Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The "The Story Of The Candy Cane" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Shopping at my local grocery store and found a variety of candy canes in a special section devoted to holiday candy.  Not as large a display as you might find during Easter or Halloween, but still took up quite a few feet of shelf space.  The candy that seemed to have the most prominence on the shelf was the candy cane.  The majority of the candy canes were red and white, but there was a multitude of other colors displayed on the shelf.  Grabbed a pack to place in the stockings for our grandchildren.  
The easily recognizable Christmas candy cane.
Got me thinking of when and how long ago the candy cane came into existence.  Seems that in 1670 in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral was trying to find a remedy for the noise that the children were making in his church during the Living Creche tradition of Christmas Eve.  He asked a local candy maker for some "sugar sticks" to quiet the children and to justify giving the candy to the children, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick which would help them remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus at the creche.  He chose to keep the sugar stick a white color to teach the children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus.  Must have worked for the practice of the sugar sticks, or candy canes spread to other parts of Europe where they handed out the "candy canes" during the reenactment of the Nativity.  Thus, the candy cane became associated with the Creche and Nativity and therefore the Christmas season.  The first documented reference of the candy cane was in 1837 when the Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association had a judged competition of candy and the straight peppermint candy stick, white with colored stripes, was entered.  
A young boy looking at the tasty treat.
The "candy cane" is found in literature in 1866 and the first association with Christmas was in 1874 and by 1882 the treats were being hung on Christmas trees.  Bobs Candies was the first company to begin to mass produce the candy cane in the 1920s.  His brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller, had invented a machine to mass produce the candy and churn out millions in a day.  The world's largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long and required about 900 pounds of sugar.  He eventually smashed it with a hammer so people could take home a piece.  A few notes about the candy cane:  54% of kids suck on candy canes compared to the 24% who crunch it right away.  And, I have no clue as to what the other 22% of the kids did with their candy canes.  Also seems that the boys in the survey tended to crunch their canes more than their female counterparts.  Other names given to the candy cane are Santa's cane and Peppermint stick.  My only question I have that I can't seem to find an answer to is since the candy cane is almost entirely sugar, why would anyone who wanted to quiet children during a Christmas Eve service give them a candy cane.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The "Sarah's Grandfather Ate Popsicles" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Enjoying myself at the gallery where I work.  Was given the job of cutting a frame and placing an old canvas oil painting in it for a customer named Sarah.  My work order said the painting was 35"x36", but I still measured it just to make sure it was measured correctly the first time.  Headed out to the garage to cut the length of framing material that had been delivered.  Wasn't long before I had driven metal wedges into the wooden frame and was laying the painting into the opening.  The painting was very brittle and when I held it to the light I could see light through quite a few holes in the fabric.  
The popsicle stick on the right was found along the edge of the painting.
I'm almost sure the painting was done of a piece of material other than true canvas.  Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, although in the past it was made from hemp.  The painting was very rigid and had a few minor creases in it that made me think it wasn't canvas.  The stretcher bars it was mounted on were just pieces of pine wood rather than manufactured stretcher bars.  As I was about ready to fasten it into the frame I had cut, I noticed a raised area along the one edge.  Not sure why I hadn't noticed it before since it stood out quite a bit.  As I examined it more I realized it was a piece of wood that had been wedged along the edge of the painting.  Used a needle nose pliers and after some time pulled .... a popsicle stick from the painting.  Wow!  Someone must had been eating a popsicle while they were either stretching the material or while painting it and the stick somehow got included along the edge of the painting.  
Work order shows what the description of the painting.
Could it have been on purpose?  Did the artist want to know if it would ever be discovered?  Well, I discovered it!  Wouldn't it be funny if it were an orange creamsicle, my favorite, that the artist had been eating.  Pulled up the worksheet and saw that the description of the artwork said "grandfather's painting."  His granddaughter, Sarah, was having his painting framed after all these years.  I finished the job and placed the popsicle stick in a small plastic sleeve and placed it on the back of the job so Sarah would have a piece of history that may at one time be used to see if any DNA from the stick would lead to the ID of the user.  First time in my 18 years of working at the gallery that I ever had something as unusual happen like that.  At the very least, it gave me a chance to share it with you.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

The "The Case For Weighted Blankets" Story

It was an ordinary day.  The phone's ringing off the hook!  Now, for those of you who weren't alive when telephones had to be hung on a hook to disconnect the call, I guess I could say ... the phone won't stop dinging (or whatever tone you have selected for your iPhone).  The reason for the constant barrage of calls today is the article that appeared in the morning newspaper in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  
Cindy busy at work on her sewing machine.
Story titled "Blanket Benefit" which was written by Jenelle Janci and featured a story about weighted blankets that were made by Cindy Grebinger.  Cindy is the wife of Keith whom I had as a student in photography many years ago and for whom I now work at Grebinger's Gallery in Neffsville, PA.  About a year ago Cindy opened a sewing studio in one of the rooms of the gallery.  At first she did embroidery and children's clothing, but recently added weighted blankets to her list of offerings at the gallery.  
The weighted blanket can be seen here.  The side of it
has a zipper which allows you to place strips of beads
in the pouches that are sewn into the blanket.  You can
place as many of the strips of polypropylene beads as you
care to, depending upon the weight you want the blanket to be.
