Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, June 23, 2017

The "Mother Nature In All Her Glory!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at a few breathtaking photographs that were forwarded to me by an old-time friend who lives on the other side of the U.S.  Bill and I grew up together until his mother moved his family to another town and I didn't get to see much of him until fate got us together as cashiers at a local grocery store when we were seniors in high school.  We stay in touch and he still makes visits to Lancaster, PA to see friends and always stops to see my wife and me during those visits.  He sends me emails quite frequently, but being he is a staunch Republican and I am not, very seldom do I look at them for any length of time.  Today was different. His email was titled "Stunning Storm Pictures - The Majesty of Mother Earth."  Wow, what photographs.  Wish I had taken them myself.  Very seldom to I just cut and paste anything in my posts, but I enjoyed these photos so much, I knew you would also.  So, here is Mother Nature in all her glory!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The "The Work Of A Master Craftsman" Story

Grandmothers's clock which stands in Hal and
Jeannie's home in Lancaster County.
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I have been invited to the home of Hal and Jeannie for an evening meal as well as a viewing of Hal's latest creation which he just completed for one of his three adult daughters.  A few years ago Hal told each of his three daughters that he would like to build a piece of furniture for them.  All they needed to do was tell him what they wanted and he would take it from there.  One daughter selected a grandfather's clock much like the one Hal had made for his home some time ago. His next daughter asked for an entertainment unit for her home.  And, his third daughter asked him for a grandfather's clock much like his first daughter, but taller since her home had nine-foot ceilings. I should tell you that Hal and I taught high school together for over thirty years; Hal teaching wood and metal lab as well as drafting courses while I taught photography and graphic arts.  Hal is a skilled craftsman who is very meticulous and precise in just about every thing he does.  
The seven-foot grandfather's clock that
Hal built for his daughter.  Notice that
the top of the clock is slightly taller than
the floor joists in his home.  The clock
will have to be tipped carefully to be
able to remove it from his workshop.
A few years ago he built an entire set of wooden bee hives for a new hobby he was beginning.  After seeing what Hal had constructed and what others were using, the comparison was remarkable.  Hal selected the proper type of wood and made the most perfect joints to construct his bee hives.  I'm sure there weren't many bees in the country who had a better place to live than those bees at Hal's house.  So, as I began my descent into his basement workshop, I knew that I would see something spectacular!  And, I wasn't disappointed!!  The most beautiful seven foot grandfather's clock I had ever seen.  Wasn't too long ago that I visited the National Watch and Clock Museum in nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania and no where in the museum did I see anything that could top the clock I was standing in front of in Hal's basement workshop.  Hal spent the next half-hour telling me how he constructed the clock and all the problems he encountered and how he solved them.  He first started with a set of plans that were purchased from Klockit.  He then searched for the best cherry lumber that could be found in Lancaster County.  It had to have just the perfect grain with no warping or twisting to them.  Next came ... well, I think I'll just show you some photos of the rest of it.

Hal began each shop session by turning on his clock so he could tell how many hours it took to build the grandfather's clock.  He began working on the clock January 4 of this year and spent 343 hours on it's construction.
Hal points out the moulding that was both interesting and tedious to make. 
Here is a sample of how Hal glued three pieces of wood together after he had created the shapes he wanted.
This is one of the router bits he needed to purchase in order to form the moulding for the clock's bonnet.
A pattern Hal made to help him create the openings in the side access panels.
A view of the side access panel that is partially removed so you can see the face of the clock.
The center part of the fluted column mouldings was made by gluing three strips of wood together with paper between them, turning the moulding on the lathe and then breaking it apart.  The bottom part was made with a router.
This is a tool inherited from his father that he used to place the small brads in the mouldings that hold the beveled glass in place.
If you look closely, about halfway between the top and bottom of the photo, you can see one of the metal brads that was put in place by the tool above.
On the right side of the clock's face can be seen these settings: Silent (remains silent), 4/4 Silent (chimes only on hour), Whitt. (Whittington chimes), St. Mich. (St. Michael chimes) and Westm. (Westminster chimes).  You may choose any one of the settings on this clock movement.  The clock has 8 chime rods that can produce just about any melody within an octave range that doesn't require flats or sharps. 
On the other side of the clock face is "On" (chimes are activated at all times) and "Night Off" (chimes are activated except for hours between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM)
The phases of the moon will rotate in the face as the clock runs.  Around the moving moon dial is a brass dial that runs from 1 to 29.  These numbers represent the days of the moon's cycle around the earth.  A full moon cycle is 29 1/2 days.
