Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, November 30, 2012

The "Beach Time" Story

Forward:  I wrote this story while on vacation a few months ago, but forgot it in my "draft log."  Being that the weather is cold and freezing in the north-east part of the country, I thought it was now the time to post it and make everyone's thoughts turn to a warmer climate.  Hope it works. 

It was an ordinary day.  Doing what I have been doing for the past week or so.  Laying on a lounge chair, sipping a smoothie, reading my Kindle and soaking up the rays.  Sounds tough doesn't it?  Well, I call it beach time and for those of you who crave the warmth of sand warmed by the tropic sun such as I do, we have reached heaven.  For those of you who long to feast your eyes on the the turquoise water as it meets the powdery white sand of the beach, such as I do, we have found paradise. Not just any heaven or any paradise, but the best in the world, since Grace Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos has been named the World Travel Awards "World's Leading Beach" for four years running.  You just have to see it in order to believe what I just wrote.  This isn't your Jersey Shore sand and water or even your Hawaii sand and water; it is pure heaven and paradise.  Sand so white that it can blind you at times and water so clear and colorful that you can see to the depths of the sea with the naked eye.   I have traveled to many beaches over the last decade, but none come close to this beach.  At times the sand is too finely ground and powdery, since it attaches itself to you as talcum powder would do.  But hey, if that was your biggest problem, life would be simple.  The sand on the Jersey Shore as well the sand in Hawaii can get extremely hot when walking on it, but the sand of Grace Bay Beach is cool to the touch no matter how hot the sun or temperature may be.  I am not the only one who feels this way.  Check out what a few others have said about the best in the world.

  1.  I have been to a lot of islands thus beaches, but for some reason this blew my mind. The most perfect fine brite white sand I have ever seen. 
  2. I just got back from a very relaxing vacation in Providenciales. I have traveled to beaches all over the world and this is "hands down" the best beach in the world. The Beauty of this island is not just what you can see, it is what you feel!!!
  3. Beautiful sand and surf... The turquoise allure that keeps you coming back. Grace Bay is well-named, and is a beach that ranks in my top ten, worldwide.
  4. Absolutely beautiful place! A lot of times you see pictures of places but they don't really look as good when you see them first hand. Well I can say the that as great as the pictures are, it's even better seeing Grace Bay in person!
  5. The sand is so soft & pretty. The water is so welcoming. Even just going for a walk along Grace Bay & I can't help but get in the water. I can't wait to go back!
  6. One of the most beautiful beaches in the world. White sand and warm turquoise water. No seaweed - it's pristine. 
  7. Best and cleanest beach I've ever been to. Just found out they are ranked #1 in the world and I couldn't disagree with that.
  8. Ok, so now I've been to Grace Bay on two different visits. I've read other reviews that say this is one of the finest beaches in the world, and I would honestly have a hard time disputing that. The barrier reef that protects the shoreline here does a wonderful job of keeping the waves mild, and the sand and water are precisely what you'd expect from a tropical island paradise.
  9. White sand, calm, clear blue waters. One of the best beaches I have ever set foot on.
  10. Probably the best beaches I have seen. Warm crystal clear water and fine white sands with a large reef.
These are comments from TripAdvisor on the web.  Comments from all over the world.  I'm sorry that everyone can't experience a place like Provo for themselves.  They would see firsthand what heaven and paradise is really like.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The "I'm Growing Old, But Not Up!" Story

