Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The "A Visit From Mary Jane" Story

It was an ordinary day.  An officer with the Manheim Township Police Department in Lancaster County, PA just left Greginger Gallery where I work part-time matting and framing artwork.  I had called the station about 20 minutes ago asking for someone to stop at the gallery and tell me what I had in the plastic bag I found.  All started about an hour ago when I pulled out of my driveway and headed up the hill on my way to work.  About 100 yards after I entered the street, I saw a bag in the center of the road that looked like it may be a wallet.  Realizing that it may be important to someone, I turned around at the next intersection and went back, stopping at the bag to open my car door and reach to the road to retreive the bag.  It was a lunch-size baggie that as soon as I had it in my hand, getting all my fingerprints all over it, realized that it was full of tobacco.  Naturally opened the bag to look in and smell it and after further examination realized it may be marijuana.  Since it is not legal yet in our state I thought I should close the bag and head to work to call the police.  Then, as I drove another block or two I thought … what if I get stopped for some offense and the officer sees the bag on my car seat.  Since I have no idea what it is, I could be in trouble.  Boy, for the next couple of miles I drove the speed limit and paid close attention to everything around me; not that I don't always do that!  I could tell by the time I pulled off of Rt. 501N into the parking lot of Grebinger Gallery that I had started to sweat even though the outside temp was hovering around freezing.  Keith was waiting inside the shop for me and after showing him the bag and asking if it is OK to put it in his trash can, he said, "No way!  I don't want anyone to find it in my trash."  So I called the police department.  Shortly the patrolman arrived at the door and came into the work area where I was busy with the day's framing jobs.  Asked where the bag was that I found.  After pointing to it for him, he opened it and took a big whiff.  "Tobacco," he said.  "But, this was the remnants of a 'Blunt' that someone tossed out of their car."  He could see I had no idea what he was talking about, at least I tried to look that way, and explained that the cigar wrapper was from a real cigar that someone had hallowed out and replace with marijuana that was in the other plastic bag that was part of the find.  I smelled the smaller bag and knew right away what he was talking about.  As a teacher, we were shown every few years the current trends in recreational drugs and I had smelled marijuana quite a few times before.  "I better take this with me," he said.  Then I told him about my worry of driving to work with the bag in my car.  "Yeah, you probably would have been in hot water had they pulled you over.  Had quite a bit of explaining to do, so you would have."  I responded, "But I know Wayne, Al and Doug (former policemen on the MT force) and they would have vouched for me."  He laughed as he waved and closed the door.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - I asked if I could take a photo of him holding the bag, but by now you know his response.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The "Bones and All!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Watching the bundles of newspaper that we just unloaded from the car drop into the big vat of liquid and get ground up by the huge swirling blades.  I think back on those days and just shudder.  How dangerous that must have been to stand there with my sons and watch the blades churn the water and tear apart the newsprint to make it into recycled cardboard.  
The Printers Paper Mill at Eden.  It was demolished in the late 1990s.
OSHA would be shocked!  But, luckily we survived the ordeal.  We had just delivered an entire car full of newspapers that we had collected from our neighbors, relatives and even the high school where I taught school.  Both my sons were in Scouting and for years we collected paper to recycle at the Printers Paper Mill in the village of Eden, Lancaster County, PA.  The original paper mill and neighboring covered bridge burned down in 1882, but was quickly replaced with a new one on the same spot along the Conestoga Creek.  Once a month on a Saturday morning the three of us would scour the neighborhood for papers and pack the old Mercury station wagon as full as we could, then head out New Holland Pike to the paper mill.  The paper would be weighed and we would pull the car to the open door leading into the papermaking machine and unload the newspapers.  The Scout troop would get the money for the newsprint.  It must have paid well, since we continued to collect paper for years.  The kids would head in the house upon returning home and tell their mom all about the trip and the big machine that mixed water with the newspapers that were being chewed to shreds by the blades.  
Perelman Park is what remains today where the paper mill used to be.
Reminded the boys of their mom's blender she used to make a variety of dishes for supper.  Eventually the mill closed.  I'm not sure why, but probably not because there wasn't a need for recycled paper.  More likely it was too costly to make all the safety precautions that should have been made years ago.  The  workers at the mill would always tell the boys the tale of the man who fell into the vat and was ground into the pulp, bones and all.  Boy did that get their attention.  My guess is it wasn't true, but who knows.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary  guy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The "Cat Woman" Story

 It was an ordinary day.  Going through our pie safe, looking for all the old newspapers we have saved throughout our marriage trying to find one about the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination when I realized that we weren't even married when that happened.  Naturally didn't find anything, but I did come upon a box that contained a weathered 12"x14" portfolio titled "Cats - A Portfolio" with drawings by Clare Turlay Newberry.  Showed it to Carol, asking if she knew where we got it.  She looked through it and decided it was given to her by her friend Margaret who knew Carol loved cats and after getting it from her mother's estate, decided that Carol should have it.  Margaret's a great friend!  She even gave me an old Daguerreotype of a Civil War soldier, since she knew I loved Daguerreotypes.  Well, I started to look through the portfolio and realizing the talent that I was viewing, decided to check Clare out on my computer.  
This is an illustration from her book "Babette".
Seems that Clare Turlay Newberry, who was born in 1903 in Enterprise, Oregon, was an American author and illustrator of children's books who achieved fame for her drawings of cats as well as writing books that she illustrated.  She studied at the University of Oregon, San Francisco and Paris where she studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.  
From her book "Mittens".
While in Paris she wrote and illustrated her first picture book, Herbert The Lion, which was the expression of her own childhood desire to have a lion for a pet. 1932 saw her return to San Francisco and eventually to New York where she lived and drew as well as painted domestic cats and larger felines at Central Park and the Bronx zoo.  In 1936 she published Mittens which became a best seller and was chosen one of the Fifty Books Of The Year by the American institute of Graphic Arts.  In 1940 she had a one-man (or should I say person) show at the Arden Gallery.  
This is a drawing of her young ocelot, Rufus.
There is nothing impersonable about a Newberry cat - each one is an individual, whose characteristic facial expressions and markings are of intense interest to her.  In 1942 she published Marshmallow which was an endearingly and beautifully illustrated book about an adorable baby bunny who comes to live in the house of a pampered cat, and the friendship that develops between them. 
A drawing from her book "Marshmallow".
In 1946 she purchased a month-old ocelot named Joseph for $500 from a sailor who brought it from Venezuela.  After using the ocelot, now names Rufus, as a live drawing model, she offered him to a good home, but he died before that could happen.  Clare died in 1970 and since then some of her works have been re-published.  I did some more checking and found that the portfolio that I am examining is now offered  on eBay for sale for $199.  So, if you're interested, leave me a comment and we can talk price for this beautiful work of art.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The "The Sea Casts Its Spell" Story

