Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Introducing Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

A few months ago I began posting to The Quote Garden excerpts from the poetry of Gertrude Tooley Buckingham. Before I did, I researched to see what was already out there on the Web. There is not a single website featuring her poetry or biographical information. The only items are a no‑preview entry for her 1948 book Poems at Random in Google Books and a poem in a couple of local New York newspapers from the mid-1900s on And there is no mention of her at all, that I can find, since the 1960s.

Mrs Buckingham was a friend of my family a few generations ago in New York. My parents inherited an inscribed copy of Poems at Random when my grandmother passed away about eight years ago, but I had not heard of Gertrude until then. We were also fortunate enough to receive several unpublished poems, both typewritten and handwritten, as well as some journal entries.

I am attempting to locate any surviving family for permissions as well as more complete biographical information and photographs. In the meantime, I’d like to share what I’ve been able to piece together for those who are interested.

Gertrude was born on June 26th 1880. Her maiden name was Tooley and she was an only child to very loving and hard-working parents. When she was 17 she studied for one year at the Conservatory of Music in Detroit while staying at the home of her cousin. She and her husband were both engaged to other people when they fell in love. She married Samuel L. Buckingham (birth c.1875) on October 21st 1903. They had two daughters, Doris (c.1910) and Lorraine (c.1913). All were born in New York, and they lived on Northern Avenue which in 1938 was renamed to Cabrini Boulevard. Gertrude’s special interest was music, Sam liked sports and games, and Lorraine was a secretary at a bank. Gertrude and Sam had three grandchildren: two girls and a boy.

Around 1939, the family sustained a great loss when Doris was taken from them through an accident. A few months later, Gertrude received from Spirit the gift of poetic talent. She became what we could call a medium poet, as she heard the words spoken in her head and saw them pass in front of her eyes, sensing what she was to write. She was about age sixty at the time. Poems at Random is dedicated to Doris. See photos below.

Gertrude, a homemaker, and Sam, an undertaker, were married for 54 years before he passed away. She refers to them in her journal as soul mates, and six years after his death writes “My great love for Sam will never die as I’m sure his love for me will always live.” I know that Gertrude lived until at least 1964, but I’m not sure how long after that.

Here are the names with which she is associated: Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, Gertrude A. Buckingham, Gertrude T. Buckingham, Gertrude Buckingham, Gertrude A. Tooley, Gertrude Tooley, Mrs. Sam Buckingham, Mrs. Samuel Buckingham, Mrs. Sam (Gertrude) Buckingham, and Gertie Buckingham.

I am hopeful that her family will be receptive to my posting of Gertrude’s lovely words on The Quote Garden and that they will be pleased knowing her writing can live on, along with the memory of beautiful Doris and all the family as well.

Update, March 2016:  I’ve still been unable to find her family but I’m going to post a few names here that I think might be relatives, in hopes they will find this and contact me: John Reynolds and wife Ann, Joan Reynolds and husband Hank, Ruth Reynolds, Joan Doris Buckingham, Lorraine Buckingham, John J. Reynolds, Lorraine B. Reynolds, Ruth Ann Tooley, Ruth Ann Angel, Lorraine Gertrude Buckingham, Lorraine Gertrude Reynolds, Lorraine Buckingham Reynolds, New Jersey, Van Buren Ave, Franklin Square, Wading River, Westhampton Beach, St Petersburg Beach, Florida. I think Lorraine passed away in 2006 and had five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Poems at Random, 1948, by Gertrude Tooley Buckingham
Poems at Random, 1948,
by Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

Inscription in Poems at Random book, by Gertrude Buckingham, 1948
Inscription in Poems at Random
by Gertrude Buckingham, 1948

Doris Buckingham dedication in Poems at Random by Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, published 1948
Doris Buckingham dedication in Poems at Random
by Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, published 1948

“[M]y prayer is that many of the poems in this book may help to bring joy and peace and understanding to those souls who may be grieving for loved ones whom they call ‘dead’ but who, in reality, are still living in a real world of beauty, being able to manifest to their dear ones of earth when the door is opened for them to come in.” ~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “Preface,” Poems at Random, 1948

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You got it right, Mr Katz

A prediction about quotes from 16 years ago — back when quotation sites on the Web were few and the modern option was using collections on CD‑ROM — has come true. How exciting the possibilities for and realities of sharing brilliant words on the internet, and at the same time how sad that we are more and more abandoning real books! Coincidentally, the year this book was published was the same year I put The Quote Garden online. Here is Mr Katz’s forecast:

“The one promise of the digital data base is that eventually all quotations will be available online.... The problems are numerous, from copyright clearance to authentication of quotations, but it is possible, even probable that in a short time it will no longer be necessary to go from quotation book to quotation book in quest of the lost words of a great or near great. A few key words at a computer keyboard will bring the ubiquitous needle in the quotation haystack to the monitor. Obviously more efficient; yet something will be lost. Gone will be the days of the delights of wending through quote after quote, the thoughtful pause, the joy of discovery.” ~Bill Katz, “Commonplace Books to Books of Quotations,” Cuneiform to Computer: A History of Reference Sources, 1998

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy poetess Melcena Burns Denny

The Book of Baby Mine was an advertisement-based baby record and advice book first published in 1915, continuing until 1981. It was published by the Baby Mine Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Denny-White Advertising Company of Chicago, Illinois. American companies were offered full-page advertisement space on the first page, and further advertisements could be added to a pocket in the back of the book. They were then distributed to new mothers in that business’ local community, and the publishing and distribution company would supply the advertiser with a certified list of the names and addresses of those who received the book.

The verses and artwork in The Book of Baby Mine were by Melcena Burns Denny (1876–1974). Mrs. Denny was a writer and a happy mother and grandmother. Born in California, she was a graduate of San José State Teachers College and later moved to Seattle with her husband Robert Roy Denny, the first Vice President of Rotary International, who passed away in 1954. She wrote short stories, poems, song lyrics, and plays. Before marriage she wrote under the name L.M. Burns and sold her first story at age 22.

Below is a photo of Mrs. Denny and a few pages from the 1915 version of The Book of Baby Mine, including a poem titled “The Sleepsin Garden” and an illustration of birth stones and birth flowers by month. I am so pleased to revive this poem after its publication a century ago because I’ve searched mightily, and although a single verse of it is quoted (pictorially only) on two websites, in the text of a book from the 1990s and an old 1940s newspaper archived online, in none of those four places is it properly attributed to Melcena Burns Denny. As well, there is scattered and extremely sparse biographical information on the Web. I am honored to now provide the full poem as well as give the proper credit and a more complete bio, in her memory.

Melcena Burns Denny, The Rotarian, June 1973
Melcena Burns Denny, age 96
Photo credit: The Rotarian, June 1973, p.4
 The Book of Baby Mine, 1915

 The Sleepsin Garden, page 1

 The Sleepsin Garden, page 2

 The Sleepsin Garden, page 3

 The Sleepsin Garden, page 4

 The Sleepsin Garden, page 5

“The Sleepsin Garden”
by Melcena Burns Denny
The Book of Baby Mine, 1915

“What fragrant garden of far away,”
I heard the ones who love me say,
“What garden gave its blooms to you?
O blossom-baby, tell us true!”

In the Sleepsin Garden behind the Moon,
That drowsy garden with poppies strewn,
We babies wait till we come to earth,
And the moon flowers shape us for our birth.

The tulip molds our cheek so round,
The sweetpea gives us an ear for sound.
The lily smoothes our forehead fair,
And the milkweed silk is our baby hair.

And long I dreamed in the leafy bower,
My pillow a sweet magnolia flower.
That’s why my neck is waxy and white,
And fragrant and pure for your delight.

I found a bud on a small rose tree,
And loved it so much that it grew to me.
This sweet little trifle you call a nose,
Is really the bud of a little pink rose.

I’ve never really found out yet
Whether brown heart’s-ease or violet
Gave these bright eyes to your little tot,
Or was it the sweet forget-me-not?

I drank my dew in little sips
From wild rose petals: they gave me lips.
Some dew spilled over into my eyes,
And I’m saving it up for future cries.

I wonder what wonderful beautiful flower
Gave me my fingers? I think by the hour.
But my soft little comical playful toes
Are pussy willows, I suppose.

Of course I laugh at “tick-tick, tick-tock,”
For it makes me think of my four-o’clock.
She loved to hold her wee watch to my ear,
In the Sleepsin Garden, for me to hear.

I slept so long in an apple tree,
That the buds made dents all over me.
Dimples, you call them, so pink and small,
If you counted an hour, you couldn’t count all.

One day, laughing, I hid my head
In lily-of-the-valley’s bed.
She whispered, “Not a toothie yet!
I’ll have to blossom for the pet!”

And once I woke from a pansy nap,
And put on a bud for a thinking cap.
The sweet little thoughts that come to me,
The pansies whispered them, you see.

