Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Pythian's Castle

The week of Aunt Louise's birthday saw an abundance of birthday cakes, candles and very off-key singing.  I think the above was at the Olive Garden.

(Kathy, Chelsea and Jerry)
One day these cousins took us to Lucille's for a really good birthday lunch and more bad singing.  

Chelsea (the cutie in the middle in the above picture) raises chickens and she gifted me with a dozen of the most colorful eggs. What a treat and all the eggs are completely organic while laid with great care from contented, free-range hens. 

The festivities finally came to an end so Aunt Louise, Suzanne and I took a ride to Weatherford for the day.  The above 'castle' has been a landmark in the town for many years and when Suzanne learned that Aunt Louise had never been inside, she arranged for a tour of what is known as Pythian's Castle.

The Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization and secret society, founded in Washington D.C. in 1864.

The order has over 2,000 lodges (or castles) in the U.S. and around the world, with a total membership of over 50,000.

A number of U.S. Presidents, vice presidents, financiers and even Louis Armstrong have all been members of the Pythian's. 

The Texas Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias considered building a home for dependent widows and children as early as 1886.  In 1897 the Grand Lodge Convention started a fund to establish such a  home.  

(Each chapter seems to find another way to show benevolence.  The one in Weatherford opened in 1909 and chose to house widows and children left dependent from the various wars.   For years it provided schooling for the children but now the resident children attend local schools.)

 The order provides for "worthy Pythians in distress" and has given aid to victims of national or sectional disasters. It runs camps for underprivileged youth and homes for aged members. It has sponsored scholarship funds, blood drives, highway safety programs, and the Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation.   

 The cornerstone for the massive main building was laid in Weatherford, Tx in 1907.

   The building exhibits Moorish influences and contains 52 rooms. 

  The first floor housed the girl's dormitory, a dining room, and the kitchen; while the second floor served as the boys dormitory and contained an auditorium.   

This antique fan was unusual.

Additional dormitory facilities were built later and are joined to the main building by arched walkways.   

 This was the library and I could have spent hours here.  The books were old and worn, many were the originals with a whole series of "Bobbsy Twins", "Nancy Drew Mysteries", dozens of the classics and even the first 'adult' book I ever read, "Lydia Bailey".

There are now 11 children in residence here with a large staff to care for them.  

The castle is no longer a 'mystery' for the three of us and we sure enjoyed the tour.
 For the many children who have grown up here I suspect it has been an adventure to grow up in a castle.  Many have stayed and continued on as staff, including the lovely young lady that gave us this tour.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Aunt Louise's 97th birthday party.

This blog has been sadly neglected the last few weeks soooo...time to catch up. 

I arrived back in Ft. Worth a few days before Aunt Louise's 97th birthday party and to rehearse for the celebration, we took in a few lunches that included cake and candles.

One waitress decided to take a selfie--yep, we were getting in the mood. 

When the big day arrived the chef at Hill Villa Apartments produced an amazing cake. 

  Yes, the last name is misspelled but the cake tasted so good nobody cared.

Family started arriving from miles away.  Cousins Andre and Glenda drove all the way from a camping trip in Oklahoma, just for the party.

Aunt Louise's friend and neighbor, (Louise #1), arrived with her daughter Connie and son-in-law, Scott. 

The turnout was great.  Even the Lawrence's (The couple on the right) who own and operate the Museum of the Americas in Weatherford closed up for the afternoon and drove to the party.

Buddy and Louise #1.

Dorothy and Suzanne

Music was provided by this handsome cowboy, Craig Murphy, who is a fan of Aunt Louise's--and vice-versa.

And if you think oldsters can't kick up their heels, you are missing some good parties. 

This guy is now over 100 years old! 

Buddy asked Aunt Louise to dance... 

The wheelchair was hardly an obstacle.

I hope you can tell by the pictures what a good time was had by all. 

Very talented Hannah supplied some Patsy Kline music. 


Happy Birthday, Aunt Louise.  I plan to be there for your 98th.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Museums from Womb to Tomb

Oklahoma City may have the usual museums centered around the west, its history, the native Americans, military, etc. but I skipped all of those.  I was determined to find something different and I sure did.  The Alfred Murrah Building Memorial was the start then I read about something called "The Womb".  

I went looking for it and discovered this building that gave me little or no information but lots of interesting psychedelic designs....

...and a padlock on the front door with no sign saying when or if they would reopen.  I still do not know what "The Womb" is about but if anyone knows....

Next stop, "Skulls Unlimited".  I thought it might be something related to Halloween ...

...but it was really, and seriously, about Skeletons, lots of them.

I discovered the museum by accident--a tiny brochure on the bottom shelf in an information center along the Interstate.  I tucked the brochure in my purse and almost forgot about it but, well,  it pays sometimes to clean out your purse.

