Poetry on the ocean.

Abstract:

The population of the tiny maritime community of Chester swells every summer, when the annual influx of well-heeled vacationers takes place. Chester’s yachting and entertaining season attracts visitors from all over North America.

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A lonely cloud floated across the sapphire sky and 20-m.p.h. winds churned the muscular seas. Conditions, in short, were ideal for sailing. And the only real concern last week, as the wooden and fibreglass sailboats circled Mahone Bay off Chester on Nova Scotia’s south shore, was whether Ben Heisler could muster enough strength to fire the cannon to start the race. Now 87, the fabled Nova Scotian boat builder is pipe-cleaner-thin, with a face like a piece of brown wrinkled leather. Old age and 30 years of shooting the starter’s gun have left him stone deaf. “Not sure how much longer he’ll be up to it,” conceded one race organizer. But today, fortified with rum and coke, he sat in the bow of the race committee boat, gamely struggling to load the heavy brass cannon. After a couple of misfires, a bang finally rang out. Seconds later, their brightly colored spinnaker sails billowing, the first members of the fleet roared past the starting mark. Chester Race Week–the most celebrated week in Atlantic Canada’s most celebrated summer village–was officially under way.

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Ask any local and they will say that Chester has only two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. Most of the time, it remains just another quiet village nestled on Nova Scotia’s postcard-perfect south-west coastline. Quieter than most, actually: unlike the neighboring fishing and boat-building towns, Chester offers limited year-round employment; sky-high real estate prices– by Nova Scotian standards–make it expensive for people to live there and commute to jobs in Halifax, 70 km to the east.

But come June, Chester blossoms like the perennials in its many well-tended gardens. The influx of summer folk, from all over eastern North America, swells the village’s population of 1,000 by as much as 30 per cent–and gives the otherwise sluggish local economy a welcome jolt. Chester is Georgian Bay without the heavy traffic, the Hamptons minus the New York City crowds. Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs and Saabs–many with Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania and Maryland plates–purr through the winding, leafy streets. Gleaming yachts skirt the nearly 200 tufted islands that dot the bay. At night, laughter floats from inside the village’s bars and restaurants and soft lights brighten the interiors of the grand old homes that sit dark throughout the long winter. “There’s a timeless quality to this place,” says Charles Ritchie, 87, Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations and London, who has been summering in Chester for 25 years, “a most agreeable rhythm of parties, entertaining and informal visits which you find yourself falling into.”

That may be the case today. But Chester, founded in 1761 by New England settlers, was a real backwater until some wealthy Philadelphians “discovered it” a century ago. As recently as 1942, U.S. travel writer Dorothy Duncan labelled Chester “an American colony,” serving as a summer haven to descendants of former president Grover Cleveland and a bevy of presidents of American universities. Even now, descendants of the old American families make their annual pilgrimage.

So do the Canadian summer folk: wealthy developers, businessmen and lawyers from Halifax as well as such national notables as Tory Senator Finlay MacDonald, former federal cabinet minister Barbara McDougall and Christopher Ondaatje, the exotic Sri Lankan-born financier, author and adventurer who bought the struggling Chester Playhouse and donated it to the town two years ago. “None of the people who come here want to make a buck out of Chester,” explains Ondaatje, 61, who lives on a 100-acre island in Mahone Bay and spends the rest of the year in London and Bermuda. The same, it seems, holds true for those who own summer homes in the neighboring coves, inlets and hamlets such as former federal Liberal party president Donald Johnston who was spotted dining in the Seaside Shanty in the town of Chester Basin this summer with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Quebec novelist Mordecai Richler. The summer folk do their best not to antagonize the year-round natives. Sitting on his veranda, which provides an ample view of the bay, Desmond Piers–a retired rear admiral in the Canadian navy who has been summering in Chester for 75 years–says the two factions get along famously. “The summer people are here because they like to sail and they want to enjoy the beauty,” the vibrant 81-year-old maintains. “To a person they’re quiet and discreet.”

That point is amply demonstrated by the late 19th- and early 20th-century homes owned by the summer visitors. Despite their elaborate names–Morning Tide, Pinecroft, Westerleigh–many of the houses hide their manicured gardens and expansive verandas behind wooden fences and thick hedges. That, of course, does not mean that Chester lacks excitement. This year, the village was aflutter over the Hollywood film adaptation of the Stephen King novel Dolores Claiborne, shot at the white-pillared waterfront mansion owned by retired Halifax developer John Fiske. Chester has its eccentrics too, although few can match Col. Jack Miller, a Scottish lumber merchant and golf aficionado who moved to Chester in 1910. When his youngest child and wife died, Miller had them buried by the third hole at the Chester golf club, which he then owned.