The decorative locking hardware is displayed in this photograph.
The clock was stained with a slight red cherry stain which was rubbed on and then four coatd of Minwax Tung Oil Finish was applied. After sanding with 400 grit abrasive paper, and polishing with 0000 steel wool, a coat of wax finished the job.
The proud craftsman locking the door on the beautiful grandfather's clock he just finished.
This plate gives the name of the craftsman who built the clock.  Hal mounted it behind the center cross piece of cherry wood so you would have to open the door to see the plate.  He doesn't feel he needs to have his name displayed on the outside of the case, but he truly is a master craftsman.
There are many other features that I could attempt to explain to you, but I tried to show you some of the craftmanship that Hal built into the clock that will soon stand in his daughter's home in Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The "I've Never Been Perfect" Story

It was an ordinary day.  If the title of my story today has you wondering, I've got to tell you that I don't think anyone has ever been perfect in what they do, but today I'm talking about myself and the fact that I have never, ever, since 1968, produced a perfect high school, middle school or intermediate school yearbook.  I strive to be perfect while producing the school yearbook, but it just seems to never work out that way.  This evening Carol and I were attending a picnic at a friend's house who invited past, as well as present, teachers of Industrial Arts and Technical Education to gather for an evening of fun and friendship since the current school year has just ended.  There were about a dozen current and old timers who gathered for fun, food and fellowship at Jim's house near New Holland, Pennsylvania.  His beautiful home sat high on a hill above what is known to many as the "Garden Spot of America".  The view from his rear porch was breathtaking as we looked out over miles and miles of Lancaster County farmland.  I happened to be talking to one of the current teachers, Wendy, when I asked her if she had heard any comments about this years Middle School yearbook which was just distributed on this final day of school to all students and teachers.  
The cover of the 2017 Middle School Yearbook
She smiled and said she heard many nice comments, but a few saw that the same photograph had been used for both the field hockey and girl's soccer teams.  Names were correct under their respective headlines, but the photos were the same.  You can't imagine how awful I felt after viewing the pages when I returned home from the picnic.  What to do?  Absolutely nothing, I guess.  It seems I have altered the history of the school once again and shy of doing the book all over again there is very little I can do.  About thirty years ago my yearbook staff somehow misspelled the name of the star girl's basketball player under a great photo of her making a basket.  Her parent were outraged that something like that could happen in a publication that at the time was done by students, but under my watch.  
The cover of the 2017 Intermediate School Yearbook
I called my yearbook rep and he suggested we reprint just the picture with the caption on adhesive paper and give the family twenty or so copies of the photograph.  The girl could distribute the photo to all her friends and they could apply the photo over the incorrect one.  Al gave them to me for no cost and I gave them to the player and all was fine again.  Another time the date on the title page was wrong.  Now, that was my fault since it occurred last year and I no longer have students on my staff.  It's just me, you see!  I reasoned that after all these years, they all start to fade together and I just forgot what year it was.  Not a single person noticed it, or at least not a single person said anything to me.  That mistake wasn't going to get changed no matter how many people complained.  Too expensive to redo the book.  As for this year's mistake, which I finally figured what happened, but will not disclose if I am once again to blame, it too will more than likely be forgotten.  The book was distributed over a week ago and more than likely everyone has forgotten the mistake, unless they read this account of what happened.  A mistake in any publication is a mistake and shouldn't happen, but s#%t happens.  I have found mistakes in just about every eReader book I have purchased.  Also find mistakes in the daily newspaper just about every day.  Minor be they, but still mistakes.  Heavens, there was a mistake in this year's graduation program.  Now how can that happen?  Wait ... that's right, I print that also.  Oh well, as my story title says today ... I've Never Been Perfect."  Of course you knew that, didn't you!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary gyu.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The "Everybody Needs A Brother Like Mine" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking to my brother, Steve, about when we can get together again and visit a couple of antique shops or head to the auction to see if there might be something we might want to place a bid on.  
This is one of the few photos I have where
I am bigger than my brother Steve.
Steve is five years my junior and I only got to know him real well a few years ago, since when we were younger we both had our own friends and own places to visit and never really went on vacation together after we were both out of high school.  When I met my wife we used to go on dates to see Steve's high school basketball games.  But then Carol and I began our family and Steve entered the US Marines.  When he returned to Lancaster he became engaged and he and his wife began their family and we only seemed to get together on holidays and special events.  Well, a few years ago Steve and his wife Kathy began to travel to the Jersey Shore in the fall for vacation and began to invite Carol and myself.  I got to know my brother better than I ever knew him.  
