Friday, December 13, 2013

A Book for the 'Burg

Massanutten Regional Library in partnership with James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite University, and the City of Harrisonburg will be participating in the inaugural year of a community reading program called “A Book for the ‘Burg”.   The first community reading program took place in Seattle Washington in 1998. The goal of this program is to encourage an entire community to read the same literary work and come together to discuss, as well as support programs based on themes found in the book.[1]

Monday, December 2, 2013

December Celebrations

                The musing for December is inspired by Holiday Insights’ “Bizarre, Wacky and Unique Holidays.”  We offer some light-hearted relief for this busy month based on the “2013 Daily Holidays, Special, and Wacky Days.” Some of the holidays listed here are official and have historical context; many are food-related; some make no sense; and, of course, some observances in December are activities to prepare for Christmas.

Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock
                Among the serious observances is World Aids Day on December 1, which was first observed in 1988. On December 5, you can drink to Repeal Day and commemorate the end of Prohibition, when Mormon Utah ratified the Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and gave the U.S. government the three-quarters majority of state support it needed to overturn Prohibition. The seventh of December is day that will “live in infamy”—the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Human Rights Day is recognized on December 10; it was on this day in 1948 that the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 21 is especially remembered in Massachusetts; on this day in 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Other
December dates marking historical events or social concerns include National Roof over Your Head on December 3, to bring awareness to homelessness; International Civil Aviation Day (December 7) to promote civil aviation around the world; International Children’s Day (December 8) sponsored by UNICEF; and December 15 to mark the day in 1791 when the first ten amendments (The Bill of Rights) were added to the Constitution.

                 Food is ever-present this month: there are sixteen days involving food. One may wonder why some of these days are celebrated in December; a little research found that some food items—for example, ice cream—have special days or even months throughout the year. Those food items most associated with Christmas are listed with the Christmas-related activities; below are non-Christmas kitchen activities. Bon Appetite!
                Dec. 1: Eat a Red Apple Day
                Dec. 2: National Fritters Day
                Dec. 7: National Cotton Candy Day
                Dec. 8: National Pastry Day
                Dec. 11: National Noodle Ring Day
                Dec. 12: National Ding-a-Ling Day
                Dec. 13: Ice Cream Day
                Dec. 14: National Bouillabaisse Day
                Dec. 15: National Lemon Cupcake Day
                Dec. 16: Chocolate-covered Anything Day
                Dec. 17: National Maple Syrup Day
                Dec. 18: Oatmeal Muffin Day
                Dec. 22: National Date Nut Bread Day
                Dec. 24: National Chocolate Day
                Dec. 25: National Pumpkin Pie Day
                Dec. 29: Pepper Pot Day

Fortunately, there is no “get on the scale” day! 

                The special days associated with the Christmas Holiday can serve as a “to do” list for the holiday preparations. Santa’s List Day is on December 4—but you could preempt it with Black Friday (November 29) and Cyber Monday (December2)!  For those who venerate the real St.   Despite its name, Christmas Card Day is not to do this chore, but rather to recognize Sir Henry Cole of England, who created the first Christmas card in 1843. Poinsettia Day, on December 12, honors J.P. Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico; his perhaps most-noted contribution to foreign relations was to introduce the United States to a plant now called the poinsettia. 
St. Nicholas
Nichols, a patron saint of the Orthodox Church, the observance is on December 6. A good day to work on your Christmas letter is the seventh, Letter Writing Day, which is followed two days later by Christmas Card Day.
                If you follow the “to do” list, you will be very busy on December 18. On this day are two chores: baking cookies and roasting a suckling pig. We hope the next day you will have energy to “Look for an Evergreen.” And the activity the day after is to “Go Caroling.” Perhaps December 21, “Humbug Day,” will get an “amen” from you. December 24 may offer a little pick-up—you can lift a wassail cup to toast National Eggnog Day and ready yourself for Christmas Day. You are still not finished with holiday events, though! December 26 is Boxing Day and the day after is National Fruitcake Day. (Is that a re-gifting day?!)  With all your eating and celebrating during the past few weeks, welcome relief comes on December 30,
National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.
                Around the world in December are many different religious observances. Usually all of the eight days of Jewish holiday Hanukkah are observed in December; this year celebrations begin in   Another religious observance is on December 8, known as Bodhi Day, when the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, experienced enlightenment. From December 21-15 is Pancha Ganapati, a five-day Hindu festival in honor of Lord Ganesha.
November. Kwanzaa, which honors African heritage, family, community and culture, is a week-long celebration at the end of the month.
A common theme and symbol of many December religious celebrations is lights. This includes the many different celebrations of the winter solstice on December 21: the Zuni and Hopi Soyal ceremony; the Iranian festival of Yalda; and Saturnalis, the Roman solstice festival.  Even our list of “bazaar and unique” holidays appropriately lists on December 21 “National Flashlight Day” and “Look on the Bright Side Day.”  If none of the above observances is appropriate to your belief system, there is always Festivus on December 23. Festivus became popular after 1997 episode of “Seinfeld” which described it as an alternative to the consumerism and frenzy of the holidays. The day is marked with a “Festivus pole,” which is a plain aluminum pole. When celebrants gather, they air grievances, have feats of strength, and feast on meatloaf. “A Festivus for the rest of us,” as they say on the show.
Whatever your affiliation or lack thereof, by the time National Bicarbonate Day rolls around on December 30, and maybe a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet, too—you have made it through the month.  Do not to worry if your resolve weakens; January 17 is set aside as the day to “Ditch your New Year’s Resolution!”

