Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The "The Amazing Photography Of Dave Newcomer: Part I" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at some of the most beautiful photography imaginable taken by David Newcomer who happens to be one of my wife's medical doctors.  Met Dave for the first time this past April when Carol made an emergency visit to Lancaster Regional Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania due to appendicitis.  It was close to 8:00 pm when he found his way to Carol's bedside dressed in his blue scrubs.  Final outcome from that meeting was treating her appendicitis with antibiotics due to the fact that her white blood count was near normal and treating her malady with antibiotics has been the successful method of treatment in Europe for years.  That, and we were scheduled to leave on vacation in a few days to the the island of St. Martin and Dr. Newcomer felt she would be fine without removing her appendix.  He made the correct call and we both enjoyed our time on the beach.  That was until over six months later on her birthday, October 27, when the appendicitis returned in full force ... while vacationing once again … this time on the island of Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands.  Well, her appendix was so inflamed that it was removed later that evening and we spent half of our vacation in the hospital and resort room.  Upon returning home we made a visit to see Dr. Newcomer to make sure the surgeon on the island had suitably performed the surgery.  Dr. Newcomer was impressed and gave his approval which made Carol feel more at ease with her decision of island surgery.  While in his office I noticed a few calendars which featured both land and aerial photographs.  Beautiful photographs which captured both landscapes and seascapes as well as wildlife.  Then I noticed that the photographs had all been taken by Dr. Newcomer.  Wow, what a talent!  Thanks to the office secretary Susan, I now have my own collection of over a dozen calendars that tell of the travels of this talented man.  I emailed him asking if he would mind if I shared his photographic talent with the world through my blog and I now have close to 75 files which he has graciously sent to me to share.  Most of the photos have accompanying information telling where the photo was taken, and in some cases his camera settings.  I plan to share some of his work in three different posts so you will get to see a variety of his photographs without flooding you with too many images all at one time and marginalizing his tremendous body of work.  Hope you enjoy his work which has been taken over his lifetime.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on the photographs to enlarge them.

Florida Keys --- as you know, 10,000 years ago when the oceans were 350' below their present levels, the keys were just a peninsular extension of the state of FL.  There were no islands. 
​This is an aqueduct near Lancaster, CA.  I love this pic b/c you never see aqueducts east of the
This is an interesting photo I took at the Penn State - Iowa game a couple of weeks ago.  There is a flight restriction over college stadiums to 3,000' above ground level...we were about 5,000' AGL for this photo.  I took about 70 photos and 4 of them came out in focus.  That is par for shooting night photos from a moving airplane.  You shoot a ton of photos and expect to get 3% to 5% good pics.  The stadium was packed with over 106,000 people that night.
This moon shot is fairly good quality considering that the lens was not intended for astrophotography.
Here's a night shot of uptown NYC and the Empire State Bldg.  I really like the airplane wing in this photo.  I have the same photo without the wing and it isn't as good.  I have thousands of night photos from the air …. mostly from the east coast.
​Tangier Island, VA.​
​Zebra swallowtail.  I have an extensive insect collection from college … but I no longer collect
anything but photos.
​Sunglare and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  I have over 2,000 aerial photos of this bridge.​
​Okracoke and the outer banks looking northeast.  The Atlantic Oc. is on the right and Pamlico
Sound on the left.
Virginia Beach, VA, at night --- waves clearly visible.  I  love this photo.
Great blue heron --- alpha predator on the Susq. River
​Downtown Phila. --- can you find the Billy Penn Statue on top of city hall??  It's a little to left of and 
above center.
Portrait of a female golden eagle --- these are magnificent birds.
Lake Powell about 30 miles north of Glen Canyon Dam.
Great egret.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The "Is The Sun Setting Yet?" Story