Photo of my brother and me when we were showing off
our new earrings at his sons wedding reception.
Then the four of us began to take a day once a month and head to the Chesapeake Bay for lunch and shopping at antique shops.  I recently spent time with him teaching him how to make stained glass artwork.  I'm going to try to get him to show me how to sell my old junk on eBay which he has been doing for years.  Carol and I recently took our yearly trip to St. Martin after having some major medical problems and Steve and Kathy were both concerned with us leaving for the trip.  And then wouldn't you know it, we both had to go to the doctor while on St. Martin due to bad colds.  I had promised to send Steve an email after a few days to tell him how we were both doing while on vacation.  My email did tell him of our visit to the island doctor.  Shortly we got an email from him which read: This is Steve woods, hope you remember me, I told you to stay home didn't I and you both had to go and get sick and take foreign medicine again.  
Photo taken in Stone Harbor, New Jersey when we were
both trying a see if we liked a new drink.
My poor brother I hope he managed to have a little fun with his sickness, I bet he misses me, will talk to you as soon as you return to the United States of America, hopefully this will be the last time we have to be worried sick about you two, mother would not have approved of all this.
 We laughed so hard it made us begin to cough again.  Carol immediately returned the email asking him if this is one of those pfishing emails?  Well, a day later he emailed back to us saying: No, this is your favorite brother in law who thinks it's time you two get home.  I believe there is a kitty cat who is missing his mommy and daddy. Talk to you soon.  Yeah, we were having a good time going back and forth, but I believe Steve was really concerned and was genuine even though he did it in a rather humorist manner.  For all the years that I missed having a close relationship with my brother, I'm loving it now.  If only our parents could be alive to see it ....  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The "An Open Letter To "Thank" All Of You!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Checking my blog as well as my Facebook page.  Found that I had over 20 "Comments" and 40 "Likes" for the story I posted on Blogspot two days ago about Carol and my 50th Wedding Anniversary. We appreciate all the great comments that were posted as well as seeing all the names attached to the likes.  Names I haven't heard for years or students I haven't seen since they graduated from high school.  Carol and I felt all the love that was meant by the postings on Facebook and we truly are thankful for having so many great friends that enjoyed reading about our momentous occasion.  Also thought I would give you an update as to how we shared our anniversary with the rest of the family.  Our two granddaughters arrived from Maryland this past Wednesday to visit and stay overnight with the young girl I wrote about a few times on this blog, Kennedy.  She is one of eight people in the world who share an extremely rare disease and who received, in 2014, the donation of part of a liver from a high school classmate of her mother Donya.  She is doing well and has become attached to both Courtney and Camille, my granddaughters.  They spent the night with her and her step-sister Mia and returned to our place on Thursday.  On Friday Camille and I picked up my grandson, Caden, and the two of them helped me mulch my flower beds while Courtney helped my wife with shopping.  Carol and I thought it funny that they just happened to set up the visit with Kennedy and the visit to our house a few days before our anniversary.  Then our daughter Brynn, Camille and Courtney's mother, arrived Friday evening and told us to be up and ready by 9:15 am Saturday morning, since we were going somewhere.  Ah, Ha!  Told us we had to dress nice casual!  Something was up.  If you have been reading this blog you probably know that I have been going through some medical problems and was given four shots of Firmagon before a recent surgery.  Some of the side effects of the drug are hot flashes, night sweats and the inability to control one's emotions.  Which for me means I now tend to cry all the time.  Carol keeps a box of tissues on the table next to our bed and when I wake in the middle of the night with night sweats and crying, I can count on a few tissues from the other side of the bed.  I will trade all those side effects for my health any day, but the crying thing was going to make me look like a fool if a large group of people were going to meet us somewhere at 9:15 am.  I should have known better since my three children knew of my predicament.
From left-right: Camille, LDub, Carol, Brynn, Tad,
Courtney, Barbara, Caden and Derek.  The Woods Family!