Daughter Brynn, grandchildren Camille,
 Caden and Courtney
It was an ordinary day.  I have a car full of alleged train buffs heading to Strasburg, PA to visit the Choo Choo Barn.  With me is my beautiful wife, Carol, daughter Brynn, oldest son Derek, and my 3 grandkids which would be Courtney, Camille and Caden.  Last year Caden and I visited the Choo Choo Barn and thoroughly enjoyed it, but we are boys.  Taking a chance that the girls in our group will love a "boy thing" as much as we did.  First a few notes about the Choo Choo Barn.  It was officially started in 1961, but was originally born in 1945 in the basement of George Groff of Strasburg.  George had just returned from a tour of duty during WWII and had purchased a $12.50 Lionel train set for his two-year-old son Gary as a Christmas gift.  Yeah right!  My guess is he wanted it as much for himself as he did for his son.  Anyway, within a few years the train yard that resulted covered a large portion of his basement.  I'm sure the two-year-old did quite a bit of the work on it.  Before long the family was opening the display for neighbors and school groups during the Christmas holidays.  When the family grew and was ready for college, George realized he could use his very popular train display to help finance college tuition bills.  He wanted to expand the display so in early 1960 he bought a barn that was for sale along Rt. 741 just West of the Strasburg Railroad and the Choo Choo Barn was born.  It opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1961 to rave reviews, so to speak.  In other words, it was a hit.  It started with 6 trains, 6 animated figures and 600 square feet of detailed landscaping.  Over the next few years the display continued to grow as did the customers.  Tuition was achieved!  When the elder Groffs retired in 1979, Tom, the youngest son, and his wife, took over the operation of the business.  A lot has changed since the family train yard drew it's first customer.  Tom and his crew of workers enlarge the layout every year with more trains, scenery and animation.  They also close for a few days before Thanksgiving so they can "transform" the layout into a winter wonderland.  This year, being their 51st year, there are 51 Santas for kids and adults to try to find throughout the layout.  And boy was it fun to find the 51 Santas amongst the 1,700 square foot model train extravaganza, which includes 150 hand-built animations and 22 moving trains.  Displays such as a ski resort, softball field, baseball stadium with lights and bleachers, a full three-ring circus, Amish barn-raising, real goldfish in a few locations, a Boyscout campsite, a model of Lancaster's version of Hershey Park known as Dutch Wonderland, and my favorite, a house that catches fire about every 10 minutes and is put out by a nearby fire company.  Well, getting back to our visit, we paid our entrance fee and walked through the black curtain into another world.  The miniature world of "never-never" land where you never cease to age.  Let me tell you my wife's face was aglow as she looked over the enormous train display in front of her.  "Do you see this" and "look at that" was all she could say.  My daughter and granddaughters immediately started looking for the 51 Santas as well as pointing out some of their favorite items on the display to each other.  My son and grandson were having a great time pointing out just about everything in front of them.  And me ..... well, I was a kid all over again.  And I loved it!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS- Check out some of the items on the fantastic train layout: 
George Groff working on his train yard.
Children gathering to view the basement train display.
Original sign directing customers toward the entrance.
Entrance as it now appears along Rt. 741
A partial view of the Choo Choo Barn layout.
Monument featuring Presidents of the USA.  Remember this is in miniature!
Train station showing the yellow Choo Choo Trolley and the Pennsylvania Railroad train.
Baseball stadium with lights and bleachers.  My second favorite display.
Ski slope and lodge at simulated nighttime.
Slumbering Groundhog Lodge tractor-trailer.
Part of the three-ring circus with many animated displays.

My favorite!  The fire engine is housed to the left in this photo and responds to the burning building about every ten minutes.  The fireman on the ladder chops a hole in the roof while the fireman which cannot be seen behind the tree sprays real water on the roof.  In the driveway of the home is another fireman saving a person.  The smoke that comes from the roof cannot be seen in this photo.  You'll have to see it for yourself when you visit the Choo Choo Barn. 
Workers make repairs to a steam locomotive.
Amish workers perform tasks as they rebuild a barn for a neighbor.  Many of the workers actually move.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The "Shopping with LDub" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got a call from my niece Kelly asking what to bring for Thanksgiving.  I reminded her that we will celebrate on Saturday instead of Thursday as usual and told her that she can bring a vegetable and that her dad told me he was bringing creamed cauliflower and rice pudding.  We talked some about the families and told her I'd be in touch with the time as soon as Carol had decided when she wanted to have it.  We celebrate on Saturday, since my daughter's in-laws always come to her house on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Actually it gives us an extra few days to prepare for the near 20 people who will open the door and have a great meal at the Beach House.  In a few days I will begin to pick up some of the food that will be needed to make the meal to celebrate one of my favorite holidays.  Got a coupon for a free turkey at the grocery store where I shop, but will need an extra turkey for the large group.  Carol always makes the list for me and when I shop for Thanksgiving I always buy some items for the Christmas dinner as well, since we seem to have almost as many for that holiday.  Over the years I have learned what items usually go on sale this time of the year, but saw a story about it in an article that I read online.  Listed the 10 items that usually are cheaper for the approaching holidays.  They are:

