Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The "This Cost $17.7 Million?" Story

Lancaster Amtrak Station 
It was an ordinary day.  Just got back in my car after taking a walk through the train station located at the end of North Queen Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  While growing up I spent quite a bit of my time playing football on the lawn next to the station, sliding down the brass railings inside the station, hiding under the platforms watching the wheels of the trains as they passed by and occasionally visiting my friend Jerry's dad in the Railway Express building that was to the west of the station.  
The bottom of the brass railing that
I would slide down every time
I made a visit to the train station.
The Railway Express office had a Coke machine with real bottles that cost 5 cents each.  The station used to be called the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, but is now known as the Lancaster Amtrak Station.  Built in 1929 just over the city border in Manheim Township.  I have many fond memories of sitting on a revolving stool  in the snack bar on the second floor of the station drinking a cherry coke with friends.  Over the years the station started to deteriorate and became an eyesore for the community as well as Amtrak.  In the late 1990s they decided to renovate the once beautiful and majestic station.  Well, after over 15 years, the renovations are said to be almost complete.  
The main waiting room at the Lancaster station.
As reported in the local newspaper on March 5th, the only thing to be completed yet are the restrooms.  Paper said Amtrak is actively "working to secure the funding necessary" to get the restrooms into full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.  Also said in the paper that $17.7 million has already been spent on renovations.  
The newly plastered and painted concourse that lead
to the platforms sport all new windows.
The renovations that cost that amount  included: plaster repairs to the walls and ceiling of the main waiting room and concourse leading to the tracks; upgrades to the concourse including new windows and skylights; restoring the 14 wooden benches in the waiting room and concourse; and restoring the clocks and hanging lights.  
One of the new clocks and updated
lights that are in the main waiting room.
Oh yeah, they also upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.  And it cost $17.7 million!!  I hopped in the car and headed to the station to see just what it looked like after $17.7 million worth of renovations.  Well, I knew from previous trips months ago that the outside had been upgraded to include new overhangs for buses and taxicabs.  Those upgrades were interesting, but didn't match the 1929 architecture of the station.  Can't imagine what the architect was thinking when he designed them.  After my arrival today I headed up the staircase, holding onto the brass railing that I once spent hours sliding down.  
Looking down the railing as I was
leaving.  Yes, I was tempted, but ….
Reached the top of the stairs and was greeted by a newly painted waiting area.  Looked great!  The concourse also had a new coat of paint as did the stairs to the two platforms.  The new windows were a much needed addition as were the clocks.  I had read that the clocks were a donation from Ryan Miller in honor of his dad who operated Brent L. Miller Jewelers.  Stopped in the snack bar and was disappointed that they cut the size of it to about a quarter of what it used to be.  Then I headed to the restrooms to check them out.  They definitely are in dire need of repairs.  My impressions of Lancaster's newly renovated train station ........  How could what I saw possibly cost $17.7 million?  It does look great, but that's a whole lot of money for what I read was done to it in the paper.  And, 15 years to do that?  I must have missed something!  I thought it looked better when I was a kid, but I guess my memory can play games with me sometimes.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - a few more photo of the showing the renovations.



My image is reflected in the polished brass ball on the new outdoor fence leading to the front doors.
Ticket and information counter is brightly lit.
Stairway leading to the tracks has a new coat of paint. 
Clock outside the station tells passengers if they are on time or late.
Platforms have plenty seating.
Door leading to the Eastbound tracks.
The snack bar which is no longer as long and narrow as it once was .
Looking from the concourse towards the main waiting room.
Work that stills need to be done is waiting

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The "Mrs. Benedict Arnold" Story

This was the location of the "Shippen House" where Mrs. Margaret
(Peggy) Shippen Arnold used to visit when she was younger.
It was an ordinary day.  Just snapped a photo of the location of "Shippen House" which is at the northwest corner of  East Lime and East Orange Streets in downtown Lancaster, PA.  The original Shippen home stood on that location until 1914 and is now the home of the Lancaster YWCA.  The Shippen house was occupied from 1751-1781 by Edward Shippen IV and his family.  Edward was a lawyer, judge and grandfather of Peggy Shippen who eventually married Benedict Arnold and I assume most everyone knows the story of Benedict Arnold.  Mrs. Arnold's uncle was also a judge in Lancaster.  