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All in all, Race Week–a fixture since 1904–may be the only time the village truly cuts loose. While many local boats compete, the majority of the 80 vessels and roughly 500 crew members who descended on the village last week were from other ports in the Maritimes, Ontario and New England. The village was largely silent during the day as the boats tacked and gybed, but by cocktail hour the 94-year-old yacht club was rocking to a loud reggae beat. “We’re not trying to have an Olympic-style regatta,” declared the club’s rear commodore Dan Blain, 57, as he sipped rum at the end of the wharf. A Florida resident who says he “did well during the Reagan years,” Blain summers in a home that has been in his family for more than a century. “The idea,” Blain added, “is to enjoy the great sailing and have some fun.”

Not too much, though. Veteran competitors long ago christened the week-long event “Chester Waste Week.” This year’s committee hoped to keep the legendary partying under control. As the night wore on, the sunburned stock brokers, doctors, factory workers and college students who packed the Fo’c’sle, Chester’s oldest and most popular watering hole, began to shed their self-restraint. “They’re sailors,” reported Tim Matthews, the Fo’c’sle’s part- owner. “They drink one hell of a lot of rum.” But it was a pair of brawling skateboarders who smashed through the tavern’s window around 4 the next morning.

By then, even the most determined partyers were resting for the new day’s race. Come mid-morning, a few could be glimpsed at Julien’s Pastry Shop wolfing down croissants and cappuccino. Eventually, the first groggy-headed sailors arrived at the yacht club, dropped into big wooden chairs on the front deck and stared out at the bay. “I went to university in the south of France,” said Suzanne Risley, a single mother of one who splits her time between Halifax and Chester, “and not even the Mediterranean can rival Chester, in the summer.”

But already the morning air carried the first hint of fall. Race Week, as well as being the peak of Chester’s summer, also signals the season’s approaching end. Soon the boats come out of the water, homes are locked for the winter. All that will remain of Race Week is the memory of bright sails snapping in the wind beneath a startling, pale blue sky.

Click here: Grassroots action.

Grassroots action.

Abstract:

Consumers in Canada discuss their environmental concerns, which include the use of pesticides on fruits and vegetables and the chlorine contamination of drinking water.

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As a mother of six children ranging in age from 2 to 11, Jean Mingarelli admits that she does not have the time or energy to become an environmental activist. But the 38-year-old resident of Rockland, Ont., 50 km east of Ottawa, said that environmentalism became part of her daily life four years ago when she noticed that beaches were being closed every summer in the Ottawa area. She has stopped using most commercially manufactured, chemical-based cleaning products, relying instead on such simple agents as olive oil and lemon juice to clean wooden furniture, or water and vinegar to wash her windows. She and her husband, Angelo, a math professor at Carleton University, also use a home filtration system to remove chlorine from tap water. Said Mingarelli: “What galvanized me was all the beaches being closed. I couldn’t live beside a magnificent river like the Ottawa River and just say, ‘Isn’t that too bad.'”

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For Mingarelli and thousands of other Canadians, local air and water quality have become major environmental issues. According to a poll conducted last spring through the Toronto-based Decima Quarterly Report, 87 per cent of those questioned expressed concern about the quality of the environment in and around their homes. And 78 per cent of those polled also said that they believe that the quality of their environment directly affects their health and the health of their families. But the poll also revealed that only about 20 per cent of Canadians are firmly committed to making lifestyle changes, including purchasing organically grown fruits and vegetables, in order to protect the environment and their health.

But increasing numbers of Canadians are reacting through the choices they make as consumsers to concerns about the impact of environment on personal health. Sales of bottled water have grown by more than 30 per cent annually over the past 10 years, reflecting anxieties over the quality of tap water. Sales of sunscreen lotions have increased sharply over the past five years, in response to fears about skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Said Pierre McClelland, marketing director of Mississauga, Ont.-based Whitehall-Robins Inc., which sells the Paba Tan line of sunscreens: “Three or four years ago, people believed in getting a good tan and looking great. Now, people are saying they’re going to protect their skin first.”

Scrambling: According to public opinion polls conducted over the past four years for the Toronto-based Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada, consumers are also becoming increasingly concerned about the use of chemical preservatives and additives in foods, and more shoppers are looking for organically grown produce. And a 1990 survey of 1,006 shoppers, commissioned by the Grocery Products Manufacturers, revealed that 64 per cent would read a label to find out if a product contained all-natural ingredients, an increase from 58 per cent the previous year. But only 32 per cent of those polled said that they would pay more for environmentally safe products. Still, price and “best before” dates on packages remain the top two issues for 95 per cent of consumers, the 1990 poll showed.

Many food manufacturers are now scrambling to meet the growing public demand for more nutritious, wholesome products, said Susan Leung, a Vancouver-based dietitian who advises several large B.C. companies on the types of food products they should be developing. Leung, president of Pacific Nutrition Consultants, said that she sees a direct link between diet and environmental issues. Said Leung: “When you eat basic, wholesome foods, less processed foods,you’re looking at an environmentally sound diet because there is very little waste.”

