Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, March 31, 2014

The "A Hero Returns Home" Story

Click on any photo to enlarge it.
It was an ordinary day.  Just snapped a night shot of the Manheim Township Library before getting in the car and heading home.  Spent the last two hours standing at the rear of the community room watching Brad Rutter, the biggest all-time money winner on Jeopardy and the second biggest all-time money winner on a game show, in competition tonight.  
Crowd awaits the start of the competition.
Brad went to high school where I taught, but I
never had the pleasure of having Brad in class.  His Quiz Bowl coach, Miss Anne Clouser, and I worked on the school literary magazine, Soliloquy, together and I got to know him through her. Anne died from skin cancer shortly after Brad graduated and he mentioned her many times on TV as well as starting a scholarship in her memory at his Alma mater, Manheim Township HS.  
Brad and friend wait for his introduction.
His record winnings on Jeopardy were $3,470,102 and a pair of Chevy Camaros.  In 20 regular season and tournament games, Brad never lost a Jeopardy match, but did lose, along with second place winnings leader Ken Jennings, an exhibition match to Watson, an IBM computer.  Tonight Brad is in town to help raise money for the restoration of the Stoner House which is just down the hill from the library.  
Brad's younger brother Greg, also a graduate of Manheim Township High  School, belongs to the Manheim Township Historical Society which is leading the Stoner House restoration effort.  The Stoner House and library are a stone's throw from my front yard, provided someone else throws the stone, since my throw wouldn't quite make it.  
Brad explains about the evening's competition.

Pretty neat to stand next to someone that I have watched many times on TV win match after match by being the fastest on the buzzer and knowing the question to the answer clue.  Tonight the crowd of close to 250, in a room that carries a maximum occupancy sign of 64 next to me, got to see two epic contests.  The first matched the current high school Quiz Bowl team against a group of graduates who at one time were members of the high school Quiz Bowl team.  
The current high school team on the left and the "Sages"
on the right who lost 340-165.
The high school team featured one senior, one freshman and four soph- omores, though only four could play at one time.  The alumni team, or "Sages", featured three graduates who hold a PhD, one being the son of a cousin of mine.  Brad acted as the moderator for this first contest.  The "Sages" put up a good fight, but you could tell they were no match for the current high school team, as they lost 340-165.  
Lori Burkholder, the moderator for the
second half of the competition.
After a five minute break the second match began with local TV personality Lori Burkholder being the moderator for the match between the winning team from the first match and Brad.  You could feel the excitement and tension in the room as the team and Brad went back and forth until finally the youngsters, lead by Matthew Allan pulled away and won the match 290-225.  The champ had finally been defeated by a group of high school kids.  The audience rose and applauded both the students and Brad for being a good sport and taking time to return to his roots and help raise money for the restoration of the historic home.  
Two members of the high school team.
Brad gave a personal donation of $1,500 as well as another $1,000 bet he made before the match started against the high school team.  The current Quiz Bowl team will have their names engraved on a plaque which will be placed in the Stoner House sometime in the future.  
Brad, as well as the crowd, applaud the winners.
As for me, I totally enjoyed the evening, visiting with former colleagues as well as neighbors, friends and even a few classmates from high school when I was a student at Manheim Township High.  Brad now lives in Los Angeles and will be a contestant one more time when the best contestant in each of Jeopardy's last three centuries on the air will compete in the Tournament of the Centuries Contest which he said is going to air in May.  I'm anxiously awaiting and will have my front row seat warmed and waiting by my TV.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - The following photos show Brad's many faces as well as the winning team.