The weighted blankets are filled with polypro- pylene beads which are the type of beads found in Beanie Babies.  The blankets tend to add the feeling of calmness for those that use them.  The beads add weight to the blanket which makes it feel as if you are wearing a weighted vest.  The blankets are known to aide those with autism, anxiety and restless leg syndrome.  For the blanket to be effective it should conform to the person's size and body weight.  
Cindy also sells embroidered stockings.
It seems to be best if the blanket is about 10% of the person's weight.  Tests have shown that the blankets can increase serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that affects mood and social behavior.  Seems that just that little extra weight in a blanket can create a calming effect for those using them.  When used by children who have a hard time sitting or maintaining attention the blankets seem to cause relaxation and a calming effect for the user.  If a blanket is purchased for a child it is best to alter the weight as the child grows for maximum effect.  One of Cindy's customers told her about her grandson's struggles with night terrors and wondered if she had weighted blankets for sale.  Cindy made a few, but decided she could improve the design of the blankets.  
Cindy's baby clothes with customized
embroidery on them.
She talked with her son who is an engineer and she found that instead of adding weight by sewing it into the blanket, she could make zippered pouches in the blanket that could be used to change the weight as the child grows and needs more weight.  If the blanket needs to be washed, all you need to do is remove the weighted pouches of polypropylene beads and replace them when the blanket dries.  Cindy's blankets can be used from childhood to adulthood if needed.  With Cindy's unique design, a person with restless leg syndrome has the option of only weighting the lower half of the blanket with the weight of their choice.  If you use a weighted blanket, you should make sure it is weighted proportionally to the child's or adult's weight.  Never use them on infants.  If used for a child, the child should be strong enough to remove the blanket from themselve if needed.  If you are a parent and having trouble with your children sleeping, call Cindy and talk to her about what her blankets might do to help your child.  The comfort that is rendered the child, or even adult, may be all that is needed to help them lead a normal life.  You can find Cindy at: 717-569-9335.  Her mailing address is: 2618 Lititz Pike Rear, Lancaster, PA 17601, USA.  She would be more than willing to talk with you or email you about the items she has for sale.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
Cindy also does custom embroidery that can be framed.
Cindy at work on her Brother sewing machine.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The "Breathing Corks" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Trying out my new corkscrew on a bottle of wine I've had around the house for a few years.  Carol and I keep all our wine on a shelf above the refrigerator and I need a chair to reach the bottles on the back of the shelf and from time to time I just seem to miss a bottle or two.  The bottle I found to open today was one such bottle that someone gave to us many years ago so we thought we better open it and give it a try.  As I was turning the screw into the cork it make me think where these corks were made.  At one time the majority of corks made in the United States were made by a small cork-cutting company in Pittsburgh that was owned by 24-year-old Thomas Armstrong.  He invested $300 of his savings and bought the company in 1860.  
Thomas Armstrong
The company was originally known as Armstrong & Glass, but Thomas' brother purchased Mr. Glass' share and the company was renamed Armstrong, Brother & Company.  The pair carved the cork stoppers by hand, mostly to fit glass containers and delivered their product in a wheelbarrow.  The brothers branded each cork with a distinctive Circle-A logo.  Cork is the bark of the cork oak tree, ot Quercus Suber, which is found in southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa therefore all their materials had to be imported. The trees need to be at least 25 years old before the material used to create the cork could be harvested.  The cork tree can only be harvested one every 9 years.   Eventually the corks were made by machine and by 1891 Armstrong Cork, as it was now called, was the largest cork supplier in the world.  Eventually, in 1916, they moved part of the company to Lancaster where they began to diversify, making linoleum.  The cork stoppers that are made today and used for wine bottles used to be nothing more than refuse after being removed from the wine bottle.  Today they have found a re-use as decoration.  
A variety of corks used as stoppers.
Corks have been used to seal vessels for thousands of years.  Before cork there was cloth or leather to seal bottles and later clay and sealing wax was used.  Another closure material that was used in the 1500s was glass.  Bottles were hand blown and a glass stopper was created for each bottle made.  As glass bottles became more popular, cork started to be used as a stopper rather than glass.  The cork allowed the wine to age in the bottle since it severely retarded the oxidation process, thus allowing the wine to age and evolve slowly over time.  Cork allows this because they allow minimal amounts of oxygen into the wine.  The best corks allow close to 1 mg of oxygen to enter the bottle each year.  Just the right amount or air to remove the sulfites that were aded in the bottling process to keep the wine fresh and to avoid the harmful effects of oxidation.   Today synthetic corks are being tested by some wine manufacturers.  They are made to look like a real cork, but they don't create a perfect seal.  Thus, more unwanted air enters the bottle of wine causing it to oxidize.  So, it seems that the true cork still has a place in wine making today as it did back when Armstrong first started to manufacture them.  Today, what at one time was Lancaster Cork Works, owned by Armstrong, is now a hotel.  So where are all these corks now made.  I haven't been able to determine that, but my guess is that they are now manufactured in countries other than the United States.  Aren't many items?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The "Army & Navy Store Memories" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading the close to 50 responses to a question I posed on Facebook in the group "The Lancastrian".  I must first tell you why I posed the question I did.  When I was a young boy I would travel with my dad to his business at the corner of North Mulberry and West King Streets in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Usually on a Saturday morning or afternoon I would help him package watch equipment and components for shipment from Meiskey's Jewelry Store where he worked.  After I finished I was allowed to walk the block and a half to Antes Pet Store in the second block of West King Street.  I so enjoyed watching the animals in the window and sometimes the owner would come outside and have me come it to help him feed the animals.  
