Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The "A Dream Becomes Reality!: Part I" Story

The outside of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal in Cape May.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the ferry terminal waiting for the 4:10 pm ferry from Lewes, Delaware to arrive along side us at Cape May, New Jersey.  Carol and I, along with my brother Steve and sister-in-law Kathy, began our day by driving from Stone Harbor, where Steve and Kathy have a rental house for a week, to Cape May for some shopping and lunch at the Lobster House.  After lunch we hopped in the car and I told them I was going to take them to see the Cape May-Lewes Ferry which is nearby.  Followed the signs and in 15 minutes we were parked in front of the ferry terminal.  Carol and I had visited the terminal a few years ago with our friends Jerry and Just Sue and I thought Kathy and Steve might enjoy watching the ferry either departing to or arriving from Lewes, DE.  
This is the concrete ship that sunk at Cape May Point.
This is the 50th Anniversary of the ferry and I thought it would be neat to visit and see what they might have planned for their celebration.  It was in 1957 that the Garden State Parkway was completed from New York to Cape May.  Naturally, the next thing to do would be to hop on a ferry and continue onto Lewes, Delaware.  Wasn't until 7 years later that it would be possible to complete that journey that was only imagined in 1957.  Actually the idea of a ferry between these two points was thought of in 1895 when the state of Delaware ran the Queen Anne Railroad to Lewes hoping that someone would begin a ferry service to Cape May.  Never happened until once again in 1926 a Baltimore developer had the same idea of a ferry and purchased three experimental concrete ships that were built for transport during WWI.  
This is the west end of the Cape May Canal at the entrance
to the Delaware Bay.  It shows the site of the ferry
terminal.  Photo taken May 4, 1964
One of the vessels broke loose of it's moorings during a storm and sank along the shoreline where it still rests at Cape May Point.  The developer gave up his idea, but with the new parkway being completed, the idea was re-imagined.  Finally in 1962 the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware created the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA).  The DRBA awarded the Cape May-Lewes Ferry $12.7 million in start-up funds and proposed a 1964 time line for the first ferry run.  DRBA bought four vessels: The SS (Steam Ship) Delaware, SS New Jersey, SS Cape May and MV (Motor Vessel) Cape Henlopen.  
This early photo shows the Cape May Terminal in June of 1964.
All were the same size of 320 feet long and 68 feet wide with a top speed of 16 knots and each having two 4,000 HP diesel engines.  On July 1, 1964 the first ferry vessel departed the Lewes, DE terminal at 6:47 am, 7 minutes late.  The ferry carried eight vehicles and 15 passengers.  
The car pictured here is a 1964 Ford Mustang which made it's debut
in 1964. The driver is Andrea Lippi who purchased Ticket #1 for the
Cape May-Lewes Ferry.  The date was July 1, 1964.  The photo was
supplied by Catherine Lippi of Goshen, NJ and was taken by Fred Coldren.
Each vehicle paid $3.25 the drivers and passengers paid $0.75 for a total haul of $37.25.  The cele- bration of the first launch featured skydivers jumping out of planes, fighter jets making flyovers, sailboat races, a power boat parade, bands playing and pipers piping.  Not sure where the jumpers landed, but they jumped.  
This is the Lewes Terminal waiting for the Ferry for their
dedication ceremony. 
The Captain for the first trip was Billy Ray Phillips who was at the helm of the MV Cape Henlopen.  Since that first launch the ferry has carried 14 million vehicles and 42 million passengers.  The dream had finally become a reality!  In 1994 the DRBA began a $54 million campaign to upgrade the fleet, terminal and services.  What we are standing in today at the ferry terminal was probably only a dream back in 1964 when the ferry finally departed Lewes on its maiden voyage.  Follow with me tomorrow as I take you on a visual trip through the terminal and show you the docking of one of the ferries.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

This is the Lewes Terminal two years later in 1966.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The "Pride is Forever - Friday Night Football" Story