Some food processors are also attmepting to ensure that their products are free of chemicals that are seen as potentially damaging to the environment, as well as to human health. Gary Fread, vice-president and chief technical officer of Toronto-based Campbell Soup Co. Ltd., said that the company is working with 75 southwestern Ontario vegetable growers to reduce the pesticides and herbicides they use on their crops. He said that the farmers supply vegetables to the company’s Chatham, Ont., plant, which produces soup, spaghetti sauce and V-8 juice. Most of the farmers now apply chemical sprays only when their crops are threatened by an identifiable pest, weed or fungus. Until this year, Fread added, the farmers sprayed their fields every summer as a routine preventive measure.

Consumers are not only demanding more nutritious foods, they are also becoming more knowledgeable about food and diet in general. Leung said that she is the co-owner of Shop Smart Tours Inc., which takes ordinary consumers on guided tours of conventional, mainstream supermarkets. Leung said that the tours, conducted by professional nutritionists, last about 90 minutes. Shoppers are told how to reduce their fat intake, and how to determine the contents of a product by reading the label. The company runs 60 to 100 tours a; month, each with eight to 10 shoppers, she said. The stores cover the cost of the tours.

Guidelines: But fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown without the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers remain specialty products. Currently, there are about 23 organizations in Canada certifying that produce and grains are organically grown. Those groups are now working with Agriculture Canada to draft a standard set of guidelines to regulate chemical-free farming. Wayne Parker, senior director of marketing with Toronto-based Oshawa Foods, which operates the 215 Food City and IGA supermarkets in south-central Ontario, said that some of the company’s stores began installing 12-foot-wide sections for organic produce two years ago. Those fruits and vegetables cost 20 per cent more, on average, than conventional produce, he said. As a result, the organics did not sell well, particularly as the economy began to falter. Parker said that many of the sections have now been reduced in size or eliminated. He added that Oshawa Foods ha sits own quality-control inspector who visits farms to ensure that the produce is grown without the use of chemicals.

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For his part, Russell Precious, co-owner of a West Vancouver natural-food store and restaurant cllaed Capers, said that public interestin organically grown produce rose sharply in February, 1989, following news reports that Alar, a chemical ripener sprayed on apples, had been linked to cancer in children. He said that hiw own sales increased by 25 per cent in the month following the Alar scare, but gradually declined again after media and public attention faded. Said Precious: “The whole question of environmental shopping peaked about a year ago and has fallen off.”

But those who have switched to organic produce contend that such fruits and vegetables are tastier as well as healthier. Susan Cameron, a 39-year-old resident of West Vancouver, said that she and her husband, Donald, a neurologist, began buying chemical-free produce a year ago after being vegetarians for two decades. Said Cameron: “The flavor is wonderful and you don’t get that aftertaste of pesticides.”

Taste and the presence of chlorine are the two factors driving an increasing number of Canadians away from tap water in favor of spring or mineral waters. Last year, the Ontario Bottled Water Association, which represents vendors across the country, hired Decima Research to conduct a survey of public attitudes towards tap and bottled water. Decima polled 600 people in three different parts of Ontario and found that, by margins of about 2 to 1, the participants said that they believed that bottled water was safer, higher in quality, tasted better and contained fewer chemicals and additives. In early 1990, Maclean’s asked a Mississauga company, Mann Testing Laboratories Ltd., to analyse Toronto tap water, and the firm found only traces of 20 minerals and chemicals. Some, including copper and iron, can be beneficial to humans in small amounts, but others, such as strontium and barium, could be harmful in large quantities. Said Kenneth Roberts, manager of the Ontario ministry of the environment’s drinking-water section: “Bottled water can be better tasting, but the risk to health from drinking tap water is considered negligible.”

According to Elisabeth Woodworth, executive director of the bottled-water association, sales have continued to grow by 10 per cent a year evenduring the recession. Total Canadian sales of bottled water increased by 10 per cent to $190 million in 1990, up from $173 million the previous year, she said.

Sunscreen: Canadians are also demonstrating their concerns about environment and personal health through their purchases of sunscreeen lotions. Sales figures compiled by A. C. Nielsen Co. of Canada Ltd., a Toronto-based market-research firm, show that Canadians have spent $36 million on sunscreens in 1991, up from $26.5 million in 1987. And Canadians are buying stronger sunscreens. Manufacturers assign each product a sunprotection factor ranging from 2 through 45, and the higher the rating, the more protection against the ultraviolet solar radiation that darkens human skin but can also potentially cause skin cancer. McClelland, however, said that any lotion with an SPF of 30 or more blocks out almost all ultraviolet rays. Nielsen figures show that 47 per cent of the sunscreens Canadians purchased this year had protection factors of 15 or higher, up from 37 per cent two years earlier. Sales of lotions with factors of 15 or less declined by 22 per cent over the same period.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa-based Canadian Dermatology Association is also trying to raise public awareness about the links between suntanning and skin cancer. Vancouver dermatologist Dr. Jason Rivers, director of the association’s skin cancer awareness program, said that he and some of his colleagues set up tents at four different beaches in the lower B.C. mainland last summer. Rivers said that they distributed information and examined about 600 sunbathers for signs of skin cancer. He said that they identified 20 per cent of the individuals as high risk, and another eight per cent had potentially cancerous lesions. Said Rivers: “People are becoming more aware, but a lot of people are not responding. Go to any beach and there are people frying out there.”