The Army & Navy Store stands on the left corner in Lancaster.
Can't tell you how many small animals I had during my youth that my dad bought for me at Antes.  Another favorite stop on West King was a half-block from Antes to the east.  Place was on the corner of West King and North Prince Street in downtown Lancaster and was known as the Army & Navy Store.  Not sure exactly what they sold, but I don't remember many items in the store that could have been used by the Army or Navy except maybe the Swiss Army knife my dad bought for me one time at the store.  
Looking toward the west from the center of town.
I believe they sold primarily camping supplies as well as clothing.  The store was directly next to the Pelican Grill which had an alleyway next to it and in turn a very small building that was home to the Peanut Man who sold bags of roasted peanuts.  I did make a few stops at the Army & Navy store with my parents to buy clothing for school as well as a stop to buy a bag of peanuts to take home to share with my family.  Well, it was many years after my youth that I had a chance to stop back in the store once again.  My oldest son, when entering 7th grade, just had to have the latest craze in clothing so I took him to the Army & Navy Store to buy him parachute pants.  
The nearby Peanut Man.
Made from the material that was used to make parachutes and had large pockets with zippers on them.  My most vivid memory of that trip though was our ride home when a loaded fuel truck struck my recently restored VW Beetle, spun it around in the intersection and up an embankment where it caught fire.  We did get out before the smoke turned to flames which in turn was extinguished by a passerby.  My son suffered a broken tooth, but we were lucky nothing else happened to us.  I recently found some old photos of the Army & Navy store and thought I would pose a question to the residents who have lived in Lancaster for years.  A few days ago on "The Lancastrian" I wrote:  What can you tell me about the Army & Navy Store at the corner of Prince and King in downtown Lancaster. Ever shop there and if so, what did you buy. I remember shopping there, but don't remember much more about it. And, I can remember the Pelican Cafe next door, but not much about it either. Any photos of the place?  Wasn't more than ten minutes later that the posts began.  As of the time of this story, there have been well over 50 responses.  I have published a few here to show you the comments I was hoping I would receive.  But, not only did I get the comments, I got a few personal answers from friends from my past that I hadn't been in contact with for years who happened to recognize my name and responded.  Facebook is a wonderful social media tool that allows one to not only learn wanted information, but reconnect with those who may recognize you from the past.  Some of the Army & Navy responses were (some edited):

  • Anne - I bought bell bottoms and bib overalls there. I still had the bib overalls until someone stole them recently.
  • Gail - And there were not a lot of stores like that so if u wanted Levi’s that’s where u went.
  • Chuck - Bell bottom jeans and navy pea coat.
  • Doug - Back in the seventies us guys used to go there and buy landlubber jeans they were $10 a pair and boy were they comfortable.
  • Michael - I bought a plaid flannel shirt there in the early 70s. It was and still is the best shirt I ever had. I wore it till it was nothing but a rag. Before that, though, I bought a lot of things in there. I worked at Commercial Printing Company (now the Dispensing Company) and hung out there, even when not buying anything.
  • Doug - CPO jackets were in back then also and you could buy a canteen for $5.
  • Dewie - Went there for jeans, and I bought a backpack made of olive canvas once.
  • Louise - Best store ever for combat boots and 10$ bells!!!
  • Roxie - I remember the older women teaching me how to pack a duffle bag I was buying. I still use those tips today.
  • Audrey - Bought my first hiking boots there in the 80s. Boy's boots.
  • Doug - The denim bell bottom jeans back then were called landlubbers.
  • Rosemary - Went with friends a few times. I think I bought denim bells and did they sell flannel plaid shirts.  I had a few and wore them like jackets over t-shirts. I seem to remember I bought them at the Army and Navy.
  • Lori - Loved that one place, army pants, carpenter jeans, painters pants... Thermal underwear...
  • Karen - I bought my bell bottom jeans there in high school (McCaskey). Many pair. They were mens but I loved them!
  • Patricia - Yep that's why Dad took me there. No hips and I was tall lol..
  • Pedro - Their clothes last forever. I still remember one of the old men writing down the receipt ... his hand writing was perfect.  love that store.
  • Donna - Yep...painter pants. Flashback! Next reunion!
  • Zita - Ha ha I remember them well ... bought mine there ... and still remember I wore the white painters pants the first day of my senior year ...
  • Susan - That was a fun read. Army-Navy store was a destination for those of us who lived in the burbs. Take the bus to town, lunch at Zimmerman’s, then shopping!!!
Business card showing the new design of the store.
So, you see what was sold at the Army & Navy store in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  And, you can also see what "The Lancastrian" Facebook page is to the city of Lancaster and surrounding communities.  Now, for perhaps my favorite post ...
  • Stanley - Bought camping equipment for cross country motorcycle trip. Then showed photos of the trip to Mr. Woods class at MTHS.
