Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The "Year End Shorts" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Waiting for the New Year to arrive.  Gonna make it to 2015!  My story today is a montage of three short episodes that I have pieced together to end the year.  Have a Happy New Year and check back here next year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

#1 - This morning I was watching the Today Show on NBC when they showed what the fashions will probably be like in the coming year.  Wow!  In the early 1960's I wore jeans that were a few inches too long and rolled the bottoms up so I wouldn't tramp on them.  I was in fashion while doing that.  Could hardly believe this morning when I saw the guys on TV when they walked on stage with their jeans rolled up.  I can once again take some of my jeans, that have been getting longer as I get older and start to shrink, and roll them up once again.  Seems I will again be back in style after 50 years.  Who would have thought?

#2 - You gotta watch the YouTube clip and then check out the photo that follows. No peeking!  May take someone who is close to my age to appreciate!  As the photo says: "It took 70 years."

In case you can't read the name on the shirt of the baseball player who is standing on first base, it is "Hu" (pronounced 'who').  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

#3 - And finally - I thought I would give you an idea about what some of the towns around my area drop from the sky in honor of our new year.  
  • A wrench in Mechanicsburg, PA
  • A beaver om Beavertown, PA
  • A mushroom in Kennett Square, PA
  • A Crayola in Easton, PA
  • A pickle in Dillsburg, PA
  • A Hershey Kiss in Hershey, PA
  • A Strawberry in Harrisburg, PA
  • A 100-pound bologna in Lebanon, PA
  • A giant Peep in Bethlehem, PA
  • A bag of potato chips in Lewistown, PA
  • A bottle of Yuengling Beer in Pottsville, PA
  • A cast iron kettle in McClure, PA
  • In Lancaster, PA we will drop a Red Rose, since we are known as the Red Rose city based on the first Earl of Lancaster following the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 in England.  I think!

PS - just one more for good luck!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The "Dunkard's Table" Story

