Archive for the ‘Kate Dolan’ Category

Riding a 100-Year-Old Roller Coaster

Monday, August 14th, 2017

 

Kate Dolan writes about the 100th anniversary of the Wild One roller coaster“The Wild One” roller coaster at Six Flags America in Maryland is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, which is pretty amazing. During the course of its history, the coaster has been partially rebuilt several times and even relocated nearly 500 miles from its original site. But it still retains the iconic silhouette that appears on a postcard from its earliest days.Kate Dolan writes about the history of the Giant Coaster

When it was built in 1917, the “Giant Coaster,” as it was called at the time, was the tallest in the world with a initial summit stretching 98 feet into the sky. Although the speed back then may have been less than its current top speed of 60 miles per hour, it certainly was fast enough to wreak havoc on women’s fashions of the time.

Just think about it. While not as cumbersome as clothing from just a few years earlier, in 1917 women of all social classes wore full skirts, hats and gloves and many wore restrictive corsets, all of which could have made the prospect of squeezing into a roller coaster car quite unappealing.

Women might have been considered daredevils for even trying to ride. After all, safety regulations weren’t exactly stringent back then and some of the earlier coasters were ridiculously dangerous (and will therefore be the subject of a future blog!)

Kate Dolan writes about women's fashion in 1917

Popular women’s fashion in 1917

In 1917, the Giant Coaster hosted its first riders in Natasket Beach, Massachusetts as the showpiece of an amusement venue known as Paragon Park. It was created by pioneering designer John A. Miller and then after suffering damage in a fire, the coaster was re-created in 1932 by another pioneer, Herbert Paul Schmeck.

After entertaining riders for three more decades, the coaster again suffered fire damage in 1963. While park owners wanted to rebuild the coaster to the same configuration, they decided the cost was too high and they opted to basically cut out the damaged parts of the track and shorten the ride. In another cost-saving move, they purchased trains from another damaged coaster called The Comet and used those on the Giant Coaster without even bothering to repaint the name on the cars.

Despite the attempts at thriftiness, financial troubles caused the park to close in 1984 and the Giant Coaster rolled to a stop.

A small water park in Maryland made a surprise bid for the ride and won. Since the park was named, Wild World, they rechristened the coaster as the Wild One, rebuilt it to the earlier full-length design and opened it for business in 1986.

I had the distinct displeasure of riding the Wild One in 1989. The coaster rattled so badly I felt like all my bones had been shattered. We had no idea that The Wild One was so old, but honestly it seemed like the ride had shaken out all of its bolts and was liable to collapse at any moment.Kate Dolan writes about a 100 year old roller coaster

Fortunately, the coaster is now in much better health. The park was sold to a bigger company in 1992 and eventually rebranded as Six Flags. In 1997, the tracks of the Wild One were reconfigured slightly to make room for a new water ride and this change raised the top speed of the coaster from 53 to 60 m.p.h.

Since 1997, that “new” water ride has been dismantled and replaced by another coaster. Other rides and park themes have come and gone, but the Wild One remains, offering a pretty smooth ride with lots of “air time.”

This year, a new logo on signs and the train cars celebrates the coaster’s century of service. In an entertainment industry where the hottest trend is soon obsolete and ready for replacement, a hundred year run is pretty impressive.Kate Dolan loves The Wild One's 100th birthday

If you have the chance, take a ride on history this summer. The Wild One could be a museum artifact, but instead of looking at it behind glass, you can experience the ride just like thrill-seekers over 100 years ago. Opportunities like that don’t come along every day.

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For more information about early roller coasters, visit http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com/coasters/history

 

 

 

Rule of Thumb Not as Creepy as I Thought

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Many women have been told that the term “rule of thumb” has its origins in ancient English law and that it was a rule limiting the thickness of a stick with which a man could use to legally beat his wife. I was told this by a professor of legal history at Cambridge University in England, so I saw no reason to doubt the tale.

Kate Dolan tests the rule of thumb

My husband seems to have found an acceptable switch!

If I’d read more recent research on the subject, I’d know better.