Peggy and Benedict Arnold
Margaret (Peggy) Shippen married Benedict Arnold when she was 19 and he was 39 and had children from a previous marriage.  The couple called Philadelphia home, but Peggy made frequent visits to Lancaster to see her family.  The couple were social butterflies who led lives of luxury.  George Washington once said that all young men fell in love with the young bride because of her charm and appearance.  During the American Revolution, Mr. Arnold, who had suffered a debilitating leg wound during the war,  served as military governor when the British evacuated the city.  Then in 1780 he was given command of West Point where he began a secret correspondence with a British General and arranged the base's surrender.  When the plot was discovered, he escaped to New York City where he joined the British army and led attacks on Richmond and New London, Connecticut.  Did Peggy know what was going on?  Alexander Hamilton, who was serving under Washington, said he believed that she had no idea of her husband's plans.  She only became aware of her husband's plans when he came to her and told her he must banish himself from his country and from her forever.  She was said to be distraught and was "entirely lost" after hearing her husband's plans.  
New novel written about Peggy Arnold
But, in "The Memoirs of Aaron Burr," printed in 1836, it was said that Peggy had confided in a friend that she knew of her husbands intentions and urged him to do what he did.  Another writer also said that Mrs. Arnold was a party to the plot from the beginning.  The spy, John Andre, who was caught with the evidence of Benedict's treason had befriended the young Peggy and her family while the British were occupying Philadelphia.  She was allegedly awarded 350 pounds by the British for meritorious services.  In 1782 Peggy traveled with her husband to England where they both eventually died; Peggy dying in 1804.  
Grave site of Peggy's grandfather located
in St. James Episcopal Chruch cemetery.
Historians still are unsure of Peggy's involvement in her husband's affairs and some say that Peggy had loyalties to England and led her husband into his acts of treason.  A novel was recently written about Peggy Shippen Arnold titled "The Traitor's Wife" which tells Peggy's story.  It was reviewed on the "Today" show not long ago.  For anyone who is a history buff and enjoys Lancaster history, it should be a great book to read.  Peggy's grandfather, who lived in the Shippen House for 30 years, is buried in St. James Episcopal Church's cemetery where I romped as a young choirboy before choir practices.  Also snapped a photo of his monument in the church cemetery.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The "Presevation For Future Generations" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing in front of a beautiful  barn built in the 1860s along Rt. 501 to the north of the city of Lancaster, PA.  Recently I wrote about the Mayer-Hess Farmstead on the Fruitville Pike, a farm about two miles from the Hoober-Eby farm where I am standing today.  Lancaster County,  PA has a deeply rooted religious history when it comes to farming and the people who farmed the land in and around the county.  
It dates back to the Native Americans who toiled in the fields of the county, then to the Pennsyl- vania Dutch or Germans as well as the Mennonites and then the Amish.  County farms naturally had barns and the preservation of those barns is one of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County's main interests.  
Preserving the Mayer-Hess farm and farmhouse is a priority as is the preserving of the Hoober-Eby barn.  The barn retains a high degree of integrity, but is slowly deteriorating.  The house and pig barn that stood near this barn have already been demolished and restoration and preservation of the barn must take place soon before the elements claim this great structure.  
This barn now stands on the property of Lancashire Terrace Retirement Village where my wife worked for quite a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I often asked her if they would mind if I would do a photo shoot of the barn and surrounding area and she told me I was welcome to visit, but I never did.  She told me they used the barn for storage, but today on my visit I noticed while looking through a few of the windows and broken side boards that the interior is collapsing onto itself.  
Certainly didn't look safe for anyone to enter or use for storage anymore.  I can only imagine the activity that must have gone on around this barn and accompanying pig barn back in the mid to late 1800s.  It would be exciting to travel back in time to the era when farming was the primary occupation of Lancaster County and the farm and barn were the hub of excitement.  I only hope that our heritage in Lancaster County can be preserved for future generations to experience.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The "I Really Liked The Buick" Story

It was an ordinary day.   Trying on my new shirt that I just bought.  Shirt has an Indian on the front of it, but not just any Indian.  Story goes like this ……. As I was returning from the Masonic Village Retirement Community in Elizabethtown, PA a few months ago, I passed the Hernley's Motorcycle store along SR230.  Made a "U" turn and headed into their parking lot for a look at the new Indian Motorcycles that I saw had arrived.  Indians were the first motorcycles made in America, but eventually went out of business.  Another company recently bought the brand name and now they are back on the market.  Sat on one and had another customer take my photo on it.  Then the salesman arrived and I had to explain to him that I only wanted a photo and not a cycle.  
