Friday, April 11, 2014

Remembering the Pets On The Titanic

Today is National Pet Day, and Monday will be the 102nd Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster, which made me wonder: How many pets were on board the Titanic when she sank on April 14, 1912 during her maiden voyage?  The answer, unfortunately, were many …

The Breakup
It was a Sunday night, 11:40 P.M. when the largest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic.  Less than 3 hours later the massive ship disappeared under the icy waters.  Just over a third of the 2,200 passengers and crew were still alive and aboard the half filled lifeboats, or trying to stay alive in the frigid waters. When the Carpathia arrived the next morning to rescue survivors, only 700 remained alive. So what happened to the pets?

Traveling with his dog
At the turn of the 20th century, it was in vogue to travel with a pet – or two, and those well to do traveling on the Titanic were no exception. The fare price for a dog was about half the cost of an adult ticket: about the same amount as for a child’s ticket. Rosters indicated that there were several pets on board when the ship set sail including 12 dogs, the ship’s cat, several roosters and hens, and a canary.

Cat and Kitten
It is interesting to note that the ship’s cat, Jenny had just had kittens on board –but when the ship docked at Southampton before heading out into the Atlantic, Jenny was seen carrying each kitten off the ship. She was then seen leading them away into the city. The sight was enough to make one seaman refuse to set foot on the Titanic, believing that the cat “knew something,” and that the ship was doomed. 

Pet's of the Titanic
Those pets known to have been on board and lost included John Jacob Astor’s Airedale, a King Charles Spaniel, a French Bulldog, a Toy Poodle, a Fox Terrier, an elderly Airedale, and a Chow.

Dogs on the Titanic
Many pets were not taken on deck when the alarm sounded that fateful night because passengers thought it was a drill. Some of the pets were sleeping in their master’s quarters; others were being cared for in the kennel area. Few passengers had the foresight to retrieve their pets before the sinking. Unfortunately, most of the animals were left below board to fend for themselves. It was said that as the ship began to sink, someone went to the kennels and released all of the animals in an attempt to allow them to save themselves.

Permit to Inter William Dulles
Crossing records indicated that attorney William Crothers Dulles was traveling with his dog. Both went down with the ship.

Ann Isham
There was also a rumor that Ann Isham was traveling with a large dog, possibly a Great Dane. When she was told she could not get in the lifeboat with her dog because he was too big, she refused to go. A German liner later reported seeing the bodies of a woman and a large dog floating together after the disaster.

Sun-Yat Sen
Three dogs and the canary were said to have survived the sinking. One was a Pekingese named Sun-Yat Sen owned by Henry Sleeper Harper of the Harper and Row Publishing Company. Harper and Sun-Yat survived, along with his wife, Myra by getting into Lifeboat 3.

Margaret B Hays
Lady, a Pomeranian pup survived along with her owner, Margaret Bechstein Hays in Lifeboat 7. Hays had purchased Lady in Paris and was taking her home to New York City. Lady was wrapped in a blanket and the crew allowed Hays to board the lifeboat with her, thinking it was a baby. From then on, Hays took Lady everywhere with her, even the opera. Lady died in 1920 and was cremated.

Elizabeth B. Rothschild
The third dog to survive was another Pomeranian owned by Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild who hid the dog in her coat when she boarded Lifeboat 6. When the captain of the Carpathia refused to allow the dogs to board his ship, Mrs. Rothschild refused to leave the lifeboat. The captain acquiesced and both were hauled on board. Unfortunately the dog was attacked and killed by a larger dog only a few weeks later.

Rigel ?
And there was the story of a Newfoundland named Rigel, supposedly the pet of First Officer William Murdoch (who went down with the ship) that managed to survive in the water and alerted the crew of the Carpathia where some of the lifeboats were by barking.  Rigel was taken aboard the rescuing ship and adopted by a crewman.