                Here are a few holidays that did not fit in the above categories and might leave you scratching your head: Wear Brown Shoes Day on December 4, Take in the Ear Day on December 8, and Violin Day on December 13. A few celebrations seem to have been created by teachers and parents to keep children amused and calm: Mitten Tree Day (December 6); Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day (December 27); and Card Playing Day (December 28). 
We may have overlooked a few unique holidays, but what is certain that with all this activity and celebrating during the month, Bathtub Party Day should be observed much later in the month than on December 5. There should be at least two such party days.

Happy December!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago...

Lincoln Address Memorial at Gettysburg
            During 1863 the residents of Harrisonburg thrilled to the guerilla exploits of Captain John H. McNeill and his Rangers – a Confederate partisan unit that harassed Federal units.  Also, in July, the citizens of Harrisonburg were well aware of the great battle in Pennsylvania.  The Register on July tenth reported a “great, glorious, and overwhelming victory over Union forces” at Gettysburg.  Over the next week the truth became apparent as large numbers of wounded Confederates passed up the Valley, many breathing their last breathe in Harrisonburg.  On November 16, Court Day, a rumor late in the afternoon spread that the Yankees would be coming in about five hours.[i]  The rumor was false.  Uncertainty charge the atmosphere.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dean King to Speak at MRL

Tales from History of Adventure and Survival

Dean King, the well-regarded author of narrative historical non-fiction, is speaking at the Main Branch of the Massanutten Regional Library on Thursday, November 7th at 7:00pm.  A Richmond native, he was born in 1962 and graduated from the University of North Carolina and New York University.  As a post graduate, King spent ten years in New York City mostly writing for up-scale magazines and other periodicals.

Friday, October 25, 2013

As American as Apple Pie

“As American as apple pie.” There’s a reason we’ve had this saying for so long; it’s because it’s true. Americans cannot hold claim to inventing pie in general, but we can take full tribute for the invention of sweet pies—fruit, custard, anything without meat. Back in Ancient Greece, where almost everything in our society started, they made spiced meat pies. These pies sometimes had figs in them for added flavor, but there is no record of anyone making a fruit pie. These meat pies made their way through Europe to England and then came over to America on the Mayflower. When the colonists became revolutionaries, they also became revolutionary bakers. Looking for a way to get food on the run, the revolutionaries made small, hand held fruit pies (McDonalds, anyone?).[1]

Monday, September 30, 2013

Henry P. Deyerle

On October 3rd at 7 pm the Massanutten Regional Library Main Branch presents the first of its four weekly Deyerle lectures.  The theme of this year’s series is art and artisans of the Shenandoah Valley.  This is a fitting topic for us to recognize Dr. Henry P. Deyerle.  His interest  in and acquisition of 18th and 19th century Americana domestic artifacts made in the eastern United States was well known.   His passion also raised awareness of the work of Shenandoah Valley artisans during these centuries. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blind Date with a Banned Book

Banned Books Week 2013 will be celebrated September 22 – 28. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.[i] The American Library Association compiles data each year regarding the number of book challenges filed in the United States. A challenge is defined as a formal written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The Office of Intellectual Freedom also gathers data from newspaper articles regarding book challenges.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Master Gardeners to Return to MRL

Central Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners Help the Library

                The Master Gardeners of the Central Shenandoah Valley are ready to help you and the Library.  From September 12 – 28th at various time in the Lobby of the Main Library in Harrisonburg, the  Master Gardeners will answer your landscaping and planting questions and take your order for bulbs.  Proceeds from the sales will be contributed to the Massanutten Regional Library.  Bulbs can be purchased at any of MRL’s seven locations and also ordered on-line until October 25 at 
Consumers can also link to the bulb catalog from MRL’s website at 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poet Laureates of Virginia

