Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge: 1907 & 1988

On my Google homepage I have a link to They have constantly changing vintage pictures in high definition. I can spend hours studying these wonderful images. Wednesday the 29th there was an image of the Brooklyn Bridge from 1907. That vantage point looked so familiar. Sure enough; doing a fast check of my pictures I uncovered a photo from October 1988 of Joe, Don, and Richard from our October excursion to the city. I was lost in the past before starting this entry rereading my journal archive of that trip. Looking back, it was one of those special, magic times where everything clicked. It was an excursion that could not have been planned out to be any more perfect. Memories of that time remind me how I’ve always tried to live life to the fullest and to try and keep on doing so.

Images: 1907 and 1988. Joe and I were under strict orders from Don to not act like tourists, and to try and just blend in. HA!!! That only made us act up worse!! I remember yelling, “Turn around and let me take your picture!” for this shot. Joe-left, Don-middle, Richard-right

The cold is slowly leaving us. Temperatures are warming up a bit, but rain is now also a factor. Hopefully I will get the first coat of paint onto the body of the San Francisco fire hydrant today. Yesterday I picked up some yellow artist oil to tint my white oil based paint. The hydrant base colour should be an off white almost bordering on a creamy yellow. The top will a light green.

The paint removal and priming was finished up last month. The old paint was so built up the raised lettering was undecipherable. My next trip out to San Francisco will have to entail research into the Risdon Iron Works. Some quick online work uncovered that Risdon was absorbed by another firm in 1910. There is no mention they actually manufactured hydrants or not. This hydrant could have been for just the Risdon works site. I’m hoping I can date it to being pre 1906 so I can say it was present for the earthquake and fire!

Speaking of San Francisco, I got an E-mail from Southwest with “want-to-get away” deals. You punch in how much you want to spend and where you want to go and “BINGO” the perfect destination is chosen. I chose $700.00 and one of my destinations was San Francisco listing the flights I usually use and the Travel Lodge on Market St I normally stay at. I’m so tempted to get-away!!!!

The internets came to my rescue again: a job I need to do is to flush out my tankless water heater. Vinegar is pumped thorough the heating coils to clean out the sediment and build up. I needed to get a submersible utility pump to be able to accomplish this chore. The initial pump cost is about half what a plumber would charge to do a flushing. Checking out the stock at Blowe’s, Homo Depot, and Sears on line I ended up finding the best deal through Amazon which included free shipping. It should be delivered next week. I have gotten so lazy; I hate the thought of shopping around store to store anymore.

Another needed article is some green velvet to recover the turntable of the latest “Cow”. (The Columbia Viva Tonal phonograph model 810) Columbia could not use felt as a turntable covering like every other manufacturer. No, they had to use velvet. Trying to match up the original green at local fabric and craft stores has been impossible. Some online sources have been located. It is just so hard to accurately match up the colour. The last time I hunted down a burgundy jacquard silk for a phonograph grill cloth, the delivered shade was light purple! I got the idea the other day to stain it with burgundy wine when I spraying extra strength cleaner onto the wine stains on my old sweatshirt. That might darken it up closer to the right shade. A box of Burgandy wine is on my shopping list for today! Even if it does not tone things out, I’ll still be able to drink it!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Never Say Never

You would think I have learned by now that you “Never say Never!” Back in the early 1990’s I purchased a Columbia model 800 Viva Tonal Graphophone. This machine was first manufactured in 1926 to compete with the wildly popular Victor Orthophonic Credenza. It was really a “cow”. That is the term my dealer friend Dennis coined to designate anything that was big and heavy!

The record and talking machine industry was in a very profitable, comfortable rut at the end of the Great War. Like GM and Ford of the 1970’s they had grown fat and lazy. The business recession of 1921 plus the emergence of Radio was a double whammy that nearly did the entire industry in. Reluctantly the major players had to turn to Western Electric and eventually pay them royalties to use the newly developed microphone and revamp their recording studios for electrically recorded records. It was a bitter pill for the companies to swallow.

This required a total redesign of the playback machines. Electrically recorded records blasted and generally did not sound good on old style machines. Special reproducers and horn designs gave a bass and depth to recordings that was eye-opening.

The Columbia Company was just getting reorganized after a bankruptcy when they introduced the Viva Tonal line of machines engineered for the new electric recordings. This is a rare line of machines to encounter today. I think it is safe to say from a collectors stand point that for every 30 Victor Orthophonics you see, you might encounter one Columbia Viva Tonal.

I was clearing out things to make room here at my Alabama house back in 2000and sold that “cow”. I was so glad to have room again. I said I’d never own another one.

Damn you Craigslist! It was around Thanksgiving I was trolling the internets for old phonographs. As fate would have it, I turned up a Columbia 810 on Craigslist in Chelsea, Alabama for a steal. It looked good from the pictures. I have a friend in Birmingham who would have been the perfect customer for this, but I misplaced his contact information. Got a hold of a friend in Mississippi and gave him the lead on the thing.

I was talking with Billy Sunday who was giving me a hard time for not jumping on that 810. "That is worth five times what he is asking" Billy kept saying. He sure knows how to get me going! After I hung up the phone I checked the Craigslist listings and it was still active!

Early Monday morning I was able to make phone contact with the seller after a couple E-mails. At 11:30 a.m. I was at his house sealing the deal. My Mississippi friend contacted the Birmingham collector who checked the machine over. He did not have any room for it. That is kind of what I thought. This collector has phonographs piled up like cordwood! The seller told me the Bham collector and I were the only ones to contact him in regards to the Graphophone. I was amazed nobody else bit……

We loaded that cow into the bed of my truck on some pads I had brought along. I forgot how heavy those damn things were, my back nearly slipped out “strong arming” the beast onto the tailgate.

The traffic was horrible on the 280 which took me to the 459. (That is pure Western New York to put “the” before you say route numbers!) I was home by 1:30 giving me plenty of time to get it off the truck, onto a dolly, and moved into the house.

The most serious flaw is a front foot that will have to be reconstructed. The rest of the machine is in pretty nice untouched shape. It should clean up well. The 810 was the deluxe model which had contrasting wood tones and polychrome decorations. The finish should rub out and overcoat nicely.