The poppy taught me how to sleep,
The violet taught me how to creep.
The stately lily took my hand,
And breathed, “Come, darling, try to stand!”

But none of the flowers knew how to walk,
And none of them could really talk.
And I longed so much for parents dear,
God gave me a soul and sent me here.

Melcena Burns Denny, 1915, birth stones and birth flowers

As is the generation of leaves

Apparently quotation collecting is genetic. In 2004 (eighteen years after I had already become obsessed with quotes), I found out that my great-grandmother Amy kept a notebook of inspirational quotations. She was born in 1896 and died before I was born. My grandmother found the book and that is how it came to me. Based on the dates of the first items, it appears to be about 100 years old. The first item that is dated is from June 1919, and the last entry with a date is from 1969. I’ve held onto it during these ten years with my old books, but now I’m going to start photographing some of the pages and adding a few of the entries to blog posts, Flickr, and Tumblr. Below is a picture of the notebook as well as one of the handwritten quotes.

My great-grandmother Amy's notebook of inspirational quotations, c.1919
John Ruskin quotation in Amy's notebook

This excerpt is from John Ruskin’s The Seven Lamps of Architecture, “The Lamp of Life,” 1849. The extended quotation is: “But, at all events, one thing we have in our power — the doing without machine ornament and cast-iron work. All the stamped metals, and artificial stones, and imitation woods and bronzes, over the invention of which we hear daily exultation — all the short, and cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honour — are just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser — they will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings, colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do any thing into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily: neither is to be done by halves and shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.”

Stay tuned for further entries and photographs from Amy’s notebook.

“It is one of natures ways that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us. ~Igor Stravinsky

“As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another dies.”

“Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents’ pots and pans, the used things, warm with generations of human touch, essential to a human landscape.  Instead, we have our paper phantoms, transistorized landscapes.  A featherweight portable museum.” ~Susan Sontag

“Some men so dislike the dust kicked up by the generation they belong to, that, being unable to pass, they lag behind it.” ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare

Monday, August 4, 2014

Old Sage faux quotes collage

I saw this creative handmade advertisement last autumn in Prescott, Arizona on a bulletin board outside the Old Sage Bookshop. It’s a lovely shop with some awesome old books. Drop by if you ever visit the area, they’re at Whiskey Row. Click photo to enlarge.

Old Sage Bookshop Bulletin Board, Prescott, October 2013

"The wise man reads both books and life itself." ~Lin Yutang

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quotation videos

My friends make fun of me because I choose to do things the hard way. Well, at least according to them; I think it’s really the easier way, but maybe the truth is more along the lines that I’m a control freak and I don’t usually like shortcuts. And I much prefer the written word over spoken. Video to explain something? No, no! I want to read it, so that I can skim if I want to. And I can’t stand audio books; I need to see the words. Something wonderful happens in my brain when I see the lines and curves of the letters. And I want to form the images myself, in my own mind. I’m what you might call a daydreaming reader.

That is why I was surprised to find that I am actually enjoying these videos called Quotes With Wes, created by Westin Eehn. They are professionally put together, well thought-out, and entertaining as heck. He puts out four videos each week: Motivate Monday, Tickled Tuesday, Wise Wednesday, and Tender Thursday. They’re nice and short, about 2–3 minutes each.

Here’s a link to VidCon 2014 | YouTuber Quotes. He walked around the conference speaking with online video creators asking which quotes inspire them and why. Great stuff. I’ve been meaning to do something like that on my website for years, occasional spotlights on people sharing their favorite quotation and what it means to them. Written, of course, not video. Someday I’ll get around to it.

Check out Wes’ YouTube channel ( for his delightful weekly quotation videos. I’ll tell ya, any guy who holds up quotation marks as part of his opening title is aces with me.

“Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.” ~John Green

Monday, June 16, 2014

My book grew a garden

I remember in the mid-1980s doing blackout poetry (as it is now called — also known as found poetry, poetry in prose, or altered prose) with my school friends after learning about it from an English teacher. I’ve been a lover of words for as long as I can remember, but somehow I forgot about that fun hobby over the years. Recently I rediscovered it thanks to this beautiful thing called the world wide web and so I grabbed my old falling-apart 50¢ paperback of The Scarlet Letter and started playing around again with these wordly treasure hunts after nearly three decades. And what a good time I’m having. Here’s a photo of what I ended up with on the first page of Chapter 1; it turned out to be a gardening theme — “Women of happiness rule the soil.”