I did like one of the neat T-shirts that featured an Indian head on a cycle's gas tank, but they had sold out of XL.  Asked the salesman if he would call me when he got more.  Gave him my name and number and I headed home.  Well, last weekend Carol and I stopped at a Honda dealership to look at the CRV car in the showroom.  Thinking of downsizing so we can increase the 15 MPG that we get now with our Mountaineer.  After looking at the Honda, the salesman took us next door to the Buick salesroom to show us the Encore model which was similar to the CRV.  Loved it and told him we will return mid-summer to look again.  We wanted to see the Honda XL CRV before we made a decision and they didn't have any on the lot.  He promised to call when he had more.  I knew he would.  Yesterday I got a call on my cell as I was driving with Carol to the store.  Missed the name of the caller, but they said they finally got the XLs and I could stop to see them.  Said, "I will, but I really liked the Buick."  No response on the other end of the line so I shut the phone.  Then it hit me.  Who was that calling?  So I hit redial and someone answered, "Hernley's."  Said, "Sorry I have the wrong number," and ended the call.  Ah Ha!  Told Carol and she began to laugh.  "Bet he thinks you're nuts when you said you liked the Buick!" she said.  I was sure of it.  So, today I gathered up my grandson to go along to Hernley's as support and I stopped at their store.  Told the salesman who I was and asked if he had called me.  Nope.  At least I didn't have to explain anything to him.  Anyway, the shirt looks great and it fits.  Now I can say I own an Indian Motorcycle ……. shirt!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The "Barterer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished mowing my lawn with my 17 year old Craftsman riding mower.  Carol and I have about an acre of property with plenty of hills and valleys so I determined when we first moved to our "Beach House" that it was in my best interest to buy a riding mower.  Over the years the mower has taken it's share of abuse. More than once I have tried to mow on a rather steep incline and lost the mower while trying to lean with the angle.  The mower would start to slip and slide and I would end up jumping off it as it rolled to the bottom of an incline.  Often would have to get the 4-wheel car involved in rescuing the mower from the ditch.  Another time I misjudged a tree or two and clipped it with the front of the mower.  The tree never lost any of those bouts.  Well today, after pulling my mower back into the garage, I was amazed at how much fun it was to mow my property.  You see, my friend and fellow teacher in the Industrial Arts department at Manheim Township High School, Clyde, just finished a three month overhaul of the Craftsman for me.  My total bill:  $22, and that didn't even go to him, but to his friend who helped him pickup and deliver my mower.  Can't beat the price for the refurbishing and renewing of the mower that has helped me mow perhaps 25 to 30 times each summer as well as collect leaves in the rear bagger a half dozen times each fall.  Now, the reason why the cost was such is because of the barter system.  
The guys I taught with over the 30 plus years I taught were well versed in a variety of skills.  Buzz was a master craftsman and sculpture who helped me replace my kitchen at my home of Janet Ave.  In return I shared all my lesson plans with him for the courses in Graphic Arts at the high school.  Barry was a talented woodworker and department head who allowed me to requisition just about any item I thought would help me in my classes and in return I helped him create an outdoor scenic stained glass panel for his bathroom.  Jerry, my longtime friend and fantastic metalworker helped me rebuild my first car's engine, paint another one of my cars and gave me metalworking tips when needed in return for framing projects and photo work.  See how all this works?  Known as bartering or returning an equal service for another service.  Over the years, or should I say my lifetime, I'm sure I have come out on the plus side with all the favors I have collected in return for what I have given.  And the reconditioning of my mower is no different.  Over the past couple of years I have been padding and trimming cases of paper for Clyde as well as cutting a few specialty mats for his wife for her photo collection.  In return Clyde picked up my mower, welded the frame back together which was the result of my encounter with the tree, welded the hood back onto the body which was the result of my fence getting in the way, adjusting the mower bed so it now cuts the same height on both side of the mower, changed the oil and sharpened the blades, and tightened the steering which was dearly needed with all the collisions it had absorbed over the years.  To do the latter job, Clyde machined brass fittings on the steering column rather than use plastic fittings which he said wouldn't last being I drive the mower like a demolition derby mower.  Wow, what great friends and fellow workers I have had over the years.  Sure I have done odds and ends for them from time to time, but I know I have been on the receiving end more times than the giving end.  And, you know, as long as I can continue to barter I will, since the camaraderie which is shared is just as important as the end result.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The "Disaster in the Making?" Story

Map of the United States showing where the majority of the
shale is located that can be drilled to find natural gas. The upper-
-right of the map shows the Marcellus shale area.  Click to enlarge.