Sunday, March 30, 2014

The "Is Testing Really Necessary?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with a friend about having an MRI on my back a few weeks ago.  He was wondering about how it is done and if it hurts or is uncomfortable to have done.  Gave him my impressions, which were all positive as far as he was concerned.  Then he told me about an article he read about the 10 tests that you should avoid.  Said that the MRI on your back was one of them, since it can't always tell anything about the pain and that those who had an MRI during the first month of back pain were 8 times more likely to have surgery which didn't correct the pain any faster than those who didn't have the surgery.  I told him he must have read that wrong, since my MRI showed exactly what was wrong and that it wasn't going away unless I had surgery to correct it.  Then he told me that my PSA scan for prostate cancer is another test to avoid.  What?  My doctor counts on them to compare to my baseline PSA I had years ago to see what changes are happening with my prostate.  He said the article said that the PSA test causes more harm than benefit.  As a result of the test many men often have ultrasounds, repeat lab tests and even biopsies for a problem that may not be there, since 76% of high PSA readings turn out to be false alarms.  My reply to him was that an experienced and skilled doctor knows when a false reading is obtained and although he may request a repeat test, he more than likely will not do a biopsy unless it is really needed.  One time my doctor suspected something was amiss, but after an ultrasound, which is less invasive and certainly not painful like a biopsy, he determined that size and shape of the prostate was normal.  Then I asked him if anything was said of the colonoscopy which I have had twice already.  He said they recommend you get one every 10 years or every 5 if something is found, but after the age of 75 you don't need to have them anymore, since the test after that age can cause more problems than it can detect.  Some of the other tests that are to be avoided are: (1) Nuclear stress test and other imaging tests on people that have no symptoms of heart disease.  "Just to make sure" is not a reason to spend all that money.  I agree;
(2) Yearly electro- cardiogram or exercise stress test on people who do not have any symptoms of heart disease is another one.  It is said that it is much better to check blood pressure and cholesterol with maybe a one-time electrocardiogram as a base test for comparison; (3) PET scan to diagnose Alzheimer's disease even though the test can tell if you have a specific protein in your brain. It still can't tell if that protein will lead to the disease.  (4) Yearly Pap tests, since cervical cancer generally takes 10-20 years to develop and if you have the test every 3 years you should be fine.  Those over 65 who have had a few good yearly tests probably don't ever need another one. (5) Bone density scan for woman before 65 or men before 70 really isn't needed, since the medicine prescribed for that ailment is linked to throat and chest pain, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, muscle pain, bone loss in the jaw and thigh-bone fractures.  Think they need to do some more research on these medicines. (6) Follow-up ultrasounds for small ovarian cysts aren't necessary, since many woman have cysts and only those that are 1 centimeter in diameter or greater need to be rechecked. (7) And, the yearly physical.  Many of the tests that doctors order for a yearly physical aren't necessary unless you have a reason to suspect a certain problem.   So, we talked a bit more and kind of came to the conclusion that perhaps  the insurance providers may have had some say in what was written for this article he was telling me about.  How about you?  You get these tests on a regular basis?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The "Let The Good Times Roll" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got an email from my friend Sue who I graduated with from high school and who now lives in State College.  Seems that her bother sent an email to her that featured a Juke Box filled with songs from many different eras.  You had the option to select which era's music you wanted to hear and then click on a variety of songs.  Pretty neat feature which I had never seen before.  Even had a place where you could click a button if you cared to hear the money drop into the box on the Juke Box.  Looks like most of the songs come from YouTube and were somehow put together to form this email.  Well, you probably have guessed by now that you're going to get a chance to see it.  And, I don't want to disappoint you, so here goes.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Bladensburg High School Class of 1959 Video Jukebox with over 300 selections

Friday, March 28, 2014

The "A Store With Sheep's Clothing" Story


This photo show John Fleming Rich about 1887 at the company's
store and factory in Woolrich, PA.
It was an ordinary day.  Just made our final stop of the day at the Woolrich Clothing Outlet in Woolrich, PA.  Our friends Jerry and Just Sue have been our hosts for the weekend which featured a parade, trip to the Little League Baseball complex and our trip to the Woolrich store.  Neat little town that was built by the employees of the Woolrich plant in the mid-1800s.  The outlet is located at the end of a rather long Norway Spruce lined drive where the original houses that were built years ago still stand. Woolrich, Inc. was founded in 1830 by John Rich and Daniel McCormick who had plans to manufacture fabric for the wives of hunters, loggers and trappers.  Today they are the oldest manufacturers of outdoor wear in the United States.  They also outfitted clothing for the Civil War and Richard Byrd's 1939-1940 Antarctic expedition.  The original wool mill was on Little Pump Run in Dunnstable Township, Clinton County, PA.  
Original Woolrich Woolen Mill in 1830.
That factory operated until 1845 when they moved because of the lack of water.  It was two years earlier that they bought 300 acres at Chatham's Run in nearby Pine Creek Township and built a sawmill.  That land was was purchased from C.D. Hepburn for $600.  Then in 1845 Rich bought out his partner and moved the operations to the new location.  
The beginnings of Woolrich, PA
During the 1850s a town developed around  the mill which was called Factoryville and workers from the wool mill helped to construct the houses .  Eventually a school was added to the developing town and in 1868 a Methodist church was built.  In 1907 that church was moved to another location and a new church, the same one that still stands today, was constructed.  Today there are over 80 residences, a church, community clubhouse, swimming pool, park which has a "tabernacle" and a  school building.  
An old photo of the factory and store.
In July of 1930 they celebrated their centennial with a speech from then Woolrich Woolen Mills President Michael Bond Rich who told the gathering that there were now 85 families, 476 people, 36 pianos, 31 Victrola, 70 other musical instruments, 58 radios, 91 automobiles, 84 bathtubs, seven hogs, five cows, 23 dogs and 702 chickens.  
What the store looked like in 1910.
During the three-day celebration they had a parade, the Woolrich Band played, the Red Arrow Quartet made up of Pennsyl- vania Railroad employees sang, they had an old time fiddler's contest, a baseball game, cigar smoking contest, watermelon eating contest, men's smoking race and a greased-pole climbing contest which no one won.  
The Outlet Store as it appeared when I just visited.
They were a true success story.  Robert F. Rich eventually became the head of the company as well as a Republican member of the U.S. House from 1931 to 1951.  In the 70s, family camping became popular and many other companies began operations to compete with Woolrich.  In 1990 Woolrich had to lay off half of their 2,600 employees due to dwindling sales.  
The exterior of the factory as it looks today.
Today they have about 500 employees at their plant in Woolrich, PA, but do outsource to other plants in the U.S. as well as Mexico.  The current President of the company is John Ranelli who announced last year that he plans to move more of the workforce back to the U.S.  Last year Woolrich had sales of $250 million.  
The Village of Woolrich
Still a success story!  We drove about a half mile from the Outlet Store to see the factory as it appears today.  Same place that has been there for years and years.  I have included some photos to help you see how the Woolrich Woolen Factory was developed and has progressed over the last 184 years.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