Foreword:  The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever  -  Jacques Cousteau

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at all the fantastic underwater photos that Tom McDowell sent to me the other day.  I met Tom during a visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands last year.  
Randy (left) and Tom ready for a dive.
 Tom and his friend Randy both worked for Verizon and retired about the same time.  They both love scuba diving, but both their wives are afraid of flying, so they travel together every year to Randy's condo at Ocean Club Resort in Provo on beautiful Grace Bay.  
Coral as photographed by Tom
 It is there that I met Tom one day as he wondered around the grounds with his camera in hand and that special look in his eye.  For almost two weeks I talked with Tom and Randy about their exploration of the reefs off the coast of Provo.  One evening while eating at the Ocean Club outdoor restaurant Tom sat down next to Carol and I, as well as our traveling buddies Jerry and Just Sue, and showed us a slide show of the underwater world off the beach of Grace Bay.  
Casting the spell of the sea.
 Amazing!!  I have kept in touch with both Randy and Tom and recently Tom sent me a nice email telling me to check out some of his diving photos from this past summer and early fall.  www.tommcdowell.net  is full of photos with a short story about how Tom got started and about the equipment he uses.  Check it out if you enjoy underwater photography or photos of the ocean and beach.  I have included a few of Tom's many photos that he has posted on his site, dating back to pre-2008.  They include beach, underwater and nature photos.  Enjoy!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The "Working In Yesterday's Lancaster" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished talking to Jim who used to work at Armstrong Cork Company back in the days when they were the #1 employer in the city of Lancaster, PA.  They made flooring tiles and rolled linoleum at the plant along Liberty Street, about half a dozen blocks from my childhood home on North Queen Street.  Place was built in 1906 on what was a corn field before Armstrong built there.  My grandfather worked there, as did many other Lancastrians, making flooring and eventually ceiling tiles.  Jim was telling me of the glory days for Armstrong when they were the best employer a person could work for in the early to mid 1900s.  Then slowly, sales dropped and people were dropped from the employment rolls.  Jim retired and then lost part of his pension he thought he would have for the rest of his life.  Armstrong wasn't quite the employer that many had hoped.  But, it was the same for manufacturing throughout Lancaster, as it was across the country.  Even back in the mid-1900s our country was losing jobs to other countries.  Lancaster's history of manufacturing has almost disappeared today.  Since I began writing my blog I have had a chance to take photos of quite a few places in Lancaster and the manufacturing plants that still dot the landscape are an interesting feature to Lancaster.  The plants that have not been destroyed have either been made into housing or in some cases remain vacant.  This story will give you an idea of some of the manufacturing that was part of life for many workers in Lancaster and what has happened to it over the last 50 or more years.

The Lancaster Caramel Company was founded in 1886 by Milton S. Hershey.  It was Mr. Hershey's first successful candy company and eventually made him famous.  The company was located in the 300 block of Church Street in Lancaster and employed many in the manufacturing of caramels.  He sold the company in 1900 to the American Caramel Company which operated the business for years until its demise and the eventual demolition of the building.  The Lancaster Caramel Company no longer exists.

The Stehli Silk Mill, built in 1897, was the largest silk mill in the world and employed 2,100 people during their heyday.  It was located in Rossmere which was a few blocks from the home that Carol and I raised our children during the later part of the 1900s.  It was built in Lancaster because it was close to New York and Philadelphia as well as the workers in Lancaster were known for their loyalty and work ethic.  The building had 250,000 square feet for manufacturing.  This building brought the Umbrella Factory to Lancaster, since silk was primarily the main fabric in umbrellas at the time.  The Great Depression took its toll on the silk mill.  It still stands today and at one time was going to be apartment units.  I'm not sure what is planned at this time.

I found this story just after I had finished writing this post.  I thought I would include it here to give you an idea how the Umbrella Factory in my next little segment actually got it start
 It’s about 1900 and it’s raining cats and dogs. Where are you going to find the best umbrellas in the world? Lancaster, that’s where. The umbrella business had been gaining momentum in Lancaster since the mid 1800s, but around 1880, William Rose came to town and bought Thomas Spering’s umbrella making business on South Queen Street. After Rose’s death in 1885, his sons, James and David, took over the trade and went into business with H. W. Hartman. Together they formed Rose Bros. & Hartman in 1886. By 1889 they built a new factory at West King and Mulberry Streets. (Story written by Maryann Heckles)

The Umbrella Factory also employed many people when it came to town in 1880.  They were first located on South Queen St. in the city, but built a new factory in 1889 at the corner of West King and Mulberry Streets.  It was one of the world's largest manufacturers of umbrella by 1910.  The building was eventually taken over in 1944 and turned into a furniture store.  Any guesses as to where all the manufacturing jobs might have gone?  In 1986 it was converted into housing units.  The property is still a beautiful landmark on the west side of Lancaster city.

The Hamilton Watch Company was incorporated in 1892 and produced its first watch, known as the 936, in November of 1893.  Up until this time the company was known as the Keystone Standard Watch Co. and the Lancaster Watch Co.  The company was named after James Hamilton who originally owned the land that the company was built upon.  The company was highly successful for many years and had a large workforce to produce the products they made.  But, in 1980 the company was renamed Hamilton Technology and was moved out of the complex, into downtown Lancaster.  With the move went many of the manufacturing jobs that made Hamilton Watch one of the big employers in Lancaster.  

The B.F. Good & Company Leaf Tobacco Warehouse was also a fairly large job producer in the early to mid 1900s.  The warehouse was located at 49-53 West James Street and was built in 1899-1900.  It is a 3 1/2-story, rectangular building designed in the Beaux-Arts style.  Sits on a high foundation of gray limestone.  It was purchased by The Lorillard Tobacco Company in 1920.  Since it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places it will probably always be a part of the Lancaster landscape.  It too is one of the manufacturers that has left the city, but not for the same reason that most of the other manufacturers left. 