Field that for as long as I can remember was filled with corn
every summer.  Now it will be filled year-round with stores.
It was an ordinary day.  Stopped to take a photo of what at one time, for as long as I can remember, was a field of corn.  Now, I am looking at bulldozers and front-end loaders as they begin the task of turning yet one more piece of my beloved Lancaster County into a shopping center.  As if we don't have enough.  Sitting in the many acres directly across from this property is another shopping center with half a dozen big-box stores with a Home Depot as the anchor store.  A few of the stores sit vacant, but that doesn't stop the destruction of the corn field across the street from it.  Seems that development and density is a sore subject in every town and not just Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I live about a half-mile from this new center and I know I'm going to have to fight more and more traffic on a daily basis when it opens.  
In front of the field, along what is called Fruitville Pike,
was a row of perhaps a dozen homes.  Here you can see
the demolition of those homes.
And just why is it opening?  So there can be another Target store, which we already have two of not far away, another grocery store, which we have four of within spitting distance, and a variety of other stores with names that will continue to change on their marquee as the years go buy.  Happens in every town, but yet no one seems to bother.  When will we begin to build a desirable community that has been planned and finalized before a single street is laid?  Lancaster County is beautiful, vibrant, multi-cutural, but seems to be changing just because there is open space.  How much farmland has been lost over the years to make way for buildings that will sit vacant for eternity?  Lancaster County developed a planning commission in 1958 to take care of this situation.  Evidently they must have either disbanded or the members are all builders and developers.  At one time I thought that a community should reflect the aspirations of those living in that community.  But, I suppose aspirations alone aren't enough to protect farmland.  
A month from the above photo makes a big difference.
So then I read in an article in the Lancaster Newspapers telling of the new Places2040 plan and how we need to increase the density of  population in the land that is now available if we expect to grow.  How about those of us that don't want to grow and gain density in the areas where we now live.  The changes that will come with the higher density will be reflected in the need for more schools, more services and more traffic which will result in higher taxes and fees.  Why can't Lancaster just be the same Lancaster that I knew as a child and young adult.  I know, progress is the reason.  But, will the sun still set when Lancaster is no longer the community that at one time was "The Garden Spot of America?"  Maybe generations from now they will wake up and stop the roller coaster at the station.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

The "A Tour Of Bollman Hat Company - Part II" Story

Workers at the Bollman Hat Company gather for a photograph.
It was an ordinary day.  My brother Steve and I are looking at the 80 knitting machines that were installed about a half year ago after they arrived from China.  Seems that Kangol "504" hats debuted in England in 1938.  The wool hat was introduced in 1954 and shifted from England to China in the 1990s.  Then in 2001 Bollman Hat Company, from Adamstown, Pennsylvania, acquired the license to design, produce and sell Kangol headware.  
The Kangol "504" signature hat.
Seems that manufac- turing costs in China were beginning to rise so either Bollman would lose their hot-selling style, or move it back to the USA for manufac- ture.  Buying new equipment wasn't an option, since it was no longer made, so the specialized machinery from the 1930s and 1940s had to be purchased and moved to Adamstown.  Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as I may be making it sound, since the cost to purchase the equipment and ship it to Adamstown was close to $1 million.  Bollman received a state grant and tax credits and added a sizable amount of their own money, but still had to raise an enormous amount of money which they did by way of a Kickstarter Campaign.  
Company President and CEO Don Rongione.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson was the spokesman for the campaign which finally raised the money at the last minute.  This past June the first 10 knitting machines arrived in Adamstown.  After a problem with the electrical systems, changing them from Chinese to American voltage, five new employees were hired to run the machines.  Now all 80 are in operation with more employees added to the workforce.  The machines are interesting to watch run, since they use large spools of wool thread.  Now, before I give you a visual tour of these machines, I should tell you about a new venture that Company President and CEO Don Rongione has begun due to the loss of so many jobs to overseas manufacturers.  Program is called "American Made Matters" and functions as a Trade Association and has member companies who manufacture products in the USA.  
Sign in front of the company.
They are attempting to educate consumers that buying American made products strengthens the American dream.  There are now more than 375 American Made Matters members and sponsors.  You too can shop and become a sponsor by visiting their website at AmericanMadeMatters.com.   Bollman Hat Company, the oldest hat maker in the USA and nearly 150 years old is a testament that American made products can be successful and profitable.  The Bollman Group now provides headwear industry's top brands that include Bailey, Betmar, Borsalino, Country Gentleman, Eddy Bros., Helen Kamiski, Jacaru, Karen Kane, PANTROPIC as well as the KANGOL trade name.  Bollman products can be found worldwide in speciality stores, department stores, major and regional chain stores and prominent catalog and e-commerce retailers.  I will tell you they are not in the real cheap retail market, since the product they produce is top-of-the-line and is not in the throw-away category.  Bollman Hats are great quality and will last a lifetime. Follow along as I take you with me as I tour the KANGOL "504" production line.  And, if you get a chance, pull up the AmericanMadeMatters.com website and see how you too can help America bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Spools of wool thread feed the KANGOL machines.
Some of the 80 manufacturing machines used to produce the KANGOL "504" hat.
Bringing the hat to life!
Another look at some of the equipment.
A worker is preparing the hat for the next procedure.
This is one piece of equipment that had to be designed for the assembly line.  This is an embroidery machine used to add the logo and stitch the label into the hat before it is shaped.
You can see the logo being stitched into the hat at this point.
Shapes to form the hats.
A worker is placing the sewn hat in place for forming it.
A pile of the KANGOL "504" wool hats.
Inside of the hat shows the label.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The "A Tour Of Bollman Hat Company - Part I" Story