I drove several miles out into the country to find a rather nondescript building that, on the outside, gave no hint as to the amazing displays inside.

The evolution of Skulls Unlimited began in 1972 when, at the age of seven, Jay Villemarette found a dog skull.  When Jay's father saw his interest, he encouraged Jay to find and collect other skulls.   

In 1978, Jay entered his growing collection in his 6th grade science fair, receiving a 'Superior' award.  That following year Jay won fifth place in the Oklahoma State Fair.  After graduating high school Jay began selling skulls in his spare time and eventually turned this unusual hobby into a business.

In 1990, Jay opened Skulls Unlimited's first retail location in Oklahoma City.  Today, Skulls Unlimited has a worldwide reputation for having ......the largest variety of natural bone and replica osteological specimens.

The pictures in this posting are only the tiniest example of what is on display in this private museum. I have seen many dinosaur bones, prehistoric fish bones, fossilized insects, etc. but I do not recall ever seeing such a collection of modern animals and people.  It was both beautiful and educational.

Animals that possess a vertebral column or 'Backbone'.  This includes mammals, birds, reptiles,  amphibians, and many species of fish.

Diana Monkey

Foot binding was a practice performed on Chinese girls that dates from the early  10th century to as recent as the early 20th century.  This process involved breaking bones in the young girl's feet.  Next the foot was tightly bound to prevent it from growing. Once healed, the girls were not likely to be able to walk.  Although debated, it is believed that foot binding was performed due to a fetish for small feet.  The skeletal feet on display here compare a deformed, bound foot to a normally developed woman's foot.

Trephination, also known as trepanning, is a surgical procedure in which a hole is drilled or cut into the human skull.  This procedure exposes the brain and allows access to treat injuries and disease.  Evidence of this has been found in prehistoric human remains as long ago as 6500 BCE.  Most ancient trephined skulls exhibit signs of bone healing, suggesting that the patients survived. The skull is a modern and successful Trepanning.

Over 2000 years old, these deformed skulls originate from Peru. 
 The act of elongating the skull was achieved by binding the head of a child 
with cloth, rope and boards.  As the child's skull grew and developed it would elongate.
Both trephination and head binding date back nearly 9000 years.

(The whale skeleton above shows two small vestigial bones in the rear area before the tale.) 

Vestigial Bones

Whales and dolphins possess small remnant bones that are once part of the pelvis.  Called Vestigial bones, these bones are evidence that whales as well as some other marine mammals such as manatees, had a land dwelling ancestor that walked on four legs.  As these mammals adapted and evolved to an aquatic existence, the need for these rear legs diminished.  Over millions of years the limbs atrophied and eventually disappeared, leaving only these vestigial remnants behind.

(Here is a better view of those two bones.) 

White handed Gibbon

Lowland Gorilla

Human Evolution is defined as 'change in the genetic material of a population of organisms.  Over time, evolution can result in the emergence of new species.  Human evolution refers to the processes that led to Homo Sapiens being a distinct species.

A human and a Bonobo.  (Cousins)

One mechanism of evolution is natural selection, the process where helpful traits that increase the chance of survival and reproduction become more common in a population.  This occurs because individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to adapt, survive and reproduce, thus passing along those helpful traits to the next generation.  Individuals with harmful traits are more likely to die.

(The skulls in this exhibit are replicas, sculpted from one of a kind archaeological finds.  The original specimens reside in various museums around the world.)
Adaptation is a process of nature in which an organism becomes better suited to its habitat.  Over time, small mutations can accumulate and result in substantial changes in a population.  Natural selection of mutations that are best-suited for survival, lead to evolution.
It is a measurable, observable scientific fact that evolution occurs.

A Labrador Retriever

American Buffalo

This Rhinoceros foot ashtray is a relic of the past.  At one time, hunting trophies like this were popular and easily obtainable.  Today, many species such as the black rhino, are endangered due to over-hunting over the past 100 years.  All endangered species dare now protected and are no longer allowed to be hunted.

The skull of a giraffe

An Argali Sheep

A Beaked Whale

Killer Whale


Alligator or Crocodile?

Aren't snake skeletons the prettiest?

The following skeleton was of special interest to me.  My Aunt Louise suffers from Kyphosis of the Spine, due in large part to an auto accident some 10 years ago.

Kyphosis of the Spine
Kyphosis, also called hunchback, is a condition where the upper spine curves causing a slouching posture.  It can be either the result of arthritis, osteoporosis or trauma.

All descriptions in Italics are from the literature presented at the museum.  The photos were shot through glass and there was a lot of reflection from the lights so they are not as clear as I would have liked.  I definitely suggest, if you are ever in or near Oklahoma City, that you visit Skulls Unlimited.