Mind Probing Bob & Marge – Stress

November 9, 2015,  77th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Seems a good time to write on stress. Kristallnacht unknown.? Google it. Kristallnacht,  a turning point in Nazi anti-Jewish policy culminating  in the Holocaust–the systematic, state-sponsored extermination  of the European Jews. A terrible day not to be forgotten. Imagine yourself there, synagogues burning, Jews rounded up, beaten, murdered, broken glass everywhere.

The dreaded knock on the door. Fright, fearfulness,  alarm, panic, agitation, consternation, dismay, foreboding.  The knock leading to terror, the terror perhaps to a horrible death.  Talk about stress!!!!!!!

Today’s Mind Prober Post, Coping with Stress.

Stress  is the brain’s response to a demand. Many things  trigger this response, including change. Changes can be positive or negative, as well as real or perceived. They may be recurring, short-term, or long-term.  Changes can be mild and relatively harmless; winning a race, watching a scary movie,  riding a rollercoaster. Some changes are major;  marriage or divorce, serious illness, or a car accident. Other changes are extreme, possibly leading to traumatic stress reactions.

Dealing with stress: the nerve chemicals and hormones released during  stressful times, prepares the person to face a threat……fight or flee.  If possible, yes. If not, headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability. Leading where? Depression and anger leading to violence. Violence leading to harm. Harm to death, personal, or to others.




“Pressures of everyday living probably weigh heavily on Mr. R.F,  He is likely to worry that a great number of things in life could and probably will, go wrong, Even everyday complications are seen as insurmountable problems.”

“If there is no let-up of pressure, he may resign himself to difficult situations with an attitude of helplessness.  During these times, you are likely to see him withdraw from others.  Although he needs support, he may be unable to ask directly for help.”



“Pressures and disappointments are deeply felt by Ms. M. F. Expect to see her making her distress known to everyone around.  She is likely to respond with emotional outbursts that come on like  a storm, and dry up soon afterward.”

“After her emotional bluster is over, she’ll be back to her normal self.  But be prepared for a rerun next time she feels pressure.”

Analysis and Commentary

True confession time for R. F.  Strain from living leading to stress in life and curling to a fetal position? Hmmmmmmm… Somewhat true, neither fighting nor fleeing but worrying about a great number of things?  I think, rather wobbling and indecision  at times of uncertainty and unease caused by difficulties, both at home and work. I think Mind Prober is on the track but is not as severe as it seems.  Perhaps I am in denial, I don’t know.

Back in the 1980’s, I began having recurring chest pains, so something was going wrong, I knew not what. What would you do?  Likely, see a doctor.  Exactly!! I did that and the appointment led to a referral to a cardiologist. This led to me wearing a Holter heart monitor for a day.  This in turn leading to, a cardiac ultrasound exam.  All this data funnelled to the cardiologist.  Finally, an appointment with the cardiologist reviewing all this data.  The outcome? There was nothing physically wrong with me, and next a referral to a psychiatrist. I was pleased that I did not have a disease but uneasy about a psychiatrist.

This person, a woman in early 60s at least, diagnosed me as being depressed and prescribed Prozac, a new drug then.  I had a month’s supply and my reaction was terrifically terrible. I became very agitated,  upset, approaching a manic state.  So, naturally I quit taking Prozac. In retrospect, I should have tapered off, not quit cold turkey.   Something else had gone wrong; I had it with psychiatrists.

No problems are insurmountable, there are always alternatives.  My next alternative was daily consultations with my old friend Jack Daniels.  Jack and my new  large screen TV were very helpful companions.  Old friends…….best friends.  Nothing is forever and eventually I said “So Long” to Jack.  Probably best.

Enough, I don’t like stress, but don’t give in to it either.  Some people do like stress, stress charges their batteries.  Not me.  I like to feel in control, have a plan and follow it until it needs changing if new data emerges.  I do seek opinions and ideas from others whom I value and trust.  I am an engineer, and stress can and will lead to data gathering, analysis,  an action plan, finally ending in action.  Time consuming? Yes, but it works for me.

How about Marge?  Personally, I think there is much validity in the Mind Prober report.  I will be as objective and impartial as possible. Marge left in her files enough psychological reports to fill a notebook.  While not exactly aligned with the Mind Prober categories, there are similarities.

I quote from an unidentified  source document in her files with references to DSM-III.  The DSM-III circa 1980. I copy some useful information about this document.

“In a very short period of time, mental illnesses were transformed from broad, etiologically defined entities that were continuous with normality to symptom-based, categorical diseases. The third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) was responsible for this change.”

Marge’s diagnosis included having a having a marital problem. The DSM code for a Marital Problem diagnosis include:

“a. Recurring arguments and conflict between two individuals which cause preoccupation and/or distract from activities of daily living.

b. Lack of communication and/or withdrawal between the individuals which results in frustration and/or anger.

c. Inappropriate kinds of communication between individuals which can include unrealistic expectations, withdrawal, or criticism.

d. Avoidance of the individual who is felt to be causing the stress. Individuals can spend too much time at school, work, or friends’ homes to avoid contact with the other person .

e. Stress related to threat of separation either by ‘running away’ (for a child), or marital separation (for adults).

f. Increased irritability, sleeplessness, depression, and/or social withdrawal.

g. A pattern of angry responses towards a third party, which appears to be displacement of the primary relational conflict.

h. Tearfulness, low energy, withdrawal related to concerns about the relationship.

i. Arguments which never resolve due to insufficient conflict resolution strategies.

j. Over-protection or over-involvement in another individual’s life activities secondary to a mental or medical condition of the affected individual.

k. Arguments with spouse that cause preoccupation and detract from work performance.”

Marge’s diagnosis included having an adjustment disorder.  The DSM diagnostic criteria are as follows:

“Emotional or behavioral symptoms develop in response to an identifiable stressor or stressors within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s) plus either or both of

(1) marked distress that is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, even when external context and cultural factors that might influence symptom severity and presentation are taken into account and/or

(2) significant impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

The stress-related disturbance does not meet criteria for another mental disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting mental disorder.”

This text includes much impartial psychiatric verbiage. I agree with both analyses about Marge. Stress was part of our lives for a long time. This condition was not all unabated, it was similar to background noise with random occurrences of noisy outbursts. We eventually got through it. 

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Mind Probing Bob & Marge – Work


Lyrics -Anna Louisa Walker Coghill

“Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;

Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.
Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;

While their bright tints are glowing,

Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.”

According to Judeo-Christian mythology, Genesis 3:17 & 19

“…cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

 “…you will return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

Gods curse, or cure for useless idleness? Pretty heavy; loosening up, author unknown… “Work is the curse of the drinking class”

My dictionary defines work as: “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” Sound right to me.

 Mind Prober results— ATTITUDES TOWARDS WORK


Mr. R. F. seeks an organized, efficient work environment

“Mr. R. F. will work hard to master the difficult tasks which confront him in life.  While he can feel burdened by these things, expect him to expend the energy necessary to reach his goals.  For Mr. R. F. a job without challenges would be boring. “



“Ms. M.F. will be drawn to exciting tasks or to jobs that offer a great deal of variety and challenge.  Once she takes on an assignment, she will usually throw herself into work and forget about everything else. She will work persistently until she obtains first-rate results.

Trouble can arise if she “bites off more than she can chew.”  While this should not happen often, she may have a hard time estimating just how much she can handle.  When this occurs, you will likely notice her arguing with co-workers or even her boss.”

Analysis and Commentary

Organized….efficient?  That’s me no doubt. Since when?  Probably since grade school.  Even then, largely encouraged by Mom and Dad to study, and complete my homework. “Teacher’s Pet” maybe so, but I really liked school.

Studious, academic, thorough, meticulous, maybe intellectual.  My purpose?  Doing well, determined for college.   Syracuse University, degrees in Liberal Arts and Engineering in 5 years.  Freshman year, 19 credit hours a semester, plus labs.  Difficult and damnably strenuous, complex, and time-consuming.  On Dean’s list a few times, always maintaining at least a B- average .  Dead-on determined.  Many classmates fell behind, not me, meeting the challenges of University life….. stimulating and within reach.

Then, the real world of work.  For me, an entry-level position as an engineer in a steel mill.  The company – Crucible Steel.  The mill manager…….” Reinhold Schemp.”  A real German from the old country, “Rheiny” to his underlings.  Isn’t that great? Sounds like rhinitis, the master mucous of our mill,  The fourth Reich, as the other mills referred to ours, for good Reichish  reasons. My goal; working  long enough until time for Marge graduating, my work  a means to an end. Postponing  my pointless work, then leaving.

So what next, fate stepping in with a National Guard recall, also bringing the birth of our first child.  Active duty in the Air Force was similar to Crucible, something to passively put up with.  My job was clerical in the Comptroller’s office (base financial services).  The work was easy, our Captain, a good guy, as well as the Colonel in charge of the department.  Work was not challenging, also not boring; I lived off base with 4 other guys from our office. I possessed a personal life separate from my work life. Discharged in 1962, Marge graduated in fall 1963, I quit Crucible and we goto Binghamton in April 1964.

What’s in Binghamton?  GAF Chemical, formerly Ansco.  I began  the beguiling work of computer programing in 1965, intellectually interesting, stimulating, and challenging.  Best job ever, as for the work, but the company was going down the tubes so I quit and we move to Coopersburg, PA to work for PP&L.  A great company, I soon became a manager with new responsibilities and challenges.

All this I covered before, concluding with me now relating Mind Prober about work and me.

 Now for the hard part, Marge & work.

At S.U. Marge wanted to learn playing the organ.  Biting off a lot, definitely.  She could read music and sing but did not play piano.  This, a prerequisite to organ study. She took piano for a semester, then beginning organ after that.  She quickly learned and memorized 3 songs. She wanted to play some intermediate level Bach music, a significant challenge.  Were she still a single student, she might meet that level of play. No, being a new Mom, our moves, etc. were too much.  Even when our life stabilized, and we owned a piano, she never played again.  This, at least a partial validation of Mind Prober.

Marge did not have to work for  money as I made enough to live a good lifestyle.  In PA Marge had friends, volunteered, socialized, etc. This changed when we moved to Las Vegas in 1980.  Ingrid started college at UNLV, Louise was in middle school. Ingrid married in 1982 and so began the emptying of our nest.

Ingrid gone, Louise in High School, Marge with no social network.  She was alone, that dreadful disquieting  state  of mind.  One day, she surprised Louise and me by telling us she had gone to a nearby mall and began working at a department store.  Her hours allowed her to come home before Louise arrived.  She felt quite positive about herself and this lasted until a reorganization  eliminated her job.  The store  offered her a sales job, which she hated, at different hours.  She was indirectly fired, maneuvered out of her first real job, and devastated.

Community  college suited her, starting in the Legal Assistant program, grandly graduating in 1984.  Marge had a strong want to help, to aid, to serve others. This training matched skills to her goals. This role lasted  almost two decades when she became too old for hiring competing with younger assistants.

 She continued helping people  becoming a volunteer mediator/case manager with  Clark County Nevada Neighborhood Justice Center (NJC).  After proving her ability there, she accepted a paid position. She also took the H&R Block tax course and became a tax preparer.  Again,  assisting people, now coping with the IRS.

Marge learned her cancer had metastasized as stage four in 2010.  She continued to work for the County, also for some Block clients requesting her.  Becoming sicker and weaker, her long time NJC boss created a part-time job  which she could do at her desk.  I drove her everywhere and she worked even when  confined to a wheelchair.  She had a tremendous work ethic, persistently persevering, unrelenting and patient.

Her boss accepted a higher level job in the County. NJC assigned a temporary manager  from the full-time staff mediators,  The guy,   a manipulative jerk giving broad hints to Marge that it might be better for her to leave.  Marge told him she would never quit even when pigs flew and Hell freezes.

 She didn’t. In September 2012, she received a letter from this guy informing her that her services were no longer needed.    By mail yet, he didn’t have the balls to personally face her.  She was very ill, dying, sometimes I think she would have died at her desk had it been possible.

If  that isn’t persistence, I know not what is.  She died on October 28th at home, assisted by home hospice care.  A footnote to this story is this: the acting manager did not get the manager position; he did not meet minimum qualifications.  A pustulous pimple on the protruding posteriors of humanity.

I don’t know how Marge interacted with her fellow workers or boss, but I know that nobody should expect average performance from her.

For me, I am almost 79 years old.  I still take classes, study my manuals, read and study new materials. I do have increasing, but manageable health issues.  My clock of life is ticking louder.  Tennyson, in his poem In Memorium writes:

“And on the low dark verge of life, the twilight of eternal day”

Recalling my Poem:

”Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.”

My night is darkening, and I, on that low dark verge of life, await the twilight of eternal day.  My life, my work, is not o,er……..yet.

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MIND PROBING Bob & Marge – Relationships

In a funk this morning.  Waking early sometime in the night. Very dark.  Very Thirsty, probably mouth breathing.   Then staggering to my bathroom for cold water. 

Up about 5:30 a.m. due to  Mochoa cat.  Meow, meow , meow – Paw, paw, paw.  Very effective…..for her.  Bathroom water still on a run into my sink.  How long…????????.   $$$ to the water company.  Damn!!!.  Off with the water, dress and then to my computer.  Eyes at half-staff,  sleep impossible, maybe later if lucky.




“At a first meeting, Mr. R. F. may seem wary of becoming involved with others.  He is likely to enter into a relationship only with someone who is willing to be a steady and kind partner.

It is best to meet him in a quiet, non-threatening situation. His natural tendency to move slowly is due to his secret fear of being rejected.  If the relationship encounters rough waters, he’s likely to blame himself.”


To the work at hand.    Now Marge’s Prober Results:



“On a casual meeting, Mrs. M. F. may seem to be a likeable sort of person.  If you become further involved with her, you might find that she hides a fair amount of angry feelings.  She may seem to want a smooth satisfying relationship, but be pulled to do things to disrupt it.

You may wonder if someone took advantage of her in the past.  she can be friendly and then turn suddenly to being annoyed or irritated.  It may not be obvious as to why her feelings changed, with the exception that she is likely to attribute her occasional upset to others.”


Analysis and commentary:

WOW, AMAZING!!!!!!!!

A 30 year old DOS program.  $5.95 including manual.  Almost un-thinkable regarding accuracy. What a bargain.  Better than hours with PhD Psychiatrists. Only one-way though.  So what!!! A do-it-yourself project.  Meaning, what meaning?  Of course, the answer,  next closely examining the textual content.  

For myself, Mr. R. F., Bob to you of course.  Wham, bang, nail on the head! First paragraph 100% true, admittedly true…..    “Wary”, yes, also careful, alert, attentive, watchful, and observant. Guilty of the charge.

 Moving on,  ” a quiet non-threatening situation.” Better safe than sorry.  Where?  to a non-threatening location of course.  Starbucks maybe? Perhaps, likely.

But then;  Secret fear? Rejection? A dilemma of course.  A secret, unknown and or unseen.  Perhaps a secret unknown even to myself? Could be, perhaps, maybe so, at least a quandary, a perplexity, an uncertainty. Life itself.

Last sentence: Blaming myself? How often, with what probability? Perhaps the median, 50%.  Just a possibility.  The other 50% , the causation of the parting of ways? Logically,  next then a detailed examination, of the parting.  Good or bad? Hmmmm.  Analysis, sometimes to my rescue, sometimes to my downfall.  Here, me, asking for, looking for the sequence of events, assumptions, values, styles on each side of the failed relationship.   Hopefully, a learning experience. Maybe not.

Now Marge:  “may be puzzling.”  Indeed – extremely accurate.  My experience exactly. Experience of our marriage, though not dating. Curious, very curious. Puzzling even.  

So condensed, so true to life, this Mind Prober analysis. Marge, a psychological bomb, hidden angry feelings, ready to explode at any moment, unexpected.

Marge, “someone took advantage of her in the past”  yes.  At least once, probably more often.  Her secrets, her fears exactly.

 Attributing upset to others, blaming them? Yes, frequently blaming Mr. R. F., me, Bob, moi, etc. 



Seems obvious. Me, “preferring a reliable, accepting companion.”  Marge’s approach, puzzling indeed. One moment, friendly, the next “being very annoyed or irritated,” blaming others, disruptive. Then the hidden bomb.  BANG!!! BOOOM!!!……BIG surprise indeed.

So, ours often a troubled marital relationship.  Not always, when good, very good, when bad, very bad. Polar extremities. Get through it? Yes. Meant for each other? Yes, ………..eventually.  

Authors note:

I believe my past posts have become unnecessarily wordy and sometimes logically disconnected.  I am trying a new style of writing, constrained writing, to correct this.  A link to a site explaining this style follows: The train from nowhere.  If you are confused by this change, click the link.  Stay tuned, more to come. Relationships are only one, though an important one, of the many factors described in Mind Prober.

And now, for a change of pace,  my neighborhood at sunrise.

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

Sunrise over Durango

















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Have you ever had your mind probed when you, the Probee, had no idea who, or what the Prober was?  Really, I am serious.  Have no fear, extra terrestrials are not going to probe bodily orifices, just your mind.

 I am not talking about a Twilight Zone episode or something from an old Sci-Fi film.  Thirty years ago a company by the name of Human Edge Software designed a program, sold as a game named the Mind Prober. The theoretical basis of this was a concept, then popular, named “expert systems” The idea was to develop a data base of experts in different fields and statistically find the significant factors.  Then one could have a computer based PhD as your consultant for maybe $29.95

 Don’t worry about the math, it is valid.  Of course technology is evolving so quickly that knowledge quickly becomes obsolete so this concept went into the dust bin.  But, and here is the difference, human technology is not changing much, though culture is.

For a change of pace, I include some shots I took a week or so ago. First time I tried this. To see them full size click on one.  You can add a comment if you wish to any.  Click REBLOG to get back and click on the X on upper left to close this view.   

 I have mentioned this in two past posts so wont go into depth except to say it the copyright date was in 1984.  Marge accessed the program and printed the output and I have shared some with you.  I began to think that if I could find and take the same program, I could copy the results, one element at a time, and make some comment on that.

 After some Googling, I found a company that deals with old obscure games.  It will play on any DOS based computer, if you still have one, or a more modern PC up to Windows XP.

 So, and I am sure you are ahead of me, I found a company that for a very modest sum will allow you to download the program and the program manual.  I did this, acquiring  an assessment by the same program, in the same format as Marge did.  I even found a YouTube entry of this exact program and I enclose a link to it so you will know the work flow better than I can explain it.  Especially if DOS means nothing to you, you will catch on quickly. Remember this is technology of over 30 years ago, it may seem hung up on occasion, but it is just calculating as PC DOS, Apple II and Commodore 64 computers did long ago. Be patient.  


The Mind Prober explained: 

Now to the subject for today:  The first is a brief summary of each assessment.  Marge’s is as follows:

“Ms. M. F.’s curiosity leads her into many novel situations.  she easily becomes bored with routine activities and prefers to seek out some new job or diversion.  She has difficulty being patient and has a tendency to say or do things at the spur of the moment.”

Now for my summary:

“You won’t find this person at center stage.  Mr. R. F. can be a very private, cautions person.  He is highly sensitive to the ways in which others treat him and will withdraw at the slightest hint of their disapproval or criticism.” 

Commentary on the above:

I believe the assessment for Marge is on the mark.  Marge could be volatile and temperamental and could sometimes come across as very demanding when I don’t think she meant to present herself that way.  We did have occasions when she was dealing with someone else that in effect closed the relationship.  She would ask me “Did I come across too hard?”  I would answer something like ” You could have built up to what you were saying or asking before you said what you did.”

Regarding myself, I have to agree that I have been and still am private and cautious.  Much of this goes back to my childhood, spent in the backwoods of the most North-Eastern corner of the most North Eastern county in New York.

 I went to a tiny hamlet elementary school where the highest ambition of the boys was to reach the age of 16 when they could quit school and work on the roads, or other menial job. Usually about grade 6, as the school held non-performers back a grade back then, no social promotions.

 My parents urged me to aim for college and do my best in school.  So I agreed that was the way out of this dismal place and frankly, I was pretty smart. Still am.   Anyone doing well in class was usually recognized by the teacher, which made me a “Teacher’s Pet” earning rejection for not being “one of the guys.”  I did not care for most of them anyway, so what the Hell, I did not give a s__t. Let them dig ditches for the rest of their lives.

Consequently, in my formative years, as I just said, I did not give a s__t for others disapproval or criticism as I didn’t want to end up like them in any event.  I don’t think I was/am highly sensitive, but I was aware, so I avoided my contemporaries as we had mostly little or  nothing in common.  My aim, as encouraged by my parents, was to want a higher standard of living, not the challenging career of manual labor.  

To me, the Mind Prober uses the word “cautious” in what I regard as having an incomplete and negative connotation, that of fear and withdrawal.  I have looked caution up in a thesaurus stating nuances.  Some of these are, carefulness, attention, attentiveness, vigilance, and prudence, to mention a few. Viewed in that expanded context caution implies a careful analytical approach in any situation which may have very undue consequences. 

I was taught at Syracuse that in solving a problem, the answer is almost immaterial, it is the thought process leading to the answer that is critical.  Similarly in Philosophy a critical thought process is essential to separate a mere opinion from an in-depth analysis.  Even High School elementary geometry teaches the students how to solve a theorem by reasoning from elemental definitions.

Analysis requires informational data and possession of analytical tools to process the information.  This approach has enabled me to avoid many pitfalls in life.  Whether job related, financial, meeting the military requirements of my day, etc. After following my path, I have on occasion happened to later see an acquaintance or two who did not take the path that I did.  Their response was uniformly that I did the right thing in a given situation. They did not.

I summarize a recent example.  When employed by Nevada Power I retired in 1993 due to a reorganization. The company had provided a fixed benefit retirement program. I rejected outright a lump sum payment. I chose the option to maximize my retirement amount and ensured myself with a term policy to protect Margery. Unfortunately for her she died before I did.  

Twenty years later I received a glossy brochure from the now NV Energy offering me this once in a lifetime opportunity for a lump sum payment.  Interestingly, after 20 years of drawing a pension, the lump sum offered was greater than that offered in 1993.

 After some quick tax consequence calculations, and considering the unknown risk I would be undertaking, I set up a meeting with my bank investment VP.  She reviewed the offer, and interviewed me about my personal finances.  She then ended the interview by telling me that if she offered me a risk free investment for the same amount for the rest of my actuarial life, she could lose her license due to malpractice and misrepresentation. 

I have many more examples but this makes the point.  On the other hand, I may have missed exciting high risk ventures which might have had a great reward, but most likely  at least bankruptcy. I do not withdraw at a hint of disapproval or criticism, but analyze for potential outcomes and choose the one that looks best to me.   

This attitude has stayed with me all my life.  Caution has served me well and I don’t take it to extremes.  I owe nobody, I own my house,  and investments are worth well into the 6 figures.  My health is quite good for my age.  I have no regrets, as ” Edith Piaf” sang, but to some extent, I have emotionally shut myself off from the mass of humanity. So what?  Perhaps I am slightly into the range of the Autistic Syndrome, but then so were many engineers, physicists, mathematicians,scientists, etc.  Good company.

If you look again at Marge’s assessment you can sense the gulf.  She sought novelty and spur of the moment action.  I was, and am analytical, looking into what might happen, what might go wrong and how to plan on that possibility, etc.  So the groundwork was in place for major misunderstandings.  We were both measurably more intelligent than average and went to Syracuse University on full academic scholarships.  We had that in common, and common interests  in music, art, etc.

One specific example and then I will call it quits.  After moving to Allentown and working for PP&L I often went out for a morning with one of the general construction foremen to visit job sites and see what the crews were doing, their problems, etc.  On one such trip we visited an ongoing housing development project.  I thought it was well thought out, reasonably priced and generally a nice place to live when finished.  So, one day I said to Marge, “Lets go out to the XYZ development I visited early this week and look at the model homes.”  

This we did and my assessment was the same, it was a well thought out development.  Days pass, and Marge comes up and asks “When are we going to move in”  She enthused about possibly of moving in to a new house, who was going to sleep where, appliances, etc.  To me, the trip was just an afternoon’s outing to learn more about a place that intrigued me.  Some more info to file away in my mind for future reference.   Big difference in perception.

Marge thrilled about doing something new, and I, in my cautious way, was only gathering information. This was easily resolved, but I am certain many other not so obvious situations arose which were not resolved, at least completely.  

 That’s the first example of the personal application of the Mind Prober.  The program is capable of probing 8 people.  Marge was very secretive and never told me about this.  I would gladly have gone through the process myself.  I think an impartial understanding of our similarities, especially our differences, could have been very helpful. Stay tuned for more for at least a post-mortem review.     

Posted in 1970-1980, Allentown, Marital difficulties, Pennsylvania, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WASP (Not the Insect)

The emotional rush of being in love and a couple, both figuratively and physically, ended about when the relationship texts proclaimed, that is, about 2 years after making our informal commitment to each other.  Sure enough, we responded to the ancient call of nature and had our first child in 1962.  Ingrid was of course welcomed, though not planned for.  Marge very much wanted a second child, and Louise, was born in 1967.    Our nuclear family was complete.

A decade has passed since our marriage, and we definitely were White Anglo Saxon and Protestant.  We had our new home in the upscale suburbs, I had a job with PP&L I liked and made enough money that Marge did not have to even consider working.  Marge made several friends in our area.  We accepted our roles and acted our parts without regrets.  However, the script was rather vague and called for much improvisation.  I am sure both of us did the best we could, but even after a decade there was an invisible wall of tension.

 This did not appear when we were dating, perhaps because we were still living separate lives in separate places.  I don’t think either of us were really ready then for being together all the time. In 1970 we passed the decade mark of marriage, that in itself is a point many marriages did not reach.  All in all, we were doing fairly well.  

Marge left a copy of a letter to one of her girl friends in the Charismatic movement that deals with this. The date is October 1970. I don’t think she will mind sharing the part relating to us. 

“Now, I have something important to talk about, and unless you have a bit of time and can think about this, read it later, OK?  It is this: do you recall that once or twice when we talked some about husband-wife relationships last summer? Well, I finally got to where I can admit to a fear, unreasonable as it is, which comes between me and Bob, and it is all on my part, which is scared to death to let Bob in.  It is like a private room, the last stronghold as it were of my private person, and I defend it against all intruders, which includes Bob who should not be classed as an intruder but is.  Yet to truly make love with him, the two of us should become one, in that mysterious way, and yet my fearful reserving of this part of myself I cannot become one with him.  I am afraid to let go of myself for fear I would be lost. Now, I am more free that I used to be which no doubt makes it easier for me to see this and to admit it, but I don’t know how to handle it now.”

Of course I was to some degree aware of this tension, but had no idea of what caused it or what I could do myself to ease it.  Maybe the marriage was a mistake, but now we had two children to care for and Marge, though very smart, had no job skills.  I had seriously thought of divorce long ago but didn’t go through with it.  So, stay together for the children and hope things work out with time.  We did that, though did not vocalize it, maybe we should have done so and come to a rational solution.  I do not believe we were unique in this behavior.  

There is a book that has sold a gazillion copies in one form or another “The Five Love Languages: by Gary Chapman.  My bereavement therapist suggested it to me and I read it.  It is pretty elementary. It assumes, as an example, the wife wants to hear words of affirmation as being a very loving gesture. Her husband is working on his computer or with his phone in his ear.  He gives her expensive presents, which to him express love, but disappoints her. They are both confused and unhappy.

Each cares for and loves the other and unconsciously assumes that what is a loving gesture to him/her is exactly what partner  wants.  Their relationship experiences difficulty despite the best intentions of each partner acting on a faulty premise. They didn’t have a common love language vocabulary. The cure then is to follow the process in the book, with help if possible, to better understand each other.   A process such as this might have been of some help to us in understanding each other decades ago.   

 That could work assuming words meant the same thing to each other and the process does not deal at all with,  as in our case, Marge’s fear of loss. I  do believe that marriage is a 50-50 partnership and Marge did not, perhaps could not, express her deep fears to me. From the letter above, and other sources I don’t believe she could.  If so she would become vulnerable to being hurt.   I was clueless, unaware of this fear, this dread, and did not have her ability to express myself to her in a way that was meaningful to her.  