It was an ordinary day.  Talking to my uncle about his hunting cabin that he has in Potter County, PA.  It wasn't long ago that he and his brother, who also owns land and a hunting cabin in Potter County, were approached by a company who wanted to buy the mineral rights to their properties in order to drill and hydraulic frack their land in hopes of finding natural gas.  Both the properties were located in the mineral rich Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania and have been the cause of great controversity over the last few years.  Many worry that the use of hydraulic fracturing is contaminating ground water and creating major problems underground that as of now are not known.  
On a recent trip to State College, PA to visit friends Jerry and
Just Sue we passed an area where fracking supplies were stored.
 The red units are water holding tank for the tracking procedure.
Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of rock by a pressurized liquid.  In this procedure a liquid, typically water, is mixed with sand and chemicals, and the mixture is injected at high pressure into a well bore to create small fractures (typically less that 1mm) along which fluids such as gas may migrate to the well.  This procedure is usually conducted once in the life of the well and greatly enhances fluid removal and well productivity. The procedure is known as fracking.  People in favor of fracking point to the economic benefits associated with the removal of vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons. These people would be the companies that will gain great monetary results from the fracking. 
A well-bore somewhere in north-east Pennsylvania.
Those against it point out the environ- mental risks such as contam- ination of ground water, depletion of fresh water, contam- ination of the air, noise pollution, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flow-back and the possible health effects of all these risks.  The Marcellus gas fields lie in 104,000 square miles and stretches across Pennsylvania and West Virginia as well as parts of Ohio and New York and is the largest source of natural gas in the United States.  But the gas is trapped in the shale below the earth's surface and requires the fracturing to allow it to flow to the well bore.  My uncle, after some time sold his mineral rights to a natural gas company, but it seems that Potter County threw the gas company a curve when it required a payment of $54,000 just to drill the hole in the ground.  If they found that the well wasn't prosperous, they would be out the money.  If they found natural gas, they then would owe Potter County more money.  Lots of money!  So, my uncle told me that the gas company has been very reluctant to drill unless they knew for sure they would find natural gas on his property.
Beautiful Tucquan Glen may be compromised is the
 natural gas pipeline comes through the area and could
be claimed as eminent domain by natural gas company.

 So, as of now it hasn't made him a wealthy gas baron.  But, this isn't the end of my story for it seems that the gas companies, that have drilled many other successful wells in the Marcellus shale area, want to run a pipeline through Pennsylvania to transport the natural gas they have discovered and are processing.  Proposed line happens to run about a mile from my uncle's house in Mt. Nebo, PA.  Big stink is being raised by environmentalists who talk about the harm it will have on the Chesapeake Bay as well as the many nature preserves in the area if something should happen to the pipeline.  And, you know that someday something will happen!  Some comments such as: This is disgusting, preposterous, and needs stopped now. What part of the Nature Preserve isn't understood; There is enough pollution of our river that leads to the Chesapeake and they will erode the banks of the river with the pipeline; Would you eat the food near a radioactive pipeline?; Tucquan Glen is a nature preserve and county park that, if the plan is passed, they are going to give them the power of eminent domain.  
Click to enlarge.  The natural gas pipeline is in green and
will hug the Susquehanna River as it passes through
Lancaster County.  Could be a disaster in the making.
The lands will be lost forever.  One group that has taken up the cause to stop the pipeline is the Quakers and they are totally against the pipeline going through Lancaster County.  Who will win?  The gas company with the big bucks, naturally.  You can count on it.  As for my uncle, he is in favor of the pipeline much the same as he was the fracking on his place in Potter County.  It's going to be neighbor against neighbor along the pipeline.  Sad to see that happen.  As for me, I know that progress has to happen for future generations, but is this really progress?  Will future generations of my family really be helped or hindered by the creation of a pipeline directly along a river that has so much meaning and provides so many jobs to people who live along it.  Will it destroy the river forever.  Do we really want to chance that?  But, money seems to speak louder than common sense.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy
.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The "Take Me Out To The Ballpark" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at my latest edition of Reminisce Magazine which has a byline that declares The Magazine That Brings Back The Good Times.  Carol bought me a year long subscription to the magazine when she saw it on my Christmas list this past year.  This issue, the April/May issue, is jam-packed with so many neat stories that I'll have to look over the magazine a few times before I catch all the stories.  Well, one story that caught my attention right away was the double-page spread declaring "Wrigley Hits 100."  
