Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The "There's A First For Everything" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My wife had just walked in from the garage and she didn't look happy.  I waited until she had settled into her chair and then I asked her about her day.  "I had to get gas today!"  Wow, that is really news, since she has never, ever pumped gas into any vehicle that we have ever owned.  I should point out what an accomplishment that was, since she is ...... well I can't mention age, but I can tell you that she's been on Medicare for almost a full year.  Get the idea that this is big news.  Our car posts a message on the dash when it is low on gas.  The message comes on when we reach 50 miles left in the tank.  That message appeared 3 days ago and I just plain forgot to fill up the tank.  In our household we each kinda have assigned jobs.  One of mine is to fill up the cars, mowers, weed-eater, leaf blower and snowplow when they need gas.  Carol went to work yesterday and had no problem.  This morning she figured she still had plenty when she saw that it said 19 miles till empty.  Heck, she only has about a 3 mile trip to work.  Well, today at work they were celebrating the retirement of their boss and she had to go pick up the ice cream cake that they had ordered.  No problem, since her friend and fellow worker, Sue, said she had ordered it at the Dairy Queen which is a stone's throw from the Parish Resource Center where they both work.  Off Carol went in the near-empty car to pick up the cake.  She entered DQ and asked for the cake that said, "Best Wishes Scott."  After searching they asked her when she had ordered it.  Gave them the date and they searched again.  "Are you sure you ordered it from this store?" they questioned her.  Then it hit her that Sue may have ordered it from the store in the nearby town of Columbia.  They made a call and said it was in Columbia.  Columbia is about 5 miles from the DQ where she was presently standing, but she had to get the cake.  What to do?  She left the parking lot with the window down and the AC turned off.  Figured she could save gas that way.  Even turned off the radio to conserve gas.  Does that work?  She made it to the DQ in Columbia, picked up the cake, and headed back to the PRC.  Now she's getting really low.  Then it struck her she not only needed gas to get back, but to get home.  I could just about see the steam coming out her ears by now.  She realized that she had an ice cream cake in the car and without the AC it might melt. 
So...... she pulled into the first gas station she saw.  She got out of the car and tried to follow the instructions on the pump.  Put your card in here ... she did.  Then up pops the message, "Do you have a rewards card" ..... stumped now.  She saw two construction workers entering the convenience store close by and asked them if they could help her.  She explained that she never pumped gas before and didn't know what to do about the message that was displayed.  Seems they didn't know either so she made a quick trip into the store and the clerk came to her aid going to the pump with her to help.  First thing the clerk did was walk to the rear of the car and look at the license plate. "Just wanted to see if you were from New Jersey. (In NJ they always pump the gas for you)  Well she got the gas started for Carol and the rest was up to her.  

How much should she put in the tank?  She pumped until she got close to $43.00 worth and stopped the pump.  Continued with quick squeezes until she was right on $43.00.  "Why that amount?" I questioned her.  "Well, I thought that seemed like maybe half a tank so that's why I chose that amount."  As I sat there looking at her I thought that I never better let that ever happen again or I might not get any more chocolate chip cookies which is one of her jobs to do in our marriage.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The "Lost In A Time Warp" Story

LDub showing students how to lock-up a
chase on the composing stone in the late 1960s.
 It was an ordinary day.  Just exited the door to Martin Printing which is located in Lititz, PA.  I had traveled to the business to have a few negatives made by Parke, who was a former high school student of mine, so I could print the graduation program for the  Manheim Township High School graduation.  Martin's Printing is located at the rear of what used to be a church on a small street in center Lititz.  Scared the cat when I first arrived an hour ago and it hustled into the print shop when I opened the porch door.  I had never been in the shop and when I entered it took be by surprise.  It was like a long ago time warp.  Very little high tech equipment in the business.  Place is run by a husband and wife and they seem to be busy doing most of the local printing that needs to be done in the town of Lititz. 