To begin with, the Oxford English Dictionary shows the first use of the phrase “rule of thumb” occurring in 1692. This is far from an ancient legal concept—in fact, for British law, I’d say it’s relatively recent. But in 1692 the phrase was not used with a legal connotation at all. (more…)

Six Ways to Save Money on a Cruise

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Vacationing aboard a cruise ship offers a way to relax and sample a variety of exotic locations while keeping within a fixed budget–or so it would seem. After all, you pay up front for your lodging, transportation and meals, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll have blown your food budget by day four and be forced to starve for the rest of your trip.Kate Dolan writes about saving money on cruises However, extra expenses on a cruise can accumulate like barnacles on the hull and provide a nasty shock that overshadows the great memories. There are ways to reduce some of these expenses and save money on a cruise, so if you’d like to keep your trip on budget, try some of these tips. (more…)

Our Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Friday, April 28th, 2017

As I write this, I’m sitting in the car on my way to Ft. Frederick State Park in Western Maryland. My husband is driving, and the fact that I’m not is a luxury. For so many years, we needed two cars for this trip.Kate Dolan's kids explore the Ft Frederick Market Fair

We’re headed to the 18th Century Market Fair to camp — reenacting the past with some modern conveniences thrown in. When I first made this trek sixteen years ago, I just dressed in my not-very-accurate colonial best, grabbed some money, and hit the road. I had no idea what to expect, but the new friends who’d told me about the event would be camping there, and I thought there was a chance I might crash with them overnight. So I brought a toothbrush and a contact lens case.

I would never travel that light again, not by a long shot.

After I parked, paid my entrance fee and walked up to the entrance, I found myself suddenly surrounded by acres of white canvas tents and thousands of people who looked like they’d never seen a cell phone, running water or even a train. I was overwhelmed–both thrilled and a little horrified at the same time. (more…)

Now You See It: The History of the Baseball

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

On Opening Day, lots of people will be paying attention to the game of baseball. But not too many will be paying attention to the ball itself. We take it for granted that the little leather-covered sphere will curve when it’s supposed to and fly out of the park when it’s smacked hard enough.

But that wasn’t always the case.Kate Dolan writes about the history of the baseball

In the early days, pitchers usually made their own baseballs, winding yarn around a rock or walnut in their own distinct patterns to confound batters. Even when the balls became more standardized in the late 1870s with a rubber core and a leather cover cut in the traditional figure eight pattern just like balls today, the early baseballs would usually fall apart by the end of the game. They also differed from modern baseballs in that they were considered “dead.”
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Molly Bannaky – The Amazing Woman Who May Have Existed

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

There is no doubt that Benjamin Banneker was a remarkable man and I argued in an earlier blog post that he should be considered among the Founding Fathers. Since March is Women’s History Month, I thought it would be great to write about his grandmother, Molly Bannaky. Her story was memorialized in a children’s book published about 18 years ago. She was a milkmaid in England convicted of theft because of a spilled pail of milk. Fortunately, she was able to avoid being hanged for theft because she knew how to read, and therefore she was eligible to be transported to the American colonies as an indentured servant.Kate Dolan writes about Benjamin Banneker's grandmother Molly Bannaky

She arrived in Maryland in 1683, worked as a laborer for seven years until her indenture was up, eventually started her own tobacco plantation, bought slaves, married one of them named Bannaky, and in time became the grandmother of Benjamin Banneker. Overcoming hardships on her own with no training and no support and then turning her back on “white” society to live with her husband’s disadvantaged culture would make Molly a remarkable woman.

The problem is that there’s not much hard evidence that she ever existed. For instance, legend has it that she taught Benjamin to read. But he never mentioned her. Her story comes down through time via oral traditions that may have been embellished or entirely fabricated.

This makes her a great candidate for historical fiction. I’ve been reading a master’s thesis by Sandra Perot that argues against the validity of many of the myths around Molly. As someone accustomed to making things up, I can fabricate a lot of scenarios that could make the myths reality, or at least much more plausible.

Writing the story of what Molly might have experienced will require a great deal of research so I haven’t yet delved into it, but I hope to start before too long. In the meantime, we can salute the women in Benjamin Banneker’s life who helped mold him into the remarkable man he turned out to be, whoever they were. Like so many remarkable women, their names may be lost, but their legacy lives on.

Today, as we commemorate Maryland Day, the day British colonists landed to found the colony of Maryland, we should remember that many of those early settlers did not come here by choice. Nevertheless, they worked hard and the colony would not have succeeded without them.

