Extraordinary Stories

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The "Quite an Honor" Story

It was an ordinary day. I am headed to Harrisburg with my boss and high school principal, Mr. C. Wendell H. and Barry W. who is the chairman of the Industrial Arts Department at MTHS. We are headed to the Capitol Rotunda for a formal welcome for the winners of Pennsylvania Academy for the Profession of Teaching’s “Salute to Teaching”. It seems that I have been chosen as one of three educators from Lancaster County to receive the award of “Educator of the Year". Donald Kraybill, who is a professor at Elizabethtown College and Kenneth Shields, who is a professor at Millersville University are also being honored. I was nominated for the award by my education association who selected me from a pool of nominees. I was then chosen to represent all of the outstanding public school teachers from our county. I was a graduate of MTHS and returned there 24 years ago to teach Graphic Arts and Photography and to coach. QUITE AN HONOR!! After our welcome we are headed to the noontime luncheon and program at the Holiday Inn Center City. The keynote speaker was Dr. Grady Bogue who is the Chancellor of LSU. He is speaking on his recent book, “A Journey of the Heart: Celebrations of the Call to Teaching.” You know, I was so excited and in awe of everything that was happening that I have no idea what he said that day. My “Journey of the Heart", from a scared little kid entering first grade to accepting this prestigious award for outstanding teaching had many side roads and expressways; from being an average student in high school with no idea of a profession, to being accepted at college with just average high school grades with the understanding that I would have to major in Industrial Arts because there was a shortage in IA teachers in the state, to taking a job before graduation because of this shortage, to getting my “Dream Job” at my Alma mater, to writing the curriculum and text book for the course that I would teach for 30 years, to leading the school’s rifle team to the State Championship, to being the adviser to the school yearbook for 31 years, to being nominated for an award for doing something that I truly enjoyed. What a journey! Receiving the award certainly didn’t make teaching any easier, but it made me realize that I really did make the right career choice. Along the way my parents and my family all played a major part in the journey. My wife Carol and my kids Derek, Brynn and Tad all influenced my decisions I made during my teaching career. I retired from teaching in 1999, but still work for the school district. I was recruited to do the Middle School yearbook immediately after I retired and also still do the in-house printing that is needed for the school district. In 2010, I will celebrate 59 years in Manheim Township School District, as both student and employee. I'd love to reach 60 years. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I really had hair at one time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The "All-Star" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were off to watch another field hockey game at MTHS. Our daughter Brynn is the goalie for the varsity team. This will be her fourth and final year of playing hockey. As a freshman she decided to change to goalie from "sweeper" when the coach told the team they had no goalie. It wasn't without some problems though. Two weeks before the season was to start she was cleaning a showcase I had made her to hold her spoon collection and she kicked the glass front glass panel with her bare feet. Not on purpose, mind you! Sliced a half-inch into her big toe. After having the stitches removed a week and a half later she got the OK from the doctor to play. Not only did she become a goalie, she became a fantastic goalie. The 1988 Freshman team went undefeated with a record of 11-0-2. She was selected the Co-Captain of the team at the beginning of the season. Not bad for only her third year of playing field hockey. As a senior she registered nine shutouts in goal as she led her team to a record of 11-4-1 and the school's first ever post-season entry in the District Playoffs. Again, she was voted a tri-captain by her teammates. Brynn also played freshman girl's basketball. She didn't go out for the team until she was in 9th grade, but did get to start at forward that year. Her most memorable experience while playing in a game was being called for an unwarranted foul and replying to the referee, "Holy Foul." For that she was awarded a technical and a seat on the bench. We could see the coach laughing though, since she always used the same statement many times herself. Brynn learned well! As much as basketball wasn't her favorite, softball probably was. She made the varsity team as a freshman and was called on to pinch hit in an early game that year and got the first hit in the game and drove in a run. She became a starter shortly after that game. As a sophomore she was picked for the Lancaster-Lebanon League All-Star Team as the second baseman. Much success followed in her high school softball career. The following year her coach asked her to try some pitching. I jumped right in and we worked on the pitching in our yard on Janet Ave........at least for a time or two until she put a ball through the screened in porch with one of her fastballs. Her speed was astonishing, but she had a hard time controlling it. She finally settled in at shortstop for the rest of her career. Well, back to the hockey game today. I'm wandering the sidelines taking photos and at times slip behind the goal and give her some tips, which I'm sure she ignores or she would never have been the goaltender that she was. Every year for Christmas we would give Brynn an ornament for the tree which usually was either a hockey ball or softball listing her accomplishments for the year. So glad she didn't excel at basketball!! The tree couldn't have handled it. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The "Lil' Bro" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were getting ready to head to my niece Kelly and her husband Shawn’s house in Ephrata for a get-together. My brother Steve and my sister-in-law Kathy will also be there. Steve is my younger brother who carries our dad’s name, Paul, as his middle name. I was five years old and living on Queen Street when Steve was born. Our house was a three bedroom house with one bathroom. Mom and Dad had the bedroom at the front of the house and I had the bedroom at the rear of the house. When Steve joined us he was stuck with the tiny room in the middle which was just big enough for his bed. The room had a single window which was needed in the summer, since we had no air conditioning. I usually got to do what I wanted and Steve followed along. I raised guinea pigs when I was younger while Steve raised rabbits. Our Grandpap got both of us started with the raising animal thing by buying them for us at Roots’ Sale which is a framer’s market. Mom and Dad weren’t always happy about the acquisitions, but did support us in raising the animals. I do remember vacations along the Chesapeake at Crystal Beach with our cousins Judy and George. Judy was one year younger than me and George was one year younger than Steve, so we got to boss them around. My Mom’s sister, my Aunt Lois, came with us many summers. She was a late addition to my Mom's household and was only a year older than me. The five of us always had a great time together. Steve never enjoyed going to Sunday School so one Sunday he snuck downstairs early in the morning and found