Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, November 30, 2009

The "Lunch at Costco" Story

It was an ordinary day. Both Carol and I are off work today and decided we would go out for lunch. How about Costco? You bet, I enjoy the variety there. Place was crowded today so I knew we would have to wait in line for the samples we would have for lunch. Before we started with the meal we hit the stand that was offering free disinfecting wipes. We could start to smell the food. First we hit the appetizers: Vlasic sweet and dill pickles, Sabre Hummus with roasted pine nuts on Dave’s Celebration crackers (a favorite of ours), across to the other side of the store for La Torta Italian layer spread crackers and whole wheat crackers with cream cheese and antipasto sauce. “Hey, where are the small cups of energy drink they had last week?” I asked Carol. “We’re certainly going to need something to drink before the end of the meal.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know where the drinking fountain is if you need a drink,” Carol replied. She just doesn’t seem to be getting this all-inclusive lunch idea. The breads are next: Roasted garlic bread with melted butter on it (yummy), Bavarian nut bread and pumpkin streusel (which could be in the breads or desserts category). Today there is only one salad entrĂ©e so we give it a try: Paisley Farm’s 4 bean salad (Not a big fan of this one, though Carol seems to enjoy it). Now for the vegetables and main menu. We search for those mashed potatoes we saw earlier. The server was just finishing the preparation of these. Idaho Mashed Potatoes with French Fried Onions. Looked and tasted great. I asked for an extra large helping of the onions and he obliged. Great service!! I’ll remember when I divvy out the tips. We also enjoyed the Sof’ella All Natural rice and beans, broccoli and cheese pilaf and the garlic and rosemary Risotto. “Better slow down a little,” I tell Carol, “before we get to stuffed for dessert.” The main offerings were: Chicken Alfredo with Penne Pasta (extremely garlicky which I love - I actually may buy some of this one day), Hand Stuffed Roasted Peppers with Turkey (so-so) and the Mac-A-Roli bite sized Ravioli (my favorite of the meal, but can’t be good for you - can any of this?). “Let’s hit the desserts before they’re all gone,” I tell Carol. She’s right behind me along with 40-50 other people. We start with the Egg Nog Cream Puffs and Hershey Kiss Cookies, then find the Ferrero Rocher Chocolates and the Fudgie Wudgie Gourmet Fudge. I have the peanut butter while Carol has the Pumpkin Cheesecake. Getting stuffed now! Time to do our shopping. We put in our cart a package of chicken broth, flat-bread sandwich wraps and shea butter. That’s enough for today. On our way out we spot the Wrigley’s and Orbit gum stands. Why not! Alas, there is something to drink. Cups of Vitamin D3 Liquid Supplement. Sounds good to me. A healthy lunch at Costco.!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The "Ferris Wheel" Story

It was a ordinary day. We were celebrating Thanksgiving on the Saturday after so our daughter Brynn M. and her family could attend. They live in Maryland and celebrated with her husband Dave’s parents on Thanksgiving Day. Today my Granddaughter Courtney Anne M., who is 7 years old and in second grade at Centerville Elementary School in Urbana, Maryland, is my guest blogger. Her story follows: Tampah and I were going to ride the Ferris Wheel. I put on my pink sweatshirt and meanwhile Tampah put on his Cape May sweatshirt. When everyone was dressed and ready to go ride some rides we went up to the boardwalk and started to walk to Wonderland pier and soon we were there. We could see the Ferris Wheel up in the sky. The Ferris Wheel was lit up but was stopping to let people on. When we got there we went to get some tickets. We rode a couple rides and then headed toward the Ferris Wheel. It was close to the Wacky Worm. We had to wait in line to ride the Ferris Wheel. A few people got on but we didn’t get on, but we got on the second time. We got on and we started moving, then it stopped and we were stuck up at the top. We could see the whole boardwalk. We took a picture and Tampah held the camera and snapped it with out dropping the camera. The Ferris Wheel took us around two times. The Ferris Wheel was about 120 feet tall. Next I rode other rides with my family because Tampah get sick on some rides that I ride. When were all tired we headed back and on the way back we got some ice cream from Ritas. It’s awesome!!! And how about that folks! When I was in second grade it was still Dick and Jane does ....... And writing? I didn't learn that until 4th grade! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The "Playboy Magazine" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just come home from teaching at MTHS and needed to make a delivery to our church, St. James Episcopal. From time to time I would print envelopes, bulletins, stationery, brochures or what ever was needed for the church. I had a few boxes of envelopes with me today and came home to pick up my youngest, Tad, who enjoyed riding with me to church for my deliveries. We parked behind the church in the lot reserved for church personnel. I guess I fit into that category today. After walking through the historical archway next to our rectory, we entered the front door of the parish house. Up the few steps and into the parish house office where Evelyn B. greeted us and made a big fuss over Tad as she always did. I looked across the hall and saw our minister, Rev. Stan I. in his office. Stan was a favorite with all our kids. He always had a story to share with them. He was also a big baseball fan and his father had been a professional umpire for some years. He looked up from his reading, saw us in the hall and motioned for us to come into his office for a visit. Tad seemed interested in sharing something with Evelyn so I headed over to see Stan by myself. I sat in a chair in front of his desk and we began a conversation. Shortly, Evelyn entered his office holding Tad’s hand and announced that Tad had something he wanted to tell Stan. “OK, Tad. What would you like to share with me today?” Stan asked him. “My Dad has a magazine with naked women in it!” was his reply. Wow!! What to do. Needless to say, I turned about 10 shades of RED. I have absolutely no recollection of what I said or did next. I do remember walking in the door at home and telling my wife I think I am in trouble at church. Luckily this was on a Monday and I had six more days for everything to cool off at church. Sunday rolled around and we made our way to church. Sat in our same pew we always did. After the Children’s Sermon, the kids left for Sunday School. It was at this time that the lady behind me touched my shoulder and said, “I hear you have an interesting magazine at home.” I felt myself turning crimson and I turned around to see many smiling, almost laughing faces looking at me. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The "Perfect Shot" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was sitting watching the monkeys. We had arrived at the Divi Southwinds Resort in Barbados a few days ago and found that the green monkeys inhabit the resort at different times of the day. When we checked in we were given a room with a view of the parking lot and the tennis court. Boy, does that stink except for the neat entertainment that is offered! I walked out of the patio door and sat on the porch and saw the monkeys playing in the tennis court. At least a dozen of them. Directly across from the resort was a nature reserve where they lived, but they came to the Divi each day to brush up on their tennis. Up and down the net, over the fence, chasing each other to the delight of the patrons of the Divi. You didn’t dare get to close to them because they are wild and have big teeth. Most mornings I would get up early and try to get photos of them as they arrived in the morning. Next to the tennis court was a ten foot high wall that was about 40-50 feet away from our viewing point.They traveled on top of the wall to get to the trash cans of the Divi. This seemed to be their final destination each day. Every time I approached the fence they would let me know what my limits were. A show of the teeth was all I needed. I wasn’t satisfied with the photos I had, so I devised a plan to get the “Perfect Shot”. I got up EARLIER then they did and quietly left our room and sat under a very large tree about 20 feet from the wall. Had the camera ready with the long lens and was as still as possible. Here they come! One.....two......about a dozen of them. The leader is the largest and most muscular. He enjoys showing off for rest. Others are picking at each other, grooming themselves or enjoying jumping on each other. Mothers are carrying their young on their backs. Half of them seem overweight, a few obese while one actually looks anorexic. Kind of like humans, huh! They park themselves on the fence in front of me. Wow! What a shot! Then something hits me, physically. One has left the fence and is next to me throwing sticks toward me. Now what do I do? Throw them back at him? Nah! Take his picture! I move as slowly as possible and point the camera at him. CLICK! Again, CLICK! That’s enough he decides and starts toward me. Scares the crap out of me. This little monkey is intimidating me. The rest are watching from the fence. I let out a yell, hop to my feet and run as quickly as I can, not even looking back to see if he is gaining on me. Do you think they were all laughing at me? Just like humans! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The "Puka Dog" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were searching for something to watch on TV. Kinda hard to do some days, isn’t it? “How about the show on PCN,” I questioned. “PCN Tours. Can’t be any worse that what we’re watching now.” I continued. Carol replied, “If we must.” PCN is the Pennsylvania Cable Network and PCN Tours is a show about industries in PA. Sound neat to you? Hey, that’s because you never watched it! We hit the button and there it was! “Holy Cow. The ‘Puka Dog Machine’ is made in Pennsylvania? Wow!!” I said. You see, years ago we traveled to Hawaii just to get a Puka Dog. Not really, but it was a highlight of my trip. Months before our trip we were watching The Travel Channel and the show called “Hot Dog Paradise” and saw this unusual hotdog that they were making on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. I told Carol that if we are going to Hawaii, I want to have a Puka Dog, so we planned to make Kaua’i one of the three stops we would make on our vacation. Beautiful island and probably one of my two favorite islands in Hawaii. We saw that the Puka Dog shop was located near Poipu Beach so we searched for a resort near Poipu for our lodging. The Sheraton Kauai was our choice, right around the corner from the shopping center where we could get a Puka Dog. A Puka Dog is really a sausage that is inserted into a mini-sub roll that has been toasted in the center. An unsliced roll is pushed onto a 1” round heated post that toasts the inside of the roll. Accompanied photo will how the machine does the toasting. Special tropical sauces such as mango, pineapple, coconut and papaya are placed inside the roll, then the sausage is forced into the roll. Unbelievable taste! A meal in a roll!! I’ll put it this way......we had more than one! Back to PCN. The owner of Ashland Technologies in Hegins, PA was on his honeymoon in Hawaii a few years ago and also had a Puka Dog. He was hooked, also. He asked the owner about franchises. The owner said he had made his own grill unit and didn’t know where you would buy one to start a franchise. The owner of the Ashland company said he would make them, and the results of his efforts were what we saw on PCN. I could almost taste the Puka Dog just looking at the TV. I’m sure we will have a Puka Dog franchise in our neighborhood soon. You might also!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The "Crucians" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just returned from our trip to the Cruzan Rum Distillery in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. The “We” is Jerry, Just Sue, Carol and I. Natives of St. Croix are called “Crucians”, therefore they named the rum after the natives. The distillery is located near the city of Frederiksted which is on the western end of the island. After arrival we paid our entrance fee and met our tour guide. No rules or regulations were explained to us, “Just keep up with the tour guide.” We first had a quick lecture about how they make the rum. Molasses is extracted from the sugar cane which is grown on the island and then is added to water and yeast. This is heated until the yeast converts the molasses to alcohol. All this is done in large vats which we are about to visit. We entered this metal building which has some of the sides opened, I guess for ventilation. We travel up a ladder to a metal catwalk which is located directly next to the open vats. It sure is hot in here! Unbelievable! We can touch the brew (not supposed to, but.....), smell it, spit into it (didn’t see anyone do this), pee into it (now that I’m sure they would see, I guess), etc. Can you imagine taking a tour like this in the US. OSHA would shut this place down in a heartbeat. When the alcohol level is 10% they pump it into a column and remove the alcohol. The faster the brew reaches the 10% level, the less bacteria is formed. Not quite sure how that is done. I missed that part of the explanation, since I was thinking about all the things people probably have done to the brew over the years. That, and looking forward to the taste testing at the end of the tour. The alcohol is then placed in wooden barrels for aging. I’m pretty sure I got this explanation right. We leave the catwalk and follow our guide. Where is she by now? See, I could still be back in the metal building doing something I shouldn’t be doing. OK, we find her and walk between the large metal columns to the building with all the wooden drums. Different varieties of wood are used based on what the final product will taste like, be used for or what color it will be. Our next stop is the bottling line where the workers have no dress restrictions, no hair protection or wear no gloves. I guess the alcohol content is so high it will kill anything that gets into the bottle with the liquid rum. Bottles are sealed and packed in boxes. On to the testing. St. Croix molasses has a slight licorice taste and is very sweet and this influences the taste of the rum. Today we are tasting three of the six flavored rums they produce: coconut, raspberry and mango. They certainly don’t skimp on the quantities they give you. Bathroom cup size samples. The girls try one sample and pass on the rest, but Jerry and I have to give all an equal try. How about that 12 year aged bottle on the shelf. Sure! Now this is way to strong for me to drink straight. A sip is all I can handle. Jerry, being in the Navy, chugs the sample right down. He’s starting to feel the testing session. We just finished with the best part of the tour. Time to head back to our resort. Carol, you better drive!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - group photo: Carol, LDub with the rum, Just Sue and Jerry.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The "Blind Date" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I were reminiscing about the good olde times. The subject of how we met became the focus of the conversation. Time to share it with you! It was a BLIND DATE! Yep, they really do work out sometimes. Sometimes has grown to 42 years now. We both had recently broken up with boyfriend, girlfriend and were available again. My Father and her Mother worked together at Meiskeys' Jewelry store in Lancaster. Her Mom had told her a few times, "You should meet this nice LDub." After some bribing, Carol finally agreed and her Mom approached my Dad and said we should meet each other. My Dad approached me and asked if I was interested in a good looking girl whose mother worked with him. You bet I was! Well, I made the call. It was early June and we agreed to go out for something to eat for our first weeknight date. Carol and her parents used to live in Martic Forge, but had recently moved about two blocks away from my parent's house in Grandview Heights. How convenient. I showed up on my Honda motorcycle for our first date. After greeting, we hopped on the cycle and off we went for a bit to eat. After about five minutes it started to rain. OK, this isn't going to work so we headed back to my house to get the car. We went to Martin's Drive-In for a burger and fries and talked all evening about our lives. She worked at a cytology laboratory and I was in college and working part-time at the Acme Supermarket. A cytology laboratory does cell testing to find if a person has cancer. Since Carol saw the horrors of cancer and the effect smoking had on a person, she told me she would only continue to date me if I gave up smoking. She was gorgeous, so that was a no-brainer. She was 18 and I was 21. After taking her home, we agreed to take my Pontiac Tempest and go to the drive-in movie on Saturday evening. Did I kiss her on our first date, you're wondering. We both don't remember, REALLY! We dated all summer going to movies, the beach and family functions. On