The band enters the field for the Star Spangled Banner.
It was an ordinary day.  Congrat- ulating my son-in-law, Dave, after watching his Urbana Hawks win a great high school football game against the Oakdale Bears.  The outcome of the game wasn't known until the kicker for Oakdale missed a 37 yard field goal wide to the right with 20.6 seconds left on the clock. 
The cheerleaders hold the banner as the team enters.
After the miss, a roar from the packed home stands in Leagcy Field  broke out and the Hawk players began celebrating.  All that was left was draining the time off the clock which took two plays.  Friday night high school football is not only exciting, but a way of life for thousands of fans all over the country.  
A flag flys in the student cheering section.
The smell of the stadium food, the sound of the band, the moves of the cheer- leaders, the dancing of the pom squad, the bright colors of the new synthetic turf field, the echoing of the public address announcer's voice off the acres of forest behind the field and the intensity of the coaches and players can excite even the most tranquil fan in the stadium.  
Urbana quarterback passes for yardage.
Win or lose, there is always next week to look forward to and the excitement all over again.  Dave was the head coach for Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County, MD for 10 years before leaving a great legacy behind and changing allegiance to Urbana High School in Ijamsville, MD.  
Urbana cheering section.
In his last and 10th year at QO he coached and won his 100th high school game part way through the season.  His Cougars reached the playoffs every year that he coached at QO and in 2007 Dave was named the Maryland Coach of the Year after leading his unbeaten team to the state title.  
A haze from a Bar-B-Que envelopes the other side of the field.
Dave made the move to be closer to home and to be able to coach where his two girls will attend high school.  His record this year, the first as head coach of the Hawks, is at 3-1 having lost the first game of the season, but gaining momentum in their next three games by using a quick-strike, no-huddle offense that caught the opposition by surprise.  
The Oakdale student section is aglow at halftime.
Tonight's game saw the Hawks kickoff to start the game and the Bears drove the ball down the field and scored before the crowd had settled into their seats.  A missed extra point would prove to be the difference in the game.  Then it was the Hawks turn and they didn't disappoint as they also drove down the field to score and go ahead with the successful PAT.  
Players celebrate after a Pannell to Atkins touchdown pass.
After going back and forth for the rest of the 1st period and and part of the second period, Urbana senior quarterback Donovan Pannell hit sophomore receiver Elijah Atkins with a 39-yard pass which was bobbled for a second before he pulled it in for the score.  Another PAT gave the Hawks the 14-6 lead at halftime.  
Granddaughter Courtney adds blue color to the eyelashes of
granddaughter Camille.  Blue is the team color.
But after halftime the Bears scored 14 unanswered points to take a 20-14 lead with 10 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter.  Tension could be felt throughout the home team's bleachers.  Then it was time for the Hawks to fly high once again.  Ray Gray, Dave's senior star running back who recently committed to Temple University, took charge and after four consecutive runs, starting from the Hawk's 38 yard line, had his team on Oakdale's 26 yard line.  
Urbana players and coaches celebrate after the Oakdale
kicker missed a game winning field goal.
Then a pass to Atkins was all that was needed to knot the score at 20.  The PAT was once more successful and with the final field goal miss gave the Hawks a hard fought win on home turf.  After the game, Carol and I joined our daughter Brynn and granddaughters Courtney and Camille as we walked on the field to congratulate Dave on the win.  
Teams line up to congratulate each other on a well played game.
Dave's dad, Joe, is one of his assistants and I got a chance to talk to him once again.  The thrill of winning a Friday night high school football game is unbelie- vable and I was glad I had the chance to experience it once again.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Scoreboard after the final seconds elapsed tells the tale.
Coach Dave huddles with the team after the game.
The new turf field is fantastic!
Granddaughter Courtney celebrates with her Aunt Lauren after the game.
Camille had a chance to cheer the following day during a midget game.  She is the one flying through the air in the center of the photo.
An eleven year old girl wowed the crowd with her rendition of The National Anthem.
Granddaughter Courtney performs at the next game during halftime.  Courtney is the girl in the center.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The "My Southern Sweetheart" Story

