Extraordinary Stories

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The "The Reist Popcorn Company: Part I" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had been waiting for this day for quite some time.  Story started the end of last summer when I made a trip to Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania to see the classic cars that were on display down the main street of the town.  Grabbed my camera and notepad and headed to this small town located about 13 miles to the west of Lancaster, PA.  I was still in recovery mode from back surgery and a bout of shingles in my leg that I suffered a month before, so I tried to find a parking place as close as I could to Main St.  Drove to the far west end of Mt. Joy and found my way into the parking lot of a church that was directly in front of a building that had a huge mural painted on it that proclaimed it to be the "Reist Popcorn Co."  Wow, a popcorn company right here in the center of Lancaster County.  You know, I shouldn't have been surprised, since Lancaster has many small businesses related to farm products from livestock to produce, since we are called the "Garden Spot of America" for heaven's sake.  I made a record in my notebook to contact the Reist Company and see if I could make a visit to write a story about the place.  Received a prompt return email from Dave Reist telling me that I had chosen their busiest time of the year and could I make a visit in the winter.  Well, the winter is coming to an end according to Octorara Annie, the teller of Groundhog day predictions, and I have just returned from my visit with one of the nicest business owners in Lancaster.  Dave Reist is the owner of the Reist Popcorn Co., following his grandfather Alvin and father Henry as the head of the family business.  The company was founded in 1925 as a seed mill on East Main St. and was relocated in 1937 to the current building along Manheim Street, a half-block off of Main.  Dave is a very personable guy and answers my questions with a smile on his face as wide as an ear of corn.  I noticed the many articles framed and hanging on the wall of his office and realize that he has been answering the same questions many times over.  I tried to act as if I knew something about farming, since I grew up in Lancaster County, as he did, but I suspect my questions were as repetitive as those before me.  A few things I did find out that were interesting were: 

  1.  There are five employees in his entire business.
  2.  Popcorn has more protein in it that other types of corn.
  3.  The hard outer shell of popcorn keeps the moisture inside the kernel better than other types of corn.
  4. There are different types of popcorn such as Butterfly which is the fluffy movie-theatre type, Mushroom which is more a balled popcorn which would be good for chocolate or caramel coating since it doesn't break as easy as the Butterfly; and White popcorn which is ...... well, White and smaller and more tender.
  5. They have only about 5-8% waste in the production of their popcorn from farmer's fields to their customers.
  6. The corn they receive in their plant has already been husked and field shelled.
  7. Reist Company started to specialze in only popcorn in the late 1980s and changed their name to Reist Popocorn Co. in 2001.
  8. The majority of their corn is grown in Ohio, but they still have local growers of popcorn in Lancaster and York Counties as well as a few other states closeby.   
  9. Local companies such as Utz, Martin's and Herr's, which is a world-wide distributor of snack products, buys their popcorn from Reist Popcorn Company.
  10. One of the by-products of the production of the popcorn is bird-seed.
  11. Their product is transported to their customers by a fleet of trucks they have, but the corn that comes into their company travels by rail.
  12. The corn is usually harvested from October to November.  
  13. When the moisture content of the corn is 16-18%, it is harvested and Reist Popcorn dries it to about 14% before they process it.  If preserved correctly it can last for years after production.  This is in comparison to the corn-on-the-cob which we eat that has 30-35% moisture.
  14. Their plant is extremely clean and free of debris and for the size of the equipment being used, fairly quiet.
  15. The large white cloth bags of popcorn that are collected from the optical scanner usually weigh in the neighborhood of 2,000 pounds.  They are moved around the plant with a tow motor.  
OK, now for one or two more items before I start to post the photos I took while on my visit.  Dave told me they really don't have a slow season and the popcorn that was being processed the day I was there had recently come by rail to his factory from Ohio.  The railroad siding in a short distance to the west of the processing building.  Once the kernels are unloaded from the rail cars it is placed in trucks for delivery to the processing building.  The thing that effects their business the most is the weather and the the drought that we experienced in the U.S. last summer really had an impact on his business.  He must plan accordingly with his suppliers to keep the product as current as he can.  My visit was extremely informative and enjoyable, made that way by my host Dave Reist.  It was an extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - Photos of my visit will follow tomorrow with the best explanation I could muster of what you may be seeing.  Any mistakes in the story are truly from the author. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The "The Underground Railroad" Story