LDub running the letterpress
To my right was a letterpress that looked much the same as the letterpress that I used to teach my students at MT how to operate in the 60s and 70s.  We could print, fold and perforate on the press that looked like something that Ben Franklin would have used in the mid-1700s.  Everything has to be hand-fed in order to complete the task you are doing.  We got rid of our letterpresses at MT in the mid-70s when we added a couple of offset presses.  Not a real new technology at the time, but for a school district to add offset presses was cutting edge.  As I looked around the shop I saw the composing stone, type cabinets, furniture cabinets, chase rack, ....... the whole works; everything needed to accommodate printing with the letterpress.  Then I saw the same folding machine that the school purchased ages ago and still uses.  On the other side of the shop was the same plate burner that we have had since the mid-60s.  Starting to get kinda creepy.  Worked my way back to Parke and at last, the latest technology in the printing industry capable of taking my InDesign files and giving me negatives in a matter of minutes.  I must admit I really enjoyed my trip to Miller Printing.  So much that I asked one of the co-owners to snap my photo as I pretended to feed a sheet of paper into the letterpress.  "There's fresh ink on the disk if you really want to run a few," she said.  Now it's getting creepy again!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The "Shriver's" Story

Top card is from the early 1900s while the
bottom card shows Shriver's  as it is today.
It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from a visit to Shriver's on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ.  Made arrangements last evening with candy maker, Joshua, after buying some licorice wheels and taffy, to return today to take a tour through the manufacturing area and see and photograph how they make their salt water taffy.  Salt water taffy actually started in Atlantic City in 1890 when a man named Bradley had his taffy stand inundated with sea water one evening.  The following day a little girl asked if he still had any taffy for sale and he sarcastically said it was now salt water taffy.  A relative overheard the remark and catchy phrase and thereafter his taffy was known as salt water taffy.  Ocean City's original salt water taffy maker, Shriver's is located on the boardwalk at 9th Street.  Has been there since 1898 when it was founded by William Shriver who started the company as a restaurant, ice cream  and candy store.   It is the oldest business on the boardwalk in Ocean City and is owned and operated today by the third generation of the Shriver family.  The Shriver's legacy of Salt Water Taffy, Fudge and other fine confections still remains 100 years later with the claim that they sell the only salt water taffy that is made on the boardwalk.  The original wooden building was destroyed in the great fire of 1929 that claimed most of the neighborhood and rebuilt as a brick business which still stands today.  My trip today showed me the process that is, and has been for the last century, used to make the sweet confection.  I met Joshua as I entered the rear of the store where they make the taffy and he gave me a tour of the manufacturing facility.  The main ingredients of corn starch, corn syrup, sugar, water, salt, butter and other minor ingredients are cooked in hundred pound batches in a steam-jacketed kettle.  Because of the high temperatures needed I was not able to see this procedure.  The resulting material comes out as chocolate, molasses or plain.  It is then placed on large water cooled slabs in 50 pound batches.  After cooled, the gooey mass is placed on a pulling machine to stretch it which will make it chewy.  During this step the coloring and flavoring is added.  At this point the chocolate base will become chocolate-peanut butter, chocolate mint or remain plain chocolate.  The molasses becomes peanut butter, molasses mint, or plain molasses, while the plain becomes all other flavors.  After the pulling, the mixture is placed on the wrapping machines where it is rolled to join colors together and stretched through the machine to the packaging section.  As the stream of taffy enters the packaging end it is cut, wrapped, sealed and sent into a bin below the machine.  Joshua and his partner candy maker, Darko, were operating their machines at 200 pieces per hour.  The machines, which were made in 1967 and 1970 can produce taffy at a rate of up to 400 pieces per minute, but if the paper tears at the higher speeds, more of the product will be lost.  While the taffy mixture is on the wrapping machines, corn starch is spread on it with a brush to keep the taffy from sticking to the machine.  Both candy makers grabbed handfuls of their result from the buckets at the end of the line and shared them with the viewers who were watching the procedure through the windows of the manufacturing section.  I can tell you that a piece of the delight right off the machine is a real treat.  My grandkids got to sample the results when I got back to the condo and couldn't wait to pop it in their mouths.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Photo tour follows:

Taffy from the kettle cooling on the cooling tables.