Wrigley Field in Chicago.
 Yeah, I know most will think it has to do with the gum manufac- turer, but most would be wrong.  The story talks about the venerable ballyard which is located at 1060 W. Addison Street in an area of Chicago called "Wrigleyville."  Many a great ballplayer played for the Chicago Cubs which included one of my all-time favorites, Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, who was probably one of the greatest shortstops in professional baseball.  
Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub.
 At least to me he was.  One of my baseball idols.  And another great, Ryne Sandburg, just happens to be the manager of my beloved Phila- delphia Phillies.  Ryne was the second-baseman for my APBA baseball team when I founded the Red Rose APBA League years ago (check sports category to read about APBA).  I always wanted to take in a game at this historic stadium, but the chances of that happening are starting to get pretty slim.  
Wrigley Field years ago before it had lights.
 Sitting in the bleachers, above the ivy-covered walls would be a dream come true.  Only last year, while watching the Phillies play the Cubbies, two balls dropped from the ivy at the same time after a batter hit a line drive off the wall.  I imagine there are many more balls lodged in that ivy that have never been found.  It was on April 23, 1914 that professional ball was played for the first time in the ballpark.  At the time Chicago had a team in the Federal League which played at the ballpark.  But, in 1915 the league folded and gum manufacturer William Wrigley Jr., who had recently purchased the Chicago Cubs, moved his team from West Side Grounds into the ball park.  
Outfield walls are all covered with ivy.
 In 1926 he renamed the park "Wrigley Field." Wrigley Field has been the home of the Cubs since 1916 and has yet to see the Cubbies win a World Series.  The Cubs did win the 1908 World Series, but that win came while they were still playing at the West Side Grounds.  Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic stadiums in the world with their famous ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-operated scoreboard in centerfield and chain-link fence that circles the outfield wall about two feet below the top of the fence.  It's purpose is to catch fans who may reach over the fence to catch a fly ball and fall from the stands.  
The art deco marquee at the entrance to the ballpark.
 Stretching around the outfield bleachers are neighbor- hood buildings that have placed seating on their flat roofs for people to sit and watch the games.  At the main entrance to the stadium stands the large art deco style marquee, painted red with white letters.  I can remember a few "House Hunters" episodes that show the marquee when customers are searching for a home in Chicago.  It wasn't until 1988 that lights were added to the stadium for night games.  I always enjoyed the field when they had no lights, since I knew that I could watch my Phillies play the Cubs during the daytime and not have to fight my wife for TV time in the evening. 
This photo shows the field and lights installed in 1988.
 It was in 1982 that singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" became a Chicago ritual when Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray arrived to do his play-by-play announcing.  So, in 2014 the Chicago Cubs will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field.  Ten different decades will be represented during ten homestands of the team.  Today's game will feature the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Cubs in a throw-back game where each team will wear the uniforms of the teams that played that first year.  The Cubs will wear the uniforms that the Chicago Federals wore while the Diamondbacks will wear the uniforms of the Kansas City Packers.  My one hope is that if my Phils can't win the World Series this year, then I want the Cubbies to win to reward their loyal fans who have suffered without a World Series team since 1908.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Sorry I'm a day late with this story.  I had it buried close to the bottom of the few stories I had written weeks ago and forgot all about it.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The "A 'Selfie' Pioneer" Story

A "selfie" I took as we were waiting for our plane to take off.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading about the current craze of taking photos of oneself which is called a  "selfie".  Most think it is something that was just invented by the younger generation, but they would be wrong in their thinking.  For, you see, the first known "selfie" was taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839 who produced a daguerreotype of himself.  
Dagurreotype Robert Cornelius took of himself
in 1839.  "The first light Picture ever taken.
Photo was actually one of the first photographs of a person that can be documented.  Because the process of daguerreotype was extremely slow, he was able to uncover the lens, run into the shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap to end the photo.  It is recorded on the back of the daguerreotype that it is "The first light Picture ever taken.  1839."  I also was able to find a "selfie of an Edwardian woman taking her photo in a mirror in roughly 1900.  The invention of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900 gave people the chance to take not only photos of events and happenings, it allowed them to take photos of themselves.  And, so the "selfie" was born.  