The Bollman Hat Company in Adamstown, Pennsylvania
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the second floor lobby of the Bollman Hat Factory with my brother Steve waiting for the second tour of the morning to start.  Back at the beginning of the summer I read a story titled "Under Cover" in the local newspaper which told of the Bollman Hat Company giving away more than 350 hats to create awareness about the dangers of sun damage and skin cancer.  Picture in the paper showed Bollman President and CEO, Don Rongione, handing out hats to citizens of Lancaster, Pennsylvania who had waited in line for the wide-brimmed hats which give maximum protection from the sun's rays.  About half a year before this story hit the newspaper,  another story in the paper told of the extraordinary crowdfunding campaign launched by Bollman to raise enough money to bring the Kangol "504" headware machinery back from China so the hat could be made in America.  
Old aerial photograph showing the Bollman Hat Company.
Really got my interest so when I heard that the factory was giving tours in late November, I decided to visit and see exactly how they make the hats at Bollman.  Told my brother about my visit and he said he'd also enjoy taking the tour with me.  Shortly Mr. Rongione stepped into the lobby with his wide-brimmed grey hat sitting on his head and greeted the dozen or so people who had gathered for the tour.  Extremely personable guy who you can tell just loves what he does for a living.  He thanked us for the interest in his company and told us that every piece of clothing he had on today was made in America.  
Mr. Don Rongione, President and CEO of Bollman.
This included everything from the hat to his underwear.  Tour started by showing a variety of framed photos that gave the history of the company.  George Bollman and Isaac Sowers, both of Adamstown, formed a partnership in 1868 for the purpose of manufacturing hats and thus began the Bollman Hat Company.  The original building, which at one time was a distillery, sat across the street from where we are now standing.  Seven years later Mr. Bollman bought 22 acres of land at the present site for $2,200.  A two and a half story building was built and the hat company expanded their operation.  That year 60 employees produced 60 men's hats daily.  On March 18, 1878, fire destroyed the new building and its contents.  A building was quickly rented to continue operations while a new one was constructed.  In 1896 colored and lady's hats were added to the offerings of the company and the following year Mr. Bollman's son George Jr. joined the business.  The following year George Sr. died and his son purchased the business from his mother in 1900.  Hosiery was added to the collection five years later when the Blue Cross Knitting Mills in Adamstown was purchased to add employment year round.  In 1931 a carbonizing plant to scour and carbonize wool was built on loation so the hats could be completed from the shearing of the sheep to the finished product.   Then in 1956 the Merrimac Hat Company was purchased to allow for the production of fur felt hats.  In 1974 the Bollman family sold the Company to it's management team and five years later purchased the Adamstown Hat Company and were able to create a new straw hat operation.  
This collection of Bollman hats were worn by athletes
who participated in the Olympics.
At the same time a factory retail store opened in Willow Street, a town about 30 miles to the south of Adams- town.  In 1981 60,000 square feet of manufacturing capability was added to the main store in Adamstown.  Eventually, in 1985, ownership of the company was expanded to not only family, but to all qualified employees by establishing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.  There is much more to the expansion of the company, but I would like to take you along with Steve and me as we tour the oldest hat manufacturer in the United States.  I hope my photos will give you a basic understanding of how a top quality piece of headgear is made from sheep to head.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The raw product that is used in the wool hats.l  The will comes right from the sheep to the factory where it is cleaned and prepared for hat making.
This worker is shaping the wool into the shape of a hat.  A tremendous amount of wool is needed for each hat.
This worker is pressing the previous shape into the more recognizable hat.
This worker is working on dying the wool for black hats.
The many color choices you have for a Bollman hat. 
Washing the excess dye from the hat shape.
This is a form that will help shape the hat.
More shaping will yield a more recognizable hat shape. 
The heating unit will take out any excess moisture from all previous steps.
The finishing procedures begin with a light sanding of the shape of the hat.
This worker is examining all the hats to make sure there are no imperfections.
Some of the many forms that can be used to shape the hat.
This worker is shaping top hats using a form.
Here you can see another form and the resulting hats. 
This worker is using steam to finish shaping.
Another light abrasive rubbing will finish the hat.
This worker is sewing in the headband.
Another worker is ironing the brim after sewing.
One of the final steps is adding exterior banding and decorations.
LDub disguised as Dick Tracy wearing a Bollman hat after the tour is complete.