conveyed merchandise throughout the Bay Area. Their familiar green and yellow trucks could be seen from San Francisco to Oakland for many years. Later, Svane’s son, Peter Victor, formed his own small trucking company carrying goods in San Francisco.

Victor Rasmussen
Victor Svane Rasmussen

Though the principals of the company did no driving of trucks, each of the sons and son-in-law and a grandson took their turn at not only knowing how to drive the large semi trucks, but also what went on inside them. Many years after the Inter-Urban was defunct, I watched Dr. Advice in a business suit help a young truck driver get straightened out when he had managed to jack-knife his truck. The boy was about 20 years old, and panic stricken, with traffic built up behind him, and he looked about to cry. Seeing the boy needed help, Dr. A stopped, climbed into the boy’s truck and set it straight. Getting back into our car, he remembered how someone had helped him, at age 16 when he had been in the same fix. Some things you don’t forget.

Some years later, my father-in-law left his brothers and started his own company named the East Oakland Drayage Company on 10 acres of land in East Oakland. His own father had told him that if you took a silver dollar and threw it as far as you could, you should buy the land. The trucking company would make a good living, but the real value is in the land, not the business on it.

Ten years later my father-in-law retired and sold the company and told the boys to ‘get a job’.

As to what the ‘oldest profession’ is, I’ll leave that up to you.

DOM PERIGNON DID NOT INVENT CHAMPAGNE


champagne

At the risk of going against popular opinion, Dom Perignon did not invent champagne. He was justly famous for his superb skills as a blender–but his legendary wines did not have bubbles.

He is supposed to have been so delighted with the bubbles that he turned to his sandal-shod brothers and called “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” This is one of the great deceptions of wine history. It only made sense that Dom Perignon wanted to rid champagne of its bubbles, since there was no market for sparkling wines yet. In France, nobody wanted them.

Over the course of the next decade, Dom Perignon dedicated himself to experimenting with ways to stop the development of bubbles.

In fact, the idea that Dom Perignon invented champagne was always just imaginative marketing. It was a brilliant but misleading sales pitch. The popular legend has its origins in a late-nineteenth century advertising campaign.

In her book, When Chanpagne Became French, scholar Kolleen Guy shows how it wasn’t until the 1889 World Exhibition in Paris that the region’s champagne producers saw the marketing potential and started printing brochures about Dom Perignon. From that time on the celebrated monk became a legend.

For those who enjoy the romance of the Dom Perignon legend, there is even worse news. Wine historians now claim that champagne did not even originate in France. Champagne was first “invented” in Great Britain, where there was already a small commercial market for sparkling champagne by the 1660’s.

Monks like Dom Perignon knew that local wines could sparkle, even if they considered it a nuisance. If there was no market for bubbles, why try and sell them? The effect of unusually cold weather stalled the fermentation process in the winter and allowed for the natural unwelcome emergence of bubbles.

Even if Dom Perignon and his predecessors did not discover champagne, by the end of the seventeenth century the royal court at the Palace of Versailles certainly had. King Louis XIV of France now wanted nothing more than bubbles in his wine.

Suddenly winemakers on both sides of the English Channel were scrambling to find ways to make champagne sparkle.

WEDDING BELLE Kate’s Journal


Episode 16 Alameda, 1946

Nineteen-forty-five slipped into history as quietly as it had arrived. I heard a rumor in April, 1946 that Sam Rasmussen had returned from overseas.

I had no desire to see him, but suddenly he appeared staked out on my front porch. I often arrived late home from work, and often with a date. This ridiculous situation continued for two weeks; I would quietly walk around him on my way to the front door as he sat quietly on the hard cement step. I have always believed in giving credit where credit is due, and this certainly showed a certain amount of stamina even for a former boyfriend. Finally one night, coming home about 10:00, he handed me a peace offering of flowers; a clay pot of geraniums he had “borrowed” from the neighbor’s porch or brought from home, that was never clear. The ugly pot graced our balcony for the next three years.

We were married in September, 1946 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Aunt Helen allowed me to wear cousin Gladys’s wedding dress with the stipulation that I promised not get sunburned before the wedding. She had for several years cautioned me on the dangers of sunbathing, all to no avail. I knew I looked better tan than white.