Just what I need another project. I could just do a fast redo of the tone arm, motor and reproducer and sell it at one of the phonograph shows….. but it is looking like it might be a “keeper” for a while……

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home Made Banana Bread

The temperatures are still cold but the sky is clear allowing the brilliant sun to shine through. That does a lot to raise my spirits. Stumpy was out all morning and is now asleep on the bed after finishing up his wet food treats. Daggy is buried under the covers. What a life those cats have!

One of my favourite haunts throughout the 1980’s was the complex of flea markets in Clarence, NY. The original first building was a long, low claustrophobic affair with dealer booths along the walls and center. “Aunt Mike” used to have a booth here. She was such a trip living and enjoying life to the fullest. She used to do “curb shopping” the night before garbage pick-up. She would make a good buck selling that stuff.

Aunt Mike, (standing) Aunt Martha seated at Renninger's Flea Market, Adamstown, PA fall of 1975.

There was a lady who had a booth just down from Aunt Mike who sold baked goods. She also sold these hats made out of cut up beer cans. The cans were cut up into panels, holes punched through and the panels were then crocheted together. Yes, people actually bought those horrible things!

This woman wore one of these hats and would announce in a loud monotone throughout the day: “Homemade banana bread”. I tried it once. That was enough!

Debbie gave me a bag of overripe bananas last night knowing that I would use them up. I was thinking back to those flea market days this morning as I made up a batch of banana bread. I found the best recipe on the You-tubes. (I love to use the plural as it drives some people crazy!)

Using mom’s old cake mixer and angel food cake pan had me remembering back to happy days growing up on Ontario St. My little Alabama kitchen was a happy place this morning….

Mom always cooled her angel food cakes on a beer bottle……

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Greetings:

Back in August 2004 my life was turned upside down when I transferred to the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, KY. It was a long involved story/move, but it was in my best interest to finish out my last 13 months till my retirement under 30 years and out at the Corvette Assembly facility.

I spent those 13 months doing the final assembly to transmissions and then installing finished transmissions to the Corvette chassis. One of my co-workers “Two Dollar Bill” had a tape deck and assortment of music he played incessantly.

This journal entry was written that December I was with Corvette. With so many of my Facebook friends being from my hometown Lockport, NY, I thought they might enjoy a trip to the past….

I'll Be Home for Christmas...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I know that I have written in the past about one of my co-workers “Two Dollar Bill” and his music. When returning to work after Thanksgiving, he brought in a special treat: His Christmas Music tapes. God save us! There was a time when I enjoyed hearing this seasonal music. In the American tradition of “if one is good then 100 is better”, he plays these tapes for hours. Some of the songs that I have grown to despise are:

1. White Christmas

2. Silver Bells

3. Winter Wonderland

4. I’ll Be Home for Christmas

5. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

6. Oh Holy Night

7. Ave Maria

Don’t get me wrong; these are all beautiful and great melodies. What has spoiled them forever in my mind is the cover versions done by “pop divas” and every washed up singer you can imagine. Daily I hear endless reruns of these same tunes; all done by different artists. I remember how Judy Garland sang the song “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the movie Meet Me in Saint Louis. Now, I’m hearing some wretched woman screech, wail, and destroy this simple plaintive song with every musical embellishment known to mankind. It makes my “tits itch” just thinking about it.

The other day while trying to avoid listening to this racket I was thinking, “When did it all go wrong?” Unfortunately I could not pinpoint a date, but instead I was remembering when things were all right.

You have to go back in time to the mid 1960’s. In my hometown of Lockport, we always had snow for the Christmas holidays. The nearest shopping malls and plazas were in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. My dad hated driving so there was no chance for the family to go to those places. Lockport still had a thriving central business district. The stores would be open late at night for the shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seems lame now, but that used to be a real treat, to go shopping when it would be night.

I used to walk “downtown” by heading east on Ontario Street. This brought me to the Pine Street Bridge that crossed the Erie Canal. The railings on the bridge were all fancy scrolled ironwork of a past era. The sidewalks would be clear of snow, and the green iron scrollwork would trap the white snow making a stark contrast, even at night. After crossing this bridge I would be at the intersection on Main Street.

The “south side” of Main Street is where all the major stores were. J.J. Newberry, the five and dime where my aunt Margaret Louise worked in the 1930’s was almost to the corner and always a first stop. The merchandise was displayed on counters with glass dividers keeping everything organized. Heading east there was The Carl Company, a dry goods store that had a card table set up in the back selling toys for four cents each. They were tacky things but it still would be an adventure to find a treasure. The major department store was Williams Brothers. My great aunt Mary shopped here all the time. This was the most expensive store in town. Having a basement and four floors of merchandise there was a lot of area to cover when shopping here. A brass gated elevator shuttled passengers between floors. My sister’s best friend Candy had a job operating this elevator for a while. I used to love to pester her while she was working!

W.T.Grant would always be stop. There was basement, main floor and second floor. By the back stairs to the second floor there was a popcorn machine. If I put my hand in just right when nobody was looking I could wiggle my fingers and get some “free samples”. The toys and pets were in the basement. We would always get our goldfish and turtles here. It saddens me now to think of those poor turtles that were sold with flowers painted on their shells.

On the corner of Main and Locust Street is where a temporary shelter would be built for the Salvation Army. It always seemed there was an “old woman” shaking the brass bell out an elevated window above the collection bucket. Loudspeakers over the roof of this “hut” played the Christmas music. The decorations for downtown were garlands of green between the light poles across Main Street. In the center of each garland was a lighted star inside a circle. Hearing this music, feeling the cold and snow against my face outside, and then the welcome warmth when entering a store made Christmas shopping a real adventure. I knew I was witnessing something special experiencing all this as a child.

The next block headed east had O’Connor’s toy store. What a fantastic variety of toys they had for being such a small business. The Royal, an ice cream parlor was right by, but I was not allowed to go there. My dad said that is where the “hoods” hung out. My father thought that any teenager who smoked, had a leather jacket, or wore black shoes was a juvenile delinquent.