We played our WASP parts in a unconscious way.  Marge sewed clothes, even when we were in college and made some cute things for the girls.  She had learned to cook well.  For my part I was the provider and took  care of watching the finances, taking care of house maintenance, etc.  Marge took care of the home and we were both good parents, I truly believe better parents than our own were. They did the best they could, we did the best we could. 

Moving ahead a bit to another section of the Mind Prober software on Marge coping with stress:

“Stress makes M.F.’s life stormy. Pressures and disappointments are deeply felt by Ms. M.F.  Expect to see her making her distress known to everyone around.  She is likely to respond with emotional outbursts that come on like a storm, and then dry up soon afterward.  After her emotional bluster is over, she’ll be back to her normal self.  But be prepared for a rerun next time she feels pressure.”

The above quote is a reasonable self-description of Marge.  The scenario above did occur, not every day but often enough that I was at a loss to understand what was the matter.  The stress seems  internal as described above in her letter to her friend about fear and loss but not knowing how to handle it.  

On occasion after the storm was over Marge would sometimes try to explain it to me, but I had nothing in my background to understand what she was saying. We had differing love languages, and then some. I tried and nodded that I understood, but in truth I was clueless.  We both wanted a better life together but there was a big chasm in our mutual misunderstandings.

I have done some more Google and YouTube research on this computer program copyrighted in 1984. It was sold as a game. I think this was to avoid any legal liability if it were misused as having therapeutic value. This was not a win/lose competitive game, just a tool for some self exploration and perhaps some fun with friends.

Upon re-reading this draft post, and earlier ones I now realize that I have given a one-sided description of Marge’s personality and style, but nothing about myself.  The reason is that Marge kept records and I didn’t.  I have found in searching for more info on the Mind Prober that the program very possibly  is now available using current computer technology and available as a download or streaming version.  If so, even at this date, taking the Mind Prober program myself could be a valuable exercise. 

This post is getting lengthy so I will end with the promise to take the Mind Prober test myself if possible.  Keep you posted.


Posted in 1970-1980, Allentown, Coopersburg PA, Marital difficulties, Pennsylvania, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

1970 – Pennsylvania

We have now moved down here and into the house on Beverley Hills.  It was heart-rending to leave Vestal as we had made several improvements to the house to personalize it into being our home.  Originally, we had planned on staying in the Binghamton area.  However, it had become plain to me that the company I worked for, GAF, was slowly going down the tubes and I didn’t want to go with it. Also, I received my MS from Binghamton University in June 1969 which added another credential to my resume.

For Marge, it meant leaving the family she had in the area as well as new friends she had made.  She  become seriously involved in the Christian Charismatic movement and developed friendships that were meaningful to her and it was difficult to leave them. I did not share her enthusiasm for this movement, but she  became much less withdrawn than she had once been and was easier to live with.  I was not against the Charismatics,  just not my way of doing things.  So, in that way her commitment was really beneficial to each of us, and also to our marriage.  We had a talk about this and I told her I could sense a difference in her, she was easier to live with, and that I recognized the change her decision and commitment had made. I tried to avoid upsetting her by moving from the house and area we had planned on living for some time. We did discuss the pros and cons of moving and what to look for after the move.  I don’t know what else I could have done.

Marge had a dread about both loss and being alone.  I didn’t realize to what degree this affected her until sorting out her papers after her death.  To some extent she did share with me her dislike of loss of any kind. She was the youngest of 3 sisters.  Sister Pat was 5 years older than Marge, and her oldest sister, Anne was maybe 8 years older.  Once in a while they would play marbles as a pasttime.  The last game Marge played with them the older sisters said they were playing “keepers.”  Marge did not understand the meaning of the word and when the game was over, Marge wanted her marbles back.  Her sisters told her no, that wasn’t the kind of game we decided to play so they got to keep what was her loss.  This was very distressing to Marge and this distress over loss of any kind stayed with her all her life.

 I do recall an event which happened later here in Las Vegas.  We had gone to a movie in what was the first multiplex here.  We were about to get in the car when she discovered one of her earrings was missing.  She started crying very hard about this and we went back to see if we could find the missing earring.  Perhaps the set had some special meaning to her, unknown to me, I have no idea.

Fortunately we got back in, I think I explained the problem as Marge was very distraught and crying.  We got back before the theater cleaner got to where we had sat and we found the missing earring.  To me the earrings were nothing special or costly, a set that one could buy in a department store for a few dollars.  Of course it made sense to try to find the missing one but Marge’s reaction seemed out of proportion to me.  I kept my opinion to myself naturally.

Loss and loneliness may be related.  Marge wrote a paper in high school, for herself, not as a work to be graded.  This combines relationship loss and being alone and not being understood.  As far as I know, I am the only male in her life that did not either abandon her, or recognize her feeling of need as a way to manipulate her.

The honeymoon was over when we moved into our first lodging, a one room apartment not far from the University.  I had to leave her as I left for work, so she was then alone until I returned.  All the old negative feelings and fears returned to her and she was entirely different from the girl I had dated.  I did not understand what had happened to her.

I suggested early on that we try seeing a therapist since she was still a student and we could use the student health facilities.  This did not work since Marge quit when the therapist starting to ask about her father.  Her father had divorced her mother when Marge was in High School.  He was an officer and served as such in WWII so was not home much.  Loss again.

In many ways, I was similar to her father.  I could not remedy her childhood feelings of loss and distrust of men in general.  I did my best to involve her in decision-making when we moved which is my reason for re-hashing former posts.  Marge’s old fears were not far from the surface.  I don’t know even now what I could have done differently, but I was dimly aware that this negativity existed, though did not understand it.

I don’t know if Marge knew how she appeared not just to me, but to others as well.  She left the output of a computerized personality test copyright 1984 and I think it is quite valid. The name of this is “Mind Prober.”  I Googled this and came up with the following comments:

“One of the many “psychoanalytical” programs released in mid-1980s, Mind Prober by Human Edge is an intriguing piece of software that tries to pinpoint your personality and gives advice based on your answers to questions, most of which consist of answering whether you agree or disagree with various adjectives used to describe you.

The program purports to help you understand yourself better as well as the minds if your friends, spouse, or anyone. Based on questions, the program gives you instant evaluation reports, from first impression to secret fantasies you may (gasp) harbor. The approach is quite scientific, and the results  are interesting.

For anyone who enjoys Alter Ego or Mind Mirror, Mind Prober is an early cut-to-the-chase self-analysis program that is well worth a look. The program also comes with a thick manual-plus-book that contains many chapters on how to better understand people around you. It’s also one of the first programs of its kind to ever come out for PC.”

 I will share parts of the report starting with the section that dealt with relationships.  This quote has nothing to do with me and describes quite well how Marge described herself using this program.   Living with her was not merely “may be puzzling” it was puzzling.

Ms M.F.’s approach to relationships may be puzzling”

“On a casual meeting, Ms. M.F. may seem to be a likeable sort of person.  If you become further involved with her, you might find she hides a fair amount of angry feelings.  She may seem to want a smooth satisfying relationship, but be pulled to do things to disrupt it.

You may wonder if someone took advantage of her in the past.  She can be friendly and then suddenly switch to being very annoyed or irritated.  It may not be obvious as to why her feelings changed, with the exception that she is likely to attribute her occasional upset to others.”

New Yard edited

102 Beverley Hills

I know I have written of our move to the Kutztown , PA area in a rental while we were house hunting.  Living there was hard on Marge as Ingrid had now started school,  and except for Louise who was a baby, Marge was isolated, had no friends, and the culture around us was on the fringe of the PA Dutch culture border.  Decent enough people, but English was almost a second language, and all our neighbors were farmers so we had nothing in common.  Marge held up pretty well, all considered, and we both looked forward to buying a house and settling in.

I have posted before about the house on Beverley Hills in some detail, and don’t need to repeat that.  Briefly, the house was a new 4 bedroom brick house on a half-acre lot in a new suburban development .  I had a good job with a solid first class company and had a good rapport with my boss who had hired me in 1969.  Ingrid had to change schools in mid year but handled the transition OK.  Marge had found a pre-school nearby for Louise so we were settling in to the middle class norm.  That was the environment we grew up in and we accepted it.  We had a lot of company, no radicals, hippies, etc. When I grew up, and my children also, it was reasonable for parents to expect them to enjoy a higher standard of living, but not for children growing up now.

We lived in PA for a decade.  In writing this post, I have found that chronology by itself is a logical approach, but too limiting.  Events and memories from the past affect the chronological present, and reflections from the chronological future add additional meaning and understanding.  I think so and will try that approach in the future.  Let’s try it and see.

Posted in 1970-1980, Allentown, Binghamton, Coopersburg PA, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For Marge

At one time in the past, we used to subscribe to the local paper, the LV Review Journal.  The paper had a weekly column by Stephen Kalas. Marge saved one of his columns, which I found and used as the preface to each of my posts. He is a behavioral consultant and many of his columns concern marriage and similar relationship, and has written a book, as well as his weekly column.

I cancelled my subscription a year or so after Marge died since, for the most part, it was a waste of paper which  quickly found its way into the recycle bin.  Once in a while though, I find one left by mistake in my driveway. A week ago I found one there, but not my Wall Street Journal and I did not notice the difference until I sat down with some coffee to read it.  This was the day for Mr. Kalas’ column so I read that at least.  I think Marge would have enjoyed it, so I enclose at least the lead paragraph and follow-up lyrics from a song he quoted.  so, this one is for Marge.

“The lyrics of singer-songwriter Emily Saliers are, to me, often genius.  But not so much as the words to her song “Loves Recovery”:

“During the time of which I speak

It was hard to turn the other cheek

To the blows of insecurity

Feeding the cancer of my intellect

The blood of  love soon neglected

Lay dying in the strength of its impurity

Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together

‘They’ve all gone and left each other in search of  fairer weather

And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast

To the slim chance of love’s recovery

But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal

As specs of dust we’re universal

To let this love survive would be the greatest gift we could give

Tell all the friends who think the’re so together

That these are ghosts and mirages, these thoughts of fairer weather

Though its storming out I feel safe

Within the arms of love’s discovery”

I did not know either the song or the artist.  I express the theme of this site as being together and the song expresses the difficulty it takes to make togetherness not merely a word, but a reality.  

What happened to love after “I do”? Were we really in love or was our experience simply an immature sensation that could not stand up to the force of reality?  We did seek for fairer weather when the storms and struggles of our life together raged about us. That came all too soon and our personal past lives were not of much utility in coping with our life together.

It has been almost 3 years since Marge died.  I am left with physical artifacts, some letters, pictures, personal notes and reflections, and of course, my memories.  This collection is what I have to work with. Of course they are incomplete and cover many decades.    

I started this site with the idea of chronologically restating the past about as it happened.  I have taken a flashback to posting some additional detail about our life together as students.I think it is time for me to keep these posts going in the general direction of following the passage of time in our lives. I realizing that I may not be correct but Marge can certainly not amend what I write.

 What I can do, is to accept that, particularly when things did not go too well with us, try to make these posts as balanced as I can.   Good, bad and merely so-so, our life was a 50-50 relationship.  I will make more of a conscious effort in conveying that, first to myself and then to whoever reads these posts as well.

Yes, at times we both sought fairer weather.  I live in NV with fair, if not very hot weather.  We welcome the occasional rain, and especially the snow when it comes about once in 5 years.  I would not want 12 months of July.

 Sure, we had cracks in our relationship and repaired them best we could.  The result, from the outside, I am sure appeared irregular and amateurish.  But in the end, it lasted a lifetime, not as poetic an expression as the song Mr. Karas quoted, though I think, says much the same.

I almost decided to quit these posts as I had and do have, more than a little difficulty in  both understanding and writing of our mature life.  I will never get it 100% correct, and the result will be irregular and amateurish as well.  But no. I’ll do what I can with what I have, so please don’t go away, and bear with me.   


Posted in Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Parting Words-May 1958

In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet speaks the following famous words “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”  Of course, since we know the play, things do not turn out as she expected for either of them.

May was the last month of the second semester at Syracuse when Marge and I parted; going our separate ways for the summer. Early in this series of episodes, I wrote about our last time together in the park.  I am not certain of the day, but I believe probably Saturday May 17. We tried to discuss what our relationship to date meant to each other, and what the future might be.  I know that I was uncertain whether I was the right guy for her and tried to express this to her.  I liked her very much, cared for her, and enjoyed being with her very much.  But……

I think now that my unease was partially due to the different ways in which we used words.  I did not read  fiction at all unless required for a course.  By this, I mean the great literature of the ages, plays and poems.  I did enjoy non-fiction works, such as history, biography, writings on the social and hard sciences, etc.

 Marge was about a direct opposite from me in that she devoured works of fiction and very seldom read non-fiction unless it related to gaining information about a very specific situation.  She had a vast vocabulary and at times other people had difficulty comprehending what she was saying because of this.

With the benefit of hindsight, I believe that at a gut level, I thought we would have some problems relating after the bright glow of dating became very dim.

 This website is about both of us, written as honestly as I can.  Today, I am going to copy verbatim the last letter Marge wrote to me that semester.  The date of the letter is May 18, 1958, posted at noon on the 19th and I probably received it by the 21st at latest.  Final exams were the next week and I was studying for them the week of the 17th.

Marge’s letter

 This is the sort of letter that should not be sent. I wonder what I’ll do with it.

I want to say “thank you” for being strong. And I want to say “Forgive me” for making it so hard.I wanted you to stay, this evening, and last night too, but it would not have been good if you had.

Would you like to know something?I think the nicest thing you ever did was come to see me last night, when you could not stay, and should not have left your work at all. I can not explain what that meant to me, but it meant an awful lot.

I guess I’ll build some moral fibers.

Blessings be upon your dear little pin-pointed, unicornish head, and have a merry first week of final exams…….


Page 2

  • I love you,
  • Not only for what you are,
  • But for what I am with you.
  • I love you,
  • Not only for what
  • You have made of yourself,
  • But what you are making of me.
  • I love you for the part of me
  • That you bring out.
  • I love you
  • For putting your hand
  • Into my heaped up heart
  • And passing over all
  • The foolish, weak things
  • That you can’t help
  • Dimly seeing there,
  • And for drawing out
  • Into the light
  • All the beautiful belongings
  • That no one else had looked
  • Quite far enough to find.

I still cherish that letter and it means as much today as it did all those decades ago.

Posted in Pre Marriage life, Relationships, Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wilson Cottage – Syracuse University

I have rambled  about myself with little concerning Marge. Now I try to remedy that as best I can. This is a copy of the cover letter Marge sent me after, what I thought, was a disastrous first real date, the disaster due entirely to me. She had stapled to it a hand typed copy of “DOWN WITH PIGEONS” written by a humorist, Robert Benchley. The letter is old and wrinkled, but then so is the author of this post.

Pigeon letter from Marge

Pigeon letter from Marge

Marge’s letter to me, was saying “Silly man, I really enjoyed going downtown on our date to see Cinerama.  Let’s get together again soon.”  I hadn’t blown it and I was not going to let her implied invitation go unanswered. Now I include my response, written in the same stiff formal prose as her  letter.

Pigeon Letter response by Bob

Pigeon Letter Response by Bob

Do these letters seem to you a strange way to begin a lasting relationship between a boy and a girl? They certainly do not read like typical love letters, but they were. It is certainly not the “Across the crowded room” and bingo!, nor the wham-bang-alakazam instant rush of recognition. Marge had a “quirky” sense of humor that I valued and enjoyed. We started to see each other often as well as call on the phone.

On April 21, I called her around 9:00 p.m. and we just chatted for a while and I said good-bye in about 5 minutes. Then, surprising me, in another 5 minutes Marge called me and said she wanted to see  and talk to me. Naturally, I drove the Plymouth around to pick her up. She had taken a 12:00 leave from the house-mother and we just drove around. We talked for a while, parked for a while and talked some more. I don’t remember the specifics, but like peeling an onion, we were throwing away the useless  outer layers.

Please don’t think that my memory is so precise as to exact times. I do remember the event very generally and I have a letter Marge wrote to her Mom about this. Since this site is about both of us, I think it will be OK to quote some of Marge’s April 21, 1958 letter to her Mom:

“Dear Mom,

Tonight – well tonight has been wonderful.  I can’t really say why, it certainly didn’t start out that way, but – tonight has been wonderful. …( I have been and, I quote “balled up” unquote.) I called Bob – I wanted to see him and talk to him. I thought he could un-ball me.

…I realize it doesn’t sound quite right; but Mom, I came in at 11:45; I was with him less than two hours; and I am full of peace;  We came to no momentous decisions; nothing was decided, and yet I am full of that lovely quiet peace!

I want to tell you how wonderful it is, and I cannot. I cannot tell you what happened – it is kind of like some wondrous secret that must be kept.

I can only tell you this – my eyes feel like they are glowing, and my mouth is in a small, quiet smile; and inside there is a very wonderful knowingness that everything is right.”

I cannot come anywhere close to Marge’s ability expressing herself in words, but I want to give you a spacial reference to the addresses shown.  I have already written plenty about the Infirmary, but nothing really about where Marge lived, Wilson Cottage on South Crouse Street. Here is a map showing the approximate relationships of our two residences. Marge lived right around the corner from me.

Map of Syracuse University in 1958

Map of Syracuse University in 1958

 I did access the S. U. Archives and did find a little information on the Cottages, as S.U. called them.  I include that below. The buildings are in the Victorian style,  once private residences. Probably for University teachers and staff people. I am thankful that the Archives have at least this much information, they have been helpful but I can’t specifically identify Wilson. The photo was originally a postcard taken in the early 20th century.  Time and copying has dimmed the contrast of this photo so I have warmed it up a bit with a sepia tint. Imagine any of the three houses as being Wilson, you might just be correct. 

Cottage Row, Syracuse University

Cottage Row, Syracuse University

I do have one photo of Marge and I at Wilson.  The occasion was the Engineers Ball dinner at the Brae Lock Inn in Cazenovia, NY, about 35 minutes away.   In February I was elected into the Alpha Pi Mu chapter of the Industrial Engineering honorary society, Pi Alpha Mu.  The Ball included recognition of new members.  Of course, I invited Marge to go with me. Marge had a Kodak Duraflex reflex camera and she had another girl take our photo. The photo’s date is May 10, 1958.  I am the guy looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

Marge and I on our way to the Engineer's Ball

Marge and I on our way to the Engineer’s Ball

Marge saved another photo from the same film roll.  I don’t know exactly where this photo was taken,  but I have so few photos from that time, I include it.

Marge at Syracuse Univ. May 21, 1958

Marge at Syracuse Univ. May 21, 1958


Marge had good reason being cautious.  Her parent’s marriage ended the prior year and, as I wrote before, at about her age of 10, she decided that no men were trustworthy based on her father. During High School and her Freshman year at Syracuse, boys and men had drifted in and then after a while, drifted out of her life. I knew extremely little about her past nor her resulting emotions.   Possibly, had I, I would have been more understanding of her temperamental moods.  

 I was not then, nor am I  now an expert on understanding women. I dated some, and had summer romances in the resorts where I worked. Those were pleasant experiences, but in no way special.

  I understood that I did not want to lose Marge, she was definitely special and I was not going to drift away.  We were falling in love, a new experience for both of us.  In our future we experienced ups, downs and in-betweens, misunderstandings, doubts, and  other negatives, as do many couples.

Through the decades of our couplehood,   we  really belonged together.

Riverview Cemetery, Hancock, NY

Riverview Cemetery, Hancock, NY

We still do.





Posted in Pre Marriage life, Relationships, Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fish Tales

Most of us have seen a photo of the earth taken from a satellite, or space ship of some type.  The earth, from this vantage, appears as a blue globe against a black field of darkness. Water covers eighty percent of the earth’s surface providing the distinctive blue color of our planet when seen from a distance.  Interesting also, is that our own bodies are eighty percent water as well.  This coincidence goes further yet if we compare an embryonic fish and an embryonic human, as they are very similar in shape and appearance. Cousins maybe? In this blog, I  share some of my reminiscences about fish and fishing.

At this point, I must introduce my father, John Frantzen, as most, though not all, of my fishing memories involve him also.  Dad was born in the year 1900 in the western part of New York state.  He was a first generation American with a Swedish mother and a Danish father.  In the depth of the Depression, 1932, he took a NY Civil Service exam resulting in a job offer for a clerical position in the NY Corrections Department at Clinton Prison at Dannemora, NY. The prison was, and is a maximum security facility established in 1845.  This village is in the extreme northeast corner of the state in the Adirondack mountains.  The mountains in this area hold an iron ore that was of excellent quality, but very expensive to mine.  The town’s name is from an iron mining town in Sweden.

At that time in this country, any job was a good job so he accepted the offer.  I remember a conversation we had when I was 10 years old or thereabout Dad stating that his original intention was to take the job until the economy improved and then move out.  Love put a change in this plan when he married my mother in 1934 and I came along in 1936. Dad earned a promotion to become a warehouse foreman in the prison.  He stayed there until his retirement in 1967.

Clinton Prison & Dannemora composite by R.J.F.

Clinton Prison & Dannemora composite by R.J.F.

New York has many lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams resulting from glacial movement in the last Ice Age.  Fishing in all seasons was very possible and popular.  Fishing was a male hobby, I can’t recall ever seeing a woman or girl fishing.  I don’t know why, there certainly weren’t any rules, perhaps this was a present day version of the hunter-gather stage of development where the men hunted ( and fished) and the women gathered and cooked.  This is a surmise on my part, though my own observations themselves are true.

Many species of fish exist as do ways to catch them.  I decided to limit this blog to my memories of ice fishing, as I enjoyed this.  This is a style of fishing  practiced in Canada and the upper Northern states of our country. The time is the late 1940s to the mid 1950s when I graduated from high school and went to college.

The simplest form of ice fishing is on a lake frozen solid enough to safely hold your weight.  The first thing to consider is dressing warm enough to stand the temperatures without undue discomfort.  In that time period this need translated into wearing a lot of wool. Long wool underwear, wool shirts, wool coats, pants and wool hats.

 Of course, you have to make a hole big enough in the ice to fish through. At that time the NY law allowed each fisherman to open 5 holes. The  tool of choice was an ice “spud”.  The spud maker ground a  file about 1.5- 2 inches wide to a sharp bevel and welding that to a 5′ long pipe. Any garage could do it for you.  You used it by banging the tip on the ice to chip away the hole you wanted. Now you can buy manually and power operated ice augers which are more efficient.

Rather than try find words to describe an ice fishing tip-up, I enclose a Flickr photo of a current model.

Ice Fishing Tip-Up

Ice Fishing Tip-Up

As you can see, the tip-up rests over the hole in the ice. To use it, You bait the hook and drop it to the distance wished and then the cock the  little flag.  If a fish bites, the flag tips up and the fisherman takes in the line and removes his fish. Perch and often bass are caught this way.  On a good day, working 5 holes you could go home with a sizeable fish string.  On a not-so-good day the fisherman could find a place to sit, drink coffee in a Thermos, etc.

 On one such day, I became bored and wandered around the pond looking for something interesting.  There existed a small island about 8′ in diameter that I wandered over to. Snow had blown in around the edge of the island and I took a step into this.  SURPRISE, There   was no ice underneath and one leg went thru the snow into the water.  I was able to get out quickly with no harm done other than a soggy pants leg.  Dad and his friend, Harold Wrisley, came to my rescue, I removed my wet pants and they squeezed most of the water out of them.  That was the end to that fishing trip.  We picked up our gear and drove home.

Another variation of ice fishing was in a little building, called a hut, shack, shanty or something similar.  Here is one of many variations on this style.

Ice Fishing Hut - Flickr photo

Ice Fishing Hut – Flickr photo

The purpose of the hut was to give a more warm and comfortable space for, at most, two people to fish.  The downside of having a hut was that, once in place, it was there for the season. Dad rented a spot for his hut, as did  many others, on land until the ice became thick enough to support a small hamlet of  huts. An all male hamlet at that.  Even if a guy did no fishing, he could have a few beers, play cards with buddies, or otherwise get out of his house.

 When the ice froze solid,  a tractor towed the huts onto  the ice and set them in place.    The process reversed when the season was over. The name of this location was Gravelly Point, on the shore of Lake Champlain near Plattsburg, NY. A geological name would have been Gravelly Cove, as it was, in fact, a cove. The shoreline at that place consisted  entirely of small stones, many flat enough to skip on the water. This scene was ideal for ice fishing since the water was 100′ deep even at a short distance from shore.

Dad’s shanty was better looking than the one in the photo above.  It was about 6′ long and 4′ wide resting on wooden runners with a peaked roof above, like a little simple house.  The floorboard had four inset covers that, when removed, provided a spot to make the necessary hole in the ice.  We had a kerosene heater for warmth, and folding camp stools to sit and fish upon. The shanty even had a WWII calendar for 1942 featuring pin-up Betty Grable on the wall for art.  We fished  with small wooden “jigging” sticks that held the fish line with two hooks on the end.  We baited each stick and with one in each hand, lowered the hook to the desired depth. Then we sat and “jigged” the line in each hand until we felt a bite. Quickly setting the hook, we raised the line to remove our catch. Sometimes there was nothing, but often a fish.

I learned that in this deep water, different fish favored different depths.  At about 10 feet from the bottom, Smelt proliferated. The freshwater Smelt in Lake Champlain were about 8″ long and travelled in schools.  If we were lucky  being  above a school, we could easily catch a gallon or more to put in our fish pail.  Fishing done,  we would lock up, leave and return home.  There we cleaned the Smelt by removing the head and entrails, no scaling at all needed, and it became Mom’s turn.  She pan-fried the fish while making dinner.  Smelt, living in cold water are very fatty; we ate the fried fish whole, bones and all in about two bites.  Very tasty indeed, especially after a day outside in the winter.

At a water level above that favored by Smelt the Cisco fish lived their lives.  An adult Cisco was about a foot long and weighed from 1 to 2 pounds.  They were a whitefish and if we were not lucky fishing for Smelt, it was worth trying for Cisco as they were a good table fish and three or four was a decent catch.  I can remember on occasion catching and eating them when we got home, if Smelt weren’t biting

An ice fishing tale would not be complete without a Ling episode.  Lings are known by different names in different locations but at Gravelly they are Ling.  I believe they are a member of the Cod family, but not positive. Unlike most fish, Ling are active in winter, and almost inactive in summer.  That is why so many anglers have never seen or caught a Ling. They can easily weigh 2 or 3 pounds each. Neither Dad or I had caught anything one Saturday and the afternoon was getting late.  I said “Why don’t we try to catch a Ling, I never saw one.” Dad said he would go out and ask around and see if anybody else was catching them. He came back with the news that others were catching them and at about what depth.  We baited our hooks and dropped the lines in.  In about 15 minutes I got a bite and pulled in about a 2 pound Ling. What a thrill I had!

We put fresh water in our fish pail and placed the Ling in it.  It was dark when we got home, too late to find the best way to cook the fish, so we saved it until next day.  Our home, like all Northern homes had a cellar, and in our cellar was a special barrel for fish. It had a hole drilled about 6″ from the top with an L shaped piece of pipe as a drain to the little gutter around the base of the cellar.  We would trickle cold water in to keep it fresh. We put the Ling in it as soon as we could. Next day, Mom had found a recipe that looked good and we went down to clean the Ling. Bad News. Mr. Ling had died in the night and was no good for eating.  I’ll never forget catching it though.

Several of Dad’s friends and co-workers had been  sport fishermen as well.  Sometimes he went fishing by himself, sometimes with a companion and many times he took me along.  We would fish on the shore of a stream or a pond, or rent a boat and troll for fish.  On the rare occasions when I did get a bite, it was exciting in that it broke the boredom I was feeling.  I usually resented these outings due to this boredom, though I never complained.   I wanted to do more active things, play with friends, ride my bike somewhere, things like that. I did like ice fishing in the shanty though.