That Mr. Woods would be me!  Mr. Stanley Imboden was the minister for years at my church, the historical St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster.  I invited him to visit my photography class one day to share his wonderful photos and photographic knowledge with the students.  They loved the photos, but more importantly, loved the stories Rev. Imboden shared with them.  My children also had the honor of knowing and growing up with Rev. Imboden.  Stan's father was an umpire in professional baseball and always had a story to tell to my oldest son who loved and played the sport.  And, my youngest son, five years old at the time, had a story to tell Rev. Imboden one day during a visit.  I had left my son with Stan while I walked next door to see the church secretary.  When I returned Stan told me my son had told him that I had a magazine at home that had pictures of naked women in it!  I'm sure to this day I turned bright red!  And to top that off, the next Sunday in church my wife Carol and I were sitting in a pew when an older woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I understand you have some interesting reading material at home!"  Wow, word got out pretty fast about my magazine!  A tale certainly as interesting as any trip to the Army & Navy Store!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The "Sideshow World" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking to a friend about matting and framing a poster for him that dates back to the early 1930s.   The poster in question was from the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey combined Circus known as "The Greatest Show On Earth."  
Poster features a drawing, in black and white, of a tribe of genuine Ubangi Savages with mouths and lips as large as those of full-grown crocodiles.  These savages are new to civilization having come from Africa's darkest depths.  Show was to take place on Monday, June 23, 1930.  My guess is that the majority of those reading this story weren't alive when these savages traveled with the circus in 1930.  The savages were part of what at the time was known as the sideshow at the circus.  
Poster advertising the "Headless Girl"
People who came to see the circus acts also had a chance to walk around the circus grounds and visit various "side shows" that were advertised by a barker who would yell to the crowd not to miss seeing the "Headless Woman" or "Headless Girl" as well as "Spidora" the woman with the body of a spider.  Most all sideshows were realistic looking illusions that perhaps scared the crap out of those who witnessed them.  
The "Headless Woman" looks surprisingly real.
I'm sure children viewing a woman without a head or a man with a lip the size of a dinner plate couldn't sleep for quite a few nights after visiting the circus.  "Spidora" was one of the most popular sideshows.  She allegedly was born with the head and face of a beautiful girl and the body of an ugly spider who survives in total misery.  
One of the "Spidora" sideshow acts.
Most traveling circuses would feature their version of "Spidora" with some more believable that others.  At worst you saw a woman with her head protruding out of a box with a spider body crudely attached to her while the better shows offered an expertly crafted spider body web made of white twine and spider body and legs made of fake fur.  The legs would include tubing so the girl playing the role of "Spidora" could make the legs appear to move on their own.  "Spidora's" body would be concealed behind a wall in a box in which her spider web, spider body and head were macabrely displayed for curious onlookers to ponder before moving on to the next act in the sideshow.  
This one looks a bit more realistic!
As for the headless woman illusion, it was said to be terrifyingly realistic.  "Olga", as she was called at first, was a headless torso that appeared to be a torso with tubes running from her throat to a contraption that supposedly controlled her food intake.  The headless woman was optically baffling.  This sideshow act actually continued to appear around the world through the 1980's so some of you might have seen this particular act.  There were many other acts throughout history such as "General Tom Thumb" who was a dwarf, "Arachnida" the human spider and the guys with the hugh lips, but they weren't quite as famous as "Spidora" and the Headless Woman.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

The "Jimmy Returns To St. Barts" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading one of my favorite online sites: www.caribjournal.com.  Caribbean Journal presents stories about a variety of subjects all related to the Caribbean Islands.  
Aerial view of St. Barts.  Click to enlarge.
Recent story told of Jimmy Buffett's return to one of his favorite islands, St. Barts, to perform a free concert to help the island with their recovery struggles related to last summer's Hurricane Irma.  It was back in 2005 that Carol and I took a day trip from Sint Maarten to St. Barts to see how the French island compared with the other Caribbean islands we were lucky enough to have visited beforehand.  St. Barts, also known as St. Barthelemy or St. Barths, is located approximately 160 miles east of Puerto Rico and lies immediately southeast of St. Martin/Sint Maarten and Anguilla; It also lies northeast of Saba and St. Eustatius and north of St. Kitts.  On March 19, 1946 the people of the island became French citizens with full rights.  The island had no electricity until 1961 and many took ferries to surrounding islands for work.  The island's main harbor is U-shaped  and called Gustavia.  On the day we traveled to the island we landed at Gustavia and after showing our U.S. Passports, began our tour of the island.  Took a taxi ride around the rather small island with a stop at Grand Saline Beach for a dip.  We walked from the beach back to the harbor and headed to a small restaurant called Le Select for lunch.  
The harbor at Gustavia.
As we walked into the restaurant we instantly saw the sign that told the story telling that Jimmy Buffett wrote "Cheese- burger in Paradise" while sitting in the restaurant.  Whenever Jimmy visits the islands for pleasure or for a concert, he usually makes a stop at one of his favorites, St. Barts.  He had had a decades-long relationship with the island and some of his most legendary songs were inspired by the island including "One Particular Harbor", "Au Tour de Rocher" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise".  
I took this photo in 2005 at Le Select on St. Barts.
To sit in the restaurant was a thrill knowing I may have been in the exact same chair where he penned the song.  Well, the Caribbean Journal story tells of his return to the island where he will perform the free concert along with local muscian Soley on December 27 on the quai in Gustavia.  Wow, would I love to return one more time to the tiny island to see one of my favorite musicians and performers.  
