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Amazing things can be discovered with computers

Remember when? Some of us are old enough to remember when paper boys stood on street corners downtown and shouted out the headlines.

That was the era when newspapers used lead slugs — one for each different letter of the alphabet, stacked into little trays to print each word. It’s not news to any of us that times have changed.

Some changes are more than we can cope with but I was ahead of many contemporaries. I got my first computer in 1984 and thanks to great help from members of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, that year I learned how to email my copy to this newspaper.

What I know about working a computer is slim, but what others can do is amazing. I had an example of that skill and one computer program when a new acquaintance offered to research my family tree — not something I was hoping for but that might be interesting — especially the validity of my dad’s repeated claim that we were related to the Randolphs of Virginia, the founders of William and Mary College and other noteworthy events in the 1770s.

I really wasn’t too impressed with early family history but received much detailed history and new understanding of my paternal grandmother. Her name was Etta Bugbee Miller, a resident of New York City at 15 East 33rd St. My father’s parents sent him to stay there while they traveled to San Francisco in the spring of 1906. Yes, that is when the earthquake occurred.

Research into my family tree identified the neighborhood as well-to-do, and my acquaintance with Grandma when she visited from New York made it clear that she and everyone else who lived there were ladies and gentlemen. She wanted me to grow up to be a lady and the lessons for doing so started immediately.

“Ardis, you need to learn to do needlepoint and make pillow covers.” To emphasize her point she gave me a kit with the printed cover design and wool yarns in the needed colors. I wasn’t interested in this ladylike craft. More interesting was her explanation of the value of her seven stripe beaver coat. I really didn’t know that beavers had stripes but Grandma explained that only the best New York clothiers carried the special fur, and she cooed she’d leave the coat to me in her will.

Behavior for ladies and gentlemen expected in the 1890s has mostly disappeared. Now, women’s slips showing is almost required and no one remembers that gentlemen remove their hats when indoors.

Obviously much has changed in recent years. No one needs to spend time learning all of the rules of etiquette. More useful is learning how to use the internet, research history, go shopping, even purchase needlework supplies and send messages from here at my computer to this newspaper and to my list of contacts.

Stories of Positive Aging is a semimonthly column on senior issues written by Lake Oswego resident Ardis Stevenson, author of “Facing Aging, Finding Answers” and “Dusty’s War.” She can be reached by email at me@ardisstevenson.com or by regular mail at 17440 Holy Names Drive Lake Oswego, OR 97034.

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