Letters to ...

Letters for March 2009

... comments on Sweden, sliderules, music, and genealogies

from our readers

Here is a letter about a story, written by Judy Palm, first published in our sister publication, Rye Reflections in their November 2008 issue, and republished in the Melrose Mirror in our December 2008 issue. You can read the story here .

From: Hallen, Erik
To: 'melrose@media.mit.edu'
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 2:04 PM
Subject: Välkommen to the land of lakes and forests in Sweden

Thank you for this story about your trip to Sweden.  My son recently returned from a year in Falun in the middle of the country (Dalarna). He was there on an exchange program through Rotary International for high school students. While he was away I spent a lot of time online learning about Sweden. The end result of my online search is that I must now visit this country to experience some of what my son enjoyed from his stay.  He loved Sweden so much and made so many friends that he returned for another month this past Christmas which was surprising for his Swedish friends who wondered why an American from California would visit Sweden in the winter!

Again thank you for the story and pictures

Med vänlig hälsning

Erik Hallen
Asst. Facility Manger/SRAII
Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture
University of California Davis

The following note refers to one of the articles in the January 2009 issue, 'Things we remember'.

From: "jim cerny"
To: melrose@media.mit.edu
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:32 PM
Subject: Remembering slide rules

I just ran across John Averell's note about his slide rule and as a
slide rule collector (yes, such people exist), I wanted to pass on a
few comments. Maybe more than you want to know! This topic is fresh in
mind because, coincidentally, I'm working on an article about
collecting slide rules for the March issue of your sister publication,
"Rye Reflections."

Pickett quickly discovered that magnesium was not a good material for
slide rules.  It oxidizes heavily and the rules tend to freeze up, so
after a few years Pickett switched to aluminum and stayed with that
metal, plus a few plastic rules, until the sudden end to slide rule
manufacturing in the 1970s when pocket calculators appeared.

The slide rule pictured in John's remembrance is taken from Walter
Shawlee's Sphere Research site and is a model N-3T, with 27 scales and
made of aluminum.  Since John's was made with magnesium it would have
been an earlier version, the model 3.  Most early models had a white
finish, but over time Pickett developed what they called their
"eye-saver" yellow finish that was very popular.  The color was
specified in the model number, with T=white and ES=yellow.

To have 32 scales on a slide rule is a lot, with many given over to
log-log functions (the constant "e" to some power) and hyperbolic
functions (similar to traditional trig functions and mostly used by
electrical engineers).  Slide rules are gadgets and we tend to like
complexity in our gadgets. But much more basic rules, with half as
many scales, are all most people need, especially when we remember
that it is the user of the rule, not the rule that makes the
difference. The slide rules used by Werner von Braun, Sergey Korolev
(the chief Soviet rocket designer), and Linus Pauling all survive in
museums -- and they are all basic, utilitarian rules.  Korolov's
colleagues called his slide rule his "magic wand."

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

- Jim Cerny

Here is a note to Eleanor Jenkins about her article 'Magic of Music'

From: Laurie Elinoff
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 1:12 AM
To: Eleanor Jenkins
Subject: Magic of Music


I loved your article,"The Magic of Music" and I could really relate to your "old school" stories of LP's,45's, etc. In fact, when you were describing buying an LP,I was soo curious as to who the artist was.

Here's a personal tale you can appreciate. I also have a healthy collection of LP's and 45's. Over the years,I also purchased cassettes which I could enjoy while driving. To make a long story a little longer, my dad had purchased a Boom Box for our tape cassettes and,dare I say, our CD's. Well that Boom Box died and I was going to get a new one for my birthday. Well when I tried to find one that would play my tape cassettes,I faced a great challenge. So many retail clerks said that tapes were outdated and their machines only played CD's. Well, we finally found one. But that was when I learned that my cassette tapes were a step away from collecting dust along side my LP's and 45's. Will I graduate to an ipod? Who knows!! I look forward to reading more of your articles. Until next time.

Laurie-reader in Maryland

The following exchange of letters refers to an article by Steve Johnson in the December 2003 issue 'Beginnings'

From: Bill Wood
To: melrose@media.mit.edu
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 4:38 AM
Subject: Thayers of Lubec

[In your article] you write:

My mother's mother was Ethel Reed Thayer, a descendant of a long line of Thayers from the northeast part of Maine around the Lubec and Eastport area.