Jimmy performing at Le Select in the past.
I can just imagine the crowd that will be there to hear Jimmy and his band.  Jimmy is hoping that his concert will bring a large crowd to the island and help boost the struggling economy.  If you care to be part of the crowd your best bet to get there is to fly to Sint Maarten and take Winair or St. Barth Commuter to St. Barth's airport.  You also can take a ferry from Sint Maarten, but it is a rough ride.  You might be lucky enough to fly through San Juan directly to St. Barts, but as you know, they too are struggling and their airport might not be a good choice.  If you do go, think of me sitting at home wishing I could be there in the warm breezes of the harbor with a rum punch in my hand.  Oh Yeah, tell Jimmy I'm thinking of him.  He'd be impressed I'm sure!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - following YouTube video shows Jimmy playing at Le Select on St. Barts.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The "Was This An Evil Experiment With Known Results?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a story I posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 which tells the story of my neighbor and friend Tom who told a group of sophomore high school students about his experiences as a soldier in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.  Told them about having to pull his poncho over his head to avoid getting covered with Agent Orange that was dropping from the sky during the middle of the night from U.S. military planes.  Tom died about a year ago from complications associated with that Agent Orange which was dropped on him those fateful evenings in 1968 in Vietnam.  It was said that the Agent Orange was used to defoliate the countryside to make it easier for our troops to see the enemy soldiers.  The chemical was called Agent Orange since it was made and shipped by Monsanto and Dow in orange-striped barrels.  Back in 2015, Tom was telling me these stories to help me understand the Vietnam War so I could write about his experiences during the war.
Tom shared his stories about Vietnam
and the chemical Agent Orange with me.
 Well, since Tom's death I have often thought about the story he told me and the use of Agent Orange that was dropped night after night on top of the troops.  I recently read a rather disturbing story telling about a $10,000 grant that dermatologist Dr. Albert Kligman got in 1965 to study various chemicals on behalf of Dow Corning, Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. Army.  His testing was done to observe how human skin reacts to harsh chemicals, a process known as "hardening".  The chemicals he was to test as well as the details of his work seem to have been lost to history.  In 1981 it was found that all his notes and records had somehow been destroyed.  It was known though that one of the chemicals that Dr. Kligman was testing was dioxin which just so happens to be the active ingredient in Agent Orange.  Then I read that at the time of the testing, the military was crop dusting half of Vietnam with the stuff, and people in the spray zones were exposed over and over to dioxin.  Seems the Pentagon was interested in what would happen to them, as was Dow, the manufacturer of Agent Orange.  During some of Dr. Kligman experiments, he injected his victims with a reported 468 times the recommended "safe" dose of dioxin, which was known to work as a blister agent and systemic toxin.  Somehow the good Doctor just happened to conveniently lose, or perhaps destroy, his findings.  Funny how all this happened and then he died ... allegedly from natural causes.  After some more searching I found that about one million of those, both residents as well as troops, exposed to Agent Orange suffered, or are now suffering, serious health problems.  I now wonder if Dr. Kligman knew this was going to happen even before my friend Tom was deployed to Vietnam.  Or even worse, did our government know and still used Agent Orange!  And, who is ever going to disclose the results of the tests?  I believe this is a well-kept secret that we will never know!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The "Real Or Fake Dilemma" Story

My childhood Christmas tree was always a real tree.
It was an ordinary day.  Getting ready for the upcoming Christian holiday of Christmas by putting our tree in the living room and decorating it.  Have been doing so for the past 50 years of married life.  I can still remember Carol and my first Christmas in 1967 when we lived in a rented apartment and had to drag our alleged fresh-cut tree up a flight of steps in order to decorate it.  
My wife's parents enjoyed a fake aluminum
Christmas tree for a few years in the 1950s. 
Can also remember the many years that I put the tree in the living room in its holder and then drove nails through the holder into the hardwood floor to keep our children and family pets from knocking over the tree.  Didn't seem to hurt the resale value of the house when we moved.  Then there was the other year when I bought a really nice live tree from a fellow I taught school with and asked him if he could deliver it since it was too large to put on my car.  Didn't realize he would be so quick doing it and later when I opened the garage door, I backed out of my garage ... right over my new tree.  Luckily didn't do too much damage to it and the part I destroyed I put against the wall so you couldn't see it.
The Angel that stood atop every Christmas
tree that Carol and I have ever owned, be
it a real or fake tree.
Wasn't long after that experience that we purchased our first real "fake", or artificial, Christmas tree.  Never thought we would do that, but we have been using that same "fake" tree for the past 15 years.  A small string of lights have stopped working, but we put that part of the tree against the wall and no one knows the difference.  This majestic eight foot tree has spent Christmas with our family and has carried over 100 ornaments every year as well as the original angel that graced our tree that first year of marriage.  How about you.  Do you prefer a real or fake tree and when do you put your tree in its stand every Christmas season.  Naturally there are surveys that tell the tale such as: 7% put their tree up before Thanksgiving, 24% put their tree up after Thanksgiving while the remainder picks other various days.  
The tree farm of friend Dean who operates Dean's Trees
in Lancaster County.  This farm is in Herndon, Pa.