Joshua placing the taffy on the pulling machine.
Adding of the flavoring and coloring in the pulling machine.
Darko and Joshua removing the the taffy from the pulling machine. 
The taffy has been placed on the wrapping machine.  Here it is rotated to form the round mass that you see.  Joshua is using a brush to coat the sticky taffy with corn starch to keep it from sticking in the machine.  Note: The taffy in this wrapping machine is not the same taffy that was removed from the pulling machine.
This is the end of the wrapping machine where the taffy will be placed in the waxed paper.   He has set the machine so that it will produce 200 pieces per minute.
The taffy is stretched from the rollers to the end where it will be placed in wrappers.
Joining of the taffy and the wrapper.
Wrapped candy coming down the chute into the bin.  This particular flavor is watermelon.
Darko is dusting his batch of taffy.
Worker prepared to pass out fudge samples to customers.
Interior of Shriver's Salt Water Taffy store. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The "Stumped By The Stats" Story

It was an ordinary day.  And ..... I think it is time I revealed all the facts.  What facts you may wonder.  Well, at the end of the right column on my blog is a counter.  I put it there after my wife asked me a few years ago, after I had started writing my extraordinary stories, if I thought anyone ever read what I was writing.  Seems there were a few of you who found me for some reason or another and were tuning in daily for some family humor.  The daily readership eventually peaked at about 100 readers a day.  To tell you the truth, I was amazed that I was able to garnish that many people who didn't mind taking a few minutes from their busy life to read my daily stories.  Then one day last week, after almost 1,400 stories, I looked at the count and realized it seemed to have ballooned tremendously.  So I checked in the "Stats" area of Blogger and found that it went from 73 readers one day to 3,867 to 4,831 to 4,906 in three days.  It eventually reached 5,523 before it dropped to more reasonable numbers in the 350s.  I tried to think why all of sudden so many people accessed my stories.  Maybe by mistake?  Then I thought that just about the time it grew so quickly I had written a story about the Big 33 football between PA and MD at Hershey Stadium in PA.  People might have "Googled" Big 33 and was directed to my stories.  I then went back to the "Stats" and clicked on "Audience" to see where the readership was coming from.  GERMANY!!  In the last week 21,948 people from Germany had pulled up my stories while there were 558 readers from the USA.  Had some from Russia, France, India, United Kingdom, Canada and even 34 from Latvia.  Knew right away they weren't interested in the Big 33 game.  Thought that maybe the fact that our President was in Berlin it may have been the reason.  But, the mystery still remains just that.  I wonder if my stories are translated into German by Blogger and if not, there must be quite a few German residents who are well versed in English.  I may have to consider a trip to Germany to tour and write a few stories that will bring back memories for my readers in that country.  But if not, I just hope they continue to enjoy the zany writings from LDub.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - The count total continues to climb. Reached over 100,000 hits with the 6,237 hits yesterday.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The "Successful Yearbook Editor" Story

Former student Ryan
It was an ordinary day.  Just finished reading an email from a former student who was my yearbook photographer for a few years and then the editor in 1998 when I was the advisor to the Manheim Township High School Yearbook.  I was expecting the email, but none the less, it was still enjoyable reading about the successes that Ryan has experienced over the last 15 years.  My story starts with a note from Melissa to my wife in mid-April. Melissa was the daughter of my wife's former boss who along with her mom, traveled to Italy with Carol and me about 10 years ago.  She wrote ....... So Tuesday at a lunch meeting I was chatting with a friend about art and photography and she tells me that she has some interesting pieces at her house that I should see.  They were done using a technique that manipulates Polaroid instant pics.  Hey, I know someone who does that.  Didn't register that they might be the same person right away.  But after I said your name we put all the pieces together ..... Melissa's friends name was Kathryn and her son was Ryan.  She told Melissa if she ever gets the chance to speak to me she was to tell me she never got the chance to express her gratitude for the huge positive influence I had on her son in high school.   Wow, what a nice compliment.  I eventually got Kathryn's email address from Melissa and wrote her a letter.  