The Underground Railroad routes showing
it going through southeastern Pennsylvania.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading some more stories about our local hero, Thaddeus Stevens, whose first name my wife and I gave to our second son as his middle name.  Just had to do that since he was born in 1976, our country's Bi-Centennial year.  Months ago I visited the location of Stevens home in Lancaster, PA when I was writing a story about him.  Read today that the location of his home on South Queen St. was part of the Underground Railroad during the time of the Civil War.  Not only was his home a "safe house," but the home of his "common-law-wife," Lydia Hamilton Smith whose property adjoined Stevens.  For years I thought that the Underground Railroad was really a railroad that ran under the city of Lancaster, much like the subway in Philadelphia.  Wasn't until I learned about the Civil War and Lancaster's ties to it while in junior high school that I realized it was above ground and wasn't really a railroad.  There are many locations in southeastern Pennsylvania that were part of the Underground Railroad.  Columbia, PA, which is on the banks of the Susquehanna in Lancaster County was home to black businessman William Whipper who was part owner in a lumber yard and who built secret compartments in actual railroad boxcars to help transport southern slaves to safety in nearby Philadelphia.  150 years ago the Confederate Army had captured York, PA, which is across the Susquehanna from Lancaster, and was heading to Lancaster enroute to Harrisburg.  Union Troops, fighting with the Pennsylvania Militia and the Black Militia tried to keep the southern army from crossing the bridge into Lancaster.  After failing to stop the south on the York side of the river, they retreated to the Lancaster side and attempted to blow up the bridge which also failed.  Finally set fire to the bridge which managed to keep the Confederate Army from crossing and heading to Harrisburg, PA.  The river ended up being a crossing point for southern slaves on the road to freedom.  Some made their way to Columbia to be helped by Whipper into Lancaster and the homes of Stevens and Smith, while others crossed the river to the south at Peach Bottom and still others followed a path that lead them along the Octoraro Creek in eastern Lancaster County to the town of Christiana where farmer, abolitionist and former slave William Parker lived.  Two women who were caught and taken to the jail in Lancaster, which is now the location of The Fulton Opera House, were sprung by Sheriff Dave Miller (Dare Devil Dave) who believed they were wrongly captured by bounty hunters  The destination for most slaves was eventually Philadelphia, and then on to Canada.  It was reported that close to 100,000 slaves seemed to disappear underground as they were being pursued by their owners, thus the term "Underground Railroad."  It is also said that the slaves managed to escape by using the directions in such songs as Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Brother Moses Gone to de Promised Land, Wade In The Water, and Follow the Drinkin' Gourd.  The Underground Railroad was the lifeline for the fleeing slaves.  The federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made helping or harboring slaves a crime, but didn't stop the organization of freed blacks and white abolitionists from helping slaves via the Underground Railroad. On September 11, 1851, Maryland slave owner Edward Gorsuch came to the farm of William Parker in Christiana with a posse demanding his property citing the slave law.  Gorsuch died in the battle that resulted and some 40 people were charged with treason.  Thaddeus Stevens defended them, and after the first defendent was aquitted, the charges against the rest were dropped.  For someone who disliked history while in high school and college, I found that reading the accounts and stories about my home Lancaster County and its part in the Civil War was remarkably interesting.  If only I had enjoyed history half a century ago I might have avoided all those bad grades!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The "The Photos That Changed Us Forever" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Grabbed a few magazines and started leafing through them.  Then I came to the large format magazine with the cloth binding that I bought in October of 1996.  Still enjoy reading and looking at all the photos in that 60th Anniversary Life Magazine.  Some really powerful photos!  Starting on page 49 of the magazine, Life Magazine shows and describes the "60 Pictures That Change Us Forever."  As I started to look at the photos and read the commentary, I realized that some of the pages had the corner folded.  Not the first time that I had gone through the story and every time I seem to gravitate toward the same photos.  Still photography, whether it be black and white or color, has the power to envelope you in it's imagery.  Study a photograph.  See what you can learn that you never imagined knowing as you view the photograph.  You may feel emotions that you never had experienced before or realize that we have all changed because of the photograph.  The following are a few of MY favorites from the past.  Do you remember seeing them when they were first published?