October 27th, her birthday, I presented her with a wooden jewelry box lined with red velvet that I had made. Inside was an engagement ring that I naturally had bought from Meiskeys' Jewelry store. Got a really good price on it!! Years later, after having the ring appraised for insurance purposes, she discovered the carat weight wasn't as big as I told her it was. Oops! Time for an upgrade. Now I know this isn't as exciting as when some people get engaged, but remember, I'm just an ordinary guy. We were engaged on her 19th birthday. We talked and talked and talked and picked a date, June 17th for our Wedding. Almost one year from when we first met. A lot happened during the first year we knew each other, but you'll have to wait for those stories. On June 17th we were married at St James Episcopal Church. Now, that's a really neat story. But, later. Anyway, the "Blind Date" story proves the TV and magazine ad, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The "Even Steven" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were remodeling our family room and had purchased a new loveseat to replace our old sofa which had served us well for over ten years. We also had to purchase that really nice 42" Vizio HD 1080P so we could watch my beloved Phillies. Of course Dancing With The Stars will probably look much better on it also. Someone told me that the dresses on the female dancers look even skimpier in HD. We placed the new TV in our living room until everything was re-painted and the new loveseat was placed in the family room. What to do with the old sofa? How about Craig's List. Yep! We placed an ad and about an hour later someone was on their way to see what the sofa looked like. A young couple with a three year old son knocked at the door looking for the sofa. Naturally the three year old had to jump on it to see if it was any good and the good old sofa didn't disappoint. They agreed to take the sofa and we agreed to reduce the price since they seemed like a really nice family. Just then the husband looked into our living room and saw the big box with the Vizio HD TV in it. "Hey, we have the same TV!" he said. " We just bought it and I haven't hung it on the wall yet." I replied, "I'm just about ready to put it on the wall next to you. I have to call Comcast and see what I need to do to change to HDTV and what new equipment I will have to rent." "I can help you with that," he said to me. "And how can you do that," I responded. Well, it seems that he worked for Comcast and did all the scheduling for installations. "When do you want it installed?" he asked. We set up a time and he said, "How about a DVR to record your favorite programs?" Wow! We can record all our favorite House Hunters, "Top Ten Favorite ......" shows from the Travel Channel, Dancing With The Stars, American Idol and any Phillies games I might sleep through. "Also, how about HBO and Showtime for a year? You can also put your flat screen TV you have here in your family room somewhere else and just keep the box you have for no charge." "You can do that?" I said to him. "I'm in charge of doing that for Comcast. We have some great promotions now and I can offer all of them to you if you want them." "OK, I'll take them all and you can have the sofa for FREE!!" Even Steven!!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The "It's Who You Know" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were looking at the Lancaster Newspaper to see if we recognized ourselves. It seems that someone in the family was always getting their photo in the paper. Since I taught photography in high school and very often invited local photographers to come to my class to speak, I became really good friends with most of the local newspaper photographers. As the years went by and my family began to grow, whenever the photographers needed a feature, weather, news or sports shot, they would call, since they knew I had someone in the family that would fit into one of those categories. It all started with our oldest son Derek when he was two years old and the spring flowers started to come up. They were there in the front yard taking a weather photo. When our daughter Brynn, who was born on the 4th of July, turned four, they were at our house for a feature photo with the cake. Our youngest Tad did the same "flower in the front yard" picture when he turned two and spring rolled around. Then it was my wife's turn. She was working at a stand set up by our church for Lancaster Town Fair and it was a perfect feature shot. I believe the photographer that took that shot had just left my classroom before heading to the church. When our two oldest became involved in sports, it seemed like they always had their photo in the paper. They experienced success in athletics so they were natural choices for the paper. Plus, remember I knew the photographers! I had to constantly explain to my friends and colleagues at work how they were the only ones from the school who had their photos in the paper. When my oldest son continued to college and pitched for Villanova, they did a feature story on him with a photo. Gees, getting boring isn't it? When Tad was a senior in high school, he won numerous awards in the local Scholastic Arts competition with his photographs. Now it really sounds fishy, I know. Well, they featured him in a full page photo which was taken at school in my classroom. Next came Carol again, this time with a feature story about her and our cat Otis. It seems the paper was doing a story about our vet and custom blended prescriptions and found out we had a cat that needed medicine for a heart problem. Another photo opp. Oh yea, I wasn't left out. They did a feature in 1990 when I was picked as an outstanding educator in the public school system. It never ends, does it? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos are: Top right-Brynn, Top left-Tad, Bottom right-Derek, Bottom left-Carol and Otis

The "Olde Homestead" Story

It was an ordinary day. 929 N. Queen was the last house on Queen St. We lived in a semi-detached and Deb and Bob B. lived next to us. On our right was Science Press, a printing company. The Lancaster Train Station was at the end of the block. The porch at 929 was a gathering place. A painted white railing surrounded the porch, except at the stoop where you entered. We had a glider and two metal lounge chairs on the porch. The floor was painted gray and a rattan rug covered some of the porch except for a black ribbed rubber runner (say that a couple of times) that ran from the front door to the stoop. Three concrete steps led to the front sidewalk. Overhead we had two tan awnings in front and one on the side that gave us shade, even on the hottest of days. You could pull the awning up to prevent any damage from tree limbs falling on it if a storm was approaching. Really neat porch! My friends often came over and we would play on the porch. Cowboys, marbles, games or just sitting and talking about what we would do when we could think of something to do. The ridges in the rubber runner made for great car races or to race our marbles. The porch floor was slanted to help the water run off so it made for a natural raceway. Across the street was the US Postal Service garage where they worked on the disabled mail trucks. A few yards down from the garage was a large grass covered field where they would hold revival meetings. Most of the time they were held in a huge tent that had guards at the door to make sure you were supposed to be at the revival. Strange noises, music and sometimes snakes came out of the tent, but my parents would never let me venture over to see what was going on inside. As a matter of fact, they never ventured over either. Scary place, it was. We would ride our tricycles, wagons and pedal cars up and down the front sidewalk until we would get a cut or someone had to go home to eat. The biggest event would be when we had a gully-washer. You have to know what that is, don't you? If not, it is a torrential summer storm that causes tremendous flooding. Since Queen Street ended at the end of our block on the right and sloped from one end on our left to the other end on our right, all the water from any large storm would flow down hill to the right. The sewer at the end of Queen Street NEVER could handle all the water and the street would always flood, up to our porch. Today my aunt Lois (only 1 year older than me), younger brother Steve and I are sitting on the porch watching the rain and waiting for the flooding. Really coming down. Yep, it's going to flood. Into the house we head to get all the boats, buckets and water toys we own. Deep enough now that cars won't venture down the street. Doesn't matter how dirty the