Brothers Steve and LDub dunkin' cookies.
It was an ordinary day.  Sitting next to my brother in my neice Kelly's house in Ephrata, PA dunking cookies.  Every year my brother Steve's family and my family get together to celebrate Christmas the evening after Christmas.  Have made Kelly and her husband Shawn's house in Ephrata our gathering place, since they have a large game room and TV room in their basement to handle the ever growing quantity of kids.  Steve made a trip to the nearby pizza shop and returned with enough to feed the neighborhood.  Enjoyed the family meal together and then it was time for dessert.  Kelly made a large tray of fantastic gooooie brownies and my wife Carol brought two large dishes of her homemade cookies that she worked on for days.  Had to be about a dozen varieties of her delicious treats sitting in front of my brother and me.  Steve asked me which ones were my favorites and I told him the chocolate chip, sugar, pumpkin with caramel icing and snicker doodles.  But, before we could begin our cookie eating, we needed a large cup of milk for dunking.  Steve went to the fridge and brought back the 2% and before long my cup, his cup and his son Matt's cup were filled to the top.  Everyone else standing around the kitchen began laughing and making fun of us, but we didn't let it bother us.  I told him that my favorites are based primarily on the fact that they are all good for dunkin'.  Dunk them in the milk and in no time they suck up the milk and make them soft for eating. You have to time it just perfect so the cookie doesn't absorb too much milk or it may break from your hand and sink to the bottom of the cup.  After years of dunkin' we both have developed into pretty good dunkers.   Well, before long we left Matt in the dust as we tried one variety after another after another plus one of each of my favorites and before long I looked at Steve and saw that he had consumed the last dozen of the snicker doodles.  "Just loved those and thought I better eat them all before someone else gets them," he said to me.  Wasn't long before our milk was almost consumed.  At this time I guess I should tell you that Steve and I grew up in a house where both our mom and dad were dunkers.  But, I must admit that they both dunked their cookies, or whatever was around to dunk, in their coffee.  As for Steve and me, neither one of us drink coffee, so milk became our choice of dunkin' liquid.  Guess it's in our genes.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The "The Perfect Gift" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Watching my kids and grandkids opening their Christmas presents.  Some families go around the tree and have one person open a gift while all watch, then go on to the next person, etc.  Well, in our house it is a free-for-all.  Everyone opens gifts at the same time except for Carol and I who enjoy sitting back and watching everyone else open presents.  Don't want to miss all the smiles and happy faces of the family when the wrapping paper comes off, especially since it took me hours and hours to wrap everything.  Some of the family are at times hard to buy for, since it seems they already have everything a person could ever want.  But, it also seems that there is always one family member that is easy to shop for every year.  In our family it would have to be our son-in-law Dave.  Dave loves his gift no matter what you buy him, especially since we always buy him something football related.  He must have his entire basement covered with posters, framed memorabilia and matted collages of the many seasons that he has coached high school football.  
Zach Kerr
One year I matted and framed his high school jersey which my daughter was able to get from his high school.  Another year I matted and framed newspaper stories and photos as well as my own photos when his team won the State Championship at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore, MD.  I think you get the idea by now.  This year Carol and I struggled as to what we should get or frame for him until our daughter gave us the idea of obtaining an NFL shirt from the Indianapolis Colts with #94 on it which is worn by Zach Kerr, for you see, Zach who stands 6' 2" and weighs 335 pounds and was coached by Dave his entire High School career and is probably the main reason that Zach has been so successful in his football career.  Zach played his high school football for Dave at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, MD.  He was ranked the 11th best player in the state of Maryland when he was a senior.  He was an all-state player as both a junior and a senior.  
Son-in-law opening his gift.
He played one season at Fork Union Military Academy where he was ranked 42nd in the nation among prep school players.  He then enrolled at Delaware where he was 2nd Team All-Colonial as a junior defensive lineman.  He was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 16, 2014 and has been an active member of the Colts defensive line since that time, playing nose tackle.  Fun to watch the Colts and pick out #94 making a tackle or getting a sack.  When Dave opened his package with the shirt in it I had my camera ready.  
Dave taking a photo to send to Zach.
He couldn't get the smile off his face.  Couldn't believe that we would do something like that for him.  I must admit that we haven't told him that it was a suggestion from his wife and I guess after he reads this story he'll realize how we got the idea.  He immediately snapped a photo of the shirt and sent it to Zach who quickly responded with a text of his own saying it so neat that someone would buy one of his shirts to give as a gift.  He's so glad that Dave enjoyed getting it.  We suggested that Dave wear it, but he said he didn't want to mess it up.  I suggested he get it autographed and I could frame it for him in the future.  So, you see how some people are easy to buy gifts for and appreciate every single one we have ever given him.  After all, he is a member of our family and deserves the perfect gift.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of ordinary guy.  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The "You Can Help Save A Little Girl" Story

