Idiomatic Expressions with Christmas

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Right in time for the next Advent celebration to have, we have a really cool set of  idiomatic expressions that deal with Christmas, regardless of if it’s in English or German. Have a look at the Guessing Quiz and its 15 questions and take a stab at it. The answers are at the end of the article.

Good luck and Happy Holidays! 🙂 ❤

idiomatic expressions Christmas

 

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FlFi Christmas 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Answers: 1. true  2.  false 3. false 4. false  5. false  6. true  7. false   8. true   9. true  10. true  11.  a.  12. b.   13. b.  14.  b.   15. b.

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When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. She had written seven autobiographies about her life, all of them having received accolades. She had written a great deal about society and the environment, her family and her hardships. But one of the poems somewhat stood out that deserves recognition post humus. This Genre special looks at life and death and how things change. It is somewhat tragic as it deals with the fall of the greats and the struggle to pick up where they have left off- to regenerate and regrow. This poem is dedicated to not only what has happened in California and the west coast with the forest fires, but also to all those whom we miss. Atfer all, we have a lot of growing up to do in order to understand how our environment works and how we should foster its growth in order to have any chance of life for future generations.

“When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses,
and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality,
bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly. 
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same,
whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. 
Be and be better. 
For they existed.”

 

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The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

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In connection with the recent attacks on Central American migrants wishing to cross the border separating Mexico and the United States, the second segment of this poem has been echoing throughout the social network scene.

Little do they realize is this important section comes from a poem written by Emma Lazarus entitled the New Colossus. Written in 1883, Ms. Lazarus’ mission for this poem is to empower the US at that time to be the open gates that welcomed those wishing to flee the country for a better life. Originally written as part of a fund raiser for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, which had been in construction at that time, it had been set aside and forgotten when The Lady was completed and opened to the public in 1886. Lazarus died a year later at the age of 38, after becoming serious ill after her second trip to Europe. Yet, her friend Georgina Schuyler, campaigned to have her and her poem memorialized in 1901. Two years later, a plaque with her poem was created for the inside wall of the pedestal inside the Statue of Liberty, dedicating it in her memory and to the immigrants who saw the statue as the symbol of freedom and a new life. The original writing can be found at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City.   The entire poem follows these lines below:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

This poem is dedicated to the thousands of Latin Americans fleeing repression and violence in their homelands for the United States to have a better life. The same goes for the refugees of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and parts of the Middle East and Africa who are seeking a better life in Europe and eventually the States as well. Always remember, the light will always be on; the door open, even if you toil through the waters, barracades and those who reject you. You are all always welcome.

 

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Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) had Jewish ancestry with her family originating from Germany and Portugal. Although she had spent almost her entire life in New York City, much of her writing has to do with the German heritage as she has written poems and stories with the likes of Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine mentioned. The poetry works of these two German writers were adapted into English by Ms. Lazarus. Other themes of her works written had to do with immigration and its hardships as well as the Jewish religion, which she was born and raised into.  Details on her life and work can be found here.

 

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Santa Goes Shopping- Kaufland Commercial ’18

 

With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉

 

So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?

 

The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.

There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.

While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.

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Documentary: Deaths in Despair: The End of the American Dream

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A while back, I wrote an essay on the American Dream and how it has changed over the past half decade to a point where it has become diverse in many ways, shape and form. In theory one can achieve the dream through hard work. In praxis, however, it is a totally different league. And especially within the last decade, this American Dream has become more and more materialistic, divided based on money, power and even social, ethnical and cultural backgrounds, and especially since Donald Trump has taken over, more dysfunctional than at any time in American history.

No wonder why these dystopian variants are leading to the breakdown of families and friendships, the rise in violence and in many cases, as we can see in this documentary below, the rise in the rate of suicides. Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, and his wife, fellow Princeton Prof. Anne Case, have traveled together with Wall Street Journal’s Jason Belini from coast to coast to find out what is leading to the disappearance of the American Dream, and how it is impacting other countries in many ways, shape and form. In this 10-minute documentary, produced by Moving Upstream, the three take a look at this and whether suicide and other social pathologies are causing this almost seven-decade long dream to become a memory.