water gets, we play in the ""gully". Great fun on Queen Street. Doesn't get any better than this!! Oh, the memories....... It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The "Best Spent $12" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I were watching House Hunters on HGTV. Our usual evening fare. Our son Tad had just come over to begin to assemble football programs. I had taught high school for many years, had retired from teaching, but still did most of the school's in-house printing on their equipment. I had just finished the football programs and had them stacked next to Tad's pool table in the basement. I had hired him to collate the programs for each week of the season. There were 30,000 11"x17" sheets of paper stacked in boxes around the edge of the pool table for him to work on. There was a home game in two weeks and Tad needed to finish 300 programs for it. Hope they will sell, since we have been having steady rain for about a week and the field and bleachers must be soaked. Well, Tad greets us and says he is heading down to start work on the first program. About 30 seconds later Tad returns and says, "Has anyone been down the basement lately?" "Why?" I ask. "You might want to go down and see for yourself," he replies. OK, here we go. As we start down the steps we notice something extremely strange. Something is not right. Everything seems surreal. I take a few more steps and step in water. Cold, clear water. It was so clear and still that you didn't even know that there was water there until I saw the ripples in it from my foot. Holy s**t! Where had it come from? We had a french drain in our basement, but didn't realize that we were supposed to have a sub pump. Wasn't one there when we moved into the house. Then it struck me. The programs!!! All submerged in 21" of water. Now what. We placed a call to our local fire company for help. A month before, my insurance company called to try to sell me an additional rider for my home owner's policy. After asking numerous questions I decided to pay the additional $12 for the rider which unbelievably included flood damage. Best move I ever made! I do get lucky every so often! Only problem was that I still had to have the programs done soon and they had to be totally reprinted. At least the material was covered under the policy and I had help with the reprinting. Also covered under the policy was the cleanup, my son's pool table and his entire collection of hockey cards which we he had left in the basement closet after moving out a few months before. That turned out to be the largest item. After receiving the check from the insurance company for all the damage, I'm sure you know what I bought first. The biggest pump I could fit in the french drain opening. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Search for the #1 Beach" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just traveled to Half Moon Bay in Antigua. This is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. It didn't make my top list, by a long shot! Over the years different travel magazines such as Travel and Leisure, Caribbean Travel and Life, National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler and Islands Magazine have rated islands in the Caribbean and around the world according to: people watching, snorkeling, sunsets, beach bars, romantic destination, friendliest people, undress code and the beach itself. My wife and I have been traveling to the Caribbean for ten years now and have touched the shores and sand of quite a few of the top beaches and have developed a list of our own. The very first beach we went to in the Caribbean was on St. Thomas. I drove our rental car through a maze of hilly and curvy roads until we entered a park area with a toll booth. We paid for the car load of people and entered the parking area. All of a sudden we were struck with the sight of the most gorgeous beach I had ever seen. Magen’s Bay beach! It's sand was so white with crystal blue water. I can visualize it as I type this. This still is one of my favorite beaches, just because it was my first experience with a Caribbean beach. Other top favorites for Carol and I are Crane Beach in Barbados with its’ smooth soft pink sand, Trunk Bay in St. Johns for the beauty of the surrounding area and the fantastic snorkeling, Bottom Bay in Barbados for its’ beauty and solitude, The Baths in Virgin Gorda because of their unique rock formations and snorkeling, Peter Island for the snorkeling, Smuggler’s Cove in Tortola because of the white sand beaches and Pinel Island, an uninhabited island off the coast of St. Martin because of the calm warm waters and the total beach atmosphere. Our top 3 beaches have been and still remain: No. 3 - Grace Bay in Providenciales on the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is a 12 mile powder white beach with water that has so many shades of blue you can’t count them all. No. 2 - Orient Beach in French St. Martin. This beach is referred to as “the Riviera of the Caribbean” and as some say beats the original. It features 5 beach bars, water sports, white sand beaches, fantastic food and drinks and a naturist resort at the far end of the beach. No. 1 - SHOAL BAY BEACH in Anguilla. I’m not sure what to say about it. It is truly beautiful!!! White sand, perfectly colored water, and solitude. A remarkable Caribbean jewel! We also have a special “secret beach”, but that will be another story! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Top right photo is Grace Bay, top left is Orient Beach and bottom is Shoal Bay Beach.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The "Why LDub?" Story

  • It was an ordinary day. I had just received a call from a friend asking me about my blog that I type. “What’s up with the LDub?” he wanted to know. Well, I had to give him the explanation of why I referred to myself as LDub. It all goes back to my daughter Brynn. She lives in Urbana, Maryland and plays “Bunco” once a month with her girlfriends. They always share stories about their families and she likes to share her stories about what crazy things her Mom and especially her Dad do from time to time. Her friends got to know me by my initials LW. They always wanted to know what LW did in the last month that was funny or dumb. She never disappointed them it seems. I never knew about these stories until I was ready to start my blog and asked what I should call it. She knew right away what to title it. By now her friends had stopped calling me LW, since George Bush was referred to as “W” and they knew better than to call me that. I now got the new name of LDub. So, “life with ldub” became the start of my blogspot address. Logical? A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about my blog and he said that people like to know your real name, because it makes it more personal for them. Hey, I guess that will be OK if you know what my real name is. LARRY W. WOODS! Feel more personal now? My only problem is that there used to be another Larry W. Woods in this general vicinity and we have had quite some time with sharing the same name. It seems he moved to another state for various reasons which I could also tell you about. You know that has to be a story soon. The stories will amaze and entertain you. So, for now, I am the only Larry W. Woods that you know personally. Alias, LDub!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Big Climb" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are headed to Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. Jerry, Just Sue, Carol and I plan to climb the falls! Yeah, right! Our bus arrives at our resort, The Sandals Grande Ocho Rios, and transports us towards the sea. During our bus trip we observe armed guards standing at several street corners. What are they for? No one seems to know. Glad we haven’t rented a car and tried this on our own. We arrive at the base of the falls, just where they enter into the Caribbean Sea. Just so beautiful! They climb 980 feet from the ocean to the top of the falls. And we are going to climb them!! The whole way to the top!! Yeah, right! I have my water shoes on at least so I won’t fall 970 feet as I come close to the top. We have assembled into a group of about a dozen tourists and are assigned to a guide. He explains what we are about to do. He will lead the way and we will form a chain of people behind him. “Just follow the same stones I climb on and everyone will be fine,” he announces. Carol and I make sure we are at the front of the line so we can at least see the stones he is climbing. The four of us must be at least twice the age of everyone else in our group. We are told there are various stages going up the falls that we can opt out of the climb