Kennedy and her mom Donya.  Lancaster Newspaper Photo.
It was an ordinary day.  Ordinary for me, but certainly not so for the young step-daughter of one of my son Tad's best friends, Josh.  Josh and his wife Donya's 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy, is one of eight people in the world with a rare metabolic disorder known as S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase deficiency, or AdoHcy.  The disorder affects Kennedy's brain development, muscles, nervous system and liver.  While many parents see their children as one-in-a-million, Kennedy is literally one-in-a-billion!  Kennedy's body is so different than a normal 3-year-old.  Her diet is very limited resulting in a very underweight frame.  Her feet need orthotics in order for her to walk.  She has learned to say Mommy, Dada, Wawa (Josh), Sissy (her stepsister) and Love You.  Her pain is constant, but she battles through it.  In a Lancaster Newspaper article Donya said that when Kennedy was born prematurely on July 23, 2011 at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, an MRI revealed that the white matter in her brain hadn't developed properly and one of the staff neurologists said it was "like nothing he'd ever seen before."  Kennedy was then sent to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia for tests.  
Kennedy with her father Nicholas, step-father Josh
and mother Donya.    
Donya sent her daughter's medical records to nearby Strasburg, PA's Clinic for Special Children which is world renown.  It was determined there was only one doctor in the world who could help Kennedy;  Dr. S. Harvey Mudd from Bethesda, MD.  Only problem was that Dr. Mudd had retired 24 years before.  Donya still contacted him and he diagnosed Kennedy in three weeks.  The recessive gene disorder known as AdoHcy had been identified in 2004 by Mudd and other researchers.  Dr. Mudd changed Kennedy's diet, monitored her blood tests and consulted colleagues throughout the world.  Then the bad news struck.  Dr. Mudd had died.  Donya asked to speak at Dr. Mudd's celebration of life service and because of that eventually got to meet Dr. Kevin Strauss.  She pleaded her case to him and he agreed to do his best for Kennedy.  Through a world-wide email chain which included Dr. Strauss,  Dr. Vugrek from Croatia who is a pediatrician and nutritionist, and Vanderbilt University who handled the lab work, Donya was able to feel some relief.  For all Donya's tenacity on behalf of her daughter, she was named 2014 Pennsylvania's Young Mother of the Year by the organization founded by Sara Delano Roosevelt and Mamie Eisenhower.  Donya is also a member of Penn State Hershey's NICU advisory board.  Kennedy is allowed only 20 grams of vegetable or fruit protein a day - no meat or dairy.  She is given two supplements to help with her muscle and brain development.  The fine line between malnutrition and barely enough food is a daily battle for Kennedy as is the accumulation of methionine in the bloodstream.  It was determined that a liver transplant will give her brain and body the best chance to develop.  Kennedy needed a portion of a liver from someone unrelated to her who shared the type O-positive blood.  The search began with sending Kennedy's DNA all over the world.  This brave little girl's life was dependent on a donor being found.  She will be the first in the world to have this treatment for her disease.  Changing the course in medicine and science will be up to Kennedy and her family.  Donya decided to put her plea for the liver on her Facebook Page.  Viola!  Finally a Bethlehem, PA fire fighter's blood type matched and he was willing to give Kennedy part of his liver.  Turns out that the donor, Mike, was a high school classmate of Donya's from Bethlehem Catholic High School.  He said "I was put here on Earth to help people."  But, the journey was detoured slightly when Donya was hospitalized with a kidney infection due to all the stress.  
Members of the Pittsburgh Penguins recently made
a visit to see Kennedy.  Photo by her step-dad Josh.
Well, finally, Kennedy and Mike went to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh recently for the operation and Kennedy and Mike are now both doing well.  Doctors from just about everywhere wanted to be part of the procedure since it was the first in the world.  Kennedy was released to a rehab facility with a good prognosis.  As of this story, Kennedy is back in the hospital, since her body is now rejecting the liver, but doctors have told Donya and Josh that was expected and happens often with liver transplants.  A change in medicine should help overcome the problem.  One of my reasons for writing about this beautiful little girl is to help raise money to make the financial burden less stressful for the family.  Josh sponsored a motorcycle "Ride for Kennedy" last August, but the need for more funds is apparent.  If you could help Kennedy, click on http://www.gofundme.com/SavingKennedy and make a donation. Any amount would be appreciated.  You will be a part of medical history and how many people can lay claim to that.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The "Little Christmas Treats" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Couple of days after Christmas and all through the house, not a thing is in it's correct place.  The furniture is still in disarray, there are opened presents piled in the living room and Creamsicle the cat won't come up from the basement since Rocco the dog is visiting for a few days.  But, my camera is still at work as you will see from my observations around the "Beach House."  I have picked some items to share with you that are hidden to the eye of most, by not to the lens of my camera.  I'm sure you have many of the same types of photos, but do you ever see them amidst the other things in your house.  Take some time and actually look at all the treasures you may have in your home and wonder how you could have missed them in the past.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The "A Christmas Treat" Story