The listing of the different businesses that employed many Lancaster workers should show you that Lancaster was a great manufacturing center.  Armstrong Cork was the major provider for many of Lancaster's families.  The extensive manufacturing jobs in watches, silk, umbrellas, candy and cotton goods as well as tobacco products such as cigars supported another large segment of Lancaster.  When all these manufacturing jobs left town it totally changed the work force and what Lancastrians do for employment today.  Today the health care industry is Lancaster's #1 provider of jobs.  Today's jobs don't require the daily sweat and muscle of the past, but a more refined and educated workforce.  Lancaster is still surviving, so I guess we have adapted to the new look that is now Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The "Happy 70th" Story

Entrance to the Princess Juliana International Airport as it
appeared in 2010.  Today a new entrance marker exists, but
I haven't taken a photo of it yet.
It was an ordinary day.  Checking out a post on an online forum of photos taken of planes landing at the Princess Juliana Inter- national Airport (PJIA) on the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin. The island is part Dutch and part French with PJIA being on the Dutch side.   Planes just clear the beach and bathers before hitting the end of the runway.  
The original terminal building can be seen behind KLM's
twin engine prop plane.  This was taken sometime in the
1950s. Black and white photos are from the collection
of photos from Princess Juliana Airport.
I have posted photos that I have taken in the past, but I never get tired of looking at more of the same.  As I read on in the post I found that the PJIA will celebrate its 70th Anniversary on December 3rd of this year.  It was during World War II that the US aided the island in building an airfield with a runway just over 5,000 feet in length to be used as a military base, one of many throughout the Caribbean.  
This view of the runway is from 1963.  It carries the number
09/27 which eventually became 10/28.  It is located
between Simpson Bay on the right and the Simpson bay Lagoon.
It was to be used as a defense against German warships and submarines.  Eventually, in 1943, the airstrip was converted to a civilian airport and given to the country.  On December 3rd of that year KLM Dutch Airlines became the first commercial operator.  The following year saw the crown princess of the Netherlands, Julianna make a visit to the island and the airport was then named after her.  For over 20 years the airport saw few planes and visitors, but then in 1956 the Dutch developed plans to extend the runway and add a new terminal for larger aircraft.  
The new 1963 terminal with the control tower on the roof.
The runway work began in '61 and in '63 the modern terminal opened.  Eventually tourism followed with major airlines offering nonstop flights from the states.  Then in 1982 Air France began running  nonstop service from Paris, making their first trip to PJIA on December 3, 1986.  That same year the terminal was once again remodeled with separate arrival and departure areas.  Then in 1997 a three-phase master plan was implemented.  First the runway was widened, strengthened and renovated and a new apron was constructed.  
This photo was taken in the early 2000s after we landed.
This shows the upgrades from the '63 terminal.
Again the terminal was upgraded.  All parts of the first phase were competed by 2001.  Phase II began with the construction of a radar facility and a new air traffic control tower.  A new, modern terminal capable of handling 2.5 million passengers was begun as was a safety area at the end of the runway.  In 2004 the air traffic control tower and radar station opened and the new terminal opened in 2006 with 4 to 5 jetways for larger aircraft.  
Upgrades in the early 2000s added 4 of these jetways for
unloading and loading of passengers.
I can remember the early 2000s when most planes emptied their passengers onto the tarmac and they either took a bus to the terminal or they walked to the terminal.  Matter of fact, last year our plane pulled to the side of the terminal and we walked to the terminal.  To me that gives us a chance to exit the plane and feel that warm ocean air and know we are on vacation in St. Martin.  
December 16, 1989 President Francois Mitterrand of France
arrived aboard the Concorde for a meeting with US President
George H.W. Bush.  Flight from France took 3 hours, 55 minutes
on the supersonic jet.  It was the second and last time the
Concord made a trip to the Princess Julianna International Airport.
Photo from files of PJIA. Carol and I learned about the plane and
took a tour of the inside of it while visiting Barbados.
A few other remembrances of the old terminal were:  the luggage area where the suitcases entered through a hole in the wall, having to stand in line to pay your departure tax (this was before the airlines added it to the ticket price), getting a meal at Cafe Juliana, security workers wearing rubber gloves would open your suitcases before you got your boarding passes and everyone in line could see what was in you suitcases including your dirty clothes, and all the workers going on strike as we stood in line waiting to get our tickets.
The new terminal as it appears today with the jetways
coming from the terminal towards the landing area.
The workers marched through the terminal as others left their positions and joined them.  They had to hold the planes until the strike ended, about two hours later, and passengers could once again purchase their tickets and go through security.  Then I read about one of my favorite airport activities: taking photos of the planes as they fly over Maho Beach as they land.  
On the top right is the current terminal building which is
pictured above.  At the time is was being constructed and
the old terminal is on the left in the center of the photo.
The approach to Runway 09 is over water and it seems that  pilots can become disoriented when flying under visual flight rules.  I truly can never remember any plane scaring me as it approached the runway.  With the use of my 400mm lens I can actually see the pilots as they pass by me during the landing.  The thrilling approaches and landings are much better watching from the shores of Sint Maarten then being on the plane.  There have been two crashes over the years that had to do with PJIA.  In 1970 a plane crashed into the ocean due to fuel exhaustion after the plane had made several approaches that were aborted due to bad weather.  
The KLM four-engine jet as it flies over Maho Beach in
preparation for landing on the other side of the beach.
This is one of over 100 shots I have taken in the past.
Then two years later a plane crashed into the ocean en route from Guade- loupe.  No reason for that crash was given.  There were causalities in both crashes.  The Princess Juliana Inter- national Airport is featured in the free demo version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X and in the full version of the program is the destination on the mission called "Caribbean Landing".  PJIA also was featured on The History Channel as the 4th most dangerous airport in the world on their Most Extreme Airports.  But, in order to get to our paradise on earth, Carol and I close our eyes and hold our breath as we reach the PJIA runway.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The "Returning To Your Roots" Story