  1. Butter - price is usually about $4 for 4 quarters of either regular or salted butter but seems to drip to about half that price for the holidays.  Why?  I have no idea, but I never complain.  I buy extra and stick it in the freezer.
  2. Sugar - this item usually drops a dollar or two depending on the size of box or bag that you buy.  Brown and powdered sugar usually have the biggest drop and sometimes limit you to a certain amount.  In that case, since I live across the street from the grocery store, I go back several times if I need the extra.  With Carol baking so many varieties of cookies for Christmas we tend to use quite a bit of this item.
  3. Crackers - why this item seems to drop in price I could never figure out except for the fact that many people like to celebrate and nothing beats cheese and crackers for an impromptu party.  Sometimes you can get a box of snack crackers or saltines for a buck.
  4. Frozen Veggies - many times I have coupons for frozen vegetables so this is an item that seems to always be cheap if you use the coupons.  And, if your store gives double coupons you can get a box or bag of vegetables for 50 cents.
  5. Bacon - why this is on the list I read I can't figure out.  Do people actually use more bacon curing the holidays?  I checked out the price yesterday at the store and was shocked at the price.  Some brands were $5-$7 for a pound of bacon.  Then I remembered that because of the extremely dry summer the price was going to be higher.  
  6. Oil - I just bought two bottles of EV olive oil at Costco last week and got a great price, but it is usually a great price at Costco.  Yesterday I got a big bottle of canola oil, but we don't use an excess of oil for the holidays.  I guess if you deep-fried your turkey you may use a bunch and would be glad for the cheap price.
  7.  Poultry and Pork - often wonder how you can buy a huge turkey for $20 at Thanksgiving, but when you want one during the summer it is another half times that amount.  Guess because there are so many turkeys raised for this time of year that they can offer a better price.  Now, as far as pork goes, I sure hope that doesn't cost an arm and a leg when I go for a piece to celebrate the New Year with pork and sauerkraut.  The article I read said it will be cheaper this time of the year.  No where in the article did mention ham which is what we usually celebrate with at Christmas.  
  8. Supplies - you know, like the aluminum trays that you make your turkey in and if you're not careful can drop on the floor when you take them out of the oven.  I bought one yesterday and got a second one free.  Brought them home and put them with the other three I forgot i had from the past few years.  And, the reusable containers were on sale, 2 for 1.  Use a lot of them to divi out the leftovers when everyone goes home.
  9. Cake Mixes - I never knew this was an item that was on sale this time of year.  Guess because my lively wife makes all her own cakes and doesn't use the boxed variety.  Thanks dear!
  10. Canned goods - if you can wait, you can get cranberry sauce for half-price, but over the past few years I found you better not wait for the cans of pure pumpkin to go on sale or you won't get any.  Seems to have been a shortage over the last several years so whenever I see it on the shelf I buy a can or two.  After yesterday I have 9 cans; 6 regular and 3 of the real big ones.  Better get baking dear.
OK, there are the items that allegedly are on sale this time of year.  But, don't wait and try and blame it on me if you can't get something.  Hey, have a Happy Holiday season.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The "Sub King" Story

Gene, "The Sub King," of G&G Subs
 is pictured in the middle.