While public opinion polls reveal that change is occurring slowly, the growth of one grass-roots organization suggests that average citizens are becoming more environmentally active. Two years ago, 11 Vancouver residents formed an organization called the Worldwide Home Environmentalists Network. Cameron, one of the founding members, said that the network now has 5,000 members and small chapters in Australia and Japan. She said that the organization’s 18-point charter encourages environmental change through personal action. Cameron added that if ordinary citizens can be convinced to adopt conservation, recycling, composting and other environmentally sound practices, they can have an enormous impact on the future of theplanet. It is clearly an enormous challenge–and for many Canadians, the place to start is at home.

Click here: Is the worst over? Executives are starting to talk recovery.

Is the worst over? Executives are starting to talk recovery.

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Unemployment is still high, export sales are weak and corporate profits are generally slim or non-existent. But across the country, the word “recovery” is gradually creeping into the vocabularies of recession-battered Canadian business executives. For Orville Mead, president of Kroehler Furniture Co. of Stratford, Ont., the first signs of a potential economic turnaround occurred last month. “Our orders for May were nicely ahead of last year’s level,” said Mead, whose company, Canada’s third-largest furniture manufacturer in terms of revenues, makes upholstered and wooden furniture at three factories in southern Ontario and one in Edmonton. He added: “Consumers are still very wary, but a lot of them are at least visiting stores. For the first time since mid-1989, we think that we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Just as one swallow does not make a summer, a few positive signs of improved business conditions do not prove that the recession of 1990-1991 is history. But Mead’s experiences, and those of hundreds of businesspeople like him, provide an important counterbalance to the recent tide of grim economic statistics. Late last week, Statistics Canada reported that the country’s gross domestic product–the most widely watched indicator of economic health–fell by 1.3 per cent during the first three months of the year. The three-month drop in GDP was the steepest since the current recession began during the second quarter of 1990, and about equal to the largest quarterly drops in the 1981-1982 recession. Said Philip Cross, StatsCan’s director of current analysis: “There aren’t any signs that the economy is going to turn around tomorrow.”

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With 1.4 million Canadians out of work, those results were disconcerting. But economists say that predicting the future direction of the economy on the basis of available statistics is like driving a car while gazing into the rearview mirror. The statistics reveal where the economy has been–not where it is going. In fact, an increasing chorus of analysts are saying that the recession is probably already over, although the GDP figures to prove that will likely not appear until late summer at the earliest. “A whole array of indicators are pointing to a spring revival,” says George Vasic, chief economist of DRI Canada, a Toronto-based economic forecasting agency. “Housing construction has improved noticeably, automobile sales are picking up, and wholesale lumber prices have increased 35 per cent since the beginning of the year.”

One of the keys to a sustained recovery, Vasic and others contend, is a continuation of current lower interest rates. In less than a year, the prime rate charged by Canada’s major banks to their best customers has dropped to 9.75 per cent from 14.75 per cent. A related drop in mortgage rates has fuelled a revival in Canada’s housing market–which, in turn, is spilling over into increased demand for building materials, furniture, household appliances and a wide range of other goods.

One company that is already benefiting from the housing recovery is Camco Inc. of Mississauga, Ont., which manufactures stoves, refrigerators and other appliances under the General Electric, Hotpoint and Moffat brand names, among others. According to Michel Trudel, the company’s vice-president of sales, Camco’s sales bottomed out in March and have been improving slowly ever since. Camco executives are not ready to break out the champagne just yet–for one thing, Trudel says, the company’s sales in May were still about five per cent lower than in the same month of 1990. But he adds that the company, indirectly controlled by General Electric Co. of Fairfield, Conn., has invested $30 million in new manufacturing equipment during the past two years and is hopeful that its efforts will pay off in improved productivity and higher profits. Says Trudel: “It’s going to be a slow recovery, but we think we’re in a better position now to compete in the North American market.”

Another positive sign for the economy is the recent improvement in business conditions in the United States, the destination for about 70 per cent of Canada’s exports. Last week, the U.S. commerce department said that corporate profits in the first quarter of 1991 fell by three-tenths of one per cent–a much slower decline than in the past six months of 1990. In addition, U.S. sales of new homes rose in April for the third month in a row. And orders from U.S. factories rose 1.8 per cent in April, the first increase in six months. On the other hand, U.S. retail sales were 0.1 per cent lower in April than in the previous month–evidence that consumers, at least, remain cautious.

According to most analysts, those statistics point to, at best, a modest U.S. recovery. But Vasic, for one, says that he expects the Canadian economy to grow at a faster pace than its U.S. counterpart, at least until 1993. That, he says, is because the recession in the United States has been shorter and milder than in Canada, and there is less pent-up demand among consumers. In addition, the recession has driven many weaker Canadian companies out of business and forced those that remain to become more efficient–increasing their ability to compete when the good times return.