my parent’s house keys. He then proceeded to lock himself in his tiny bedroom knowing that they couldn’t get in. Well, my Dad went to the basement and got his hammer and screwdriver and proceeded to remove the hinges just in time to get to Sunday School with Steve and me. I remember going to watch Steve pitch for the Schick midget-midget little league team and totally dominating the game. He did this most times he pitched. He was a lefty who was big for his age and could really throw the ball. He was a tremendous pitcher who excelled in high school, but didn’t get along well with the coach. Seems Coach K. would never let him start a game. He was saved for relief! Coach told him he would bring him in as twilight approached and the other team wouldn’t see his fastball. Yeah, right! One game he was needed as the third inning started and struck out all 15 (you are reading this correctly) batters he faced!! And the Coach wouldn’t let him start. You figure it out! He pitched for good old Manheim Township HS in the mid to late 6o’s and still holds records to this day for career and relief appearances as well as career saves. These records have stood for over 40 years. Quite an accomplishment. Of course, he has Coach K. to thank for using him only in relief. Steve also was a fantastic basketball player. My girlfriend Carol, who later became my wife, and I went to most of his games in his senior year. That’s because he only went out for basketball in his senior year. He still holds the school record for most points scored in a game when he scored 42 points against Penn Manor. That is when there were no three point baskets. His total would have been much higher if his long shots would have been worth three points instead of two. He also won a few games for the football team with his tremendous punting. He was a truly great high school athlete. As a student, he was like me, just OK. I remember the day he brought his report card home and Dad had to be taken to the doctor, since my Mom thought he was having a heart attack after seeing Steve’s report card. Steve earned a scholarship to play basketball at North-East Louisiana State, but after playing one year joined the Marines. I remember when he came home from basic training at Camp Lejune and grabbed me by the neck. He said, “I was taught how to kill in three seconds.” I responded, “You better hope the Viet Cong can’t do the same in two seconds.” He later became the Marine Corp’s heavyweight overseas boxing champion. By now Steve was 6’ 6” and about 250 pounds. Anything to get out of other duties. As the years went by, he was my best man as was I his best man at our weddings. He got married to the love of his life, Kathy and has two great kids, Kelly and Matt. Now he is the proud Grandparent of Megan and Jack who we will see tonight at our get-together. I credit Steve with getting me my teaching position at MT. His basketball coach loved him and happened to be the head of the Industrial Arts Department. One well placed request by Steve got me the job, no questions asked. One of my brother’s best attributes is something I still share with him. He is a loyal Phillies Fan!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - beach photo ID: (l-r) Aunt Lois, cousin Judy, cousin George, LDub (standing), Mom, Lil' Bro Steve. Below Steve and I compare our new jewelry additions.

The "Creole or Bust" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I have just returned from our adventure of the day on the island of St. Martin and are headed back to the pool at our villa to relax. Boy, do we need to relax! Today's adventure was a thrilling ride to Creole Rock to snorkel. It was a 2 1/2 hour guided tour which is called "The 3-Time Winner of the Prestigious Tour of the Year Award. Thrilling is a little weak to describe the tour. We rode what are called Rhino Boats which are small rubberized rafts that are equipped with very large Mercury outboard engine. You attempt to sit on and straddle the center console on the raft. I steered the Rhino and Carol held on to me. REALLY HELD ON! We were with three other couples who rode, skipped and splashed our way to Creole Rock. We were definitely the oldest couple, but probably the best skilled at staying on the seat and in the raft. You fly across the water at about 35 MPH, but it feels like 100 MPH. At times there is nothing but air between the bottom of the Rhino and the water. Lucky for us, the waves today were very slight. I can't imagine doing this when the waves are higher. We followed our guide Peter who has done this for a few years and at times seemed to be trying to lose us. We arrived at Creole and Peter tied all our Rhinos together and then fastened them to a buoy. Everyone in the water. We experienced some of the best snorkeling we have ever done on St. Martin. Colorful fish as well as colorful coral. Water was 30 to 40 meters deep most places. An hour later it was time to get back in the Rhino boats. Yea, right. They are extremely slippery and we are covered with suntan solution and have life vests which are also slippery. Luck for me I managed to pull myself up on the first try. Carol was struggling and I couldn't seem to help her. OK, here comes Peter across the tied up boats to assist. He has her face away from the Rhino, reaches under her arms and in one smooth motion lifts her out of the water onto the edge of the boat. She was so surprised at how quick it was that as she started to lift her legs to get in, she fell back into the water. OK, Peter. Again. This time he pulled her the whole way into the raft. On our return trip we hugged the shore to do some sightseeing. Much easier to stay on the seat when traveling at a slower speed. After returning we exited the boats and headed for the car. Our legs were extremely wobbly and sore from the experience. The Rhino Boats were probably one of the highlights of our trip, but I'm sure we will remember them way more tomorrow morning. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top pix shows us with Peter our guide while bottom pix shows just how thrilled Carol was on the Rhino. Held the camera over my shoulder to take the pix.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The "Pistol Packin' Railroad Man" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was talking to my friend Jerry. Just checkin in to see what he did during the week. I usually call him every Sunday. I sometimes forget, but that's what happens when you get older. Jerry and I go way back. WAY BACK! I’m sure you probably have a friend who you have known for years. We met over a half century ago. You know how many years that is? We lived about two blocks from each other, but didn’t really meet until we entered elementary school at MJ Brecht Elementary in Manheim Township. My Mom wouldn’t let me cross streets by myself until I went to school. Our first grade teacher was Mrs. Good and we became friends while in her class. We shared most of the same teachers throughout our elementary years. The fact that we lived on opposite sides of busy Rt. 72 prevented us from being closer friends until later in our lives. My Mom wouldn’t let me cross Rt. 72 to visit Jerry, even when I was in elementary school! At times I would see him at the railroad station where his Dad worked. We entered junior high, but never seemed to be in the same classes together. We did had some good neighborhood football games during our junior high years which were played on the lawn on the west side of the railroad station. His neighborhood usually played my neighborhood. Both teams were pretty good and we had quite a few memorable games (check my