if we care to. Here we go! He grabs Carol’s hand and she interlocks with me as I take Just Sue’s hand. We climb around the edge of the water for a short distance until we reach a group of about 30 climbers and our guide feels we can avoid them by heading out into the middle of the falls. The water is COLD coming down from the top. Hold on tight! Up the falls we go. After about 300 feet we reach a plateau and stop for photos and to stand under one portion of the falls. REALLY COLD. We may stop our climb at this point if we care to he tells us. He is looking right at the four of us when he says this. “I’m fine,” I announce. “Me too,” Jerry replies. Off we go again. You have to remember that the only activity we have had for over a week now is walking to the beach, lounging in the water, sitting down, napping, eating and tipping our drinks with our hand. We now look up the side of the falls and realize this could be grueling. And it is!!! 700 feet and still going. We’re starting to get the hang of it now. As long as he doesn’t fall down, I think the rest of us can hold on to him. One more photo opportunity under another part of the falls. “Anyone want to call it quits yet?” he asks. Water seems to be getting warmer now or maybe we are starting to get numb by now. We have reached the top part of the falls and stop for one more shot. We have climbed DUNN’S RIVER FALLS. What a feeling. Just don’t look down. But, what we feel like tomorrow? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Cafeteria Special" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were expecting our friends Jerry and Just Sue for a visit in Lancaster. We told them not to stop for supper because we were supplying the meal tonight. Jerry and I grew up together. We lived a few blocks from each other, but very rarely played together when we were younger. He had friends in his block he played with and I had friends in my neighborhood that I played with. Upon entering elementary school we got to see each other more and slowly became better friends. Well, we enjoyed eating lunch together and had our favorite meals in the lunchroom. You only had the choice of buying the “Special” or bringing your own lunch. Most times we had the “Special”. At least I thought we both did. Tonight we were going to have one of his favorite “Specials”, or so I thought it was a favorite. They arrived from State College about 5:00 PM and after exchanging welcomes we settled around the table in our kitchen area. Carol announced that we were going to have something that I said was one of Jerry’s favorite meals in elementary school. She had made it a few times before for our kids, but it never received great revues with them. It was and still is one of my favorites. As they sat around the table Carol presented the platter in the middle of the table. CREAMED PEAS AND EGGS ON TOAST!! “One of our favorites in elementary school, right Jerry?” I said to my friend. “I’m sorry Ldub, but I don’t ever remember eating this,” Jerry said. “What is it?” Carol makes it by making a white sauce and taking a can of green peas and putting them in the sauce. She simmers this for a while, then puts chopped up hard-boiled eggs into it. It is poured over white toast. Very tasty!! Well you better like it I thought, because we have more than a dozen pieces of toast on the plate covered in this concoction of white sauce and chopped up eggs. You know what? We ate the whole thing. At least Jerry, Just Sue and I ate it all. Carol announced before they arrived that she just couldn’t force herself to eat it and to this day I still have no idea what she had for supper that night. Oh yeah, we needed applesauce as a supplement to the tasty meal and cartons of chocolate milk. Topped supper off with ice cream Dixie Cups, just like in elementary school. We used to take the wooden spoons, stick them in the middle of the ice cream, turn the dixie cup on it’s side and roll it on the table to cause the ice cream to separate from the carton. Then you could pull the ice cream out of the cup and hold it like a popsicle. Pretty neat! At least I thought so. We’ll have to have it again soon. NOT! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The "Young Republicans" Story

It was an ordinary day. Baseball weather! I was 13 years old and playing for the Young Republicans junior-midget baseball team in the Red Rose Jr. Midget League in Lancaster. The Young Republicans were a team featuring 13 and 14 year old boys. The year before I had played for Schick in the local midget-midget league. That league is for boys ages 9-12. During the last few games of the season I noticed a man with a baseball hat that had an elephant on it coming to our games and standing behind the backstop. After our final game I noticed this man talking to my Dad along the sidelines. Dad called me over and introduced me to Mr. Regar. He was the coach of the Young Republicans and he wanted me to play for him the next year. He had also asked Johnny T. from my Schick team. Sure, why not!! I found out later that Mr. Regar would travel throughout Lancaster County and watch players in the midget-midget leagues to hand pick players for his team for the following year. What an honor. We started in early spring with practice and practice games in preparation for the upcoming season. I was picked to play 1st base. The only problem was that the returning 1st baseman was 14 and the star of last year's team. Oh well, I was still on the best team. That year we ended the regular season with a 29-1 record and I batted .364 for the season. I did get to play in almost every game and started over half of the games when the other 1st baseman was on vacation or hurt. Our only loss that year was to Reamstown by the score of 4-0. It occured in an open tournament where boys up to age 16 could play. WE WERE GOOD! The week after the season ended we traveled to Philadelphia and won the Pennsylvania State Jr. Midget Championship, winning the Championship game 2-1 with a home-run in the 10th inning by Cook R. A letter was published in the Lancaster Newspaper congratulating us for our conduct and sportsmanship throughout the tournament. We won the admiration of the hugh crowds that came to see the tournament. You see, Mr. Regar was big on these two qualities and it was his influence on me that helped me stress the same qualities when I coached. By winning the State title, we qualified for the Mason-Dixon Tournament which was a tournament for teams from Pennsylvania, New York, Washington D.C, Maryland and Virginia. You had to qualify for the invitation only tournament and we secured a spot with our play in Philadelphia. The tournament this year was to be held in York, PA. It seemed like we had home field advantage!! Even though we were only 30 minutes away from the baseball complex in York, the Young Republican Club of Lancaster arranged for us to stay in a hotel for the length of the tournament. Neat, no REALLY NEAT!! The crowds were large, cheering for our team. Well, we captured that tournament also, winning the Championship game by a score of 1-0 with a homerun by Cook R. This was probably the best team I ever played on during my lifetime. Many players went on to play in college or in the minors. My oldest son Derek also had a chance to play in the Mason-Dixon tournament which they won. I got to coach my youngest son Tad in the same tournament which we also won. Sounds hereditary! For a reward at the end of the season the Young Republican Club bought each team member a beautiful blue winter jacket with white leather sleeves and tournament patches on it for the championships we won. On the front was a big white elephant!! Mr. Regar's influence over me was only on the baseball field, because you see, I'm a registered Democrat!!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - In the newspaper photo line-up I'm the 9th player from the left while in the posed team photo I'm the middle row far right player, next to Cook R.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The "Shot in the Dark" Story