The candy cane dates back over 350 years.  The original candy cane
was straight and white in color.  In 1670 the choirmaster of the Cologne
Cathedral in Germany bent the canes to represent a shepherd's staff.  The
white candy canes were given to children during nativity services.
It was an ordinary day.  Just opened a few of the gifts my wife bought for me for Christmas.  One of them was a box of three rather large Ham- mond's classic handcrafted candy canes.  Well, I just had to do some investigating and I found a pretty neat history that surrounds the Hammond's Candy Company located in Denver, CO.  Seems that Carl Hammond, the founder of the company, announced to his mother after his first day of high school that he didn't need any more education and he wasn't going back to school the next day.  His mom said fine, but go get a job.  And, he did!  He became an apprentice in a candy factory.  In 1920, after several years of learning the candy trade, he founded his own candy company.  
A photo story page of the Hammond Company
His first original creation was a Honey Ko Kos which was a chocolate topped with shredded coconut.  Eventually he hired someone to manage the business and he traveled the Wild West selling his candy to stores.  During the Great Depression he still was successful, since people usually found enough of money for a simple treat.  Carl's motto was "Nothing is more important than quality."  His little candy business on Platte River Street in Denver survived the Depression because of that motto.  In the 1930's Carl bought a recipe from a friend for a marshmallow surrounded with caramel. He named it the "Mitchell Sweet", after his friend, and this treat is now the signature candy in the Hammond's line.  In the 1940's Hammond's moved to Bryant Street and West 29th Avenue and his son Tom and daughter-in-law June joined the business.  When Carl passed, Tom continued the prosperous business.  In 1967 Tom purchased a machine that coated treats in chocolate.  His four son's worked for him at one time or another, but his daughter Robin made the business her career.  Robin's husband, Emery Dorsey IV, joined the business and learned the art of candy making from Tom and when Tom passed, Emery took over the candy factory. With the help of Robin and his mother-in-law he carried on the Hammond's tradition for another 16 years.  In 1995 the company evolved into a national name when Williams-Sonoma placed an order for candy.  In 1999 the company was sold and went from a small factory with 10 employees to a building twice the size with 60 employees.  A free tour of the place was begun and an annual Candy Cane Festival began on the first Saturday in December.  To this day the festival is still held.  In 2007, current President Andrew Schuman saw the company as a "sweet" company and managed to double the size of the company to over 120 employees.  Hammond's has been featured on CNBC, in the Wall Street Journal and has had its products featured in magazines and advertisements such as Martha Stewart Living and Everyday with Rachel Ray.  It has been featured on the Food Network as well as spreading world-wide.  And now I am sitting by the Christmas tree eating one of my own Hammond's famous Candy Canes which are hand-crooked and made just for me.  What a neat gift!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The "A Mermaid's Tear" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from my cousin's jewelry store in nearby East Petersburg with presents for our two granddaughters.  Mark took the two salt-water pearls that we had obtained while on the island of Kauai in Hawaii and fitted them with a sterling setting setting so the girls can wear them around their necks.   Also bought a small silver neck chain to hold the pearl.  While on the island of Kauai, Carol and I decided to take a helicopter ride so we could see the 80% of the island that is only visible from the air.  The Sunshine Helicopter office was in a small strip mall near the airport and one of the stores close to the office was a jewelry store.  
Carol is picking the oyster that she got for buying a necklace.
Naturally, my wife was drawn toward the shiny metal pieces hanging in the window of the shop.  Saw a Sterling Silver pendant in the shape of a plam tree with a few small diamonds smiling at her so I knew we were in for another stop after our helicopter ride.  After purchasing the palm tree, the clerk told Carol that she could pick an oyster from the large shell that was in the front of the store as a reward for buying the pendant.  
The clerk has opened the oyster and the two
small pearls are laying on the towel behind
her right hand.  Click to enlarge if necessary.
Carol looked at the couple of dozen oyster shells and asked the woman which one might have two pearls in it so she could give one to each of our granddaughters.  Very rare for that to happen she told Carol.  Carol made a choice and the woman carefully opened the shell.  Out fell a pearl.  Then another one!  "Wow, good pick dear," I said to her.  Naturally the clerk wanted to sell us $100 settings for each pearl and after drilling a small hole in each proceeded to show us a few settings.  Carol told her that we weren't interested and she put them away until we got home from vacation.  I must say that the pearls that she picked were beautifully shaped. The pearl is actually an oyster's attempt to protect itself from irritating particles that enter its shell.  The oyster responds to the particle by coating it with nacre, a substance secreted by the oyster which is primarily calcium carbonate.  
A gift for granddaughters.
The more coatings the oyster places on the particle, the larger the pearl.  The pearls that Carol picked were cultured pearls since the particle was planted in the pearl by a human.    The pearl is unlike most other gems in that it does not need to be cut or polished.  Well, the pearls were sitting under the tree for a few days and were finally opened on Christmas to the joys of our granddaughters.  Carol is trying to instill in them the joy of jewelry, particularly pearls, which she has obtained since we have been married.  After all, you realize that the pearl is really a mermaid's tear and who couldn't love that story.  Oh yeah, by the way in case you were wondering, the helicopter ride was interesting and exciting also!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The "Blessed Christmas" Story

