Monday, February 27, 2012

It was my first trip.....

.... for father’s company, Allegheny Button Works. The excitement was palpable as we prepared our cases and trunks. We would travel by car to the train station and then by train, all the way to New York. I’d heard father speak of “the Big City” so often, I had amazing images of what was to come swirling in my young brain for weeks ahead of time. Nothing in my imaginings however could prepare me for the reality.
As a girl I had often gone sneaking down into the work areas of father’s button works. All the machinery was powered by our ever present coal so it was a rather dark and dingy place, as were the workers. Father always tried to provide the best possible working conditions for his laborers, but they were an unusual bunch I found exciting and imagined to be somewhat mysterious.
While we had the usual share of immigrants from various corners of the world working on the lines at the factory, it was nothing like the onslaught of nationalities from far off places that I would encounter in New York.

By the by, my best friend in those early years was Clara. To hear about Clara:


By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For all its fine attributes.....

....the city of Pittsburgh also had its dark side, quite literally. The steel mills which were the city’s life blood, also turned it into what Boston writer James Parton called “hell with the lid off.” A dark, sooty cloud from the mills blanketed the entire city, all except our beautiful Shady Side, where those with means could live above the soot and grime.
My early years were unremarkable, except to say I grew up in the lap of luxury, thanks to my father’s business acumen and adaptability. It was not until my studies at the University of Pittsburgh, “Pitt” as we called it, that I began to yearn to expand my horizons. Majoring in business was almost unheard of at the time for women, but I wanted to contribute to the family fortune on my own terms. It was upon graduation in 1934, that I finally managed to convince my dear father that I should travel for the company…and so I did!

By the by, in those days we took typing classes, only the women.....we were supposed to be typists, secreteries and stenographers. I, on the other hand, had my sights set much higher.....unfortunately, I still had to pass the typing class:

By the by, typing class attire:

By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

So to begin.....

…I was born Astoria Foster….in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in July of 1912. At that time Pittsburg was the 8th largest city in the entire country. It was a bustling time in a city filled with European influence. While life in Pittsburgh centered around steel, in our family it was something quite different. My father owned a marvelous and very profitable button factory!
The bone, ivory, pearl and exotic bits of wood we used came from all over the world, and would eventually provide me with the fuel for an insatiable wanderlust. The factory itself was a wonderland for an inspired child, with each shipping carton coming from far away lands, marked by labels filled with adventure and travel.

By the by, I spent much of my life in Pittsburgh.....even traveled back many times over the years. One of my favorite places has always been the Phipps. For more about the Phipps:


By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to:

On this my 100th birthday......

....I find the family gathering about my feet pleading with me to begin the tale of the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide) I have a score of great grandchildren and grandchildren pulling up pillows and seats, awaiting my discourse.  They want to know all about everything it seems, even this old chair. I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. From our tents in the bush, as we rocked around a blazing fire, it… like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit.

By the by, one of Archer's last trips to Africa was in response to a request of one of the tribes he had come to know. Their cattle were being killed by a rogue Leopard, and they hadn't been able to capture or kill it. Although I was quite ill with malaria, Archer went to help. I feared greatly for his life and gave him my most precious St. Christopher's medal to protect him in his travels. He captured the leopard and moved it to a more suitable part of Africa. However, he did bring me back the rocking chair adorned with Zebra hide.

By the by, plains zebras are not on the endangered species list, not now or when Archer Higgins saw them.

By the by, I do not condone the killing of animals for their hide alone. However, I do see no harm in wearing older pieces that have already made the ultimate sacrifice long ago. I actually think it shows more respect to the animal and its species that the fur is in use.

By the by, check out this "jungle" coat............