It was an ordinary day.  Just stopped in G&G to get a turkey sub for Carol and me for supper tonight.  Got to talking to Gwen, the last G in G&G, about how long she has been making subs.  Now this story goes way back, so I'll start at the beginning.  The year was 1961 and my dad had just told me at supper that night that I could have a job at the Acme Supermarket on North Queen Street if I wanted it. Wow!  I had been working at Grants Department Store at the Lancaster Shopping Center since turning 16 so I would have money to put gas in my car which I had purchased when I was 15 years old.  I think I was getting about a dollar an hour for my work at Grants and didn't seem to be making quite enough for all the driving I was doing.  Told dad I was interested and he gave me the details.  Seems he knew the guy who was the manager of the store and that guy owed dad a favor, so me getting the job was the favor.  Gave my two weeks notice the next day at Grants and went to the Acme to meet Mr. Bennett, known as "Doc" to just about everyone.  "Doc" must have been close to 7 feet tall or at least he seemed to be that tall to me.  Big guy!  We talked and set up a date when I would start.  When the time arrived I went to the Acme dressed in dress pants, white shirt and tie.  Looked just like all the other workers in the store.  They gave me a white apron, showed me how to punch in when I arrived and introduced me to Gene, the assistant manager who was going to be training me.  We hit it off right away.  He was a brash, loud guy who seemed to know everybody and anythingthing about everything.  Had a neat haircut that made him look like Ed "Kookie" Burns from the TV show "77 Sunset Strip."  I thought he was way cool, as did everybody else.  That first evening he ran a cash register and I was his bagger.  He thought he was really fast on the register, but I was faster with putting the groceries in the bags.  At the end of the evening he told me I was going to work out just perfect.  He loved people who worked hard and I was one who loved to work hard.  Anyway, it made the time go fast.  Next night he had me stocking shelves and he had a hard time opening the boxes fast enough.  In no time he and I were good friends.  He gave me some pretty responsible jobs and I didn't let him down.  Didn't take long before I was making really good money.  While my friends were still getting the $1 an hour, I was getting $2.32 an hour.  I can still remember the exact amount, since I couldn't believe it myself.  I was a member of the union, even though I was only part-time.  Had to pay pretty stiff union dues, but still made out very well with the high hourly wage.  In 1963 Acme opened a brand-new Supermarket on the Millersville Pike in Lancaster.  Really big place and Gene was made the assistant manager of the new store.  He was allowed to bring one employee from the old store with him and he chose me, even though I was only part-time.  We worked together well at the new store.  Some Friday evenings I would arrive from Millersville State Teachers College, where I was a student, about 4:00 PM for the evening shift which lasted until 10:00 PM when the store closed.  If an evening crew worker called in sick Gene would ask me if I wanted to go home until midnight and come back to stock shelves with the night crew.  Never turned him down since I didn't have to work all day Saturday.  I finally quite Acme in 1965 and lost track of Gene until sometime in the mid-80s.  One day I went into a store at the corner of North Franklin and Hamilton Streets called G&G to get a sub.  By now I'm sure you have figured out that the other G in the name of the store was Gene.  What a time we had reminiscing about the "Good Ole Days" at the Acme.  Then I realized that his wife Gwen had been a student a few years back where I taught high school.  Great reunion that day with a great turkey sub.  Gene and Gwen had married in 1980, opened the store in 1981 and shortly after that had a son named Derek which happened to be the name of my oldest son.  Over the years I have been back many times for my subs.  They make the best subs in the world you know!!  Don't know why I love them soooo much, but I do.  Buns are large and always fresh.  Put plenty of mayo on my turkey sub with piles and piles of turkey.  Plenty of onions, cheese, tomatoes, and the best lettuce you'll ever eat.  Why?  I guess it is the way that they slice it on their meat slicer that makes it so good.  As Derek grew older, he started to help make the subs along with his mom and dad.  Then one day in 2006 Gene died.  Tough for the family, but also for all of Gene's customers who loved him so much.  His son Derek has taken his place in the shop making the subs, and they are as good as ever, but a sub made by Gene was extraordinary.  Derek recently started making soups and specialty sandwiches for sale on Thursdays and Fridays.  These are in addition to the 17 subs listed on their menu board.  Subs called the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Luau, The Lebanon, The Super Cheese, The Super Duper and the G&G Special are sold along with the regular subs such as the Italian, Ham, American, Tuna and Turkey, my favorite.  All the subs are made on 12" Amoroso rolls which are delivered daily.  Hey, check out the photos below while I head to G&Gs for another Turkey Sub.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Gene on the far right in his store in the early 80s.
Sign on the corner that still remains the same.
Store as it appears today.
Derek making a sub for one of his customers.
Final result!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The "November This & That" Story

Forward:  Earlier this week my son-in-law, Dave Mencarini, coach of the Quince Orchard High School football team, defeated the Westminster Owls to earn a spot in the 4A Maryland football championship which will be played at the Baltimore Ravens Stadium on November 30.  A story will follow after I attend the game.  