Further down the street was Noah’s Ark, an auto parts store that sold toys during the holidays. The toy catalogue from this store was always anxiously awaited. This was the place to go for Lionel trains, and accessories for your bicycle.

Across the street from here was Dan’s 88-Cent Store. Here I could always find a present for my mother. My tastes ran towards the knock-off Hummel figurines from Japan. Seeing them now all these years later, the quality was pretty good! I am still using a strainer that came from there!

Returning home, I would backtrack on Main Street. Instead of turning down Pine Street and back over the bridge there I would continue west. Kipps cigar store is where my comic books came from. This store was long and narrow. There was a huge assortment of comics to choose from along the west wall. I would try to peek at the Playboy magazines on the back wall without being seen. We used to always get yelled at for looking at forbidden merchandise. There was a “nut display” by the cash register. A revolving tray of greasy salted nuts under a light bulb. The owner was always behind the cash register. In giving change he always called me “Sonny Boy.”

The last stop would be at the corner of Cottage and Main. This was the location of The Crystal Ice Parlor. Opened in 1922, it still had all the original fixtures: including the owner. The booths were dark and mysterious at night. It was always a treat to have a hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. Above each booth painted on the wall was picture. The scenes ranged from pastoral mountaintop scenes, to the Acropolis in Greece. I used to think that painting of the Acropolis was the most beautiful painting I the world! (Through a quirk of fate, I own this artwork! Another story!)

Now is the trek home. Walking across the “big bridge” (supposedly one of the widest bridges in the world) there is no protection from the wind. Huge snow banks are formed here from clearing the street. If the snow is packed hard enough it is more fun to walk on the snow banks than the walkway.

By the time I arrive home I’m cold and have had enough! In the kitchen there is an old cast iron floor grate over the heating duct. This is my favorite place to stand to warm my feet. Then mittens and gloves are put on the cast iron cover to dry out. (I still have this grate and it is in use. Sadly it has been many many years since mittens have been dried on it)

It is sad to think that I had to use the past tense for all the businesses and locations. Shopping habits change and these small stores could not compete against the bigger chains. What is worse: my hometown bought into the myth of “Urban Renewal.” This is a government program where old buildings were condemned and bought by the government to be redeveloped. The main shopping block where the major stores used to be was demolished in the mid 1970’s. A grassy field is all that remains some 30 years later. My generation was the last to experience what it was like to have a vibrant central business district.

I loathe shopping malls. The sanitized, programmed interiors, boring merchandise, and hordes of “mall rats” running around completely alienate me. Just down the road from me here in Bowling Green is the major Mall for the region. It even has a Dillards! Don’t count on seeing me there!

In a way I have to thank “Two Dollar Bill”. In trying to avoid his wretched music I dug up a lot of forgotten memories. Now I’ll be able to copy this entry and enclose it with some “special” Christmas cards to be sent home. That is what makes this time of year special for me. Sharing memories and being with family and friends. That makes me want to sing….I’ll be home for Christmas…………if only in my dreams.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Road Trip

I’ll be heading out on the road for a Thanksgiving journey for the first time in many years. Road trips at Thanksgiving wore me out back in 1996 & 1997 when I was commuting between Lockport, NY and Tuscaloosa, AL. I was not keeping a journal at that time of my life. However, the events of the trips are burned into my memory.

I was stacking aluminum radiator cores in Building 7 on the day shift the day before Thanksgiving 1996. This was a rate job I was very good at. My partner in sharing the center machine was Karen. She taught me how to stack and she was fast. Once we started work for the day we tried to keep the machine which made up our air centers running all the time. Starting the center machine from a dead stop would increase the chance of jam ups and down time. When our parts table would fill up, an electric eye would get covered cancelling out parts being sent. If my eye would get covered Karen would then get all the parts. She would yell.. “JIMMY my table is filling up!~!!!” That would always light a fire under my butt!!

Stacking was a rate job. I had made extra parts earlier in the week I did not record so I would give a legal count for my weeks work when I left early. This day I worked through my morning breaks and was able to get my count out just into my lunch. Karen promised to put my finished parts on the line, and record my count so I could head out on the road early. I ran out of that place to my truck and hightailed it to my house. The truck was packed with paving bricks and odds and ends.

I had moved most of my antiques south in October using a 17ft U-haul. Mom’s cat Fuzzie moved in with Chloe and me after her death in 1994. That October move was the trip my sisters found Fuzzie dead when they came to feed the cats. That was so horrible. There was no way I was going to leave Ron’s old cat Chloe behind this trip. From now on we would be travelling as a team. Chloe was startled when I scooped her up, plopped her into the cat carrier and carried her to the truck.

Chloe settled right in and travelled wonderfully. The traffic was as you would expect: Miserable. Naturally I hit Columbus, OH right around 5:00 p.m. I hate driving through this city. Rush hour makes it the worst. Cincinnati was not much better. I can still see in my mind the unbroken line of red taillights snaking into and through the metropolis.

Once I got over the river into Kentucky things calmed down a bit. I decided to stop for the night at what was then a Budget Host Motel in Erlanger, KY. I had stayed there before and knew there was not a problem with Chloe. Right next door was a White Castle. A BIG plus in my book.

Chloe was a trooper. She made herself right at home in her regal manor.

We got an early start Thanksgiving Day and had smooth sailing into Tuscaloosa. Chloe explored the new house. It met with her approval and she claimed a perch on top of boxes stacked up in what is now the back study.

Chloe made a number of similar trips the following year. She developed cancer: the Thanksgiving trip to Tuscaloosa in 1997 was her last. She was such a special cat. There was something mystical about her. When she would look into your eyes it was like she could see into your soul. Her ashes are in a tin in my front parlor. I have it in my will I’m to be cremated and our ashes are to be mixed together and spread off the Appalachian Trail.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Full Moon Reflections

It never fails…soon as I sit at the computer to write a journal entry, my little Dagney insists upon perching on my lap. This makes typing MOST difficult!