 It was not until after Marge’s death and my sessions with my bereavement counsellor, Christine, that I came to grips with this resentment.  We had reached the point where I was getting though the extreme grieving for the loss of Marge, when we talked of other deaths in my family.

I commented about my feelings for my Dad, his distant personality, and his want to spend his time off in lakes, woods, and streams.  Christine  shared with me that my Dad’s behaviour was very similar to that of policemen, and military men on active duty.  While working, they always were constantly  aware of possible serious trouble.  In Dad’s case, in his workday a fortress-like prison with high concrete walls surrounded him.  Naturally, when possible he enjoyed being able to relax his guard, and enjoy just existing within nature with no concrete walls. Christine’s explanation really opened doors of understanding for me.

I had no idea as a child what the stress of his work life produced and how he reacted to that.  He was also doing his best to share with me his only sports activity, that of fishing. He was slowly introducing me to men’s world and helping me grow up, but I didn’t realize it then. It has taken me forty years to fully appreciate my father, how in his quiet way he was nurturing me,  and to rid myself of resentment that had long been hidden.

My family and I moved to Coopersburg, PA in 1970.  About a mile from our house was a pond of water covering maybe 2 acres.  It featured a little hut with a sign advertising Sure-Fire Fishing. Farm raised trout stocked the pond and the entrance fee covered the charge for a pole and some bait.  The fee guaranteed one fish or your money back and a nominal charge for more than one.  One nice Saturday, I asked my daughter Louise, about 8 then, if she wanted to go down and try fishing. She thought that was a good idea so down we went, got the fishing equipment, I baited the hook and showed her how to cast it into the pond.  Sure enough, in about 10 minutes she caught a 10″ trout.  She was delighted in her childish way and I was very happy for her.

We took the fish home to show Marge and younger sister Louise what Ingrid had accomplished.  I agreed to clean the fish (Louise did now want to learn that) if Marge would fry it and we could each have a bite or two.  This was a big concession for Marge, as she hated the look, smell, and taste of anything at all fishy.  We had a trout dinner that evening and made a fuss over Ingrid’s accomplishment.

Thanks Dad, for taking me fishing with you.


Posted in Dannemora, NY, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Flee Flu

An old gag goes like this “I opened the door… and in flew Enza.” In 1957 an influenza pandemic struck. It flew in with a vengeance.  A description follows from the web site WWW.Flu.gov.

“In February 1957, a new flu virus was identified in the Far East. Immunity to this strain was rare in people younger than 65. A pandemic was predicted. To prepare, health officials closely monitored flu outbreaks. Vaccine production began in late May 1957 and was available in limited supply by August 1957.

In the summer of 1957, the virus came to the United States quietly with a series of small outbreaks. When children returned to school in the fall, they spread the disease in classrooms and brought it home to their families. Infection rates peaked among school children, young adults, and pregnant women in October 1957. By December 1957, the worst seemed over.

However, another wave of illness came in January and February of 1958. This is an example of the potential “second wave” of infections that can happen during a pandemic.”

The flu came to Syracuse U. in the late fall of 1957.  It was a  very nasty disease and the Infirmary was full, almost overflowing.


Syracuse University Infirmary

Some cases that developed complications such as pneumonia or called for more complete  care transferred to the Hospital of the Good Shepherd  behind the Infirmary. I was in it myself maybe 2 times for X-rays, no treatment. The building appears severe and grim, the Gothic Revival style popular in mid 19th Century. I, and many others were re-assured that a good hospital was so close the University. The photo and data are from the Syracuse University Archives. 

Good Shepherd Hospital - Syracuse U.

Good Shepherd Hospital – Syracuse U.

Constructed: 1875
Cost: $20,000
Acquired: 1915
Materials:: Wood, with brick and stone additions
Renovated and Expanded: 1916 and 1918
Location: Marshall Street at University Avenue
Renamed: 1964 

Margery contracted the flu in Mid December after I had met her.  We were not dating but did know each other.  Look carefully at the Infirmary and you will notice a covered walkway to the right of the admitting building.  The building to the far right is the women’s wing of the infirmary.   The women’s wing was full at the time of which I write, with beds located in the walkway as a temporary measure. Marge occupied one of these beds.

I don’t remember how I learned that Marge contracted the flu.   Perhaps someone who knew both of us passed this on to me.  Men  not part of the medical staff weren’t  permitted in the women’s wing for obvious reasons.  However, one of the nurses on duty allowed me to come in and spend a few minutes with Marge.  I was thankful for the nurse bending the rules and told her so.  

Marge did not look good at all, very ill really. She was one wan woman. The Angel of Death was not hovering, but the Angel of Feeling Really Bad was there.  I blathered on about how sorry I was for her, hoped she got well soon, etc.   When Marge got well enough for discharge she was physically exhausted. She was in no shape to attend classes, especially in December.  I believe she went home for a week to recuperate.  I thought I had a letter to her mom about this, but I can’t find it. However, this absence did not harm her grades for the semester. That was the good news.

My part of this story requires you to take the way-back machine to 1946.  My parents rented a home on Main Street, Morrisonville, NY in 1939 just after its construction finished. The owner planned to move in himself when he retired in a few years.  Mom and Dad knew this and the owner decided to retire in 1946.  Dad then rented half of an older duplex on Church Street.  How did it get that name?  Because the Roman Catholic church was in the middle of it. The street ended about two lots down  from us with a T intersection at Maple Street.  

A teen-aged girl lived with her parents on the second house around the corner on Maple Street. Her name was Anne, though I can’t remember her last name at all. St. Anne is venerated by  both the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. I am neither, though I do respect their theology.  Since upper NY in the 30s was perhaps 85% Catholic, I believe Anne’s namesake may well have been St. Anne. Our parents used Anne as a baby sitter occasionally until we bought our own house in Dannemora, NY and moved there in 1949.

 A new nurse came to work in the Infirmary in the middle of the 1957 semester. An other nurse introduced me to her informing me her name was Anne. Anne was now married, had two children, and credentials as a nurse.  We didn’t recognize each other right away.  You know how it is; you see someone who looks vaguely familiar but you can’t place him/her.  It was like that with Anne and I.  It was very pleasant re-connecting with someone from an earlier stage in life.  We would chat briefly from time to time about what we were doing now, gossip from the old hometown, etc.

OK, that’s the back story. Now to my flu episode.

By January 1958 the flu had peaked and I did not contract it.  I attributed this to working in the Infirmary with the place full of flu patients and figured this boosted my immunity to it. WRONG! I came down with the flu and it was truly horrible.  I suffered from these symptoms: fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle and body aches, and headaches. The fever, body and muscle aches, and headaches were the worst. 

 I cannot remember feeling so miserable even when I had pneumonia twice as a child. Penicillin was gradually available to civilians after the end of WWII. I would not have lived until my 10th birthday otherwise since I was very ill with pneumonia in the fall of 1946.  Flu can develop into pneumonia and I was quite worried about this possibility.

  Since I already lived in the Infirmary, the staff did not have to find room for me.  The flu was viral and treatment was to rest, drink a lot of water, and regularly take the all-purpose APC pills for some pain relief. I lived in my bed in a sickly haze, staggering to the bathroom, and lurching back to my bed of pain. Poor me.

About half-way through my bout with the flu, unknown to me, Anne came on duty and asked where I was.  One of the other nurses told her I had the flu and  Anne could go up to see me if she wanted.  I was in my bed, hurting and feeling sorry for myself and in comes Anne.  A pleasant surprise.  she said “Bobby, I heard you too came down with the flu.  Turn down your sheet and I”ll give you an alcohol rub.  It will make you feel better for a while.” (I hate the diminutive of Robert “Bobby” but anyone who knew me when I wore short pants knew me as that regardless of my age, and I accepted it.”)

I was only wearing my shorts, no hospital gown, so it was easy to pull the sheet down for the rub. It was wonderful!!! “Pack up my cares and woes” as the song goes. I had those in abundance and wished for them to disappear. Anne’s Tender Loving Care yielded results almost immediately. My bodily aches and pains were greatly reduced and the evaporating alcohol reduced my fever.  My cares and woes were gone, I knew I would be OK in a day or so and I knew I was not coming down with pneumonia, which I feared.   The total sensation was better than sex.  Not of course that sex would be even a remote possibility.  As I reminisce about that time, here was a woman who had looked after me when I was a child, had now taken the time to look after me again, albeit shortly, as I was an almost adult.  That meant a lot emotionally.  The  alcohol evaporating and cooling me, the feel of a woman’s hands massaging my back, was soothing and sensual.  Professional while still being caring.  I treasure that memory yet, after almost 60 years. 

I recovered enough to get dressed and walk around in a few days.  I knew Anne’s back rub had a definite healing effect.  We were having a thaw then, and I got dressed in a sport shirt, sweater and my corduroy suit.  Yes, they were in fashion in 1957-58 for a casual but a bit dressy look. Mine was a very dark green color.  I walked around the block, checked my car to find out if it still started and was OK, and returned to my room.  This did tire me, so I rested, though I think went to one class in the afternoon.  

After that,  my schedule returned to the normal routine.  I believe Marge’s did as well when she came back from her rest at home.  We both survived the flu pandemic, started dating in February, and moved along in our life together for a very long time. 








Posted in Pre Marriage life, Relationships, Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Simple But Not Plain

Once, particularly in the heyday of automobiles in this country, “America’s love affair with the car.” was a common phrase. Yes, an advertising cliché, but with some merit. Can you, can I, be in love with a car? I am not  anthropomorphic when I write about having an affair with a car. A car is more than two tons of metal.

 The whole gamut of human emotions is intrinsic to owning that vehicle. Like an awkward teenager fumbling in the back seat of Dad’s Ford with a date, I began to understand about the  emotions of owning a car.  Have to start somewhere. Your start was different. Maybe granddad bought you on your 16th birthday that cute convertible you adored. Maybe you scraped up enough from serving food to buy a beater. But it was yours.  Then, what’s next? Join me, let’s see what we find. 

The lovely girl drives her convertible into the High School lot, top down naturally. Outwardly she looks for a parking place, inwardly, she wishes to be looked at.  The guy with the beater, let’s say one of those 8 cylinder torpedo body Pontiacs with a back seat vast enough to set up housekeeping. He looks for a buddies car, pulls in next to it and gets out.  His mind is on the Friday night date with his girlfriend.  He revels in the potential possibilities of all that space in his Pontiac, the largest ever built.  

October 1957, the baseball World  Series is over (remember when that was a big deal?). The leaves are gone, the sky is gray, and I am  into my 4th year of college. Did you go to college?  I hope so.  A time to segue from childhood into adulthood. Not all learning is from classes and books , much knowledge comes from life experiences.  

My short-lived fling with the Buick is over, did this teach me anything?  It taught me that events often do not go as planned.  I did not have the levers of destiny in my hands.  I did learn how much I valued the freedom of movement an automobile provides, as well as the privacy of this movement. 

Please join me in a visual diversion.  Up until 1950, most auto makes produced a model called a coupé.  There were two versions of this , the business coupé, and the club coupé.  Both were two door vehicles, but shorter than a two door sedan.  The business coupé featured a very large trunk area. Its purpose was to hold sample cases, orders to deliver, etc.  The car’s market was to travelling salesmen. Roy’s father owned one as a second car to drive to work.  He would allow us to drive around it, maybe to get us out of the house for a while.  

The coupé was a popular body style.  In 1932 Ford produced a coupé (Model B) that was available with a V8 engine.  This was very  popular and was later THE car to alter into a hot rod.  The coupé was a feature in many Film Noir movies as it was ideal for closeup shots.  High Sierra and the Big Sleep are two such examples.  Chevrolet even made a coupé with a rumble seat available as an option.  I have only seen one in my life and here is a YOU TUBE video of one. The style continued into the early 1950s until the fin era came to us.

The club coupé had a small rear seat and a  somewhat reduced trunk area.   I enclose a YOU TUBE video of a 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe Club coupé.

A classmate of mine, Paul P. A. Kumm owned a 48 Plymouth Club Coupe.  He wanted to sell it for $100. The car was in good condition and I bought it from him.  As the video illustrates, simple but not plain, providing the privacy and freedom of movement that I craved.  I truly believe, that in its way, it too qualifies as a classic.  The car was in good condition and the price reasonable.  Multiply it by 10 for a price in today’s terms.  The budget buster was car insurance.  NY state assigned uninsured men under 25 to  a carrier from a state pool.   

I had the bad luck to draw the Allstate card.  That cost $200 for one year. Allstate was the worst insurance company I ever dealt with. I loathed, hated and despised them. Getting plates was easy and I was ready to roll.  WOW!

The Plymouth was easy to drive, and the small back seat came in handy many times.  One adult could easily sit in the rear,  two as well for a short distance.  On occasion, Roy and I took our girlfriends out for lunch or dinner such as to the New Smile restaurant.  Though far from being spacious, Roy and I could pull our seats forward to give the girls some room.  Enjoying an outing together more than made up for the limited space.  

November came and I was anxious to get my driver’s license.  Syracuse is sometimes named the Salt City due to the saline wells that produced salt long before incursion by settlers.  In winter it turned into Slush City.  Calcium chloride was a by-product of a local chemical company and was used copiously for snow removal on streets.  My first driving test was on such streets.  The test evaluator (brownies as we called them, due to their uniforms) flunked me for improper parallel parking.  I practiced this, re-took the test and passed.

The next step was to make a long trip.  My home town, Dannemora, NY is about 240 miles from Syracuse.  There were no interstates to make this trip in 1957 so it was at least a 6 hour trip.  I invited my roommate, Roy and a resident across from us, Benjamin Dizon, to come and spend Thanksgiving with me and my family.  We could share driving, it was nice to have company, and should trouble occur, there was help at hand.

There was reasonable weather then and Thanksgiving was a very pleasant experience for all. Returning to Syracuse, we did run into snow.  The wipers of cars in that vintage were vacuum operated.  When going uphill, the vacuum would drop and the wipers barely worked.  This did slow us down, but we drove carefully and returned with no real problems.

December arrives and the semester is coming to a close.  I pay no tuition because I have a scholarship.  I  have no room  charges in exchange for doing some light chores.  I do have to eat, and my parents help some there.  I now have a car, and by participating in paid drug experiments, have tax-free money for dates and gas. And, as a student, I get a draft deferment.  Life truly was sweet.  Maybe I should have become a professional student, what do you think?  

Finally, a personal retrospective, and a play on the words of the blog title today.  First we play a round of “compare and contrast.” You probably learned the concept in high school. I was born and educated in NY state,  earning two Bachelor degrees and one MS. I also have an Engineer’s license from PA where I lived for a decade.  Most of my professional life was as a manager in the electric utility industry.  I retired in 1993 and continue to live in Nevada. I enclose a photo of me taken earlier this year, and of my house where I have lived since 2000.

Bob 2015

Bob 2015

305 vista glen

Bob’s Home

Now for the other Bob, Robert Redford. We are both men born in the same year. There the similarities end.  By choice, I spent most of my working life in the utility industry.  Electricity is vital to our way of living.  During my work life, utilities, even publicly owned companies,  were state regulated. I valued my contributions in working for the public good.  Utilities were a necessity, but  not exciting.

So, I had a middle class education, worked in a middle class industry at middle class jobs.  I am now comfortably retired, and live in  a middle class development.  I have no regrets.

The other Robert (Redford)  has had a long career as an actor.  As such he is a famous person.  The movie industry itself is quite glamourous and dynamic, much more than the electric power industry.  I never even thought of being an actor, and I doubt Mr. Redford ever considered engineering as a career.  

In conclusion, my Plymouth truly was simple but not plain, and I am plain, but not simple. 








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Experimenting With Drugs

I experimented with drugs while at Syracuse University. Yes, and I am proud of this.   This activity was an added benefit of working at the Infirmary.


Syracuse University Infirmary, Waverly Avenue.

The Norwich Pharmaceutical Company started in 1887 in Norwich, NY and  exists today as a Pharma company  in Syracuse.  The medical Director of the Infirmary was associated with Norwich as part of their clinical trial drug development program.  I don’t know his exact title, though I do believe he was fairly high up in the medical hierarchy.  In 1957 he was middle-aged, about 45 or so, and likely held a Senior Scientist or similar position with Norwich.

Norwich developed a variety of pharma products. At some time in the development cycle, the drugs were evaluated with clinical observations from human volunteers.  What better place to find volunteers than at a large university?  

At the time I resided at the Infirmary, Norwich was doing much research on time release drugs.  I participated in many of these trials.  I will explain in some detail how this program worked, and then mention some of the other ongoing trials.  

The first step in the trial was to draw about 10 cc of blood from a volunteer, shortly before 8 am.  That established a base.  Then the volunteer swallowed a pill that contained the time release chemical including a tracer. Three additional blood draws were made at hourly intervals. These blood draws were analyzed to learn  how much of the tracer was released over time.   The infirmary was so close to the University that these draws could be made in the interval between classes.  This completed, each volunteer  received $10 for participating. Please note, tax-free money.

Then, gasoline cost $.25 a gallon, a movie ticket was $.75, and a good dinner went for $2.50 and a large sausage pizza $1.50.  I could have a dinner and movie date with a girlfriend and still have money left over.

 We residents made a point being on good terms with the staff to know the trial schedule. We referred to our compensation as “blood money.” We could easily count on one trial a week. Trials took no time or effort, just a little inconvenience and was better than slaving  away at a minimum wage job. I believe the hourly minimum wage then was $1.00. 

Some trials had undesired side effects.  I recall one trial that involved getting a shot in a butt cheek to check the carrier for a proposed drug. For this, we got $30.  Richard Novotnoy, another infirmary resident, and I went in for our shot and had breakfast after.

We were walking down Marshall Street and WHAM, I felt like somebody had hit my butt with a baseball bat as hard as could be.  It was a painful effort even to walk and driving was very difficult.  The car had manual transmission which was the norm for that time.  Shifting gears called for some fancy footwork with my right foot.  We limped our way home and reported what happened to us.  The Director was there and told us that every participant had the same reaction.  Some women were in such pain that they were sedated.  

The carrier was intended for use later with a real drug to be used for kidney disease.  Typical patients would be older citizens with renal disease.  If the carrier alone caused so much pain to young college students, it certainly would not be practical for real patients.  The trial stopped. In a day, I was uncomfortable but not distressed as I was the first day.  Was it worth it?  I think so and in a small way, I regarded this as my contribution to the common good.

Roy participated in some trials that I was not involved in.  One involved a study to decide the effect of UV on the skin after taking a genuine but trial drug.  Roy was fair-skinned and the study involved masking his thigh with the exception of a strip of plastic on the thigh.  This strip had  6 square holes, about the size of a postage stamp. The strip was covered in the beginning.   A research assistant would uncover the holes at predetermined intervals while Roy was irradiated by a sun lamp or similar source of UV radiation.  When the test was completed, his leg was uncovered and Roy had 6 small sunburned squares on his thigh.  The first square had the longest exposure and was severely sunburned.  The 6th was just pink.

I hope this had provided some insight into how the system worked.  I did trials until I finished school.  I volunteered for the NY Air National Guard in April 1959. I was given a cursory medical exam by an Air Force doctor.  By this time, my right arm was extremely pockmarked from all the blood draws I had undergone.  Doc took a long look at the scarring, then looked at me, but did not ask any question, so I said nothing.  I passed the physical of course.

So, I had given blood to aid developing new drugs.  For this I received a nominal monetary compensation.  It was a good deal all around and I am pleased that I took part.    



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The Meaning of a Classic

Early Fall had arrived to Syracuse in September 1957.  Roy and I had settled in to our room at the Infirmary, and were walking  on a Friday evening. We had left the infirmary on  Waverly, walked east and turned south on Walnut Ave, toward the University campus.  While walking, I noticed a For Sale sign on a car in a parking lot at University Place and Walnut.  A fraternity house was located on that corner, I don’t recall the name as I didn’t pay attention to fraternities.

 I was attracted to the car and said to Roy ” Lets go over and take a look.”    The car was a 1938 Buick Special 46c Phaeton.The color was dark red, maroon as was the common name for this color long ago.  I searched for a photo to show you and this is what I came up with.  It is from an ad by a convertible top company, Topsonline.com. Personally, I think the car shown below is a 1939 model, not 1938 as the ad states, but they were very close in appearance.


1939 Buick Special model 46c Phaeton convertible

I fell in love with the car.  This model was seldom seen and the owner, George Rodormer was asking $200 for it. Quite reasonable.  I asked if he would take a check and he agreed so I went back to the Infirmary and wrote a check and gave it to George.  I told him I wanted to drive it off and asked if he would leave his plates on for me until I could get the paperwork done for insurance and new plates.  He was agreeable to this,  though it was not a very legal arrangement.

I had a NY Learner’s permit then but no driver’s license.  Roy had a license so we got in and I drove it to his home in Port Byron, NY.

So, what was the meaning of this transaction?  For that matter, what is the meaning of anything.  For example, a $10 bill is just a piece of paper with words  and an engraving of Hamilton on it.  It has no intrinsic value, unlike gold which does.  It is a medium of exchange, and the holder can exchange it for $10 worth of goods and/or services.  Pretty dry stuff isn’t it?

Let’s take this a bit further.  What is the psychological meaning, or feeling that having this $10 means?  Of course, this varies immensely depending on the situation and the person.   If you were broke, the $10 could mean food to eat, clothing to replace worn out rags and enjoying an improved sense of well-being.  In 1957 $10 could also mean the ability to take a girl out, have a nice dinner, see a movie, and possibly some romance to top the evening off.

How about the car? That’s the point of all this.  Like many young men, I had an interest in cars since an early age.  I prided myself in being able to name the year, make, model, etc. of any car I saw.  Now I was the proud owner of a fairly rare car that was beautiful to me.  So, I felt pride of ownership, and a feeling of personal freedom, not having to rely on public transit.

 I could also fantasize a chase scene in a Noir film.  I would be at the wheel with pedal to the metal, engine roaring and tires screaming.  Edward G. Robinson types would be leaning out windows with revolvers blazing, and other gangsters after us similarly occupied.  Two buddies blazing away with 45s.  Deafening noise.  Then…the sound of a crash, and a glance in the rear view mirror shows our adversaries crashing over an embankment.  “Good shot Eddie, time to really move along.”  Sure.

Saturday I drove around with Roy and some of his buddies.  Great fun and with gas at about $.25 a gallon not too expensive.   I looked at YOU TUBE now and did find a short video of a 38 Buick 4 door convertible being driven off a car lot in 2012.  This is definitely a 1938 as can be differentiated by the grill.  Also the headlights were not faired in to the front end as they are in the image above.  I hope this video and the photo give some idea of the car I briefly owned.

Briefly?  Why so?  It’s like this:  After a pleasant afternoon of driving around country roads, we took Roy’s buddies home and drove back to his house.  Nice dinner and time with his family.  I really felt at home there.  Sunday though we had to hurry back to the Infirmary as we had chores to do before it opened on Monday.

 I still wanted to drive around a little and by dusk, had invited another friend with a license to drive around the Syracuse area.  That was fun and we were getting hungry.  It was nearly 8:00 p.m. We saw a Howard Johnson’s in the DeWitt area and pulled in.  We had a decent meal, probably the day’s special.  Then, back to the Buick for a drive home.

Then, Oh, Oh, you probably saw this coming.  The Buick would NOT start, no way.  I went back in to the restaurant, talked with the manager and told him my problem.  I said I would be back next day to take care of it in the daylight.  He agreed, but told me if I didn’t, he was having it towed.  Then, with a couple of bus changes, we got back to the University.  What a day!

Next morning, Roy and I took the bus route back to the restaurant with the dead Buick.  With the help from somebody, I think it was the manager who wanted to be sure we left, we able to get a push start and away we went.

When we arrived at the University, I drove back to the fraternity, parked the car about where we found it and asked for George.  Fortunately he was in at that time. I told him, politely but firmly, that the car did not run properly and I wanted to back out of the deal.  George was very reasonable.  We went outside and he checked the Buick over for damage. There was none, just maybe 100 more miles on the odometer. I returned his keys, George got in and tried to start.  DOA again. George returned my check as he had not deposited it yet.  He was more than decent about all this, though my backup plan was to go to my bank and put a stop order on my check, my Plan B.

I think, though I’ll never know, that the starter failed.  Starter relays were not universal yet, and the starter was engaged manually by pressing a large spring loaded pedal above the accelerator which engaged the starter gear with the flywheel. With the ignition on,  the starter would turn and the car would start. You had to quickly take your foot off the starter pedal as the next step. The spring would pull the starter away from the flywheel and that was it. A simple but reliable mechanical solution in design.

So, obviously not a failed relay, there wasn’t one. It had to be the starter.  It is not difficult to change a starter.  You detach the wires, unbolt the old one, remove the starter and bolt a new one on, tighten up and back in business. However, I had no tools, no place to work, and I knew next to nothing about car repair mechanics.

Sic transit gloria, For a brief period, I owned a great classic car.  Really, I would like to have it back today.  But I have no place to put it and the cost would be in 6 figures for a nicely restored car, or the cost to restore a car almost as old as I am.  I do own a very nice 1967 Mustang coupé, get compliments and comments from complete strangers. Still, of all the cars I have owned, I really liked the Buick best. The feature I liked best was the spares with their metal covers in the front fender wheel wells.

I am an engineer, not a writer, and certainly not a poet.  During a chance event, I noticed the Buick and that it was available.  I immediately bought it, and it was mine for a few days.  This action was unusual for me, no analysis, internal debate, considering alternatives etc. I just reacted.

 We had some adventures, good times, and even fantasies. It soon became clear that this was not meant to be a long-term relationship.  We had to go our own ways and now only memories remain. As my life moved along, I realized that  events, this time with people, could be very similar.

The Buick meant a lot to me, more than I can articulate. I will subtitle this post “My love affair with a Buick.”

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Infirmary Blues (?) Syracuse Style

Have you heard of the S.U. Infirmary? Recapping a bit, Roy and I roomed together at Watson in years 54-55.  I lived in G. Cleveland 55-56 and Roy took a year off.  We roomed again in G. Cleveland 56-57.  We lived in the Infirmary for school years 1957-58 and at least part of 58-59.  Here is a link to it.


I think it will be helpful to show you the Infirmary, and return  into how we got  there.


Syracuse Infirmary & Student Health Service


“Constructed: Prior to 1904
Purchased by SU: 1926
Location: 109, 111 and 113 Waverly Avenue
Cost: $45,000 for all 3 buildings
Materials: Wood frame
Demolished: 1971″

“The three neighboring structures served as the office of the Student Health Service, the Men’s and Women’s Infirmaries and housing for the Resident Physician or Nurse. Henry Health Center was constructed on the buildings’ former sites.

Sure looks inviting doesn’t it? We lived there about a decade after the photo was taken and it had been repainted when we lived there. The Infirmary mostly treated colds, sore throats, and minor cuts, bruises, and abrasions.  The usual treatment was giving  the patient a supply of APC tablets with instructions to take as directed. Come back in a week if necessary.  That did OK really, and the University Hospital was to our rear, facing Marshall Street.  They could handle more complex problems and procedures.

The car in the foreground is a 1947 Packard Clipper sedan, so the photo is from 1947 or a few years after. For you car lovers, here is a YOU TUBE video of such a model, fully restored. Personally, I preferred the look of the 4 door Clipper.  The somewhat larger and costly Packard model was bulbous by comparison.

When Roy and I lived there, our address was 111 Waverly Avenue, which is the center building with the sign over the entrance.  I do not recall there being a Resident Physician of Nurse. There was a director, an M.D. and a Head nurse during normal hours. The first floor was the admission office and waiting room, exam rooms, and offices and a small kitchen in the rear. 

On the second floor there was one large room facing the street, a hall to a communal bath down the center, and a smaller room on each side of the hall.  The large room housed two medical students who did work-ups and served as after hours emergency health providers, if necessary.  The other two rooms were decent sized and housed two students each.  Roy and I were in one, and different occupants in the other.  We got free board for duties such as floor polishing, snow shovelling, etc.  Not bad really, as it was close to the campus, and there were no RA types to watch us.  Of course we were expected to keep our area cleaned up and to respect each other as we were a small group living close together.  It was not unheard of for one of us (not me) to invite a girlfriend up to enjoy garret life in all its glorious fullness.  