story “I think he’s dead). We both decided to play football when we entered 9th grade. Jerry was small and I was skinny. Knew we wouldn’t go far. We only got to play in one game that first year and that was during halftime of a varsity game. They were showcasing what was coming they said. Yeah, right. We were crummy. Jerry was #72 and the center and I was #68 and the quarterback for one of the teams that game. If I had only realized that they don't give a prospective quarterback #68, I might have changed positions. Maybe I could have been the manager. We played against our own teammates and both teams wore the same color uniforms. Can you imagine how hard it was to figure out who was on your team. Our game lasted only ten minutes and we had to clear the field for the start of the second half of the varsity game. We did win the game when Jerry led the blocking for a quarterback sneak into the endzone for the only touchdown in the 10 minute game! Our 10 minutes of fame!! It was our last year playing organized football. When we were old enough to drive we bought cars. Jerry is a good mechanic and helped me rebuild my ‘53 Henry J in the garage behind his house. I'm not sure his dad knew we were doing that and using his tools. After finishing the rebuild, we took the car out to the unfinished Rt. 30 Bypass and drove around the barriers to take Mr. J. for a trial run. In high school my parents wanted me to take the college prep courses while Jerry took most of the shop courses, therefore we didn’t see much of each other. After high school Jerry entered the Navy while I headed to Millersville State Teacher’s College. Jerry married while in the Navy to Sue, his high school sweetheart (at least one of them). Sue was in our graduating class. After he left the Navy he returned and entered Millersville with the hope of becoming a teacher. Five years after graduation from high school I was teaching at my alma mater, MT. Shortly afterward, Jerry did his student teaching at MT in the room right next to my classroom. For years we worked together teaching until he became head of grounds and maintenance for the school district. In 1999 we both retired from good old MT and planned a retirement trip together. Two weeks in Hawaii with our sweethearts. We had the best time together. Upon return, Jerry and Sue moved from Lancaster to Sue’s old stomping ground of State College. Carol and I found it neat to explore a new part of Pennsylvania with our friends. Every few months we would travel back and forth for visits and once a year we have been traveling to the Caribbean together. Jerry has always enjoyed the railroad since his Dad worked for Railway Express when Jerry was young. Jerry later worked part-time at the Strasburg RR near Lancaster during summers while teaching. He shoveled coal into the steam engine. Fun job?? After moving to State College, Jerry built an HO railroad layout in the lower level of his home. Reconstructed the Lancaster Train Station. REALLY NEAT! Every visit I get to see what’s new on the layout. I also got frequent calls to go over to the train station and tell him what color this was or how many bricks covered that. Hey, we knew how to use cell phones now. Jerry also recently went deer hunting for the first time. Bought himself a gun, but didn’t get a chance to use it yet. Now that’s not for me. Now, today he tells me he’s getting a pistol. Watch out, Sue. Any of you have a life-time friend like Jerry? We’ll hit 60 years of friendship in 2010. SIXTY!!! Jeez we’re getting old! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - In our 1st grade class photo Jerry is in front row on the far right while I'm in the back row, far left. My mom made me wear a jacket that day! In bottom photo, Jerry is the one with the mustache. Makes him look younger than me. Click on photos to enlarge them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The "Communal Shower" Story

It was an ordinary day. For me anyway! But, for my wife Carol, it's her birthday!! We are traveling with our friends Jerry and Sue for it seems like the umpteenth time. We will be spending part of the day in an airplane. This birthday we are headed from St. Croix, which is a United States Virgin Island, to San Juan, and then on to Tortola, which is a British Virgin Island. We will be taking both trips on Cape Air which is a Caribbean airline. Got that? Our first flight has eight passengers and two pilots. It is in a small twin engine plane where they store some of our luggage in the wings and we carry the rest with us. They also seat us according to weight. Not many people like that, since they line you up on the runway after judging how much you weigh. I'm sure they wouldn't trust most people to give them their accurate weight. I would, but then again I'm tall and skinny. Or at least I used to be when we were on this trip. After take-off we see the two pilots looking at a map. The one on the right is pointing out the window to the right, so the other pilot heads the plane to the left. Makes sense to me! The second leg of our trip is in a plane of the same size, but with six passengers and only one pilot. When we check in we were given a number which we were told to hold. Remember, there are only six passengers. Why couldn't they just take a head count? And then.......what do we do if something happens to the one pilot? I'm writing this so I guess you know what happened. Fun flight with us flying closer to the water with a chance to see more sights. After arriving we head to Prospect Reef which is our lodging for the remainder of our trip. We wanted to stay here since they had a Dolphin Encounter. Two weeks before we left I was notified that the Government closed the Dolphin Encounter. Should have given us some clues about Prospect Reef. First evening we celebrated Carol's B-Day at a local restaurant. Fun time. Next morning....no hot water! We were promised it would be fixed soon. We headed by ferry to another island called Virgin Gorda for the day. Named so because of the rock formation that looks like a reclining virgin. Great island. The "Baths" are the main attraction on the island. Huge boulders that supposedly erupted from the sea during an earthquake. Back at Prospect we still had no hot water. They did give us a key to another section of the place so we could shower in some one elses room. Next day off to Peter Island to snorkel. Unbelievable!! Truly great snorkeling. We saw a few sea turtles, fish of all colors and then.......Carol and I were surrounded by a herd of small silvery fish (Carol tells me that's called a school) and we could see nothing but fish on all sides of us. Kind of scary since big fish feed on these smaller ones. Then we saw 'em! Long, silver, sleek with big, no REALLY BIG teeth. We were told not to wear jewelry to snorkel because it attracts them, but didn't listen. Too late now. BARRACUDA!!! And they're after the small fish. Boy, did we splash and splash. Scared the crap out of everything around us, including ME! Oh the memories! After returning we showered again with the neighbors. Not bad! Made short trips to smuggler's cove and the rainforest the next day........and a trip to the neighbors. It will be fixed soon we are again told. Hey, don't hurry on account of us. They needed a part from Florida which had to be shipped to Tortola. ON ISLAND TIME! Well, our final day has arrived and we head to C & F Bar and Restaurant for our final meal. We really didn't want to go there. We had this special place in town that we wanted to try, but when we hailed a taxi, he told us he had a great place for us to eat local food. OK, why not. It