True beauty is never fleeting, which is why poetry

demands thoughtful reading - as well as the gift of time.[i]

On Saturday, September 21 at 1 pm the Massanutten Regional Library’s Main Branch is offering a public program featuring Sofia Starnes, the current Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Virginians and the Commonwealth, one of a few states to so honor poets, have a long history of providing encouragement, community, and support for poets and for those who enjoy reading poetry.   The umbrella for local poets and poetry readers is the Poetry Society of Virginia, established in 1923 and in its 90th year.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Harrisonburg Guards Part 2

The Harrisonburg Guards (continued)

The following account found in the August 1879 issues of the Rockingham Register newspapers provided a glimpse of the lighter side of Guard duty.

The Guards’ Encampment at Rawley Springs[i]

            Coinciding with the first load of watermelons in early August 1879, about thirty “boys” of Harrisonburg went to Rawley Springs for a three-day encampment.  The Rawley Springs, about 12 miles west of the Courthouse, was a popular resort known medically for its fortifying and curing iron water and recreationally for its many diversions.  On Thursday, August 7, - a “delightfully cool day, - the boys left Harrisonburg in good spirits” for their encampment.  The newspaper reported that “the journey to Rawley Springs was passed in joking and laughing, and repartee, it affording the boys special amusement to observe the physiognomy of toll keepers [along the Rawley Pike and they] would approach or drive through without either ceremony or pay.”   When they arrived at the Dry River crossing at the entrance to the Resort, the Company was greeted by the Rawley Springs brass band under the leadership of Prof. Schoff of the U.S. Naval Military Academy Band. The Guards marched to the Springs to the especially composed “Harrisonburg Guard Quickstep.”  A multitude of fair ladies on the verandahs of the Virginia, Baltimore, and Washington Houses greeted the “boys” with applause.   Major Pitman, the manager of the Resort, and Mr. Carey and Mr. Lee, the clerks, welcomed them and showed them to their accommodations at the Washington House.  In the evening at the “customary dance” in the large ballroom, the young men had a chance to obtain introductions to the ladies.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Harrisonburg Guards Part 1

Picture of the Harrisonburg Guards between 1886 and 1900 from collection of Massanutten Regional Library.

The Harrisonburg Guards

The following article focuses on the Harrisonburg Guards but also presents a picture of the region transitioning from the destruction of the Civil War and the confinements of Reconstruction to the creation of a new social order.  The portrait of Harrisonburg in 1877 shows a relatively prosperous, tolerant, and forward-looking segment of the South.  The Guards Unit may seem to be a relic of the past, yet the formation of the unit reveals an engagement in the new South and the re-formed Union.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do you know this man??

Can you identify this man??  This hand drawn pencil sketch was found behind another picture of a little girl in a blue dress.   Our dear patron, Ms. Preston, purchased the lovely little girl for her daughter’s room sometime in the 1960s.  She purchased it at the little antique shop, Mrs. Saufley’s,  in Mt. Crawford.  Recently, Ms. Preston  was cleaning the painting and decided to remove the backing.  Surprise!!!  This well rendered image was staring at her. 
Is this your grandfather or some other relative?  We want to know and we have a surprise for you if you do know.  The picture was on display at the Main Library in downtown Harrisonburg.   It is currently at our North River Branch in Bridgewater.  Please let someone at the that branch know if you have information or contact Cheryl Metz in the Reference Department, or at 434-4475 x129 or


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lincoln Homstead in Virginia

But I thought Lincoln was born in a log cabin house in Kentucky? That was my thought process when I first heard about the Lincoln Homestead and its location in the Rockingham County. So does our 16th President have any true ties to Virginia?

According to the March 24, 1887 newspaper Rockingham Register, he does. The paper ran a front page article entitled: “Lincoln’s Ancestors in Virginia.” The article is John T. Harris Jr.’s argument that the Lincolns, according to deeds in the courthouse that “survived the Federal army during the civil war”, did not leave Virginia until 1781. The article was written in response to the newspaper Century’s article by “Nicolay and Hay” that stated the Lincolns left in 1780.[1] Quite a convincing article.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kate Green Paul: Local Participation in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (continued)

Kate Green Paul is #4

Following our pervious overview of local participation in the Chicago’s World Fair at the national level, we continue with the organizations and contributions on the state and local levels. Because of her position on the National Women’s Board, Kate Paul was called upon to take part in local undertakings. Reading the newspapers reports at that time (and today we would find the writing very sexist), the prominence of many women in the preparations for the event was ground breaking. 