LDub with former student Doug Sing.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing next to one of my former students while another graduate of Manheim Township High School, where I taught, is holding my camera looking at the digital display to make sure he has us both in the picture.  Over the many years I taught Graphic Arts and Photography in the high school to juniors and seniors, I had many hundreds of students.  Then, add on those that I had on my yearbook staff for 32 years as well as the students that I coached in football for a few years and  the kids I had on my championship rifle teams.  Today, no matter where I might be, I tend to run into one or more of my students no matter what the occasion.  Standing next to me today for a photo is Doug Sing.  Lieutenant Douglas Sing to be exact.  I had Doug in class shortly after I began teaching at Manheim Township.  He was in my Graphic Arts class in his junior and senior years as well as taking architectural drawing in the classroom next to mine.  During his free time he volunteered for the Southern Manheim Township Fire Company which is an all-volunteer company.  After graduating in 1973 he entered York College majoring in criminal justice.  Two years after he entered York College he was hired by the Manheim Township Police Department while still a student.  Eventually, after graduation, he went to work full-time for the police department and after 36 1/2 years on the force, retired with the grade of Lieutenant.  Doug is now in charge of security for the Manheim Township School District, working in all of the schools.  He has two full-time Manheim Township police officers, one in the High School and one in the Middle School.  He also has about a half-dozen full-time security aides that he manages.  Doug has come full-cycle, as have over a dozen others including myself, graduating from the school district and eventually coming back to work for the district.  Doug was always a first-class person and it certainly is the school district's fortune to have him as part of the staff again.  As for me, I'm glad to get to talk and work with him again.  Makes me feel so much younger!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The "You Learn Something New Every Day" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Thinking about Christmas already as I leaf through my latest Wired issue.  The fact that I am still getting Wired is a mystery to me, since my subscription ran out three magazines ago, but they continue to send me the issues.  Anyway, as I reach the back of the magazine, I see they have a lengthy article titled WISH LIST which they have divided into five categories of gifts: Explore, Get Smart, Health, Upgrade and Thinking Ahead.  Items on the Explore list include things like a Honda CB500F Motorcycle, a Steripen Ultra bug zapper, a Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera, and a Zippo Hand Warmer.  I'm not really interested in too much on the Explore list so I turn to the Get Smart category and examine the On Food and Cooking cookbook, the NPW Pocket Microscope, The Sodastream Source bubbly water system, the Heat Mapper to check food temperatures, and the Draw 50 Animals teaching aide to learn how to draw.  Then comes the Health list which includes items such as Nike Free Hyperfeel that sell for $175, a Whistle which is really a canine monitor for the dog's collar, and a Remee Sleep Mask.  Are you starting to understand why I didn't renew my subscription?  So far none of this stuff is on my wish list!  In the Upgrade category is The Road Warrior's Ultimate Coffee Rig for easy coffee making, the Trusco Tool Box for the handyman, the Square by Clean Bottle that has a bottom as well as a top that unscrews for easy cleaning, and a Leibal 11+ Felt Case for your computer.  I finally reach the Thinking Ahead category of
gifts and see the full page on the Kammok Glider which is a sheltered outdoor snoozer. As I turn the next page to see what other great gifts I might find, there on the bottom left of the page is a Lancaster Chair.  Yep, a Lancaster Chair.  Made right here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  And, I had never heard of it before I saw it in this magazine.  Made by Emeco, who I had never heard of either, and called a Navy Chair that was developed for use on WWII submarines.  The story claims that it still sells like crazy and will last a lifetime.  The legs are made of ash wood and are crafted right here in ...... ready for this ....... an Amish factory.
An Amishman pictured on the website for the Lancaster
Chair, although it doesn't look like a chair to me.
 Now I have seen full page ads in our local newspaper advertising stoves and fireplaces that you can use to heat your home that are allegedly made by the Amish, but never saw an ad for the Lancaster Chair in any publication.  Wow, I look at a national publication that I no longer subscribe to and learn something new about the city in which I live.  You know ..... I just may have to add one of these to my wish list.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The "Vivid Memories" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got finished with my English Literature class at Millersville State Teachers College.  The year was 1963 and I was a freshman at the college studying to be an Industrial Arts teacher.  My adviser helped me schedule my classes so I would be done shortly after lunch on most days, as I was today.  I hustled in the Millersville Pike and punched in a little before 1:00 PM for my shift at the Acme Supermarket at the Manor Shopping Center, Lancaster, PA.  Went into the back room, grabbed my white work apron and started stacking boxes of baby food on my cart to go stock the shelves.  Did this a few times a week in order to pay my way through college as well as keep my car on the road and still have some spending money.  The day started as it usually did with the usual costumers stopping to talk as I stacked the jars on the shelves.  Wasn't more than 10 to 15 minutes later that static came through the intercom and the music was interrupted for an announcement.  The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy has been shot today at 12:30 Central Time!  At first I thought if was a joke, but when they continued with the details, I knew it was real.  
A single frame of film shows the instant after he was shot.
 Wow!!  Every- one in the store stood still to listen for more.  One lady who was holding on to a shopping cart for dear life was sobbing into a tissue.  Another guy was just shaking his head.  Then it started to really sink in.  Some just left their carts in the aisles, still full of groceries, and walked out the door.  Others went on as if nothing had happened.  And me …… I really don't remember what I did.  I guess I kept working to help relieve the sorrow I felt at that moment.  The store didn't close, but I do remember we had very few shoppers the rest of the evening.  Gene, the assistant manager who was on duty, came around to all of us and told us to take a break whenever we felt we needed it and if we cared to punchout for the day, he would understand.  He was sure we would have enough help for the few customers he anticipated would be shopping the rest of the evening.  I stayed until closing at 9:00 PM and went home to talk to my mom and dad about what had happened.  We watched the day over again on mom and dad's black and white TV.  Spent many hours over the next few days glued to the TV.  Even saw Ruby shoot Oswald as it happened live.  Do you remember where you where on that fateful day?  I thought it would be interesting to ask more than just my friends and family, so I picked a few web sites and forums and the results follow.  I have just cut and pasted their responses to avoid having to type them and have added their web names with their comments. 

Carol (my wife): I was in my junior year in high school when they announced that the President had been shot.  We were told to go to our homerooms immediately.  Many girls were crying in the halls as I walked to my homeroom.  When we were all in our homerooms they came over the intercom with the news that President Kennedy had been shot and was dead.  Silence fell over the kids in my homeroom.  Shortly after that they announced that school was dismissed for the day. 

Jerry: I was aboard the USS Holder somewhere at sea in the Caribbean.  I just began a tour at sea a week before and about 2 weeks after I got married on November 7.  The ship's intercom made the announcement that the President had been shot and killed.  We immediately went to General Quarters and were put on high alert.  The flags were dropped to half mast. 