was his sister's house!! She called it a restaurant. But, it was a monstrous meal. I had 2, yep 2, lobsters for next to nothing. So much that we couldn't eat all of it. Next morning we shower down the road, pack and head to the office for check out. "Oh, by the way, the parts we need to fix the shower arrived this morning. Your shower will be fixed by noon," they tell us as we turn in our keys. It as another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The "Enquirer Cookbook" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just come back from the Post Office. I was checking our PO Box to see if we had any orders. Carol and I had three kids which at times required as many funds as possible and for years we had tried all ways to strike it rich. Carol made smocked dresses and sold them. Didn't make a fortune off them. I made miniature baseball stadiums that you could use to play the APBA game. Didn't make a fortune off them. We needed something with mass appeal. We had purchased a National Enquirer to take on vacation so we would have some fun reading. While leafing through the paper we found our answer. We will advertise something in the classified section. Unbelievable circulation. If half the people who subscribe or buy the paper buy something from us, we will strike it rich. Now what can we make to sell? What would someone from all over the world be interested in from Lancaster County? THE AMISH! OK, now what do we do with the Amish, or even the Pennsylvania Dutch. How about a gas fireplace made by people who look like they are Amish? Nah, no one would buy those. How about a book about the Amish. Nah, that's already been done. Hey, how about a cookbook with recipes from Lancaster County. Now we're on to something! OK, let's gather together all our relatives really good recipes and put them in a book. We started to put together our favorites. Irene, a friend of the family made fantastic baked beans. That will be one. My Grandpap's famous Chicken Corn Soup with a worm in it. Another one. Also Grandpap's Oyster stuffing, Aunt Lillian's Cherry Cake, my Mom's Chicken Pot Pie, Alice's Fruit Pudding, Judy's Strawberry Pie, Molly's Apple Pudding, Uncle Albert's Ice Cream, Aunt Bea's Coconut Cake, Aunt Betsy's Sand Tarts, and the list goes on. We came up with 49 great recipes. Carol typed them and I printed them on a light blue paper and designed a cover which was printed on a heavier weight blue paper. Looked pretty spiffy! Made 100 to start. We knew they would last a short time after we advertised. Someone told me I should not give my home address in the ad so I had to take out a PO Box for the people to send their money to for purchase. It was all coming together. Ad cost about $50 for 3 lines for one time placement and the PO Box cost about $40 for a month. The price to print the books was about $25. We decided to charge $2.00 for the recipe book plus the shipping. Now all we do is wait and rake in the money. A week passed and nothing. Monday after school I stopped at the Post Office and found a envelope. We sold one! Well, after a month we had sold three. To this day we still have a few left. As a matter of fact, I made Mom's Potato Soup the other night. Recipe right from the pages of "49 Lancaster County Recipes." Best Potato soup you'll ever eat. I guess people knew we weren't Amish or even Dutch. Maybe we should have stuck with the fireplaces. Somebody's bound to try that sometime. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The "Favorite Gift" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just finished opening our presents! I know, that's not really ordinary. Got all the things on my list this year. Plus some! Did you? Then I started to reminisce. What gift or gifts are the most memorable for you? I have a few that really stick out and if I can remember back that far, they must really have meant something. My first memorable gift was one my Aunt Doris bought for me when I was nine years old. My Grandma and Aunt Doris lived on Pine St. and when I entered the house, there it was. A two wheel Schwinn bicycle. Beautiful red and white colors. Didn't take long for me to learn how to ride it. It was my constant companion at home on Queen St. Now that was certainly memorable. My next great present was almost as nice, and had the same amount of wheels. My mom and dad got me a three speed bike with hand brakes when I was 12 years old. The latest technology! Out for a spin I went. About two blocks from my house on Ross St. I needed to brake fast. Not ever having hand brakes before, I didn't know the power of them. I pulled on my right hand and the front brake grabbed..........and threw me over the handlebars. MY NEW BIKE! Didn't care about the cuts I had. All I cared about was the scratch on the bike. I rode the bike home, hiding my injuries and never told a soul about it.......until now! Another memorable gift was the set of spun aluminium hub caps my mom and dad got me for Christmas when I was 16. They were a perfect match for my '53 Henry J. What a great look! But, the gift that I will remember forever is the envelope with the $2 bill in it that my grandpap would give to all his grand kids each Christmas. It was all he could afford , but it wasn't the money that made the gift memorable. For five or six years before he died he would have his grand kids line up and pass in front of him as he sat in his easy chair in his living room on South Prince St. When it was your turn to receive your envelope, he would gently hold your hand and tell you to be a good boy or girl for your mom and dad. I'll always remember his caring look as he talked to you. Best Christmas gift ever. And yours? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

The "Soup Du Jour" Story

It was an ordinary day. We have just come home from lunch at Woody’s Crab House in North East, Maryland. Today we EACH had a bowl of cream of crab soup. I usually get a bowl when we go out to eat and Carol will take a few spoonfuls of it, but then pass it to me to eat the rest of the bowlful. We have been rating cream of crab soup for many years. It is now time to release the results! But, before I do I must tell you that my friend Dale K. has been testing it with Carol and I all those years. His wife Pat doesn’t like seafood so she isn’t part of our testing. Can you believe someone who lives near the Chesapeake Bay wouldn’t like cream of crab soup? It’s Unamerican! We have traveled to many cities, mostly cities which border the upper Chesapeake Bay, since the bay is famous for their “blue” crabs which make the best cream of crab soup. A few of the cities which have been part of our testing are: Alexandria, Annapolis, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Chesapeake City, Chestertown, Havre de Grace, North East, Rock Hall, St. Michaels and Tilghman Island. Some cities we have been in more than one restaurant to test the soup. And most cities were visited several times over the years. Some were fantastic, some were very good and some were just OK. Remember this is cream of crab soup and anything with crab meat in it can’t be any worse than than just OK. We tested a bowl in a restaurant on the waterfront in Rock Hall, Maryland which had broken into our “Top 3”, but when we went back the next time for another bowl to make sure, it was filled with shells. What a disappointment. Eat a spoonful, spit the shells on the floor, eat a spoonful, spit the shells on the floor, etc. We took it off our “Top 3” list. We tried a bowl at The Crab Claw in St. Michaels, Maryland. It was very tasty, but was mostly cream sauce and did not have much crab