Foreword:  It was an ordinary day and on this Christmas Eve day, Carol and I wish you the most blessed Christmas.  May  joy, wellness and prosperity come into your life and remain with you forever.  I have posted the Christmas story so that you may enjoy it as much as our family has enjoyed it over the years.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Story is from St. Luke - Chapters 1 and 2

And the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
   And the Angel came unto her, and said Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.
   And when she saw him she was troubled at his saying and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
   And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God.
   And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus.
   He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall fine unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
   Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be?
   And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the poser of the Highest shall over-shadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
   And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
   And all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city.
   And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

 And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
   And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
   And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the the Lord shown round about them; and they were sore afraid.
   And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.
   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
   And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
   And when they had seen it, they made known abroad this saying which was told them concerning this child.
   And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
   And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The "A Man Dressed in Fur, Face Darkened and Carrying a Whip!" Story

It was an ordinary guy.  Actually the night before Christmas and all through the house the children are looking out their windows for the arrival of …. Belsnickel.  Belsnickel is the first character in the history of Christmas characters who clearly distinguished between good children and bad children, unlike Santa Claus who came about and presented gifts to those whose names were on the famous "Santa List."  Belsnickel was known to leave switches for children who were bad through the year and would leave small toys, mittens, candies and fruit for the well-behaved on Christmas Eve.  The story goes in the Pennsylvania Dutch communities that just before everyone would go to bed, Belsnickel would announce his arrival by knocking on the windowpanes or doors.  Children actually would get to see Belsnickel peering in their windows dressed in old skins, face covered in soot, carrying a bell and a whip with pockets full of nuts and cakes.  
Had to be a scary sight for any child to see this guy on Christmas Eve.  This all began way before Santa Claus was ever a thought in the minds of children in the German and Dutch communities.  Legend has it that Belsnickel used to drag naughty children into the forest and make them pay for their mischievous behavior throughout the year.  It was here that he would give them a chance to redeem themselves by either dancing, singing or reciting poems or a Bible verse.  Can you imagine a character such as Belsnickel existing in today's society.  Certainly parents would be wearing sidearms as soon as the sun went down on Christmas Eve.  No wonder that Belsnickel disappeared into obscurity and a more friendly character known as Kriss Kringle came into the hearts and homes of children on Christmas Eve.  
I found stories in newspapers from the mid to late 1800s in towns located in south-eastern Pennsylvania where the Old Order Amish and Pennsylvnia Dutch told the story of the Belsnickel.  Then a rival character known as Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, arrived on the scene.  and the rest is history.  I'm sure you have heard the 1897 story titled "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" which was first published in the New York Sun.  As a child, I never heard of Belsnickel, but I suspect there might have been tales told about him in the country side of Lancaster County, Pa.  Can't imagine what that might have been like to be a child and be frightened of the approaching Christmas Eve.  How different my Christmases and the Christmases of my children and grandchildren might have been had Belsnickel survived into our lives.  Guess I was just lucky.  See …. it pays to be nice!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The "Lititz and It's Creche" Story