It was an ordinary day.  Saw a few things recently that made me think about the coming holidays.  I'll share them with you and I'm sure you will remember when .........

  1. November is National Caregivers Month.  Wow, do I have respect for all the caregivers in the world.  But, even though there are thousands and thousands of paid caregivers, there are still the family members who care for their relatives and receive no pay or acknowledgment for what they do.  I know they do it out of love, but they still deserve to be honored for their duty and loyalty and that is why this month there are many more articles and stories about them in the press and on TV.  So, for all of the caregivers in the world, I want to thank you for your tireless efforts.  God Bless You!
  2. Don't forget that the season is fast approaching when you can watch all your favorite Christmas animation shows on TV.  It's been nearly a half-century since "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" first hit the TV screen.  And how about "The Little Drummer Boy," "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town," and "The Year Without a Santa Claus."  Remember them?  But, I think my favorite has to be "Frosty the Snowman."  My wife still gets teary-eyed when she sees Frosty start to melt.  
  3. Then there is the lady that I read about in the local paper who told her story about being in elementary school and her teacher had her and her classmates write down every book they read that year in a composition notebook.  Seems she never gave up that idea and continued to add every book with a small note about each one.  She has added a few composition notebooks to her collection, but how cool that is that she can look back at all the books she has read in her lifetime.  I wish I had done that since elementary school.  Too late to start now?
  4. And one final note about the recent election. Seems that in my home Lancaster County there were some pretty neat write-in votes for president.  The usual vote-getters were Jesus, Willie Nelson, Mickey Mouse, Goofy and a host of celebrities and movie characters.  Believe it or not, Mickey Mouse beat Donald Trump 7-4 in the balloting.  Then there were some dead people who got votes such as Lincoln, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and Nixon.  One voter voted for Mark Twain for not only president, but for every office.  But the most interesting vote went to none other than Chase Utley from the Phillies.  Now why didn't I think of that!
OK, there you have my "This and That" notes for November.  Hope you enjoyed them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The "Namesake: Part II" Story

Stevens' home and office on South Queen Street.

