A little context for historians or others who may come across this column a century from now. We’re in the midst of a pandemic and that has altered much of daily life, including shutting down businesses and restricting travel. We’ve regularly looked back to 1917-1918 to see how people coped with the pandemic then. So this little bit of history as it unfolds may be of interest to readers in the future. 

For those who lost loved-ones because of the COVID-19 outbreak, or suffered while surviving, this has been an especially difficult time. Our lament about the impact on “antiquing” hardly seems worthy of comment, yet we cannot help think about it.

For antiques dealers, show organizers, auctioneers and others in the antiques “trade,” the disruption of the antiques markets seems especially troublesome. Perhaps it’s because “antiquing” and the antiques business were already in a period of change. Whatever the case, we hate to see the disruption and the impact it could have on interest in history. Enough of “deep thoughts.”

Being stuck in the home-office when we’re typically off on some short trips for antiques shows or auctions brings to mind the notion of being stir-crazy. And that reminded me of a little in-car travel activity that often comes up on the road through the City of Auburn (NY) as we travel toward the Sherwood Inn. The large state “correctional facility” there doesn’t have the cachet of Sing-Sing, Attica or Dannemora, but its tall, gray walls are practically in the business district. It’s noticeable.

How this got started, I’m not sure. But now passing by evokes a little word game of trying to reel-off as many alternate names for a prison or jail as can be recalled while driving between the prison and the turn where Routes 5 and 20 split up. Stir, clink, hoosegow, big house, lock-up, pokey, brig, joint, pen, slammer, calaboose. You get the idea.

As is often the case, while I fully understood the feeling of being of stir-crazy, I had to look of up the origin of “stir” as a name for prison as I began to write this piece. And that always takes me down another interesting road.

So, if you are like many of us going stir-crazy, don’t flip your wig and fly off the handle or you might get sent up the river. Not into idioms and etymology? Readers of a certain age may be up for a Burma-Shave challenge. “Six Million Housewives/Can’t Be Wrong/Who Keep Their Husbands/ … 

Go ahead finish that roadside sign series. It might keep you from going stir-crazy.

Grant Hamilton