It was an ordinary day. It has been our first full day on the beach and "We" are all tired and hungry. The "We" is my son Derek, wife Barb and son Caden; my daughter Brynn, husband Dave and daughters Courtney and Camille; my son Tad; and my wife, Carol and I. We have made our annual pilgrimage to Ocean City, NJ. for a week of fun in the sun. We stay in a condo which is located in the beach block near one of the amusement parks. No one has to cross traffic to get to the beach or to the boardwalk. We all head back to the condo for showers, maybe a quick nap (Not!) and supper. Suppers are usually prepared ahead of time, frozen and brought to the shore to make preparation time shorter and easier. Each family brings a few supper with them. Tonight will be Carol's milky chicken casserole with roasting ears and applesauce. Dessert will follow on the boardwalk either at Rita's or at Dairy Queen. After everyone has taken a shower (which is no small feat) and gotten dressed, we sit down for supper. My, everyone looks a little red, except Barb and Caden who still look like Ivory Snow. Oh yeah, and Dave who is his usual bronze color already. This is a festive time with everyone talking about which rides they will be going on and what they plan to eat or buy on the boardwalk. The TV is blaring as we try to see and hear who's favorite team won or lost today. After supper we attempt to clean up and prepare for our walk to the "Boards". Anyone need a sweatshirt or long sleeves tonight? How about a hat? Let's make sure we hold hands when we get on the boardwalk so we can stay together. We're off!!! Carol and I usually bring up the rear to make sure no one is left behind and to start to relax for the evening (Is that possible?) Let's head toward Wonderland Pier tonight someone says. We all turn left and fall in line. It is just starting to get dark and the cool air arrives. I have my madras shorts and a long sleeved shirt on tonight. After a block or two something strange happens to me. I hear this noise from behind me and then I feel it. Something hot hit me on the back of my head. I reach for the back of my head and yell to Carol, "I've been shot." At first I see panic in her eyes as she turns me to see the warm stuff running down the back of my head, then she looks me in the eye and says, "I think you'll live. A seagull just pooped on your head." It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Skiing Rowboat" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were on the Elk River in Maryland for a two week vacation with the Howry family. Number one activity for the two weeks would be water activities with skiing at the top of the list. Gary H. and the boys would set up a slalom course at the beginning of vacation by tying old plastic milk bottles to bricks with rope and dropping them in the water at pre-determined spots on the river. Just like professional water skiing on ESPN. The three of them would be out on the water skiing and driving the boat most of the day with breaks only for lunch, iced tea and gas. I would accompany them to the marina for gas, but the constant pounding of the waves in the boat during the skiing did wonders on me after drinking all that iced tea. Jumping overboard every half hour to water the river took away time the boys could be skiing so they kindly asked me to stay on shore. I really was content to sit in a chair with a good book and take a nap. So the story continues......both boys were very good at skiing the course and would continue trying at various boat speeds. They had their own competition. The rest of the family didn't even try since you had to be really skilled on one ski to complete the course. Another activity was the "Boogie Board" which was a board much like a surfboard that had rubber shoes on it that you could ride by being pulled behind the boat. I had a hard time standing on it on land so I didn't do this either. Catching a wave and flying through the air on this board was a sight to see. Flips in mid-air were not uncommon. We also had a knee board that you would kneel on for the same types of acrobatics. Both boys became very skilled at all activities. Probably the best at skiing was Tad. And........it all started many years before. Tad loved the water and everything that went with being around the water. Since he was the youngest of our three children he didn't always get to go skiing because of the safety factors. That didn't stop him from constantly bugging those on shore that weren't out in the boat. Tied to the dock throughout vacation was an aluminum rowboat. One day Tad got the crazy idea that I should take him skiing with the rowboat. Just he and I. OK, let's give it a try! We found a small ski with two foot holes and a tow rope in the boat house. All gathered on shore to witness this miracle. I climbed in the rowboat and moved it offshore a distance, tied the rope to the back of the boat, threw the line to my wife who was in on this mission and prepared to pull Tad who was standing in the shallow water with his feet in the ski. I told Tad that on the count of three I would start to row as fast as I could, so be ready!! One.........Two.........! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. In memory of my good friend Gary H.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The "LDub Blog" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were visiting our friends Jerry and Sue in State College. Our mission for the day was to head to Whipple's Lake for some sunning and swimming and then to the Grange Fair for the evening. Well, the weather didn't want to cooperate so we missed the swimming and opted to go to a matinee movie. We decided of "Julia and Julie". A movie about a frustrated temp secretary (Amy Adams) who embarks on a year-long culinary quest to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog. Loved the movie!! On our way out of the movie theatre I said to everyone, "I'm going to write a blog!" After the laughing had stopped, Carol said, "about what?" "How about I write it about my life's experiences? Everyone always says 'You should write a book sometime about all that has happened to you.'" I reply. So there you are! Instantly, I'm a blogger. Now all I have to do is write a few stories. By the time we get back to Jerry and Sue's house to change for the Grange Fair I have a list of about 10 stories I can type. By the time we get home from the fair the list has grown to 20. See, I told you I did some neat things in my life!! I bet I could write a story a day for a year and still not run out of neat tales to tell. We travel back to Lancaster and the next day Carol and I are on our daily 2 mile walk and still thinking about stories. After coming up with half a dozen more I tell her, "Stop thinking of more. We didn't bring anything along to write down the ideas and I know I'll forget them." She says, "How about you remember a couple and I'll remember a couple." "OK, but next time we need to bring a paper and pencil. So it begins....... paper and pencil in the car, paper and pencil on our walks, paper and pencil on the snack tray by the TV, etc. Carol helped me get started in Blogspot and I'm really enjoying myself. I'm reliving my life! Making me feel young again!! I have a colored folder that I add the stories to and it has grown so much that I can't believe I lived this long and did so many things. Dug out all the old photos to see if they offered any clues for stories. I had to start crossing out the really dumb stuff and start concentrating on just the interesting tales. All the stories are true, but some names have been withheld to keep them from getting embarrassed. Even took my laptop along on our recent trip to Antigua so I could enjoy writing on the beach. It did cut into my nap time though. Figured out a few weeks ago how to add photos to help show what really happened and figured out today how to add a counter to the blog to see if anyone other than my kids are reading my stories. To my amazement, within a few hours half a dozen people had viewed my blog. Just as my son said to me, "This is going to really take off Dad when they see all the dumb things that have happened to you." It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Hawaiian Pimple" Story