An act of the General Assembly, passed on March 4, 1892, created the Board of World’s Fair Managers of Virginia. An appropriation of $25,000 was approved, but no one considered the amount enough to accomplish all the plans. The governor appointed a ten member board to secure exhibits on the resources, products, and general development of the Commonwealth of Virginia to show at the World’s Columbian Exposition. The Board had authority to take all the “necessary steps to secure a complete and creditable display of interest to the state including the solicitation, collection, transportation, arrangement, exhibition of all objects sent to the Exposition.”  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kate Green Paul: Local Participation in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Kate Green Paul is #4

(This article is a postscript to the Massanutten Regional Library’s first summer adult program on June 10 that features author Katie Letcher Lyle, who is the great-granddaughter of Kate Paul.)

  Recent books, for example, Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City (2004) and Justin Martin’s Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (2012), focused popular attention on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. While excellent, these books do not provide the reader with an understanding of the scope and widespread participation of Americans in this event. Few people know about Rockingham County/Harrisonburg resident population’s participation in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In the local histories of this period, Mrs. Kate Seymour Green Paul’s membership on the Board of Women Managers of the World’s Fair was often noted. Kate Paul’s position gave area residents a “place at the table” with regard to national, state, and local exposition planning. The existence of the Board also called attention to the role of women in this event and in society in general 120 years ago.

 When the planning for the Fair began in 1890, Kate Paul was 43 years old, a mother of five living children that ranged in age from 2 to 12. In 1874, she married John Paul, who was then the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Rockingham County, later U.S. Congressmen and now, in 1890, the US judge for the Western District of Virginia. Kate Paul’s familiarity with the political arena provided her with connections that along with her own talents and interests made her well-suited for membership on the Board of Lady Managers of the Chicago World’s Fair.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May is National Foster Care Month

Did you know May is National Foster Care Month? Recently Virginia Governor McDonnell issued a proclamation recognizing May, 2013 as Foster Care Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This was followed by a new initiative to encourage adoptions called “Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000”. [1] To help share information about Foster Care a local organization that serves Harrisonburg foster and adoptive families shared a story from one of their Foster Parents with MRL.

Foster Parenting: A Parent’s Insight
“It makes it worth it to know you’ve been able to be a part of their healing.” 

When asked, “Why did you become foster parents?” this is the response given by a family who has opened their home to over 10 children in the last three years. Has it always been easy? No. In fact, they shared stories of hardships, hard choices, and tears. But as the stories unraveled, they were also well seasoned with hugs, “I love yous,” healing, and happiness. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Remembering Downtown Harrisonburg

Facebook has finally been able to connect us to 200 million of our closest friends, but it has also served to bring together the community of downtown Harrisonburg. The downtown Harrisonburg of my experience is trivia night at Clementine’s , nights at  The Blue Nile when college kids play DJ, and Kline’s ice cream. The downtown Harrisonburg Lew Taylor has recreated is one of the “greatest small cities in America” when school supplies were bought at Stationers and the Virginia Theatre was in full swing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Preservation Week

Did you know that Preservation Week was created in 2010 by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) to bring attention to the millions of times in various institutions that required immediate attention and care.    ALCTS is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Master Gardeners Help the Library

The snows are gone; the soil is turned; now what to plant in the garden?- Gladiolus, Lilies, Dahlias!  The Master Gardeners of the Central Shenandoah Valley are ready to help you and the Library.  From Tuesday April 2 through Monday April 15 in the Lobby of the Main Library in Harrisonburg, the  Master Gardeners will answer your landscaping and planting questions and take your order for bulbs.  Proceeds from the sales will be contributed to the Massanutten Regional Library.  Call the Library at 540.434.4475, ext. 129  or check the Massanutten Regional Library website ( for the specific hours of this program. 

CVSMG is a local volunteer group sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension.  They provide gardening education and information to local home and property owners. Ask the gardeners to help you plan and plant a cutting garden, a long season of colors, or a species or color-planned beds while you make your selections.  They may be able to help you with your critter and pest problems. They have two telephone  help lines:  Augusta County-- 540-245-5184 and Rockingham County-540-564-3080.  They provide hands-on “Greenery, Herb, and Flower Arranging” workshops.  They sponsor the Thomas Harrison Middle School After School Gardening Club and help with community gardens.  Come to the Main Library and meet these wonderful Master Gardeners.