Photograph taken by AP photographer Eddie Adams.  Adams captured this shot of a South Vietnamese general, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, executing a Viet Cong officer in the Tet Offensive. One of the most iconic shots of the Vietnam War. Adams would come to lament the damage the Pulitzer winning photo did to Nguyen and his family.
Photograph by Huynh Cong Ut taken in 1973 showing a naked girl running whit a group of other children after the napalm bombing of a Vietnamese village.  This was one of the photos that brought the atrocity of the war into Americans homes. 
Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan captured this photo in 1969.  It was the cover photograph for the final album recorded by The Beatles before their breakup.  Titled Abbey Road, it featured a shot of the four men crossing the road almost in lock-step, except for Paul McCartney, whose off-balance stride spurred the urban legend that he was dead.
Steve McCurry captured this photograph in 1984 of an Afghan Girl, known only as the Afghan girl, since her identity was unknown until she was rediscovered in 2002.  Sharbat Gula's face became one of the most iconic national Geographic covers of all time, and a symbol of the struggle of  refugees everywhere.  I have her photo on one of my Pinterest boards.  It feels as if she is staring right through me.  
Seems like only yesterday that this Kent State, Ohio protest was photographed by John Paul Filo.  The year was 1970 and the students were protesting President Nixon sending troops into Cambodia when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on the crowd, killing four.  The image of this young girl crying over the dead body of a student won a Pulitzer Prize and inspired Neil Young to write the protest song "Ohio."
This series of photographs was taken by Eadwaerd Muybridge in the 1800s.  It showed there really was a moment midstride when horses had all hooves off the ground.  It set off the revolution in motion photography that would become movies.  Some of my favorites.
This is perhaps my favorite photograph of all time.  It was taken in May of 1946 by W. Eugene Smith and titled "The Walk to Paradise Garden."  Smith had been wounded in the hand documenting WWII and had despaired about ever returning to photography until the day when he took this photo of his children walking behind their home in NY.
You must remember this iconic photograph titled "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima."  It was taken by Joe Rosenthal in 1945.  It is one of the most indelible images of WWII and won a Pulitizer.  The photo is of U.S. Marines raising their flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  The image was used to create the USMC War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.  I am in the midst of writing a story that will detail the taking of this photo.  It will be published soon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The "Artwork with Class" Story

Thomas Kincade print all "decked out."
It was an ordinary day.  Just got home from my part-time job at Grebinger Gallery in Neffsville, PA where I do the matting and framing of artwork for a former student of mine whom I had in photography class.  I usually work one, or sometimes two days a week for Keith framing just about anything.  Few weeks ago I framed the mane of a horse that had recently died and was being remembered by its owner with the memento.  I have framed a few pro golf collectables as well as a few balls, tees, and score cards from a golfer who may had had a hole-in-one.  Baseball jerseys and football jerseys are other popular items that I have done, but today I am decking out two large Thomas Kinkade prints that Keith had purchased with plans of having me mat and frame them for resale in his gallery.  He told me he wanted suede matting and I was to use a wooden gold fillet to compliment the frame that he had purchased.  My first job was to set up the computerized mat cutter for the size of the mat with the opening for the size of the print.  Suede mat board is slightly thicker than regular mat board and the mat cutter needs to be adjusted accordingly.  After the mat has been cut it is now ready for the application of the gold wooden fillet.  The fillets are usually 3/16" to 1/4" in width and will fit in the opening of the mat before it is placed over the print.  I have included some photos to give you an idea how the procedure is done. Instructions are listed under each photo. Hope you can follow my descriptions. The final result from the photos below can be seen at the top of this story.  Stop in the gallery on Rt. 501N in Neffsville, PA and visit with Keith and me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The fillet is a long, very narrow piece of wood that will help to add "Class" to the matting of any photograph.  I use a fillet chopper to cut the 45 degree angles needed to fit into the mat.
This photo shows the fillets which will be placed around the opening in the suede mat.
Before gluing the fillets to the mat board I coat the corners with a gold marker so you will not see any of the wood coloring in the corners of the final frame.
Final corner.
On the rear side I place acid-free tape to hold the fillets in place and also to prevent the wooden fillets from touching the print.
This shows what the print looks like before placement in the frame.
I use a nail brush to clean the suede mat from dust and any imperfections that might occur in the manufacture of the mat.
The frame is assembled in the "underpinner" which pushes metal cleats into the wood from under the corner of the frame by using pressure from your foot.
The glass that I used was Conservation glass.  It will prevent the print from being exposed to damaging rays from the sun, causing the print to fade.  You notice in the photo that I cut from the rear.  The wording on the glass says "This side faces artwork" so I need to turn it over for cutting.
The glass is cut using a T-square and an oiled hand glass cutter.
The glass is placed in the rear of the frame, cut side towards the frame.
After placing the mat, artwork and conservation foam board in place, I use a pin driver to hold it in place.
I now place double-sided tape around the edge of the frame to attach the backing paper.
The backing paper will protect the rear of the print and keep insects from damaging the print.
Because of the size and weight of the print, I place "Wall-Buddies" on the rear instead of wire.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The "The better to see you with ... My Dear" Story