Sue: I was at the Lancaster Shopping Center shopping at Kresge's when the news spread via other shoppers.  I thought it must just be a rumor …… but rushed home to the TV.  Spent the remainder of the day between doing the necessary things such as caring for our 9 month old son and watching TV.  Just couldn't believe it.

ncguy: I was in the first grade and the teachers were in the hallway talking about President Kennedy just being shot. I remember watching the funeral on a B&W tv.

GaKaye: I was in my high school (Freshman) English Class. The principal came over the PA system and announced the President had been shot. Schools were immediately closed and we went home. I remember the shock, and watching TV coverage (black and white, of course) for hours on end. We were living in Alexandria, VA at the time, right across the river from DC.

Charlieh: I hope my mind never fades to the point that I can't remember this very memorable event. I was a high school junior at a boarding school. We were all in the school assembly room where we each had a desk and were taking exams. We had formal exams every 2 and 6 weeks and 3 months. School thinking was that after 4 years, we would be prepared for taking exams in college. When the exam period was over that afternoon (we did not have any access to TVs as students), the headmaster appeared on the stage and told us that we were all now going to the chapel to pray for our president, who had just been shot. Stunned, the entire student body then went to a special service in our chapel, which by the way, is the same chapel where I was married in 1969. During the school year we had a few dances, which were a big deal, since this was an all boys school. Surprisingly enough, the school still had the dance on that Saturday night. It was stunning that it was not called off. My parents brought my date for the dance from back home. On the day after the dance, I was in my parents' hotel room and saw the Ruby shooting on that Sunday. Boy oh boy was that a weird time in my life.

madisoncty:  I was in Mrs. Witt's 5th grade class at Macksburg Community School, in the very small town of Macksburg, Iowa. Mrs. Witt was called to the door; she stood there a moment, turned and with tears in her eyes, told our small class. She then broke down sobbing as we all just sat there stunned. I am now as old as dirt but still remember it as if it were yesterday.

kate: I am Canadian....but remember it as if was yesterday....was in grade school....the teacher went out of the classroom & came back & said the President had been killed....it was a Catholic Girl's School & we all got on our knees to pray...know that i think about it maybe the nuns made us pray because he was Irish Catholic...watched then the funeral on the black & white TV....always loved the way Jackie dressed....even as a young girl.

pat: I was in my junior year of high school and had left school early that day for a dental appointment. My Mom and I were driving along the local highway when the announcer broke into the song that was playing on the radio and made the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot and was being rushed to Parkland Hospital. My Mom had to pull the car over to the side of the road and regain her composure and by the time we got to the dental office, they had already come out with the announcment that it was believed the President had died.  Needless to say, the doctor cancelled the appointment and we headed home to glue ourselves to the black and white tv for the next few days. It was an unbelievable time and I truly believe anyone alive who was old enough to know about Camelot and the Kennedys will remember that day just as they will 9/11. There are times in our lives that are unforgetable - my Dad used to speak of the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and then Kennedy's assassination and for me it will be Kennedy's murder and the World Trade Center attack.

marksxm: It's actually one of my first memories. Got off the bus from Kindergarten, age 5, in Bethesda, Maryland, and when I went in my mom & 3 adults (a realtor and a couple looking at our house which was for sale)were sitting on the couch crying. I asked why everyone was crying and my mom said president Kennedy had just been killed. I can still see the fuzzy black & white TV….

TSelma: I was 8 years old. Our teacher was called out of the room by a staff member. She informed us what had happened and we were dismissed for the day. I remember watching the sky in fear as I walked home. I expected it to be filled with atomic missiles heading towards and away from us. I never felt that way again until 9/11. I also remember watching the funeral procession on TV. The band played the same song endlessly as the procession slowly made their way to his final resting place. I think it was "Faith of our Fathers".

jazzgal: I was a Junior in HS but had the day off. My boyfriend and I had driven north to the Seattle area as his sister was being married that afternoon. We were getting ready to leave a relative's house to go to the wedding site when the news came on the TV. The wedding was postponed until the next day as we all watched TV for the rest of that day.

fabila: I was in second grade and remember the news also coming over the PA system that the President had been shot. Our teacher, a nun asked us all to get down on our knees and pray for the President. So we all got down on the side of our desks and said a prayer. Beyond that I have no other recollection of the day.

SXMWendell: I was in my 6th grade classroom. The 5th grade teacher came to the classroom door and motioned for my teacher to come into the hall with him. They both returned to my classroom and my teacher announced President Kennedy has been shot.

libra46: I had only lived in DC a couple of months at the time. I was in class when we were notified "the Pres. had been shot", later it was confirmed he had died. Later that night some friends and I rode around DC, it was like a ghost town, it was as if the entire town had died, so sad.

LONGISLANDSHARON: I was a junior in high school, Riverhead NY. I had been chosen to compete in the All-State Choir and the concert was to be held that weekend. Arthur Fiedler was directing the orchestra. An administrator came into the rehearsal hall and told us the news. As corny as it sounds, we all sang 'Kumbaya'. The whole event was cancelled.

GrahamJ: I was in Grade 9. We were in English class and we were listening to a recording of Edgar Allen Poe's "A Tell Tale Heart". The vice-principal came into the class and stopped the record. (Yes, it was an LP!) He said I have a real life horror story for you and told us the President and the Governor of Texas had been shot. We lived in B.C.(British Columbia) and I believe it was just before noon pacific time. We went for lunch and later learned the President had died. School was dismissed for the afternoon.

marybeth: I was in my 6th grade classroom watching a French lesson on the TV. Mrs Mule, a 7th grade teacher came to the door & beckoned Sister Therese to the hall. Sister came back in the room, changed the channel to a local TV station & told us JFK had been shot. We watched for a few minutes & then the rosary beads came out & we all said the rosary as we were trying to listen to the TV. Then it was announced he had died & the whole school said the rosary using the PA system. I will never forget how I felt that day.

Bill S: I was a Freshman at Syracuse University, and a "townie" or commuter student, living at home 10 minutes from campus. I was in the "commuter students lounge" in the "Womans gym building" and the TV was on while I worked on homework between classes. The local NBC outlet, WSYR, interrupted regular programming and "went to network" to cover the breaking story.  It was also ironic, since I was working my way through college as an FCC licensed Broadcast Engineer at WSYR at the time.