meat in it. Same goes for Inner Harbor and Chestertown. After trying many bowls over the last five or more years, we have come up with our top 3 places to try Cream of Crab soup. Time for a drumroll..da..da..da..da. And the Winners are: #3 would have to be a tie between The Tidewater Grill in Havre de Grace, Maryland and Woody’s Crab House in Northeast, Maryland. Both are about equal. They are thick and rich with an adequate amount of crab meat in them. Neither restaurant is very fancy, and therefore may influence our opinion a little; #2 is The Chesapeake Inn located in Chesapeake City, Maryland. This soup has more than the creamy flavor, it has pureed vegetables and plenty of crab meat in it. The ambiance of the restaurant does help. Linens on the table by the waterfront always make anything taste better. You get a very large serving which is so rich that you may have trouble finishing your main entree; And....... Our #1 Choice for Best Cream of Crab Soup has to be without a doubt Carrol’s Creek Waterfront Restaurant in Annapolis, Maryland. Their historic location overlooks the waters of one of America’s most charming and historic cities. Their soup is rich in flavor with Jumbo crab meat pieces and a touch of Sherry. That touch of Sherry really does it for me. What a taste! They have been entering their soup in Maryland’s contests for years and have been judged as Maryland’s Best for many of those years. Have been there a few times and have never been disappointed. We found their recipe for the soup online a few years ago. Don’t know if it is still there. Carol, Dale and I are unanimous in our choice as #1. Try one of these places and see if you agree!!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - For best Maryland Crab Soup (tomato based) the Bayard House Restaurant in Chesapeake City has the best, also voted #1 by the State of Maryland in their annual contest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The "Where's The Camel" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was heading to Lititz, PA to see my mother sing in the 2nd Annual Christmas Pageant at Moravian Manor. My mom moved to Morvavian Manor about two years ago and she has been an active part of the social scene since moving. As I arrive I pick up my program for the pageant called "I Love Christmas!" from the lady at the door, my Mother. My Aunt Virginia (my mom’s sister) and two of my cousins, Susan and Amy, are coming. I find a row of four seats near the rear and place the extra programs on the three seats next to me. I guess you are allowed to save seats! Two minutes later three ladies my mother’s age file in the row behind me with their walkers. Seeing the programs on the seats in front of them, they help themselves. OK. Hey mom, how about a few more programs over here. Before I get them on the seats, someone parks them self on the seat at the other end of my row. Now only two seats left. Where are they? It’s really getting crowded. A reserved section for wheelchairs is really filling up. A fellow in a wheelchair is pushed in and across the back of his seat is embroidered “Breezy”. Could mean anything, I guess. Here comes someone in a bed. Sounds good to me. I’ll bet there are about 250 people in Steinman Hall which is a multi-purpose room used as a church, auditorium and assembly room. The Hall has just been redone with new everything. Looks great, but I notice a different smell that I can’t quite figure out. Here comes my Aunt and Cousins. I give up my seat and they sit in the row I had saved. I look behind and see one seat left in the row behind me. Good choice. I strike up a conversation with the lady next to me who is having a good time and the show hasn’t even started. NOW IT’S SHOW TIME! First the bell choir. Three residents with one bell each shake it to the left, to the right, overhead and too the front all led by the director of the bell choir who stands in front of them and shows them where to shake the bell. I tap my cousin Susan on the shoulder and ask if she has a pen. I can see I’m going to have to take notes for a story on my blog. After two Christmas carols the audience is getting antsy. I’ll tell you, the Bell Choir director is truly a saint. Next comes “I Love Christmas”, A Musical Review. There are 15 members, my mother being one of them. The director has a great voice with good volume. It is definitely needed. One Christmas melody blends into another and really keeps the crowd clapping throughout. Then, here comes Santa!! A member of the staff works his way around the room hugging, kissing and shaking hands. Along the way he does cartwheels and handstands. Gets the crowd in a frenzy. My seat mate is going wild. A few rows in front of me I see movement. Here comes Mary and Joseph.......and “Sparky”! Sparky is a pony who is playing the donkey. Pretty neat for a retirement home!! Sparky reaches the front of the hall and decides he needs something to eat. That’s what that smell was, hay for Sparky. There is a microphone near him and you can hear him eating and chewing the carrot they give him and tapping out a code on the hardwood floor with his hoof. And the smell is also the pile that has developed behind Sparky. Baby Jesus suddenly appears from behind Mary and attracts the interest of Sparky. Next appear Shepherds and Angels. All parts are played by employees of Moravian Manor. Three of the Angels perform; two sing songs and the third plays a beautiful interpretation of “Ave Maria” on the violin. Now that brought tears to my eyes. Then the Wisemen enter. I look up front and see one of the shepherds with a bright red face and sweating profusely. Getting hot in the hall. Another shepherd, a young boy, has been picking his nose for most of the pageant. I guess they also did that back in those days. The choir director starts playing “Silent Night” and all join in. Really impressive presentation. The lady next to me agrees, but says with all seriousness, “I was expecting a camel!” It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The "Santa Mailman" Story

It was an ordinary day. Kind of! It was REALLY SNOWING! We were expecting between 12-24 inches of snow during the day. Hey, we don't have anywhere to go anyway. No problem here. I got my snow blower out and put fuel in it and started it to make sure I was ready. I bought it about five years ago when I got tired of shoveling my drive every time it snowed. It works great. Two years ago I didn't use it at all while last year I didn't need it either, but plowed the two inches we had during one storm just to use it again. Figured I paid for it and I'm going to use it. Well, I'm definitely going to need it later today. Noon came and we had about six inches. By 3:00 PM we had ten inches and it was time to plow. I had nothing to do and I was getting antsy so I put on my long johns, wool socks, sweatshirt, jacket, stocking cap, gloves and boots and headed out. Snowplow started on the first pull and I headed down the drive. Reversed at the other end and back up the incline. Around again for the next pass. But, something seems to be wrong. All the snow is gathering in front of the plow. Now what? The auger wasn't turning. Must have broken the shear pin so I got another one and started to replace it. That wasn't the problem. I tried everything and nothing worked. Now what? I shoveled for a while and gave up. Back started to hurt so I came in and filled the tub with hot water, climbed in and turn the air on. Boy does that work! As long as you stay in the tub! Just as I had settled in, Carol came in with the phone. Seems our neighbor Keith wanted to know if I wanted him to do our drive. Out of the tub, dressed and outside lickety split. He has a new snow blower and is anxious to use it a whole bunch. Keith was a former student of mine and had some heart problems this past summer so I mowed his lawn for a few weeks until he was able to do it again so I think he is trying to return the favor. It couldn't have been more welcomed. Well, after thanking him I thought I would check to see if the mail really does get through in all kinds of weather. Lo and behold, my check from the school district was in the mailbox and best of all, my Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine had arrived. That's better than the check. "25 Ultimate Beaches" it said on the cover. Boy can I use that. Maybe while I soak in the tub!! I ran inside and said to Carol, "Santa arrived early!