Heading through the southern end of Lancaster County.
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I decided to take a ride down south.  Not necessarily what you may think of as the south, but to the home where Carol lived as a child in Martic Forge, Lancaster County, PA.  Carol and I met when she was 18 and I was 21.  Her mom, Grace, and my dad, Paul, worked together at Meiskey's Jewelry Store in downtown Lancaster.  
The pioneers who settled "Frogtown".
One day they decided that it was time for the two of us to meet so they set up a blind date for us.  I headed to Carol's home about two blocks from my house on my Honda motorcycle.  We seemed to hit it off right away and after a few more dates I knew I was going to marry her.  Sounds good, right, except I now had to convince her that it was a good idea.  
County marker for Marticville.
A year later we were married and moved into our own apartment on the other end of town.  During the year of dating we got to know all about each other and that included a few trips to the south of Lancaster to visit with her best friend Betty Ann who lived near Carol's old childhood home.   But, not once did we drive back the private road where Carol had spent most of here life so I could see where she lived along the Pequea Creek.  Carol and her parent's moved to Martic Forge when she was ready to enter 1st grade.  
The scenic farmland of southern Lancaster.
Often told me of swimming with her neighbor- hood boyfriend Billy Myers in the Pequea Creek and caring for her horse "Blackie", who lived in a small barn that she and her dad built across the road and next to the creek from her house, but we never ventured along the narrow winding road next to the railroad trestle bridge that led back to a few houses along the creek.  
The old Martic Forge where we turned into her lane.
Well, today that changed!  I told her I was ready to see exactly where she lived and played.  I didn't have to ask twice if she wanted to go, as she was ready within minutes to hop in the car.  Headed south on Rt. 324 until we finally reached the small town known as Marticville.  Used to be named "Frogtown" and was founded in 1711 by a family of pioneers, but Carol had no idea why it was ever named that.  
The forge as it used to look.
We had a good time suggesting why, but I'm sure none of the suggestions were correct.  We then began to look for a Railroad arch that we used to go beneath, but never found it.  Shortly we realized that another road had been built to eliminate the arch.  A mile or so more and we headed down an incline. "There's the road to my house.  The houses on the hill before the road used to be the forge." 
The sign at the start of the lane where Carol used to live.
I admired the buildings and began my entry on the narrow stone road.  Right in front of us stood a sign that said "Private Drive" and something else about being prosecuted if you didn't listen.  I drove right by it and Carol said, "Maybe we shouldn't drive back.  What will we do if someone comes towards us?"  I told her we'll never be able to see where she lived if we turn back  and kept on driving.  
Old railroad trestle bridge that we saw first.
First drove under the extremely tall railroad bridge that no longer carries rail traffic.  This area of Lancaster County is so beautiful that I wondered why it wasn't more heavily populated.  To our left is the creek that she used to swim in with her friend.  
The Pequea Creek was to our left as we drove back the lane.
"We were both pre-teens and both our parents worked, but they still allowed us to swim and jump off the rocks in the creek without adult super- vision."  "Wow!!" was all I could say.  The first house appeared.  "That's where the Alexander's lived," she told me. I remembered her mentioning them as friends of her parents.  
 Carol's childhood home.  She recognized it as soon as
she saw it.  Some of the retaining wall was different and
a porch was added, but it was her home.
A short distance around a slight turn and there it was.  "That's it!  That's where I lived.  Looks pretty much the same as it used to except for the wall in the front."  We stopped so I could take a photo.  No one was anywhere to be seen.  
Carol's 1965 Austin Healey Sprite sitting in front of
her house in 1965.
Across the road was where Carol had her barn for "Blackie."  Bo lived in the next house.  He was young and single and Carol couldn't recall his last name.  We passed two more houses where the Grimms and Myers families lived.  "Wonder if any of them still live here?" she said.  "I guess they might all be dead."  We had reached the end of the road.  
The field across from the house where "Blackie" lived.
Managed to turn around on the grass and headed back in the direction we had come.  Still not a sign of life as we took one more photo of her old house and continued on the narrow gravel road.  "One last thing I want to see and that is where the old Martic Forge Hotel once stood," I said.  
Only thing remaining from the Martic Forge Hotel was
this walk that used to be in front of it.  
Many times when our children were young, we traveled to the Pequea Creek with the kids and friends to go tubing on the creek.  We would take one car to the park a couple of miles away and leave it there.  Return in the other car to the hotel and hop in the creek on our tubes.  
Photo I found of firemen fighting the
fire at the Martic Forge Hotel.
An hour later we would reach the covered bridge that was at the park.  Oh the memories!  Well, we exited her drive, turned right and then a quick left.  There on the corner in a mass of overgrown shrubs and weeds was the remains of the hotel which was set on fire in 2004.  Luckily a policeman was parked nearby and he and another officer who arrived quickly were able to save 11 residents from the building before it went up in flames.  The building was a total loss with a value of $450,000.  About the only thing left was part of the foundation and the cement walk that was in front of the hotel.  "That's were I had to walk to catch the school bus.  We never knew if would make it up the hill in front of us."  Our day was a success and I got to finally see where my wife spent about a dozen years of her life.  As for the forge we passed . . . . well, that's a story for another day.  It was an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The "Bloggin' Celebration" Story