Sunday was a glorious day. We had a docent meeting at 2:00 to work out details of the upcoming house tour for the annual Dicken’s Christmas. These people are so disorganized, but I keep my mouth shut. I don’t need to get involved in organizing another function. I’m content to just be a house guide.

One of the main problems we have with the house tours is this antique Oriental rug. It was repaired and turned out to be extremely rare and valuable. It is silk and supposedly worth $60,000. That means we can’t have tours coming through walking on it. Putting runners over the rug can cause more wear and damage than people just walking on it.

The discussion went on forever. I kind of lost it and said, “Roll the damn rug up and take it out of the room. People on the tours don’t know about the rug and don’t care. They just want to look out the same window Elizabeth Shirley looked out to see the Yankee’s marching to Tuscaloosa to burn the city.”

The room lit up, and exclamations of “We never thought of that!” followed by, “Well that furniture is so rickety it falls apart when you try to move it.” I gave up at that point in time. It was time to head to the boat house.

We had a wonderful practice row. I rowed 5 seat in the “engine room” of the boat. Usually I’m in bow or 2 seat. The leaves are in as much colour as we get here in Alabama. The river was quiet traffic wise.

The days are getting so short. The sun was just about gone when we docked. It was one of the “Tiffany robins egg blue” skies with the clouds lit up a brilliant orange when we lifted the boat out of the water. Headed for home as I turned off Lurleen Wallace Blvd onto 11th st, the huge full moon was rising in the east

Stumpy was waiting in Michelle’s driveway for me. He wanted his wet food treats: He could not get into the house fast enough!! I got his treats and I heated up some leftover soup for supper. I just wanted something fast and easy.

The night was fairly warm; I bundled up a bit and settled into the deck chair with a glass of box wine. I just stared at the moon. My smudge pot lamps were flaming, Stumpy jumped and settled into my lap.

Over the old front door of the Lockport Public Library is the inscription: Books are like an open door to set the spirit free. How prophetic that has turned out to be in my life. Certain book have honestly changed and inspired my life. One such book was: “All but My Life" written by Gerda Klein. In this book she chronicles her early life under the Nazi’s and her survival of the work camps. I quote a passage from page 117 of this book.

“I heard girls toss and turn and here and there weep quietly. The night was starry and beautiful. From my bunk I could see the hills through a window. Slowly the full moon rose. I spoke dreamily to her. I asked her if she saw Papa and Mama. It seemed as if she said yes. In the years to come the moon became my loyal friend. My only friend that was free. Each month I counted the days until she returned, and often when she hid behind clouds I thought that she was avoiding the horror on earth.”

Looking on the bright moon I thought of Gerda and how she survived. That old moon has seen a lot of the follies going here on earth. Stump was purring and stretching out when the phone rang.

I answered that damn phone and it was a robo call for the 2012 election! I don’t like to use profanity but I was royally pissed to be annoyed in this way. If I have to endure election phone calls like I have the past three months for the next two years I’ll drop my land line service.

By the time I settled back in the deck chair, Daggy came down from upstairs and joined me. Stump chased bugs and ducked under the gate to visit Michelle’s back yard. My purring “little cat” calmed me down some and we enjoyed the evening: Daggy, the moon, and I

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Burger Chef Reminisces

I awoke to a steady rain and Stumpy’s big old paw on my face telling me he wanted his wet food! Every morning as I start my routine I think of my dad who had to feed our cat Stormy. Dad was always the first one up to get to his job at GM at 6:00. “Jesus, I have to feed that cat before I can even make my coffee!” was dad’s line.

Some things never change….the cats get fed before I can put the water on to boil for my drip coffee pot. Stump and Daggy are sacked out on the bed now with full bellies as I enjoy the last cup of coffee from the first pot of the day. I’ve checked out my news sites and NPR has gone through the morning news loop. Pandora Internet radio is now streaming as I put together this entry. Such is my everyday life….and I love every minute of it!!!

Sunday I had been cleaning out files and trying to make some order of my upstairs. I found the patch I saved from one of my Burger Chef work shirts from 1970. The memories of working at that place: I posted a picture of that patch to my facebook page and got lots of comments.

Let me just elaborate a bit more on working there as my clothes get washed. The sky is clearing so I should have a window of opportunity to have them dry on the line!

The owner of this Burger Chef franchise restaurant “Gordie” was there daily working the back line for the day shift. His wife Teresa worked the front line. No matter where you were stationed somebody was there to boss you around. They were hard bosses, but they instilled fast customer service. Many evenings they would drive by to make sure the front line was working as they should. I’ve been forever spoiled in what to expect from fast service restaurants from working at the “Grease Pit” as we called it.

Even back then we were expected to push the French fries if they were not ordered. In response to drinks, we were always supposed to question if they wanted the LARGE if a size was not specified.

My best friend in High School, Keith was also a “Burger Boy”. He was so smart in math: he could add up the orders in his head. For whatever reason, we were not allowed to use the cash registers to tally the orders. There were pads and pencils to write down and add up the customers orders on the front counter. At this point in history, sales tax was not collected on orders under $1.00. If I was ringing up friends or my “regulars” I would break the orders up and ring them up so no tax would have to be charged.

We were supplied with white shirts bearing the Burger Chef patch and aprons. Working the night shift we were often forced to wear previously worn day shift shirts and aprons if they were not too dirty. We were required to wear black clip on bow ties, and black pants.

I don’t venture into fast food places today so it is hard for me to do a compare and contrast to how we used to function. That grease smell from the deep fat fryer would permeate my clothes and every pore of my body. I kept my black work pants rolled up hidden away in the store room so I would not have to wear them home.

One afternoon I got a frantic phone call from Keith. He had gone into work early and learned Gordie had found my ratty work pants in the store room. Gordie was on the rampage and was going to rip me a new a—hole when I showed up for work.

The last thing I wanted too do was buy clothes for work, but I made a quick trip to my clothing store, Lerch and Daly’s and got the cheapest pair of black pants I could.

Showing up for work I was prepared for Gordies rage. When he cornered me on my old pants, I just said, “Who would wear those dirty old pants? Here are my work pants right here.” (Holding out my new black pants) There was nothing he could say!! Thank you for the warning Keith!!!!

