Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Deer Day

POSTED BY ANGIE LUVARA, Keyser, WV—On my drive home last Monday, I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought about in quite a while—Deer Day. As I passed the “Welcome Hunters” sign on the local convenience store that sells guns, ammunition, a large supply of camouflage hunting gear, and beer, I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about Deer Day. An official holiday in West Virginia, Deer Day commemorates the first day of deer hunting season and falls on the Monday just before Thanksgiving every year. While I never hunted, I always appreciated Deer Day because it was one more day out of school. I vaguely remember the year that we had to go to school on Deer Day—there was a shortage of bus drivers, teachers, and students.  The District decided never to have school on Deer Day again.
Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Would You Like to Try a “Spample”?

Editor's Note: This post marks Social Shutter's one year anniversary and what better way to celebrate than with a story about plenty of cans of Spam -- in a museum dedicated to them no less. We are sincerely indepted to all of you who frequent our site, our contributors, and hopefully, many more contributors and viewers on the horizon. Thank you!

Posted by Angie Luvara, AUSTIN, MINNESOTA -- On our recent cross-country trek, my friend and I made a pact not to get so focused on reaching the destination that we miss out on the journey. As part of that pact, we vowed to stop at any roadside attractions that peaked our interest along the way—whether planned or unplanned. To our surprise, our particular route was severely lacking in roadside attractions. Lacking, that is, until just about lunchtime on our third day of the journey…when somewhere in the middle of Minnesota we passed a billboard that read “Spam Museum, next exit”. After a burst of laughter, we quickly decided to capitalize on this scarce opportunity at a roadside attraction.

We soon discovered that the Spam Museum is located in Austin, MN.  We pulled into its parking lot and found one last parking spot marked “Spam” waiting for us. The warm and slightly sour smell of Spam greeted us, as did an elderly man, upon entering the free museum. Immediately we and the other visitors were surrounded by tour guides educating us on both the history of Spam as well as current Spam facts, while waitresses whisked around us offering “Spamples”. Not wanting to be disrespectful to the product that provides jobs for nearly the entire town’s workforce, my friend and I withheld our questions and comments, only to discuss them later in the privacy of her car. Why DO they need to produce tens of thousands of cans of Spam a day? Who actually consumes that stuff? Why does it smell like that? Who would make Spam-acaroni and cheese from that recipe they tried to hand us?

In the meantime we moved on to traverse the “museum” by ourselves. I put quotation marks around “museum” because the small space was devoted almost entirely to propaganda convincing museum-goers that Spam is not meat parts, as rumor would have it, but a tasty, healthy, inexpensive treat that should be enjoyed by all. At the culmination of this propaganda-seum, visitors are funneled straight to the gift shop where they can purchase not only every variety of Spam that is produced (who knew they make Spam with Cheese, Hickory-Smoked Spam, and Spam Hot and Spicy, to name just a few), but also Spam t-shirts, Spam stuffed animals, and even Spam hockey pucks!

Overall, we viewed the Spam museum as a fun, extended bathroom break on our cross-country journey. But I can’t help but wonder about the answers to all our spam questions that we discussed for the next hour of our trip, until we were distracted by our next favorite roadside attraction—energy windmills.

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, November 12, 2011

St. Malachy’s Camp

Posted by Peter Noel Oakley, LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND -- When I was given employment by Liverpool Education Authority as a Probationary Teacher in the late 1940s, I was posted to St. Malachy’s School -- a school that just recently closed its doors for good. While this is sad, the school represents countless wonderful memories for those who attended and those who taught there over the years. One I have is of St. Malachy’s camp. But first let me tell you a bit about the school itself.

When I began there the main building had no electricity, but had gas mantles for lighting, and was heated by open fires with large fireguards. The rooms were galleried, holding about 56 kids.  Despite the ramshackle state of the building, which was first condemned in 1911, it was a good school, largely due to the dedication of the staff.  And St. Malachy’s camp on the  Isle of Man was always the highlight of the school year. It was both a production and an adventure with the advance party sailing on the Thursday to put up tents, dig latrines and manhandle the Soya Stove and Field Kitchen into position. The main party sailed on the Friday, accompanied by a Curate from the church, who said Mass at the camp.

The Island was notoriously wet and windy at anytime of year. So my particular job at camp was to fell trees, and chop wood to fuel the stove and kitchen. In addition, everyone on duty was expected to repair damage to tentage caused by wind and rain. These camps were arduous, but enjoyable, and later in my career I met former campers who spoke about the lovely food at camp. Memory is a funny thing, as the food mostly consisted of stew, and scouse butties. In short, the food was lousy. But I cannot recall any occasion upon my weary return from camp when I was not brought into somebody’s house and fed very well, before catching the bus home to Garston.

“Pete” Noel Oakley is now retired and continues to live in Liverpool. He writes stories about growing up in Liverpool during WWII, his subsequent experiences as a teacher, and later as a headmaster in schools with some colourful and notorious characters. He is Social Shutter Editor, Deirdre Oakley's Uncle.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Journey is the Destination

Posted by Angie Luvara, ATLANTA, GA --  It’s nothing for me to jump in my little Honda Civic and drive six hours for something completely random—a concert with an artist I’ve been wanting to see, a long-distance friend’s housewarming party, or a football game that my brother or father is coaching.  I recently drove to New York City (from Atlanta). Everyone I talked with naturally assumed I was flying, and expressed shock when I revealed that I was road tripping it.
Many people prefer the road to the sky because they are afraid of flying, but that’s not the case with me. I actually don’t fear flying at all. But I do mind flying because I find myself constantly looking out the window trying to figure out what I’m missing below. Sure, there is a certain convenience to being able to fall asleep in San Francisco and wake up in Washington, D.C. after a brief nap. However, the nosy child in me is forever wondering what I’m missing out on by being ten thousand feet above all the interesting places below.
This summer, I drove across the country with a friend as she moved to Seattle from North Carolina. When I tell others about the trip, a common response is “Wow! You are such a good friend!” This response always catches me off guard. I didn’t think of myself as being a “good friend” by doing it, I saw my friend presenting me with an awesome opportunity! Had she decided to fly to Seattle instead, we never would have seen how substantial wind energy use has become (or how GIGANTIC those windmills are in person). We never would have learned that the Badlands are not solid rock as they appear to be in pictures— in fact they’re really thick mud. We also never would have known that Mitchell, South Dakota has a “Corn Palace” decorated by local artists in different styles every year, or that Emblem, Wyoming has a population of 10 (and a Post Office!).
Had we been on a plane, we would have passed right over freeways that have unnamed exits onto dirt roads, signs that warn you the next exit with bathrooms and gas stations are over sixty miles away, and whole portions of interstates that close in the winter due to snow levels that would baffle even this native West Virginian. We would have missed a heap of elk antlers piled high in someone’s front yard. I personally never would have known that animal skulls make acceptable gas station d├ęcor in Idaho. But perhaps most importantly, if we were high in the sky, we would have been too close to it to see just how BIG the “Big Sky Country” is out west. I never would have been able to say that I stuck my head out of a sunroof while my friend drove seventy miles an hour just to take a photo of the amazing clouds in that sky. I also never would have had to spend the next hour untangling all of my hair.
Thinking about all these things I would have missed on a plane is exactly why, when we made it to Seattle, I begrudgingly made my way to the airport to fly back home—wishing I could continue the journey the way we started: on the road.
Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at