After driving around a few wrong streets, on purpose, Brynn pulled into the Eden Resort in Lancaster, Pennsyl- vania.  We walked from the parking lot into the main entrance than to the resort's restaurant where we found our son Tad,  son Derek, daughter-in-law Barbara and grandson Caden.  I instantly relaxed and knew I was going to enjoy our 50th Wedding Anniversary.  A big basket of "goodies" awaited Carol and me from my favorite fruit slices and cashews to a gift card for Carol to have her nails done.  Naturally a few bottles of wine and a bottle of Champagne were found in the basket.  We enjoyed the fabulous buffet and a few fun stories from our years of wedded bliss.  A perfect day with the people who mean the most to us was had by Carol and me.  Now, I could go on and on about the family, but the tears are filling my eyes as I type, so I will end my story.  Thanks again for all the nice comments and likes.  They were a fun part of our anniversary!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The "New Studies Suggest TMI May Be To Blame!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a few stories in the local newspaper as well as online about nearby Three Mile Island (TMI) closing in a couple of years.  Seems they haven't been able to sell the power they make due to the lower cost of natural gas in Pennsylvania.  Exelon Corporation has threatened to close TMI and idle 675 workers if the state of Pennsylvania doesn't come up with some support for the losses.  $800 million has been lost over the last five years and Exelon says it has to stop the bleeding or close the 43-year-old facility at the ed of September 2019.  Out of those 675 workers, slightly over 200 live in Lancaster County while the rest live in neighboring Dauphin County.  You may remember a few years ago I wrote a story telling about our oldest son, Derek, having a birthday party scheduled for his 8th birthday in 1979 when all of a sudden a few days before the party was to be held, TMI's #2 reactor suffered a nuclear meltdown.  
Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, PA.
It was the worst accident in USA commercial nuclear power plant history and resulted in the release of small amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the environment.  Being that we live within a 20-mile radius of the power plant and there being an alert for that 20-mile radius area telling residents to stay inside and to keep animals under cover, we weren't sure if we should have the birthday party a few days after the meltdown took place.  One of Derek's friends who we had invited to the party had a father that was a doctor who was a radiologist at the local Lancaster General Hospital.  We called the hospital and asked him if we should cancel the party since it would be tough to keep all those rumbustious kids indoors during the party.  He said they have a meter on the roof of the hospital that reads the amount of radioactive gases that were released into the air and it was reading normal amounts.  He saw no reason at all why the children couldn't be outside for a short time. So, based on his judgement and the readings of the equipment at the hospital, we held the party and after a time in the basement with more than half a dozen boys we had them go outside to play in the back yard for the remaining half hour of the party.  We wondered for years if we had made the right move, but we were told it was safe to do so.  
Pennsylvania road marker telling of the nuclear accident
at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County.
That was 38 years ago and for years reports and studies have reported no increase in thyroid cancer which would be the most likely cancer one would get from the radioactive gases and iodine that was released in 1979.  Now we find that researchers tell us there may be a possible link between TMI and a rise in cancer in the area.  They say all those other studies didn't wait long enough for the latency period of cancers to kick in.  They tell us now that data supports the possibility that radiation released by TMI altered the molecular profile of thyroid cancers in the population surrounding the plant.  Researchers tell us they don't want to alarm anyone, but that the accident may have caused biological changes in nearby residents due to the exposure they received.  They had recently examined 44 patients, mostly women, who were treated at nearby Milton S.  Hershey Medical Center for thyroid cancer.  These patients lived in at-risk regions, including Lancaster County, in 1979 and had developed thyroid cancer.  Similar studies done after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 found similar results to what was found in the TMI study.  I wonder how long it will be before they finally decide that TMI was responsible for the many thyroid cancers that have developed in the recent past.  I guess time will tell.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The "Sharing A Lifetime Together Or 18,267 Days Of Pure Wedded Bliss" Story

The happy Bride and Groom
It was an extra- ordinary day.  The sun was high in the sky with not a cloud to be found on the horizon.  Calling for tempera- tures in the high-90s, but nothing could stop us today, for you see I married Carol Ann Baker on this day 50 years ago.  It was love at first sight that summer day when we first met, having been set up on the date by her mother and my father.  The two of them worked together at Meiskey's Jewelry Store in downtown Lancaster. Pennsylvania.  
The bride with her parents Grace and Charles
Years later Carol told me that her mom often would say to her, "You ought to meet this good looking guy who's the son of Paul down at the Jewelry store."  Carol and her parents used to live in Martic Forge in Southern Lancaster County, but had recently moved to an apartment complex a few blocks from my parent's home in Grandview Heights where I lived.  Well, it finally came to be that I rode my Honda 90 motorcycle to her house a few blocks away and knocked on her door.  