The triangular "Square" in Lititz, PA where the creche created
national news in 1993 when the ACLU asked to have it removed.
It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from driving around looking at many of the Christmas light displays that illuminate the night sky in Lancaster, PA.  House after house with strands of lights in all colors as well as Santas on the roof with his reindeer, big blow-up snowmen and the traditional lighted creche.  Then, the next morning I was greeted with a creche on the front page of the local newspaper.  Only this time it brought back memories from the early 1990's when the nearby town of Lititz, PA was faced with having to take down their creche that was located in the center of town on a triangle of land known as the "Square" in Littiz.  Seems that in 1993 an anonyous person contacted the ACLU which resulted in the ACLU asking the borough of Lititz to voluntarily remove the creche which featured a stable with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a few sheep.  The creche was to removed by December 24, 1993.  It had been the centerpiece on the "Square" in Lititz for decades.  ACLU claimed that the display was in violation of the separation between church and state.  Boy, you don't do that to the people in Lititz!  The local residents flooded the borough with phone calls, petitions and letters of support for the creche.  
Lancaster Newspaper photo taken by my friend Dan Marschka
on November 30, 1994 at the rededication of the creche.
Even organized a legal, peaceful protest with a large attendance in the "Square" in Lititz.  Well, the borough of Lititz decided to fight back and did get a repreive from the ACLU for an additional month which took it past Christmas.  The borough later found out that the town of Lititz has been set up as a grid system by the Moravian Church and the triangle of land known as the "Square" wasn't public, but private property, owned by the Moravian Church.  Well, that changed everything since there was no longer a church/state issue.  The borough employees could no longer set up and remove the creche so a private party took over that chore.  On November 30, 1994, the creche, after some refurbishing, was rededicated with close to 3,000 people attending on the cold night.  The creche stands today, not only as a symbol of the birth of Jesus, but as the community's decision to defend a liberty.  So, once again, all is well in the town of Lititz.  At least during Christmas season.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The "Ridin' The Motorized Bike" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Listening to the roar of my bike as I motor down the sidewalk on North Queen Street.  Kenny, Bill and I often made motorcycles out of our bikes by taking one of our 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" baseball cards and fastening it between the spokes of our rear bike wheel with a clothespin.  The pins that had the little metal spring on them were the best, but we could do it with just about any type of clothespin.  After all, we all were great bike mechanics.  None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for the invention of baseball cards you know.  
An early Babe Ruth baseball card.
I guess none of us realized that almost any piece of cardboard would have worked, but the baseball card was the best for motor noise.  I always made sure I picked the card that had my least favorite player on it.  Baseball cards were big to my friends and me back in the early 1950s.  My dad would often stop on his walk home from work at Eli's, the grocery store a block to the south of our house, to buy me a pack or two of baseball cards.  Used to sort them by team with my favorites on the top of each pile.  Fastened each team together with a wide rubber band.  Hey, I'll bet some of you did the exact same thing.  Baseball cards were invented over 140 years ago when images of baseball players were printed in black ink on thin card stock and sold with tobacco products in the 1880s through WWII.  
Richie Ashburn poster with cards from every
year he played in the majors.  This is a collage
that I did for my brother who collected the cards.
Cards as I knew them in the mid-1900s were first made by Bowman card manufacturer who began production in 1948 when they made baseball, football and basketball cards.  In 1956 Topps Company bought Bowman, but in 1989 once again began production of cards with the Bowman name as well as the Topps name.  The original Topps cards were packaged with taffy rather than bubble gum, since a competitor had the market on cards with gum, but in 1952 Topps changed and sold their cards with Bazooka Bubble gum.  I think you used to get about half a dozen cards with a piece of the pink gum that was as hard as the cardboard baseball cards.  
Baseball card of my grandson from 2014.