It was an ordinary day.  I'm trying to keep my glasses on my face rather than have them in front of me on the desk as I type.  My glass-wearing days started years ago.  I was in my first year of midget baseball.  Midget ball follows midget-midget and junior midget ball in sequence and has nothing to do with the size of the players, except that the midget-midget teams are for the younger age kids who naturally happen to be smaller. After having a successful year in midget-midget baseball playing for the Schick team in the city league and winning the State Jr. Midget title the following year while playing for the Young Republicans, I joined one of my local high school summer teams, the Grandview Heights Midgets.  I couldn't hit the ball as well as in years past and naturally was concerned.  Then it hit me (not meant to be a pun) that I couldn't see it as well.  Talked to mom and dad and they took me to see an eye doctor who told them I needed glasses.  Back to my old self again, batting close to .500 and being second on the team in hitting.  For years I had glasses to help me with myopia which is having difficulty in seeing distance.  As I aged I started to notice that I was having some difficulty reading and seeing objects close to me which is called presbyopia (I didn't make these names up or I naturally would have called them something sillier).  Off to the eye doctor again and ended up with line bifocals.  Now all I had to do was place my glasses on my nose and I could see near and far.  Then along came progressive lenses  where you could not see the line in the center of the lens.  I believe in planned obsolescence and swear that the glass companies had this idea from the start, but wanted you to have to buy new glasses to be "in-style" so they first put out the lined ones, then introduced the progressive after everyone had a pair of line bi-focals.  Anyway, I bought a pair of progressive lens glasses and was happy,  Then, naturally came the photo-gray glasses which are coated with a material that cause the lens to darken when light hits it.  Had to change again and get a pair of photo-gray glasses which I thoroughly loved.  Then one day, as I was reading the newspaper, I realized that I could see the print better if I took off my glasses.  Well, one thing led to another and I eventually opted for a new pair of glasses without any bi-focal lens in them, but with the photo-gray option.  I was set, so I thought.  The only problem now was that every time I took the glasses off to read or type stories or eat or ....... I would misplace them.  So I tried the cable that attaches to the tips of the side pieces of the glasses except my wife told me they looked stupid.  End of that idea.  Then one day noticed that the photo-gray coating was wearing off  the right lens.  Took them back to Costco where I had purchased them and was told they would recoat them for free, but they would have to keep them for two weeks.  Not going to work.  I eventually decided to buy another pair of progressive lens glasses from Costco with the photo-gray and when I stopped at Costco for them, gave them my old pair to keep for the two weeks and recoat with the photo-gray for free.  Make any sense to you?  Well, I now have two pair of glasses, but the second pair of progressives are tough to get used to since the lenses are "in-style" and very narrow in height and the progressive part starts somewhat higher on the lens.  That's why I having trouble keeping the glasses on my face.  And to top all of this off, I'm too old now to even swing a bat.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The "Martin Shreiner: Jack of all Trades" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just came back from the pawn shop with a few of my dad's old watches that had been left on top of his refrigerator when he died.  He was a watchmaker and people would give him watches to fix and he would place them in a tray on the fridge until he had time to look at them.  Well, none of the watches were worth anything.  About the only thing I got out of it was a few memories about dad and a story about the watchmaking and clock-making trade in Lancaster, PA.  Dad went to Bowman's School on the corner of North Duke and East Chestnut to learn the art of watchmaking.  The school was founded by Jacob Bowman in 1867.  Many fine watchmakers learned their trade by going to this school.  But, one of Lancaster's most famous clock-makers was born a century before the school was started.  Martin Shreiner was born in Lancaster, January 23, 1767 and learned the trade of clock-making from John Eberman.  Mr. Eberman, with the help of Martin, built the first town clock that Lancaster ever had.  Martin Shreiner eventually set up business in Lancaster and continued in clock-making until 1829.  He made over 300 clocks in his lifetime before turning to manufacturing fire engines. Not sure how the two are related, but Mr. Shreiner must have.  