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The "Ken-L-Ration Winner" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was eight years old and taking my dog for a walk around the block. Missy was a mixed breed that my parents had picked up for me at the S.P.C.A. She was black and white. Not sure what kind of mix, but she had long hair and looked like a...... well a dog! She was about two years old now and enjoyed walking around the neighborhood. I usually took her to the top of our block turned left for a half of block and left again. This led me back down the street to a big parking lot that was behind my house and usually empty since the printing company that occupied the the building next to it had gone out of business. We used the lot for all types of things such as playing "off the wall" which was baseball and also for football. It was also a great place to let Missy run. As we approached the lot today though, it was occupied with a Ken-L-Ration Dog Show. First time ever that they held something like this on the vacant space. They yelled to me to bring my dog over and register her for prizes. OK, sure why not. I was told that it was a neighborhood dog show and it would start soon. I counted about a dozen dogs which were in attendance. The show started and we had to walk our dogs around in a circle. They were going to pick their favorite. Top prize for this was a BIG bag of Ken-L-Ration Dog Food. Didn't win this, but I saw that they had a gazillion prizes so I was getting excited. Missy was on top of her game that day and won prizes for best smile, fastest around the cones they had placed in the lot and for best dog and owner. Kind of neat! What did we win? Well I went home with a ceramic cookie jar in the shape of a dog's head, a new dog's collar and a really neat table lamp shaped like a dog's head. All had Ken-L-Ration stamped or printed on them someplace. Didn't matter to me. But, the prizes that I liked the best were the three big Blue Ribbons that Missy and I had won. Missy and I were so proud to get home to show off our prizes. Mom was waiting for us at the back gate and said, "Where'd you get all those prizes?" She had as big a smile on her face as we did. I'm sure she was proud of Missy also. It was the most fun that Missy and I had together for a long time. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pix is of Missy an I when we were a few years younger. Taken by the large lot where she won the prizes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The "Myrrh is Mine"

It was an ordinary day. We were heading to the children’s Christmas Service at St James Episcopal. Every year, for who knows how many years, on Christmas eve, the children of the church present the Christmas Pageant. Joseph, Mary, Shepherds, Kings, Angels and even Baby Jesus are there. The stage has been set up so you can view the Nativity better. The excitement of the birth of Jesus is in the air. Behind the scenes, mothers and fathers are preparing the children for their roll in the Pageant by getting them dressed in their costumes. Sheep, pigs, donkeys, they're all there. Three adult male choir members play the three Kings. They are the only adults allowed in the Pageant. For many years Carol and I sat with our three children in a pew and watched the Pageant as a family. As each child got older they graduated into a role in the Pageant. Our daughter got to play Mary when she was a senior in high school. At first they used a doll, but now a real baby is recruited each year to play Baby Jesus. For years the three Kings were always Dr. James M. as Gaspard, Eddie S. as Melchior and my Father who played Balthazar. They get to strut down the center aisle with their pages who carry their gift to the Baby Jesus. The Kings don’t graduate, they just get older. Last year Eddie S. called it quits and my Father became Melchior. Tonight I will be Balthazar. Wow! The Kings wear very elaborate dress as they did in the time when Jesus was born. Remember, they were Kings!! Dr. Jim always wore a gold robe with fake jewels around the neck piece. He also wore a golden crown with colored gems hot glued on the points. Pretty neat! My Dad was dressed in a deep gold robe with a fur (I’m sure it was fake) cape. He had a matching fur hat with a jewel dangling down from it. It was massive. The only way he could keep it on his head was with a chin strap. Now that looked crappy! What king would wear a strap around their chin? Now I got to wear pink tights with shiny black pantaloons. On top I wore a red velvet puffy shirt with a blue wrap that came almost to the floor. I also wore a black velvet neck peice. On my head was a puffy black silk hat with huge peacock feathers dangling from it. My wife laughed at me as I walked down the aisle after seeing me in costume for the first time. I did get to carry a big fan with peacock feathers in it. This was a blessing because I had a hard time memorizing my verse so I stapled it on the back of the fan. Well, the Pageant went near perfect and then it was time for the three kings to enter. Everyone turned to see us with our elaborate costumes. The hymn started and Dr. Jim started down the aisle singing his verse about bringing Gold to crown Him again. Dad was next with his verse about offering Frankincense to Worship Him. My turn. I start down the aisle and........you think something is going to happen don’t you? Nah! I wowed ‘em. I didn’t even have to look at my fan for the words. I sang, “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume, breathes a life of gathering gloom” .......and I’m bringing this to the Baby Jesus? Wow! Well, it seems like time has passed us by and the pageant is now only for children and students. But hey, I got my 10 minutes of fame!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - in photo, I'm on the left, Dr. Jim in center and Dad on right.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The "BFF" Story