The furniture industry may be a case in point. According to president Mead, several of Kroehler Furniture’s domestic competitors have gone bankrupt in the past two years, leaving Kroehler with a larger share of the Canadian market. “The companies that managed to survive the downturn are looking forward to a bright future,” he adds. As Mead sees it, even the clouds of recession have a silver lining.

Click here: U.S. sales drop hits Danish furniture firms

U.S. sales drop hits Danish furniture firms

Elegant wooden chairs and tables from Denmark have graced homes around the world since Scandinavian furniture won an international reputation for design and craftsmanship 30 years ago.

But the furniture makers are puzzled – they are suffering from a sudden drop in sales to the United States.

The Danish Statistics Office says the wood and furniture industry in 1985 had sales of $1-billion (U.S.) and more than 25,000 employees, making it the sixth biggest employment industry in the country. The U.S. market accounted for a third of Denmark’s furniture exports last year, with sales of $280-million.

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In the first eight months of this year, however, exports to the United States fell by almost 20 per cent.

One U.S. importer said the problem was that the Danes needed to put more money into design, development and research. But Danish furniture designers say the real problem is an unwillingness by U.S. importers to buy modern products.

”There has been a lot of Danish design which has not been exported much,” said designer Rud Thygesen, who runs a top furniture studio in Copenhagen.

He said that U.S. importers had themselves rejected recent Danish design in favor of rehashed versions of traditional and profitable teakwood furniture (it’s also the materials used to make electric acoustic guitar). But with sharp competition in the teak market from other countries, particularly Italy and Taiwan, importers relying on old- fashioned Danish furniture are feeling the pinch.

”We knew all the time it was a balloon out of which the air could vanish,” said John Soerensen, who is Mr. Thygesen’s partner.

The director of the Danish Furniture Manufacturers Association, Henning Klestrup, agreed his members had been slow to market modern Danish products in the United States.

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”But some U.S. buyers want to keep Denmark for themselves by emphasizing traditional design,” he said.

A spokesman for the association said it is encouraging member companies to get together and plan a joint marketing approach, adding that Danish furniture makers had recently found new outlets for modern design in the United States.

”We have to get the Americans to see that we have different products from what we had 30 years ago. We are still improving,” she aid.

Denmark started producing distinctive furniture in the 1940s after research in Copenhagen apartments revealed that traditional, heavy suites of furniture left occupants with barely space to move.

Designers turned to compact, light pieces of furniture that used Danish birchwood and Swedish beech and for three decades exports soared and the furniture was widely copied abroad.

Danish designers are very different from those in other countries. We are not good at making revolution but we are good at making slow evolution,” Mr. Thygesen said.

”We have got our wood. We can do that better than the Italians. They are better at plastic and steel than we are.”

Increased Danish exports to Europe, particularly West Germany and Norway, have made up for the shortfall to the United States for the time being, despite strong international competition.

But the Danes realize they need a new marketing approach to keep a toehold across the Atlantic.

”The biggest problem we have is Taiwan copies,” Mr. Klestrup said. ”We have quit exhibiting in Taiwan because it takes only 10 minutes for them to make a copy.”

Similar Posts: Grassroots Action

Odd jobs; Peculiar work titles keep tradition alive in many Bay State communities; New life for old-fashioned jobs

Massachusetts’ city and town governments are filled with antiques.

Not furniture. And certainly not people. We’re talking about jobs – titles and duties that have existed since Colonial times and are reminders of the way things used to be, even if they are not very useful in a modern government.

Take the Town of Brookline’s Measurer of Wood and Bark. The job existed for more than two centuries until last year, when selectmen dropped “Appointment of Measurers of Wood and Bark” from its traditional place as Article 1 on the Town Meeting warrant.

Measuring wood and bark is hardly a cutting-edge occupation. But throwing the position into the administrative wood chipper created a cord-sized brouhaha.

In the first place, some traditionalists took the move as a slap to Brookline’s history.

“It was part of the traditions of the town,” said Stanley Spiegel, one of two Town Meeting Members who, at a special Town Meeting in November, petitioned selectmen to revive the job.

Also, the state actually mandates that some offical person measure wood and bark in every city and town. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94, Section 296 state that “a town and the city council of a city shall annually choose one or more measurers of wood and bark.”

Last Tuesday, Brookline selectmen replanted the position, rolling the title into the duties of the town’s Sealer of Weights and Measures, Dick Bargfrede.

“It actually has a useful purpose,” Bargfrede said. “Wood is not inexpensive. If anything isn’t watched and you have room for fraud, fraud will exist. So, if you stack it, I’ll come and measure it.”

A cord is all the wood that you can cram into a 4-by-4-by-8-foot space. No matter where you live in the Bay State, if you buy a cord of wood and think you have been shorted, you can call your local Measurer of Wood and Bark.