One of the first fire engines manufactured by him was that made for a hose company in Lebanon, PA.  In 1819 Martin was elected by Lancaster City Council to be one of the first street regulators of Lancaster.  Not quite sure what a street regulator did, but I'm sure he did it well.  He also was a director of the poor in Lancaster and in 1832 was on the committee that was instrumental in having the Columbia and Philadelphia railway brought through the city of Lancaster.   But it was in 1834 that he built the celebrated "American fire engine" with two chambers, eight and a half inches in diameter, which at its first trial forced water to the top of the local Lutheran Church steeple, two hundred feet high.  This fire engine was one of the antique vehicles that I wrote about in my "Pumper #1 story on Friday, September 21, 2012.  But, with all his achievements in life, he is best known for laying out and building the first cemetery in Lancaster City in 1836.  On the corner of North Mulberry and West Chestnut street, near his family home, on two adjacent city building lots, he established the cemetery that now bears the name of Shreiner-Concord Cemetery.  It was best known because it had no restrictions as to the interment of persons of color.  That is the main reason that Thaddeus Stevens chose it as his last resting place.  More than 40 known veterans of military service are buried at Shreiner-Concord Cemetery, most from the Civil War.  Records indicate four African Americans are interred there, but the remains of many more may also be present. It is a really neat, very-well maintained, little cemetery that has the characteristics of a public park.  I recently visited the cemetery and found Martin Shriener's monument with the inscription on it that read: Farewell Tis Ours Thy Virtues To Deplore. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Fire engine built by Martin Shreiner
Plaque that is at the entrance to the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery.
On a monument at the entrance to the cemetery.
Martin Shreiner's  tombstone.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The "It's the Thought That Counts" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with my daughter-in-law Barb and telling her what a great time Carol and I had the other night when we did some babysitting for her.  Our son is on night-shift right now and Barb had a church meeting where she works and called to ask if we could spend a few hours with our grandson Caden.  We picked him up at his home about 6:00 PM and headed to Bob Evans for supper.  Picked that place because he had never eaten there and we thought it would be a chance to see what they had on their menu.  Caden is in second grade right now and does very well with his reading skills. He grabbed the menu and started reading all the selections.  Finally decided on the Big Farm Bacon Cheeseburger and some fries.  Something new for a change!!  When the waitress asked for his order he told her his choice and then said that he didn't want any pickles on it.  Carol and I ordered and when the meal came he proceeded to open the burger and take off the lettuce, red onions and tomato.  "Why didn't you tell the waitress you didn't want those on the sandwich when she took the order?" I asked him.  He wasn't quite sure, but said he will have to remember that for the next time.  Well, we had a great time talking about school, his favorite sport ice hockey and his friends.  On the way home Carol asked him if he had a valentine card to give to him mom and dad for Valentine's Day which was in two days.  No, he didn't so we stopped at a store on the way to his house to purchase one.  He was so excited as he read quite a few of the cards.  Pretty neat to watch my grandson use his reading skills and really enjoy the fact that he can read all by himself.  He chose one for his mom and dad and then I suggested that we buy a box of candy to go along with the card.  He had such a great time deciding on which box to pick.  Finally decided on the heart-shaped one which had two really cute Labrador Retriever pups on the box.  We paid for the purchase and asked if he had a secure place to hid them until Valentine's Day.  When we got to his home he headed to his room to hide his gifts until Valentine's Day.  After a few board games, his mom arrived and we headed home, after having a fun time with our grandson.  Well, I just asked Barb if she got anything for Valentine's Day and she told me about the gift.  He gave it to her and my son Derek first thing as soon as he awoke.  He was so thrilled.  He wanted Derek to open the heart-shaped box and have a piece of candy.  As soon as Derek had the lid off, Caden grabbed it to look at the candy.  Seems he thought all the pieces of candy would be shaped like Labs.  A little disappointed, but he was still happy that his mom and day enjoyed his Valentine's gift.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The "A Fish to make you Smile" Story