It was ideal for Roy and I.  We were good friends,  got free lodgings, and in general were quite satisfied.  Occasionally we would swap Infirmary duties, double up etc. so the other person could have a weekend away.  We were both independent personalities, and did not feel the need to buddy up with someone just because we joined a group, such as a fraternity.  Ours was GDI and I think you can work that out by yourself.  For us at least, less was more.  Our first dorm, Watson was much like a barracks.  Grover Cleveland was an old apartment building and that was like teaming up with some buddies and renting an apartment which was OK, but had seen better days.  The Infirmary was more like living in your favorite old aunt’s Victorian home and sharing space with cousins you got along with, but didn’t see too often.  

How did we get the offer to come to the Infirmary?  I do not know, and have no written record.  The best that Roy and I can come up with is that it was through Al Peaslee as an intermediary.  Al lived in the Grover Cleveland apartment that I did in 55-56.  He shared the common room with the guy with the eyelid trouble.  Al was enrolled in the NYS Forestry College.  As a State school, the tuition was modest at best and many of the courses in the first two years were the same ones taught by Syracuse U.  There were a few Freshman forestry courses but by the time of the Junior year, almost all the advanced undergraduate Forestry courses were taught in the Forestry college, also on the Syracuse U. campus.

I think Al had some sort of job, I don’t know where, when he lived in Grover Cleveland.  He also did at the infirmary when we were there. I don’t know doing what then, but it might have been washing dishes or something like that.  I know I didn’t get asked by the SU Student Employment office due to my well known belligerence.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that is not still recorded somewhere. Another question is why did both Roy and I got an offer at the same time?  It is very likely due to someone who at least know both of us.

I can vaguely remember getting a ride to and from Syracuse in a summer, I don’t know what year, with the Dannemora, NY Methodist pastor.  I think, for me, it involved going to the infirmary for an interview, but am not positive.  The pastor had a meeting related to his church duties.  We had made arrangements for him to meet me and we would drive back to Dannemora. Even if this factual, and no way to verify this after 60 years, who would have invited me for my interview?  

For me, this is one of the great unanswered questions of life ranking with : Is there a God, What is the nature of Good and Evil, etc., etc.  However it happened, by chance or by the beneficence of the Great Unknown, we continued to room together. This time it was in the rickety assemblage of Victorian houses seen in the photo.  Perhaps our contribution to civilization was to polish floors on Friday and shovel as required.  Mindless tasks that led to meditation on Great Thoughts.  At least the undergraduate version of that. 

So, not so blue at all. Time marched along for at least 3 semesters.  What was life like there? What did we do?  More later. 







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Hedwig Cmielewski – Summer 1957

 Hedwig Cmielewski and I, in the summer of ’57 worked at Saranac Inn, NY.   This place appeared in the last post so no sense in repeating that.  I was back in my old department at Saranac Inn and this year there was a girl who was not employed at the Inn the last year.  Her name was Hedwig Cmielewski and she was in the same class, 1959, as I was though in a different college at Syracuse University.  She was in the Fine Arts College and I was in Engineering. We had a very casual relationship there, just friends who went to the same University.  I don’t have much information on Hedy, as she was known,  but will share what I have.

Hedy lived in Haft Dormitory. It was situated at 795 Ostrom Avenue and the building is known today as Haft Hall. Here is some information from Syracuse Archives.

Haft Dormitory

Haft Dormitory

Haft Hall

Construction Began: April 11, 1955
Building Occupied: October 20, 1955
Dedicated: November 5, 1955
Cost: $170,000
Funding: $60,000 donation from Morris Haft, remainder funded by SU
Named for: Mr. and Mrs. Morris W. Haft
Contractor: Harnett Construction Company
Architects: Harry A. & F. Curtis King
Location: 795 Ostrom Avenue
Space: 5,000 square feet
Renovated: 2003

Until 1992 the two story building was a co-operative living center housing 26 women responsible for their own food preparation, and cleaning and maintaining the building. In the basement were a recreation area, laundry and drying room, storage area, and toilet facilities. The first floor held a living room, dining room, kitchen and two double bedrooms, while the second floor contained ten double and two single bedrooms.

Morris Haft was a retired New York clothing executive. The Hafts also donated living room furnishings in honor of his deceased brother and sister-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Henry H. Haft. Dr. Haft had graduated from the College of Forestry in 1913 and the College of Medicine in 1917 and was a member of the medical faculty from 1917 to 1941.

In the fall of 1992 Sigma Kappa sorority rented the building from the University as a residence for their members. A complete renovation of the building in 2003 created the new home for the offices and studios of WAER, SU’s public radio station.

Hedy graduated from Linden High School class of 1954 in Linden, New Jersey  She was listed in the yearbook “Cynasure” as a violin virtuoso.  This was news to me as I never heard her play the violin, or even speak of it.  In college, Hedy was a member of the Syracuse University Outing Club Outing club (SUOC) and here is a yearbook photo in that group with her in the left. To me, this is not a very good picture of Hedy. The glasses were the style for women in that age, but I don’t think they flatter her, and she is not wearing them in the next photo.


SUOC, Hedy on left

SUOC, Hedy on left

The club had a reunion in 2010 and I have included an image from their site.

Hedy & 1934 Ford.gif


Hedy on 1934 Ford

Hedy on 1934 Ford

That is definitely her in an outing in 1957, the car was already ancient.  Hedy had long legs which made her very attractive, sorry I don’t have a closer full body image of her. She is sitting at the left front bumper.  I do have her yearbook photo which follows:

Hedy Cmieleweski 1959

Hedy Cmieleweski 1959

This is a scanned photo from my yearbook, poor quality, but best I could get as I could not get a PDF file of the yearbook. At that time, her home was Lakewood, NJ

In 1959 Hedy as listed as president of the club.  Here is a You TUBE of the club as it is today, much the same concept as it was decades ago. I think this is from Facebook.

The car in the club photo deserves a video as it was vintage even in 1957

I could not find an unmodified ’34 ford in YOU TUBE as it was a popular vehicle for chopping, channelling and otherwise converting into a hot rod or rat rod of some sort, and those are the one shown on the videos I saw, so I did the best I could with what was available and illustrate an unmodified, though different style ’34 Ford.


 At Saranac Inn, there was an area outside the entrance to the kitchen.  After finishing a meal, it was common for the cooks to gather there for a smoke, relax and socialize a bit.  Occasionally we would have a visit from Hedy.  By this time, she had changed from her uniform and, since it was summer, wore a blouse and shorts.  Very stylish, and very short shorts.  A smile and a little chat and she let it slip out that she needed more lipstick, or something similar.  Almost instantly, a half-dozen middle-aged, and then some, cooks would be digging into their pocket for their car keys.  The lucky one lent his car to Hedy, and with a beaming smile, off she went.   

We really did not have a lot in common, she was Polish, Catholic I think and I was a more or less uncommitted Scandinavian.  She was fine Arts, me engineering. Her extra-curricular passion was the Outing Club.  I had enough outdoors growing up in the Adirondacks.  That fact was a big reason in attending an urban university.

At Syracuse, Hedy lived in a female dorm, a mile to the east of where I was. We did date now and then, maybe just breakfast or a snack at a student diner and occasionally on a date to a movie. When she got dressed up, she was a knockout, and she knew it. Eye candy really, though the photos do not show that. Hedy was a charmer, and could be quite charming. Candy once in a while is a very pleasant treat, but not 24/7.

Also, SUOC enjoyed visiting caves.  There were a lot of limestone caves in the Syracuse area, so plenty to do.  I get claustrophobia in close quarters and would never go into a cave.  I think during that period one of the group died in an unfortunate accident as part of the group activity.  No way for me.  So, we drifted apart, I started dating Marge and the rest is history.

So, I do wonder what happened to Hedy in all these years.  She was majoring in art education.  My best guess is that she moved back to Lakewood, NJ, got a teaching job, probably married because (1) that was what girls did then and (2) I am sure there were many applicants for the job.  Still the story might have been quite different.  At any rate, no hits from Google searches and I do wonder whatever happened to her.  We did like each other ( small “L”)  but the relationship was not going anywhere.  

Backing up a bit to Saranac Inn:  Business slowed down and some people had to be let go.  Since I was on salary, not tip dependent, I was  on the list.  However, the Executive Chef,  “Dutch” Susssey had taken a liking to me and found a job for me at a smaller resort, Lake Placid Inn, which was really on Lake Placid.  The village with that name is on Lake Clear,

Dutch told me about the opening and asked me if I wanted the job as it would only be for about 4 weeks at most.  It was as I had no alternative and Dutch drove me over one afternoon to introduce me to their chef.  We got along OK and I started next day.  I think Dutch drove me over again.  Dutch was a good sort, a real hands on manager who knew everybody and everything about his kitchen.

So, I now was the head cook in a one man department.  By that time, I did know a lot of the basic stuff and on occasion if I got stuck on how to prepare a menu item, either the chef, or the sous chef would show me how.  So, I made it through the summer. 

I think that the Lake Placid Inn might have undergone some sort of change.  The cooks all slept in what was once the caddy shack.  I don’t think there were any caddys, but there was a golf course.  The building itself was made of quite rough-hewn stone.  It had a large central room with each single room along the sides and to the rear.  The central room had a large impressive fireplace and after the dinner meal was over we would go back to the caddy shack, start the biggest fire we could, drink some beer, then off to bed as we wished.  The sous chef had a 1941 Chevrolet which ran OK and we would leave in that.  I did not have to work breakfast, so I would generally walk to the Inn a bit after the others. It might have been a mile walk, not bad and certainly a waker-upper for me.  Even in mid August, it was so cold then that I could see my breath condense on the way to work.

The kitchen did have two African-Americans.  One was the butcher, and occasionally I would be sent to help him.  He was quite a character and had a flow of stories to tell and I enjoyed his company.  The salad man was the other.  I never really got to know him and perhaps there was some segregation, perhaps just a matter of personal choice.  I never really thought about that.  I was just short terming it until mid September when it was time to go back to school.

After I completed the 1957-58 school year, I obtained my  A.B. degree from the College of Liberal Arts.  I didn’t bother to go to the graduation ceremony since I still had a year to go before I finished the last year of my 5 year dual degree program. 




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The Brownstein Incident Grover Cleveland – 1955

Before I write anything, let me state that I am not anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic or have any similar negative traits.  I was not going to write about the above, as it might be misconstrued as such.  The whole thing was just another sophomoric gag. As such I think it needs being  told. The time is the fall 1955 semester at Syracuse.

This takes place in Syracuse University, my first year in Grover Cleveland:

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

Underclass dorms were full of teenagers and very young single, men and as such reeked with testosterone.  So it makes sends to keep up some sort of decorum.  This fell to the Resident Advisors, usually grad or Law students.  Most were reasonable and even helpful at times.

However, Irving Brownstein was not one of those.  His joy in life seemed looking for very minor infringements to come down on. A little tin god as we used to call such people.

In 1955 WWII  was only  10 years old and war jokes were still considered funny.  An example is this:

Q: What do you call the top officer in the English Navy?

A: Admiral of the Ocean Blue:

Q: what do you call the top officer in the Italian Navy?

A: Chicken of the sea.

So, declasse now, but then part of undergraduate humor.  Somehow, a small group of us got to talking about Irving and how to rattle his cage.  A lot of us had WWII German souvenirs from our Dads, cousins, etc. who picked them up and shipped them home.  Perhaps six of us decided to hold a meeting in the apartment I was assigned to.

I did own souvenirs, but had none with me.  I did have a small 5 or 6 tube radio, and a turntable for 331/3 records.  One of my records contained national songs from countries around the world. There were two German songs, the current national anthem then and the Horst Wessel lied “Die Fahne hoch.” The song is an old folk tune with new words by Wessel.  Horst was an SA storm trooper who killed by communists in one of the many post WWI uprisings.  He was named a martyr by the Nazis and the song became a Nazi anthem, often repeated.  

Grover Cleveland had 6 stories and I happened to have an apartment above Irving’s.  It is grade school electronics to wire a speaker to a radio and I did that as my contribution. We 6 agreed on a time and date to meet in the main room of my apartment.  It amazed me what the other guys brought.  A large Nazi flag, armbands, medals, even a coal shuttle helmet which must have come from WWI. No weapons though.  I opened my window and lowered the speaker down over Irving’s and started the song.  It did the trick, and we heard him slam his door and come stomping up.  I quickly hauled my speaker in but left the window open.  It was Indian Summer type weather so I had a good reason for an open window.

Bang, Bang, Bang on our door.  One of us opens it and in storms a livid Irving.  Who is playing that terrible song? He almost shouted.  Then he sees the rest of us in our gear and almost goes berserk.  I calmly say that we are organizing a German-American cultural society.  I was playing an appropriate opening German song and since my window was open because it was warm, you must have heard it.  I am sorry and it won’t happen again.  We are all for friendship. 

If anything, Irving became more angry and agitated.  “I forbid this!!!” One of the other guys picked up the ball and asked if the dorm rules were above our US constitution and quoted something like: “Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right or ability to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend their ideas.”

WE had him!!! Irving spluttered some more, then almost ran out of the room, giving the door a loud slam.  Very unprofessional. 

I don’t remember any more about him.  When he cooled down he realized that he had been Had, but good. He would never live this down in Grover Cleveland and I think he got re-assigned to another dorm.  OK with us, we just wanted to get rid of him.

So, the gag was anti Irving, not anti-Semitic.  None of us were skinheads and we never met again.  One time was enough to spring the trap on Irving, which was all we were trying to to. Childish and sophomoric yes, but nothing more than that.



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Back to Grover Cleveland 56-57

A friend in need. I hope you have had lots of friends, and if some were in need you helped.  Lets go back to the ending of the Spring semester at Syracuse.  A friend of mine, can’t remember his name now, was in the same Sophomore Physics class as I was.  We were in my room cramming for the final exam as it would be tough.  My friend worried that he might not pass and needed more time to study.  He had a job at the University cafeteria.  I think it was as a dishwasher.  He asked me if I could fill in for him so he would have time to study.  I felt secure and said sure, be glad to.

There were maybe 3 weeks left in the semester and I went over right after he gave his notice and told the chef he had a relief.  I didn’t need the money, which was minimum wage anyway.  To me, I was doing him a favor as well as the cafeteria.

The summer passes and I thought that maybe a little job would give me some more money for luxuries so I went to the Student Employment office. Some old woman was in charge and had a file about me.  Much to my surprise, she told me that I had been evaluated as being “Belligerent.”  This was the first I heard this as nobody had spoken to me about an evaluation when I left.  I was pissed off, to put it lightly.  I had worked better jobs in better places than a cafeteria Slop Shop.  Possibly I made what I considered constructive comments about the running of the kitchen.  Washing dishes is the lowest of the low.  Dirty dishes come in, you feed them into the washer, and clean dishes emerge. What is there to become belligerent about?

This so-called evaluation was a bunch of crap.  I said to the interrogator “Don’t tell me that I am belligerent!!!! and quickly got up and left.  So much for work.

The second and last year at Grover Cleveland had begun.  I have had some correspondence with 54-55 roommate, Roy who took a year off to evaluate his reasons for going to college.   We have had some correspondence about that time period and I am enclosing that now as stated by Roy.  We remember some of the same things, some different things.  So in the next few paragraphs, the word (I) is Roy speaking about himself and his memories.  On occasion, I have entered an editorial comment with the note (Bob) indicating the temporary change in authorship.

Roy starts remembering this stay in the following:

The next year – 1956-57 you and I were in a double. There were two football jocks in the other double. One of ’em, poor soul (Paul something?) was making it through on a football scholarship and working to gain an engineering degree – impossible now and extremely difficult in those days. The singles were occupied by someone we called “Shot-In-The_Back” Smith, and Fred Swiatlowski. Swiatlowski (Swat) listened to a program on the low-end of the AM band called “Obituaries on the Air”

Fred and his brother became Hams, and (as far as I know), both retired from teaching in Camillus. They were significant fundraisers for the scholarship fund of Washington’s Foundation for Amateur Radio. I knew of them because I wrote a column for the F.A.R.’s monthly rag for about ten years.

Smith had gained fame by receiving a minor .22-caliber wound and by his non-residence. For awhile the Housing Office Inspector was hassling him for not making his bed, and we only saw him one night a week when he would come in, rip open his package of linens, stuff ’em into the pillowcase, and take them down to the basement where he traded them for a package of clean stuff. Then he left the package on his bed and got hassled the next week (in absentia) when we had another meeting with the R.A. (Resident Advisor)

Seems to me that Smith eventually solved the problem by bringing in a pillow case and a blanket, making the bed one time, and then continued the practice of recycling clean linen with the contractor. I suspect that his parents were paying for his dorm rez, linen, &c, and that he was rooming with an “Industrial Debutante” (as we useta refer to working girls when I was an Officer Candidate). Maybe she had a husband who returned from the wars inconveniently?

Donald Adams was the most interesting guy on that floor. He’d attended MIT, but concluded that he would never flunk out and would never graduate as an engineer, so came to SU’s Business School and planned to become a CPA. His grandad was a millionaire who had been bilked clean by a crooked accountant, so Don’s life plan was to spend his career seeking and incarcerating fraudsters. He was devoted to a board game of baseball, and he had a pal who played against him by mail. Every year they worked hard to get through the whole season, each with their chosen team, and then simulated the World Series before it was actually held.

The tale about Don that I have always remembered was that he had endured surgery to remove a cyst (non-malignant) from the top of his left lung. When unclothed, he looked like a survivor of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but actually had two full-sized lungs. The surgery was done when he was young enough for the lung to expand into the empty space. What was obnoxious about that was that he was in ROTC, and had some ambitions of becoming a Regular Army Officer (Pershing Rifles, &c, &c), but he kept failing the physical because of the dreadful scar. On the other hand, it didn’t make him 4-F, and his draft board was dogging his steps. I would not be surprised to learn that he was one of the draftees who founded Phi Tau Alpha.

Our freshman pal Don Fox was a PTA member with Army Chemical Center at Fort Detrick, Frederick MD. He had graduated from The Tree School in Pulp&Paper Technology, and worked as a PFC alongside a lot of GS-11/12/13 civilian chemists. US Army got a real bargain cashing in on his education for two years.

Most of our rations came from Gregory’s Restaurant, The Varsity (still there), or another place sorta between ’em. A Macedonian called “Ted” had a tiny deli that we frequented for sandwiches and other take-out rations – near Manny’s strange combination store that sold clothing, books, and all else.

We often dined at “The New Smile”, down the west side of The Hill. Food was OK, plentiful, and cheap – mostly because the bar was always jammed. We went to McCarthy’s a few times – last site of the $.05 draft (Haeberle Congress Beer, I’d guess?) McCarthy’s hated students, and we didn’t hang out there often.

(Note by Bob) Merle Lovelace lived on the same floor with Roy and I in a different apartment.  He was not loveless as had an active love life which he was glad to share on occasion. Merle had intentions of becoming a Veterinarian and getting that training at Cornell.  I have no idea how that ever worked out.  (now back to Roy)

I remember Merle Lovelace’s attempted suicide by OD’ing vodka, but you told me about it. His girlfriend then was Jeanette, but I (Bob) don’t remember her last name She was in a chem class with me (Roy), but refused a date, telling me that I was too young for her. Don’t think the name was Jeanette, but might have been. We visited Merle and family once at their farm in Wayne County, west of Port Byron after he transferred (maybe to Cornell?).

I had mono that year and will never forget the incredible feeling of exhaustion that endured for several weeks as I achieved access to our digs on the top floor. I do remember one other guy who lived there when we did, in another suite, and that’s all.

The rest of the post is Bob’s memoirs.

Being roommates, we shared many experiences, but some were personal and some things I remember that Roy did not mention.  I hope you have an idea of the culture in our dorm by now.

 One event that occurred shortly after the semester started was the Hungarian Revolution lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956.  We, and many others cheered on the Hungarians and hoped the US or United Nations  would intervene in some way.  Instead, the revolution was brutally crushed by the Soviet Union and Roy and I had become very disillusioned by the inaction of the US and UN.

Somewhere along the line, we had acquired a moose head which we believed made a nice decoration for our room.  I had also picked up a cheap used TV, may 12″ at most and the effect was quite homey we thought.  Alas, the dorm Storm Troopers a.k.a. RAs did not agree.  They let us keep the TV, in a way, by putting it in the dorm game room, so called.  There it went, but I never watched it.  The moose also had to go, which It thought was very narrow minded.  The Storm Troopers had no sense of style at all.  Everything had to be the same.  We longed to get out of this environment, but that is a later story.

One of my faithful readers, Carol, has mentioned she likes the vintage auto videos so the next paragraph is for her.  We lived on the top floor overlooking the hill leading to the University.  Syracuse, in winter has a LOT of snow and a minor amusement was watching out our window as cars tried to make it up the grade.

Many auto makers wanted to offer an automatic transmission as an option.  Oldsmobile even offered one in 1940, as did Cadillac.  They worked well enough, but required repairs and maintenance.  Buick came out with their version, Dynaflow, in 1948.  This was different in that there were only two gear selections, drive and low.  Normally the car started in high and relied on a hydraulic torque converter to get it going fast enough for the high gear to function.  This made for a very smooth operation, but inefficient and rather gutless.  However, these qualities made it ideal for driving up the hill.  Other cars would often spin out, which was interesting to watch.  Buicks though, just purred smoothly up the hill with a very characteristic humming sound.  I never remember one of them spinning out as they were ideal for this type weather.  I an enclosing a YOU TUBE of a 1949 Buick Roadmaster from that era. Just imagine yourself in the driver’s seat smoothly making your way up the hill, passing the other cars, wheels spinning futilely So, since our TV was confiscated we sufficed with minor pleasures such as this.

With time on our hands, and our TV gone, I did participate in a few pranks.  One of them concerned Merle, mentioned above. His roommate was Tom.  We decided to wait until Merle was out one evening enjoying himself, and I would hide under his bed.  Then, after he put his light out, I would scratch on the springs.  Of course, Tom heard nothing. Maybe 5 minutes passed and I repeated the scratching.  After a bit this got to Merle leaned over to look under the bed and I responded with a bark, growl or something like that.  He was sort of pissed off at first, but then we all had a laugh and I went back to my room.

Another prank involved a pre-med student, Herb, who was taking organic chemistry, the killer course for pre-med.  The gag involved myself and a few others.  One of the other guys was in a class with Herb and noticed he sat next to a good-looking girl.  Somebody else, in on the plot, started to make threatening calls to Herb telling him to stay away from his girl.  Herb’s roommate, unremembered now, was also in on this.  The end of the gag was for the caller to call in telling Herb to meet him at some dark place and they would have it out.  Before this happened the other guys and I were to keep watch on Herb so things didn’t go too far.  WRONG.  We all went to the shoot-out place and there also was a car of campus police who escorted us to the Men’s Dean office.  We apologized to Herb, told all that we thought we had this under control but didn’t.  We got a friendly lecture from the Dean and that was the end of it.  Herb did sort of accept the complexity of the plot and had no ill feelings.

I did reasonably well at school though I did get a C in an economics course that I did not think I deserved, but didn’t fight it.  Mostly Bs and one A, in psychology.  I don’t recall any relationships or romances that were in any way memorable.  The summer vacation is another story which deserves it own post.  Coming soon.

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Donna Cianchetti – Goodbye – 1956

Who was Donna Cianchetti?  That’s a question that has been on what is left of my memory and mind for a week or so. I have already mentioned that I spent my summers working in restaurants, mostly resorts in the Adirondacks.  These resorts were mostly self-contained summer communities, with some of them in small summer tourist towns that thrived in the summer, and hung on in the winter until the next social season.

I worked at the Saranac Inn for several seasons. Saranac Inn was one of these isolated resorts. In the late 1950s this way of life was fast becoming passé and many of the vacationers were from NYC who came for the golf and nice weather.  It was not quite like the movie “Dirty Dancing” where there was some mingling between the staff and guests.  That could get you fired any place I ever worked in, but the ambience is similar.

The history and an image of the Inn are below.


Saranac Inn around 1890-1920

Saranac Inn around 1890-1920

One nice practice that Saranac Inn did was this:  Following the close of the dining hall at I think 9:00 a.m. all the uneaten breakfast snacks were gathered and put on top of a high table.  Then the staff was free to graze, socialize, etc.  Quite pleasant really.  All the servers at any place I worked were women, mostly college age and all nice looking.  Of course, most of us then were nice looking.  I struck up a relationship with Donna which continued for the summer.

One thing I remembered was that Donna told me she was from Meadville, PA where her Dad was a tool and die maker. So, I did a Google search for Meadville and found an online yearbook source and one yearbook was the 1951 edition of the “Meadville Area High School – Red and black” yearbook. The first name in the seniors list  was for Donna Cianchettti, so that was her. I couldn’t get a photo from her High School book. If you are really interested, a link follows below.


I was able to copy a grainy yearbook photo of her from Allegheny college, located in Meadville, class of 1956 and I enclose it now: It is definitely her, Catholic,  attractive, athletic, smart, and friendly. A very nice young woman. the summer of 1956 was a fine time. A famous quote: “The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”  True enough.

Donna Cianchetti 1956

Donna Cianchetti 1956

 So, she was probably born in 1931-33.  Donna was active in many sports, as well as the school library and school service groups.  She had graduated from Allegheny college, had a teaching job offer, and was working during the summer until she could start.  I am almost positive this was the summer of 1956.  I was then somewhat self-conscious of my facial scar from the accident.  Too bad it was on my chin and not my cheek, or I could have made up a story about having a duel with a sword.

The cooks rated about a step above the servers in the social pyramid.  One advantage of this, at least to me, was the ability to make special sandwiches for my friends, Donna being foremost.  I worked as a dishwasher for the first two summers, and they are at the bottom of the totem pole, below ground even.  The food there was really miserable.  Now as a cook in the garde mange department I could often make a special sandwich for Donna. We could get together after the dinner shift was over and spend some time together.

Summer romances were accepted, for the most part, as being just that.  No great love affairs, just a time being together with someone you liked, knowing that the relationship would finish in a month or so and that would be the end of it.

Naturally, some couples made the most of the short social season from Memorial Day to Labor day at most and soon had affairs. I still remember a loud screaming scene at Saranac Inn when a girl’s parents came to take her home, by force if necessary, since she told them she was marrying a bus boy.  Others, usually older people who travelled up and down the coast to different resorts, had affairs when and where circumstances were favorable.

Donna and I were in the first group.  We had much in common.  We were from the East, from small cities.  Her father was a tool and die machinist, mine was a foreman in a prison.  Our families were lower middle class and each of us had rather modest professional aspirations. Saranac Inn was a way station, a port of call, not a personal or professional destination.  My goal was to finish college and become an engineer, hers was to start her first teaching job.  We liked each other, though at best I could say that we were in Like, not in Love.  That suited the time and place in our lives.

 One of the other cooks in my group, Fred, was maybe 10 years older or a little less who was dating another server. Fred’s lifestyle was as a full-time cook in resorts.  He had a car, a new Chevrolet Bel Air sedan and sometimes we would double date.  Go to  the village of Saranac Lake for a movie, a few drinks, something like that. A YOU TUBE of a very similar car follows:

Sometimes Donna would be in too much of a hurry to get her uniform on and forget to fasten the top button. If the maitre d’ noticed this she would get told about it in no uncertain terms.  The way the kitchen was laid out, the servers had to pass my station on the way in and out of the dining room.  I would watch for Donna on the way in and say “Button Up” when  needed.  This got to be a little joke of ours.

I don’t remember leaving, saying good-bye or even who left first. Probably Donna as she had a job as a teacher and had to get back in time for orientation, etc.   Donna and I exchanged a letter or two at the most after her teaching job started and I was back at Syracuse.  All gone now.

I will be 79 in November, and Donna, if she were alive would be 83 at least.  The September 1960 issue of the New York Times had a line indicating that a Donna Cianchetti was to be wed.