The return letter gave me some more details about Ryan who was probably the best editor,shy of my own daughter Brynn, that I ever had in the 30 years I was advisor.  He was so efficient and trustworthy that my job was simple.  I could tell during his high school years that Ryan was something very special and was going to be a huge success no matter what he chose to do after college.  Kathryn wrote to me telling me how Ryan's teen years were such a struggle and I was a role model for him and she was grateful for that.  She gave me some current info on Ryan and his email address so I could contact him.  She said there were some online videos with Ryan in them were he gives presentations in "geek language."  Brought a smile to my face.  And .... today that is the letter that I just finished reading.  He started off with ..."Has it really been 15 years?!?!?  Wow, just my sentiments!  He also thanked me for allowing him the chance to escape through photography and yearbook so he could prosper later in life.  I knew he went to RIT, but didn't realize he chose computer science over photography.  He helped pay for his college education by working 30 hours a week at the Educational Technological Center.  Boy did that bring back memories of my college days and struggling to pay the bills, since my parents couldn't afford to pay.  
Ryan's wife Kim and dog Digit
 He met and married his college sweetheart from RIT and worked for the University for 5 years after graduation.  I suspect RIT knew just what they were getting when they hired him.  He and his wife Kim then moved to San Francisco to search for a new direction in life.  He ended up working for Google on Developer Relations which is a a mix between  computer science and business development.  He has also written a book titled "Getting Started with OAuth 2.0."  I also  clicked on a link he added for me to see him in action at a seminar and it was much like his mom had explained it to me ...."geek language."  I was thoroughly impressed with his performance.  I'm so proud of Ryan and his successes he has experienced in his young life.  I'm sure more success is in his future.  In my last email to him I told him to stop the next time he is in Lancaster so I can meet his wife and tell her about Ryan as I knew him.  Should be fun!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an oridnary guy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The "Realizing your Dream" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished reading "A Beach Less Traveled" which was written by John Berglund.  Several years ago I bought a book titled "A Trip to the Beach" which was written by Melinda and Robert Blanchard and told the story about quitting their jobs in New England and starting anew on the island of Anguilla in the Caribbean.  The story dealt with the hardships they faced while trying to open a restaurant on the north-eastern end of the island.  My wife and I both read the book and just loved it.  The following year we made a trip to Anguilla just to meet the Blanchards and visit their restaurant.  The book I have just finished is very similar, but with different people and a different type of business.  On our way to St. Martin this year for vacation, Carol was looking through a small publication that she found in the compartment on the rear of the seat in front of her on the airplane.  The publication featured a story that told about a man who was a successful professional with a thriving career who walked away from a comfortable lifestyle and took his family to a Caribbean island to open an untried business in a place where he doesn't speak the local language.  Carol showed me the story and said, "Sounds just like the other book we read a few years ago.  We'll have to find the book when we head into Philipsburg to go shopping."  Sure enough, a few days after arriving in St. Martin we made our yearly journey to Philipsburg, which is the capital of the Dutch side of the island, to do some shopping for souvenirs for our grandkids.  When we entered the Shipwreck Shop on Front Street we found the book on a table in the rear of the store.  Carol picked it up and told me, "Here's the book I wanted to buy ..... and it's even autographed!"  There on the inside of the end sheet was written, Enjoy the Journey; Enjoy St. Martin.  C'est la vie!  John Berglund.  We took the book to our villa and Carol began reading.  After we returned home to the states I picked up the book and began reading.  The front flap of the book gave this account .... Can a happily married American couple successfully abandon the corporate rat race, along with its handsome salaries and benefits packages, to open a perfumery and create their own custom lines of fragrances in the French Caribbean?  That was John Berglund's vision, and A Beach Less Traveled is the remarkable story of how he made it happen.  
