Jul 252014

Skimming through today’s Wall Street Journal, the word “theremin” caught the eye and stumped the brain. It elicited a letter to the WSJ. Posted below is that letter and some explanatory links.

Dear WSJ Editor:

“Theremin”. Now there’s a word to stop a skim-reader in his tracks (“Our Lady in the Middle East”, Television, WSJ 25-Jul-14). For those of us with a 1950’s childhood, the theremin was an integral part of our growing up. Oh, we didn’t know its name but we knew that all authentic spacecraft and trundling robots from outer space made the same eerie, warbling electronic sound. “The Thing; It came from Outer Space” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” are classics of this early 50’s genre.

I still remember two eerie sounds from that 1951 classic movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. The first of course was the “authentic” otherworldly sound out of the studio’s theremin; the other from the horror-constricted throat of Patricia Neal starring up at the looming earth-destroying robot as we all in our theater seats helped by mouthing those immortal, world-saving words, “Klaatu barada nikto!”

Well, we all had a hand in saving the world during that early 1950’s Saturday matinee. Then, spacecraft only came from outer space. But by 1957, the launch of Sputnik changed all that. Now early spacecraft and early examples of the electronic theremin reside in museums.

For those of us of a certain age, that still feels rather eerie.

And here is the promised link, illustrating and explaining the theremin. One sits in the “Sparks Museum of Electrical Invention” in Bellingham, WA


Bellingham, WA itself deserves, may even require some explanation. Inserted below is an article by this author published in Highways Magazine.



Take a detour off the interstate to explore an unspoiled corner of the Pacific Northwest 


Charles P. Dusenbury

GSC Highways

Tuesday January 1, 2008

Bellingham, Washington, a waterfront community of 180,000 just south of the Canadian border on Interstate 5, is more than just an off-ramp on your journey north or south. Beautiful vistas of the fabled San Juan Islands and towering snowcapped peaks, fascinating shops featuring Northwest artisans and a culture of warmth and welcoming combine to make this a pleasurable respite from the rigors of travel.

Whether you plan to spend a few hours or hunker down for a few days in Bellingham, a good place to start is right where people board the Alaska Ferry at the South Bellingham Alaska Ferry Building.

The best way to get there, either by RV or car, is the southernmost of the seven Bellingham exits off I-5. It’s exit 250: Chuckanut, Old Fairhaven Parkway. Follow the signs west to the Alaska Ferry in the south Bellingham community of Fairhaven. Seattle is 75 miles farther south on I-5. Vancouver, British Columbia, is 45 miles to the north. Long-term parking for recreational vehicles is excellent, and there’s plenty of room for maneuvering your rig.

The Alaska Ferry Terminal isn’t just a roll-on/roll-off spot near I-5, so park that rig and, like Captain Vancouver before you, do some exploring. The terminal’s vaulted steel, brick and glass lobby gives the sense that you’ve just stepped off the Orient Express from Istanbul. If the weather’s good, you’ll have sweeping views of Bellingham Bay, downtown Bellingham and the North Cascades’ peak of Mount Baker. Catch it on the right day, and you’ll get a glimpse of the Alaska Ferry with its Jonah-like appetite for boarding vehicles.

Stroll around the interior to find a series of educational displays and informational brochures that’ll help you plan your activities. At the ticket windows near the entrance, you can arrange for excursions such as whale watching, bay tours, evening dinner cruises and passenger ferries to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands and Victoria on Vancouver Island. Oh yes, and there’s a double-masted wooden sailboat charter for those wishing to relive Washington’s maritime history.

It’s worth repeating that this is a ferry building for vehicles with passage to Alaska. The other vessels here are strictly for passengers. But that’s the whole point: you can take in all that the neighboring islands have to offer without the hassle of transporting your RV there.

The ferry terminal’s Old World ambience extends up several cobblestone-and-brick blocks into the artsy enclave of Fairhaven, brimming with Victorian charm and Northwestern friendliness. Browse the shops and galleries that line the streets for the best from regional artisans. Grab a bite at the converted double-decker bus, smell the roses at the little garden shop across the way or have a quiche and a local Chardonnay. Wine? In Washington? You bet. The state is second only to California in wine production.

Stay out on a summer evening to witness the emergence of a local nocturnal species shepherding their young. They’re easily identified by their fleece blankets, seat cushions, picnic baskets and happy chattering. Follow them as they flock to the central Fairhaven Village Green where the evening’s movie feature projects on a wall. The kid hanging out the window next to the movie is a very realistic painting. That man and woman toasting you from the alfresco restaurant upstairs are happily very alive and all part of the congenial nature of this waterfront village.

On the Waterfront

Fairhaven’s plainer older sister, downtown Bellingham, resides a few miles north around the bay. She’s not a heartthrob at first glance, but dance with her a few blocks and her charms are revealed.

Bellingham’s waterfront has developed into a first-class destination with curving paths among the 1,400 pleasure boats and fishing vessels at the Squallicum Harbor Marina. The Hotel Bellwether, with its distinctive bridal-suite lighthouse tower, serves up fine dining along with two other bay-view restaurants.

A Saturday must-do is the farmers market around Bellingham’s new indoor/outdoor marketplace. Some of the garden-fresh produce and local wines on sale here come from the San Juan Islands. Savor a full-meal crepe as you stroll past local handicrafts while listening to a fine string quartet or a surprisingly mellow bagpipe.

A real find—though it’s seldom found—is the American Museum of Radio and Electricity on Bay Street. On the outside it resembles an old-fashioned radio- and TV-repair shop.

The inside tells a different story. This museum features a detailed recreation of Titanic’s radio room, complete with authentic period communication equipment. Be sure to see the near-priceless original Edison light bulb. Confederate General George E. Pickett’s 1857 wood-framed house still stands just a few blocks away.

Dazzling views are found on Chuckanut Drive, a coastal road heading south out of Fairhaven. A cathedral of overarching trees opens into vistas of the islands. Several turnouts with stunning panoramas lure you to stop and take off your lens cap.

Since the 1920s, a favorite stop on Chuckanut Drive has been the Oyster Bar restaurant. You can’t get shellfish any fresher than this; the oyster farm is just down the lane. The road itself is a bit twisty, but it makes for a charming return to the high-speed straightaways of Interstate 5.


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