The problem with blackout poetry is the destruction of books which of course makes me cringe, but I’m intending to leave my books intact and not literally blackout any words so that the books are slowly turned into readable art. Some people make a copy of the page instead of modifying the actual book, which seems like a good idea as well.

This pastime is such a fulfilling creative outlet. To all the authors whose works I end up modifying, I offer sincerest of advance apologies. I will try my darnedest to create new written art without disrespecting your original words (too much).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Summer afternoon with a book

Sometimes we take for granted wit and wisdom that we can get on the internet free of charge. And sometimes we only remember that when we are holding that wit and wisdom in our own hands, in paper form. The words feel different not only to the touch but to the mind as well. That’s one of the many reasons I’ll be a lifelong lover of books. The most recent book in my collection is Robert Brault’s new Round Up the Usual Subjects: Thoughts on Just about Everything, a 200-page compilation of some great lines spanning many years of his writings. It’s sorted by subject so it’s great not only for general browsing but also to pick up and quickly find an inspiration on whatever topic you’re seeking at the moment (essential for quotation anthologists!). This afternoon it’s coming along with me and some tea and cherries during a break from chores and cleaning.

The book is available for preview and purchase on CreateSpace and Amazon, more information here:

“The ultimate regret is to realize that what you asked of life was never sufficient to make you happy.” ~Robert Brault

Robert Brault book

Monday, June 2, 2014

¡Viva la Oxford comma!

Professional editor Laura Poole
this “serial comma” hand signal.

¡Viva la Oxford comma!

“There are people who embrace the Oxford
comma, and people who don’t, and I’ll just say
this:  never get between these people when
drink has been taken.” —Lynn Truss

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grinding us down to a single flat surface (iOS7 quotes)

iOS 7-inspired. Phooey! Flat means boring. Who wants flat champagne. Or a flat personality, or singer. Nobody. “They” say it means simple, clean, clear. Give me my texture back, my depth! Nature is the ultimate in simplicity, yet She is full of texture. Effervescence is life.

The death of skeuomorphism is a reflection of our newfound “simplicity” in life, which seems to me the opposite of simplicity—a glossing over of the beautiful details in life, to make more room in our minds for the irrelevant details that bog us down. What exactly are we replacing our time with, that we save by using txtspeak instead of real words, and what are we losing by transporting ourselves in metal machines over concrete and asphalt to flat office walls, and shopping in shiny supermarkets instead of pulling the vegetables from the land with our own hands, feet in the warm dirt, sun on our faces? We’re losing the Art that is Life.

The decline of design, the decline of society? Have our lives really gone from tapestry to glass? Imagine how quickly Michelangelo could’ve finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling in iOS 7-style. And how speedily we all could pass through a flattened Louvre.

Before I give the impression of a technological malcontent I will stop here and declare that even though I can’t get on board with modern design yet, I am grateful for all the opportunities that technology gives us and all the ways it improves our lives—don’t get me wrong there. But I like shadows with my sun, and big billowy clouds in my sky, and leafy sprawling trees I can hug or climb—not one I’d bump into then slide down like a cartoon character into a glass door. Keep your cloudless mono-blue sky with backlit sunshine, thanks all the same.

“The longer I live, the more I am satisfied of two things: first, that the truest lives are those that are cut rose-diamond-fashion, with many facets answering to the many-planed aspects of the world about them; secondly, that society is always trying in some way or other to grind us down to a single flat surface. It is hard work to resist this grinding-down action.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Professor at the Breakfast-Table, 1859

“Life just seems so full of connections. Most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the depth of life. We only see flat surfaces.” ~Colin Neenan

“One’s life must seem extremely flat
With nothing whatever to grumble at!”
~W.S. Gilbert, Princess Ida; Or, Castle Adamant, 1884

“I think miracles exist in part as gifts and in part as clues that there is something beyond the flat world we see.” ~Peggy Noonan

“Skeuomorphism isn’t the be-all, end-all of things, but after using it [Apple iOS 7] for 24 hours now, I’m really not a fan of the bland and flat look at all. It feels almost soulless and has none of the personality I’ve loved since the first day I bought my 3G all those years ago.” ~Wayne Hunt, September 2013
, comment at Cult of Mac

“The speed and functionality is great. The look is dull and stupid—and the glaring, bright colors don’t fix that.” ~VirtualVisitor, September 2013
, comment at Cult of Mac about Apple's iOS 7 ("Jony Ive Explains Why He Decided To Gut Skeuomorphism From iOS 7" by Buster Hein)