The 1952 cards were in color with the player's stats on the back and a facsimile of the player's signature on the front.  I never owned a black and white card since all my cards were probably bought after 1951.  I no longer have any of the cards from my childhood, but still enjoy looking at them.  My grandson's baseball team has cards made every year so I can have one.  My friend Dale had a collection of Topps that filled a closet in his home.  About a dozen years ago he sold the entire collection for $17,000 and bought a 1972 Corvette.  He later sold the Vette to begin a coin collection.  My brother still collects cards and has me frame sets which he sells on e-Bay or at his stand a local Antique Mall.  Well, one of the reasons for my story today is to let you know, if you don't already, that the father of the modern-day baseball trading card died a few days ago at the age of 91.
Sy Berger, father of the modern-day baseball card.
In the 1950's he turned the Topps Company into a big business.  Seymour (better known as Sy) Perry Berger was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side.  He collected cards as a kid in the 1920's.  One of his college fraternity friend's father was the founder, along with his 3 brothers, of Topps in 1938.  Berger join the company in 1947 and started selling cards featuring Hopalong Cassidy and Davy Crockett.  Eventually he used photos of baseball players that the players posed for during spring training except for the 1953 edition which used images that were derived from oil paintings.  People who grew up with me in the 1950s and later are now reaping big rewards provided they didn't use all their cards to motorize their bikes.  I want to thank Mr. Berger for giving me the sound that was perfect for the red and white Schwinn bike that I got when I was 10 years old.  A memory I will never forget.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The "As Near To The Edge As I Can Go" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking through an article titled "Why We Love Beaches" that appeared some time ago in an Islands Magazine.  Reading some of the "Sandisms" that stretch across the bottom of the six pages of stories.  The title I chose for this story was a "Sandism" written by Henry David Thoreau.  Another one reads .... "My old red bike gets me around to the bars and the beaches of my town.  Yes, I have found me some peace," which was written by another famous author, Jimmy Buffett.  And, another from the famous comedian Steven Wright goes like this .... "I have the world's largest collection of seashells.  I keep it on all the beaches of the world.  Perhaps you've seen it?"  Now, my question to you is: Have you been on a beach lately?  And, if you answer NO, why?  There certainly are enough of them in the world.  Carol and I have been making visits to beaches for our entire marriage.  Even visited a few while we were dating the summer after we met before we were married.  Each one is different with some being more beautiful or more friendly or more deserted or more coarse or more ..... get the idea.  There's bound to be a beach for you.  I have written many stories on this blog about beaches throughout the United States as well as beaches in  Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.  We have visited a couple dozen beaches in our lifetimes and enjoy each and every one of them.  And, we have our favorites which we love.  For me it all started as a child when my mom and dad took me to beaches along the Atlantic Ocean for summer vacation.  Enjoyed building sand castles along the water's edge and watching them disappear with the changing of the tide.  As the article in Islands Magazine reports, "It's all just part of the game - birth, death, infinity."  Part of the article featured vignettes relating to the beach with titles such as: The Tolerance of Sand; Beach As The Beginning; Sand Isn't Everything; and The Final Word.  
Magen's Bay on St. Thomas
The vignettes are four authors remembrances of their beach experiences as either a child or adult.  I loved the beach as a child, but my love for the beach as an adult actually began the day I stepped on Magen's Bay Beach in St. Thomas.  I had never seen such beautiful white powdery sand in my life.  I thought that the Jersey Shore or the Chesapeake Bay beaches were superb, but after seeing Magen's Bay, I knew I REALLY loved the beach. 
My favorite beaches are: Magen's Bay on St. Thomas, Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Shoal Bay East in Anguilla, Bottom Bay in Barbados, Pinel Island Beach as well as Happy Bay Beach and Orient Beach on St. Martin.  I now count the days from one beach experience till the next so I can be "as near to the edge as I can go."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Happy Bay Beach on St. Martin
Pinel Island off the coast of St. Martin
Orient Beach on St. Martin
Bottom Bay Beach on Barbados
Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales
Shoal Bay East on Anguilla