My wife Carol with granddaughter Courtney

It was an ordinary day.  Cleaning the shelves on the second floor when I picked up the print that my granddaughter Courtney made for Carol and me a few years ago.  Looked at it for a few minutes and decided to give her a call and talk to her about it.  She knows that we love artwork and wanted to contribute to our collection that we have hanging in our home.  The print she made resembled the two Gyotaku prints that we have on our walls.  Gyotaku is the art and technique of Japanese fish rubbing, a process derived from an ancient printing method used before photography was invented.  It was originally done to document the size and species of fish that was caught by Japanese anglers.  In fact, fish prints were so accurate that some fishing contests were determined by Gyotaku prints.  Naturally, an actual fish is used and paper is placed over the fish and the outer surface of the paper is gently rubbed by the fingers or the hand.  The paper is then separated from the fish body and a fine impression of the fish is obtained.  Hand-made paper is used and high quality lithographic inks or watercolors add color to the Gyotaku print.  I wrote a story a few years ago on my blog about my attempts to make a Gyotaku print with a fish I had purchased at the Giant grocery store.  You can read it by clicking on the "Arts and Crafts" link at the top of this story.  Well, my granddaughter was so anxious to talk to me about it and it gave her a chance to relive her art class experience from two years ago.  What she did was similar to Gyotaku, but her teacher had purchased hard rubber, flat fish patterns for the project.  She placed her piece of paper that resembles hand-made paper over the mold and used tempera paints and a hard rubber roller to make her artwork.  She did a beautiful job and it is very similar to the other Gyotaku prints I have.  And I also will admit it is much better that the print that I tried to make years ago.  I want to publicly thank her for such a nice job.  Thanks, Courtney!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

A Gyotaku Print

Courtney's fish print she made for Carol and me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The "Some More of This & That!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking over all the notes I have for a couple of stories I want to write.  I usually take a piece of 5x7 tablet paper and jot notes on it and stick it in this blue folder I have been using since I started my blog.  On the top of the paper I put a title that I think would be appropriate for the story.  On a few of the pieces of paper are just a few words or maybe just a sentence.  So, today I thought I would share with you a few family stories from the past that are memorable, but won't take long to tell.  Here goes:

I recently found a locket that had belonged to my mom.  It must have been in the mid-40s since it featured a photo of her on the one side and a photo of me on the other side.  Pretty neat!  But, what do you do with something like that?  Locket is an antique since it will be 70 years old soon.  Any offers?

Got a call from our granddaughter Courtney.  Told us that her mom was going to take a few inches off her hair, since it was starting to get too long.  She said she told her mom that she wanted her hair all the same length so our daughter told Courtney to call and ask her how her dad used to cut her hair.  I got on the phone with her and told her that I had her mom wear a top that had lines in it that ran horizontal to the ground.  I would pick one of those lines and follow it all the way around her head with the scissors.  That's all she needed to hear.  "Bye, Tampah.  Love you!" she said, then hung up.

 Our daughter Brynn called one evening and told us about the guy who lives in the apartment complex where she works.  He bought Girls Scout cookies from our granddaughters, through her.  Stopped in the other day and was wondering when he would be able to notice the weight loss from eating all the Thin Mint cookies he bought.  

Finally, the other evening I was reading my Kindle while sitting on my favorite lounge chair and holding our new addition to the family, Creamsicle the stray cat.  He seemed to be watching the pages change as I progressed through the book, so I thought I would read to him.  I think he really enjoyed the story and Carol just had to document the event on the iPad.  His favorite author: James Patterson!   It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The "America's Coolest Small Town" Story