Watch this clip and have a look at the questions you can discuss below. For the American expatriates residing overseas, like yours truly, this is definitely worth watching and discussing for elements of the American Dream are impacting other countries, including those you are living in.

 

 

  1. What has changed in the American Dream over the past decades?
  2. What variants could benefit keeping the American Dream alive?
  3. Aside from the suicide rate, what variants are contributing to the death of the American Dream? 
  4. If there was a luxury that you had growing up as a child (be it 30 years ago or more) that you miss in today’s society, what would it be and why?
  5. If you were the president of the US and had to look at the problems facing America, especially in this clip, what would you do to make the lives of Americans better and help them fulfill their happiness?
  6. How is the American Dream affecting other countries? 
  7. How is social media affecting American society?
  8. Is it true that the high rate of suicide in the US is negatively affecting the American Dream? If not, what other factors are contributing to its demise? 

 

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Germany Quiz 8: Part III: The Inventions from Saxony- Answer Key

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And now, the answers to Part III of the Guessing Quiz on the Inventions and Inventors from Saxony. Are you ready to find out? 🙂

Part 1: Which of the items in the group were invented from Saxony. Choose the ones you think were invented in Saxony and explain your reasons why. 

gas lantern        tissue paper       wrist watch band             light bulb

mile marker      tea bag               sugar cookies                  steam locomotive

street food        coffee filter       personal computer        daily newspaper

bicycle                laundry detergent          mouthwash       telephone

brandy               beer cap             encyclopedia                   Bible

Gas Lantern- The first gas lantern for streets was erected in 1811 in the Fischergasse in Freiberg. The inventor: Wilhelm August Lampadius, who was a teacher at the Bergakademie (Now TU-Freiberg)

Wrist Watch Band- The watchband was invented for men in 1959 in Glasshütte.

Mile Marker- Adam Friedrich Zürner introduced the mile marker (in historic terms, mile posts) in 1713 to measure the distance between towns in Saxony. According to his geographical surveys he created, two post miles equalled 9.062 kilometers, an equivalent to two-hours walk. Today one can find 200 of these ancient posts, plus 60 distance posts throughout Saxony, including Leipzig, Geithain, Dresden, Großenhain and in the Lausitz region, just to name a few.

Tea Bag- R. Seelig and Hille Tea company in Dresden developed the first tea bag in 1929, which one will see in the boxes of tea in today’s grocery stores and supermarkets. The inventor was Adolf Rambold.

Personal Computer- Konrad Zuse invented the first personal computer, the Z3 in Berlin, in 1943. This was 14 years after he obtained his high school degree in Hoyerswerda, in northeastern Saxony.

Coffee Filter- Melitta Bentz from Dresden, developed the first coffee filter in 1908 with the goal of ensuring the last drop didn’t consist of coffee ground. The filter led to her creating the Melitta Coffee Company, which later moved to Munich. Melitta machte Kaffee wirklich zum Genuss. 🙂

Steam Locomotive- While Great Britain was the birthplace of the steam locomotive thanks to the inventions patented by William Murdoch (1784) and William Reynolds (1787), the first steam locomotive in Germany was the Saxonia, invented by Johann Andreas Schubert in 1838 and used for the country’s first rail line between Leipzig and Dresden.

Daily Newspaper- Two years after the end of the 30-Years War, the first daily newspaper was open to business in Leipzig, in 1850. Tim Ritzsch’s concept at that time was to inform the public of events in the city, six days a week. All done using the Guttenberg press. You can imagine how many people were hired to do the lettering and pressing at that time. 😉

Laundry Detergent- While in Saxony, one will be familiar with FEWA. It was not only an East German product, it was the first laundry detergent used for washing machines. The Chemnitz-based firm patented the first detergent in 1932; the inventor was Heinrich Gottlob Bertsch. It was perfect timing as laundry soap was not doing the (modern-day) washing machine, also invented in Saxony (in Schwarzenberg) 30 years earlier, any favors.