Oh yeah, 2% put their tree up on Christmas Eve and my wife often tells the story of her dad putting the tree up on Christmas Eve and Santa would decorate it while she slept; that was until she saw him and her mom decorating it while she watched from nearby.  Well, in Pennsylvania, my home state, there are 1,360 Christmas tree farms, second only to Oregon, on 31,000 acres.  
Setting up our artificial tree requires getting it down from
our storage above our garage.  This is done by way
of a pulley system and using the car to lower the large box.
My friend, Dean, who delivered my tree that fateful day has a huge Christmas tree farm near Pennsyl- vania's state capital city of Harrisburg.  As for the advantages of having a real tree: buying trees from local sellers helps the economy, Christmas trees are primarily grown on tree farms and do not harm the forest, real Christmas trees absorb air pollutants and emit fresh oxygen and stabilize soil and reduce erosion.  
The tree stands tall in our living room.
And the disadvantages of a real tree: they only may be used for several weeks, some are grown with the use of pesticides and transportation costs to deliver the trees creates carbon dioxide.  Then again the disadvantages of the fake tree is:  the manufacture of artificial trees involves the use of a host of petroleum-based chemicals which may be toxic, the majority of fake trees are made in Asian countries and when you discard fake trees they can take up space in a landfill, except for Lancaster County where they go to a trash-to-energy incinerator.  So what would be the advantage of having a fake tree?  If you use the same tree for at least four years, its carbon footprint will be smaller than that of a real tree.  
Looks great lit with our angel on top.
And, for me, that triples since we have been using the same one for what seems forever.  For those of you who claim that you would never have a fake tree since there is no smell to it, you may be right.  But, we did find some stick deodorizers that we place on the tree each year and spread the pine scent around the house as a real tree would do, and without the sticky mess that some real Christmas trees create.  No matter if you have a real or fake Christmas tree, you will still have the same holiday experience of opening up your presents while gathered around the tree on Christmas morning.  Merry Christmas to all and to all ... thanks for reading.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The "Just Don't Sneeze Under A Ladder" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Checking my Facebook page as well as looking at the myriads of emails I have accumulated over the past few days.  Most of the emails go directly into the trash, especially those that I have no idea who may have sent them to me.  Then there are other emails that I know will be interesting so I click on them immediately.  I get emails a few times a month from a local eating establishment that always sends entertaining and interesting emails that really have very little to do with food.  Today was no exception since the email was titled "13 Superstitions That Still Scare the Bejesus Out of Us."  Now who could refuse viewing an email like that.  My first thought was why did they decide to list 13 superstitions when everyone knows that the number 13 is scary.  Sure enough, there was superstition #13 that said that the number 13 was unlucky.  Began saying that Apollo 13 was cursed from the start because of its flight number.  And, why do some buildings bypass the 13th floor when building.  Is floor #14 really really lucky if it follows floor #12?  And, do you really have bad luck on Friday the 13th?  I wonder if the Bible would have been written different had Judas Iscariot not been the 13th man at the Last Supper.  And, was Jesus crucified on Good Friday the 13th.  Many people have a deep fear of the #13 and I'm not sure if I am one of them or not.  Well, the other 12 superstitions are just as frightening; that is if you are really superstitious.  They are, in no particular order:

  1. Spilling Salt:  Are you one of those people who have to throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder if you happen to knock a salt shaker over and salt spills out?  I am!  Did you know that by doing so you were blinding the demon waiting behind you.  In the Middle Ages, those living in Europe would leave a line of salt outside their door believing that witches would be compelled to count every grain before entering.  And, did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci, in his painting of the Last Supper, shows Judas knocking over the salt!  Oh, for Heaven's sakes!
  2. Opening an umbrella indoors:  At one time in history owning an umbrella was a rare luxury reserved for royalty who used it to shade themselves from the sun's rays which contained invasive spirits.  Now that would be a great reason to open it anywhere.  Some believe that bad vibes are expelled when opening an umbrella indoors, but for me ... I don't believe in this superstition.
  3. Horseshoes:  Supposedly the luckiest of all good-luck charms is the horseshoe. The ancient Greeks invented the horseshoe to protect the feet of their horses as well as to honor them as holy animals.  The "U" shape is associated with the crescent moon which is seen as a symbol of fertility and good fortune.  Just don't hang a horseshoe upside-down outside your home for it will surely burn to the ground.
  4. Wearing black while mourning:  The devil's playground creates this superstition.  Years ago it was said you should avoid a person who had been around the dead since it was said to be contagious.  Some even said you should give away all your colored clothing while mourning a death.  I don't believe any of that stuff, but just don't wear white after Labor Day.
  5. Black Cats:  Seems I just wrote of about black cats recently.  It was said that at one time witches were the caretakers of cats and that Satan was thrown out of heaven into a blackberry bush, thus the color black is associated with the devil, or Satan, and the notion that black cats are evil.
  6. Getting out the wrong side of the bed:  You did know that getting out of bed on the left side has bad consequences?  Said to lead to death and destruction.  That's why hotel designers arrange guest rooms with the left side of the bed facing the wall.  Did you also know that exiting the bed on the same side you entered will cause your sleep to be disturbed?  Try it some time.
  7. Knock on Wood:  Knocking on wood is said to bring good luck.  It was said that trees housed god's and nature's spirits who controlled the seasons.  So, knocking on the trunk of a tree would bring you good luck.  Also, many Christians rub on a wooden cross to offer penance or seek protection.