“It does have enforcement procedures,” Bargfrede said. “We have police powers. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

He has had to flash his badge only once, 10 years ago, when he discovered a disgruntled wood-buyer had been cheated.

“So I told the seller he had to make amends,” he said. “He picked up all the wood and gave the man his money back.”

Nor do cities take lightly Chapter 129 of the state’s laws, which requires every municipality to appoint an Animal Inspector to conduct an annual livestock census – even if the count is zero.

The mayor of Newton also appoints an official Fence Viewer.

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Fence Viewer?

“This position actually saves people money in litigation costs,” said Maria Plati, Newton‘s Chief of Policy and Communications. “It’s a volunteer mediator who arbitrates property line disputes. It is vacant at the moment.”

In Boston, jobs such as Weigher of Vessels, Overseer of the Poor, Measurer of Grain and City Orator have gone the way of lamplighters and town criers. But the Boston Police Department still employs 15 hostlers.

“People say, ‘You’re a what? You do what?”‘ said Foreman Hostler Helen Henderson. “I didn’t know myself when I applied for the job 21 years ago. I always called myself a groom.”

Hostlers are stablehands. The word is still in the dictionary, although it is listed as “archaic.” But somebody has to clean the stalls and drive the trailers for Boston’s police horses.

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Hostlers also hustle behind the horses in parades to scoop manure, and don’t think that’s not a necessary service. They also keep the inventory of horseshoes delivered by a freelance farrier, the official designation for a blacksmith.

In Brookline, Dr. Herbert Carlin, a veterinarian, is the official Inspector of Animals and the Local Moth Superintendent of Insect Pest Control.

The persistence of outmoded titles is not limited to jobs. The “Antiques Roadshow” of licenses required by Boston include Common Victualer for restaurants and Hackney for taxi cabs.

And the measurement of wood and bark will live on in Brookline. The very first item on the agenda for the May 22 Town Meeting is the annual “Appointment of Measurers of Wood and Bark.”

“It is a charming tradition that reminds us of our Colonial roots and long history,” Spiegel said. “Admittedly the post had no practical importance, but it is good for a community to recall its history.”

Next: U.S. sales drop hits Danish furniture firms

THE SOURCE

Modern living

Pop into any Freedom store from today to explore the new winter collection. There’s a fresh new look, including well-considered storage for small spaces, finishes in brushed steel with raw wood and leather, heavyweight fabrics, accessories in chevron, stripes and geometrics, and a good dose of colour – think acid brights and a slight hint of neon.

Bottom line Freedom Studio modular 21/2-seater lounge with chaise, $1299; Sixties buffet, $999; Phat oval ottoman, $149; and Digital chevron cushion, $29.95.

Freedom Furniture, for stores phone 1300 135 588, freedom.com.au.

Stellar leather

If there’s one reason to hold on to summer, this is it. Emblazoned with a galaxy of metallic stars, the soft, turquoise-coloured pillow bag is spacious with an unstructured design, and ideal for everyday use. Designed by Penelope Chilvers (who’s been inspired by childhood memories and a long love affair with Spanish culture), it’s part of Girl & Graaf’s carefully edited range of tote bags, jewellery, note cards and homewares.

Bottom line Star pillow bag, $599.

Girl & Graaf, 0431 199 818, girlandgraaf.com.au.

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Tasty tins

London-based Irish fashion designer Orla Kiely’s prints have been used on all manner of objects, but it’s these decorated cake tins that take our fancy. Adorned with an assortment of Kiely’s signature prints, this set of five round nesting tins will travel from your kitchen bench to picnics and school fetes in style.

Bottom line Orla Kiely set of five round nesting cake tins, $89.95.

See gifts.com.au or phone 9698 4586.

Birds of a feather

Far too precious for the picnic basket, this Little Owl melamine plate has been designed by British illustrator Ashley Percival, whose works are inspired by nature and wildlife, with a twist of quirky imagination. The plate is available at Monsterthreads.

Bottom line Little Owl melamine plate, $20.

Monsterthreads, The Galeries, shop 7, ground floor, 500 George Street, city, 9029 9201; 251 King Street, Newtown, 9550 3009, monsterthreads.com.au.

Wall art

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Flatout Frankie, which does a range of recyclable designer flat-pack toys, has a new and oh-so-sweet wall alphabet collection. Made from pop-out cardboard (giving the option of using an outlined letter or a punched-out one) and printed with its signature white graphics, it’s been made to inspire all little message makers.

Bottom line Make A Message 36-piece alphabet set, $90.

For stockists see flatoutfrankie.com.

secret sydney

Copper and brass Berczi’s workmanship can be seen on buildings such as those of the Commonwealth Bank and Paspaley Pearls, both in Martin Place, as well as Parliament House in Canberra. It does small-scale repairs on lamps and brass railings, plus suspended and bracketed lighting, and will even reline your favourite copper saucepans. It’ll make structural repairs and fix surface damage such as oxidisation, and has been perfecting its craft for more than 40 years.