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Molly’s story, as I originally learned of it in the children’s book Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill, provided the inspiration for one of the characters in my first book, Langley’s Choice. Like Molly, my character rejects white society to be with a negro slave, and she faces the possibility of severe legal punishment for miscegenation, the “crime” of being in a mixed race relationship.

The master’s thesis I’ve been reading is “Reconstructing Molly Welsh: Race, Memory and the Story of Benjamin Banneker’s Grandmother” available online here: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/theses/210/

The photo above is from the reconstructed cabin at Banneker Historical Park. For more information, visit https://friendsofbenjaminbanneker.com

Irish Whiskey Has a Surprising Past

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

For some reason, the other day I had to look up Irish whiskey to see whether it was spelled with an “e,” and while I was checking the spelling, I learned about the history of Irish whiskey, too. It was interesting enough to inspire me to share (the knowledge, not my stash of liquor. I’m not that generous.)Kate Dolan writes about the history of Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey is one of the very oldest European distilled spirits. Legend has it that monks took the knowledge of distilling perfume from Mediterranean culture and altered the technology to create ardent spirits sometime around A.D. 1200. The name “whisky” even comes from the Irish branch of the Gaelic language –  uisce beatha, which roughly translates as “water of life.” Those monks knew they were onto something.

Early records of whiskey distilling in Ireland are scarce, but there was enough of it going on that the English Parliament felt a need to pass a law in 1556 restricting distillation to “gentleman” unless the distiller had a license. This law was promptly ignored. In 1661, Great Britain instituted a tax on whiskey distillers, but registering to pay the tax was voluntary, and not surprisingly, few volunteered. Finally, in the 1761 started to get serious about collecting taxes from producers, and whiskey was then divided into two types – “parliamentary whiskey” and poitín (often spelled “poteen”) small pot-stilled liquor produced and sold illegally.

The popularity of the drink grew phenomenally fast and by the the end of the 1700s, the whiskey sold better in Ireland than rum, brandy and gin combined. By the 1820s, the distilleries in Dublin were among the biggest in the world and for a time Irish whiskey became the most popular spirit worldwide, far surpassing Scotch whisky.  Irish distillers even added an “e” to the word to differentiate their product from the inferior version produced in Scotland.

But this popularity didn’t last. Changes in distillation processes and aggressive moves by Scotch distillers cut into the market. Then the market virtually disappeared as Ireland engaged in a series of conflicts with it’s biggest market, the U.K., then engaged in civil war with itself, and then saw its American market plowed under the blanket of a ten year prohibition. By the 1930s, there was virtually nothing left of the booming industry and the decline continued until there were only five distillers remaining by the 1950s. When those consolidated, there were only two left in the 1970s-and they were both owned by the same company.

Frankly, I think if it hadn’t been for Irish coffee, the world would have forgotten about Irish whiskey.

But fortunately in the late 1980s, the trend slowly started to reverse. A new distillery opened for the first time in 100 years. Others followed and the market share has been steadily growing. However, it’s hard to imagine it will ever catch up to Scotch whisky, which today sells 15-16 times better.

But who knows? America is a big market, and we don’t hold huge drinking festivals to celebrate any Scottish saints. So maybe it’s just a matter of time until Irish whiskey regains its title.

I know I’m doing my part to make that goal a reality.

Slainte! And Happy Patrick’s Day

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Much of the information about the history of Irish whiskey came from Masters of Malt (https://www.masterofmalt.com/blog/post/irish-whiskey-everything-you-need-to-know-part-1.aspx)

If you enjoy reading about fictional characters who drink a lot of Irish whiskey or whatever else they can get their hands on, you might like my 18th Century historical stories Restitution, Langley’s Choice and Avery’s Treasure (although the pirates in that book drank far more brandy than whiskey.) And the characters Jack McCready (Restitution) and Edward Talbot (Langley’s Choice and Avery’s Treasure) both happen to be from Ireland as well.

The Term “Self-Published” is Misleading

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Some of my books are offered for sale on Smashwords, an ebook distributor that specializes in independent books. In other words, the books offered directly on the Smashwords website are considered “self-published.” And for many readers, that label translates to “not-worth-it.”

