Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

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Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Sunday, January 21, 2007

INSIGHTS FROM NAIROBI NEWSPAPERS – PART 2

Both The East African Standard and The Leader had excellent coverage of world events. These become excellent history lessons as regards the background of the era. For instance, some of the people Jade encounters might debate the coal strikes in Wales or the riots in London. They may talk about the impending arrest of Mr. Ghandi in India or the Prince of Wales world tour. But while the local people might discuss these issues, it is not here that we usually hear their voices. That comes out most clearly in the classified ads, local social reviews, and the letters to the editor.

For example, heading some of the local issues was the sad state of the Nairobi fire department. Before 1920, it seemed to consist of a cart with a hand pump, hose, and several native Africans employed to operate it. One visitor wrote that he found it particularly amusing to see four African men in their striped “pyjamas” and fireman hats, rushing along with the cart in the middle of the night. Evidently, the city commissioners did not find it so amusing as they called for the formation of a volunteer fire department.

Now the newly formed volunteer fire department had several English volunteers, a fire marshal with a dandy uniform (if the poems mocking his strutting about to impress the ladies were any indication), and a damaged hose. This prompted an anonymous writer to compose a set of tongue in cheek rules for the city. Citizens had to restrict fires to the first floor since that’s as far as anyone could toss buckets of water. Fires had to be constrained to within 50 feet of a hydrant. Ladies were welcome to be rescued from upper floors along with suggestions for where to purchase negligees on sale for the eventual rescue. And please; no fires during race week or football (soccer) tourneys.

Next week: More INSIGHTS FROM NAIROBI NEWSPAPERS

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

INSIGHTS FROM NAIROBI NEWSPAPERS – PART 1

There’s a lot of information to be gleaned from old newspapers. Advertisements show the latest products and fashions. Letters to the editor depict the people’s concerns and grievances. Notices of dances, movies, and plays lend insight into an area’s social life. But there are more bits of information hidden in the ads than just the products and more to the letters and notices than just the issues.

For instance, a store’s location can be useful when researching an historic city. With enough information, a researcher can start to map out the area shops. Another tidbit came from the corner of one 1920 advertisement. There was a phone number listed for the store. So early Nairobi had an in-town phone system. The fact that the phone number had only three digits tells that there weren’t all that many phones in the town.

I’m old enough to remember party lines, and if you watched 1950’s television shows, you might recall switchboard operators who would connect the calls for you. We can imagine that was the case in Nairobi. In fact, one letter to the editor during an influenza outbreak expressed concern for the overworked operators who were doing double shifts to cover for the other young ladies out sick. In this letter, a fascinating fact was revealed; the telephone operators were known as “hello girls.”

Next week I’m on the road and away from the internet access. So bear with me and in the following week there will be more INSIGHTS FROM NAIROBI NEWSPAPERS