Early Edwardian woman taking her picture in
mirror in approximately 1900.
The "selfie" was usually done by using a mirror and stabilizing the camera on a nearby object or on a tripod.  The Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Ninkolaevna was perhaps the first teenager to create a "selfie" when at the age of 13 she took her photo with the use of a mirror and sent it to a friend in 1914.  As you see by her "selfie", it wasn't a nude as is the case so often today.  By the end of 2012, Time Magazine considered "selfie" one of the "top 10 buzzwords" of that year.  By the year 2013 "selfie" had become so commonplace that it was included in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.  
The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia taking
one of the first teenage "selfless" in 1914.
If only the kids of today would realize that the "selfie" wasn't an invention of their generation, they might not take as many of them.  As for me,  I have been taking "selfies" (actually I'm stretching the term a bit) since we have started traveling in 1999.  Every trip, as soon as we are seated on the airplane, I grab the point-and-shoot and take a photo of Carol and me.  Good way to start a slide show or scrapbook entry.  I guess I can consider myself "hip" for taking a "selfie" such as that.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



"Selfie" of a female Celebes crested macaque in North Sulavesi, Indonesia.  She grabbed a photographer's camera and photographed herself with it.  
Photo that David Ortiz of the Boston Redsox took a "selfie" of himself and President Obama.
Final "selfie" that I took of Carol and myself while riding on a ferry from St.  Martin to Pinel Island in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The "Lancaster's Statesman" Story

Mr. Willis W. Shenk, Lancaster Newspaper Photo
It was an ordinary day.  The accolades have all been recited and the pats on the back have all been made. The legacy of Willis W. Shenk will live on in the city of Lancaster County.  As for me, I guess I can be thankful that I at least had the honor to shake the man's hand just a few years ago at the Parish Resource Center on Community Way.  At the time I didn't realize how much an icon Mr. Shenk really was, but that all changed this morning when I read the page and a half story about the former Chairman of the Board of Steinman Enterprises which owns Lancaster Newspapers.  That, and the full page obituary which proclaimed him to be one of the most respected men in the city of Lancaster over the last century.  Willis, as most called him, died a few days ago at the age of 97.  He had officially retired in 2004 as the Chairman of the Board of Lancaster Newspapers, but still visited his office weekly on the fourth floor of the newspaper building at 8 West King St. in downtown Lancaster.  The interview he gave with Jack Brubaker in the winter of 2013 was the last he would give.  A man of humble upbringings who was the first in his farm family to graduate from high school, Willis left the farm life and began a career in bookkeeping in nearby Manheim after graduation from high school.  The business he worked for closed during the Depression so he worked as an auditor and tax preparer at an accounting firm in Lancaster.  He enjoyed working with numbers so he took a leave from that job to enter New York University to take accounting courses.  A few short months later he saw an ad for a newspaper job in the Lancaster Newspaper and was hired to work in the accounting department.  Lancaster Newspapers was started in 1866 when Andrew Jackson Steinman bought the business.  He was succeeded by his two sons, the last of whom died in 1980.  It was in 1983, after many years toiling in a variety of positions at the newspaper, Willis Shenk was named Chairman of the Board of Steinman Enterprises, the first non-member of the Steinman family to carry that honor.  During his tenure he saw the paper evolve from using the hot-lead method of composition and letterpress printing to computer generated composition and the Flexography method of printing.  He also made the decision to keep the company in downtown Lancaster rather than move it to nearby Manheim Township where Intelligencer Printing now resides.  I believe that probably saved the town of Lancaster, PA from going the route that many towns in the country have gone over the last 30 years.    As for my role in all of this, I can remember meeting Mr. Shenk for the first time while he was lounging on a sofa in the great room of The Parish Resource Center, where my wife is part of the administrative staff, a couple of years ago.  An anniversary celebration was going on for the center and for those who were responsible for the beginning and welfare of the non-profit center through their contributions and donations.  Steinman Enterprises and Lancaster Newspapers were major contributors, and remain that way today, for the upkeep and general operation of the Parish Resource Center, which is a non-denominational center for congregational development.  I was introduced to him by Sally, my wife's boss at the time and he stood and greeted me.  Instantly reminded me of my dad, both in size and stature as well as mildness and kindness.  I told him my wife was Sally's secretary and he commented to me how lovely a person she was.  I agreed with him, naturally.  We only exchanged conversation for a short time, but I knew through that meeting that this man was something special in the lives of those he knew.  So sorry I didn't get to know him better, but at least I got to shake the hand of one of Lancaster's great statesmen.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Because: The Dave Clark Five" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just popped my new CD in the car CD player.  Finished making it about an hour ago and just had to see if it worked.  Gonna have to give it another try, since it couldn't read what I had just recorded from my iTunes program.  That would be 28 tracks from the Dave Clark Five who were one of my favorite bands from the 1960s. In February of 1964 the Beatles appeared three straight weeks on the Ed Sullivan Show to an audience of screaming fans, mostly young girls who had fallen in love with the mop-haired musical artists from across the pond.  