Newspaper Article About Rigel
The story was told by Carpathia crew member Jonas Briggs to a news reporter in New York, but the problem was that there was no Jonas Briggs on the Carpathia’s crew roster, and no survivors reported seeing or hearing the black New Foundland that supposedly saved them. But readers took the story to heart, regardless of the facts, because it provided a ray of hope that those surviving, and those reading about it needed in the face of such a tragedy.

Remembering Those Lost at Sea
Recovering Remains
Recovery ships found 340 bodies floating on the ocean, but only 209 remains could be delivered to Halifax. The other 128 were too badly decomposed to be retrieved. They were buried at sea. Of all the animals that had died, none were taken back to shore for burial.

~ Joy

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fala – The Most Famous Four-Footed White House Resident

President Roosevelt
He arrived at the White House just one year before the U.S. would wage war on Japan and officially enter World War Two.  With a master who was under the scrutiny of the entire world, Fala had his job cut out for him as companion, confident, and best friend to the president.

Fala, the Scottish Terrier
Born April 7, 1940, Fala was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorite dog. Given to the president by a friend and cousin, the little black Scottish Terrier was originally named Big Boy. Roosevelt renamed him Murray the Outlaw of Falahill after his famous 15th century Scottish ancestor, John Murray, but his name was quickly shortened to Fala.

FDR and Fala
Fala's Collar
Fala arrived at the White House well trained. Besides the usual house training, he could also roll over, sit up, jump, and curl his lip into a smile upon command. The American public and dignitaries from around the world were enamored with the little Scotty. Always in style, he sported a leather collar with a silver nameplate that read, “Fala, The White House.”

Fala Traveling with FDR
Walking Fala
Fala immediately became the constant companion of the president, traveling with him around the world via chauffeured car, presidential airplane, custom-made train car, and ship. But his presence often alerted others where the president was traveling since he would require regular walking on a trip. Because of this, he was given the code name, “The Informer” by the Secret Service.

FDR in Aleutians
In fact, his inclusion to the president’s travels sparked a trumped up controversy in 1944 when a Republican in the House of Representatives alleged that FDR had accidently left the dog on Adak Island in the Aleutians during a trip. The representative claimed that the president sent a destroyer back to get Fala.

FDR Speaking
Fala Listens in
Roosevelt denied the charges in what is now the famous “Fala Speech” where he told listeners that the Republicans were not content to attack him and his family, “now they attack my little dog. I don’t resent the attacks and my family doesn’t resent the attacks, but Fala does resent them … He hasn’t been the same dog since.”

Fala's Movie
Fala's Fan Mail
The public loved stories about the little dog and Fala had his share of the limelight. He attended a conference in Quebec where the media held a photo op for him. In 1942, a movie was made about him, and a book was written about his life at the White House called The True Story of Fala. He was also the star of several cartoons. The little dog received so much mail that he required a secretary to respond to all of his correspondence.

Faithful Companions
FDR's Funeral
When FDR died in April 1945, Fala was devastated. His life-long companion was gone. He accompanied the president on the presidential funeral train from Warm Springs, New York back to Washington D.C. and then attended the president's funeral.

Eleanor and Fala
Fala with Portrait of FDR
Fala lived the rest of his life with Eleanor Roosevelt in her home at Val-Kill. Although well-loved and with plenty of room to play, Fala never seemed to get over the loss of his best friend.

Fala at FDR's Grave
Fala's Grave
Fala died on April 5, 1952, just two days short of his 12th birthday. His death made national media and he was buried in the rose garden at Hyde Park, close to his beloved master.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
In 1997, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial was dedicated in Washington D.C. There, a life-sized statue of FDR sits draped in a cape with Fala ever watchful at his feet. Fala is the only pet to ever be represented in a presidential memorial - That is how inseparable the two are remembered.

~ Joy

Friday, March 28, 2014

Humor in the Cemetery

Tuesday is April 1st - April Fools’ Day.  A day celebrated around the world with jokes, hoaxes and pranks.  Also known as All Fools’ Day, the tradition is believed to have begun in France in the 1500’s.   

