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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Christmas in July And other Aspects of Aussie Life

If BBC ever sent us a bill, Hubby and I would owe a lot.  A big majority of our TV time goes to watching things produced by the British Broadcasting Company.  We like stories set in the British Isles, of course, especially unusual places such as the series about Britain's Atlantic Ocean island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Nazis during World War II.  Other favorites have been set in colonies in Africa, India, the Caribbean, and more places of the far-flung Empire.  BBC just does a better job than American television of delivering not only interesting settings, but also of character development and plots that make sense.

We enjoyed the Australian series about Miss Fisher, a private detective and absolutely liberated woman of the 1920s.  Now we are binge watching another series set in Australia, a few decades later during the 1950s.  Dr. Blake is a pathologist, and like Miss Fisher, he comes up with murder clues that the police miss.  I also like observing background details.  Australia has interesting plants, some of which never seem to have made their way to Florida, and I pause to rewind and have another look.


A less subtle difference is in police cars, which are robin's egg blue – a much lighter color than any law enforcement vehicles I've seen elsewhere.  Americans think of that shade of blue as almost effeminate, and I wonder why the Aussies chose it.  It is a calming color, something that makes sense in situations that inherently invite panic.  And that led me to think about cars in general.  Dr. Blake drives a vehicle that looks like it was built prior to World War II, and despite pausing the show to study it, Hubby and I can't figure out the manufacturer. 


So I googled "Australian cars," and the images that came up were Fords, Toyotas, and other boring things from the US and Japan – but a little research brought up some unfamiliar history.  It would cheer my long-dead father to know that Australia's first cars operated on steam:  Dad always liked the idea of using water instead of petroleum for fuel.  Australia's first petrol-driven car was built in Melbourne in 1901.  Like "Ford," the "Tarrant" celebrated its maker, but now only one Tarrant survives in a museum.  The biggest Australian manufacturer was "Holden," but it closed after global companies took over everything. 


So I looked at several hundred images of Aussie cars, but never found Dr. Blake's distinguishing feature:  the word "Standard" diagonally spelled out on its grill.  If you have time to waste and find it, please let me know.  The one thing that I did learn in this process is that Australians apparently like advertisements that feature bridal parties in cars bedecked in ribbons.  No women in bikinis, but lots in wedding gowns.  Good for them!


Final word on Australia:  You have to keep remembering that the world and its weather is turned upside down from us.  December is in the midst of its summer, and some who cling to English traditions therefore celebrate Christmas in July, when the weather is cold.  The lesbian physician featured in the Miss Fisher mystery series went skiing in July – snow skiing in mountains, not water skiing on beaches.  That was at the country home of Miss Fisher's Aunt Prudence, or Lady Stanley, and titles are another difference between us and them.  Elected mayors routinely are called "Lord Mayor."  They dress up in robes and look like they belong in the House of Lords – a curiosity, I think, in a country that began as a dumping ground for criminals.


Black History Month

And Someone Almost Forgotten


I've been pleased to see a little more attention recently to women in the civil rights movement such as Ella Baker, Daisy Bates, and Fannie Lou Hamer.  With the usual "only room for one" attitude towards women, they had been rather pushed aside as the spotlight focused on the very deserving Rosa Parks.  For earlier eras of civil rights, you might want to look up Sarah Parker Remond, a pre-Civil War woman who won a suit against the City of Boston after a policeman pushed her down the stairs; Mary Church Terrell, a Washingtonian who bought up all the tickets to plays and thus forced theaters to integrate audiences or play to an empty house; and of course, Florida's own Mary McLeod Bethune.  But now I want to take a moment for someone I had almost forgotten myself until I recently flipped through my American Women's History, An A-Z, which was published by Prentice Hall in 1994.  I'm going to quote it.


"Born in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks was keeping a poetry notebook already at age eleven.  Published in periodicals aimed at children and blacks, she studied for two years at a junior college in Chicago and worked as the publicity director for the Chicago NAACP.  Her 1939 marriage to H.L. Blakely resulted in two children, but she retained her maiden name and continued to write.

"Her first book, A Street in Bronzeville, came out in 1945 when she was just 28, and she also was featured as one of "Ten Women of the Year" in Mademoiselle, a magazine aimed at young white women.  Critical praise won her grants from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Guggenheim Foundation, which resulted in Annie Allen (1949).  When that book won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American so honored."


It's too late to send congratulations, as she died in 2000.  Her legacy, however, lives on with a posthumous book, In Montgomery and Other Poems (2003) and a postal stamp issued in her honor in 2012.  There is a lot of great literature by black women, and you might read some this month.  Among those I recommend who don't get much attention these days but who weave wonderful stories:  Alice Dunbar Nelson, Margaret Walker, and of course Zora Neale Huston of our Eatonville.


Two quick by-the-ways:  Eatonville was named for Florida Territorial Governor John Eaton, and his wife Peggy is another fascinating historical figure.  And second, you may remember that I've been crusading for a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune to replace that of Confederate General Kirby Smith in the national Capitol.  I learned the other day that Kirby is on his way home to Florida, where he will join other unwanted guys in a new Lake County park.  I'll check that out soon.


Just Briefly,

Because I Can't Stand to Think About It


·      Thursday, February 14, was Valentine's Day, and on Friday, February 15, the federal Violence Against Women Act expired.

·      Almost no attention to the five female bank tellers who were killed in Sebring by a misogynist who knew none of them.

·      Almost no attention to a similar and earlier case at a Tallahassee hair salon.

·      A note from last November that got buried on my desk:  a mass shooting is defined as four or more victims, and as of November 9 in 2018, we'd had 307 of them.  That's almost one per day.  Have you had enough?





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