TomR: I was a Military Policeman on patrol in Neu Ulm Germany. My partner and I had just left a notoriously rough and tumble bar after telling all of the soldiers to report immediately back to base. As I sat in our jeep ready to leave, an older man ran out of the bar and up to me. He reached for my shoulder. Thinking that he was going to try to pull me out of the jeep, I reached for my club. Instead of grabbing my lanyard, he put his head on my shoulder and began to cry. It was a moment I will never forget.

Tinman31: Was in Sister Phylis 1st grade class at St. Martin of Tours Grammar school. Catholic and all you saw was the young nun's face crying (the habit covered all features but the face, not even a wisp of hair) and dismissed us. Got off the school bus at the Long Island suburb of Levittown and our parents met us crying also. Parents did not drop off or have to worry about a pick up of young children in 1963 in our town. It was a very safe world up till then. The country I believe has not been the same since, I get the chills watching JFK w/ Kevin Costner. I am also a US Air Force vet. We may never know what happened in our lifetime. Very sad and historical. Crime of the century.

Southshore: I live in Canada and I was 13 at the time, in my first year of high school, in the middle of exams. I had an exam in the morning and came home for lunch with a few friends planning to study together that afternoon for the exam the next morning. My Mom made lunch for us all and as we sat around the table, my Dad, who worked for newspaper, phoned from work, told us to turn on the TV.  I remember we all sat staring at the TV, then looked at each other and started to cry. My Mom brought in dessert for everyone - mint-chocolate pudding. I couldn't eat it that day and I have never been able to stomach that combination since. Silly and unimportant in the grand scheme of things but I still associate the two.

Barbara: I had just graduated from college and had moved to NYC in June. I remember all of it like it was yesterday. I was working as a social worker in a foster care agency. I was in the basement organizing Christmas gifts for all the foster children. Someone came to tell me the news. I remember riding home on the subway surrounded by people with stunned faces and people crying all around me.  I remember that night my parents were coming from PA to visit me and I had to meet them at Port Authority. I remember seeing crying people all over the terminal, including me.....just standing there in the middle of Port Authority, unable to stop the tears. I remember all the days that followed too. It was a nightmare I will never forget.

bettenan: I was in 7th grade (I was 12 years old) and had walked home from Jr High with my best friend, Franny Roth. When we got to her house her mother (was crying) and told us what happened and told me to run home. I remembered running the few blocks to my house and my parents who worked for the government (together) were pulling up in front of the house. They had been dismissed early. I can still remember my parent crying. Franny and I are still friends and still talk about the day. Like others that day is etched forever in my mind.

Cincinnati Kid: This event occured my junior year at Middletown High School. During history class, Berman Litton, my teacher, was called to the hallway. He returned to the class upset and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. Class ended with prayers for the President. During the campaign both Nixon and Kennedy had passed by our school in open convertibles and most of us had seen both in person. It reminded me of the moment we first heard that Marilyn Monroe had died.

lobstaroll123: I was in sixth grade at Washington Street School, Springfield, MA. It was almost time to dismiss and as sixth graders were got to patrol the halls and staircases. As I stood at my post, a swarm of kids descended the stairwells screaming that the President had been shot and killed. I didn't know what to think or where to turn when I spotted my mom on the playground, in tears, ready to pick up my brother and me. We spent the following days glued to the television, though I didn't see Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on television. My dad, a construction laborer, who hardly ever had a day off from the job, had the day of the funeral off and we were again glued to the television. Being from Massachusetts and spending time in RI, the sadness of the beautiful Newport wedding and Hyannis port compound resonated and still does today Thanks for asking.

hottubdiva: I was almost 8 years old. My dad was career Army and we were stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. When word was received on base that the President had been shot the base was shut down, all leaves were cancelled, and we went on high alert. Bear in mind that tensions were high already in Germany because of the Berlin Wall. For 30 nights we had a 21-gun salute with canons as the base flag was lowered. You could hear the canons all over the base.

sumbeach: Looks like I'm a bit late on this. Another 11th grader - in drafting class in El Paso. Vice Principal Quizenberry came to our class and told what happened. He had totally broken down and was barely coherent. I remember they closed the border, I think for at least a week.

jrr1148: I was a freshman in High School. I remember we were either off that day or had a half day, since I was at home in my room. My Grandmother, an avid soap opera fan, had been watching "As the World Turns" when the bulletin occurred. She notified the entire household and we huddled around the tv for the next four days. 

CanadianAllan: Kennedy was a big deal in our home in Southern Ontario in Canada because he was the first Catholic President and we were only an hour from the border. 8th Grade and our Principal, a Nun came on the Classroom intercom and simply said that "Mr. Kennedy had been shot". We all immediately looked at Colleen Kennedy a classmate who went shock white. It is true, funny what you remember, though it was certainly not funny and our TV remained on, Dawn to Test Pattern. I recall on witnessing Oswald get shot, that my Stepfather exclaimed "Good, he deserved it" That Funeral Procession still waters my eyes to this day.

DnCnVA: Well, that was my 12th birthday, and before heading off to school, my parents had given me a birthday present: a model kit of PT-109. At school that morning, my teacher gave us an assignment to write a practice "business letter" to someone. So, I wrote a letter to President Kennedy telling him about receiving the model for my birthday present. That afternoon, at a school assembly in the cafeteria, the student "officers" were seated in front. About 1:30, our principal approached the stage and announced the terrible news to us...in my innocent ignorance, I thought someone had shot our student president ! After school was immediately dismissed, my brother and I walked home. Our mom had been baking a birthday cake, hadn't heard the news, and asked what we were doing home early...she didn't stop crying all weekend. We lived in Northern Virginia, so after my dad got home, we drove to the White House and joined a small crowd of people standing outside the fence...I wasn't sure why but it seemed the right thing to do. My memory of the rest of the weekend is a blur of my parents being glued to the TV and my mother crying...I'll never forget it.