The groom with parents Paul and Dorthea and brother
Steve who my granddaughter Courtney say looks like Zac Efron
As soon as she opened it I said to myself, "I'm going to marry this girl some day."  Didn't take long since we got engaged a few months later and got married a few more months after that.  She was 19 with flowing, long dark hair while I was a nerdy 22 years old college senior.  I was the luckiest guy in the world when she said "yes" when I proposed to her on her birthday in 1966.  Wasn't more than a month or so before that I asked her dad if he would care if I asked his daughter to marry me.  
The wedding party
Got the biggest smile on his face when I asked him.  Said, "I'd be honored to have you as a son-in-law."  The entire family got involved in the marriage planning.  The mom's went with Carol to help her find a gown while my dad helped me with obtaining a tux and helping with arrangements for the reception at our church.  Carol and I got married at historic St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster where I had been a member just about all my life.  
The bride in her gown
We met with the minister, The Rev. Robert C. Batchelder, to talk over the ceremony and also with the choir director and organist, Frank McConnell to make arrangements for the music at the wedding.  The Woman's Club at the church were hired to provide the food and drink after the wedding in the church parish house.  Two of the girls Carol worked with, Millie and Mary were maid and matron of honor while my brother Steve was my best man.  Carol had 4 bridesmaids and I had 5 ushers.  All was set for the wedding!  Got up that Saturday morning, June 17, 1967 and was met with a very hot and humid day; coming close to record temperatures.  
Heading for the car
I sat on the front step of our house on Janet Ave. until my mom came to the door and said, "Do you know what time it is?"  My brother and I dressed and hurried to the church.  Mr. Gates, the professional photo- grapher, was waiting for us to arrive to begin photos.  Photos of the guys, photos of the girls, photos of the parents, etc. were all taken in black and white, but with a few color photographs, which at the time were extremely expensive.  
Great shot of the bride and groom entering
the parish house
Carol's gown was floor-length with long sleeves to the wrists.  She had a long veil to go along with that.  And ... remember ... it was close to record temperatures for the day.  As far as I can remember, the wedding went smooth as can be except for the heat.  As soon as everyone had passed the receiving line, we hurried to our car with bag after bag of computer tabs flying through the air and sticking to our wet and perspired bodies.  With my brother driving, we took a quick trip in my car to visit her sick grandmother and returned to the parish house to be greeted by about half the number of guests as were expected.  Many didn't care to stay in the heat since the parish house at the time had no air conditioning.  
Cutting of the wedding cake.  The cake topper is the
same one used by our daughter when she got married.
We did the meal, cutting of the cake, sliding the garter and visiting with all the guests and out the door we went to prepare to take off for Niagara Falls.  Years later, while telling someone about our wedding, I told them we were married at 11:00 am.  Carol, standing nearby said, "We weren't married at 11:00 am, it was 2:00 pm.  I swore it was 11:00 am, but when I looked at the invitation I had framed in the hallway of our home, she was right.  Not wanting to be wrong, I made a new invitation with the same style of type on the same kind of paper with some minor alterations and put it back in the frame.  
Original and correct version of our invitation
Wasn't more than a day later the subject came up again and I said, "I'll bet you it was 11:00 am.  Go upstairs and look at the invitation."  A few minutes later, from the top of the steps, Carol said, "Larry, what did you do to that invitation?'  I must admit she had a smile on her face when she came down the steps holding the framed invitation knowing what I had done.  Just couldn't fool her ... and I must admit I have never been able to fool her for the last 50 years.  Marriage has been not only great for us, but fun.  We have three wonderful children, three spectacular grandchildren, a slew of great friends and relatives and a beautiful home.  
My favorite photograph of my wife
We did lose both sets of parents, but age can't be reversed.  So, for 50 years of marriage we are thankful.  For our children and grand- children we are thankful.  Our wealth comes in the form of happiness and love and knowing that our mate will always be there to help in any kind of circumstance.  Fun vacations, visits with children and grandchildren and time alone together have enhanced our wedding vows and love for each other.  We couldn't have had a more perfect wedding day or spent a more wonderful 50 years together.  Here's looking toward our 60th anniversary.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - I assume, if you are a reader of my blog, that you noticed the difference in the first sentence!  First time ever in 8 years that I changed it!! 

Church photo taken perhaps 15 years ago
One of our favorite vacation photographs taken by good friend Sue
The wedding led to this!  Taken three years ago in Ocean City, NJ