Wearing my favorite red shirt.  I still wear it
throughout the summer months as well as on
the many vacations I have been lucky enough
to go on in the past.
It was an ordinary day.  Surfing through some of my old stories when I opened my very first story from 2009.  Checked the date and realized that five years ago this past September 2nd I posted my first story on Blogspot.com.  Story about my Grandpap taking me to Roots Sale, a farmer's market in Lancaster County, PA, and coming home with a family of white rats.  Fun story that really happened years and years ago.  My poor mom was terrified of the rats and I suspect my Grandpap knew she would be when he bid on them during the auction.  Hard to believe that it's been over five years ago that I began my blog.  All started when my wife and I had been to a movie titled Julie and Julia which featured Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell who was a young writer who decided to cook every recipe in Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.  She began a blog to detail her cooking adventure and almost lost her husband in the process.  As Carol and I were leaving I said to her, "I'm going to do that!"  "Do what?" she said. "Write a blog," I responded.  She then asked me, "About what?"  I then said, "About my life.  Everyone always said that I should write a book about all the things that happen to me and this would be a great way to do it."  So, with the help of my wife, who helped me set up the blog site, my blog began.  And, if you are wondering why I start every story with the same first sentence, it's because one of my favorite authors, Stuart Woods, always began his books with ….. Elaine's late.  That was until Elaine no longer was a character in his books.  I felt I knew Elaine so much better because of Stuart's method of introducing her to his readers.  So I decided to do the same.  After the first year or so I added a counter to the blog to see if anyone was actually reading the nonsence that I was writing.  Wow, they were!  As of today I have over a quarter of a million visitors to my site.  And, I'm having a ball writing my stories!!  Some stories are probably more interesting to you than others.  In the past five years I have learned more about my hometown of Lancaster than I ever knew before.  My wife is still a big help by mentioning events which have happened to the two of us in the past that may be of interest to others.  She recently retired from her job of 16 years at the Parish Resource Center and has more free time and I'm trying to get her to contribute a few stories.  Hopefully she can give a different perspective to my stories that what I do.  I have a notebook full of ideas for stories which grows all the time as my memory recalls events from the past as well as stories suggested to me by my kids and friends.  Here's hoping I can make it for another few years.  Thanks for reading and I hope you have learned a few things as well as feel as thought you have gotten to know me and my family a little better.    It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The "Nephew #268" Story

Foreword:  Carol and I visited with my brother Steve and sister-in-law Kathy during their fall vacation at Stone Harbor, NJ.  Only stayed for a few days, but had a wonderful time reminiscing about our family vacations when we were kids.  Also visiting with Steve and Kathy were their children, Kelly and Matt and their spouses as well as their three grandkids.