It was an ordinary day. As a matter of fact, it is July 4th and we are getting ready to take a helicopter ride over the island of Maui with our friends Barb and Harry. Not quite sure what to think about the trip on the S-76 Twin-Jet Sikorsky run by Hawaii Helicopters. My last experience on a helicopter wasn't the most pleasant (see "Township Movie"). We sit in on a pre-flight lecture about what to expect and what we will see during our hour long excursion. There are 6 passengers and the pilot on the flight. Joining Carol and I and Barb and Harry are a couple who are on their honeymoon. We are told that Hawaii Helicopters will be filming the entire procedure and we can purchase a VHS tape of the trip for a souvenir. Why not? No one would believe we did it unless we can prove to them with a souvenir tape. The tape starts to roll in the chopper as we exit the building. We head towards the chopper's side door and enter. Barb and Harry in the front with Carol and I and the newlyweds in the back. Seat belts on....check. I have my 35mm film camera with me for some fantastic shots. Head sets on....check. "What's the matter with your head set?" I ask Carol. Seems to be tangled. Well, we get that straightened out. The excitement builds as the pilot talks to us through our headsets. Then, the pimple I have developed in my nose starts to itch. Got to scratch it! OK. Not again. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Now we have to adjust the air flow to our seats. Not again. Yep, it is bothering me so I scratch it again. We haven't even taken off yet and they have me scratching my nose on our VHS souvenir tape (everyone else says I'm picking it, but NO I'M NOT). The trip goes well and we get to see the entire island by air. Fantastic views and great photos. After landing we purchase our souvenir tape and head back to the resort with Barb and Harry. A few weeks later our family is at the house in Lancaster for a cook-out. "Hey, LDub, let's see the helicopter video," someone says. Into the VCR goes the tape. Well, a few minutes later the entire family is laughing hysterically. Not at our trip, but at the scratching I was doing. Seems we had to rewind over and over and over again to get some more laughs. We never got to see Hawaii. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS. See for yourself. Just a short clip is shown, since it goes on for many more minutes while we wait for lift-off. It really was a pimple!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The "It's All Downhill" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were getting ready for vacation at the Chesapeake Bay. To get there we would have to travel south from our house on Rt. 272 which took us over some very steep hills. Our mode of transportation this year is a mid-60s VW Bus. Dark brown on the bottom and white on top. The model we had was a T2 which had a four cylinder 1.6 liter engine located in the rear which generated 48 horsepower (not much). The bus had an automatic transmission and an air-cooled engine. The heater was a series of pipes that carried air heated by the engine to the passenger compartment. Not very efficient. It did have a radio! Packed in the bus for vacation was clothing for 5 people for the week, food for the same people along with games, fishing equipment, beach chairs, sports equipment, etc. A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF! On the front were strapped three children's bikes, attached to a hand-made rack that had to be low enough to allow me to see to drive, but high enough so the wheels wouldn't strike the road. On the back were strapped two adult's bikes which helped to balance the bus so it wouldn't tip over. I made sure that I had a clear view through the bus so I could see out the back window. Took quite some time to pack. Time to go!!! Everyone in the bus. Off we went. Smooth sailing until we hit the hills on Rt. 272. We had traveled this route many times so we knew when to speed up in order to make it up the hills. Down the first hill without using the brakes, then up the other side. By the time we hit the top of the hill we were going about 15 MPH with a line of traffic behind us. On to the next hill! The bus had a few features you won't find in most other cars. If you wanted to turn left you would push the turn signal down and as you made your turn, the horn would blow. Great conversation piece. If you needed heat in winter you had about 10 minutes of heat before the bus would start to fill with smoke. That was really different. Limited the length of your trips. Well, we made it to the Chesapeake. Unpacked everything and had a fun vacation as usual. Now, it's time to head home in the bus! Oh, No!!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The "Pinel" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just arrived at the ferry dock in the French Cul de sac to go to Pinel Island. This is an island off the coast of St. Martin in the Caribbean. It is one of the favorite destinations for Carol and I. After parking we walk to the dock where the ferry will load. "Ferry" is the name they give it, but it is really just a large boat with plenty of seats in it. The driver stands in the back and steers the ferry the 1/4 mile to the island. The ferry should probably hold 30 people, but we have been on the boat when there were AT LEAST double that. The water is probably no more than 10 feet deep the entire trip and if you are sitting along the edge of the ferry you can actually touch it, since the ferry rides so low in the water with all the weight it carries. We have experienced the same driver for a few years now who is a native of St. Martin and about our age. His one arm and hand is contorted so he has to operate the ferry with only one hand and arm. He wears a whistle around his neck and uses it to notify everyone that he is leaving. The trip over to Pinel takes about 10 minutes, but is an experience of a lifetime. As you approach the island you can see the umbrellas lined up along the shore. Blue, orange and yellow umbrellas signify the 3 different beach bars that occupy the island. There is no electricity on the island, therefore generators, solar panels and propane supply the power for cooking at the island's restaurants. Outdoor toilets are available if needed. The beach is powder soft and as white as can be. The surrounding water is about three to five feet deep for about 30 feet from the shore. Crystal clear! We pick out the yellow umbrellas signifying Karibuni Beach Bar and Yellow Beach. After paying the $20 rental fee we head to the water. You can't imagine how warm and comforting it feels. You really have to be there!! You can eat at the beach bars for lunch, with lobster from their cages a speciality, but we have learned to pack our lunch for the day, because of the very expensive menu items. Tuna salad on a loaf of French bread is our menu for the day along with drinks and a few snacks. After lunch we hike to the top of the island, a distance of maybe a quarter of a mile. From the top we can see the coast of St. Martin and the distant St. Barts. The back side of Pinel offers a deeper aqua colored water for swimming and extreme privacy, since you must hike down a very rough terrain. We make our way down the terrain and share the sand with a few sand crabs. Cooler water greets us as we take a swim to cool off from our trip over the hill. After returning back to our yellow umbrella and chairs we settle in for some reading and napping. The ferry returns every half hour to take you back to the Cul de sac dock, with the last one coming at 5:30. Don't miss it or you'll be there until the next day!!! The final trip usually carries the most people and you wander how everyone can fit on the boat. But they do! 4:30 now and we hear the whistle. It's been such a relaxing day, but time to return. It is our little piece of paradise and we will return again. FOR SURE!!! It is another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The "Time to Quit" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just returned to 925 Janet Ave. with our third child. But, the story really began five years earlier. Carol and I were excited with the news that we were expecting our first child. Boy or girl? What name do we have picked out? What color should we paint the baby's room? All the same questions asked by everyone expecting the first. Well, we needed to start with equipping the bedroom for the baby. Crib, changing table, rocking chair! OK, now when will this little bundle of joy arrive at 925? Carol and Dr. M. estimated March 2nd. What's next? I guess wait! We went out and bought a baby's name book and picked out a few names for both a boy and a girl. At the time we were pro hockey fans and enjoyed games on TV. Our favorite player was Derek Sanderson. OK, there's a name. How about a girl's name. I don't remember! We just knew it had to be a boy. I think! That was a long time ago, remember. Well we waited and waited and waited. I was coaching rifle at MT at the time and every day after school I would go to the rifle range which had no phone in it and cell phones hadn't been invented yet. I would station one of my shooters by a phone in the school office in case Carol would call with a message. Well March 2nd arrived and no call. March 3, 4, 5, 6........ 19, 20, 21, then the season was over. Holy miscalculation!!! March 28th came and it was finally time. Derek Charles (named after Carol's father) was finally born at St. Joe's Hospital in Lancaster. 