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EVA AND HER SCRAPBOOK: A 1932 TRANS-ATLANTIC VACATION (PART 2)

This post was written by intern Jess Zaccagnini. To see the first part of her post, click here.

Eva’s train to Switzerland included a hefty meal of “fish, roast veal, potato, string beans, cheese, pastry, and a fresh peach.” The customs check-point in Basel, Switzerland seems to have been more lax than in Paris; the officer asked if the girls had Mountainany cigars or cigarettes and let them pass when they said no—“that’s all there was to it.” The mountain ranges seemed to have impressed Eva the most as she describes “how wonderful [it was] to look out and see those great touring peaks outlined against the sky.” The scenery and the quiet soothed Eva as she began to write and reflect on how noisy it was in Paris.

The girls took an Alpine tour on their first full day in Switzerland, which circled around the mountain closest to their hotel, on the Lucerne Lake. The tour bus ascended four thousand feet around the steep, narrow cliff sides. As they approached the infamous Devil’s Bridge, Eva describes how “we could hardly brace ourselves against the wind to walk. And girl at flaciercold! Just about froze.” Soon they rode above the snow line to see “great fields of daises, buttercups, and many others… the sight of all the colors against the snow was spectacular.” An attractive destination spot for this particular part of Montreux, Switzerland is the Rhone Glacier, the largest in the Alps contributing to several surrounding rivers and lakes including Lake Geneva. Eva describes the glacier as “a huge jagged mass of blue ice.” The other girls got the chance to go down through the glacier but Eva chose to stay behind because she “[didn’t] like to feel trapped.”

Small Alpine towns dot the mountainsides that over-look the glacier forglacier sight-seers to stay. The girls stayed at a hotel in one such town— Gotthard-Furka-Grimsel. Eva describes the loud “roar of the melting snow as it started to form the Rhone River.” Her night at the glacier was cold; she needed to sleep with all her clothes on and in the morning she woke up with her “neck as stiff as a board.” Eva also learned that she dislikes Swiss coffee, and their hot chocolate “was made out of goat’s milk, and it tasted like a stewed bransack” (a simmered bag of grain).

On their decent down the 5,000 foot mountain, the girls stopped in the town that circled Lake Geneva and visited the Castle of Chillon. The Castkecastle dates back to at least 1005 where it was used as a Roman guarding post and later as a sixteenth century prison. Eva did not go inside the castle because “that night club scared [her] so [she] dared not go in anywhere again.”

At this point in her trip, Eva is two weeks from being “out on the Atlantic on the way home” and she almost cannot wait to be there as she “hopes there will be peas and radishes” when she arrives home.
The last leg of their journey starts with arriving in Germany on July 20th. The train ride to Germany was “hot and dirty, not much like the Swiss trains.” The girls had a good laugh over what they were served for supper aboard the train: “soup, steak, potato, vegetable salad, a big piece of cheese (for which [they] needed a gas mask), a pretzel, and a bottle of beer.” What else could one expect of a German meal in the 1930s?

Continue reading EVA AND HER SCRAPBOOK: A 1932 TRANS-ATLANTIC VACATION (PART 2)

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The River’s Comeuppance

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This photograph shows the damage of the flood. (Photograph 1)

This post was written by intern John McDonald.

The long and oft-contentious relationship between Waterbury and the Naugatuck River came to head on August 19, 1955 during the epic natural disaster known as the Black Friday Flood, or simply the Flood of ‘55. The devastation first visited the Chase Metal Works, whose buildings stood on the northern edge of town. A series of photographs, taken soon after the flood waters receded, illustrate the extensive damage. The rail lines which connected the Chase Metal Works with the nearby rolling mills and the transportation network of the Naugatuck River Valley, were twisted, mangled, or undercut by the raging water and swept off their beds (photographs 1 & 2 show the damage done to the railroads). Debris and sediment were deposited in many of the buildings, which, at one point, were under fifteen feet of water (see Photograph 4) Days later, portions of the complex were still covered by shallow pools of water (see Photograph 3) No lives were lost in this confrontation but the financial losses incurred by Chase were considerable. Along with rest of the Brass Valley, Chase was forced to regroup and rebuild, chastised by the angry river’s might.

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Another image of the damage from the flood. (Photograph 2)

In order to gain a better understanding of the circumstances that led up to this catastrophic flood, it is necessary to consider the geology of the Naugatuck Valley region. In Western Connecticut, the rivers are swift and relatively shallow. They are hemmed in between high ridges, in from which numerous tributaries flow. The water drains from the uplands of gneiss and granite, which are largely unsuitable for farming, and into steep-sided valleys. The relatively precipitous gradient of the Naugatuck River and its tributaries was directly responsible for the industrialization of the region that would come to be known as the Brass Valley. The development of waterpower as the driving force of industry in the 18th and 19th centuries drastically changed these watercourses. Rivers and brooks were diverted, sequestered, and tamed. Mills sprang up in the narrow valleys, usually located close to the river banks.

IMG_0374In an 2011 article in the Waterbury Observer, Raechal Guest described how the relationship between Chase Brass and the Naugatuck River began around 1910, when Henry Chase purchased 25 acres of land in Waterville. On this relatively flat expanse by the river, Chase constructed a brass mill which began operations in 1912. The Naugatuck River was moved from its natural channel in 1914 to make way for an expansion of the mill. This was not the first major injustice to be done to the river, but the latest in a long line. For years, the river had been dammed, channelized, and put to work, first to supply water power, and then as a solvent for use in various manufacturing processes, and to transport waste products generated by the brass industry and the growing population of Waterbury. The latter practice had rendered the river nearly devoid of aquatic life forms by turning the once pristine waters into a chemical sewer.

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