Let me close with a favourite Burger Chef story….Keith and I were preparing to start our shift and were chatting away in the store room. Teresa came in to get some supplies…

Teresa: You two sound like two old ladies…

Jamie to Keith: (as Teresa was leaving) And then….she has even taken to driving her own buggy!!!!

Teresa: ARGGGGGGH!!!!!!

That line I gave to Keith was from the movie “Gone With the Wind” when Atlanta’s dowagers were dissing Scarlett for starting up her lumber business…..Keith and I just have to say “And then…” and we just break up…. 40+ years after the fact….life is good!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Early Veteran's Day Entry

The fighting of the “Great War” ceased with an armistice which took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. November 11th was celebrated as Armistice Day for many years. The “war to end all wars” was not successful in that aspect, so Armistice Day has morphed into Veteran’s Day to honour the vets of all the succeeding wars.

When I look back on my education, I’m amazed in how I was taught nothing in regards to WWI. In my high school, World History was taught in Junior year. My instructor was a displaced fine arts teacher who spent ¾‘s of the year teaching the glories of ancient Greece and Rome. When we finally got into the Renaissance, classes stalled as we learned about the artists and their painting styles. The industrial revolution, 19th and 20th centuries were covered by hurried reading assignments.

American History was taught in senior year. The NY State Regents exam for 1970 was centered on Supreme Court Cases. That was pretty much what I was taught. There were no classes for the cause and effect for any of the wars America fought. In hindsight this was ludicrous as my draft card was 1HS for the last months of my senior year. Here I was set up to be drafted into a war I had no earthly concept of: except according to the “Domino theory”, if Viet Nam went communist so would go the rest of Southeast Asia and the world would end.

The effect WWI had on the ensuing 20th Century is mind boggling. The flawed Treaty of Versailles set the ground work for the world depression of the 1930’s which set the stage for Hitler and WWII.

“To the Victors belong the spoils”: That is how wars end. Among the spoils of WWI was the carving up of the Ottoman Empire. Much of the discourse in the Middle East today can be traced back to that dismemberment.

When I lived in Lockport, NY my radio was constantly tuned to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Commission) FM Toronto station at 94.1. I trusted the CBC for my world news. The political satire shows “Royal Canadian Air Farce”, and “Double Exposure” were decades ahead of John Stewart and Steven Colbert.

Bob Kerr hosted an afternoon program called, “Off the Record”. I learned so much from his programmes. The music he introduced to me has so enriched my life. Bob would always have a stellar broadcast for “Remembrance Day”, the Canadian equivalent of America’s Veteran’s Day.

It was back in the mid 1980’s he broadcast Eric Bogle singing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. I cried the first time I heard it. Never had the reality and horrors of war been explained to me with such poignancy.

I’ve only ever heard this song performed one time in the US. It was sung by Garrison Keilor on a “Prairie Home Companion” show many years ago. Doing a compare and contrast to the Youtube slideshow and the present day returning Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan breaks my heart. This video slideshow was originally put together for the Canadian Remembrance Day, but the message rings true universally..

Monday, November 8, 2010

Compare and Contrast

The book and movie Gone With the Wind had a great influence on me in my teen years. In my formative mind, Margaret Mitchell’s idealized antebellum south was summed up in dialogue between Ashley and Melanie at the Twelve Oaks Bar-b-que

Melanie: I like to feel that I belong with the things you love.

Ashley: You love Twelve Oaks as I do.

Melanie: Yes Ashley--- I love it as more than a house. It’s a whole world that wants only to be graceful and beautiful.

Ashley: It’s so unconscious that it may not last forever.

I grew up in Lockport, New York. Lockport is located on the Erie Canal at the set of locks which allow a change of some 50 feet of water level. When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, the locks at Lockport, were one of the wonders of the engineering world.

The many industries located in Lockport afforded a sense of stability that was over the years considered a birthright. Good paying factory jobs were plentiful. Students graduating from the Lockport schools knew they could walk into a secure blue collar job upon graduation. The ominous words of Ashley, “It’s so unconscious that it may not last forever” applied to Lockport as well.

Harrison Radiator, Lockport’s General Motors Plant, produced all the air cooling and heating systems installed into GM cars. It was my workplace first starting in 1974 until I transferred south to Tuscaloosa, AL in 1998. Little did I think I would be witnessing the slow death of General Motors and industrial Lockport when I was called back to work in February 1976 after being laid off for all of 1975.

That security we once enjoyed and took for granted has long since shattered. My journals chronicle many of my personal experiences in the factory through that difficult time.

In the book The Savage Factory Robert Dewar gives an accurate description of the environment I worked in.

Back in 1979 a hated supervisor attempted to have me fired. What I endured on the shop floor, grievance proceedings, and a visit to a labor relations lawyer forever changed my “work view” towards my job and GM. How I wish I were able to thank that supervisor today. Through that experience, I learned what was really important in life. Just because a lesson is hurtful does not mean you can’t learn from it.

I began planning and saving for my retirement in 1979. I was determined to not spend one second longer on the job at GM than I had to. When I first began the paperwork for my retirement at the Corvette Assembly Plant, the human resource people remarked they had never seen anyone as prepared as I was for retirement.

If I ever do get my journal together into some kind of a book, I planned on a page like this as the foreword.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Turning Colder

It is turning colder out. I wore numerous layers of clothes for last evenings “learn-to-row” session. I know the intensity of cold here in Alabama can’t begin to compare to what I lived with in western New York, but none the less, I hate the cold. Whenever I hear the aria "Che Gelida Manina" (Your tiny hand is frozen) from Puccini’s La Boheme I get goose bumps. Not just from the soaring music, but because I know what it feels like to be that cold…..

Yesterday afternoon I sorted though my old wool sweaters so I could dress up a bit in case I decided to venture out to Art Night after the row. I discovered one of my favourite Lands End Shetland wool sweaters had acquired a couple tiny holes. Damn…. It is only about 15 years old… it is barely broken in. I’m thinking there is some repair thread packed away in mom’s old sewing basket. Back in the day Lands End was a fantastic mail order company to deal with. Any new clothes I used to buy were from them. That was years, opps… I can almost say decades ago. I have some socks to darn, so it looks to be a sewing day today!