Berczi Copper Company, 25 Daphne Street, Botany, 9316 7645, berczicopper.com.au.

Architectural, interior-design companies exchange stock

Architectural company Harley Ellington Design and interior designer Ford & Earl Associates Inc. have formed a partnership in an effort to bolster each other’s services.

  • In the transaction, the companies acquired a minority interest in each other with a stock exchange. They said the transaction is not a merger.
  • Terms of the stock swap were not disclosed. Ford & Earl in Troy and Harley Ellington in Southfield will retain their names, leadership and offices.

‘We wanted to maintain our reputation and our position but, at the same time, say: ‘This is more than just a casual relationship; let’s work together,’ said Tom Ernst, president and CEO of Ford & Earl Associates. ‘We didn’t want a merger. It isn’t the intent of one firm to prevail over another; we want both firms to grow and broaden the skills we offer.’

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Each company will produce joint marketing materials and will offer the other’s services to prospective clients. The companies also will pursue some independent projects.

‘Customers want much broader services today,’ said Dennis King, CEO of Harley Ellington (Dennis is also the Founder of Top Rangefinder, a website providing the best rangefinder review). ‘Together, we will have something to offer customers that independently we couldn’t have offered, and we can still have both our reputations.’

Although Harley Ellington offers interior design services, it is known for architecture and engineering. Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl have worked together on past projects.

‘I think it was going to be difficult for Harley to establish an interior (design) strength in their firm and likewise with Ford & Earl establishing a architectural strength,’ said Jeffrey Wagner, vice president of Comerica Corporate Real Estate and past president of the American Institute of Architects-Detroit Chapter. ‘On occasion, we have had to route projects to one versus the other. This better positions both firms to be a recipient of projects in both areas.

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Comerica has used Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl in various projects.

Talks to form a legal partnership began last year. Harley Ellington offers architectural and engineering, facilities planning, construction management and interior design services. Clients include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Henry Ford and St. John health systems. Harley Ellington has 200 employees and reported revenue of $20 million last year.

Ford & Earl specializes in interior design, graphics and producing signs and exhibits. Clients include Crain Communications Inc., Detroit Medical Center and Michigan National Bank. Ford & Earl has 30 employees and reported revenue of $5 million in 1997. The companies project combined revenue of more than $30 million next year. No layoffs are planned.

Although Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl may be two of the largest local companies to strike a partnership, other companies have formed similar relationships in recent years, Wagner said.

‘It’s part of a trend of consolidating relationships to fewer key suppliers,’ he said. ‘I’m sure Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl are responding to what is being asked of them by the people who buy their services.’ CDB

Building Fashion

Only designing houses and buildings? Boring! These architects and industrial designers like to move between disciplines and also design shoes and ready-towear collections. Whether Rem D Koolhaas joins forces with United Nude, Tom Dixon with Adidas or Marc Newson with G-Star-these designers are introducing unusual ideas to the fashion industry.

In an interview with CNN, Dutch architect Wouter Valkenier summed up the relationship between architecture and fashion in the following way: “There is more and more similarity in the way houses are built and clothing is produced. I’ve noticed that buildings are being built inexpensively and not meant to meant to last an eternity. A parallel phenomenon is found in fashion.” It has to be admitted that this fairly gloomy assessment which is probably correct was against the background of the international financial crisis of 2009. Still, it has not lost any of its urgency.

Wherever savings are made or there is simply no money available, cheap structures will continue to appear.

And people who want to consume trends and fashions quickly will also constantly resort to fast fashion and cheaper clothing. But there are enough other overlaps between the two disciplines: Architecture and fashion have always mutually inspired each other, aligned themselves to each other and benefited from one another. The Rotterdam-based architecture practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which was founded in 1975 by Ilias Zengelis and his then student Rem Koolhaas, has completed 29 retail projects between the mid- 1990s and today. This includes building G-Star headquarters in Amsterdam two years ago. OMA has developed stores and high fashion flagship stores for labels such as Prada in places such as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, and set up the first shop in shop area for Victor & Rolf at Harvey Nichols in London. The most recent OMA project: the one meter high platform construction for the Prada fall/winter collection in Milan in 2014-15.

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And it’s a two-way street, too: The Londoner Sophie Hicks first made a name for herself as a stylist for Azzedine Alaia and as a fashion editor for British Vogue and Tatler, but also pursued studies in architecture, graduating with distinction. In 1990 she founded her own architecture practice. Her sense of style and her feel for fashion in combination with her specialist architectural knowledge are making Hicks one of the world’s most highly sought after architects today. The 54-year-old has designed more than 100 stores for Chloe, several flagship stores for Paul Smith and Yohji Yamamoto’s flagship store design in Paris in 2008. Hicks’s motto is: “Good design succeeds in creating a feeling that surpasses function, without being intrusive about it. It has a soul.”

