A Fine Kettle of Fish

My visit to Canajoharie

These past few days, I’ve been trying to keep my eyes shut—as if the medication had not already made it well-nigh impossible to keep them open. The more they are watering, the more inflamed they get. And what with all this gasping for air, I hardly feel in my element. Allergies. My mother used tell me they are just a state of mind as she insisted that I mow the lawn—which is one reason I have not laid eyes on her in about two decades. State of mind, my bloodshot eye! Anyway. If I am not reaching for tissues or fishing for the inhaler, I am digging into my library of radio recordings, which I am spending an inordinate amount of time cataloguing. Otherwise, I would simply lose sight of what I have yet to hear.

Our Freedom’s Blessings was one of the titles to which I never gave a thought, let alone lend an ear. Lending a hand in its return to the air—or its turning up on the internet—turned out to be somewhat of a headache. So be it. After all, there is little use and less joy in going on about something without giving anyone else at least half a chance to follow.

My visit to Canajoharie

Little is known about Our Freedom’s Blessings, other than that it was produced by the New York State Department of Commerce. No recordings of it are currently available online. So, I set up a new site for the sharing of programs [now defunct]. Since the crash of my last Mac back in November 2007, I have been unable to edit my old pages; and, itchy eyes notwithstanding, it is only now that I can face the prospect of starting from scratch. You might well argue that an episode of Our Freedom’s Blessings titled “The Little Jars of Canajoharie” was not worth all this effort. Ah, but have you been to Canajoharie?

As Uncle York, the narrator of Our Freedom’s Blessings tells us, Canajoharie is an Indian name meaning “the kettle that washes itself.” The “little town with the funny name,” we learn,

lies smack in the middle of the Mohawk valley.  In 1890, Canajoharie was hardly more than a crossroads, still half country.  Well, it was a leisurely kind of life, quiet days of wagon wheels on dirt streets, the tingling smell of hickory smoke in a cow crossing in the main part of the town.  But Canajoharie folks wasn’t asleep.  Far from it.  Couple of fellas that smoked their own hams and bacon started to sell them to other folk.  And before you knew it, there was a full-fledged little company operating, one that took for itself a homespun kind of name: Beechnut.

Well, we did not listen to Uncle York on our travels through upstate New York when we happened upon Canajoharie—after an unwelcome detour—and that despite the fact that the Mac on which the recording is stored went along for the ride. Had we done so, we might have learned a little something about the fortunes of the town. We did insist on seeing the “kettle,” not heeding the warnings of a local that it was little more than a hole in the ground.

Equipped though we were with hand-drawn map handed to us at a tourist information booth that suggested we were not the only ones eager to seize the opportunity to gawk at a pothole, we did not encounter anyone else on along the way on that warm June morning. We got lost, passing derelict factory buildings and warehouses that bespeak the town’s heyday, the days of which Uncle York speaks.

When I came across the name of “Canajoharie” in my recordings library, I just had to tune in. Never mind that “Little Jars” turned out to be little more than a juvenile infomercial about the makers of baby food. Somehow, whatever flotsam drifts toward me on the airwaves seems to belong in my life. It is never an altogether different kettle of fish.

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