I can tell it is cold out as Stumpy has decided to sack out on the bed rather than go outside. The thermostat in the hall showed my house temperature at 55° this morning. I held my breath and switched the control over to heat. The fan started and then I heard the “woosh” as the gas ignited in the heat chamber. I splurged and let the temperature climb to 65°.

I can’t believe that furnace is 16 years old: it was the first thing I had installed when I bought this house. For many years I carried a service contract with the firm who did the installation for seasonal check-ups to the heating and air conditioning units. As often happens, things turned for the worse and that company lost all their good service people. It has been a quite a spell since that unit has been checked by a “professional”. I keep the filters changed and have learned how to decipher the “flashing codes” on the motherboard when things screw up. So far I’ve managed to keep the thing running….

There is supposed to be a frost warning out for tonight. Time to move plants inside: Hopefully the David ferns will survive another winter. The mother fern was purchased back in 1982 from Plant City which was located on Main Street in Buffalo, NY. That fern has been divided and brought back from the dead more times than I can count!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conversations with Daggy

Day two of No-Jo-Mo. November has so far been a glorious month weather wise. Today I awoke to temperatures in the 60’s at 4:00 a.m. The wind was blowing the dry leaves around so it sort of sounded like rain…..things are still dry.

The fall always puts a sense of urgency for getting projects finished up. It can be hard to work when needy cats demand loving. Daggy was sprawled out amongst the mums Sunday as I was working. It would have been a perfect photo. However, Daggy will not stay put when I try to snap her picture; she has to come to me for loves. This shot of my “tiny girl” was the best I could do!

I often converse with the cats while working around the house. It just so happened on Sunday I was holding Daggy reciting quotes from my favourite John Water’s films. The dialogue from his movies is priceless. “My Daggy does NOT have roaches in her hair. I’ll have you know she’s a CLEAN TEEN!” was my message to Daggy on the front porch, spoken just as some neighbors were walking by! Their heads turned and I just smiled and waved.

Opps!!! I gave up years ago living anything else but my life. The days of putting on a respectable/normal front are long gone.

Back in 1989 Ron and I toured the South. I picked him up in Columbia, SC and we drove cross country to his hometown of Tyronza, AR. On the way we toured the battlefield in Corinth, MS. I fell in love with that little town. That had to be when the first inkling of moving south developed.

I’ve always been aware of the “culture divide” between the north and south. As Ron and I were driving through the southern countryside I questioned if I would be hated for being from the north if I indeed did move below the Mason Dixon line. In his typical fashion Ron bluntly answered, “No Jimmy, people would just say about you, that’s that nice Yankee boy who moved here from New York.”

My street gets a lot of pedestrian traffic from the university students and neighborhood residents. One of the “pillars” of the neighborhood (I don’t like to use the word “dowager” as that can have a number of negative associations, but this neighbor is in the regal class!) used to pass my home daily to visit her daughter who lived just around the corner from me. We would always exchange pleasantries.

One afternoon she was walking by with her daughter. We all chatted a bit. The conversation went like this:

Pillar to her daughter: My, can you believe the work this nice man has done to this old house… and he’s a YANKEE!

Mortified Daughter: MOTHER!!!

Pillar: Well, he is!!!

Jamie: (Wanting to diffuse a potentially awkward situation) I can’t change where I’m from, but I’m proud to call Tuscaloosa my home now.

That did it and we all parted on good terms. Once again Ron was right.

How I wish he were here with me now and we could share good times again. It has been 18 years since his life was cut short by AIDS. My cats aren’t the only ones I talk to when I’m working around the house…..

Monday, November 1, 2010

November -Journaling-Month: Day 1

Here we go again, No-Jo-Mo is back where I try to get an entry a day out. More pictures have been posted on-line of the practice row we did Saturday morning on the misty river. The photographer had a VERY good camera… my little Kodak can’t even compare!!

Some more shots of the misty row Saturday morning;

Holding the “set”:

At the “release” and about to slide up to the “catch”:

Rowing back to the dock:

It was so good to be back on the river again. It had been over a week……

The warm weather we have been enjoying has been pushing me to finish up the jobs I’ve been obsessing over these past few weeks. The north side of the house is finally painted up. I snapped this “artistic” shot as I was reinstalling the double hung windows. If there is reincarnation, I almost hope to come back to earth as a couch potato/slug so I can relax in the next life!

Looking out the window of my study:

I need to throw a load of laundry in machine and hang it on the line before heading to the “Y”.

Check off day one of No-Jo-Mo!!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fried Butter Balls/Use the Real Phone

Sometimes, something I read, or a line I hear gets stuck in my head and I can’t stop thinking about it. This has happened on a couple occasions this past week

The first was reading the recipe a very good friend posted on his facebook page: Paula Dean’s fried butter balls. This just sounded so wonderful. What tickled me more than anything were the comments left by the “food police” about how horrible and unhealthy this recipe is…. How I wish people would lighten up and enjoy life a bit.. one butter ball at a time!

That got me to thinking; it had been a while since I was really bad in eating, so I cooked up a huge mess of fettuccini alfredo. It is too easy to fix… melt half a stick of butter, with couple handfuls of cheese and then add heavy cream. Wisk it all together over low heat and just before serving I’ll add a big spoonful of minced garlic. Dump it all over prepared fettuccini and it is like you died and went to heaven…..

The second incident that has me still laughing was the E-mail I got from Joe. I had just missed his phone call last Thursday. I now have free long distance through my computer. I called him using my Google account. God only knows what number showed up on his caller ID, but he refused it!!

I sent him off this E-mail:

Hi Hun.....
Was out painting and had to come in the house. Sorry i missed your call. Called you on my computer but it did not go through... back to my painting!!

His answer VIA E-mail was:

Call me on the real phone then you cheap whore!

Poor Meg Whitman was scandalized being called that in the heat of the California campaign. Having Joe call me that vulgar name was like a badge of honor! I’m still smiling as I type this out thinking about it!