This photo and the one below show the factory many years ago.

Another view of the current factory.
Aerial view of the factory at One Mill Street.
This is their USA blanket.
View from inside the factory.
Spools of wool wait to be used. 
Worker pushing the spools of wool.
This is one of their Civil War era woolen blankets.
Early bobbin.
This was the original factory from 1830.  We passed it on our way to the Outlet Store.  It is now for sale.
The Woolrich Logo with the plaid patch.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The "A Lifetime Of Throws" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished taking photos of the Manheim Township baseball team for their 2014 Yearbook.  On my way to the car someone lined a foul ball in my direction so I grabbed it and attempted to throw it back to the field.  Not a good thing to do!  
Young boy playing Midget-Midget ball.
I should have remembered last year when I tried to so the same thing and could hardly lift my arm for a couple of days.  The joints and muscles just aren't the same as they used to be.  I can't imagine how a professional baseball pitcher, who has played for 15 years or so, and has thrown the ball thousands and thousands of times during those years, can still pick up a baseball and be able to throw it when he reaches say  …… my age.  I've had a lifetime of throws during my baseball career of playing and coaching and my arm can throw no more.  Just can't!!  All started when I was a young boy living on North Queen Street and would play "off the wall" in the parking lot behind my house.  
Playing Junior Midget Ball. Middle row, far right.  We were
the best Jr. Midget team in the state of Pennsylvania. 
Did that day after day, year after year, every day of the summer as well as part of the fall and spring.  Then came organized baseball when I was 12 and I played Midget-Midget, Jr. Midget, Midget, High School, Legion and organized softball.  While I was playing softball I coached Midget-Midget, Jr. Midget, and Midget and finally Midget ball.  During practice sessions I would pitch batting practice to everyone of the players.  
My Midget team that won the New Era Midget Tournament
Title.  I'm the coach on the left with a white shirt.
Most times I would throw 30-40 pitches to each player during every practice.  Take that number times the 15 or so players and it starts to add up.   Then there were the times when I would play baseball with my kids in the back yard or at the nearby school.  My arm must have thrown a couple million baseballs and softballs in my lifetime.  And ….. NOW IT IS WORN OUT!!  There comes a time as you age that you know when there is something that you can no longer do in life.  Run around the block, lift your grandkids over your head, shovel the driveway, etc., etc., etc.  You reach that stage yet?  There are many things that I can still do that my friends who are my age cannot, but throwing a baseball is not one of them.  And I'm so upset I can't.  I've always thrown a baseball.  All my life!!  I guess my arm is trying to tell me something. Will I listen?  Hey, at least I can still get my arms around my sweetheart to give her a hug.  Don't know what I'll do when I can't do that any longer.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  But, a sorry one!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The "Printer, Photographer, Tinkerer, Bibliophile" Story

