Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The "Re-connecting With Friends From The Past" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just grabbed the mail from the mailbox and found an envelope addressed to me.  Return name on the top left of the envelope read Sandy.  Wow, I haven't talked to Sandy for quite some time.  It was back in the early 1980's that Carol and I and our three children went on summer vacations with Sandy and her husband Gary and their three children to cottages along the rivers that fed into Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.  The ten of us had great times together and developed many happy memories on our vacations at "The Bay."  Memory after memory were made during the half-dozen or so summer vacations we shared together at places known as Kentmore Park, The Roach Motel, Aunt Doris's Cottage and The Gullicks old place.  And then ... Gary had a heart attack one Palm Sunday and it was never quite the same.  Gary was 51 years old when he died!  We had already made arrangements for our vacation the following summer so we all decided to go without Gary, but it just wasn't the same.  Never went after that.  Well, my envelope today from Sandy was a nice note card with a small cartoon included inside it.  Her note to me read:  Hi LDub,  I saw this in the paper the other day and right away I thought of you and Tad.  
Do you remember doing this with him at the bay?  I never thought I'd see our crazy adventures in the funny's!  Next they will have you and Gary in the boat and either the boat or engine catching fire.  Hope you and Carol have a good summer.  Sandy.  Well, as soon as I saw the cartoon it brought back happy memories of bay vacations without Gary's motorboat.  The first year or two during our visits to the bay we were only able to use the rowboat that was at the rental we had.  Then Gary bought a motorboat and vacations were never the same.  Day after day of waterskiing with Gary at the helm and early morning fishing trips for channel catfish with the six kids while our wives relaxed at the cottage are fond memories never to be forgotten.  
I am about to get in the rowboat while Tad is preparing to waterski.
The cartoon is mighty close to the time my youngest son, Tad, who was perhaps 6 years old at the time, wanted to waterski.  All we had at the time was the rowboat so Tad put on a pair of children's waterskis and I tied them to the rowboat.  Tad was at the shoreline and I was pointed toward the center of the Elk River.  I gave it a good try, over and over again, but with absolutely no success, naturally.  Tad was disappointed, but did enjoy the special time we had together.  One of the many happy memories from our bay vacations. Dear Gary ... may you rest in peace with all the memories we made at the bay.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The "One Of Lancaster's Premier Breweries" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Searching the archives at LancasterHistory.org trying to find a few photographs of the Rieker Brewery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s my family lived in an area of Lancaster County known as Grandview Heights.  We lived in a semi-detached three-story brick home that had been built in the 1920s.  There were semi-detached homes one block to the north which backed up to the rear of our home.  Living in one of those houses was the Rieker family; Dave, Mary Ann, Matt and Jennifer.  Our children played with the Rieker children and I got to know Dave quite well during those years while raising our families.  Dave and I played in a table-top APBA baseball league using cards developed by a game company in Lancaster.  
A 1926 Photograph showing the Rieker Brewery in Lancaster.
It was at this time that I saw a few photographs and old souvenirs from the Rieker Brewing Company in Dave's home.  We never talked much about the brewery antiques he had accumulated or the company that had begun in the early 1900s in downtown Lancaster by his Great-great-grandfather, but I always wondered about the old beer bottles that were part of his collection.  Over the years we have both moved to different locations and Dave's wife passed and we lost touch with each other.  
1927-28 photo of Rieker Brewery at 554 West King St.
Found out recently that he moved to another town and I once again wondered about his past and the founding of the Rieker Brewery.  So, I did some online research and found a few photos and some information from one of Lancaster's, as well as our nation's premier breweries.  Frank A. Rieker emigrated from Wurttenberg, Germany to America in 1860 at the age of 20.  
Rieker Brewery #2 in Lancaster, PA.
He settled in the city of Lancaster in the predom- inantly German "Cabbage Hill" section and, with his son Frank Jr., built one of the most technologically advanced breweries in the city.  Frank Sr. eventually returned to Germany while his son lost control of the brewery when Prohibition arrived.  The Rieker Brewery struggled on a few years after Prohibition ended, but eventually shut its doors in 1938 and the buildings were demolished in 1941.  
A 1925 interior view of Rieker Brewery.
Then, as I dug deeper, I found that another of Dave's relatives, Chad Rieker who is a fifth or sixth generation descendant of Frank Sr., recently opened the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant along the Harrisburg Pike, about a mile from the old Rieker brewery in downtown Lancaster.  Chad was born and raised in Lancaster and is proud of his brewing heritage.  He is the head brewer at Iron Hill at present.  Rieker beers that are brewed today are popular from Boston to Washington, D.C.  Chad confirmed the notorious "fire hose" story from the Prohibition era and told of the dwarfs that were hired by Rieker's that ran fire hoses through city tunnels to pipe beer to local speakeasies.  
Rieker Brewery #3 in Lancaster, PA.
He said that occurred after unsavory elements gained control of the business from Frank Jr.  Today, advertising and items from the pre-Prohibition Rieker Brewery are very collectible.  Rieker Brewery was in an active brewing city which was listed as having 40 breweries.  Therefore items from Lancaster, PA are more collectible as well as move valuable.
The Rieker Brewery parade wagon.
 Before Prohibition, the county's breweries produced over 200,000 barrels of beer annually with Rieker Brewery brewing 40,000 of those barrels.  After Prohibition ended in 1933, one by one the breweries began to close until only one, the Wacker Brewery, remained.  That one closed in July of 1956 and the remaining unpackaged beer was poured into the sewer, beginning a 39-year interruption of Lancaster's glorious brewing tradition.  Eventually Lancaster Malt Brewing began in 1995.  There are quite a few craft breweries that now call Lancaster home, but not with the production that existed in Lancaster's heyday brewing years.  As for my friend Dave, I wonder if he still has his collection of Frank A. Rieker Brewery memorabilia.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Remember to click on photos to enlarge them.