It is because Joe is my “sister friend”. If I need to “bury the body” Joe will be there to help me. Such friendships are all too rare in today’s world……..

Saturday I finally made up creamed chicken with the left overs from the last roaster I bought at Sam’s. Since the kitchen was a mess I made up a batch of pudding. Stumpy had to sample a bit before it got poured into the serving glasses. I always expect lightning bolts to reign in from the heavens above when this occurs. My Ron had an unbreakable rule: No cats on the table ever!!! Stumpy and Daggy have total reign of this house. After twelve + years I think it is too late in the ball game to change things now!

Stumpy having a bit of the vanilla pudding:

Stumpy was the model of contentment this morning. I had to snap this picture of him before I headed out to affix the stroke seat to the display boat the restaurant bought from our Black Warrior Rowing Club.

The interior of the new restaurant is shaping up. I can’t wait till it opens and I can get pictures of our old shell. I took along zip ties and zip tied the seats to the tracks so there will be no chance of them letting loose. I feel a lot better knowing they are now securely in place…..

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Still in Awe of the Internets

It is still a bit too wet to work outside on my siding project. NPR is in “fund drive mode” so I have the radio turned off. It is a necessary evil, but I can only take so much of the pledging and pleas for money. (I am a member of my local station and sent my cheque in weeks ago.) I have Pandora streaming on the computer as I type this.

The internets and computer technology is still mind-boggling to me as to how intertwined it has become in enriching my life. (I love to use “the internet” in the plural. It can drive people crazy!) I give this one example…..

Joe Jervis writes a blog, Joemygod which I read daily while enjoying my first cup of coffee in the early hours of the morning. Last year he posted a link to an independently produced video Jonathan Just Because. I bookmarked that site on my computer half way through my first viewing. It is a short I can watch over and over. The songs in the soundtrack were so “New York City” to me. Hip, smart, and classy are the adjectives that come to mind, but I feel old in saying that!!

Last Friday I was taking a break on the front porch swing listening to the NPR program “Marketplace”. In between the news segments I heard one of the songs used in Jonathan Just Because used as filler. Running to my computer I brought up the webpage of Marketplace and was able to research the songs used in that program. Sure enough the song I was hunting was: Bruises” by Chairlift.

Finding that elusive song put me on a mission to find the music used in the opening of the video. Once again Google came to my rescue. Using the first line of the song: "in my dreams hitting baseball” in the search bar brought up just what I was looking for: “My Slumbering Heart” by Rilo Kiley.

A couple mouse clicks over to and I was able to download both songs for $1.98. Talk about instant gratification. I’m sure I could have found a free download someplace on the web. I’m so spoiled using the Amazon downloader. I remember back to the 1960’s when hit 45’s cost $1.00 from the record store.

Using one of my favourtie tools, The Relative Value Calculator.

In 2009, the relative worth of $1.00 from 1965 is:


using the Consumer Price Index


using the GDP deflator


using the value of consumer bundle


using the unskilled wage


using the Production Worker Compensation


using the nominal GDP per capita


using the relative share of GDP

After viewing JJB again, I explored the Videos homepage. Contact addresses were listed for the writers, actors and director. I was so wound up I shot an E-mail out to the author. When someone does something that affects my life so, I like them to know. E-mail makes it almost too easy.

The next day I received the most wonderful reply. The internets have done so much to make the world smaller and accessible. In some ways that can be a bad thing, but I try to always look to the good and positive aspects of life…..

Friday, October 15, 2010

Google to the Rescue/Back to the road Trip

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thank you Google…. How many problems have you solved in my life? Sunday I captured a “Daggy and Stumpy” moment of sheer bliss in a digital picture. Without going into a lot of detail let me say the only way I had that picture saved was on a Word file. I knew there had to be a way to save and edit that file into my picture files. The thought I could not use that picture, made me want to save it and post all the more. The instructions I followed were at this site:

Here is that picture of Daggy and Stump I thought I’d never be able to use!

I’m hoping to get my house painted before winter. The first side I worked on was 11 years ago. I’ve since changed out the green trim colour to a darker shade. There was only one coat of paint applied (after stripping off the many layers of old paint) originally which is now peeling a bit. The siding has collected quite a bit of dirt and the shaded areas have some mildew. The wood must first be washed with a solution of TSP and bleach before any sanding, priming or painting is done. All in all, this is a pain in the neck job I’ve put off for years.

I got paint and supplies yesterday from the paint store. This is a great place that caters to contractors and is real professional. You pay a premium price. The way I look at things, with as much prep work as I do, it is really stupid to buy cheap inferior paint to save a couple dollars.

I got Craig the “main man” there going yesterday. I told him I was so glad things were cooling off a bit because I was nearly hospitalized with heat stroke in August while painting my house. I explained how I followed the directions on the paint can….. “For best results apply with two coats!!”

I was so annoyed in yet another rowing practice was called off, I got out the pressure washer and used it to remove the flaking white paint from the stuccoed brick chimney. What a mess, white paint flakes are now everywhere. It was a good way to work out my frustration! It was also a job I had procrastinated on doing for too many years…..

Back to the road trip: September 24th.

This night was the informal meeting for my 40th High School reunion at a local bar. Friday night in Lockport means one thing which is: fish fry! The Union Hall always has a good crowd and used to be famous for their fish fry.

I checked it out and there was a pretty good crowd present. The bar was packed.. I did not want to sit alone at a table. As is usually the case now, there was nobody there I knew. I went outside and called Linda, with no success. Then I contacted Keith. He and Greg were headed out with his mom and dad to fish fry and they invited me along. I’ve always considered Keith’s mom and dad to be a part of my extended family, I jumped at the chance.

We will be headed to the reunion right after supper so I had on my brown Utilikilt and Bisweptual tee shirt. That outfit made a big hit as we had a drink at the bar while our table was being set up.

Beer batter Haddock fish fry is my favourite and was on the menu. I have to say the food was excellent. It was like old times being around Keith and his family again.

We arrived at the bar for the preliminary party right on schedule. There were people here I have not seen in literally 40 years. It was like old times rehashing events.