Atlantic City photo taken from the website of the AC Triathlon.

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting next to my nephew, Matt, asking him about his new tattoo.  Found out that the large black #29 on his upper right arm was actually placed on his arm by an official of the Atlantic City Triathlon and is his age.  He was going to compete the following day in the competition and the starting time for the first event, the one mile swim, is determined by your age.  Matt and I, as well as Carol, my brother and sister-in-law and Matt’s wife Katie as well as his sister and her family, are gathered in a rental along the Jersey coast in Stone Harbor.  My brother and his wife, Steve and Kathy, rented the beautiful home about 50 feet from the beach and invited their family as well as Carol and myself to stay for a few days with them.  Tomorrow Matt and Katie will have to rise about 4:00 am to make the trip up the coast to Atlantic City for the 6:30 am starting time for the first leg of the race, the swim. 
Matt and Katie at an earlier race at the shore.
Matt has been competing in triathlons for over seven years now and loves the competition, camaraderie and the feeling of achievement that he gets from pushing his body to it’s physical limits.  His toughest physical challenge has been in the Atlantic City Iron Man competition where he had to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. He trained for about six months in order to complete this grueling challenge. This past year he finished the race in 13 hours and 44 minutes.  The race he is entering today in Atlantic City features the one mile swim in the bay to the west of the city, a 20 mile bike ride along the Atlantic City Parkway and a 5 mile run on the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk.  1,300 people registered for the event with 477 entered in the full triathlon while the rest are entered in relays or a shorter course. 
Matt is the 5th from the right preparing for the swim.
When he and Katie arri
ved in AC the air tempera- ture was in the low 50s and the water tempera- ture was in the low 70s.  Participants of all ages from the 20s to the 70s lined up for the starting horn to sound.  Today Matt, competitor #268,  placed 203rd in the swim (his strongest event), 204 in the biking and 381 in the run.  Matt is in fantastic shape and this proved to his advantage by finishing in the top half in two of his three events.  He paid $100 to enter the triathlon and his reward was a neat t-shirt, a medal and the knowledge that he was able to complete this grueling event.  I thanked him for carrying the family name in his pursuits for there is no way I could or would ever be able to compete at the level that he does.  A true hero to the family!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The "Hal's Hives: Part II - Visiting The Hive" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Bright sunny day with high humidity.  Whispy clouds dot the sky as I walk towards Hal's bee hives.  I try to be careful not to tramp on any honey bees that may be feeding on the clover flowers that are throughout Hal's yard.  I'm dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt, long khaki pants, white socks and sneakers with a tan hat on my head.  Oh yeah, I'm wearing my glasses because Hal told me that if the bees believe I might be a bear, they probably would go after my eyes.  Why am I doing this?  So I can watch Hal open one of his two hives that he has situated on the south side of his property.  He began his beekeeping hobby this year by building his own bee hives and added a colony of 5,000 to 6,000 bees to each of his hives in May.  I guess I should give you a few facts that may help you understand bees and beekeeping.  

  • The bees are not aggressive, but will fight back and sting if they or the hive is threatened.
  • Bees can travel about 1 1/2 to 2 miles from the hive to find food.
  • Bees live for approximately 6 weeks with the queen bee living between 2-3 years.  
  • Bees collect both honey and pollen.  They need both to survive.  The honey is their carbohydrate and the pollen is their protein.
  • During the warmest part of the day about 2/3 of the colony is at the hive.  The rest are out foraging for food.
  • During the last two weeks of a bee's life, they are primarily foraging all the time.
  • There are different categories of bees such as:
          Queen Bee - much larger than all other bees and the only female with fully developed ovaries.  Her purpose in the colony is to produce eggs and to produce a chemical scent that regulates the unity of the colony.  She can lay eggs in the "brood" frames at the rate of about 1,500 a day, more than her body weight. The eggs turn into larvae which are then covered with a wax film by the worker bees and hatches in 16 days.
          Guard bees who guard the entrance to the hive to keep out unwanted guests.
          Queen attendants who make sure the queen is well-fed and groomed.
          Drones are the male bees in the colony.  They are about 10% of the total colony.  Their primary purpose is to procreate.  Bee mating occurs outside of the hive in mid-flight about 200 to 300 feet in the air.  The drone has extremely large eyes for spotting virgin queens.  As soon as they mate the drone dies.  Drones are tolerated in a colony only because they may be needed to mate with a new virgin bee to keep the colony alive. When the air temperature lowers the drones are eliminated from the colony so they don't consume any of the stored food in the hive.  
          Foragers who leave the hive and search for honey and pollen during the last 2 weeks of their 6 week life.
          Transporter bees who take honey from the foragers to the upper layers of the hive.