8 pounds, 15 ounces. BIG BABY. Just ask Carol! I can remember bringing him home because it was a cold, windy day and I placed the flowers we received in the hospital on the top of the car until I could open the door and they all blew off onto me as I reached for them. Time passed and we had the fantastic news that another member of the family would arrive. Already had the baby supplies so we were set. Oh yeah! The name. We studied the book for a girl's name and a boy's name. We were big TV game show fans now and I saw a neat name for a girl on one of the game shows, Brynn. Goes to the top of the list! Really, that could be for a girl or boy, right? The date picked this time by Carol and Dr. M was almost right on and Brynn Ann (middle name is Carol's middle name) became a fire cracker with a July 4th birthday at Lancaster General Hospital. I remember wearing my red, white and blue checked pants to the hospital to bring in some home made ice cream from our holiday celebration. Now, Brynn was 9 pounds, 9 ounces. REALLY BIG BABY, right Carol? As time passed we found out that Carol was expecting another addition to the family. Another name was needed. By now we figured we didn't need the book, since it did no good for the first 2. It was 1976, the Bi-Centennial year, and we decided we needed a patriotic name. I had a student in class by the came of Tad which I thought was neat and we managed to make that fit with Thadeus Stevens, a Lancaster signer of the Declaration of Independence. What if it's a girl? I'm not sure what we did about this. April 9th rolls around and Carol and I head to Lancaster General again for the birth of Paul (named after my father) Thadeus. A whopping 10 pounds!!! GIGANTIC BABY!!! OUCH!!!! Time to quit. It was an extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The "State Champs" Story

It was an ordinary day. I'm trying to remember all that has transpired in the last few months. So, the story begins. Early September school starts and with that the start of the rifle season. Four years ago the HS Principal, Mr. Hower came to me and asked if I would coach the rifle team. It was only my second year of teaching and I figured if I wanted to keep teaching, I had better say yes. Well, you evidently don't need any qualifications to be the rifle coach, because I had only fired a gun once in my life and that was when I went hunting with my Uncle Bob. A shotgun! The rifle team uses Winchester 52D rifles with .22 long rifle shells. Hey, I still remember! Manheim Township entered the District III rifle league in 1936 and I was going to be the 5th coach in the storied history of rifle at MT. I had to do well, didn't I? I never told a soul that I knew nothing about guns. My gosh, I was from gun happy Lancaster County. My first year was spent learning how you wear the equipment, how a rifle match was run, the differences in the ammo and rifles and how to motivate the shooters. We did well the first year, but didn't win the league. The second and third years I learned more of the psychological parts of the sport of rifle. The group of students that I had started to develop as a team and accept me more as the coach. I had a group of freshmen students who started with me when I took over and who were becoming top notch shooters. Along the way I received valuable information from other coaches in the league, primarily Russ L. from CV, and from the officials who scored the rifle matches, primarily Fred S. whose daughter shot in the Olympics. It is 1972 now and my fourth year as coach. Two of my best shooters who would be seniors this year chose not to come out for the team for various reasons. I knew that may hurt our chances, but a few promising freshmen might fill the void. Boy did they ever! My captains for the year were seniors Dave Ament and Kristin Hill (one of 3 girls on the team who by the way are a calming influence for the team). In a rifle match your 10 best shooters go against the 10 best from the other team. Two shooters at a time from each team lay prone on a mat and have 15 minutes to complete their target which is a piece of paper about 9" x 12" with 10 bulls-eyes around the edge and one in the center for practice. The target is place 50 feet from the firing line. Your top score can be 100 or 10 points for each bulls-eye. If your shot touches just the center dot on the bull you are awarded an "X". Therefore a 100-10X is a perfect score. Nearly impossible! Your 5 best scores for the match determine your team score so a 500 is the best your team can do. If the score is tie after 5 shooters, you go to the next shooter. I have 17 shooters on my team this year and all are capable of firing 100 scores. As the season progressed we found that qualifying among our team for a match was sometimes harder than the match itself. We were good! We fired a 500 or better in 5 of our 12 league matches. Against our nemesis CV we had to go to the 9th shooter to determine the winner with the score being 894-893. We were beginning to realize just how good we were and they were trusting totally in me as a coach. You see from 50 feet away the bulls-eyes look like a big dot to the shooters who lay on the mat, a heavy rifle strapped to their arm that has only open sights, no magnification. I sit behind them with a spotting scope and after each shot tell them what adjustments to make on the rifle. Total trust in me is needed. We ended undefeated at 12-0 and headed to the Regional meet against Interboro, a team from the Philadelphia area. They had been State Champs for the previous 5 years and featured a team of mostly girls. They were great! Our team was better!! We beat them 700-699. Took 7 shooters, but we were up to the challenge with 8 of our shooters hitting the 100 mark. On to the State Final in State College, PA. We met Churchill, a team from Pittsburgh, and Pocono Mountain from the Northeast in the State Finals. During the finals each shooter had to fire at 2 targets with the top score being a 200. You did get 5 more minutes to complete your targets. Suspecting that we may have a chance this year, we started about 3 weeks before the end of the season to practice with 2 targets. I never mentioned why we did this at the time, but when we reached the finals they realized my intentions. Boy were we pumped that Saturday. My lead off tandem of Dave Ament and Steve Weibel both shot 200, with Dave's being a perfect 200-20X. By the time we were finished Bob Ulrich, Dave Miller, Jeff Brand and Suzi Zipperlein (200-20X also) had all shot 200. Other team members who shot that day were Kristin Hill 199, Tim Konrad 198, Jim Horst 196 and Charlie Morrison 195. Final Score: Manheim Township 1000, Churchill 999 and Pocono Mountain 990. It was over after our first tandem fired, really. The other teams couldn't catch us! WE WERE STATE CHAMPS! What a season. Dave Ament, Kristin Hill, Bob Ulrich, Suzi Zipperlein and Steve Weibel were all named 1st team Lancaster Co. All Stars with Tim Konrad, Jeff Brand and Dave Miller 2nd team. Dave Ament fired a 100 in every single match that year, an accomplishment that has never before or since been done in the State of Pennsylvania. In 1972 Dave fired forty-eight 100 scores during meets and practice. Kristin was right behind him when she captured the 1972 District Individual Meet with a 200-18X while Dave Ament was 4th with a 200-17X, Suzi was 6th with a 199-18X and Steve was 9th with a 199-17X. 10 team members fired perfect 100-10X targets in 1972. As a team we fired 311 100s that year in matches and practice. That's a lot of ammo and noise! The Lancaster Newspapers named our team the TEAM OF THE YEAR and the Pennsylvania House of Reps. presented citations to all team members honoring their achievement. In 2009 the 1972 Rifle Team was honored by Manheim Township School District with induction into the MT Sports Hall of Fame. When they called and told me, they asked if I would try to contact all the team members. Boy was I excited when I told my wife that I had to call all the kids to tell them the news. She said, "remember they're not kids anymore. Most are in their mid-fifties." You know, to me they will always be my kids. Had a great time meeting most of them again when we got together for a banquet and introduction at half-time of a MT football game. This team is very special to me, but also to Manheim Township since it is the ONLY team in the history of the school in any sport to ever win a STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. After the 1972 season the team presented me with a pewter plate that had all their names engraved around the edge and in the middle an inscription which read: Mr. Woods, "They were good, but not good enough!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. Names on the accompanied photo are: Front: Dave Aurand, Jim Horst, Dave Miller, Jeff Brand, John Garboczi, Middle: Tim Konrad, Mary Eckman, Suzi Zipperlein, Kristin Hill, Keith Williams, Steve Weibel, Rear: Dave Ament, Howie Eckhart, Bob Ulrich, Charlie Morrison, Scott Bennett, Jay Lockard, and LDub. Missing was Bob Spalding and Dave Hamby.