Although wit is not something you expect to find in a cemetery, our ancestors did have a sense of humor about life … and death. Epitaphs - those tributes and verses engraved on tombstones, can provide a bit more insight into the deceased’s character, all the while offering it with a wink and a nod.  With that in mind, here's a look at a bit of  ‘grave humor’.

In Hillside Cemetery at Eastport, Maine, Lorenzo Sabine was buried in 1877.  On his stone is one simple word,             Transplanted

Boot Hill Cemetery
Tombstone, Arizona started in 1879 as a mining boomtown that grew up quick and grew up mean.  It briefly became part of the ‘Wild West,” where cattle ranchers, cowboys and carpet baggers all held sway with a gun. It was during 1881 that Marshall Wyatt Earp and his brothers fought the cowboys at what became known as the shootout at O.K. Corral.  In the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, almost 300 of these former citizens are buried and remembered with some interesting epitaphs.

Here lies Butch.
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger
But slow on the draw.

Wells Fargo Agent, Lester Moore was also buried in Boot Hill with the following epitaph:

Here Lies
Lester Moore
Four slugs from a 44
No Les
No more

England is also the home of many cheeky inscriptions –

On the stone of Anna Wallace in a cemetery in Ribbesford, England is this supposed inscription:

The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife
And the Devil sent him Anna

From a London cemetery comes this,

Owen Moore
Gone away
Owin’ more
Than he could pay

Even the barristers appear to have had a sense of humor.

Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer
And that is Strange

Rebecca Freeland was buried in an Edwalton, England cemetery in 1741 with this rejoinder – 

She drank good ale
Good punch and wine
And lived to the age of 99

Some cleaver epitaphs may be a bit too clever.  When I researched to locate these, I found that the cemetery locations continued to change from one state to another, from one mention to another.  But, regardless of existence, they are humorous.

Here lies the body
Of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake

Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana.
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.

This inscription has been reported in a cemetery in Hartscombe, England and also in New Jersey.  Same name, different days of death – in England on June 22, in New Jersey on June 30 but no year of death is given.

On June __,
Jonathan Fiddle
Went out of tune.

In Elkhart, Indiana the stone for S.B. McCracken, a teacher reads –

School is out.
Teacher has gone home.

The famous also have some epitaphs that produce chuckles –
Mel Blanc, the man behind hundreds of character voices for Warner Brothers Studios, went out with the tagline of every Warner Brother’s cartoon ...

That’s All Folks

American singer, actor and 50’s Rat Pack member, Frank Sinatra closed out with a line from one of his songs,

The best is yet to come

Television host and media mogul, Merv Griffin ended his life segment with –

I will not be right back
After this message.

For Spike Milligan, an Irish comedian, writer and actor,

"Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite"

English translation:  “I told you I was ill.”

 It is also rumored that a similar epitaph exists in an unnamed cemetery in Georgia for a B.P. Roberts with the words -

I told you I was sick.

The sudden passing of John Belushi left us with a smile –

I may be gone but
Rock and Roll lives on.

Then there are the anonymous epitaphs:

Again, from England – 
This spot is the sweetest I’ve seen in my life,
For it rises my flowers and covers my wife.

Beneath this silent stone is laid
A noisy antiquated maid
Who from her cradle talked to death
And ne’er before was out of breath.

This epitaph is seen in nineteenth century cemeteries throughout the U.S.

Behold and see as you pass by
For as you are, so once was I 

As I am now, so will you be
Prepare unto death and follow me

But someone supposedly felt a reply was needed to this plea and carved, somewhere - 

To follow you, I’ll not consent
For I don’t know which way you went.

And to close out with my favorite:

Here lies an Atheist.
All dressed up and no place to go.

Have a Happy April First, and remember in those immortal Main Ingredient song lyrics…

“Everybody plays the fool, sometimes……”

~ Joy