It was an ordinary day. I'm looking at pictures of our recent vacation to Antigua and thinking. That's always dangerous, isn't it? I'm thinking of all the great friends Carol and I have. Some have passed away over the years, but others are still spending time with us and keeping us happy. Mostly happy! Our friends Pat and Dale have been friends since I played with Dale in the APBA League which I formed. APBA is a board game invented by a fellow in Lancaster, PA, but is played by baseball enthusiasts all over the world. That's at least 30 years ago now. Our friends Jerry and Sue seem to have been around forever. Jerry and I go back to being friends in 1st grade. We share our vacations and visits to each other. I have many friends from my career in teaching from colleagues to former students. My wife has a friend who she met when they were in the hospital, both having their first child, and have been friends ever since. I'm sure everyone can name a few good friends, but do you have a "BFF?" That being a Best Friend Forever! Who is your BFF? Mine would be a person who enjoys doing everything I like to do. A person who tells me what they like and don't like about me. What color I look good in and what type of clothes to wear. What not to say so I don't embarrass myself and what to say to make a good impression. A person who doesn't laugh at me if I cry with them in the movies, but does laugh when I say or do something even though it may not be funny. A person who enjoys the same type of food, weather, flowers, vacation destinations and house furnishings. A person who can take a walk with you and doesn't care if you pass gas along the way. A person who might get upset if you fall asleep while they are talking to you, but forgives you really fast. A person who can snore as loud as you. A person who tells you everything will be all right, even though you know it probably won't be. And a person who shares the same three children and three grandchildren with you. Yep! My "BFF" is my loverly wife, Carol. You know you can have a wife and a "BFF" who are the same person! I DO!!! How's that for a love letter Susan? It was an extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The "Glass Hawaiian Shirt" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were shopping in Maui. That's in Hawaii. Probably my favorite island in Hawaii. They have shopping malls just like we do. Went in to this one gallery and saw something I really liked. A stained glass Hawaiian shirt. It was about 16" high and 20" across the sleeves. Bright colors. Neat flowers. The whole deal. It was gorgeous. And it looked just like an Hawaiian shirt. I had to have one to hang in our house. I checked the price. $700. OK, maybe I don't need one for the house. But wait. I do stained glass myself. I'll make one. It really wouldn't be right to take a photo of it there in the store, would it? So I had someone else do it. A week later when we got home I decided I was going to make my own. I first drew my pattern and then made the design I liked. How about a Hawaiian flower and some leaves from the plant. The design looked great. I took my pattern to a former student, Mike Bovie, who has a glass studio near me and purchased the glass and other needed items for the window. To make the window you must cut the glass, grind the edges, wrap the edges with a copper foil tape, assemble the window on your pattern, solder the pieces together, finish the outside edge and use a patina on the solder to darken the bright silver color. Boy, did it look neat. How about one that has a toucan on it. Looked neat. How about one with seashells. Looked neat. how about a tiki hut with an island and palm tree. Really neat! It went on and on. I finally had a series of 12 shirts designed and made. I displayed a few, but didn't have enough window space for all of them. And it started to get rather expensive to make all these. Maybe I should sell them at the gallery in Stone Harbor, New Jersey where I sell other stained glass pieces. Carol and I decided to take a weekend trip to visit my cousin who lives in Stone Harbor and take the shirts along with us. Packed them carefully and headed to the shore. After visiting with Roy and Susan for a while, I took the shirts to the gallery to show them. "Don't think they would sell here," was the response I got. OK. I drove through town and there on the corner of the main street was a new shop. All stained glass products. Perfect! I parked and took one into the shop. I met with the owner and showed her my window shirt and she examined it closely and asked where else I sell them. I told her, "No where, but I would like to try to sell them in your shop. Would you take them on consignment?" She thought for a while and finally said, "No, I don't want to take them on consignment...." I'm sure she read the disappointment on my face, "but I'll write you a check for all of them." WOW!!! "You may want to see the rest first," I said to her. "How many do you have?" she responded. "I brought ten with me," I told her. "Go get all of them. If they're as nice as this one there will be no problem." She wrote me a check for all of them on the spot. I headed back t my cousin's house and when I arrived I told everyone we were heading out to dinner. My treat!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Click on the images to see them larger. Interested in the shirts, email me at lcwoods@verizon.net

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The "Fame and Fortune" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just come back from Mike Bovie’s home in Manheim Township, Lancaster, PA. Mike was a student of mine when he was in high school and was probably one of the most talented students I ever had in class. Mike started Lancaster Stained Glass Designs over 20 years ago and has made the business a huge success. He has doubled his business in just about every year during the last the ten years. He recently completed a large glass etching of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for the Museum and Visitor’s Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park. He also did a design in the floor at Harrisburgh International Airport. He is now doing a series of Stained Glass Panels for Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. They are for a chapel at the college. He estimated it will take him about 120 hours on each of the panels. His business is thriving even as most struggle. I visit him frequently to buy glass and materials for my hobby of stained glass. You can visit him at www.lancastersgd.com. I have had many other extremely talented students in my 33 years of teaching. Another would be Carolyn Jones. Carolyn became a professional photographer and has her studio in New York. She is a fashion and portrait photographer for Esquire, Interviews, and Italian Vogue among many other publications. She also made the television documentary “Women.....on Family.” In 1994 Carolyn published her first book called “Living Proof” which offers unprecedented insight into the astounding strength of the human spirit when confronted with illlness, pain, loss, and death. She captures people from all backgrounds living with HIV and AIDS. Beautiful book! I was lucky enough to have her send me an autographed copy and an invite to a book signing and reception. Carolyn’s photos can be seen at www.carolynjonesphotography.com. Another talent I had was Alex Brand. I knew him better as Jeff in high school. He was a talented student as well as a sharpshooter on my 1972 State Rifle Championship Team. Jeff.....er Alex is also a glass artist. He lives in Corning, New York and has a studio at his residence. He sells his art at shows all over the country. He recently visited with me and told me he was going through a rough time because of the economy. He is now working for Corning Glass doing glass blowing demonstrations on Celebrity Cruise Ships in the Mediterranean. His blown plates, dishes and goblets are beautiful. You can see Alex’s work at www.alexbrand.com. Another student who I had for two years in school and became one of my best high school photographers was Jerry Driendl. As a senior he entered more photos and won more prizes than anyone ever in the history of the National Scholastic Art and Photography Contest. He was awarded a full scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia for his talent. Jerry has been a stock photographer for over 10 years. He is one of the top 40 photographers at Getty