  If you are interested in becoming a candidate for the Program, talk to these gardeners or go to the  organization’s  website  They describe the program as a, “training program for volunteer educators who are interested in spreading the good word about best agricultural practices.”

                We encourage you to stop by the Library to order plants and see what this community organization can do for you.  Happy Gardeneing!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Crystal Theodore, Part 2

The Teacher

After the War, Crystal Theodore completed a doctorate at Columbia University and pursued advanced studies at various institutions throughout her life. When Dr. Theodore resumed her teaching career it was as head of the Huntington College (Alabama) Art Department. Later East Tennessee State College (now University) appointed her the head of its Art Department. At the latter institution two of her students were Ron Carrier and Edith Johnson (Carrier), the future first couple at JMU. The three of them would again meet at Madison.

 In the mid-1950’s while at Tennessee State, realizing the opportunities in educational television, Theodore scripted and hosted local television programs on the world’s finest art and interviewed local artists whom she often asked to demonstrate their craft. In 1957, the Educational Television and Radio Center of Ann Arbor Michigan awarded a grant for the program. In that same year Theodore received an offer to become head of the Madison College Art Department. The grant was transferred from East Tennessee to Madison, bringing the latter institution into the television age. It was the College’s first venture into television programming. The program on WSVA-TV was called “Viewpoint” and under Theodore’s supervision it focused on the arts and artists in the Shenandoah Valley. [i]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Crystal Theodore, Part 1

During Women’s History month the MRL Reference Blog features Crystal Theodore, a local artist and educator whose determined efforts raised the profile of the arts and of artists in the Shenandoah Valley. 

Crystal Theodore was born in Greenville, SC on July 27, 1917.  Her father, James, was a Greek immigrant who was a chocolatier, and her mother, Florence Bell, was from an old South Carolina family.  Crystal entered Winthrop College (now University) as a member of the class of 1938.  She took art classes, but, she majored in English and Latin as job prospects were thought to be better with this background.  Ironically, after graduation Winthrop College hired her to teach drawing and design, which she did for four years.  She was a loyal alumnus and the University awarded her professional achievement awards in 1986 and 1998.  In the fall of 2008, Theodore was included in an Alumni Art Exhibition at the University.  She was the oldest contributor.[i]  Oddly, the Director of University art collection reports that the University does not have any of her work in its collection.[ii]

Wanting to be engaged in the war effort, Theodore left the University and joined the Tennessee Valley Authority as a junior draft engineer in the topographical division.  She much preferred to join the Marine Corps, but was rejected as she was already “employed in a vital industry…[and]…she was already contributing to the war effort.”[iii]  She chose the Marine Corps because it was considered the most challenging branch of the military services.  In the spring of 1944, the TVA, during a downsizing, released her. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pictures From Our Past

In 1906, Nettie Gray Dangerfield published a small book Our Mammy and Other Stories in which she recalled the humanity, devotion, and idiosyncrasies of servants. Though some aspects of the stories may be adaptive, the individuals sketched in this book are believed to be servants of the Gray/Daingerfield family and their friends. A photograph accompanied each story and identified the subject by first name only.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Learning Day

February 6, 2013, is Digital Learning Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “This event is part of a national campaign designed to celebrate innovative teaching and highlight practices that make learning more personalized and engaging for students; explore how digital learning can provide all students with the opportunities they deserve; and build the skills students need to succeed in college, career, and life.”[1] Libraries promote each patron’s ability to participate in life-long learning. As life-long learners we are all students who can benefit from digital learning through digital literacy skills.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The King James Bible

“Great and manifold were the blessings when God made James the King of England”1

In 2011, the four hundredth anniversary of the completion of the King James Bible was celebrated and continues to be commemorated with a forty-stop travelling exhibition. From January 26th to February 21st the exhibit Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible will be at Eastern Mennonite University’s Sadie A. Hartzler Library and is open to the public. The exhibit was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas. The traveling exhibition was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gardening in January

It is January. The green of the holiday season is drying and fading. We await the arrival of the spring gardening catalogues (though some may have sneaked in with the holiday mail) that will offer tempting new varieties of vegetables and flowers for our garden. While we wait on the weather to direct our outdoor digging, what can we do? The following offers some reading, garden-site visiting, and planting suggestions for the gardener and for others who just enjoy a well-planned garden.

First, one can, if one has not, get the most uninspiring but perhaps most plant saving chore out of the way – cleaning and sharpening tools and cleaning and organizing plant containers. Prior to the next snow, put down your organic fertilizers. The snow aids in the breakdown of matter and the absorption of nutrients into the soil.