After the last comment I thought it was time to publish my story.  As you can see the response has been tremendous.  Many wished to share their vivid memories of the assassination and the days that followed.  Thanks to all who responded to my inquiry and although I only used about half of the responses, you can see that the poster's nationality, religion, or sex had no bearing on the tremendous loss the United States suffered November 22, 1963, 50 years ago today. May that never happen again!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The "A Candidate Comes To Town" Story

Senator speaking to the crowd at Penn Square, Lancaster, PA
Photos from Lancaster Newspaper
It was an ordinary day.  I should say it was an ordinary day …. until I was standing next to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of downtown Lancaster, PA and Senator John F. Kennedy's cream colored convertible was coming up West King Street.  The excitement grew the closer his motorcade came towards the square and the applause grew as his car stopped and he left his car, heading toward the wooden platform that had been built in front of the Greist Building.  The date was September 16, 1960 and I was a junior at Manheim Township High School in Lancaster.  My mom and dad thought it would be good for me to see a presidential candidate in person so my dad took me to work with him in the morning.  He worked in the first block of West Chestnut Street at a jewelry store that was two blocks from center square.  About a half hour before the scheduled time of Kennedy's arrival, I walked to the square and squeezed through the crowd to get the best view I could.  I was a skinny kid and had very little trouble getting through the thousands of people that day.  The crowd was estimated by the police department at 5,000 to 7,500, but the Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster's Democratic daily, estimated the crowd at 15,000.  Didn't matter to me because I was pretty close to the platform and that's all that was important today.  The police and many men dressed in suits with hats tried to keep the people away from the car, but it was an almost impossible task.  
Senator Kennedy checking on Helen Fritsch
to make sure she was OK.  Police officers
Calvin Duncan (with hat) and Luther Henry
also got to meet the Senator in person.
Senator Kennedy was ushered through the crowd and onto the platform with various politicians from Lancaster.  Exciting?  Wow, was it ever!  At the time I didn't know much about Senator Kennedy except for the fact that he was a Democrat running for President.  Years later I wondered why mom and dad wanted me to see him and listen to his speech, knowing that they were life-long Republicans as were the majority of people who lived in Lancaster and surrounding communities.  I often thought they somehow knew he was something special that was going to happen to our country.  JFK's speech lasted eight or nine minutes in Penn Square that day and it was said in the newspaper that he emphasized that the "great challenge" facing the nation was to "maintain its vitality."  He also said he had the "greatest confidence" in the United States and that if elected, "we will try to mobilize resources" so that the U.S. would remain the strongest country in the world.  I had no idea at all what that meant at the time or if he even said that, but that's what was reported in the newspaper.  After a few others spoke and everyone clapped, the Senator was escorted across the street to the Fulton Bank.  I found out later that his car had somehow knocked down 64 year old Helen Fritsch and the crowd must have trampled her.  Senator Kennedy found out about it and wanted to check on her condition.  She got to meet him first hand inside the bank.  Why didn't I think of that, I thought after reading about it in the paper.  
Senator Kennedy heading north on Queen Street.
He then jumped back in the car, sitting on top of the rear seat and headed north on Queen Street towards his next stop in nearby Columbia, PA.  My day in the city was amazing and after Senator Kennedy was elected President, I realized that I came within inches of shaking hands with the President.  That evening I spent time telling my parents about the event and how neat it was to see someone as famous as JFK.  Little did I know at the time that he would be assassinated a little over three years later and the country would be without one of the finest Presidents of all time.  Tomorrow's story will tell of his assassination and the remembrances of many who experienced his death.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The "A Toast Is In Order" Story

Preface:  My story today is one of love, committment and what can happen in your life if you start each day with a kiss …….

It was an ordinary day.  Trying to pick just the right photos to use for my story today which is about the anniversary of the couple that Carol and I have been traveling with for over 10 years as well as the couple who graduated with me in the same class from high school.  
Jerry and Sue during our recent visit to the Bahamas.
Jerry and Sue are old friends and traveling companions who have recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniver- sary.  I have known Jerry since grade school.  We lived about two blocks from each other, met when we were in Mrs. Good's first grade class at Brecht School and spent the next 12 years together as classmates and neighborhood friends.  Met at the bus stop in the morning on our way to junior and senior high school as well as sharing a few classes together.  As freshmen, we both joined the football team.  Jerry was the center for the team and I took his snaps at quarterback.  We both realized that football wasn't our passion and quit after the first year.  After I got my first car Jerry helped me rebuild the engine in his parent's garage.  He's been a good friend almost all my life.  Sue entered the picture when we were sophomores in high school and she moved into the district.  Sue and Jerry hit it off pretty well from the start.  They also shared classes together and Sue was responsible for helping Jerry pass most his classes.  The three of us  graduated from Manheim Township High School in Lancaster, PA together in June of 1962.  While still in high school, Jerry enlisted in the Navy and a few months after graduation headed to boot camp at Norfolk, VA.  Then on November 7th of 1963 Jerry and Sue were married at the Lutheran Church in Grandview Heights, a development in Manheim Township.  The next day Sue drove Jerry back to Norfolk and returned to Lancaster to live with Jerry's parents.  A week later Jerry boarded the USS Holder and sailed off into the Caribbean on a mission.  After Jerry left the Navy they lived in Lancaster where Sue worked at a variety of jobs and Jerry entered Millersville State Teachers College where I was just finishing up my classes and getting ready to take my first teaching job.  In no time we were teaching Industrial Arts together at our Alma mater and Sue returned to work in the cafeteria.  
Jerry, Sue, Carol and LDub during a trip to Antigua.
Jerry eventually was named Super-

intendent of Grounds for the school district and in 1999 we retired together from the same school district from where we graduated.  Jerry and Sue have two grown children, Tony and Tim. After retiring Sue and Jerry moved to State College, PA where Sue had spent time as a child.  I have known Jerry for over 60 years and added Sue as a friend in the late 50s.  Carol came along in the mid-60s when my dad and her mom set up a blind date for us and she joined the party.  In 1999, a week after retiring, the four of us traveled with two other friends and Sue's sister to Hawaii for a retirement trip.  Since that time the four of us have traveled to most of the islands in the Caribbean as well as making frequent trips back and forth from Lancaster to State College to visit with each other.  We have shared many memories and many, many laughs since we have started to travel together and quite a few of them have been documented in this blog.  So, here's to many more good memories and a truly Happy 50th Anniversary to two of our best friends!  May all reading this story make a toast to the bride and groom!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The "Historical Remembrances" Story