A few minutes ago I got to see all the parts of the hive and now I am prepared to watch as Hal opens the hive.  Again, I will give you a visual journey through the process of opening the hive to the inspection of the parts of the super and eventually closing the hive.  I found it fascinating and wasn't threatened by the thousands of bees that call Hal's hive home.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

These are the two bee hives that Hal has constructed and has active colonies working.  The "brood" is living in the hive and I am going to get a chance to see inside them. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Hal is "smoking" this hive which will cause all the bees to enter the hive and begin to eat the honey that has been saved.  The bees fear that the hive will be destroyed and will need the honey to start a new hive at another location.
This is the Bottom Board of the hive.  This is where the bees enter and exit the hive.  Hal can control the size of the opening depending upon how many bees may be in residence at any one time.  The bees that can be seen here are more than likely the guard bees who are keeping watch to make sure unwanted bees do not enter.  How they know who should and shouldn't enter is a mystery to me, but that doesn't matter as long as they know.
Now, if you have been paying attention, you will see that I have now switched to the yellow hive for the rest of my photos.  I didn't have any photos of Hal smoking the yellow hive, so I had to use other photos for you to see how it is done.  Do the bees know color?  You bet they do.  The guard bees will make sure only those living in the yellow hive will enter this one pictured.  Here Hal has removed the top or Outer cover. 
Next he removes the layer that ventilates the hive.  Bees can't leave the hive through this layer but must go back to the bottom to exit the hive.  Shown on the top of the hive is the top feeder.  Since there are very few flowers in bloom when I visited Hal, he had a feeder in place to help the bees feed so they could produce the honey needed for survival.
Hal is removing the Top Feeder.  It sticks together because of all the wax and "Burr" that is created by the bees.  A "hive" tool is needed for this procedure so you don't damage the hive.
Opening and exposing the super.  There are eight comb frames in place in this super.
One of the frames is displayed.  Notice that the entire frame resembles a honey comb. In this frame the bees have started to fill the small six-sided openings with honey, brood (eggs) or pollen.  
The Queen bee that Hal purchased was marked by the seller with a pen in green.  She is larger than the rest, but the green dot makes it easier for Hal to find her and make sure she isn't harmed when he opened the hive.
The combs that are light yellow capped with a thin layer of waxr are the brood.  They will eventually hatch and become a bee. 
Hal checking one of the comb frames. 
Here Hal is scrapping some of the "burr comb" from the frame.  The bees have added it since there was too much space between the frame and the side or top of the hive.
Here you can see what actually takes place in the hive.  On the top right the combs are filled with honey which can be identified by the wavy lines on top of it.  The darker colored combs are ready for honey from the foragers.  The lighter yellow covered combs on the left are young bees waiting to be born.  The combs with the brighter yellow in them are filled with pollen.  If you click on the photo and enlarge it you will be able to see some white grubs at the bottom of some of the combs.  These are the larvae that have developed from the eggs.
If you look carefully at the bottom of the photo, about one third from the left, you will see the head of a bee pushing through.  It is about to be born!
Hal is mixing food for the bees.  A 1:1 mixture of water and sugar.
The mixture is poured into feeding bottles and placed at the entrance to the hive.