It was an ordinary day.  An extraordinary day for the town of Lititz, PA, because they were just voted as  "America's Coolest Small Town" for the year 2013.  For the past seven years, Budget Travel Magazine has conducted a contest to pick the coolest small town in the USA.  Makes for a neat contest and helps the magazine gain readers and people checking out their website.  The contest started in the fall of 2012 when the magazine asked for people to nominate their town by writing a small story about why their town should win the honor of coolest small town.  Towns had to have a population of 10,000 or less and should have a certain quality that sets it apart from the rest, whether it's known for the arts, home to plenty of quirky shops, or just has a special energy about the place.  Nominations could be made up until October 15th and once a town was nominated, people could start voting for it.  There were 15 nominations that you could vote for this year and the magazine allowed you to vote one time daily for your favorite town. The following is the list of towns that were nominated in the contest:  Bay St. Louis, MS; Camden, ME; Elkhart Lake, WI; Flagler Beach, FL; Glenwood Springs, CO; Greenville, KY; Gulf Shores, AL; Le Claire, IA; Lititz, PA; Mount Carroll, IL; Put-in-Bay, OH; Quincy, CA; Shepherdstown, WV; Travelers Rest, SC; Watkins Glen, NY.  Last year the magazine had 368 thousand votes which crashed their site for a short time.  Early voting this year saw Bay St. Louis in the lead with Watkins Glen in second.  Votes came from across the nation and even from troops in Afghanistan. In the end, Lititz came out the winner and laid claim to being the coolest small town in America.  The town has always had a measure of coolness about it; chocolate, pretzels, a Moravian heritage., great parades and rock concerts, home to the world renowned sound company Clair Brothers and the concert set production firm Tait Towers.  The following is the short story from Budget Travel Magazine that accompanied the photo of Lititz Spring park during the 4th of July celebration:
Lititz, PA
(Population: 9,369) 
Founded in 1756 as a Moravian community, Lititz takes its 250-year history seriously even as it embraces its vibrant present. This Lancaster County town's Lititz Springs Park has been a center of town life since the 18th century, when it was the site of public concerts, and houses a welcome center in a replica of a 19th-century Reading & Columbia Railroad depot. The Lititz Historical Foundation offers costumed guided tours and a museum that includes Native American artifacts, a replica of a Moravian home, and a heritage garden. But, of course, the past is only the beginning in Lititz, where visitors can quaff handcrafted ales at the Appalachian Brewing Company of Lititz, savor homemade ice cream at Greco's, or shop for furniture made by noted Lancaster County craftsmen. 
I am not a stranger to Lititz.  I love to visit when ever I get a chance.  On Monday, October 1, 2012 and Tuesday, October 2, 2012 I wrote a two part story about the small town where my mom was a resident.  Click on the "History" link at the top of my stories and scroll down to see my photos and information I wrote about the town.  In my mind Lititz, PA is without a doubt the coolest and has been for years.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