  8. Walking under a ladder:  The Ancient Egyptians believed that a ladder perched against a wall created a sacred triangle ... and to walk underneath it disrupted spiritual energies.  In France convicts used to be forced to walk under a ladder as they walked to the gallows ... their final unlucky act.
  9. Breaking a mirror:  I still feel bad when I break a mirror.  Seems your reflection will be trapped in the mirror and stunt your growth.  Could also imprison your soul.  Also said the Jewish families cover mirrors after the death of a loved one so as not to risk the departed soul wandering into the reflection and getting lost on its way to eternity.
  10. Jumping the Broom:  Ever hear of this?  The African-American expression means getting married and follows an old custom that the newlyweds literally jump over a broom to prove that one of them is not an evil double.  
  11. Rabbit's foot:  I actually had a keychain with a rabbit's foot on it.  Thought it would bring me good luck.  After my second accident I re-thought having the keychain.  Also said that many actors keep a rabbit's foot in their make up box, since make up was at one time applied with a rabbit's foot.  It as a performer's good-luck charm.
  12. Sneezing:  Don't you say "God Bless You" after someone sneezes?  It was believed that a sneeze would expel your soul from your body, so you wanted to make sure that God would bless your soul.  And then in the plague years in Europe it was a grave omen to sneeze, thus the expression "nothing to sneeze at."  Had to do with spreading communicable diseases.  I do like the idea that Jerry Seinfeld had when he said you should say "You're so good looking" when someone sneezed.
  13. And, the final superstition is ... the #13.
Believe any of this baloney?  I do!  Pretty creepy if you don't.  I feel sorry for you if you don't believe some of these.  YOU'LL BE SORRY!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The "So, Do You Still Say "Say Cheese" When Taking A Photo?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Making a visit to the Landis Run Intermediate School in the Manheim Township School District in Lancaster County, PA to photograph a few club and music groups for their yearbook.  Have been doing so for the past four years after the school was first opened.  The school houses 5th and 6th grade students with ages ranging from perhaps 10 years old to thirteen years old.  Always a great bunch of students who still enjoy having their photograph taken for the yearbook.  I line up the group on the risers, make sure I can see every student and ... "Say Cheese."  Always works for this age group of students.  Usually get a big laugh from them which needless to say is the exact reason I say "Say Cheese."  When taking photos of Middle School students who are slightly older, it doesn't seem to work as well so I just say "Smile" and hope for the best.  So why do photographers say the phrase "Say Cheese" and when did it first start?  Well the reason to say it is to cause the lips to form into a smile with a slight bit of teeth showing.  As to when it first was used, no one seems to know.  Probably first used in 1943 as reported in the Big Spring Herald newspaper from Big Spring, Texas.  Also could be credited to U.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies who disclosed the formula of "Say Cheese" while having his own photograph taken while on the set of his "Mission to Moscow."  
Daguerrotypes that are part of my collection.  No smiles here.
Ambassador Davies credited a famous politician, thought to be Franklin D. Roosevelt for whom he served, with telling him to "Say Cheese" when having his photo taken.  I have never read any other accounts of having used the saying for the first time.  Certainly wasn't used in the mid-1840s when Daguerrotypes were the portraitures of the day.  
Louis Daguerre - Photo inventor
Showing your teeth usually wasn't done since the exposure time to take a photo was longer than today as well as the dental hygiene in the Victorian era wasn't the best and not many wanted to show their pearly whites.  The cost of a Daguerrotype photograph was expensive and the etiquette for formal studio photographs was to act "prim and proper" which meant don't smile.  But then in the late 1880s and early 1900s George Eastman founded Kodak and the use of film became common.  
Advertisement for the Brownie
The masses now had a chance to have their photograph taken with Kodak's $1.00 Brownie camera which claimed, "You push the button, we do the rest!"  So, it could be a good reason to think that smiling and "Say Cheese" may have started in the early 1900s.  Whenever, and for whatever reason, "Say Cheese" was first uttered doesn't really matter, since it still seems to work today, at least on certain age groups.  That is until it no longer is "cool" to "Say Cheese" when around your peers.  And, I should know!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The "The Ride Is Finally Over!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Walked out for the Sunday morning newspaper and opened it to the sports section to read about the Manheim Township football team.  This year's Manheim Township High School football team in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania went as far into the State Playoffs as any team in the history of the school.  And that, my readers, goes way, way back.  The school district was founded in 1729 in the years when Pennsylvania was still a British colony.  Three of the five men appointed by the Second Continental Congress to draft a Declaration of Independence in 1776 hadn't even been born when the township was created.  So, history really has been set this past football season.  Now, I must admit that Manheim Township High School only opened in September of 1929, but the township existed long before the school was built.  As far as football is concerned, Lancaster Catholic High School, also located in Manheim Township, began football long before the public high school did.  Catholic started high school football in 1930, the year after Manheim Township opened their high school.  It wasn't until 1944 that the board of directors of the township approved the varsity sport of football.  Then in 1945 they played, and won, their very first football game.  So, reaching the semi-finals in the State 6A (largest size school in the state) Playoffs this year has been 72 years in the making.
My friend Jere, seated, and myself
played football together in 1958.
I graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1962 and as a 6 foot, 150 pound freshman, played football.  All my friends were playing football so I naturally had to play also.  One of my childhood friends, neighbors and now traveling companions, Jere played also.  We played on the freshman team, Jere being the center and me being the quarterback.  Actually got to play one play with the Varsity when the coach had me play defense one play in a blow-out win the final game of the year.  Guy came running through a hole, knocked me on my butt and kept on going.  Following Monday I turned in my equipment and that was it for me and football.  When I graduated from college I returned to Manheim Township to teach and the first year was asked to help coach football.  
The 1958 Freshman team at Manheim Township High School.
Jere is #72 in the right front and I am #68 in the center of the photo.
Luckily the head coach at the time, Eugene Kruis, never read my high school stats from years before.  Once again, after the season I turned in my locker room key and that was the end of my football coaching.  Over the years Manheim Township had some of the best football teams in the county.  
Eugene Kruis was the head coach when Manheim Township
went undefeated in 1962 when I was a senior.  Gene ended
his career as one of the best high school coaches in
Lancaster County as well as the state of Pennsylvania.
When I was a senior our team was undefeated, but that was as far as your team could go at the time.  When my brother played, his team also won the league title, but once again, that was as far as you could go.  It wasn't until 1987 that state playoffs in high school football in Pennsylvania began.  Then in 2012 Manheim Township hired a hulk of a man by the name of Mark Evans who in no time had the "Blue Steaks" playing in the District Tournament.  
The 2017 Manheim Township High School football team who were the 6A (big school) District III Champions. 
This year they went undefeated in league play, losing only 1 non-league game.  They won their first round District game and finally won the school's first District Championship the week after to a team that had been picked to win by a large margin.  In the state semi-finals the following week they faced an opponent whose quarterback will go to Notre Dame next year.  Their opponent, Pine-Richland, had a record of 15-0 coming into the game and Manheim Township ended up playing defense too much and ended their season losing 28-7.  It was a great ride this year for the "Blue Streaks" who have set the bar a notch higher for the football program.  So what's next.  A taste of play-off winning can only help the Township program.  Time will tell.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The "Jobs In My Lifetime That No Longer Exist" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sorting through a few files that contained photos I took in the past few months.  One photo drew my attention since it was one that I had also taken a few years ago, only in different locale.  It was back in 2012 that I took a photo of the Good Humor Man when I was visiting The Train Museum at Strasburg, Pennsylvania.  Then this past September I saw him once again at the Neffsville, Pennsylvania car show.  Got me thinking about how many Good Humor Men there may still be operating in the United States.  It brought back memories of my younger years when they would drive past our home on North Queen Street on the outskirts of Lancaster playing their musical theme from speakers on their truck.  Boy would that be a neat job to have!  Made me think of all the other jobs and occupations that used to exist at one time, but have vanished in today's world.  Talked to a few people as well as my wife and came up with a list to share with you.   Now, it depends upon how old you may be as to whether you remember the occupations or not.  Check them out and see if you remember.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The Good Humor Man was a regular in my neighborhood when I was a child.  
My brother sold newspapers on the street corner for a couple of years while growing up in Lancaster.  His spot was at the corner of McGovern Ave. and the Manheim Pike at the border of the Lancaster, PA city limits.
The soda jerk was still in existence when I was growing up, but it may be hard to find one today.  The best soda counter was at the Lancaster Train Station where you could get an ice-cream soda, grab a comic book off the shelf and enjoy yourself for half an hour. 
I actually found a photo of the soda fountain I talked about in my caption above.  Just loved the bar stools.
Our family had a doctor that would make house calls.  Tough to find one that will do that today.   
There were a few department stores in downtown Lancaster that would have elevators with someone to help you in the elevator and then take you to the floor you wished.  My favorite ride was in the Watt & Shand Department Store.  If I remember correctly, he or she would ring a hand-bell before closing the door.
Turkey Hill is a local dairy and you would see the truck in the neighborhood delivering treats to the houses. My favorite would be the orange creamsicle.  Once again, tough to find any ice cream truck that does that today.  
Mom had her milk box on the front porch of our home on North Queen Street.  I can still remember using it to hold the end of the rubber runner high in the air so I could race my marbles down the runner.
A few blocks from our house was the RCA Factory.  My brother and sister-in-law both worked there at one time.  At the time they worked at RCA the company was making TV picture tubes as pictured here.  Tough to find that today.
Pinsetters made minimum wage and had to work hard at the job.  I often thought I wanted to be a pinsetter, but never had the chance.
The shoe-shine boy could be found at a few places in Lancaster.  Used to be one around Central Market on market days.  At times I would see one at the Lancaster Train Station, trying to shine the shoes of a waiting patron.
Telephone switchboard operators were always busy.  Hard to believe that there are no more operators as pictured above.  My mom and dad had a party line in our home on North Queen Street.  When you picked up the phone, you listened first to make sure no one was talking before you made your call.  When the phone rang, it rang either one time, two times or three times and we were one of three families who were on the same line.  I still remembering picking up the phone when I wasn't supposed to and listening to the conversation of one of our neighbors.  Can you imagine that today.
The cobbler was found all around Lancaster.  They repaired old shoes as well as sold new ones.  I hesitated to add this job to my list since there still are two cobblers in Lancaster.  I wrote a story about one of them last year.  Seems that he is so busy that it takes days, sometimes months, before you can get your shoes, pocketbook or anything made of leather returned to you.