Images, the worlds’ leading stock agency. He is also represented by National Geographics Society, and Panoramic Images. His art, prints and posters can be seen in countless magazines, on television and in major motion pictures. A few years ago he presented me with a matted and framed print of his first famous poster called “Homeward Bound” which depicts an Amishman and his girlfriend driving his buggy in a snow storm. It was taken for an assignment in my class. Check out his work at www.postercheckout.com/a/jerry_driendl/. I had another student who became famous, but I can take no credit for getting him started, since I only had him for a study hall. He is the pro golfer Jim Furyk. He did play on the same baseball team as my oldest son. He was the catcher for the team and Derek was the pitcher. The two students who I am most proud of though and who followed in my teachings in the graphic arts are my two sons, Derek and Tad. Derek is a pressman, in charge of a large web press for Donnelly Printing Company and Tad is a pressman, in charge of a web press for Intel Printing Company. Not only did they follow into the field of printing, but they are excellent at what they do which is why they were made pressmen. And then there is my daughter Brynn who I am equally proud of who followed her Dad into education as a teacher. She teaches elementary school and is not only a teacher, but a mother figure to all her students. When I look back on the many students who made a successful career in the graphic arts or photography (and even teaching), it makes me realize the influence a teacher can have on a student. It’s tremendous and therefore it's important that you take it seriously!! I believe I did! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The "Still Blogging" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was sitting by my Mac reminiscing. I found that since I started this blog, I do that daily. I have remembered more about my life in the last 3 months than I have in many years. Kind of fun. Everyone in my family is giving me ideas for stories. Hey Dad, remember when you........... Yep, I remember, but do I have too? That could be a story! I'm sure it will be. Carol and I traveled to North East yesterday to deliver a few of my photos to a gallery and on the way she reminded me I need to talk about the bats we used to have in our house on Janet Ave. Not the baseball bats which we kept in the garage, but the live bats that always found their way into our house either through the fireplace flue or through the holes in the bricks that I may have forgotten to repair. That could be a story! Again, I'm sure it will be. I am trying to make it a years' worth of stories if possible. I have a blue binder with ideas in it and it is brimming with stories. Some I write and then delete since they end up really stupid. Others I have to wait until I see people again to ask them for more details to make the story truthful. I recently wrote a story called "Molly and Mark" and I said I'm not sure if I every wrote a love letter in my life. My sweetheart of a cousin, Susan, emailed me with this: I beg to differ about you never writing a love note..........seems you do every day now......your love of life and the love you have for your family shines through each and every story. So, you see, you have written lots of love notes. It at times can be an obsession. People always say to write what you know the most about. Hey, I've lived my stories. I'm finding it hard to sleep at night. I keep waking up and remembering an event in my life. I used to get out of bed and write it down, but I'm finding I am dozing off more during the days now because of lack of sleep, so I stay in bed and try to get a good night's sleep. Carol said, "Just put a notepad next to your bed, but don't turn the light on!" I have to actually take Tylenol PM to help me sleep the entire night. Boy do they work. Took one last night and I slept until 9:00 AM this morning. Of course, I didn't think of any stories during the night. I WAS SLEEPING!! I have found new and unique ways to add photos or documents to the stories. If someone has a website I pull it up and use my trusty camera to snap a photo off the screen. I try to copy the image by clicking on it, but am denied. I think what I'm doing is legal. I used to teach legal restrictions in publishing before I retired, but that was over ten years ago and I'm sure I forgot some things. BUT NOT ON PURPOSE! Anyway, they didn't have all this web stuff back then! As long as I'm not trying to sell my blog I'm OK. Which brings me to this. I found that after the year is over I can publish my blog in book form. Wouldn't that be a neat piece of history for future generations. NOT! But it could be my legacy, couldn't it. We'll see. I am becoming a better speller and writer. You may not think so, but you should have seen how bad I used to be at composition. I'm still struggling with the use of the "comma" and the placement of the "apostrophe." But, I think, you get the idea. I'm up to three months worth of stories already. I try to stay a few drafts ahead in case I can't type one night. A month ago I was on vacation and didn't write any stories for a few days and a few people wondered what happened to me. I'll try not to let that happen again! If you've ever seen my handwriting, I'm sure you're glad I have the Mac! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The "Invitation" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were getting ready to head to Chesapeake City for our anniversary. I don't know how many years, but that doesn't really matter. Time flies when your having fun! I can still remember the day. I was living at home and got up early that morning. Had something to eat then went out front and sat on the front step. Nothing to do for a little bit. About 9:00 AM I went in to shower and shave and get dressed in my tux. Pretty neat looking in that tux. At 10:00 AM my brother and I headed to the church. Wanted to make sure I was early for the 11:00 event. Steve was my Best Man for this momentous occasion in my life. I couldn't wait. I was ready to be MARRIED! Age 22. I was sharing all this with my wife as I drove toward our destination of the Bayard House Restaurant. She looked at me and said, "What are you talking about! We weren't married until 2:00 PM. Weren't you there?" "Are you Sure?" I replied. She said, "When you get home check the wedding announcement that you framed and hung in the hall next to the bedroom." Now, I was sure I was right, but didn't want to ruin a good dinner. Our meal was fantastic. We both had the Maryland Crab soup, their speciality, for an appetizer. Carol then had the filet and I had Oysters Chesapeake. This is four oysters covered with lump crab meat with a hollandaise sauce over it. Really tasty! We both had the Canal Digger Crunch ice cream for dessert. You see, the Bayard House is located on the C&D Canal which is the third busiest canal in the world. Try and guess the top two. After arriving home I was ready to check the invitation, but didn't want her to see me. Darn if she wasn't right. But I was sure! I knew I had almost the same font of type as our announcement on my computer so I redid the announcement the next day. Placed a copy over the old one and didn't say a word. Several months later the topic came up again as to the time of day that we were married. I said, "Go look for yourself." As she was coming back down the steps she smiled and said, "Good try, but that's not even close!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - original is on top. Answer: Panama and Suez canals