But the industry has changed so drastically that fewer of the self-published books are truly self-published these days. Authors are recovering rights to their older, out-of-print titles and re-releasing them on their own through platforms such as Kindle Direct and Smashwords. These are books that major publishers invested time in editing for content as well as grammar and the other fine points. These are not amateur productions, although when the authors create their own covers, it may look that way. (I’m pointing the finger at myself here!)

Again, because of changes in the industry, authors who have published numerous titles with publishing houses are now deciding that they would prefer to release some projects on their own. Knowing the value of good editing, these authors usually hire or trade professional editing services to bring their manuscripts up to professional standards. These new books, too, would not be amateur productions in my opinion. A professional writer and professional editor can put out a professional product even without a professional publisher.

This change took about ten years longer than I thought it would and that was good for me because it gave me the chance to work with some fabulous editors at different publishing houses. Now those publishers are all either out of business or have cut the series that I wrote for, and I’m on my own with a stack of previously-published works to put back out however I see fit. George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays

I’m not going to suggest that they’re fabulous. But the content in them is no less than it was when they had a publisher’s name imprinted on the cover. In fact, often self-published older titles are often better than the original because authors frequently undertake revisions before re-releasing their older books. And every day, more and more of these previously-published titles hit the metaphorical shelves of independent publishing platforms.Christian Mystery George Washington Stepped Here by K.D. Hays

So if you’re looking for something to read, don’t cringe if you see that a book is “self-published.” That label carries less meaning with every passing day.

Smashwords has designated the week of March 5-12 as “Read an Ebook Week.” Since they sell ebooks, this would seem to be somewhat self-serving. However, they encourage authors to deeply discount their books. I’m offering my first mystery for free during the week. Of course, this is not an altruistic move on the part of Smashwords or myself. We both hope that when people read the first book for free, they will want to come back and buy the other two. Since the other two in the series are priced at $1.99 and $3.99, even if readers gobble up all three, no one is getting rich.

For myself, I’m hoping a few people enjoy reading my work. I hate the idea of spending much money on a bunch of computer coded words (an ebook) so I’ve never wanted my ebooks to cost more than a few dollars. Even $3.99 seems a bit high to me, but I do hope to recoup the costs I’ve invested in editing and promotion, if nothing else.

Anyway, the bottom line is that this is a good week to try out some new authors on Smashwords. It won’t cost you anything but time.

Happy reading!

George Washington Stepped Here will be available for free from March 5-12 here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

You can learn more about this cozy mystery and my other books at http://katedolan.com/george-washington-stepped-here-by-k-d-hays. The drawing above shows artwork from the publisher while the book was in production. The new cover at the bottom was created for me by a professional artist, Henry thor Straten. My comment about amateur covers refers to some other titles, some of which will be making their re-debut soon.

Benjamin Banneker, a not-so-famous Founding Father

Monday, February 20th, 2017

One of my hometown’s best claims to fame is its association with Benjamin Banneker, often referred to as “America’s First Black Man of Science.” In 1737, Banneker’s father, a former slave purchased 100 acres of land in what is now considered the western part of Catonsville.Kate Dolan writes about Benjamin Banneker He made his son Benjamin co-owner so that the property could pass to him without any legal requirements. This also helped ensure that his family would maintain their free status in a state where slavery was common.

Banneker was fortunate in being able to attend a small Quaker school during the winter months with a few other local children, both white and black. His grandmother, a former indentured servant from England, had already taught him to read and write and he was known in his student days as a child who would rather read than play. After he was old enough to work full time on the tobacco farm with his father, his former schooling ceased. But he never stopped learning. (more…)

Remus Adams Left More Than Old Stones

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

For years, I’d seen the picture of the old stone blacksmith shop owned by Remus Adams, but only recently did I learn a bit of the story of the remarkable man who owned the business that once stood on the main street of Catonsville.Kate Dolan researches the man behind the blacksmith shop at 615 Frederick RoadThe picture is old and grainy, which is not surprising. The shop was torn down well over a hundred years ago to make room for a new school. Now, of course, that school is old, and some people want to tear it down, too. But that’s another story.

The blacksmith who owned and ran the shop at 615 Frederick Road would not have been able to send his children or grandchildren to that school because he was African-American, and the new school would only be open to white children. (more…)