This is a Daguerreotype that was taken around 1846.
Probably the earliest photo taken of Lincoln.  He was
37 years old and had just started campaigning for
national office.  He later won a seat in the House of
Representatives as a member of the Whig Party.
It was an ordinary day.  Just read that November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of one of history's most famous speeches.  Any idea what that speech might be?  If you guessed the "Gettysburg Address" you guessed correctly.  It was on November 19, 1863 during the afternoon of that Thursday that President Abraham Lincoln, one of my favorite Presidents, delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which is about a 45 minute  drive from my home in Lancaster, PA.  I have visited the area and also wrote about his taking a train to the new Oxford Train Station and traveling in a coach from New Oxford to Gettysburg to give the speech.  He gave the speech four and a half months after the Union armies defeated the Confederate armies at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Lincoln had been invited by David Wills, the developer of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, to be a participant in the dedication of the cemetery.  Little did anyone know at the time that his two minute speech would be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American History.  The exact wording of the speech differs depending upon which of five known manuscripts you may read.  But, no matter what you may read, I will still remember the speech to go as:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
So, on this historical day, I'm hoping we can remember the impact that Abraham Lincoln had on our country when he gave his "Gettysburg Address."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - check out the video of the Gettysburg Address


Monday, November 18, 2013

The "A Cure For Everything" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from having an MRI to try to determine what to do about the Arthritis that has plagued me for the last few years.  As I sat in front of my computer reading my emails I remembered a book I was looking at recently that gave some old-time family remedies for a variety of illness.  Pulled a few books off the shelf and after searching for a couple of minutes located what I was after.  A couple of pages of "Home Remedies" that were sure to work if I followed the directions.  Well, a remedy for Arthritis was one of the dozen or so illnesses that was on the list.  Trying to think if I want to give it a try or use more modern methods to help alleviate my symptoms.  
Getting ready to put this in my pocket?
The remedy listed said to: Keep a potato in my pocket until it turns black -or- Drink a teaspoon of vinegar in the morning and teaspoon at night -or- Wear a copper bracelet.  What do you think?  Should I see what the MRI suggests is my next step or maybe try the vinegar route?  This remedy must have worked for someone or why would it be part of a book on home remedies.  Some of the other problems with their remedies goes like this:

Croup - 1/2 tablespoon of sugar with warm melted lard poured over it.  Instant cure!
Earache - Wrap hot tea leaves in a small piece of cloth and place in the ear -or- Blow a couple of puffs of cigar smoke into the affected ear.  Instant cure!
Infection - Bread and milk soaked in water wrapped in a cloth.  Apply to the infection.
Chest Cold - Mustard Plaster.  Make a paste of dry mustard and flour and place between two pieces of cloth.  Heat on the stove.  Apply to the chest for about ten minutes.
Head Lice - Wash head with kerosene.  Wrap in towels for a couple of hours, then wash with vinegar and follow with soap and water.
Warts - "Pow-Wow" the wart by gently rubbing it with a penny at sundown and saying a few "magic words."  Wart will disappear in several days -or- Steal a piece of fat and rub it on the wart.
Cold - Burn an old rag; mix the ashes with goose grease and put it on your chest and back.  Also could use mutton tallow.
Cough - Make tea out of the leaves of catnip and mix with sugar -or- Mix a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of coal oil.
Pneumonia - Put on the chest manure fresh from the cow.
Headache - Pull plantain leaves from bogs and make a wrap with vinegar, sugar and salt.  Apply to the head.
Fever - Put fresh onion on the feet and the stomach.

Yep, you just read the home remedies that were used in the late 1800s and early 1900s.   Didn't they wonder why most people died by age 50.  But, I guess I'll wait for my follow up visit with my doctor to see what the MRI showed and then decide if I need to buy an extra bag of potatoes. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The "All Forted Out: Part II" Story

Fort Charlotte
It was an ordinary day.  Reading my brochure I picked up during my recent trip to Fort Charlotte on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas.  The fort was probably the most interesting one to visit and by far the largest.  Place covered over 100 acres.  This fort was built for war.  
The outside of the fort.
Nassau was the political capital of the Bahamas, and this fort was the colony's military head- 

quarters.  It was intended as the region's main base for soldiers, their ammunition and the supplies that supported them.  The fort was built on a hill overlooking the far west end of the harbor.  Who built it and how they built it are details that no one seems to know.  
An old post card showing Fort Charlotte.  Notice the
walkway that had to be used to cross the moat.
It is believed that both men and women, black and white, free and slave had a hand in the building the fort.  Fort Charlotte actually is comprised of three forts: Fort Charlotte, Fort Stanley and Fort D'Arcy.  Fort Stanley was build to control the western end of the ridge and add firepower toward the sea.  Fort D'Arcy was added to house the powder magazine and ordinance.  The magazine was constructed below grade and had a thick stone roof on it to shield it from incoming rockets.  It also had a device that could periodically turn the powder kegs over to prevent them from caking.  The moat was always dry, but originally plans had been for prickly pear plantings to create a hindrance to an attacking enemy.  In 1794 the troop barracks were completed with a kitchen and garden.  The soldiers who lived at the fort often became bored and  homesick.  Many were scared of catching deadly fevers.  
Fort Charlotte's Military Camp training.
To relieve their boredom, they scribed graffiti on the walls of the fort. It appears throughout the fort. The fort is extremely fortified, but was never needed in battle.  The last fort on the island is Fort Montagu which we never had a chance to visit.  Our vacation was allegedly geared towards the beach and ocean, so spending time visiting places that were built for war just didn't seem right.  But, I did find some extremely old photos of Fort Montagu I thought I would share with you.  
Fort Montagu
The fort was built of limestone and is the oldest of the three forts being built in 1741.  It is on the eastern end of Nassau harbor along the waterfront.  It was built to defend the British possession from the Spanish invaders.  Fort Montagu is best known because it is the site of the United States Marine Corps' first military action. In 1776 Continental Congress ordered Commodore Esek Hopkins to take a fleet of eight ships to capture a large supply of gunpowder the British had stored on New Providence Island.  
A water view of Fort Montagu.
The Bahamian militia retreated to Fort Nassau
, so Fort Montagu fell unopposed. It turned out the 200 barrels of gunpowder were stored at Fort Nassau and the Bahamian governor was able to load them on merchant ships
 before the marines arrived there the next day.  
1960 shot of Ft. Montagu with a cannon.
The Marines did bring back thousand's of round shot for Gen. George Washington's troops.  As you can see, the Bahamas carries a wealth of history, but my interest was in relaxing in the shade on a beach chair with my Kindle in one hand and a colored drink in the other.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.