My father arrived home just in time to walk me down the aisle, meeting the groom for the first time. His fatherly remarks to Sam included “You’re OK, except that you’re a Californian.”

Walter M. Sweetland

My pre-wedding tears began at l:00 p.m. I hid out in the basement until my father came down to comfort me. After assuring me that I really didn’t HAVE to get married, now was the time to give it some thought. I remember him saying he thought I had good common sense, a fact I have often been aware of throughout my life. We were extremely young and inexperienced. The groom was only 20 and I only 18. It didn’t help that so many people said it would never work.

The showers, parties. new clothes and rehearsal had been fun, but it came down to the fact that I had never attended a wedding, and I was a terrified bride-to-be.

Wedding
We held our reception at Aunt Helen’s and though the wedding cake came from Neldam’s Danish Bakery, Aunt Helen made the groom’s cake which was equally beautiful and delicious.

We took a two week honeymoon both to Lake Tahoe and Benbow Lodge on the Eel River in the Redwoods. We had no car of our own and borrowed his mother’s car for the drive to the honeymoon.

On our first morning after in a Tahoe cabin, the new husband asked for pancakes. I not only did not know how to make them, I did not recall ever having had them. We had waffles in my family, not pancakes. It soon became apparent that not only did I not do pancakes, I didn’t know how to cook anything.

Sam’s mother’s car broke down somewhere along the Redwood Highway, and we were forced to take a Greyhound bus home to Alameda, where we would be living in the same attic apartment at Aunt Helen’s I had lived with my mother. My parents in the meantime had rented a house a few blocks away. They were preparing to settle in Dad’s hometown in Grants Pass, Oregon as soon as he took his leave from the service.

We arrived home in the middle of the night with 63 cents between us and no key to the apartment. The old house has a fire escape ladder which we climbed and broke into the bedroom. The following morning, the new husband asked me when I intended to get a job.

(Now, sixty-nine years later; In remembrance: all of the dear boys who served as groomsmen have passed away. The sound of their laughter still rings in memory. Of the lovely maids, all but two remain.)

CLEOPATRA WAS WORTH $96 BILLION


cleopatra2

It’s difficult to get a handle on what Cleopatra actually looked like since most images tend to look like Elizabeth Taylor. But history gives us a pretty good idea of what life was like in her reign.

It seems that she was a very rich lady. On one contemporary list she appears as the 22nd richest person in history, well behind John D. Rockefeller and Tsar Nicholas 11, but ahead of Napoleon and J.P.Morgan. She is assigned a net worth of $95.8 billion which is nothing to sneer at.

In spite of having all this money, she had no standing army and was thus both coveted by and vulnerable to Rome.

The Ptolemaic system (the Ptolemy’s, were Cleopatra’s dynastic family and the rulers of Egypt) and has been compared to that of Soviet Russia; it stands among the most closely controlled economies in history.

How did she get so rich from being a farmer? Easy; she controlled the land and had functionaries who determined and monitored its use. Only with government permission could you fell a tree, breed pigs, turn your barley field into an olive garden. You faced prosecution if you planted palms without permission. The beekeeper could not move his hives from one district to another as doing so confused the authorities. It probably confused the bees too.

No one left his district during the agricultural season. Looms were checked to make sure none was idle and thread counts correct. (No wonder Egyptian cotton sheets cost so much.) It was illegal for a private individual to own an oil press or anything resembling one. (So much for anyone trying to press a little olive oil for a Caesar salad for dinner.)

It was frequently broadcast throughout Egypt the reassuring message that ‘nobody is allowed to do what he wishes, but that everything is arranged for the best.’

Unparalleled in its sophistication, the system was hugely effective and, for Cleopatra, hugely lucrative. The greatest of Egypt’s industries—wheat, glass, papyrus, linen, oils, and unguents–essentially constituted royal monopolies. On those commodities Cleopatra profited doubly.

The sale of oil to the crown was taxed at nearly 50 percent. Cleopatra then resold the oil at a profit, in some cases as great as 300 percent.
If an item could be named, it was taxed. Owners of baths which were privately owned, owed the state a third of their revenue. Professional fishermen surrendered 25 percent of their catch, vintners 16 percent of their tonnage. Cleopatra operated several wool and textile factories of her own, with a staff of slave girls.

How wealthy was she? Into her coffers went approximately half of what Egypt produced, and they produced a lot.