It was an ordinary day.  Picking up where I left off with yesterday's story about my youngest son's namesake and Lancaster's Bi-Centennial hero, Thaddeus Stevens.  I could write an extremely lengthy story about Stevens' national accomplishments, but will list some of the highlights and then concentrate on his ties to Lancaster, PA and our community.  Stevens was elected to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1848, six years after moving his law practice to Lancaster.  Thaddeus Stevens was one of the chief framers of the 14th Amendment, the single most important change to the Constitution.  Ratified in 1868, the amendment requires equal treatment for all American citizens and prohibits states from violating basic rights, such as freedom of speech and religion.  He was one of the chief architects of Reconstruction that sought to bring about an equal society in the South.  This included granting the right to vote to African-American men and the military occupation of the South to protect newly freed slaves.  He also spearheaded the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, who was undermining Reconstruction efforts.  The House voted to impeach Johnson, but the Senate failed to convict him by one vote.  It did leave Johnson virtually powerless for the remainder of his term.  He also was known for his harboring of freedom seekers within his properties in Lancaster and organizing spies to thwart slave catchers.  On the home front, Stevens opened a law office in the first block of South Queen Street in the summer of 1842.  In 1948 he met Lydia Smith who served as his housekeeper from '48 until his death 20 years later.  She was a smart and personable woman who allegedly was not only his housekeeper, but also his mistress.  The two shared an interest in the abolition of slavery and the advancement of racial equality.  After a Southern slavemaster was killed trying to claim his slaves at Christiana in 1851, Stevens successfully defended the "rioters" who had been charged with treason for violating the Fugitive Slave Act.  Smith supported him in his trial.  Upon Stevens' death, Smith purchased his house at 45-47 S. Queen Street with money he had left her.  Eight years earlier Stevens had deeded property behind his house to Smith for $500.  Stevens had already built a brick house on that property, facing East Vine Street, for Smith and her sons.  Well-known Philadelphia artist Charles King painted Lydia's portraiture at Stevens' request, showing a lovely light-skinned mulatto woman.  Stevens was in Lancaster when Lincoln was assassinated in the spring of 1865.  Eight days later, the President's funeral train passed through Lancaster County.  Thousands of Lancastrians lined the tracks and assembled at the train station to view Lincoln's funeral car and to hear local dignitaries eulogize the martyred President.  Stevens was not one of them.  Seems that Stevens and Lincoln, though both Republicans, were always in conflict while fighting for the same causes.  Stevens thought that Lincoln was always one step behind in important issues.  Stevens died in Washington, D.C. on August 11, 1968.  His body lied in state in the Capitol Rotunda at the exact same spot where Lincoln had laid.  Black soldiers stood guard while thousands of mourners passed his coffin.  In Lancaster, thousands more held a funeral for their congressional representative.  He was buried in Martin Shreiner's cemetery at West Chestnut and North Mulberry Streets.  This was the only cemetery in the city that was not segregated.  Within the year after his death Congress passed the 15th Amendment, prohibiting the states from withholding voting privileges for reason of race, thus completing Thaddeus Stevens' civil rights legacy.  At the burial of Stevens, the rector of my church, St. James Episcopal, the Rev. Isidor Mombert, said, "Thaddeus Stevens loved liberty.  The narrow barriers of party lines, of religious creed, of exclusive legislation, of a fettered press, of oligarchies aspiring to overthrow the liberties of the people by making the will of the many yield to the designs of a few, armed with official power and the resources and appliances of wealth - all these he hated with bitter hatred and opposed with all his powers. ...This inborn love of liberty and abhorrence of all exclusiveness, made him actually select this retired spot for his burying place, for he refused even to allow his ashes to lie in a cemetery, which, unlike God's earth and air, forbids that those who are created with His image carved in ebony instead of ivory, should sleep their last sleep."  His epitaph reads: "I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, Not from any natural preference for solitude, But finding other cemeteries limited as to race by charter rules.  I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death, The principals which I advocated in my life: Equality of man before his creator."  His will left a bequest for the establishment of a non-discriminatory institution to provide a free educational experience for indigent orphans.  Since 1905, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology has exemplified the words of its namesake.  Twice Stevens College has been named the best two-year college in Pennsylvania.  "They shall be carefully educated in the various branches of English education and all industrial pursuits.  No preference shall be shown on account of race or color in their admission or treatment.  They shall be fed at the same table."  A quote from Thaddeus Stevens.  He was a great American and human being.  That is why our son shares his name!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Photos with short descriptions follow.

Lydia Smith, Stevens' housekeeper.
Stevens' home and law office at 45-47 South Queen St., Lancaster, PA
Lincoln's Special at the Harrisburg Train Station on Saturday, April 22, 1865
Final Rites are given to Thaddeus Stevens in Martin Shreiner's cemetery
Photo which I took of Stevens tomb
Inscription on the side of the tomb.  Click on image to enlarge.
Historical marker at the corner of Mulberry and Chestnut Streets in Lancaster.
Road sign marking the entrance to Thaddeus Stevens' College of Technology
Old Main on the campus of Stevens College
Bronze statue that sits on the campus of Stevens' College.   It features Thaddeus Stevens and an adolescent boy.  This statue was erected on the campus in 2008.  The boy represents thousands of financially disadvantaged young people who have been educated at the school for free.

Stevens, in his 73rd year, suggested what his own epitaph might say:  "And I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus: 'Here lies one who never rose to any eminence, and who only courted the low ambition to have it said that he had striven to ameliorate the condition of the poor, the lowly, the downtrodden of every race and language and color.'"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The "Namesake - Part I" Story

