I have talked before about Swap Bot. It is an on-line group you join for the purpose of sharing things with people. Lots of different things. You may sign up to send certain kinds of post cards to your partner, or partners. I like the "journal" swaps where you create a journal out of art things or writing or poems or whatever. There are exchanges where the more crafty among us will share things like quilt squares or different kinds of art work. There are postage stamp swaps and tea swaps and chocolate swaps and sticker swaps. I learned about Pocket Letters from Swap Bot (though my passion for them seems to have run its course at the moment). There are lots of pen pal exchanges, the hope being that a pen pal relationship will develop between partners (so far I have not achieved that). I join a lot of pen pal swaps, but avoid the ones where it is mandatory that letters be hand written.
Occasionally you will find a swap where you answer a series of questions and either mail it or email it to your partner(s). Kind of like Sunday Stealing.
I stopped doing most international exchanges when I package I sent, which was suppposed to be something like $10 worth of things purchased at the dollar store, could not be delivered. The package was returned to me with a note saying it was undeliverable, though I had the right address. It had cost so much to mail it to England (far more than it was worth) that I didn't want to recreate the package and re-send it, so I offered to send my partner the something else instead. I was marked down for that and was unable to qualify for some swaps since then. So now I only do international post card exchanges, or exchanges that are electronic...like sending a Sunday stealing type of swap by email to other countries.
Maybe it's a "you had to have been there" kind of thing, but I have been with Swap Bot for six years and enjoy it -- it's always nice to get some sort of oddball thing from a total stranger in the mail, now that snail mail is all but dead.
Recently I signed up for a swap called "Know it All." The partial instructions for this swap read, "you will write a letter (around 2 pages long) about something you are very knowledgeable about to TWO PARTNERS: for example a favorite hobby or passion of yours, or even something you dislike but happen to know a lot about."
It amused me to see that when the deadline for signing up came only three people had signed up for the swap. One was the woman who initiated the swap, I was the second, and a woman I have come to know, somewhat, through one of the discussion groups which are also a part of Swap Bot. I was not surprised to find her listed, as she does come across as someone who knows a lot about a lot of things and I am eager to find out what she chooses for her thing to write about. Apparently nobody else felt like a know it all!
As I thought over things that I know lots about, I thought of the "periods" of my life. When I have been interested in something, I jump in head first and often go overboard learning about that "thing" that I am currently interested in. The pocket letters are a good example (though I by no means know all about them).
In my childhood, I could have written about animal books that I loved and my obsession with Albert Payson Terhune and his collies. I could definitely have written about Judy Garland, since I kept a 12-volume scrapbook about her and still have a whole shelf filled with just books written about her
I probably could have written a decent tome on cooking and cookbooks. I once had a huge collection of cookbooks that I finally gave away, leaving only three shelves of books remaining. I almost never use those books any more now that you can google just about any recipe you want, but there are some interesting ones, like the book written for housewives during World War II, for how to make things out of the little that they were rationed (Walt used to make a lamb chop recipe from that book that I always loved). There is a whole book about pies that I keep just because it has my favorite recipe for Lemon Meringue pie. There is a bread cookbook that I haven't used since I got my bread maker, but keep because I might want to make cumin bread again some day. Likewise, the soup book I keep in case I have a leftover lamb bone and want to make Lamb Soup of the Middle-east, my favorite soup.
But what I chose to write about, and perhaps it is the thing that I really do have the most knowledge about, is The Lamplighters. When I started thinking about how to explain my knowledge of The Lamplighters (and peripherally Gilbert and Sullivan), it hit me that I am perhaps the only person in the world who knows as much about the Lamplighters.
There are people who have been around for decades, but the people currently performing, even if they have been with the company for 10 years or more, don't know the early history, especially since those people don't even know there have been two published histories (no longer available).
Co-founder Orva Hoskinson, who died this year, at age 90, stopped being involved several years ago, and his partner, Ann Pool-MacNab left the company in the 1960s. She is now more or less housebound by physical problems but has not had any but the most peripheral contact with the company in many years.
My co-author, Alison Lewis, knows as much about the early years of the company as I do, since we worked together to write the two histories, but she has stopped being involved for the last many years. Walt and I still attend shows, and a few social events, so we are still keeping in our oar, as they say.
I may well be the person who knows more about the Lamplighters than any other person and that is quite a sobering thought. My knowledge of the goings on outside of the shows themselves is less intense than it was when I was working in the office for those years that I worked, and those years when we were collecting material for the books, but I am still at least peripherally aware of what is happening, which keeps me up to date.So I wrote my "Know it All" entry about the Lamplighters and managed to condense it into three typed pages which may or may not be of interest to my partners. I am still humbled by the thought that all things Lamplighter are stored in my head!