March 29, 2012

Carol's Quaint Quotes

I often spend many pleasurable hours in the library of The Minnesota History Center doing research for my novels.  Some of the long extinct books I’ve come across in the library make me smile and groan, for some things never change and others, well, we’ve come a long way, baby!  I thought you might get a kick out of some of the passages I’ve found - like this one:

Reading too constantly and studying too closely, is as injurious to the mind and nervous system as is eating too much to the stomach and blood.  The back doors of many of our colleges and seminaries open into lunatic asylums and cemeteries.  The literary world is full of physical wrecks…
Plain Home Talk and Medical Common Sense.  E.B. Foote, M.D., A.L. Bancroft & Co., New York [etc.] 1871, pg. 211.

March 28, 2012

Third Book Underway!

My third book, a sequel to The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice, is now underway!  Hereafter known as my WIP (Work in Progress), I will post periodic updates on how it is progressing.

March 26, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Where Did Teens Live? Honey, it's time to mow the ... house?

Photo courtesy of sscornelius at Flickr Commons
There is a famous photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of a cow standing on the roof of a sod house munching away on the grass that grew there (click on the Extras tab, then click on the first reference to see the picture). Did cows really enjoy their lunch on the roofs of houses?  They did, if the house was made of sod and was dug into the hillside.  Although push lawnmowers were in use in the 1880’s, it seems unlikely that the settlers used them to mow their roofs.  After all, a cow was a much more efficient mower of grass and had the added bonus of providing the family with milk.
The first settlers built their houses near rivers and streams so they could use the trees for log houses and for firewood.  By the time later settlers arrived, the trees were largely gone and they were forced to find other building materials.  On the Great Plains, there was grass, grass, and more grass.  So the settlers turned to sod to construct their houses, and barns, and schools, and churches, and even hotels.  Lumber was expensive, but as soon as they could afford it the families built a new house.

Imagine you are living in a sod house and it begins to rain – hard and for days.  Many sod houses had sod roofs which leaked and soaked everything in the house: bedding, clothes, people.  If the floor was earthen, it was soon awash in mud.  Nothing like a good mud bath!

Here in Minnesota, there is still a sod house standing that is open to visitors.  It is 18 miles east of Walnut Grove, Minnesota (yes, that Walnut Grove of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame).  If you get a chance, stop in and experience what it was like to live in a sod house.

Next topic:  Where Did Teens Live? In a ship

For references and additional reading, click the Extras tab.

March 16, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Where Did Teens Live? Covered Wagons

Phota courtesy of Marion Doss photostream at Flickr Commons
Privacy?  Forget it.  A comfy place to sleep?  Nope.  Bathroom?  Behind the nearest bush – if you could find one.  Such were comforts of home in a covered wagon.

When teens were traveling, either with their families, or as pioneers in their own right, they often made the long trek across country in a wooden wagon covered with a canvas top and pulled by horses, mules or oxen. Covered wagons were also known as the Conestoga wagon, a big wagon used in the East, or a prairie schooner because they looked like a sailing ship moving across the plain.

Depending on where the journey began and the final destination, the covered wagon could serve as home for as long as six months, sometimes longer if it was used as temporary housing until a more permanent shelter could be constructed.  What, then, was it like to live in the pioneer version of a mobile home?

Most of the time sleeping, eating, cooking, and just about everything else (including potty breaks) was done outside.  Folks slept under the wagon or in tents.  If the weather was bad, they slept in the wagon box or on top of the load that was packed inside. Most of the time, the people walked rather than rode along with their animals: a cow, spare horses, a dog.

There was little protection from the weather, almost no protection from attackers, no heat except for a fire, no air conditioning except for the wind, no water except what could be carried until a new source was found, no hospitals, no phones, no nothing.  Such great and courageous people to make a journey in a covered wagon!

Next topic: Where Did Teens Live?  A sod house

For references and additional reading click on the Extras tab

March 11, 2012

Teen Life Way Back When: Where Did Teens Live? Introduction

Photo courtesy of Thiophene_Guy at
Flickr Commons
I know what you are thinking – duh! - teens lived with their parents wherever their parents lived.  Not so fast.  First of all, many teens back in the 1800’s, primarily boys, were independent of their parents at a relatively early age.  Pony Express riders were as young as eleven and Native American Sioux boys and girls were considered adults as soon as they reached puberty, then married shortly thereafter. Since we are focusing on the Great Plains in the 1800’s, let’s take a look at some unique, long-gone places and types of homes where teens might have lived. And let’s start with the first folks who lived on the Great Plains: 
Native Americans.

In the pre-reservation era, the Native American Sioux lived in teepees (also called tipis).  These were made of buffalo hides stretched over poles that were almost fifteen feet high.  There was a hole in the top to let out the smoke from a fire. Teepees were easy to assemble and dissemble allowing the inhabitants to move house quickly. 
Next topic:  Where Did Teens Live? Covered wagons

For references and additional reading, click on the Extras tab

March 7, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: When Was a Teenager Not a Teenager?

I write books for teens/young adults – ergo books for teenagers. This got me to thinking:  I don’t recall ever running across the word teenager in anything I’ve read about life in the 1800’s.  There’s a reason for this.  The word teenager did not exist at that time. 
The origin of “teen” is obvious:  thir – teen, four – teen. You get the picture.  “Teenage” first appeared in written language in the 1920’s when topics were discussed about boys and girls in their teen years while still assigning them to childhood.  Indeed, prior to the 1920’s there were only two divisions of folks:  adults and children.  In the period between childhood and adulthood, teens were called kids, boys and girls, young people, adolescents, and youths.

It wasn’t until around World War II that the word teenager appeared, first in America.  Originally it was hyphenated (teen-ager), then as the usage increased, the hyphen was dropped.  It gained ground as teenagers became a culture all their own.  This quote from Romany writing on the website The Free paints the perfect picture: 
Until the beginning of the Sixties, teenagers were considered a uniquely American construct with James Dean – leather jacket, brooding eyes, fags tucked in the t-shirt sleeve – the epitome of this image.

Next Topic:  Where Did Teens Live?

For  references and additional reading click on the Extras tab.

March 5, 2012

Teen Life Way Back When

Introducing a new feature:  Teen Life Way Back When. 
I am fascinated by life in the 1800’s. Indeed, all of my books are set in this time period.  This stems largely, I think, from my childhood love of the Little House on the Prairie series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
When you think about the Victorian Era (1837 – 1901), what usually comes to mind are the stuffy drawing rooms of the English aristocracy or the New York salons of upper crust Americans. These do not interest me in the least. What interests me is that there was a whole lot else going on in the world outside of England and New York.  While those folks were sipping tea in their country homes, other folks were traveling across the prairies in covered wagons or homesteading on a desolate piece of land far from the nearest town.  Now that’s interesting!
Most of what you read about this era concerns the dealings of adults. While I was writing my books, it occurred to me to ask the question: “What was life like for teens back then?”  Let’s explore this together and find out.

Next topic:  When was a teenager not a teenager?

March 2, 2012

New Facebook Page


Please visit and Like my new Facebook page:  Books by Carol J. Larson.  Click on the Facebook icon in the left sidebar or click this link