 Rieker Brewery Postcard
Pack of playing cards from the Rieker Brewery.
A framed poster from the Rieker Brewery. 
Another poster from the Rieker Brewery
My final photo shows the outfield fence of a local ballyard with an advertisement on the fence.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The "Mother Nature In All Her Glory!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at a few breathtaking photographs that were forwarded to me by an old-time friend who lives on the other side of the U.S.  Bill and I grew up together until his mother moved his family to another town and I didn't get to see much of him until fate got us together as cashiers at a local grocery store when we were seniors in high school.  We stay in touch and he still makes visits to Lancaster, PA to see friends and always stops to see my wife and me during those visits.  He sends me emails quite frequently, but being he is a staunch Republican and I am not, very seldom do I look at them for any length of time.  Today was different. His email was titled "Stunning Storm Pictures - The Majesty of Mother Earth."  Wow, what photographs.  Wish I had taken them myself.  Very seldom to I just cut and paste anything in my posts, but I enjoyed these photos so much, I knew you would also.  So, here is Mother Nature in all her glory!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The "The Work Of A Master Craftsman" Story

Grandmothers's clock which stands in Hal and
Jeannie's home in Lancaster County.
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I have been invited to the home of Hal and Jeannie for an evening meal as well as a viewing of Hal's latest creation which he just completed for one of his three adult daughters.  A few years ago Hal told each of his three daughters that he would like to build a piece of furniture for them.  All they needed to do was tell him what they wanted and he would take it from there.  One daughter selected a grandfather's clock much like the one Hal had made for his home some time ago. His next daughter asked for an entertainment unit for her home.  And, his third daughter asked him for a grandfather's clock much like his first daughter, but taller since her home had nine-foot ceilings. I should tell you that Hal and I taught high school together for over thirty years; Hal teaching wood and metal lab as well as drafting courses while I taught photography and graphic arts.  Hal is a skilled craftsman who is very meticulous and precise in just about every thing he does.  
The seven-foot grandfather's clock that
Hal built for his daughter.  Notice that
the top of the clock is slightly taller than
the floor joists in his home.  The clock
will have to be tipped carefully to be
able to remove it from his workshop.
A few years ago he built an entire set of wooden bee hives for a new hobby he was beginning.  After seeing what Hal had constructed and what others were using, the comparison was remarkable.  Hal selected the proper type of wood and made the most perfect joints to construct his bee hives.  I'm sure there weren't many bees in the country who had a better place to live than those bees at Hal's house.  So, as I began my descent into his basement workshop, I knew that I would see something spectacular!  And, I wasn't disappointed!!  The most beautiful seven foot grandfather's clock I had ever seen.  Wasn't too long ago that I visited the National Watch and Clock Museum in nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania and no where in the museum did I see anything that could top the clock I was standing in front of in Hal's basement workshop.  Hal spent the next half-hour telling me how he constructed the clock and all the problems he encountered and how he solved them.  He first started with a set of plans that were purchased from Klockit.  He then searched for the best cherry lumber that could be found in Lancaster County.  It had to have just the perfect grain with no warping or twisting to them.  Next came ... well, I think I'll just show you some photos of the rest of it.

Hal began each shop session by turning on his clock so he could tell how many hours it took to build the grandfather's clock.  He began working on the clock January 4 of this year and spent 343 hours on it's construction.
Hal points out the moulding that was both interesting and tedious to make. 
Here is a sample of how Hal glued three pieces of wood together after he had created the shapes he wanted.
This is one of the router bits he needed to purchase in order to form the moulding for the clock's bonnet.
A pattern Hal made to help him create the openings in the side access panels.
A view of the side access panel that is partially removed so you can see the face of the clock.
The center part of the fluted column mouldings was made by gluing three strips of wood together with paper between them, turning the moulding on the lathe and then breaking it apart.  The bottom part was made with a router.
This is a tool inherited from his father that he used to place the small brads in the mouldings that hold the beveled glass in place.
If you look closely, about halfway between the top and bottom of the photo, you can see one of the metal brads that was put in place by the tool above.
On the right side of the clock's face can be seen these settings: Silent (remains silent), 4/4 Silent (chimes only on hour), Whitt. (Whittington chimes), St. Mich. (St. Michael chimes) and Westm. (Westminster chimes).  You may choose any one of the settings on this clock movement.  The clock has 8 chime rods that can produce just about any melody within an octave range that doesn't require flats or sharps. 
On the other side of the clock face is "On" (chimes are activated at all times) and "Night Off" (chimes are activated except for hours between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM)
The phases of the moon will rotate in the face as the clock runs.  Around the moving moon dial is a brass dial that runs from 1 to 29.  These numbers represent the days of the moon's cycle around the earth.  A full moon cycle is 29 1/2 days.
The decorative locking hardware is displayed in this photograph.
The clock was stained with a slight red cherry stain which was rubbed on and then four coatd of Minwax Tung Oil Finish was applied. After sanding with 400 grit abrasive paper, and polishing with 0000 steel wool, a coat of wax finished the job.
The proud craftsman locking the door on the beautiful grandfather's clock he just finished.
This plate gives the name of the craftsman who built the clock.  Hal mounted it behind the center cross piece of cherry wood so you would have to open the door to see the plate.  He doesn't feel he needs to have his name displayed on the outside of the case, but he truly is a master craftsman.
There are many other features that I could attempt to explain to you, but I tried to show you some of the craftmanship that Hal built into the clock that will soon stand in his daughter's home in Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.