Cianchetti wedding NY times Sept 1960

Cianchetti wedding NY times Sept 1960

So, we married the same year.  I wondered if she was alive now and checked the Social Security death records for Donna with the following results:

Donna Hitz
United States Social Security Death Index
birth: 8 October 1931
death: 12 April 2002 Bay City, Bay, Michigan

This could well be the Donna I knew, at least the birthdate sounds correct but there is no middle initial. If I had that information, I could cross check it with the yearbook, but I don’t. Donna was 70 when she died and most probably the information above is correct, but not definitive.

I did Google Ernest Hitz and found him in the Allegheny graduating class of January 1957 which would have made him one half-year behind Donna. Summing up, Donna and Ernest went to the same college at the same time. They got married in 1960 and I hope they had a good life together until Donna died.

Since I don’t remember saying good-bye I’ll make up for it now.  Goodbye Donna, farewell wherever you are.  It was great knowing you 60 years ago and I have not forgotten.

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Pummeled by Pumpkins -1955

New York, The Empire State. It was in the 1950’s and still is known that way, who knows why?  Wikipedia gives the following note on the subject: the U.S. State of New York has been known by many nicknames, the most notable of which is The Empire State. Adopted as late as the 19th century, the nickname has been incorporated into the names of several state buildings and events. It is commonly believed to refer to the state’s wealth and resources; however, the true origin of the term is unclear.

My opinion is that the Erie Canal had a lot to do with this nickname. The canal was built in the early 19th century and connected Albany, NY with Lake Erie and from that, all the Great Lakes.  Syracuse, NY has a canal museum.  Why all this geography?  Because a lot of towns sprung up along the canal, Weedsport, Lockport, Port Byron, Meridian, Jack’s Reef, and a lot more.  Marge liked to take an occasional drive to Jack’s Reef just because she liked the name, so we did it.  Many of these towns have deteriorated, though some have become bedroom communities.  If you are ever in NY, and have some time to spare, take Rt. 31 and not the Thruway, as least for a bit.  That’s the way most New Yorkers live, once you get out of the NY city area.

Both sides of my roommate Roy’s families had homes in little towns like this. So much time has passed that I forget who lived where.  One place looks a lot like the other, old Victorian homes, big lawns, etc. I am too urbanized to move back, but I enjoy a visit once in a while.

Anyway, some part of Roy’s extended family lived in one of these little towns.  Let’s say it was in Plainville.  I am not making this town up, it is today on an AAA state map, and it the name is descriptive.

 The time is now 1955 in this little story.  Roy had become friends with a couple in Plainville.  I don’t remember their real names, so lets call them Janet and Richard Webster. Good as any.

Who are these people?  Middle class, hopefully upwardly mobile young-ish people.  Richard has a technical job of some sort in one of the many industries that were part of Syracuse then. Janet is a stay at home Mom with two small children.  Sounds like a mid 60’s sit com.  Sports cars and High Fidelity recordings are the newest technology of the day so of course Janet and Richard Webster had these to keep up with class expectations.

Hi Fi required a good quality tube amplifier of about 100 watts power driving a huge stand alone speaker, and of course a quality record changer or $$$ turntable to complete the outfit.  The Websters owned a British Morgan plus four sport car, and maybe another small but less pretentious import.

Despite what outwardly appeared as the “good life” I got the sense that there was an underlay of interpersonal tension between the two Websters.  Nothing too specific, just body language, choice of words, etc.

  Saturday evenings were often a rather casual, come as you are type of open house party.  Some times I would visit with Roy for a weekend and we would go to Plainville with his friend Fred.  Fred lived in a little trailer outside Port Byron. He had an old Ford Model A sedan and we would drive over.  He had a dishonorable discharge from the Army and was proud of it, had it mounted in his trailer.  He just would not accept authority, which I can understand and made a poor fit with the Army.

Here is a YOU TUBE clip of the same style car. Click the triangle to watch and you can view full screen as well, like any YOU TUBE clip

Other couples were often there discussing  car rallys, new records, movies,  etc. For some reason, there were often at least two local schoolgirls.  One was a well endowed but not too bright daughter of a local minister.  She did convey that this was not then, nor would it ever be, her calling.  There was frequently another girl, Rita, all arms and legs then, maybe 14 years old.

So, October is coming to a close and Janet and Richard are having a Halloween party and Roy and I are invited.   Sounds good.  Janet bought some pumpkins and squash for decorations, picked Roy up and then came to Syracuse where I joined them.  Janet drives, Roy is in the front seat, the pumpkins and I share the little rear seat of the Morgan.

Morgan sport car

Morgan sport car

The image is from Google images and is a Flicker posting.  You have to use a little imagination but the three of us and our cargo are in the car.  The weather is cold and starting to rain, common for central NY at that time of year.  It gets worse as we leave Syracuse but not bad with the top up.  On the way home, Janet reaches a bad spot in the county road.  The road both curves a bit and rounds a small hill.  The road is banked wrong and mud had slid down over it as we started to crest the hill.  The Morgan spun out and flipped over as we crested.  Janet was a good driver, the road was just poorly designed, especially for rainy weather.

Fortunately there is a drainage ditch on the sides of the road and the car landed upside down on the ditch.  Otherwise we might have died or at least been seriously injured.  I was scared S____less since I was under the gas tank and feared it would catch fire and I would be burned alive.  You can see from the photo that the doors are cut quite low and Roy and Janet were able to squeeze out.  I followed as quickly as I could from my seat in the rear.  What a relief!!!

The rest of the evening is very vague.  I was beat up by all the Halloween veggies and had a cut on my chin, lower left side.  Somehow I got taken to a doctor who sewed me up.  ER, clinic, hospital, I have no idea, but we all then got rides back to Plainville.  The Websters insisted I stay there in the spare bedroom until I felt better.  I was not badly hurt, but beat up and sore, that’s certain.  Roy said something like “That’s the only time I ever saw a guy get beat up by a gang of pumpkins.”

I woke up next morning and the shock had worn off so I now felt sore all over and had taken some sort of pain pill from the doctor.  I just lay there groggy, dozed, and felt both sorry for myself and glad things weren’t worse.  About mid-morning the bedroom door slowly opens and in comes Rita. This is an unexpected surprise.  We chat for a bit about how I felt, which was lousy and then another surprise.  Rita went over to the other side of the bed and started to get in with me.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like “Rita, it is good to see you, but I hurt all over, I am drugged and groggy from the pain medicine.  I don’t think this is a good time for company.” This was true of course, but in addition the idea of an 18 year old male in bed with a 14 year old female is not a good idea.  Or, I just wasn’t adventurous, maybe a mixture of all.

Somebody got me back to Syracuse, I called my parents and told them I was in a little accident but not really hurt.  Case closed.

Following up, the next year the Websters did divorce, Janet got the children and moved to Syracuse getting a non -professional job at the University and renting a little house in the general University vicinity.

She had another car now a Renault Dauphine which you can watch on the YOU TUBE commercial following:

It is now 1956 and Roy and I are sharing a room in Grover Cleveland.  For some reason Janet comes and picks us up to go to her house.  Maybe move some furniture, something like that.  Roy sits in the front and to my surprise, Rita is here in the rear as I am I.  Rita is no longer just arms and legs but now quite physically attractive.  I thought this was an opportunity to make up for a year of lost time.  WRONG!!! I couldn’t get in the game, much less to first base with her.  How could she, a high school student,  pass up the opportunity for a relationship with a smart college junior?  Perhaps she felt rejected by me from a year ago but it just did not work.

In the long run,  this was probably best as there was no possibility of a lasting relationship.  That’s it folks.

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Remembering Grover Cleveland – 1

I stayed at the Grover Cleveland residence for men for two consecutive years so the following posts will be a conflation of those two years.  The first year for me was as a sophomore and I covered that last post. The second year my friend Roy had decided to come back to Syracuse go into the Liberal Arts college as well.  He was good at languages and linguistics and this made sense as a route to take for him.

I had not decided on a major so decided to take both an introductory course in Economics as well as one in Psychology.  I also took ROTC, more out of coercion than want, as at time, Syracuse required 4 terms of PHYS ED (gym) or ROTC.  I said before that I was lightly built, not scrawny, but I was not at all built for contact sports.  Also, I did not like participating in team events. I prefer being judged on my own merits, not that of a group or “team.” Exercise and improving against personal targets I do believe in, and still track myself in this regard.    I might have done Ok in something like track, but who knows.  So ROTC was by default.  Also, the Korean Conflict was just over and it might flare up again.  So, maybe go in as a 2nd Lt. than as a grunt when my deferment ran out or was taken away.

ROTC was offered for both Army and Air Force.  I chose Army for no known reason that I can think of,  Air Force might have been better.  Oh well.  Both services held their classes in Machinery Hall.  Guess what we all called it…….Machine Gun Hall.  Seemed more fitting.  I enclose a photo  from archives.syr.edu/buildings/machinery_hall.html


The text describing it below is from the same URL.

Machinery Hall

Ground Broken: September 26, 1904
Dedicated: 1904; rededicated: 1984
Building Occupied: February 1907
Cost: $400,000
Cost of 1970 renovation: $1.25 million
Funding: Donation from Lyman C. Smith. After his death in 1910, his widow and son donated a well-equipped hydraulic laboratory in his memory.
Architects: Edwin H. Gaggin of Gaggin and Gaggin, Syracuse
Materials: Reinforced concrete, steel, rocky stone facing and tile roofing
Contractors: James Murtagh
Location: East of Hinds Hall, Southeast of L.C. Smith Hall, on Main Campus

“The second engineering building in the College of Applied Science to be gifted to the University by L.C. Smith, the building originally housed metal and woodworking equipment, blacksmithing forges and anvils, a cement mill, mining machinery and other laboratory appliances. The hydraulic laboratory, designed by Professor Paul Nugent, cement-testing machinery, forges, and a foundry occupied the first floor. The next floor was occupied by metal machinery and the upper floor was devoted to woodworking machinery. In 1948, the College of Applied Science moved to the Thompson Road campus and the building served as classrooms. In 1950, the second floor was used for SU Drama and the Boar’s Head Theatre. The following year it was used as the University ROTC headquarters where it remained until 1963. The rear portion of the building was razed in 1953 to make room for the construction of Link Hall. In 1964, the Computing Center made Machinery Hall the center of operations. On December 7, 1984, the building was rededicated as the home of the Office of Academic Computing Services.”

So, the old building is still in use.  If you look to your right you can see the ivy on the Hall. Ah the ivy covered halls of the old alma mater.

Other courses were Physics, and Calculus.  Many of the Liberal Arts courses were held in the Hall of Languages, shortened to HL.  From the same source as above, some information on HL.

HL - Hall Of Languages Exterior Summer

HL – Hall Of Languages Exterior Summer

Location Decided: September 13, 1870
Building Plans Approved: May 17, 1871
Cornerstone Laid by Bishop Peck: August 31, 1871
Dedication: May 8, 1873
Dedication Speaker: Rev. Edmund S. James, Bishop of the New York Conference
Architect: Horatio Nelson White
Contractors: Randall and Nesdal, stone masons who had a stone yard on S. Salina Street, Syracuse
Cost: $136,000
Style: Second Empire
Materials: Onondaga Limestone, primarily wood framing with some interior cast-iron columns
Renovation: 1979
Cost of Renovation: $4 million
Architects for Renovation: Sargent-Webster-Crenshaw & Folley, Syracuse, in association with Architectural Resources Cambridge, Inc., Cambridge, MA
Contractors for Renovation: J.D. Taylor Construction Corporation, Syracuse

“This was the first building built on campus. Prior to its construction classes were held in the Myers Block on E. Genesee and Montgomery Streets in downtown Syracuse. The building was primarily an H-shape with recesses in the front and rear walls on either side of the central section. The rear recesses were partially occupied by coal houses. The east and west towers were part of the original construction; the central tower was not added until 1886. The east and west towers held large water tanks capable, it was believed, of flooding the entire structure in the event of fire. The west tower also held a 600 pound bell. The building originally rose 3½ stories in the central section and 2½ stories in the wings and was topped by a slate-covered mansard roof. Molded metal cornices sported stone brackets and the exterior walls had a “pecked” finish. The building was the home of the College of Liberal Arts from its beginning, although other schools and departments have also occupied the edifice, including the Registrar and the Chancellor. A section of the eastern wing is said to have been used as a natural science museum.

During the 1979 renovation very few alterations were made to the exterior. Glass-enclosed vestibules were added to the rear of the building and the lowering of the first floor to grade for the addition of an elevator revealed the building’s stone foundation. A new central stairway housed in a five-story atrium. Five concrete floors were inserted where there had been four of wood. The old floors were removed and the original timber columns replaced with steel. Wood timbers, however, were retained in the mansard roof.”

S.U. just wouldn’t look the same without the HL, that’s for sure. In going through these archives, It pleases me that so many of the  buildings,old even in my time as a student, have undergone extensive interior renovations while preserving the exterior. Not like Las Vegas.  We would blow them up adding fireworks as well. I am almost certain the cost exceeded the alternative of destruction and rebuilding with contemporary architecture.

Back to residence life.  One of the other guys in our unit was a stock guy with a mustache called “Dom”  I think it was short for Dominick and he certainly looked of Italian heritage.  We got to know each other, would chat a bit going up or down, to class, etc.  Nice guy.  One day he asked me, “Bob, why don’t we go down to Andre’s Tic-Toc club and catch the act.  I know the girl there now and know we will enjoy the show.”

Today, Las Vegas is replete with “Gentlemen’s Clubs” but back in ’55 the Tic-Toc was a strip joint, plain and simple on South Salina Street. It was no “dive.”   It was not too large, maybe 15 tables and a bar with an area for the entertainer.  The weather was decent, so this must have been in early fall.  We took a bus down, sat at a table with a good view and ordered drinks.  Dom’s friend come in soon, does her act, leaving nothing to the imagination, and Dom and I have a pleasant time.  I wish I could remember her name, but I don’t.  After her show was over she looked at us in the audience and said something like ” I want to say a special Hello to my friend Dom, and his buddy Bob. They have come down from the hill to watch my act, hope you enjoyed it guys.”  We replied something positive in kind, and she asked the bartender to freshen our drinks, on the house.

So, even if by association,  knew a stripper.  This was not Apple Knocker-Ville in upstaid NY.  And not the last time I visited the Tic-Toc, though not a habitue.  I must have told Marge about this, perhaps as a hint, I don’t know.  What I do know is that if she phoned me and I didn’t answer, next time I heard from her was something like ” Down to the Tic Toc again huh???” Sometimes it was true, but honestly, often something mundane like going out for a pack of cigarettes, or a quart of milk.

One last paragraph and that’s it for now.  I suppose you have a smart phone, probably a tablet or two as well.  Imagine if you don’t have a smart phone, just a land line. Technically challenged.  Moving on down the line what if you don’t have a personal phone at all, the only communication device is a coin operated phone, and only one to a floor.  How primitive, but that’s the way we did it.  If somebody on the floor was called, hopefully, someone else would answer it and pound on your door.  That’s the way it worked in that time long ago.

Another gimmick about the phone.  I think that one of the Electrical Engineers found a way to cut a certain wire inside, and give it a slight twist to re-attach it.  The reason for this, if you knew about it, was that after making a call, and could reach around to where the wire was, you could quickly undo and re-attach the wire. There were no tones then, just clicky relays.  Like one of the old slot machines, not only the dime you dropped for the call, but a fist full of change would come out the bottom.  Manna not from Heaven, but from Ma Bell.  They didn’t like it.

Of course, you couldn’t keep this a secret for long.  Ma Bell notified the University that if this continued, they would remove the phone.  So, this was relayed to the Resident adviser, who called a residence meeting and read the riot act to us. Sic transit gloria  the good times were over.

Enough words for now. More later.


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Ages and Stages – The “Hairy Arms”

“What in the name of God’s green earth is the Hairy Arms?  Well, the short form of the answer is the name of the place I lived in my Sophomore and Junior years in College.  It was a residence for male upperclassmen and of course, that was not its real name.  There was a time in the distant past when somewhat presumptuous apartments would be given a name such as “Westhapmton Arms.” Someone before my residence gave the name Hairy Arms to our apartment.  Rather sophomoric humor, but as many of us were in fact sophomores it did make sense, in a way.  The real name of the building was the Grover Cleveland.  The following S.U. photographs and notes are from the Syracuse website http//orl.syr.edu/our-halls

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

“Original Construction Date: 1926 built as an upscale apartment building

Purchased by SU: 1946 – converted to Grover Cleveland residence hall for men and named for President Cleveland who served on SU Board of Trustees 1883-1885

Purchase Cost 1946: $115,000
Renovation Began: 1997
Renovation Cost: $3.3 million
Building Occupied: January 1998

Location: 700 University Avenue
Space: 27,500 square feet”

It is hard to imagine buying an entire apartment building for only $115,000, but then, that was 70 years ago.  I believe the Renovation mentioned above by S.U. refers to is present usage by the continuing ed. branch of S.U. I don’t recall it being renovated by the time I moved there.

A brief digression.  I mentioned Archbold Stadium last post but neglected to give a photo, so here is one:

Archbold Stadium

Archbold Stadium Syracuse University

“The stadium was  in a natural hollow at the southwestern corner of campus. Much of the 200,000 cubic yards of earth excavated was used as fill for constructing Carnegie Library. A modern adaptation of the Roman Coliseum, the first football game played in the stadium took place on September 25, 1907 between Hobart and SU. At the time, the exterior of the stadium had not been completed. The final game played in Archbold was on November 11, 1978; SU beat Navy 20-17. The stadium was demolished to allow for construction of the Carrier Dome.”

While I am reminiscing, I also include some information on Winchell, which was the women’s dormitory where Marge lived, though a few years later.

Winchell Hall Dormitory for Women

Winchell Hall Dormitory for Women

“The first dormitory to be constructed on campus and occupied in the Fall of 1900. Winchell Hall and Haven Hall were placed on the north side of University Place, bookending the University Avenue axis leading down the hill from the Hall of Languages. This marked the first time that campus buildings formally crossed University Place. In 1918, due to the First World War, Winchell was used as barracks for the Students’ Army Training Corps. While in the process of being demolished to make room for the building of Schine Student Center, a fire, possibly arson, swept through Winchell in early February 1984 and hastened the venerable structure’s end.”

The last two buildings no longer exist, but Grover Cleveland has found new life, so let’s get back to life in those idyllic (?)  days.  University life brought not only new quarters, but a change in life’s direction for me.

During my Freshman year, I found the curriculum to be limited in scope and stifling.  My view of the Seniors I met that year was that they were blinkered, truly so.  I wanted to end my tenure with knowledge of more than thermodynamics (gag) and differential equations.  I am sure you get the concept without more details.  I wanted to have a broader education than strictly engineering.

Fortunately, Syracuse had a dual degree program involving both the College of Liberal Arts and the Engineering college.  This approach was, somewhat simplified, using the elective courses in one college for required courses in the other.  The result would be a Liberal Arts degree in 1958 and an Engineering degree in 1959.

I discussed this idea and wish of mine with my parents.  They could see the sense of it and understand my wish for a fuller education.  At the same time, my sister Karen had to be considered. Mom and Dad did not have the resources to even partially provide for the expenses of my 5th year.  I agreed fully and was confident that I could take care of the 5th year expenses myself in some way.

So, this being understood, I submitted my application for admittance to the College of Liberal Arts as a candidate for the dual degree program.  This was approved in September of 1955, although I was only credited with 27 credit hours and 48 grade points. I never noticed this until just now, after all those years.  I didn’t get Liberal Arts credit for the courses indicated as engineering, otherwise I would have had 38 credit hours.  It did not make much difference, really.  I did not miss a semester, was admitted to the program, and when I got my engineering degree in 1959, I would receive credit for those freshman courses.  There was one fringe benefit though.  I did not have to take a required Liberal Arts course with the description, “Citizenship.”  From what I could gather from friends who entered Liberal Arts as freshmen, that course was a real catch-all pain in the gluteus maximus. Also, a full course load was 16 or at most 17 credit hours, not 19 or 20.  A tasty piece of cake all around.

Now, life at Grover Cleveland.  There were several floors, I am not certain how many, perhaps 6.  One entered a medium-sized foyer which held the last stop for the one elevator.  With the elevator stopped, the interior was visible through the top half of the door.  Inside was a brass accordion style folding door which one opened and pushed a button for the desired floor, manually closed the door and up you went.  There was no elevator operator, not spot for one.  I do recall one building in Plattsburg that had such an elevator in my youth.  There was a little round stool for the operator to sit upon and a large brass control with a handle that the operator used to push for the desired floor, and then make a final adjustment to level the elevator with the floor prior to opening the door. There might have been one such arrangement in 1926 when built, but not in 1955.

Each floor had mostly 2 bedroom apartments, with a few  one bedroom units.  In 1955 I was able to get a single and claim the bedroom. I didn’t have the place to myself, oh no.  The living area was now furnished with two beds with room for clothes etc.  There was a bathroom, but no kitchen.  I don’t know how the original apartment dwellers ate their meals.  Perhaps they were well off enough to eat in restaurants. Or maybe they made toast in toasters and soup on a hot plate.  Not so high-class.  We were forbidden any hint of cooking food in the dorm. If the Food Nazis found some, we would be written up for our transgression.  No doubt, food would attract roaches and that would be a real problem.

So, I had two apartment-mates.  One was a nice guy in the Forestry school, Allan Peaslee. His home was in Hancock, NY, the home of Margery’s grandparents, also in the village cemetery, her ancestors from at least civil war times.

 I don’t remember the name of the second resident.  He was a scrawny sort of guy, I don’t know how else to describe him.  I believe he had some trouble with his coccyx that required medical attention.  In addition, his eyelids never opened more than half way.  He looked as though he was always on the edge of dropping off to sleep.  He was pleasant, friendly and a good fellow dweller, but we never became real friends. I hope that in later life he was able to get his physical problems corrected.

What happened to my friend and roommate from my Freshman year?  He decided to take a year off and get a job while he sorted out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.  A wise choice. In 1955 the U.S. manufactured about everything you can think of for both the U.S. and the rest of the world. Roy got a job making locomotives, as he called it.    ALCO, as I believe the company was named, made locomotives for the railroad business It was located. in Auburn, NY, a small old city not far from his home. Roy got a job in its engineering department.  His Dad, Leo was the manager of a machine shop in Auburn that made spark plugs,  I don’t remember the exact name, but the product was well regarded.

 That was typical of NY, and no doubt other states as well, big companies such as G.E., Corning Glass, Crouse Hinds, (the street light company) and many more as well as feeder companies such as foundries. My home town, Dannemora NY, was, and is a one industry town.  The industry is keeping criminals locked up, many for life.  Did you ever watch the movie “October Sky?”  If not give it a try.  Its one industry was mining but the atmosphere, and psychology, much the same. My birthplace, Plattsburg, NY was the county seat housing the county autocracy and bureaucracy.  In the summer Plattsburg did a big trade with Canadians who came down to enjoy Lake Champlain. Consequently, I knew nothing about manufacturing or engineering, but I thought I saw a future for myself in this.

After about a month at Syracuse, I decided to call Roy to see if we could get together and get in touch again.  This led to an invitation to spend a weekend with him which I was glad to accept.  I didn’t have such a killer course load at school and I welcomed the chance to get away for a few days.  Roy’s family was very nice to me.  His Mom told Roy, not me, though that I looked as if I had just been rescued from a concentration camp. At the time, I was a bit less than 6’2″ and weighed 150 lbs. Gravity had shortened me a little and I have put on 25#.  Roy and I were about the same height, but he outweighed me by maybe 50 lbs.  We were just built differently.  Mrs. Bates decided her role was to fatten me up.  She was a good cook and made a wonderful butternut cake.  In case you don’t know, butternuts are native to the Eastern US and parts of Canada. They are also known as a white walnut. They make a fine cake, but the nut meat itself takes more effort to extract than walnut nut meat.

Roy’s father, Leo, was built a lot like Roy.  He had risen through the ranks becoming the manager of the machine shop, I think the title then was Superintendent, a title now quite old-fashioned.  Roy had two sisters.  Pat was about 4 years maybe 5 at most, younger than I.  Cheryll  was 8 or 9 years younger than I. We all got along fine, and until I graduated their home was my home away from home.  A pleasant and positive experience that I remember fondly, hidden away, but not lost, in my synapses.  I hope that never happens.

I think this post has gone along enough for now.  I started my sophomore year a different person than I was the prior year.  I was certain now that I had made good choices, and certain that I could handle whatever was in the future.  I looked forward to my stay at Syracuse with confidence I didn’t have a year before.


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Ages and Stages-Class of 1958

Here I am, in 1954, at Syracuse University, a green as grass Freshman.  How did you feel, hope for, etc. when you started?  How did I get here where the student population alone is greater than that of my home county in NY? I may have answered this before. Just if I didn’t, a quick review.

I completed high school in the village of Dannemora, NY, in the extreme northeast corner of the state.  The high school was truly “itty bitty teeny weeny” with a total population including all classes of 130 at most. In 1954 the State held its annual exam for any seniors who wanted to take part.  The test was similar to the SAT exam of that time.  Any winners would receive an academic scholarship good at any college in the state. I, and another class mate, won 2 of the 10 scholarships awarded in our county.  Itty bitty, for me meant very small upper level math classes.  Almost tutoring.  This started me on my journey into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Shortly after I received my notification from the State, I received  a letter from Syracuse University offering to match the state scholarship in an amount to cover full tuition. The only need for me was maintaining an overall average of C+.  My fondest wish; granted.  I still remember showing the letter to my Dad.  The one and only time in my life, he gave me a big bear hug.  I still remember this,  it was quite unusual for him, he was not very demonstrative.  He did what he could and this was a big day for him too.

Dad and I went to Syracuse to have a visit with the Dean of the Engineering college.  It went very well and the Dean truly seemed interested in having me enroll there.  I was SO happy.  There were many excellent Engineering colleges  in  NY, but limited to engineering only.

 Clarkson College of Engineering (now Clarkson University) accepted me and offered to put me on the wait list for a full scholarship. Big deal!  Furthermore, it is in Potsdam, NY, in upstate NY. I lived upstate long enough, thank you. Syracuse had many colleges and many more opportunities to explore other courses, or even different colleges.  Just what I wanted!! So, my search for education can stated as wishing to optimize my opportunities, while minimizing my risks.  More simply, who offers me the best deal?  Very logical, as Spock would say, had he been around then.

Summer passes working in another restaurant. Finally, September comes and my Mom and Dad drive me to school. I believe my sister Karen, came along as well, this is a big day for them also.  My Dad wasn’t able to finish High School due to the premature death of his father.  Mom went to what is now Kent University so she could teach elementary school.  A century ago, this was a one year program named Normal School.  Both parents actively encouraged my sister and I to aspire to  a college degree.

I wish I had a picture of the day I arrived, but I don’t, or can’t find it.  It is a blur in my mind.  I do remember that my Mom took me shopping in Plattsburg before we left so I would have some new clothes.  I do remember getting much information from S.U. as well as a lots of ads about places to shop, what was fashionable, etc.  I think we did a good job of shopping and I did not look like the up-country hick that in fact, I was.

I did receive, as I imagine all incoming students did, literature informing me where I was to live, who my new roommate was, etc.  Where was I going to live?  Watson Dormitory for Men, a brand new facility for new students.  I believe that before this, the University had some converted WWII quonset type buildings used as dorms. Fortunately, they are ancient history.  I did check Google and here is the information I found about Watson:

Watson Hall my Freshman home

Watson Hall my Freshman home

Welcome to Watson Hall in 2015!

Address: 405 University Place, Syracuse, NY 13210

Built in 1954, Watson Hall (formerly Watson Dormitory for Men) houses about 450 students and 11 resident advisors on four floors. Watson is just a short walk from the Ernie Davis Dining Center and the Kimmel Food Court. Watson features a spacious main lounge, study space, classrooms and laundry facilities on the main floor.