There are only two Thayer's that I know of who settled in Lubec in the early 1800's: Daniel and Solomon. Daniel, who is my great-4 grandfather, had three children (that I know of) by Isabella McDonald whom he married at Eastport in1804. Solomon, who was born at Bridgewater, Mass, graduated from Bowdoin which mentions him in an 1882 history as having no children.

If you are descended from either of these Thayer's (esp. Daniel) I would be interested to know what if anything you know about Daniel's parents. I have been working on and off for two years with, among others, the Thayer family historian trying to prove that Daniel was in fact Solomon's brother. If he was, this raises other issues. At any rate if you have any information I would be pleased to see it.

Thanks for your interest.

Bill Wood
Watertown, Mass.
From: Steven W. Johnson
To: Bill Wood
Sent: 2/20/09


From the Thayer family history that I have, it appears that you may be some sort of a distant cousin of mine. My records show that Daniel Thayer, born in Plymouth MA married "unknown" McDonald. You say her name was Isabella; that is info I did not have. Daniel's father was John McDonald from Scotland who died in Lubec and is buried there. His wife, Daniel's mother, was Elizabeth Allen who was born in Goldsboro, ME. I have no record of John McDonald's or Elizabeth Allen's birth or death dates. Also, I have no record of a Solomon Thayer from any generation. It’s a possibility that the family historian who put this lineage together chose to ignore Daniel's siblings as Daniel was the Thayer from whom the rest of us descended. Perhaps there was a Solomon there. This is just a guess on my part.

My records (which could be missing some info) show that Daniel and Isabella had one son, John Thayer who was born February 6, 1806 in Moose River ME and died January 4, 1889 in Lubec ME. John married Mary Margarete Beresford in Moose River ME (I have no marriage date). Mary was born March 14, 1810 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and died March 29, 1900 in Lubec. Again, perhaps there were more children in this Thayer family but were not included in this line. I am descended from this John Thayer and perhaps you were also.

Here it starts to get complicated. John and Mary had 12 children as follows:

John Jr. who married Jane May and later Mary Ellen Morong (John and Mary were my ancestors)
Abigail who married Capt. Samuel Parritt
Isabella who married Nathan Sterns
Ellen who married Benjamin W. Adams
Sarah who married James Benjamin Neagle
Daniel who married Harriet Reynolds
George S. who married Mary Ardelia Comstock (George is the one whom, I believe, wrote the original family history in 1908)
Frank E. who married Lizzie Wilcox
William Henry who married Harriet Brooks and "Unknown" Mulholland
Andrew, unmarried
Charles A., unmarried
Francis E., unmarried

Note that there are no children listed for any of these siblings except for John, Jr., who is my ancestor. This is the basis for my belief that a lot of siblings may have been left out of this family tree information.

John Thayer, Jr. and Mary Ellen Morong had one child, Herbert Morris Thayer who married Minnie Justina Knight. Herbert and Minnie had three children, one of whom was Ethel Reed Thayer who married Albert James Beshong. They were my grandparents.

In 2001, I put together a booklet entitled "The Thayer Family History" which covers all of the above and a lot more. It's about 35 pages long and includes some interesting history of the family (not just boring family trees) written originally by George S. Thayer in 1908. I'd be happy to send you a copy if you would like it. Let me know.

And a word about the Melrose Mirror. It always amazes me when I get an e-mail from someone who has recently read an article which I had written in the past. You have referenced my "Beginnings" story from the December, 2003 issue of the Mirror. I assume you found me via "Google", right? A few years ago, I discovered a long-lost cousin (or, more correctly, she discovered me) in the same manner. That story is also in the Mirror; entitled "My New Cousin" in the January, 2006 issue. It's an interesting story and it all involves descendants of Daniel Thayer and Isabella McDonald.

So good luck in your search for more Thayer history. Please pass on anything that I could use in my Thayer family records.


Steve Johnson
Peoria, Arizona
From: Steven W. Johnson
To: Bill Wood
Sent: 2/22/09


Re-reading my first paragraph in my e-mail to you of 2/20/09, I find a huge mistake.

I have no record of the parents of the first Daniel Thayer. He was born in Plymouth, as I stated, but that's all I have on him. the John McDonald from Scotland and Elizabeth Allen from Goldsboro, Maine are the parents of "Unknown" McDonald (Daniel's wife) who was named, as you informed me, Isabella.

Sorry for the confusion. I'm afraid my information sheds no light on the answer to your question of who were Daniel Thayer's parents. Perhaps the fact that he was born in Plymouth may help in your search.

Steve Johnson

March 6, 2009

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