Early photo of Harry Stauffer holding
his Graflex 3A that he purchased in
June of 1917.  Photo was taken by
James Keller of Ephrata, PA in 1970.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading in the Lancaster Newspaper about an exhibit at the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley in Ephrata, PA titled Harry Franklin Stauffer: Printer, Photographer, Tinkerer, Bibliophile.  Wow, sounds like something I would enjoy, since it could be me they're talking about. Checked out their website and found they were only open on Saturdays, so picked one and headed to the Theodore R. Sprecher Museum that is housed in a beautiful Victorian mansion on Main St. in downtown Ephrata.  The mansion has thirteen beautifully restored rooms that house collections from the early 1800s to the present.  Behind the building is a carriage house  that had a sign above it reading "Print Shop."  Tried the door, but found it locked so I entered the museum through the rear door.  Once inside I was greeted with a wall covered with Lancaster County photos taken by Harry Stauffer.
One of Harry's photos from 1920.
Sitting close by in an enclosed display case was a black notebook that had numbers that matched the photos  on the wall with a note about every photo.  Listed was: Camera name, Film type, f/stop, Exp. (shutter speed), Light, Time of Day, Date, and Subject.  
Harry's notebook documenting every photo he ever took.
For every photo he had taken there was documen- tation to tell you about the photo.  All this from a guy who never graduated from high school.  Harry Stauffer was born in Farmers- ville, West Earl Township, in 1896 to Mennonite parents.  He grew up on a farm and didn't have much more than an elementary-level education.  
Harry's earlier photographic equipment.
He was described in a brochure I was given as "a Renaissance man, an amazing man, and he was talented in many ways."  In 1912, at the age of 16, he left home and traveled to Scottdale, PA where he worked in a publishing house.  Returned home the following year, but soon left again to travel to Bradford County, PA to take work as a poultryman on a farm.  Wasn't long before he was home again.  In 1915 he took up the printing trade and began to work with photograph.  The following year at the age of 20 he became interested in history and joined the Lancaster County Historical Society.  During WWI he entered the U.S. Army which was a rather strange move considering his Mennonite background.  
This book from Harry's collection was printed in 1787 by Benjamin
Mayer of Ephrata.  It is an edition of Franklin's autobiography that
was printed in the German language.
Ten months later he was discharged due to an injury suffered when he was thrown from a horse.  After his release from the service he started to build a library of European and American books as well as purchase antiques for his collection.  In 1915, when he began his interest in photography, most of his photos were of structures in south-eastern Pennsylvania.  
This is an advertisement for the Conestoga
Press, Harry's own establishment.  At the
bottom of it is the metal engraving used to
print his "Printer's Mark" on the relief press
which he had.

He continued taking photos until the 1970s.  More than 3,000 images are part of the collection the museum has on file. He was very suspicious of color film and every time he would take a photo in color, he would back it up with a black and white.  But of all his interests, printing was not only his favorite, but was his business as well as his passion.  He actually began his printing career in 1915 in the print shop of Silas Bard in Denver and ended it with his retirement as the printer for Weaver Book Store in Lancaster in 1956.  After that he established the Conestoga Press at his Farmersville home to demonstrate printing on his mid-19th century hand press.  He later donated the press to the museum and gave demonstrations in the carriage house.  He also restored an 1804 Ouram press at the Ephrata Cloisters and gave demonstrations to visitors to the Cloisters.  I did get to see a rare book that was printed at the Cloister by the brotherhood in 1786 and a German-language biography of Ben Franklin that was published at the Cloister in 1796, both books are in his collection.  
Picture of Harry working on his mid-19th century hand press.
Harry's life ended on October 16, 1982.  He was buried in the nearby Groffdale Mennonite Cemetery where his tombstone reads: "Printer - Tinkerer - Historian" along with the printer's mark of his private press, "The Conestoga Press".  The door that I had found locked at the rear of the museum was where his press was stored and the woman on duty told me I would have to wait for warmer weather to visit it.  I couldn't help but think that I wish I would have gotten a chance to meet this man who shared many of the same passions that I have.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - In case you were interested ..... A tinkerer is a person who regularly or occasionally engages in an activity as a pastime rather than a profession and a bibliophile is a person who loves books. 



A pencil portraiture of Harry made by James L. Keller of Ephrata on February 19, 1970.
An engraving mounted on wood to be "type high" for printing on Harry's press.
The above engraving was used to print this card.
This book from Harry's collection was titled "Das Ganz Neue Testament Uners Herrn Jesu Christi."  It is a 1787 reprint done at the Ephrata Cloisters by the Ephrata Brotherhood of the so-called "Taufer" New Testament originally printed in 1729 in Zurich.
Wow, Harry and I also enjoyed woodworking.  This is one of his chairs that is on display in the Museum.  I must admit that he was a better craftsman than I am.   
One of Harry's many Christmas cards made in 1954.  I also made cards on the letterpress for many years to send to friends.