John and his wife Cyndi in front of their Grand Case Store
He begins his book by introducing his family of four and how the dream began with a trip on an island-hopping adventure.  They explored the land of four saints: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Bart and St. Martin. Oh yeah, they threw in Saba to complete the trip.  St. Bart and  half of St. Martin are French, Saba and the other half of Sint Maarten are part of the Netherlands and St. John and St. Thomas are US territories.  Again in 1998 they made another visit to the Caribbean and a few more islands and eventually settled on St. Martin and the village of Grand Case as their location for their new life.  As I read, I could picture in my mind all the places, turns in the roads and tables at the restaurants that John wrote about.  For years Carol and I traveled the same roads, ate at the same restaurants and probably sat at some of the same tables he was describing.  On our journey into Grand Case one evening after Carol had read the book, she pointed out where John's business, Tijon Parfumerie, which is named after his son, was located.  John's story about how he went from chief prosecuting attorney at age twenty-four to lobbyist and trade association executive to perfume maker is interesting, adventurous and sometimes comic and all the time raising their two children who are now both adults.  He originally wanted a career in chemistry, but settled for the legal world.  While living in Atlanta he did build a lab in his basement where he spent hours experimenting with different scents for perfume.  He eventually traded his coat and tie for sand, water and flip flops and built his new business on a Caribbean island creating body lotions, gels, powdered, deodorants and fragrance soaps.  To go along with that, they also offer classes where you can create your very own scented perfume.  Don't want to spoil anymore of his story so I'll let you read the book to see what is possible when your dream comes to life.  On our next St. Martin vacation I plan to make my own scent and call it "Paradise."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The "Signage from the Shore!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from the boardwalk with my morning newspaper ....... and quite a few signs of the shore; the type of signs that inform you.  For those who enjoy water related activities and destinations, you probably will recognize some of the signs I have included in today's story.  So, instead of more wordage, here is my morning beach edition.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The "Eggs and Potatoes both look the same, don't they?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Overcast and not looking like it was going to get any better.  My daughter and granddaughters arrived yesterday and we attended the Big 33 Football Game in Hershey, PA last evening.  My son-in-law was the head coach of the Maryland team and stayed in Hershey last evening.  This morning he called and told his family that it was raining in Hershey and wasn't a good day to go to Hershey Park.  Instant disappointment, since they were anxiously awaiting his call to see where they would meet him for their day on the amusement rides.  My granddaughter Camille was all set to ride the "Comet", the old wooden coaster that was always my favorite, and I told her to hold her hands up the whole way down the first hill as she thought of me.  Hard to understand why you can't do what you had planned because of the weather, but their tickets can be used at a later date.  It became obvious very soon that my granddaughters were becoming antsy and were ready to head home to see their friends, so my daughter helped them pack their bags and prepared to head home to Urbana, MD.  My wife asked if they would like her to pack a sandwich and chips for each so they wouldn't have to stop on the way home to eat.  That idea was greeted with enthusiasm, one of the first positive responses of the morning.  Carol took two orders for chipped smoked turkey and one for egg salad.  Camille had gone to the store with me yesterday and picked out the egg salad which is a favorite.  Carol packed the sandwiches in plastic containers and the chips in baggies and gave all bottles of water for the trip home.  Eventually, after many hugs and kisses, my daughter and granddaughter hit the road for the two hour ride home.  As Carol and I came back into the house I noticed that she had not put the lunch meat and egg salad back in the fridge so I headed to the counter to take care of that chore.  