That architecture and fashion are known to be symbiotic is not exactly news, true. But what has emerged in recent years is that there are more and more architects who are no longer content just to design the facade and the interior for fashion houses without also creating their own products and collections in cooperation with them. Take Zaha Hadid for example, who is designing futuristic shoes for the Brazilian footwear brand Melissa, or industry designer Stefan Diez who is designing furniture for Rosenthal and also functional bags and rucksacks for Authentics. Star architect Rem Koolhaas is working with Prada, an obvious pairing, and bringing a T-shirt collection onto the market.

Rem D Koolhaas, a nephew of Rem Koolhaas, founded more than just a cooperation-he launched a whole new shoe label called United Nude in Amsterdam in 2003. Like his uncle, he studied architecture too. He has his ex-girlfriend to thank for his passion for shoes, especially high heels. She broke up with him shortly before he began his final thesis at university. The turmoil in his love life gave Koolhaas the idea of reducing architecture to its most vulnerable point. In his opinion this was a woman’s foot. That is how his first shoe design came into being. The feedback that Koolhaas received on the Mobius shoe, a pair of curvy high-heeled mules, was so positive that, together with Galahad Clark, an offshoot of the shoe dynasty Clarks, he founded his own shoe label. Koolhaas recalls: “We changed course from the common shoe designs. Not because we wanted to but because we were unfamiliar with them. As a trained architect you are accustomed to doing everything on a grand scale. That made it much easier for us to reduce this scale down to the level of shoe design. For a shoe designer the reverse, designing a building, would tend to be more difficult. While studying architecture in college we learned a lot about building and construction technology. This specialized knowledge is mostly more extensive than that of shoe designers.”

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But collaborations with architects are taking place in more areas than just high fashion. A few weeks ago the Adidas x Tom Dixon collection was launched. This is already the second cooperation between the industry designer and sporting goods manufacturer and is set to run for two years. The collection was first unveiled to a wider audience at the Salone del Mobile in Milan and at Pitti Uomo in Florence last spring. “At the begin ning all I actually wanted was to design a shoe collection with Adidas. But then all at once everybody was bringing shoe cooperations onto the market and we didn’t simply want just be another one. We discussed bags and luggage and I got the idea of integrating clothing into the collection too,” he explains. For the self-taught Dixon it makes no difference whether he designs clothing, bags, shoes or even lamps. “The most important thing is that you have an attitude. I approach the design process in a naive way. I’m not a fashion designer and will never be one but I have the advantage that I can look at many design aspects from a completely different point of view, and that makes it a win-win situation.” His designs include multifunctional apparel such as a coat that you can turn into a sleeping bag, or luggage that by virtue of its organized interior becomes a piece of cloth furniture. For Adidas the cooperation with Dixon has already proved to be a winner. The company, which constantly enhances its profile with special lines by designers such as Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto has done the same with its Tom Dixon collection. Incidentally, G-Star Raw and the Australian industry designer Marc Newson are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. Their cooperation began in 2004. Since then Newson has occasionally designed capsule collections for G-Star Raw. Newson is regarded as one of the most influential designers of his generation. His aluminum lounger, Lockheed Lounge, whose prototype (LC1) he originally designed in 1986 made a big splash. At the London auctioneer Phillips de Pury & Company the Lockheed Lounge was auctioned for GBP1.1 million in 2009. That was easily the most money ever spent on a contemporary design object in history. Newson also displays architecture-influenced designs in the current spring/summer premium collection for G-Star Raw: Purist and minimalist styles such as A-line shaped jackets and trench coats with baseball or scarf collars, patch pockets and functional cuffs and modern interpretations of five-pocket denims in slim fit are key features of the collection and with retail prices of up to Euro 899 can be dear. But the example of Future Sentiments shows that it also possible without a big corporation behind you: Founded in Amsterdam at the end of 2010 by the architect duo Victoria Meniakina and Denis Bondar, Future Sentiments sees itself as an experimental, independent brand. “Fashion is more dynamic and can address and respond to ever-changing societal and esthetic needs more rapidly. In architecture that is not possible,” explains Meniakina. To her, however, another reason was also key in choosing to make clothing over building houses: “We simply had a need to create smaller objects which really reach people and to which they feel a close connection. As a label we have the possibility of being part of this dynamic fashion world, but still creating timeless designs.As an architect you always have a certain way of thinking and tend to want to create designs having more stability and structure.” Meniakina can always connect fashion to trends that are being talked about a lot in architecture or in the field of lighting, such as transparency, metallic textiles and combined material. “Our designs such as the Persian carpet print, the mirror T-shirts, complex patterns or color inspirations from birch plywood-all these ideas could just as easily be implemented for contemporary interiors or for other design objects.”

In times when competition is tough and market players defend their USP, when one cooperation after another is unveiled, when physical retail has to prevail against online sales, and novelty, authenticity, uniqueness and recognition are seen as the qualities most valued in a fashion brand, generating knowledge-also including knowledge from other specialist fields-seems to be a good strategy to follow. And that holds true in collaboration or independently, whether it is a small label like Future Sentiments or a large one like G-Star or Adidas.

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