Ed Sullivan and the Dave Clark Five.
Then, in March, another English sensation, the Dave Clark Five, appeared for two more consecutive weeks and it was deja vu all over again.  The Dave Clark Five were the first English group to tour the United States.  During their first two years in the U.S. they had fifteen consecutive Top Twenty hits.  Only other group to top that was ..... The Beatles.  The drummer for the band was Dave and he was Britian's first independent artist and record producer.  
Another appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Dave produced all the groups records as well as helped write the recordings along with fellow band member Mike Smith.  Mike was the band's lead singer as well as playing keyboard and had a fantastic voice for rock music.  Other members of the band were Lenny Davidson on lead guitar, Rick Huxley on bass and Denis Payton on sax.  The Dave Clark Five were considered to be the Beatles' chief British Invasion rival, but couldn't shift with the changing cultural tide in the late 60's and called it quits in 1970.  During their heyday they racked up more visits to Ed Sullivan's stage with 18 appearances than any other rock group.  
Dave and Lenny at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008
On March 10th, 2008, Tom Hanks introduced the group as one of the newest members into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Later that year a 28-track collection, The Dave Clark Five: The Hits, was released on iTunes.  Happens to be the exact 28 tracks that I thought I had recorded onto my CD for my car.  Some of the groups biggest sellers and most recognizable songs were:  Glad All Over, Bits and Pieces, Can't You See That She's Mine, Catch Us If You Can, Good Old Rock'n Roll, Anyway You Want It, I Like It Like That, Over and Over, and my favorite Because.  Recently "Dave Clark Five: Catch it if you can" was a PBS special.  Really neat production honoring the group that broke onto our musical scene 50 years ago.  Only two members of the band still survive: Dave Clark and Lenny Davidson.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
  PS - Check out the Youtube video of my favorite song.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The "He is Risen. The Lord is Risen, Indeed! Halleluah!! Story

It was an ordinary day.  Setting the table for 12 in our dining room.  Requires the use of two tables we purchased from Costco that will hold three per side.  Tables are rather narrow, but we will have a small table at one end of the two where the food can be placed.  Easter is holiday time around LDub's house with the family arriving to search for Easter baskets and the annual egg hunt on the rear deck and yard. Then comes our family meal.  
Carol has been preparing for our family meal all week.  Ham and scalloped potatoes with a few vegetable dishes and her famous banana split dessert.  She also has a few Easter decorations that she made years ago that still grace our home during this festive Easter season.  Back in the mid-1970s Carol was involved in making and decorating ceramic pieces.  
She would meet one evening a week with others who also enjoyed the hobby and would create some really neat decorations for our house as well as for gifts for friends and family.  Gave her a night out from her daily chores of housework and raising  our two young children that we had at the time.  Well, as I am typing this and setting the table I notice the four holiday rabbits that decorate our living room table.  
On our dining room desk is another set of rabbits and mom and pop rabbit are waiting in line to sit on the dining room table after I have it all ready.  On our kitchen table is an Easter egg with a small rabbit inside of it.  All items were pre-cast with Carol doing the painting, firing and glazing them.  We have other pieces around the house that she has made with the large water pitcher probably my favorite. Our daughter also loved the pitcher that had beautifully painted colorful flowers all over the vessel so Carol gave it to her years ago to help in her celebrations with family in her home in Maryland.  What kind or ornaments or decorations do you and your family enjoy and cherish?  Easter is a great time to share them with family and friends to help in the celebration of our Risen Christ!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.