In 1954, University furnished dining was mandatory.  At that time, Watson had a cafeteria on the ground floor.  At enrollment we received a dining card good for 20 meals a week.  We duly lined up every day, got our card punched, and got the meal du jour, whatever it was. Sunday was our day of some choice.  As I recall, they served breakfast and lunch, no dinner, so we were on our own for that.  

Isn’t it amazing that this structure still stands after over 60 years?  It appears to have some changes made, but basically the same. It is probably now co-ed.  Another amazing occurrence is the selection of roommates.  The technology of the day was 80 column cards used in IBM accounting machines.  I presume that as much of our vital statistics as possible was crammed into one card per person.  Then, with some unknown programming technology of the day, we were paired off into roommates.  My new mate was Roy Bates, whose home was in the nearby hamlet of Port Byron, NY.  We had a variety of fellow residents, many of them Korean War veterans.  NYC was well represented, as were other areas of the  state, and even Canada. 

In many ways were similar, and when we differed, we always came up with an amicable solution.  We were both from small towns, each of us recipients of S.U. academic scholarships, and were from middle class homes.  In September of 1954, I was 17 and Roy was 16.  I was young for college as I started first grade when I was four years old.  We had no kindergarten where I lived.  Roy was quite bright and had skipped a grade, 4th or 5th, something like that.

 I can’t find my SAT record, and neither can SAT services, as I had them do a search.  I am quite sure it was around 1250 when the average of college bound students was 1000.  I think Roy had a similar score.  So, I don’t think either of was to win a Nobel prize but we were able to compete academically.  Roy and I are still good friends and keep in touch by phone and Internet.  Neither of us do as much travelling as we once did because the aches, pains,  and minor malfunctions of aging are catching up with us.  

Our first week,   with plenty of orientation stuff, mixers, a trip to the Archbold Stadium (now gone) to witness a football practice and do our freshman chant.  “We’re the class of  ’58, we’re the ones that really rate!”   Still can’t get it out of my mind.  And, almost forgot, a “Frosh Beanie.” I felt like a fool wearing it but I did for a bit, then to Hell with it.  

Engineering college orientation  was a strong dose of reality.  I still remember all of us, maybe 150 then, being told to stand up, look at the person to our right, then the person to our left and return facing the speaker.  His remark was “Next year at this time there will only be two instead of the present three.”  Wow, that was a chiller, but true as it turned out.

Freshman Engineering called for 20 credit hours the first term and 19 the second. No choices whatsoever.  No wimpy 16 or 17 credits and take 5 or more years to finish. Just do it, take it like a man.  I say this not as a sexist, just stating a fact of the times.  Our Engineering class had two women out of the maybe 150 students.  One was quite good-looking and in the Industrial Engineering department as was I.  Her name was Margaret “Peggy” and the professors always made certain that if she was in a class of theirs,  they made sure they had a good haircut, neat clothes, etc.  This fact was noticed by the faculty wives as we got to know some of them in our later years.  The other female was in Chemical Engineering and other than that I remember nothing of her.

Do you remember those period movies of WWI where the troops  huddled miserably in their trenches? Then the Lieutenant shouted “Over the top men?”  Of course, most of them, including the newly minted 2nd “Looey”  churned into bloody mince meat. That is a good analogy to  Calculus 1.

 A large number of my class had absolutely no idea what was going on. My class instructor was a middle-aged Swedish woman. Helga Fischer-Colbry I think was her name. Quite nice and knowledgeable but not quite comfortable with colloquial English. When she had to discuss something rotational she would say “Like a watch, yes?” Clockwise to us.   Many classmates dropped out of Calculus and took remedial math which counted for nothing really, but it may have helped some.

I, however, understood.  My last year in High School featured cramming as many math classes as I could take to prepare me for this moment.  Our advanced algebra class covered many of the topics as beginning calculus did.  I ended up with a final grade of an A in that course.  I ended up with an overall average of B for the semester.  That was due to a C in Freshman English.  That was a crappy course, taught by a crappy instructor.  I actually liked English in High School but this course turned me against the subject. I rarely read literature even today; history, biography, philosophy yes, but not literature.  I guess that makes me illiterate.  So be it.

How great I felt!!! I did it and could keep on doing it.  That is, getting at least good grades and competing with some quite cosmopolitan students from NYC.  I had to study all the time as many of the courses had labs included.  About the only time to keep up with assignments was after dinner.  I was in the band in High School and enjoyed playing cornet in that.  I considered keeping that up in college, but there was no time, no way.  Same thing being associated with the campus radio station. No time for extra-curricular activities.  However, I did not regard this as a personal loss.  I valued then, and I value now my independence and privacy.    

It dawned on me that my relationship with Syracuse University was in the nature of a business deal.  The University’s part of the deal was to “pay” me in the way of free tuition.  My part was to keep up at least a C+ average and so do my part in raising the academic level of the student body. I showed the potential of doing this by winning a NY academic scholarship and getting an SAT of at least 250 points above the mean of the run of the mill entering student. My freshman year proved I could hold up my end of the deal.  I had no school spirit, so-called, did not want to join a fraternity, socialize and make contacts.  That was not part of the deal so I did what I was there for, had no regrets then, nor do I now.  

I left 1954-55 feeling quite satisfied.  I finished the school year with good grades and maintained my scholarship.  I actually looked forward to summer vacation in the Adirondack Mountains working as a resort cook.  Life had been good.  It still is.  My regret is that Marge is not here with me continuing to enjoy the goodness of life.  

More about Syracuse next post, see you then.
















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Ages and Stages-Chapter 1

I have finally come to that point of  thinking I have something to share again.  And as I often do, I begin with a snippet that resonates with me and my story.  This one is from the singer Glen Campbell. If you are a certain age, or older, I am sure you will remember it.  If not check it out on YOUTUBE:

The Everyday Housewife

She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles that weren’t there yesterday

And thinks of the young man that she almost married

What would he think if he saw her this way?

She picks up her apron in little girl-fashion as something comes into her mind

Slowly starts dancing rememb’ring her girlhood

And all of the boys she had waiting in line

Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife

You see ev’rywhere any time of the day

An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me.

How does this song fit in with the post title? Stay tuned, more to come. I truly believe  it is valid to look at life as a whole, from birth to death, as a series of ages and stages.  The text following is a greatly condensed description of the book with this title.  It concerns child development, however; I believe the underlying concept expands beyond that. Life its self is a series of ages and stages.   Please  accept that possibility, as I hope to build on it  from my personal life. Thanks.

“A comprehensive parent’s guide to your child’s psychological development from birth through age 10.  Charles Schaefer and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo tell you what behaviors you can expect as your child grows and how you can help him or her to advance to the next level of development.  The book’s structure (divided into four stages of child development–birth to 18 months, 18 to 36 months, 36 months to age six, and six to ten years)  Covers all five areas of psychological health–emotional, cognitive, friendship/relationships, personal growth, and morality .”

I did earn a liberal arts degree with a major in Psychology.  The national honorary society initiated me into the Syracuse Chapter in 1958.  I enjoyed the courses, particularly one about developmental psychology.  Perhaps I chose this major in Liberal Arts to help me better understand both myself and other people.  I think this choice helped, though by no means provided all the answers.

Psychological health–emotional, cognitive, friendship/relationships, personal growth, and morality .  These certainly are important health issues for children and for adults as well.  Hopefully, our parents, teachers and the society of our childhood gave all of us a foundation to grow increasingly psychologically healthy. This not ending at age 10, but at death itself.  Beyond that……….who knows?

Are the dreams of the everyday housewife limited to her alone?  What about the everyday husband?  On a personal level, what about the little girl next door during my childhood ten years (2-10) ?  We lived in a little village of about 1000 if you counted all those in the country around.  We walked together to our elementary school.  We walked back for lunch and returned to school, walking home after the last bell. We played.

Childhood was much less structured 70+ years ago.   We would play together, sometimes by the river, in the woods, or seeing who could jump the farthest from the top of the chicken coop.  We also would occasionally fight together, later kissing and making up.  All with no professional help, just caring parents.

What would have happened if we had moved through adolescence and stayed together in marriage?  I don’t know of course, though we did reconnect almost 50 years later and would share memories from the time when tying our own shoes was a great accomplishment.  Those memories were, and still are, special to me today.

From childhood to adolescence to teenage.  From kissing and making up, to kissing and making out.  I remember still the first time a girl French Kissed me.  It was at a New Year’s party at a classmate’s home when his parents were away.  We were drinking Cokes, though a bit augmented for flavor. Not bingeing just exploring a bit of what new possibilities there might be.

 As to that kiss, it was the girl, Eve, who initiated it. She was in no hurry to quit.  It was a pleasant surprise for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it at age 15.  Eve was in my grade, an intelligent though rather plain-looking girl.  I believe we liked each other, but not enough to become romantically connected. I wanted to extricate myself from this rural outpost while she planned to stay.

I think, for me, this was the beginning of “coming of age.”  I believe such tales are so categorized.  Pretty tame to many of you out there, and maybe not to some.  The next event in this evolution was leaving home for a summer working at my first “real” job in an Adirondack resort as a dishwasher.

I was 16 and had looked around for a job as I was now of age to work.  I had given up and was about to go camping by the river with a friend when my parents showed up and told me they had a call from Saranac Inn saying that if I wanted a job, show up the next day.

So I did.  A beautiful old wooden resort on Saranac Lake from the 19th century came into view, modernized to an extent.  I had now had responsibility for showing up, performing my tasks, working with others, taking orders and other valuable lessons in life.  Later I moved up the scale a bit to being a cook for the remaining summers in high school and University.  I enjoyed the work and the workers in the hospitality business.

A fringe benefit was meeting young, usually college students, women working as servers. Summer romances-easy to form and easy to forget. Also, when I was under 18, the state drinking age, the worker’s beer hall was not fussy about serving as long as you were an employee.

 Remember Ogden Nash? A book of his “A Golden Trashery of Ogden Nashery”  included this one “Women and liquor is what college boys boast of, but between you and me, beer is what they get the most of.”  I was on my way.

So, what next? The town where I lived did not have much to offer for socializing other than school activities, and movies maybe 3 nights a week.  So occasionally, I would have a little date.  The big event as seniors was a trip to New York City over Easter break.  We all looked forward to this.  We took the train down to NYC and back as air travel was almost unheard of then, and trains were frequent.

Another country school, maybe even a girls school, had a similar program involving  5 girls at most.  They needed a chaperone and their school obtained a graduate of a couple of years back to fill this role.  I still remember her, Lita .  She was a very attractive brunette, also intelligent.  The other guys were either involved with their own relationships or not interested, but I was. This time there was a level playing field and I made a point being next to Lita on outings etc. and she reciprocated the interest.  Very nice.

One of our outings was to see a film at the Radio City Music Hall.  Don’t know if it still exists.  Lita and I sat together so I took a little chance and put my arm around her.  She leaned into me  and we watched together while lighting up and enjoying a smoke or two.  You could do that then, everyone did, so sophisticated!!!  Oh yeah. A kiss or two in the dark added to a very enjoyable evening, I truly think for both of us.

When we got back home, I got some new respect from some of the other guys.  Bob, how did you do that, she was quite a woman!  Lita worked in the prison and got off her shift at about 4:30.  School ended by then so I would often wait outside to meet her and walk her to her car.

The last time I saw her was at about the time we graduated.  An impromptu party was arranged.  A neighbor of mine had a boyfriend with a car. She asked me if I wanted to go with them and I could take Lita.  We all made the rounds of country beer halls enjoying some drinking and dancing.  Lita and I decided to sit one place out and spend time in the back seat of the car, both getting to know each other better, and saying goodbye.  Lita had taken a promotion  in Albany, the state Capital, and I would soon be going to University.

Parting is indeed sweet sorrow.   Romeo and Juliet.  Old Willy Shakespeare sure had a way with words,  and the time had come for us to say our farewell.

 I see that I have taken about twice the number of words as I usually plan on. Marge and I both brought to our relationship what we had individually learned in infancy, childhood, primary and secondary school and finally University.  Nature and nurture, not vs.

 This story really is going somewhere. I leave you looking forward to attending Syracuse University in an urban center. No more small town upstate apple-knocker life for me.

 Trust me. Writing takes longer than I thought, so please stay with me, and share a comment or a question, if you feel so moved.

Posted in Dannemora, NY, Pre Marriage life, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Religon and Rocks

It is time to bring things up to date a bit.  In doing so I have to go back in time a bit. In 1960 we married and in 1970 had our 10th anniversary.  Both our parents had urged us to get a University education,  and with it, move up a bit in the world.  Our Moms and Dads expected to get an education that qualified us for at least, middle class jobs with a future. That future, then usually meant a job in a solid company, or public service with the opportunity to move ahead as opportunity and interest presented itself.

Women, then, did not have the breadth of opportunity as there is at this time. In my class in the College of Engineering at Syracuse, there were perhaps 200 students in our class. Of these two were women. One of them, Peggy Westfall, as I recall,  was in my department. She was quite social and attractive. Quite competent also. Her professors, all male, made a noticeable improvement in their appearance when she was in one of their classes.  I checked in my yearbook and she also sung in the University choir. Maybe I should have attended Chapel after all. Another young woman was in chemical engineering. One percent in Engineering, and maybe now 20% or a bit more.  Still a lot of room for social improvements particularly in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology.

My real interest in high school was in History and English. I vaguely envisioned myself as a History professor in a small New England college, tweed jacket and pipe, the works. Think Harrison Ford at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Arc.”

I went to a tiny high school, as did Marge. My school class  had maybe 30 students which I think was a record as the largest. Marge went to a similar school in Cornwall. Despite Marge having lived in different countries and places, she was basically a small town girl. I was a small town boy and I could not wait to get out of what I regarded as a stifling experience. I took up Engineering at the personal suggestion of our principal. This required me to cram a lot of math into my Senior year and it was well worth the effort. I did well while others in University dropped like flies in a cloud of Flit. When I graduated S.U. the economy was booming, the WWII graduates had moved along in their fields and there was a good market for newly minted engineers.

Marge excelled using words. She read voraciously, had won awards for her composition and speaking skills, and, as did I,  won a New York State competitive academic scholarship. Marge did not have a defined goal other that going to college. She started in the school of Theater, though without having personality for an actress. She switched to German then, I believe. She had, in high school, a German girl friend and they became close friends. When Marge could no longer coast along on her linguistic ability doing the hard work in German, she switched to English literature. She graduated in that major.

We had married in 1960, in a way because that was what couples did then. That culture did not condone living together for a while, perhaps stay together, perhaps not. This is not a personal value statement, just stating cultural changes. I think we really did love each other, though we were not ready for what marriage truly entailed. Then the hard work began.  Rocky Road was not just an ice cream flavor.

Religion, how does this enter into this monologue? I had nothing for or against religion. My mother raised me as a Methodists, that lasted until I graduated in 1954. I don’t think I darkened the doorsteps of a church, except as a tourist at European cathedrals, for at least a decade. Marge grew up a Presbyterian, I am sure this was to give her an opportunity to sing. She had a good trained Alto voice, singing in Cornwall as well as later the University choir.

When we moved to Binghamton, we joined a solid Presbyterian church, West Presbyterian, I believe. Marge’s aunt was a pillar of this particular church. As that was the denomination into which she grew up, she wanted to go there. I also joined the Binghamton church, might as well, as it was probably good for the children being raised in this environment.

Marge made some friends there. I had acquaintances, and in Vestal devoted a fair amount of time working for the mission church we attended there. I was even elected as an elder, part of the congregational leadership. I enjoyed this, had a few close friends, one quite close, and appreciated being part of the larger community performing an important, if not vital service role.

We were both, at that time, dissatisfied at the way our marriage was working out. We did not follow the script we thought we had firmly in hand in 1960. Marge was not personally secure about her psychic image, her self-esteem. During the Vestal years, Marge became part of a growing religious trend, Charismatic Christians. This meant much to her, definitely a positive force.

Myself, I tended being more an observer of life and not a participant. I was often bemused by the illogical and non-critcal thinking & behavior of the human race. By temperament and training I was 100% Enlightenment. What are the facts? Gather them, analyze them, then synthesize them into personal action or professional opinion. Unproveable dogmatic beliefs played little role for me.

In many ways, this approach worked very well though I don’t think it helped me give Marge what she really desired, as well as vice-versa. So, we drifted along, fulfilling, with some discontent, our societal roles. Not the Winter of our Discontent that Willy Shakespeare referred to. That implied an end to Winter.  Ours was more of a Four Seasons discontent. If not boulders in our joint journey, surely speed bumps.

Our first brush with the Lutheran faith happened late in 1969. The estate sales agent who had showed us many houses was Lutheran. He invited us to an evening service when he was giving a talk. I believe this was at Christ Church Lutheran in Allentown. I know it was near 7th & Hamilton where I worked. He was a WWII veteran whose background provided focus for his talk. Marge and I were completely lost when the liturgy began, while it lasted, until it ended . People were confidently flipping through their hymnals and we had no idea what was going on. We liked Wally who had spent a lot of time in our house hunting. We politely told him we enjoyed his presentation and the service, though his presentation was the only part we understood.

I think the noted organist of that time, E. Power Biggs, later gave a concert at the same church where we went to hear Wally. A prestigious church.

Rear patio

Patio at rear of Beverly hills

When we had settled in at Beverly Hills, we decided to join a church that was part of our general neighborhood. Since there was  nearby  a small German Lutheran church, we decided to go there. After some hesitation we joined. The church was officially named St. Paul’s Lutheran Blue church on 5305 Blue Church Rd, off Applebutter road in R.D. Copersburg.

It was, still is, a small stone church, a cemetery in the back dating back to the 1770’s. To us the practices and beliefs were still that old and dead. The pastor’s name was Koones, probably an Americanization of the German name Kuntz. We quit in March of 1971. We still have a copy of our letter of resignation. Marge and I both signed and the following quotes are from that letter:

“The congregation, while not actively hostile, has certainly not been congenial. While it is possible that there is some semblance of Christian fellowship, we have not noticed such. The ministry also appears overburdened with structure and formalism. Thee also appears to us a lack of sensitivity to the practice of other forms of Christian worship, based on Gospel, however not practiced by the Lutheran Church”.

In short, they didn’t like us, we didn’t like them. In fact, we never joined another church while we lived in Pennsylvania. However, we did migrate to attending a Moravian church in Coopersburg. We knew and were friendly with several of that congregation. We both became active in the choir. We never joined though. Once bit, twice shy as the old saying goes.

So what else? We had now been married over ten years, Ingrid was in elementary school, Louise was in day school. We had a new good-sized ranch house in a new subdivision with a half-acre lot. Marge formed friendships and did volunteer work at the local library. She did not want to work, did not have to, wanted mostly being a good Mom, as well as having friends with women who were similar in age, belief and background to her.

As for me, PP&L did not seem to know what to do with me now that I was there. The industry was terra incognita to me. My boss, Ed Seidler became interested in a company project to outreach to the young African-Americans who had the potential of entering the company. We had 5 divisions and I became the gofer coordinating the project from the home office. The Personnel Office hired a woman, Liz Lynch, from the Black community and we worked together on this. I think we complemented each other and had a good relationship.

So, maybe a test for me, and as I recall the project worked out fairly well. After I joined PP&L  I was dismayed to learn that the company had hired a consultant , United Research as I recall their name was. The consensus below the executive suite was that this consultant had sold a bill of goods to a senior V.P. Their idea was to improve efficiency by cobbling up a metric from available data sources in the company. This was at best tolerated by those involved at the lower levels. The contract was expiring soon and I was  to continue the program. This was done with a wink and a nod. I did have maybe two meetings with the project manager, and when he left, I did nothing, which what was expected and the program died on the vine.

The next event which was very good for me was this. There were two departments doing construction for retail customer installations. The Customer Service group had small construction crews in each division and the Engineering and Construction department also had crews doing very similar work. The overlap was obvious and a decision made at the executive level to merge the work.

My boss, Ed Seidler was given the choice of leading the project, or staying where he was as a construction manager and taking his chances on the outcome. He liked this sort of challenge and took the task on. Again, I was the gofer and was his eyes, ears, and voice outside Allentown. I attended a two-week training program at Princeton to learn a system of developing decision matrices to quantify the goals, name and quantify the alternatives, use group dynamics in this process and develop a plan. Just the thing for an engineer. Ed left his position as Construction manager, took along his secretary, Kitty Franz,  and me as staff and away we went.

All this took some time to complete. At the end, I ended up as a manager of a new department in the resulting organization. This meant a considerable raise in grade as well as pay level. Most of all, I now had the responsibility of running my own department. So, all was turning out well for me, validating my decision to join g PP&L.

What has all this got to do concerning rocks? In truth, not too much in a physical sense really, though our first PA house was a stone farm-house. I found an actual picture which I am enclosing. These old houses had a lot of charm. However this one was at the edge of a cultural and linguistic divide. Our neighbors were Amish farmers. They lived a different culture, a different native language. We were really Auslanders and would remain so. Marge, in particular disliked this isolation and inability to form relationships, so the move to Beverly Hills was in the right direction.


Our first home in PA, Siegfriedsdale Road, RD Kutztown, PA

At a symbolic level, our marriage was becoming less “rocky” though there were stony silences on both our parts. I think the joys and responsibilities of parenthood overlaid a lot of the real as well as potential problems that emerged later.

The house as we purchased it, had some exterior details still unfinished. We had paid the asking price $32,000 for $3200 down with 6% interest payments. This was a good deal for the times. There were some minor defaults in the house itself and we asked our lawyer to see if we could get a judgement against the seller for the cost of making good on these. He researched this, finding that there were judgements of $20,113 already against him. There was no way we could we could move ahead of these priorities even if we were to prevail. Of course there would be legal and court fees if we even tried. For this he charged us $68, generous enough on his part. So, in a symbolic way, these were stones in our path seeking redress.

On a strictly physical basis, there was the matter of not having a real drive up to our house. What there was just a frozen dirt track from the road to the garage. We did get around to doing something about this in mid-March of 1971. We arranged with a local building supplies company to deliver 16 tons of crushed rock, dumping as well as he could on our dirt track. The cost for this material  was only $57 delivered and roughly spread around. By spending a Saturday using a garden rake, I was able to smooth this out, somewhat, into a driveway.

Isn’t this exciting? At a least we were making progress to settling into our new home. The Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton city trio was not really a middle America region geographically. In others it was culturally. There were no really poor, there were no really rich. There were no Hispanics except for a few Puerto Ricans, not many African-Americans.

The total metropolitan populations was a bit under 500,000 in the three cities and environs. Not really urbanized in the meaning of New York, Los Angeles, etc. Not small town either. There were many colleges in the area and many cultural opportunities. There was petty crime of course, maybe 1 murder a year. Two on a bad year. 4th & Hamilton street was a spot for police to arrest “working girls”. Often really just young girls themselves. I think that $10 was the fee for a “quickie.” Of course, no Johns  arrested. All totalled, quite a safe place to live.

I now had a good engineer’s job in a large respected company. I had a fine boss and we liked and respected each other. I made enough money that Marge did not have to work, nor did she wish to. She could pursue her goal of being an excellent Mom, and socializing with friends and doing volunteer work.

In that way this was middle America, mostly WASP and a decent place in which to dwell. So there we were, middle class Americans, with a nice new middle class home, nice neighbors similar to ourselves, and prospects for a comfortable life then and in the future.

We fell a little short of average in the number of children we had. I believe the average for a couple then was 2.3 children.  We only had 2.0 We were a bit below par. We looked for a time share deal for children to pick up the missing .3 to no avail. REALLY JOKING!!!

Not an earth-shaking life, though quite satisfactory at least externally. This was our role, as laid out by our parents, as well as the society in the Eisenhower years when we were maturing.  We could have done better together, we could have done a Hell of a lot worse. We accepted and we fit in.

Not so shabby after all.

Posted in 1970-1980, Allentown, Binghamton, Coopersburg PA, Marital difficulties, Pennsylvania, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cars And Carpentry

What has the post title got to do with Marge, Bob or us?  In a way, an automobile is a tool. Its main purpose is to give us personal mobility.  We don’t have to rely on foot power, real equine horsepower, busses, trains and other similar forms of transportation.  Carpentry also requires tools to transform the raw material of wood into a house, bookshelf, kitchen cabinet, etc.  so the common denominator is tools.

Olduvai Gorge is a site in Tanzania that holds the earliest evidence of our human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years. Archaeologists use evidence of tool use, such as the Clovis Point, in dating material found in digs. These artifacts go back a mere 10,000 years or so.  From the earliest dawn of civilization, tools have been important, perhaps necessary to our evolution. I believe this is evidence of a primal need for people.

Now, getting more personal, I want to write a little about our 1964 Rambler station wagon.  Click the link above to see one. Here is how we acquired this car:  In 1966 I bought a beautiful 1962 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

Us and our Cadillac

Us and our Cadillac

This was the car that overtime bought. I felt I could indulge myself. This car was a gem, I wish I still had it.  Oh well.  Now we had two cars and I usually drove the Caddie, and left Marge the Ford but we would swap if she wanted to drive the Caddie.  The Ford was quite pock-marked from the salt in Syracuse and we decided to get rid of it.  I put a for sale ad in the paper in 1967 with no luck.  I went to a two-week intensive course in statistics at the University of Connecticut.  While I was gone, Marge sold the Ford herself.  She was quite proud of herself, rightfully so.

I regard automobile ownership from a strictly economic viewpoint. To me, cars are a wasting asset, not appreciating but depreciating. Houses and financial investments usually appreciated.  So, I would buy a car a year or 2 old when the biggest depreciation had taken place. I would shop around, do research (like I always did) and buy one that looked good to me.  After 1967 I always had at least two vehicles sometimes three and that practice worked for me.

So, in 1967 we had only one car.  I told Marge I would get a junker to drive to work so she could have the 62 Caddie.  I bought a 57 Caddie for $100.  I doubt it was worth that much.  I had it a few months, and traded it for the Rambler.  Our Rambler quite basic transportation without  the trim and details of the one above, but the year and color is right.

Moving along then, in 1970 we were at Beverly Hills and Marge’s father, Col. Alexander Sutherland, and his wife Peggy, drove East and stayed with us a few days.  I really admired him not only for his service to his country, but also his ability to do any task he set his mind to. Making jewelry, woodworking, roofing, etc. he could, do  it.  One of the days he was with us I mentioned the Rambler needed a tune-up. I asked him follow me to the garage.  His response was that he would show me how to do it myself, it was quite easy. He had a full tool box with him, timing light, tachometer, etc. with him.  We drove to an auto supply store, bought plugs and points.  On returning home, he walked me through the process. The task was easy, given the tools to do the job and know-how to use them.

From that time until all the electronic systems came to cars, I continued to do all the routine mechanical work on my cars.  It was really satisfying to me, almost visceral in a way as a present day use of tools that resonated with the tool makers and users of our ancient ancestors.  I was glad I did not have to this for a living, but it was very different from being an engineer and manager.

Now to carpentry.  My father was not good in doing any kind of home maintenance. He either got a friend to help or hired somebody.  I wanted to build things. Shortly after we married, I took a night school course in woodworking. It was poorly taught and the shop was poorly equipped. This was a disappointment to me.

Shortly after we moved to Binghamton, Col. Alex asked us if there was anything we wanted that he could make for us. He had retired and lived in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which was not too far from where we lived.  He had a complete well equipped shop at his house.  Marge and I talked about his offer. We decided we  could use a coffee table and told Col. Alex what, in general, we had in mind. He made us a beautiful solid walnut table that even after 50 years, still looks very nice.

Gutenberg developed the moveable type technology  in the 15th century. Until the 20th century, printed works were the media technology for centuries. Col. Alex became interested in printing as a hobby and, in the 1930’s bought a press, type, and accessories to do small-scale printing.  This was not a toy, but a real working press.  Marge expressed her interest in printing, and her father gave her all his equipment.  We used it for a while, with the help of our daughters, to print linoleum block Christmas cards. The printing ensemble traveled with us for 45 years.

When Marge was alive, we tried to give it away,but found no takers. In the fall of 2014, I happened to make contact with a retired printer in this area who loves this ancient technology He is teaching moveable type methods to a graphics arts class at our local university. He happily came and took all I had.  I felt very relieved that this equipment was not going to end up in a dumpster, instead becoming a learning tool for University students.  I am sure that Marge is, and perhaps still is, pleased at this outcome.