Mouthwash-  When a person had bad-breath during the 1700s, the only solutiion was to wash the mouth out with soap. In 1892, Karl August Lingner  solved that problem and invented the Odol Mouthwash. Today one will associate Odol with this unique invention which can be mixed with water and used for rinsing out the mouth, cleansing it of bad breath. So much for the soap and water unless your child swears a lot. 😉

Brandy- Christian Traugott Hünlich from Wilthen put Germany on the map with his creation of Brandy in 1842. It became so successful that it won a gold medal at the World Expo in Paris, 58 years later.

Beer Cap- Robert Sputh invented the modern-day beer cap in 1892. Yet unlike the screw cap that had been introduced by Pittsburghese Hymann Frank 20 years earlier, Sputh’s invention was tighter and required opening only with the bottle opener; not by twisting. 😉

 

 

Part 2:  Find out whether the following items originated from Saxony or not. Mark each one with a Y (yes) and N (no).  For each one from Saxony, guess at when it was introduced. 

  1. Thermos-flask (Thermoskanne)- YES; in 1881 by Adolf Ferdinand Weinhold of Chemnitz
  2. Coffee cup (Kaffeetasse)               NO
  3. Pottery                                              _NO-The art of making things of clay dates back to the stone age
  4. University of Technology              YES- The Technical University in Freiberg was founded in 1765 under the name Bergakademie (Academy for Miners). The TUF still exists today. 
  5. Cassette tape (Tonband)                YES- Fritz Pfleumer, an engineer from Dresden, developed and patented this in 1928
  6. Wine glass                                        NO
  7. Diesel engine                                    NO
  8. Toothpaste                                        YES- Ottomar Heinsius von Mayenburg, a chemist in Dresden invented this product in 1907, under the name Chlorodont. It was the forerunner to present-day toothpaste.  Ironically, it was the sucessor to another invention from Saxony, toothsoap, which had been created in 1852 by Adolf Heinrich August Bergmann, another pharmacist from Waldheim. 
  9. Cantilever truss bridge                  NO
  10. 35 mm Camera                                  YES- The Contax was introduced by the Carl-Zeiss Company in Dresden in 1932 and innovated again in 1949. It was the forerunner to the present-day 35mm camera but with mirror reflex anf now with SD-card. 

 

 

Part 3.  Choose the best answer for the following questions below.

  1. Homoeopathy, invented by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, focuses on the following two aspects:

        a.  Mentality and physical illness                b. Pills and viruses

          c. Ecstasy and psychology                            d. the brain and the body

  2. Aktendulli, known as file fasteners in English, is used to…..

        a. Fasten files in binders                         b. Build log cabins with dowels

        c. Sharpen pencils                                    d. Jack up the car in the event                                                                                                                  of a flat tire.

 3. In what year was the freon (FCKW)-free refridgerator invented and where?

Part a.         1895             1935              1993              2003             2018

Part b.          Schwarzenberg     Scharfenstein    Schlettau      Aue      Zwickau

 

   4. The “Plauener Spitze” is in reference to this type of manufacturing of fabric?

   a. Jeans         b. Embroidery       c. Baseball Caps               d. Dress shirts   

5.  Which city in Saxony was the birth place of the ceramic-ware we still see at the pottery market?

    a. Radebeul          b. Dresden        c. Meissen            d. Riesa         e.Leipzig

 

Bonus Question:  The Göltzschtal Viaduct, as seen in the picture above, is the first brick stone railroad viaduct in the world. True or false? 

False. It holds the title as the longest of its kind, and at one time, it was the tallest. Yet evidence points to another brick stone railroad bridge at Wurzen (east of Leipzig). Built in 1836, it is the oldest operating railroad bridge in Germany and still serves rail traffic today. 

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There are plenty of sources that focus on the inventions from Saxony. Apart from this book above, you can also click on the links below, where you can read up on the facts. All the quiz questions come from the two links.

http://www.die-sachsen-kommen.de/shtm/erfindungen.htm#TH

https://mmt.inf.tu-dresden.de/Lehre/Sommersemester_05/Praktikum_MG/ergebnisse/16a/erfindungen.html

 

 

 

 

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Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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Co-written with sister column, bhc-logo-newest1

The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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