Keith and I:

Bob, Keith and I all worked at Burger Chef in high school. I still have my Burger Chef name badge packed away and was tempted to dig it out and wear it this night.

Bob was laughing about the time he changed the menu board around to reflect the special of “4 Cheese burgs for 99¢” to a certain sexual act “4 for 99¢”!! (That was done after closing and was switched back!)

"Burger Buddy" Bob.

I reminded him of the time we were closing on a Saturday night and the Gowanda, NY wrestling team came in and made a mess. I was on the front line; Bob was working the back line. As they were leaving Bob called out, “Gowanda Hell!” I ran to the back as fast as I could!!

The night progressed like this rehashing old times till the band set up and commenced playing. It was fruitless to try and talk over the racket and the party broke up.

To be continued:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Desk Delivered/Back to the Roadtrip

Thursday at noon BJ stopped by. He is finally ready to take possession of the roll top desk he bought from me nearly four years ago. Here is an excerpt from my diary from December 13, 2006:

“I can’t believe I’m actually in a Christmas mood! The roll top desk I sold to my friend BJ has been cluttering up the front parlor for nearly three months. It was an easy job to move and arrange the pieces into the back workshop. BJ has paid me for it already. I needed more room: that was the main reason I sold the thing. I wish he had not seen it that night he dropped by and I could have just taken it to the consignment shop. I’m regressing! I have it all covered up so it should be all right. I just hate keeping a piece of furniture in an unheated space like that.”

I had been after BJ for YEARS to take possession of that desk. This past March I needed to clean out space in my workshop where that desk had been stored. I contacted BJ and told him I was going to move the desk to my basement where it would be out of the way. “That is the worst place to store anything, but it can stay there till Hell freezes over” I told him.

Six months stored in a damp, musty basement took a toll on that once beautiful piece of furniture. The veneer panels have all lifted, the animal hide glue has let go. The thing is basically destroyed. It is not my concern. I restored that desk back in 1979. I used it a lot of years. I just hate the fact it is now worthless. I moved it in my truck to its new home: a garage full of crap to see if it will dry out some and lose the impregnated musty smell.

Happier times for the desk: Fuzzy and Chloe at home in my Lockport, NY study in the fall of 1996.

The mornings are nice and cool as fall approaches. The project for the immediate future is to get the south side of the house repainted. This was the first painting project I undertook back in 1999. I’ve since changed out the green trim colour, and the single coat of paint done way back then has accumulated quite a bit of dirt and a bit of mildew in the shaded places.

Friday afternoon was spent washing under the eves with a solution of TSP and bleach. This morning I applied Peel Stop Primer to the peeling paint on the verge board. Soon as I finish this entry I’ll get back to painting under the eves with the dark green.

The early mornings are now sweatshirt weather. Since I’m painting I dug out my oldest rattiest sweat shirt. I bought this back in 1972 to wear on the loading docks of UPS when I loaded trucks on the morning sort. It has seen me through more projects! One nice thing is; Stumpy can climb all over my shoulders and chest and not break my skin with his sharp claws. The heavy cotton gives him lots to dig into! He luxuriates climbing on me drooling and giving me head butts. He was one contented cat giving me loves this morning!

Back to my road trip:

Thursday evening: September 23rd.

I was hungry. You can’t go to Lockport and not get chicken wings from Wagners. Way back in the day we would get plates of killer hot wings washed down with pitchers of Genesee Crème Ale. We used to call that beer “Green Death!!” The cook Bev used to come out of the kitchen and laugh at us tearing into those wings!

Wagner’s has undergone two interior transformations since those days. I miss that old tacky dining room of old with the paneling applied so the lines went horizontal instead of vertical. There was a cast iron radiator we used to sit by in the winter after freezing at Larry and Bob’s unheated auction house to warm our numb feet.

Medium is the only way I can enjoy wings now. A small order of 10 wings and two draft beers made for a great supper.

From here I went to visit my sister and family. She was scandalized in that I was wearing my Utilikilt! We had a wonderful visit getting caught up.

It was so good to get back to Joe’s house. When I think of home now it is not the house I grew up in, or even the house I lived in and spent 20 years restoring. It is Joe’s house I now consider my Lockport home. It was my refuge for the 16 months between the time I sold my house and when the transfer south to Tuscaloosa finally came through.

It was a warm evening. We had beers on the front porch and "dished the dirt." It was like I never left and the clock had been turned back to 1997.

First thing I did Friday was to do a quick laundry. My Utilikilt needed a good cleaning. I laid it out to dry on Joe’s patio and left to see my sister Patty in Newfane. I first stopped to pick up a mess of cat litter for her. She can’t carry the 40 pound bags, so I got her a good supply. We had a good visit. As I was leaving she hinted to her neighbor her boyfriend was leaving!!

I had a noon appointment with Joe for a haircut. I need to look as "P-R-E-T-T-Y as humanly possible" for my class reunion. That line is from the john Waters movie Female Trouble. Joe and I know that lines from that film ver-batum. It is scary.....

Joe gave me a wonderful haircut. I was very happy with the results. His coffee machine was plugged up, so after my "do" I went to Niagara County Produce across the parking to to get us a couple cups of coffee. Just as I was checking out Betty walked in the door! We worked together back at HRD. We hugged and I got out of the check out line so we could get caught up. She has never forgotten the time she, Ada, Gary (aka Judy) and I went into Buffalo to see Psyco Beach Party in an old run down unheated theater on the west side of Buffalo. It is magic when you can run into old friends like this. I was hoping her husband who works for the city could turn up an old style manhole cover with raised letters; City of Lockport, NY on the edge. The city uses generic covers now. No such luck....I'll keep trying!

I got the pruning shears and took off for the cemetery. The bushes on either side of my parent’s grave needed to be trimmed way back. Those shrubs have been in the ground since 1985 and are a bear to cut back now. Ron trimmed those shrubs back in 1989. Mom was so impressed on the great job he did. I was never able to equal that trimming. Mom would say, “They look good, but not as good as when Ron did them!” whenever I cut them back.

to be continued


About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.