When we moved to Beverly Hills I still wanted to do woodworking myself and tried another night school course.  The shop was very complete with planers, mills drills, lathes, etc. The instructor was the foreman of the Allen Organ company model shop located not far from Allentown. He really knew his trade.

At this time in life, we had acquired many antiques and some reproduction pieces. We decided it would be nice to have a king size bed with the same motif.  That became my project.  The night school had rough cut maple which was ideal for the project.  I laid out a plan with dimensions of what I envisioned and talked with the instructor about my idea. He agreed and added some considerations I had not thought of.

It took me four terms, meeting once a week to learn how to run all the shop equipment and then use them in completing my project.  We were both pleased at how the end product finally looked.  I still have the frame, but springs and mattresses have gone up in height from what they were in 1970. They will not fit in my bedstead.  I have a very low metal frame for them and my maple frame serves  as a fence around it.

A last word on this. Do any of you remember the comic song “Does you chewing gum lose its flavor.”  Really, there is even a YOUTUBE video of Lonnie Donnegan performing it. The song  goes like this:

Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don’t chew it
Do you swallow it in spite

So who knows, the bedpost might still come in handy to me.

Marge bought me a radial arm saw for Christmas when we lived on Beverly Hills. With the saw and some small power tools, I was able to build bookcases, cabinets and other functional pieces of furniture and cabinetry.

Tying these threads together, these experiences have left me with a feeling of self-confidence in being able to personally do many of the tasks that arise in every day living. I am not as strong and flexible as when younger, and living alone, am more cautious about safety issues.  One current project involves combining my digital church organ, a synthesizer, and six digital sound modules into an electronic music room.  It is going to take a while, reading a lot of manuals, and working my way through the wiring involved, but I will get it done.


Posted in 1970-1980, Coopersburg PA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Green, Green, Grass of Home

April 7, 1970 was another step forward in transforming our new house into a finished home.  When we bought the house, the lawn work had never been completed, and we understood that.  The excavated material left from digging the basement piled up in a mound about 10 feet from the rear of the house. Dirt to the left of us, dirt to the right, and a dirty mini-mountain behind us.  In winter there was a considerable amount of snow on this mound and the girls had fun climbing up the back side and sliding down the front.  I took some home movies of them with the 8 mm camera I had purchased 10 years ago when I was in the air Force. It was the last home movie I shot. Super 8 mm superseded 8 mm format, and regular 8 mm  film was not as readily available as it once was.

So, the mini-mountain had to go. Marge and I had a talk about our finances and our goals concerning the yard. After talking, we agreed that the first activity was to install the lawn.  After completing the lawn,  we would plant some flowers, trees and shrubs ourselves.  The lot was 1/2 of an acre and the lawn area amounted to about 20,000 sq. feet.

 This job  involved much  work  to complete.   Grading the property came first to  correct the levels and slopes due to the yard being on a hill sloping in two directions.  This done,  power raking came next and then finish raking by hand.  Next the starter fertilizer would be applied.  The lawn was not of the best soil, just a layer of topsoil over a considerable amount of shale rock.  Shale is a sedimentary rock and was chiefly in the form of chips about the size of a half-dollar. Our Kentucky blue grass permanent lawn would be followed with quick-growing rye grass to protect the permanent blue grass. The last step was another raking to cover the seed and rolling to firm it in the ground.

As with anything major, Marge and I discussed what we wanted together.  We were partners, a team, so we shared in the decisions that affected both of us.  We invited a Landscape Contractor, Mr. Andrew Major of the Maple Rock Nursery in Coopersburg to visit us and give us a bid.  We liked him. He appeared capable  and competent. We received his bid on the 7th of April.  The bid was in the amount of $650 for the job.  That was about 75% of my monthly take home pay then in 1970. We really wanted to get the work  done in the spring. Marge and I jointly discussed this and on the 15th of April we agreed to Mr. Major’s proposal.  The contractor completed the work  in May and we paid him on June 4th.

It was now Marge’s turn on this project, becoming physically involved with the lawn.  It required moisture for the seed to germinate.  We had plenty of rain in our area, but you couldn’t count on it. Marge’s job description called for her to water the lawn before it got dry.  I was at the office every day  so she had to shoo away birds looking for seeds to eat, and water as required.  This involved taking the hose with a sprinkler head attached and spraying over the entire lawn if it didn’t look like rain. No small task with 1/4 acre of land to water by hand.

Marge did her job well, sprinkling the lawn and scaring away the birds.  We did have some weed problems.  This was not surprising as the lot was just part of an uncultivated field before the construction.  One weed in particular, was very noxious and grew very fast.  I asked somebody about this in the garden section of a store in Coopersburg. I  discovered the weed was burdock.  Here is a definition I found  of the plant.

“Burdock is best recognized as a stout, common weed with annoying burrs that stick to animal fur and clothing. This plant grows relatively tall therefore having deep roots which are brownish green, or nearly black on the outside. The basal rosette of leaves stays close to the ground the first year and the beginning of the second. These basal rosettes can grow up to 1 metre wide.” I understand the roots are edible but certainly nothing anybody would want in their yard. I bought some herbicide to spray on the plants as they came up and it worked well.

I found a photo of the house and yard taken in June 1970.  The grass is growing, though we still have a little problem with weeds.

New Yard

102 Beverly Hills with new grass

May 1970 marked the 10th anniversary of our wedding.  Our anniversary present to ourselves was having the lawn installed.  Marge became a field hand looking after the new lawn-to-be.  Practical but not pretty.  The lawn of course, not Marge, who still looked great.

 Instead of being “starving students” we were now at least in the center of the middle class.  We had two children, two cars and a two car garage to put them in, a new suburban home on a 1/2 acre lot.  I was finding my way into my newly created job, in an industry I had no experience in, and did not directly draw on my recently acquired MS degree.  Marge  made new friends, as did I, and PP&L was the best run company I ever worked for.  We would be there still were it not for the oil shocks later in the decade which decimated the economy in eastern Pennsylvania.

There are still many more memories of our stay in PA, and I plan recalling them in print in later posts

To view website full size slide shows click on SLIDESHOW . If you see a slide you like, pause the show and click on the image and choose an option that appeals to you,

Posted in 1970-1980, Allentown, Binghamton, Pennsylvania | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where the Hell is our Well?

The Way-Back machine is dialed to the first of March 1970. The water pressure in the house dropped, then stopped. Why? The first thing I thought of was that a circuit breaker had tripped. I checked this and no luck. Our big question was “Where the Hell is the well?” Nobody told us at closing, and since the well was submerged, nothing noticeable above ground.

Do you get your household water from a well? No. City folk! Well, we got our water from a drilled well, and flushed our sewage into a septic tank. This post is about our well. Septic tank later. First, I will share a few words, for those who do not own a water company, here are some of the details about a home owned drilled well.

In areas where fresh water is not available from a municipal supply, water can often be obtained from the earth. The concept is simple: dig or drill into the earth until you reach a supply of clean water. In some areas water is available fairly close to the surface, while in others it is hundreds of feet down.

Water Quality and Quantity

A well-water system should give clean water in sufficient quantities for the needs of the home and the people living there. Both the quality and quantity of well water can and should be tested.

Water quality: Water from a well should be tested on a regular basis. You can hire someone to test it or test it yourself. You can easily take a sample and send it out for testing. Don’t waste money on having this done.

Water quantity: Don’t let your well run dry. A quantity test is not common, but it can and should be done by an expert. The test, called a draw-down test, involves drawing water from the well at a standard flow rate to see how fast the water gets used up and how fast the well refills.

With a shallow well, the pump is  in or near the home and is readily accessible. With deep wells, the pump is at the bottom of the well, and you will neither see nor hear the pump.  Which is better: a jet pump mounted in the home, or a submersible pump at the bottom of the well? We had a submersible.

Submersible pump: This pump can draw water up from hundreds of feet in the earth. For a deep well, the submersible pump is your only option, but it is also expensive and difficult to keep up and repair. Oh yes!! At the time our well failed I had no idea of what to do.  Below is a simplified diagram of a drilled well system. The devil is often in the lack of details.  I  studied engineering, graduated an engineer, and have a license as an engineer.   Once an engineer, always an engineer. So  I give you details.   The diagram below and some of the  information above is from living with my home.

Drilled well details

Drilled well details

Our well was very similar with this exception. The well, wellhead, and seal are all below the ground.  You have to accept this exception to understand our problem. Now that you have proceeded this far, I enclose a more detailed diagram so we can fully understand how complex a well is. The diagram coming up is from the Stothoff company. PLEASE click this link, you will learn  much.

 Item # 5 is vital to grasping our problem.  This is a Torque Arrestor also known as a torque stop installed directly above the submersible pump to protect pump and well components from starting torque damage. This torque results from the current surge that occurs when the pump  starts.  Happens with any electric motor.

One of the engineers in an other department at PP&L was an expert in underground utility construction.  He told me that he had a locating device he used which sent a signal on the underground wires which he could trace with earphones.  When he lost the signal, that was where the break in the connection was.  I will spare you the details on this, just trust me, it worked. That was progress, I relished it and thanked the guy for coming over on his day off to help us. His instrument indicated the broken wire was about 25′ from the house at about a 45 degree angle from the rear of the house. A big step forward, surely.  Now we had to dig up the topsoil and find the well.

 You might enjoy the following:  We hired the local gravedigger to come over and dig at the place we had marked.  Shortly after, he did come with his pickup and a trailer at the rear with his backhoe on it.  He carefully dug and after he got down about 5 feet, there was the well.  Wonderful! Great progress: now we had to find a well installer to diagnose the problem and repair it. We located such a person who informed us the trouble was that the torque arrestor was improperly installed resulting in the electric line to the pump being torn loose.  He was able to fix it in a few days.  More good news for sure.

Meanwhile, we had no household water at all.  Our neighbor was kind enough to let us fill up a 5 gallon can from his outside spigot. I really appreciated this, as it was another step closer to ending this mess.  How does one turn the water on when the weather is freezing? The answer is by using a frost faucet. I had lived in the Northeast all my life and never had to turn the water outside. So, I had a frost faucet but didn’t know it.  There is a frost faucet in our neighbor’s house connecting the exterior spigot to the water line. It looks like the image below.

Frost free faucet

Frost free faucet

I  tried to resist temptation showing a schematic of this. I failed. You may even find this information useful some time.  The faucet’s purpose is to prevent the water staying in the faucet and freezing. We had one, everyone who owned a well had one, and they worked. I don’t think stores had coin operated water stations as they do now.  Even if they did, it would have been a pain to carry a back seat filled with empty gallon jugs, fill them,  and home again.

This water arrangement worked OK for cooking, washing dishes, and  occasional hand and face washing.  Showers were impossible and the bathroom rule was “if its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown, flush it down.” Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the old saying goes.  Our family was un-Godly “rank” at that time. However, we were all cheered because we were on the right track to fixing the problem.

A family friend in the village of Coopersburg  kindly invited our family to come over for a  Shower and Supper. We accepted this invitation gladly, and let the girls shower first while we chatted with our hosts. Then Marge and I enjoyed a steamy, satisfying, shower together. The couple that showers together really gets to know each other. This showering conserved hot water, gas to heat it, and time.  We enjoyed a pleasant, pleasurable, pleasing evening with good hosts, good food, and finally, good clean bodies.

All in all it was a week, maybe ten days from the time we lost our  water to when the repair was complete. The gravedigger came back, filled and tamped the hole he recently dug, and finished the job. What a relief for me and our family!  We had no more trouble with the well as long as we owned the house.

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The Iceman Cometh to Beverly Hills

No this isn’t about our own production of Eugene O’Neill’s famous play.  It isn’t about play at all it’s about work.  My work, and it was not working out to be a good day for me.

This all has to do with rain gutters. My rain gutters. For homes in most regions of the country, rain gutters and downspouts are necessary to collect and carry away rainwater. Without them, water would erode the soil around the foundation, splash dirt onto the siding and likely leak into the basement or crawl space. To make sure that gutters drain properly they slope (½ inch for every 10 feet) toward a downspout. For gutter runs longer than 40 feet, it’s best to pitch the gutter down from the middle to a downspout at each end. Or you can slope the gutters down from each end toward a single downspout placed in the middle of the run. This information is from the site “This Old House” as is the diagram and photo below.

Rain Gutter Details

Rain Gutter Details

So now you have a picture of what a rain gutter is. We don’t usually have them in Las Vegas because it hardly ever rains, though they are commonplace in most of the country.

Rain Gutter Closeup

Rain Gutter Close-up

This image above shows a guy working on a gutter in ideal conditions, no rain snow etc. Now imagine this: Instead of a clear summer day, it is January, the ground is frozen and snowy, and I am on an extension ladder, not the steady platform that this guy has.  The ladder is a good one that we bought 5 years ago at a Montgomery Ward store in Binghamton. A 12′ ladder with a pulley and rope used to extend it.  Every home should have one.

There’s a great old hymn about work I want to share with you that goes as follows:

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.

Well, I did work through the morning hours, and more, for the night was coming and I wanted this man’s work (a nasty job) done. I share all this detail because with your understanding, I shall be understood. Let me describe my task: Snow had accumulated on the roof and slowly melted due to a brief January thaw and the melt dripped down the roof  into the gutters. Instead of draining away, the snow melt accumulated in the gutters and froze into ice.

Take another look at the guy working and you will see the gutter installed some inches from the shingles on the eaves. My gutters were quite close to the shingles and the damn ice formed an ice dam. This damn dam backed under the shingles and the ice melt started working its way under the shingles and then dripping under the roof into the room below.

So, what to do and how do I do it?  I got my ladder, extended it and climbed up for a look. It became obvious that I had to get the ice out. So I was facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get this task done. Just face it. An ice pick would not do, I would be picking away all day. I did have an old wood chisel that had seen better days and got it and a hammer.  Up the ladder I went and started chiseling away.  This was precarious since the ladder was supported by the roof edge at its upper end and this made difficult for me to chip away. To start with, I was anxious because I did not know what I was doing, the ground was frozen, and the front yard was not level, but pitched toward the road.  However, I said to myself  “I will make a start on this, after all well begun is half done.”

And so it was, The remainder was easier since there was a thin film of water under the first chunk of ice and later pieces came out quicker. Another adventure in home owning.  More to come though.

I have added a new slidehsow about Marge and Pat’s visit to Scotland.  Click the link below to access this.

To view website full size slide shows click on SLIDESHOW . If you see a slide you like, pause the show and click on the image and choose an option that appeals to you,

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This gallery contains 23 photos.

MARGE AND PAT’S TRIP TO SCOTLAND IN 2007 MARGE IN BELGIUM 2005 SCOTTS WEDDING 2007 Marge’s Birthday 2008 San Diego  Pastor Swanson’s Installation 2007

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Winter Wonderland on Beverly Hills

 “It wonders me.” So said the Dutchman. The link “Dutchman News”  will take you to news and Dutch recipes, but no Dutch uncles. This is also a WordPress site and will open in a new window.  Click it, try it, you might like it.   While Kutztown, where we lived on Siegfriedsdale  lane was in Dutchland Allentown was not, though many PA Dutch expressions crept, crawled, and creaked into the local vocabulary.  The one just mentioned is an example. Roughly translated this means being doubtful, disdainful, skeptical, etc.  My dictionary defines wonderland as a noun,  as a place full of wonderful things. Sounds like a tautology to me. Wonder is a noun,  feeling of surprise caused by something beautiful, unexpected, etc. Wonderful is an adjective meaning inspiring delight or pleasure.  Strange language, English, I don’t think I will ever really understand it.  On my planet we speak Seagull, if you this not possible just consult Joseph Mitchell, late of the New Yorker.   So, for this and following posts  at least, I am writing of  unexpected surprises, some unexpected, not unpleasant surprises here and there. And some unexpected, but also unpleasant, sometimes unacceptable surprises.

The first object that wondered me was TV. We lived in a hollow and as such the TV signals were quite weak and attenuated.  Rabbit ears were useless for getting even a fair signal.  In that ancient time 45 years ago there was no Internet, no WI-FI, no cable, no dish network, in short  three commercial TV stations and one Public one.  The only way to get reception at all was to install a VHF-UHF antenna on your house. Please remember that it is now January, there is much snow on the ground, and the ground is frozen. Not an easy Saturday project at all. The old spiritual sings “Mass’s in the cold, cold ground.”  He may well be, and God rest his soul, if that he has. The antenna ground rod  will not in any fable or form be there as I fear to make the attempt.     For those of you who are baffled and bewildered, even bemired about all this, I enclose an image of a VHF-UHF antenna.

VHF-UHF antenna

VHF-UHF antenna

SO: TV, or not TV–that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune due to our location, or to take arms against a sea of troubles such as being without the idiot tube and possibly me falling off the roof.  OK, not entirely original, but the paraphrase seems to fit.

Marge and I tussled, tarried, even tee-heed about this topic and we decided to wait until Spring when the snow was gone and the ground frost-free. At least Massa will soon be in the warm, warm ground, maybe also  the ground rod.

But no, this did not happen. Guess what?  With no TV to distract us we listened to the radio which was easy as the home had a built-in radio system.  We played records (CDs not invented yet) we played with our children, we read books and newspapers both out loud and to ourselves.  But we were somewhat different.  Sometimes in her classes the teacher would assign a topic based on a TV show.  Ingrid would then raise her hand and say “We don’t get TV.” The teachers assumption that EVERYBODY had TV was unwarranted, unjustified, uncalled for, and unreasonable.

Finally, after about 2 years, I did get around to putting an antenna on the chimney. We joined the rest of the world basking in TVs blue lit vast wasteland of news, sitcoms, mindless ads, and occasional good programming.

To view website slide shows click on SLIDESHOW .  If you see a slide you like, pause the show and click on the image and choose an option that appeals to you (This is workable, but under construction now)

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Back to Beverly Hills

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.  I do have a moustache, so maybe I am not really plagiarizing as I begin.  The way-back machine is set for January 1970 and the place is Beverly Hills Road, Coopersburg, PA. We actually did not live in Coopersburg itself which was perhaps 3 miles from us to the East, and is a small borough in Pennsylvania.  Our home was about 10 miles to the south of Allentown, PA. Allentown is part of a three city greater metropolitan area.  The three cities were Allentown, and to the east Bethlehem (mostly in Northampton county), and to the east of Bethlehem, Easton whose boundary line was the New Jersey state line. I have included an area map below which I hope is useful in placing the site to which  we moved.

Allentown-Coopersburg Map

Allentown-Coopersburg Map

The area is  in Lehigh County, PA. Lehigh County  in southeastern Pennsylvania in the area known as the Lehigh Valley, and Allentown is its county seat. Lehigh County’s location is in the corridor between Philadelphia and New York City, with quick and easy access to these major metropolitan areas. The area is accessible via I-78, Rt.22, Rt.309, Rt.33 or Rt.476 (Pennsylvania Turnpike).Lehigh County is in the Delaware River watershed. While most of the county is drained by the Lehigh River and its tributaries, the Schuylkill River also drains regions in the south of the county via the Perkiomen Creek and the northwest via the Maiden Creek.

Most of the county’s climate is considered to fall in the humid continental climate zone. Summers are typically hot and muggy, fall and spring are generally mild, and winter is cold. Precipitation is almost uniformly distributed throughout the year. For the city of Allentown, January lows average −6 °C (21 °F) and highs average 1.3 °C (34.3 °F). The lowest officially recorded temperature was −26.7 °C (−16.1 °F) in 1912 . July lows average 17.6 °C (63.7 °F) and highs average 29.2 °C (84.6 °F), with an average relative humidity (morning) of 82%. The highest temperature on record was 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) in 1966 . Early fall and mid winter are generally driest, with October being the driest month with only 74.7 mm of average precipitation.[7]

Snowfall is variable, with some winters bringing light snow and others bringing many significant snowstorms. Average snowfall is 82.3 centimetres (32.4 in) per year,[8] with the months of January and February receiving the highest at just over 22.86 centimetres (9.00 in) each. Rainfall is generally spread throughout the year, with eight to twelve wet days per month,[9] at an average annual rate of 110.54 centimetres (43.52 in). I hope all this detail is helpful in setting the scene of our sojourn in PA.

Allentown PA

Allentown PA


My job was with what was then Pennsylvania Power and Light (PP&L) company the electrical utility provider for about 20% of the state’s population. Like many utilities, it has  acquired other properties and is known as PPL Industries (PPL) I worked at the company headquarters at 7th and Hamilton Street in Allentown.  This building was 19 stories high and the highest building in the city.


PP&L office building

PP&L office building

The PPL Building, constructed between 1926 and 1928, is Allentown’s tallest building at 322 feet (98 m). If you look closely, you can see it rising in center left of the picture It is 23 stories high and is at the northwest corner of 9th and Hamilton Street. A Lehigh Valley icon, this Art Deco tower is seen from places throughout the Lehigh Valley; in clear weather, the tower can be seen as far north as Blue Mountain. The building, designed by architect and skyscraper pioneer Harvey Wiley Corbett (who would later have a hand in designing New York’s Rockefeller Center) and supervised by his assistant, Wallace Harrison (who would later design Lincoln Center, La Guardia Airport and the U.N. Headquarters Building). The building exterior features bas reliefs by Alexander Archipenko. In 1930, the PPL Building was named the “best example of a modern office building” by encyclopedia Britannica, and featured the world’s fastest elevator. It was and is an impressive building and I felt pleased being employed by this first rate company.



Our home’s location was 10 miles to the south of Allentown. There were slightly different routes to go home but the general route is to go from 7th and Hamilton east to 4th Street. Then I continued south and 4th became what is now PA-145.  Then I made a right turn to what was then the Limeport Pike.  Limeport is a very small hamlet with one gas station and a few houses.  I would then make a left turn on to Beverly Hills road, now State Rte 2040.

102 Beverly Hills

102 Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills Coopersburg

Beverly Hills Coopersburg

I enclose the pictures above as it is the only one I have and at that is a scan from the realtors sale listing in 1980. The color image on the center is the best I could do with Google.  Our house was better I believe, but at least you can get  an idea of the geography and  size of the housing at the time.

We lived about 1/3 of a mile up Beverly Hills. The area itself was mostly suburban 1/2 acre lots but also was home to some working farms so it was an area in transition. Beverley Hills Road continued up about 1/2 mile more where it crested on Chestnut Hill Road, and from there indirectly into Coopersburg which was slightly to the northeast of us.  The rear of our lot sloped rapidly to the south of us and slightly to the north of us.  We were living on the side of a hill with the two gradients just mentioned.  The house a ranch style built into the hill, ours more so than that in the color photo. It was as I can remember, at least 2200 sq. feet and certainly not more than 2500.  There was a full cellar under the home as was the normal practice in that area.  One-quarter of the cellar was a 2 car garage which could easily be reached by a drive connecting to Beverley Hills as you can see from the photos.

The front door was in the center of the house and was reached by a concrete entryway with 4 steps leading down from the house to the front yard. The house was a single level frame house with a brick veneer. The foyer hall was at least 8′ X 16″  with linoleum tiles on the floor. I can’t remember anybody having ceramic tiles then.  There was a dark diamond shaped center part of the floor with a white diamond tiled center.  Our cats really loved to get on that and sit for a while.  The remaining floors were oak wood parquet. to the immediate right of the hall was the living room with  a pleasant bay window overlooking the street.

Going a bit further to the back on  he immediate right was a small but functional kitchen, and to the far right was the dining room. There was a small bay window in the dining room with a grand view of the valley. Beyond that  It was  a rec. room as then called 11′ X 25′  with dark oak paneling and a substantial fireplace at the end.

The hall also had entry to a small 1/2 bath.  This was unusual in that the toilet was a triangular shape tucked into a corner.  It was a medium green color as was the wash basin. There was also  a door opening from the hall to a staircase that lead to the cellar. The left side of the house was the family area with 4 bedrooms and a full bath.  The master bedroom was the largest and it had its own bath with a spacious walk in shower. The shower door had an image of a mermaid on it, a touch of class.  Ingrid had the bedroom next to us, Louise had the bedroom across from us. The second bath was at the end of the hall. The remaining bedroom was Marge’s  sewing room.  Later on I improved this room with some custom cabinets I built and installed, but more of that later.  Marge loved Iris plants and had planted them around the base of the house to brighten up the yard.

All in all, a pleasant place in which to dwell as the saying goes. In 1960 we lived in a one room apartment, I worked for Crucible Steel, and Marge was finishing college, a few semesters at a time. She missed her school companions and it was not easy socializing in the apartment complex. The plant where I worked paid well and had good health insurance…but. It was called “The 4th Reich” by people in other plants so you can get a good idea of what an unpleasant place it was, and the job was so-so at best.  Definitely a place to leave. Syracuse had served its purpose for both of us.

We did leave in 1963 for Binghamton and this time we rented half of a duplex, so that was a step up.  Marge had finished college and was able to make friends in Binghamton.  We bought the house in Vestal in 1965.  It was a nice place to live in but about 40 years old in an established area. There were no local amenities except a rather barren playground.  Marge expanded her friends there and we were able to get another car so she was not dependent on me and had more freedom of movement. The school that Ingrid went to was mediocre at best.

The first 3 years at GAF (formerly Ansco) were drudgery that a technician could do easily.  I received a promotion in the company to work in the larger Film Factory as a Statistician/Operation Researcher.  The work was fun and challenging and the boss was very bright and good to work for. But, I was being underpaid, as were most of the people there, as the plant manager told me when I complained about my salary.

So, when I got my MS degree in 1969 from what is now Binghamton University, I shopped around, got a considerably better offer at Pa. Power and Light.  I took it and we sold the Vestal house.  We had put a fair amount of money in improvements and at best broke even on the sale.  So, we learned some life lessons from that.

We now owned a new home, in a developing suburban community.  I worked at a first-rate company, Marge did not have to work and was able to make friends with people in Coopersburg and other near-by communities. The school system was good and Louise was able to go to a pre-school.  We were slowly moving up the ladder.

We still had simmering personal differences that were with us for decades.  Unconsciously we compensated for this by assuming the roles of concerned parents. All in all we were making progress fitting into the life styles that we had expected.

That’s enough for now. More thrills, chills, and adventures to follow later.




Posted in Allentown, Binghamton, Pennsylvania | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Dark And Stormy Night

OK, that is a cliché, but it truly fits this post.  Lets take the Way-Back machine to January 1969.  Marge and I had planned on closing the sale in December of 1969 but unusual bad weather postponed the ceremony of paper shuffling. So this meant a later moving date as well.  We moved early in January 1970 and worked out the short month thing with our realtor for the house on Siegfriedsdale lane.  We made the arrangements with a moving company to move us on a Monday and we also planned on renting a medium-sized van to move our own boxed things, smaller items, etc. I rented a van to pick up on Friday night and return it on Saturday. We hoped this would shave a little out of the move’s cost.

Good plan eh? However Friday’s weather was a very snowy day which we had not counted on.  Allentown weather is not like Syracuse or even Binghamton but it can get some serious snow on occasions, and this was one of them. None the less, I went to pick up the van after work since, after all,  that was the plan.  Still snowing in a serious way.  I picked up the van and started to drive down Rt. 22 to our home. The road and visibility were bad and I was not used to the truck and did not feel safe so decided to return it.  Upon arriving at the rental business, I explained that the weather was too bad and I did not feel safe trying to drive the van.  The clerk was not supportive at all  and said I had rented the truck, he had nobody wanting one that badly today so I could not get a refund of my  payment.  Bummer!!!

So, back I go,cautiously, and tell Marge the bad news. She was very understanding and in fact  worried about me driving a strange vehicle in bad weather.  The movers came on Monday and we made the move out of PA Dutch country to big city Allentown.  To Coopersburg, a suburb of Allentown. That went without incident except, except this:  Somewhere, I think on Friday, I had lost my wedding ring. Most likely, it was due to taking my gloves on and off  that evening.  I hunted all through my clothes, my car, etc. but it was lost. It was a plain gold band and easily replaced, but I had worn it almost 10 years now and was very upset about losing it.   That was the last time I ever did that.