Thaddeus Stevens

It was an ordinary day.  Checking the paper to see the times for the Steven Spielberg's film "Lincoln" which is showing at the Penn Cinema in Lancaster, PA.  I recently wrote another story about the film and how it used cannons that belonged to the former Mayor of Lancaster, Charlie Smithgall, but this story is about one of the characters, or should I say main players in Abraham Lincoln's life, Thaddeus Stevens;  Actually the story ties Thaddeus to LDubs life and family.  Here's how it goes - In 1976 the United States was celebrating it's Bi-Centennial and Carol and I were awaiting the birth of our third child.  We wanted to make it special for our child so we decided we had to give the child a Bi-Centennial name.  Not knowing if it would be a girl or a boy, we had names prepared for both.  Not sure anymore what the girl's name might have been, since we didn't need it, but the boy's name incorporated Thadeus into it, since he was a pretty famous member of Lancaster's history and we liked the name.  Have you noticed yet that I didn't type Thaddeus the same in both the historical figure and in our son's name?  Why, because I didn't realize that it had two "d"s in it when we gave it to our son.  Well, on April 9th our 10lb., 0oz. son was born at the Lancaster General Hospital with a name of Paul Thadeus.  His first name namesake was his paternal grandfather while his second name namesake was Thaddeus Stevens.  A real Bi-Centennial baby so he was.  I have written a few stories about my son and his accomplishments which you can find by clicking on the "children" link at the beginning of my stories.  This story is meant to tell you a little about his namesake and the patriot that he was in our country's history .......... Thaddeus was born in Danville, VT on April 4, 1972.  He was the second son born to Sarah Stevens and his father Joshua, who was an alcoholic and abandoned his family when Thaddeus was 12 years old.  Thaddeus was burdened with a club foot from birth and ridiculed throughout his childhood.  His mother was determined that he would succeed in life and at the age of 15 moved her family to Peacham, VT and enrolled him in the free Caledonia Grammar School, also known as Peacham Academy.  Stevens was smart and excelled in school and eventually enrolled at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he graduated in 1814.  His academic performance was respectable, but he excelled in debate.  Following graduation he decided to study law and moved to York, PA to begin his career.  He became one of the best lawyers of the 19th century, but never attended law school.  Seems that most attorneys did not attend law school at the time.  Stevens began his law journey in 1815 in the office of a distinguished York attorney and financed his studies by teaching at a private academy in York.  His year as a teacher would be useful background when he later became a champion of public education in Pennsylvania.  In 1816 he passed the bar exam and moved to Gettysburg to begin his law practice.  It is here where he spent the next quarter-century of his life.  Thaddeus was a superb trial attorney arguing over 1,000 cases while in Gettysburg, some for murder, and only lost one case, his first.  Because of his childhood background of poverty, he defended many clients who where too poor to pay him as well as many blacks who were held as slaves.  In 1822 he was elected to the town council as a Federalist, the first of his four political parties.  Being that he was a champion of public schooling, he once said, "May the film be removed from the eyes of Pennsylvania and she learn to dread ignorance more than taxation."  Wow!  In the late 1820s he joined the Anti-Masonic movement, since he was an opponent of the elite, and argued that the Masons unfairly and illegally favored each other in business, politics and legal matters.  The Masons also refused to accept any member with a disability, so because of his club foot he fought they even harder.  In 1833 he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives where he served intermittently for almost a century.  His greatest achievement as a state legislator was defending free public schooling where in 1834 he joined with Democrat George Wolf to promote the state's first free-school law.  In the late 1830s he became an ardent abolitionist and refused to sign the new 1838 state constitution because it did not give black citizens the right to vote.  At the same time he lost considerable money in the panic of 1837 and in 1842 decided to move his law practice to the the larger city of Lancaster.  Because of this move he became a famous Lancastrian and the reason Carol and I picked Thadeus for the middle name of our third child.  I have more to tell about how Lincoln and Stevens became allies and why Stevens plays a prominent roll in the movie "Lincoln."  Tomorrow's story will give you a bit more of local flavor.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The "Remember the Wind Blowing Through Your Hair ..... Remember Hair?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My childhood friend Bill who lives in Arizona sent me a really neat email the other day that I know the motor heads that read my stories will appreciate.  Hey, you don't have to love cars to appreciate the email, but it would help if you were close to ..... say 65 years old.  Now if you don't love cars and aren't on the other side of the hill yet, you might still appreciate the billboards that General Motors placed along the highways in Detroit last year.  If only I hadn't sold my '58 Chevy Impala with the Continental Kit on the back!  It is the ninth billboard, red car.  Check them out and see what you think.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.