The ".... its all fun and games until someone gets offended" Story

It was an ordinary day. Checking out an article in the sports section titled "Why won't RGIII talk about his team's name."  For many Native Americans, the slur "Redskins" is just as offensive as the N-word.  Wasn't long ago that the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Washington Wizards because the association with violence their original name implied.  The high school football team in Poolsville, MD changed their name from the Warriors to the Falcons.  In the state of Wisconsin a new ban has just taken effect at the beginning of 2013 that does not allow politically incorrect public school mascots, specifically those considered offensive to Native Americans.  If a school mascot is determined to be race-based, the offending school must cease to use it.  Well, as you know the "Redskins" are the beloved team of Washington, DC so more than a few people will be really upset if they have to change the name of the team.  The reason for the name change is pretty obvious, since it is the most racist team name in American sports, but the Cleveland Indians have the most offensive logo which shows a Native American,with a bright red face.  How do you feel about this issue.  I read another article that was written by a Native American who said it doesn't bother him at all.  The mascot names should stand as they are now.  We live in America, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to name your football team whatever you want.  If some people find those things personally offensive, then those people need to refrain from watching the games or participating in anything that has to do with that specific team.  As for me, I think the team names show the history of North America.  I believe the problem is with those who think that the politically correct names for people should change every few years.  At the time that the team names and mascots were chosen, no one took offense. We don't change town names, car names and street names to be politically correct.  Heck, when I was growing up, I didn't even know what politically correct meant.  The term as we know it didn't come into existence until the 1970s.  Didn't people feel the same before that time or are people too sensitive today.  I know I'm an old Anglo-Saxon male and probably don't face the same situations as African-Americans and Native Americans do, but I don't think you are going to get team names changed as some want done.  I did see though that a historic resolution was passed on January 18th by the United Nations requesting that the Indian Ocean be renamed the "Brown Ocean" due to concern over the message sent by more cultural diversity reflected in international geographic designators.  Some claim that the injunction is an abuse of power, claiming that the international government has grown too big and is now trying to shove their non-racist agenda down the throats of the people who clearly want none of it.  They also have their sights on the Red Sea, White Sea, Yellow Sea and Black Sea.  I'm going to have to go back to school to take a class in geography soon.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The "Wheatland: Home of Pennsylvania's Only President" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at the photographs on iPhoto that I recently took on a visit to Wheatland.  Wheatland was at one time the residency of James Buchanan, President of the United States.  On Thursday, December 20th I wrote a story about a young James Buchanan and the love of his life, Ann Caroline Coleman.  My story today deals primarily with Wheatland, James' home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but I thought I should pass along to you some of the history leading up to James Buchanan buying Wheatland. James commenced his political career as a member of the Federalist Party when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives where he served from 1814 to 1816.  In 1821 He was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served in that position until 1831.  He changed party loyalties by forming the Amalgamist Party and then eventually shifting to Jackson's Democrat Party.  In 1931 he served as Minister to Russia under President Andrew Jackson.  In 1834 he was elected to the United States Senate and served in that position until 1845.  James then served as the Secretary of State for President Polk from 1845 to 1849.  It was during this time that he purchased the estate known as Wheatland.  In December of 1848 he made the purchase, but did not move in until several months later.  On November 20, 1824, over 403 acres of land was turned over to a bank in Lancaster by a farmer.  The bank sold 165 acres of that land on January 29, 1828 to their bank President, Mr. William Jenkins who had a house constructed on the property and named it "The Wheatlands," probably because the land was primarily wheat fields.  In 1941 Jenkins sold 17 acres of that land, which included the house, to his son-in-law.  In 1845 it was sold again to William Meredith for $6,750 ($168,364 in 2013 dollars).  Meredith eventually sold the property and home three years later to Buchanan for the exact same price.  The house is a Federal style house made of brick.  Sadly there are no documents that I can find that tell about the construction or the person responsible for the design of Wheatland.  Many of the design elements incorporated in the house are designs that were prevalent in the 19th century.  Wheatland has never been significantly altered or remodeled except for modern lighting and heating.  The house is primarily a two and a half story central section which is flanked on either side by two, two story wings.  The front entrance is protected by a portico supported by four columns, while the rear entrance is on a veranda.  Both entrances open into a "T"-shaped hallway.  The hallway was covered with oilcloth flooring that was decorated with geometric squares to imitate tile.  It has since been overlaid with a reproduction that is identical to the original.  The first floor has a parlor, library, 2 dining rooms and kitchen.  One of the dining rooms was for formal dinners and also as the sitting room.  The fireplace in this room was enclosed in marble when Buchanan bought Wheatland and had a furnace installed.  The second floor is reached by using an elliptical staircase which has a "peace stone" embedded in the newel post at the base of the stairs.  This symbolizes that the owner has paid off the mortgage.  The second floor was the living quarters for Mr. Buchanan while the third floor was used as the servant's quarters.  The grounds around Wheatland were incrementally sold until only 4.25 acres remained.  It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Adjacent to Wheatland on 5.75 acres is the Lancaster Historical Society.  On March 9, 1861, Buchanan left Washington and retired to Lancaster and Wheatland to spend the rest of his life.  James Buchanan died at Wheatland on June 1, 1868.  Wheatland was willed to his niece, Harriet Lane, whom he had adopted long before and who was the daughter of his oldest sister.  It was said that Harriet was very well educated and presided over the White House as his hostess and first lady with youthful charm and womanly grace.  In 1935 a "Shrine Committee" was formed with the intent of raising money to purchase Wheatland.  An agreement of sale was signed on February 27, 1936 and on October 14, 1937  Wheatland was formally dedicated when Committee Chairman James Hale Steinman said, "I now dedicate you to the service of the people of this community .... of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and .... of the United States of America.  May you endure forever!"  I hope the following photos will show you the grandeur of the Wheatland estate.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Rear of Wheatland showing the three sections of the home.
Plaque showing registry as a National Historic Landmark.
Front of Wheatland. 
Front door knocker.
Front door handle.  Just had to grab it so I could say I touched something that James Buchanan had touched.
Inside basin spigots.
Wheatland drawing as it appeared in 1869. 
Elliptical staircase to the second floor.