Then I stopped ...... and said to Carol, "Why did you have the potato salad out with a knife in it?"  She looked puzzled, then laughed and said, "Did I just made Camille a potato salad sandwich?"  Yep, that's what she did.  Camille and I had purchased both egg and potato salad and they were in the same type of container.  Carol just picked up the wrong one.  She picked up the phone and called our daughter.  "Brynn, did Camille eat her sandwich yet?  If not, it's potato salad and not egg salad."  We both could hear Brynn's laughter coming from the phone.  She promised not to tell her and hung up.  Half an hour later the phone rang and the 301 area code told us that Camille had taken a bite.  She was on the phone and said, "Amah, that wasn't egg salad, but it was OK."  We laughed again and found out she ate the whole thing anyway.  Maybe will become her favorite sandwich.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The "Stairway To Heaven" Story

John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page watch
the concert at The Kennedy Center last December
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at a YouTube video that my life long friend in Arizona, Bill, sent me a link to which showed the members of one of our favorite rock bands in the late 60s sitting in the Kennedy Center watching their greatest hit, "Stairway To Heaven", being performed by Heart members Nancy and Ann Wilson along with an entire choir and orchestra.  Unbelievable!!  Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones (keyboardist/bassist), Robert Plant (guitarist) and Jimmy Page (guitarist) sat in the balcony as their best song ever was performed in front of them at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala which was attended by President and Mrs. Obama this past December.  I can remember when the English band first started playing together in 1968.  Page and Jones were originally members of the Yardbirds who lost a member, but still had a commitment to go on tour in Scandinavia.  They added a new lineup and played the tour known as the New Yardbirds.  Then vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham were added and became known as Led Zeppelin.  
Led Zeppelin
Their most famous song, "Stairway To Heaven", which was written by Page and Plant, was released in late 1971 as part of their fourth album.  The song ran eight minutes and two seconds and increases in tempo as it progresses, ending with Plant's unaccompanied delivery of: "And she's buying a Stairway To Heaven."  Just typing this and humming it as I type gives me the shivers.  The song was voted #3 in 2000 on the VH1 list of 100 Greatest Rock Songs.  Rolling Stone named it #31 on their "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."  Drummer Bonham died in 1980 from alcohol-related asphyxia.  In 2007 they played a Tribute Concert with Jason Bonham taking his late father's place on the drums.  As I watched and listened to the video it took me back in time to the days when rock music was king.  Watch the video and you will understand why.  When the choir and orchestra join the song and Ann Wilson sings ....."And as we wind on down the road".... you'll see why Robert Plant was seen to wipe a few tears of joy away from his eyes.  Hard not to be emotional as you watch the performance.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - click on link to view the surviving Led Zeppelin members watching the performance of their song.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

The "Welcoming the new Graduate!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the front of the auditorium/ gymnasium of the Centerville Elementary School in Urbana, Maryland with a few other people snapping photos of my granddaughter Courtney's graduation. In Frederick County, MD the students celebrate graduation from 5th grade into Middle School.  Place is packed with approximately 200 graduates plus  teachers, a couple hundred parents, grandparents and friends in the auditorium while a gym class is in progress at the rear in the gymnasium.  After the students filed into the seats in the front of the auditorium wearing their blue tees with "2013" on the back that featured everyone's name, the principal gave a short introduction which was followed by a class song and individual teachers having their class stand so they could talk about the progress they made during the school year.  Courtney's teacher gave an emotional talk and her students gave her a big round of applause as she finished.  A video presentation featuring just about every 5th grade student followed with a few more choral songs from the entire class.  When the hour ceremony was over the students followed each other to the playground where they met with family and friends for photos and lots of hugs.  Courtney will be in the Urbana Middle School next year which is grades 6 thru 8.  New learning experiences as well as a chance to meet new friends.  Today was the first of three graduations she will progress through during her educational experiences in the Urbana school system.  Her report card she received today reflected the excellent student she has been for the six years she has spent at Centerville Elementary.  Congratulations Courtney for a great job well done.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Urbana, MD
Graduates file through applauding younger students
Graduates seated in the front of the auditorium
Panel on the stage held everyone's photo with their teacher
All graduate signatures were on the rear of their shirts.  Courtney's name can be found in the bottom right of the #2.  Click on photo to enlarge.
Video presentation shows Courtney as second from the left
Courtney discovered I was right behind her
Courtney with Carol and LDub
Courtney with grandparents Linda and Joe 
Courtney with proud parents Dave and Brynn
The New Graduate