I wore the same ring until summer of last year when I finally realized that I was now widowed, not married any more, and the symbolism of the band was not correct.  I finally replaced it  with a yellow gold dress ring that Marge had given me on a special birthday in Las Vegas decades ago.  I may have mentioned this before and even doing the replacement was depressing for some weeks.  Now though, I realize it was the right thing to do.  My left ring finger still feels the ring and just looking down it reminds me of the wonderful time I had with Marge on that birthday so long ago.

The original wedding ring was a symbol of us two young single people joining together in marriage and an important part of the whole ceremony.  The ring I replaced shortly after moving to PA was not the original of course, but it continued the symbolism  of  us being joined together. The Las Vegas ring I am now wearing is a symbol or our continued life together then for 20 years. We were now mature adults, with a deeper understanding of each other and a joint wish to please our partner.  How exciting it was to find still something new about each other.  That memory will be with me until the end of my own days. The left hand ring now reminds me of the pleasant times we did enjoy together.  I miss her.  YEAH!

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Yur Savoy

How about ordering a hot meatball sandwich with a side of fries for $.75, or a burger with lettuce, tomato, and a side of fries for $.50?  All that was once possible when I was attending Syracuse University.  Of course that was a few years back, 1954-59.  Today’s post is mostly a copy of the menu for the Savoy restaurant from that period.  The Savoy’s location was  133 Marshall St. in Syracuse.  The restaurant is now long gone but Marshall St. remains. On the Marshall Street in my time, it housed many small restaurants, bookstores, clothing stores, etc. catering to the student population.  It may now be similar in function, but greatly different in appearance.  If you aren’t familiar with Syracuse, imagine a similar scene from a college you know of, and I think you will be on target.

133 Marshall St. 2014

133 Marshall St. 2014


The Savoy advertised itself as “The Heart of Marshall Street.”  For a few years, I lived in the S.U. Infirmary (long since demolished but now houses the Student Health Services complex).  The Infirmary was at the heart of Waverly Ave. which parallels Marshall St.  It was an easy walk out the back door, along the hospital which was there at the time, and across the street to the Savoy for something to eat or a cup of coffee.  At that time, I could drink coffee at any time of the day though it is now hazardous to my sleep if I have coffee after breakfast.


I know Marge and I must have gone to the Savoy as it was close by both of us and was at least an OK spot.  I don’t have any stories about us, but I do have one to share about another inmate of the Infirmary, let’s call him Joe.  Somehow Joe had obtained of one of those then ubiquitous green restaurant order pads that the waiters and waitresses carried with them to take food orders.  The pads were pre-numbered and would make an original and a carbon copy.  The cover of the pad slipped under the order form to prevent duplication.  I remember seeing a version of the same pad up until a year or so at the restaurant/bar that our car club uses.

When most people ordered food/drink and had finished, they signalled for the bill and the server would return with the original and the charges for each item and the total.  Most people would take this to the cashier, pay and leave. Remember the misplaced comma story of a few years ago about Pandas “Eats, Shoots and Leaves?”  Hold that thought.

Joe was different, he would order a full meal with beverage and desert which would cost about $2.00 then.  He would get the tab and pocket it, substituting an identical looking green original on which he had written an order for a donut and coffee, something like that.  That tab would be maybe $.25 which he would pay.  So his book could have been titled “Eats, Cheats, and Leaves.”  I don’t think he ever got caught.

I think that it was the job of some bookkeeper to reconcile the cash total (no credit cards then) and match up each green original and the flimsy to account for all transactions.  I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems a reasonable assumption to me.  Most of the restaurants, including the Savoy, were quite busy and the detailed bookkeeping, with at best a mechanical adding machine, must have been tedious in the extreme.  I am sure some short cuts happened.  Just human nature.  I don’t know if Joe pulled this stunt at other restaurants, but it seems likely if the place did a lot of business.  I know he did it at the Savoy since I have been with him and seen him in action.

So, enough already, that’s my story and now on to the menu pages.  I scanned and did a quick and dirty edit of the pages.  I had to reduce them in size a bit to get them into the post.  If anybody wants a copy of the low res JPEG scans at full size, send me a note addressed to anscoactus@gmail.com and I will e-mail the folder.  The images look OK on a computer but would not print well.

Yur Savoy Menu Front Page

Yur Savoy Menu Front Page

Savoy Breakfast Menu

Savoy Breakfast Menu

Savoy Specials Menu

Savoy Specials Menu

Savoy Sandwich Menu

Savoy Sandwich Menu

Savoy Pizza Menu

Savoy Pizza Menu

Savoy Fountain Menu

Savoy Fountain Menu

Savoy Menu Rear Page

Savoy Menu Rear Page


Posted in Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bride – Child

Marge's Horse Sketch

Marge’s Horse Sketch

Horses are beautiful animals.  How useful they were to the human race for travel, farming, hunting, making war, racing, etc. As a boy, I remember them still being used as work animals, primarily for plowing, harrowing and otherwise tending to the crops of local farmers, and homeowners with an acre or two behind the house;  their home garden. Now they are a luxury for the well-to-do, animal lovers, and of, course, young girls. Marge, as did many young girls and women, became infatuated with horses. She left some of her drawings and sketches of horses from her childhood.  One of them is right above us now.

I don’t know the date of this sketch but I would guess somewhere  midway through elementary school.  I think it is quite clever.  I would not have thought of drawing a horse using my name, and certainly could not carry out the task if I did think of it.

I also think that this drawing is symbolic of Marge and her emotional self, rather closed. One of Marge’s roommates at Syracuse Univ. shared some comments with me about Marge.  She described Marge as being gracious and reserved, perhaps a bit shy.  Not that I was Mr. Congeniality or Sports Hero then myself, being reserved and studious, as was Marge.  Perhaps this reserve was a potential problem for our relationship with each other, particularly after we married and were no longer students.

Marge did leave behind a letter written to a friend of hers in October, 1970.  She and this friend talked about their relationships with their husbands  earlier in the summer .  I copy an abridged part of this letter:  “Well, I finally  got to where I can admit to a fear, unreasonable as it is, which comes between me and Bob and it is all on my part. There is something in me which is scared to death to let Bob in. The two of us should become one, in that mysterious way, and yet by my fearful reserving of this part of myself, I cannot.  I am afraid to let go of myself for fear I would be lost.  I don’t know how to handle this now. ..I want to be known, to be open,  to be free…. I do, and don’t know how.”

My therapist and I have spent a lot of time discussing the relationship of Marge and I.  Her summary conclusion at our last session was that I had married a child, a very vulnerable child.  I value her comments and yet I was not quite ready to accept this  at the moment.  I do not think I am obsessing about the past.  Figuring out how things work has always been part of my make-up; who I am and how I deal with life as it moves along. I keep picking away, trying this, trying that until I think I understand.

With extra thought, and recollection, this conclusion has made sense to me.  It has been a long time since I have had any children of my own, or even a grandchild, but I do remember some things about when I did.  I am probably over generalizing, but children want to have their needs met.  Not only the biological needs of eating sleeping, keeping warm and dry, not hurting,  but also emotional needs.  These include being loved, being safe and secure, not neglected, even adored .  The flip side of this is what they do if these needs are not met.  At first, they cry and show us their distress vocally.  As they grow, they develop their repertoire of behaviors such as becoming petulant and rejecting as well as having tantrums. Should you have, or have had children, I am sure you can add to  the list.

After marriage, Marge turned into another person that I had not known. .  She became hostile toward me, retreated into the fantasy world of paperback mystery novels, and did throw tantrums.  I can remember her blowing up like a volcano, even throwing something toward me.  Not all the time of course, but often enough to trouble me. Others noticed this resentment as well.  We both went to visit Cornwall before my Air Guard unit  deployed.   Marge told me later that her Mom had said “You should be nicer to Bob, he might not come back.”

I did not understand where all these negative emotions came from.  So what did I do?  I distanced myself from her to get away from these outbursts.  In retrospect, this very likely added to Marge’s distress and we augured ourselves further down.   I now believe that Marge had some need(s) that she expected marriage to resolve.  I didn’t meet them and she became more angry and distant.  Even more than 10 years after our marriage, as her comments above show, she had a deep-seated fear of letting me get too close. At the same time, as she said she wanted to have that mysterious unity of being not two but one, yet not knowing how.

As for myself, as I read some of the notes and letters that I wrote to her, I sound very superficial and uncaring.  I don’t believe I was, but I did not usually express how deeply I did care for her, and love her.  I was not very good at expressing myself either personally or in writing.  I am sure this did not help. Looking back, I think we both expected that mutual love and affection would just drop in place, by magic, after we said “I Do.” Neither of us understood the hard work ahead for each of us.

Bear with me as we jump forward in time to September 2012. This really does tie some concepts together. Marge was physically quite ill but alert mentally. We both knew the end was near and accepted this as fact. The positive value of this time was that we were able to reminisce about our life together. Often this took the form of one of us saying something such as “Remember when you wanted to do something or other and I refused, well I was wrong.” Then the other of us would say something similar. We were clearing the slate while we still could. At one point our dialogue went something like this:

Me: Marge, one thing I still don’t understand is that it seemed to me that after we married, you changed almost overnight from being sweet and loving to being angry with me. What had I done wrong?

Marge: You were not giving me attention.

Me: Marge, we weren’t students any more. I was struggling to make my way in a company I didn’t like and coping with the bureaucracy and departmental politicking. I had a bill from my school loan to pay, and paid for your tuition for the courses you were able to take. Then you became pregnant and we took parenting classes so we could be good parents. A year after we married, I went on active duty, I took a 75% cut in pay, and was in France for a year but at least was able to come home for 2 weeks after Ingrid was born. On discharge, we had to start all over again, this time with a lovely daughter. We were a family, not just a couple. I really thought I was doing the best I could being a husband, father, and a reliable provider.

Marge: This is the first time you ever told me anything like this.

True enough, I hadn’t. Marge, as the vulnerable child, wanted more affirmation and affection than I had provided. I did love her and believed I was showing it.  Now I see what was really important to her, not just the nuts and bolts, the meat and potatoes of married life, but the attention she needed, and I just did not understand.

This dread of loss and being alone Marge feared may have come from her childhood relationship with her father. Marge was born at the end of 1939 and the US declared war in 1941. Her father was a career Army officer. He served abroad for the entire war. He did get some leave home on occasion and Marge had pleasant memories of this. He did get through the war, but Marge did not spend her early formative years with a caring Dad due to WWII. I think that in a way, like the families of so many men in the military, Marge was a war casualty as well.

I thought long ago we were making some headway with our first family therapist, Mr. Woolrich, but Marge shut down when questioned about her father. I will never know why with certainty and it really does not matter. What happened, happened. We did not grow up in perfect families and were not perfect people ourselves. I think I have a better understanding of what had happened in our life together and that is enough. It is OK. We eventually got through our distress and stayed together. I think that says something positive about each of us, and of us as a couple.

What caused this vulnerability and fear of being lost?  I don’t know. It was obviously part of Marge long before we met.  It was something she was trying to deal with herself.  She wouldn’t let me get too close to her, and if she had, I probably would have been found wanting, unable to help.  Perhaps, just maybe, that is why Marge left these letters and personal documents for me to find after she died. I will never know if this belief is 100% true, but it feels, subjectively, close.I have attempted to merge her writing into mine. I think that I learned enough from the parts of our lives be satisfied. I have picked away at elements in this story and they fit close enough for me to quit.  Not perfectly of course, but close enough to say “done.”

It is time for me to move along and accept the past as being just that. Past, done, completed.

Posted in Binghamton, Marge Writing, Marital difficulties, NY, Syracuse, Syracuse University, US Air Force, Vestal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Thoughts For Food

One need common to all is to eat. I awoke early this morning and found myself remembering long past eating experiences.  This post is  are about eating when we were attending Syracuse U.  Back then, there was a little Italian restaurant on Genesee Street, a few blocks walk from the University.   Not far at all and none of us had a car anyway.  This tratoria was small, dark and ill lit.  Do you remember  Chianti bottles with the wicker wrapper around them?  The empty bottles with a lit candle in them provided a good proportion of our dining light.  I don’t know if this was because the owners were cheap, they thought the style was chic, or so we could not get a good view at what we were eating.  Cigarette  and candle smoke gave the place a definitely dark atmosphere.

 At least for me, an apple-knocker from upstate NY, pizza was still an exotic food and there were not chain pizza restaurants  as there are now. It was fun to go down there, help empty some Chianti bottles over a pizza, and discuss deep thoughts.   Such as “What do you think of that girl, Betsy Baumgardner, in Frosh English, I think she likes me”. Wink, Wink.  I think it was Ogden Nash who came up with the rhyme “Women and liquor are what college boys boast of, but between you and me, beer is what they get the most of.” Very deep.

When Roy and I lived at James and Lodi, there was a little local market a few blocks downhill on Lodi toward the University area.  We used to go there for essentials.  They made their own bulk sausage there.  It cost $.33  a pound, cheap even then.  Of course we were buying a lot of fat in with the bits of pork, but that was part of the sausage’s charm.  The pungent morning fumes from the spices, hidden but smelled in the invisible cloud of pork fat produced by the  sputtering  brown patties, were a  wake-up call. Add a couple  fried eggs and we were off to a good start. I don’t know what we did with the hot fat. I hope we didn’t throw it down the sink, but I won’t take an oath to that.

 There was also a quite decent Italian restaurant a few blocks further away.  Not fancy, but you would feel comfortable taking a girl friend there for an after movie date. I can’t say the same thing for the one on Genesee street.

Marge fits in to these food stories as well. I hope I didn’t mention this in an earlier post. On a fine spring afternoon Roy I hosted dinner  in our apartment, Marina was  with Roy, Marge was with me, and we had guests. These were Bumppo Gregory, a childhood friend of Roy, and his sister, whose name I can’t remember, I only met her once.  She was quite nice, owned a new Pontiac hardtop,which I greatly admired. We were preparing a meal for ourselves. Our skills were minimal,  our dinner ware and utensils even more so.  Our  planned Special of the Day was a casserole, I think link red-hot sausages and beans, with sides of vegetables, and of course wine.

Marge was mixing the casserole before baking.  Unfortunately, Marge tried to shake off the last of the mix from the mixing spoon into the bowl.  I say unfortunately as the spoon was metal, not wood, and the dish was clear glass. Marge had learned from her mother that to clear the mixing spoon of food particles, the procedure was to rap the spoon sharply on the edge of the bowl. You saw this coming, didn’t you?  Yes, she chipped a piece of the bowl into the casserole.  Since the bowl was clear glass, it was impossible to know where it was; nobody wanted to take a chance in finding it on his plate. We weren’t that hungry.  Not a major tragedy though, we substituted something for the glassy casserole.  Maybe we went to the Italian restaurant and got some lasagna, maybe some goodie from the grocery store.  Marge was mortified, almost crying, but we assured her the world was not coming to end, anybody could have made that mistake, we’ll still have a fine afternoon.  We did just that and our meal ended on an OK note.

A restaurant that Roy and I visited frequently was the New Smile.  How about that for a name?  Who wouldn’t like to eat in a place with that name?  Another inducement was the daily special which was cheap.  For example, for $.99 you could order boiled ham hocks, potatoes, and cabbage.  Hard to beat. The Simmons School of Embalming (now Simmons Institute, thank you) was near-by and occasionally we would make bad jokes about the source of meat in the really cheap meat loaf specials. Just joking naturally. Some times Roy and I would take the girls with us making a foursome and this story is about one of those times. The restaurant is long since gone, but at time located near what is now the State Psychiatric Center  in the general vicinity of what is  route 81 and 690 today. In our time  the area was a working class neighborhood, now torn down for the highways. The restaurant was working class as well. Unpretentious, the place where guys could go to drink a longneck, or a pint of suds, after a day at the mill or foundry. A place to take the wife and kids out for a meal without it being a budget buster.

 New Smile had a bar on one side separated by a small kitchen in the middle; next to the kitchen was the dining area with used but clean brown booths.   A couple of guys were in a booth next to us, working class types, perhaps in late 20’s.  Maybe caused by a few too many drinks, they became louder and more rowdy with F__k you and  F__k that, you catch my drift.  This behavior bothered Roy and me; we both got up and asked calmly for them to please tone  it down,  since we had some nice girls with us and we didn’t care for their loud voices. Fortunately for all concerned, the owner/manager also heard the commotion while in the kitchen and came out.  With his voice of authority he told the offending guys that this was a family restaurant, this was no place for yelling and cursing, and they could quit now or leave and never come back.  The guys got the message, we all calmed down, Roy, I,  and our girlfriends enjoyed a pleasant lunch together.

The University , in loco parentis, required Freshmen and Sophomores to eat in  the University dining halls.   We received monthly meal cards, queued up at the hall, had the card punched, then selected a nutritious but bland meal and ate it. A unique feature of Syracuse University was that it also housed the NY State College of Forestry.  In the first year or two of that curriculum the forestry students took some courses at S.U. and some in the Forestry college.  You could always spot a forester.  Almost uniformly they wore jeans, well before jeans became fashionable, and sturdy clod-hopper boots.  Just the thing for outside work and research.  So, we had foresters in our dining room.

 A geographic feature of the Syracuse vicinity was a number of caves, caused by the underlying limestone being eaten away by surface water, and we had a lot of that.  Now, who lives in a cave?  Well, yes Batman is reported to live in his Bat Cave, but that’s not the answer.  BATS live in bat caves, have done so for a million years or so.  Spelunking was popular with some of the students, and just the thing for foresters to get close to, and inside of, nature.  Wouldn’t it be fun to bring a burlap bag or two and bring some bats back?  And so, one nice spring day, probably on a Saturday, that did happen.  I don’t know how the foresters got the bag, or bags, into the dining hall but they did, and of course, released the bats.  It was  all Hell broken loose.  The bats wanted to get home, and the diners thought it amusing to throw food, wet towels, etc. at them  attempting to bring them down.  Yes, mildly cruel and childish, but then we were only testosterone charged Freshmen, what could you expect?



Ricocheting from the bat story, and having nothing to do with eating,  I close with a Marge And The Bat story.  Marge lived in a dorm and there was no air conditioning at that time.  So, one fine warm and muggy May evening, Marge left her window open to admit some fresh air.  Some time later as she slept, she sensed a warm furry feeling on her cheek.  Slowly awakening to some degree, she moved over and saw that a bat had flown in and was keeping her company on her pillow. She coaxed it on to a black school binder from off her pillow and then gently released it out the window. She picked the black binder so it would feel comfortable because it was dark.  I remember Marge saying that when it touched her cheek it was very soft, and she dreamed that a baby was touching her right before she woke up.This having been done, Marge went back to bed.  In the morning, upon awakening from sleep, she informed her roommate of the nocturnal activity and her roommate freaked out.  No harm done, maybe the little bat guy was just weary.  Marge handled this incident better than did the foresters.  She was like that.

(My note: My daughter Louise, made a comment in which she added to the bat story which Marge had told her.I updated my version to hers. Louise also added the last part below about the bees, so I enclose that comment verbatim)

“I also remember many times when there would be a bee or wasp nearby and us kids would be getting scared and starting to freak out, Mom would gently wave at it and say, “Shoo, shoo – come on now, you don’t want to be over here. Just move along, that’s right,” and darned if the thing would just buzz off (no pun intended ☺️). She never got perturbed over flying critters I guess.”


Posted in Pre Marriage life, Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It was the Best of Years, It was the Worst of years – Last Episode

Writing is an unnatural act, as Charles Darwin observed.  It is so for me as it was for him.  I remember living in Binghamton when Ingrid was 3 years old.  We both enjoyed taking a stroll down Leroy street. One day in Spring of 65 while we were walking, a small dog (small to me) crossed our path.  Ingrid said with the firmness of a 3-year-old “I don’t like dogs, and I don’t like bugs.” Short simple, and properly constructed in English.   We all have to work hard to write, even our own name.

Writing about Margery and myself is  difficult. I loved Marge.  In college, she would ask me why I loved her and I could not say why.  I just knew. It was not  love at first sight, though I liked her ever since the “Pigeon Letter” I posted about in the beginning of this site. During the summer of 1958, I owned a car, and worked at the Lake Placid Club during the summer.  I did date some different girls then, but somehow,  I didn’t care for any of them as much as I did for Marge. Comparison shopping?  Maybe. When we re-united in the Fall of 58, I knew she was the woman for me.

Writing about us is trying for me because Marge exhibited more than one personality. If so, which one am I writing about?  I acknowledge that even this view represents a gross approximation to a complex person.  Marge possessed   at least two personalities, and perhaps two different worlds. Her older sister, Pat wrote to me about Marge “I view her in retrospect as an amazing person who touched many lives for the good.” During her funeral service in her church, and at her graveside memorial, many friends and family members extolled her virtues. All True.

To  one world she was as a loving mother, a true and lifelong friend, a helper to others. She volunteered her time in our small library in Coopersburg.She volunteered for many responsibilities in her church.  In her work life she helped others by becoming a Legal Assistant helping lawyers make better use of their time and training. She worked as a tax preparer for H&R Block helping clients to navigate the thickets of IRS filings. She worked as a Mediator for Clark County assisting clients to resolve interpersonal disputes.  She worked in this capacity including the years when she was dying with cancer, and never quit. She was fired “in absentia” for using too much sick time. She died at home, shortly after that.

The above description is true for that world and that personality.  In the other world,  our life together, she  was sometimes quite different.  I posted her 1990 (approx) personality  report previously. People can and do change as a result of feedback about themselves. I believe that Marge became more comfortable in the 90’s with herself, me, and the two of us together.    We did have some very good times, some nice times, humdrum times and  bad times during our married life. Subjects for subsequent posts.

When we married, society provided us  with a foundation  to build our future life upon.  In addition, it provided us with the raw materials: the wood, plumbing, and appliances, to build this life .  It was up to us to assemble our life together by ourselves.  We were, I believe, poorly prepared for this. We each brought  our own memories and impressions from our own family lives. We did stay together, slipped, tripped, and fell along our journey.  We eventually  forgave each other for our errors of both omission and commission, and that is the most important thing to say here.

My sister-in-law, Pat, once stated  that Marge had informed Pat that she and I were truly meant for each other.  I agree 100%.  We were meant for each other.  It took a long time to realize this.


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It was the best of years, it was the worst of years – Episode 1

Whoa!! I think I am channeling Charles Dickens,what about that!!  This not a tale of Two Cities though, it is a Tale of Two People.  Specifically Margery and I. While this entire blog is about us, this post is not about  “Just the facts Mam.”   The old TV series “Dragnet” of long ago had that as a tag line.  This blog is about the emotions, good and bad, plus and minus, that we experienced.  So,  a bit subjective, but still real. Maybe many of you can relate to your own emotional ups and downs with your special someone. This is ours, mine from my own memories, and to the extent possible, Marge’s from the various documents in her archives. In honesty, I should have included these emotions in earlier posts as well as the descriptions of our activities. So, I am proceeding to the point where we married until the last chronological post, and from there on, telling as complete a story as I can of all the dimensions of our lives. This retrospection is difficult for me as it digs up many memories long-buried.

I enclose two images from a set I made years ago.  They are from the remains of a ghost town nearby now revealed from under Lake Mead.  Once covered with water, they now exist as echoes if things long forgotten. So too are many of my ancient memories. Now they are present, as are these relics long forgotten in the depths of Lake Mead. I must acknowledge  and deal with them.

Ancient Stump

Ancient stump

Barrel Skeleton

Barrel Skeleton

“It wonders me” mused the Dutchman to nobody in particular and everybody in general. I’m not a PA Dutchman, but I certainly wonder why Marge and my relationship went downhill so fast after we married. I too, wonder to nobody in particular and everybody in general. Why did I marry her?  Well, she was very smart and had a quirky sense of humor. We had many interests in common.  She was tall, slim, and attractive.  Maybe not a homecoming queen, but good-looking.  At the end of her Freshman year in May 1958, we had an emotional talk at Onondaga park.  I told her I really wondered if I was the right guy for her.  She asked me if I loved her and I said I really did. She asked me why and I could not answer that, I just did.

In her Sophomore year, we had developed a care for and mutual trust with each other and became intimate.  We actually made love, not just had sex which is only a part of making love.  There was for me, and I think for  her as well a sense of 100% oneness.

In her biography in mid 1980’s Marge  commented that she married me because I asked her. This is partially true since I did. She also wanted to marry.   Once in late winter of 1959, she took the bus to my shared apartment with her little travel bag in hand and wanted to get married then and there. Her mother, Dorothy, and I both convinced her that it would be better to wait until 1960 so she would have a reasonable chance of finishing school and I could get established in my first engineering job.

In her love letters to me during the summer of 59 when I was in Basic Training, more than once she wrote me how she looked forward to being Mrs. Robert Frantzen, not Miss Margery Sutherland.  In the intervening 25 years or so, she seems to have forgotten, neglected, or overlooked, what she wrote to me then. Married life deteriorated quickly after our short and uneventful honeymoon. Were either of us ready for reality?  I don’t think so.

Marge’s anger toward me was clear to others as well .  We visited her mother in 1961 before my departure for France for my Air National Guard activation.  Her mother said to Marge “You should be nicer to Bob as he might not come back.”  As an Army wife herself, she knew what she was talking about.  I did not, and do not understand this change in Marge’s behavior to me.

We developed, and continued to have troubles with sexuality.  Making love was gone with the wind and had degenerated  into occasional sex that was not very satisfying for either of us. I really think this was a symptom resulting from a deeper cause, not a cause in itself of our difficulties. This confused me. I know not the cause nor the cure.

In commenting about this, many years later when we making one of many tries with marriage counseling Margery wrote about a specific question for us to answer: What are your beliefs about your own sexuality? How did you arrive at those beliefs, where did they come from and how do they get acted out in  your life? Marge’s response in part was: “We tried to get help very early – Dr O’Leary ( the doctor who delivered Marge) was as embarrassed as we were, could not help. Mr. Woolrich the counsellor ( more detail from me in following paragraph)  tried to help our marriage in general by questions about the past, but when he got to my Daddy, I couldn’t go into it and stopped going.”

I, Bob as a student, saw a counsellor in the Student Health service when I had  mild issues with depression.  When the 1960 Fall semester began and Marge was a student, I told her that the college had a professional counseling service and perhaps we could try that together to improve our lives.  The counsellor we saw was Mr. Woolrich.   I thought he was good and that we were making progress.  Then he started to probe deeper with the question to Marge about her father.  That  ended my attempt to get outside professional help which I  hoped would be beneficial.  Marge brought a lot of heavy baggage with her and was unwilling or perhaps unable to open it . Our difficulties worsened. I felt discouraged and sad, perhaps rejected as well.

I saw my therapist Christine today.  I have shared this post and a lot more with her.  A summary of her analysis of Marge and my past is this:  I had married a child.  A wounded child at that. Of course not physically or intellectually, but emotionally.  She suggested that Marge had a low sense of self-worth and rejection, and possessed a great need to protect herself. This could go a long way in explaining Marge and her personality traits. Not asked was who did Marge marry? Now that I think about it, an awkward 9-year-old with two degrees but knew nothing of the real world.  He deluded himself into thinking he was an adult.  Now we are tossed into the sandbox of life. Margery is now confronted with the terrors of life, initially disengaged from her father, and now being married, separated from her mother her  as a protector.

Christine also asked me  why I was writing this blog and what I expected to get out of doing it.  Without thinking I blurted out “its my confession.”  I am getting from this confession  support from friends and family.  Sometimes from unknown people who just read one of my posts. This confession is mine, though as much as possible, also including words that Marge herself has left. Ironically now, I see  analogies.  I am sitting in my solitary cell (home office) typing this confession to the “cloud”, now the current buzz world for the home of most of our digital communication.  Where was God in earlier millenia? Up here in the clouds of course.  It would be a cheap grace indeed if I brushed aside the struggle and misunderstanding we had along the way. So, I am attempting to write about us in a fair and balanced way.  We faced many of the challenges that a multitude of married couples face.  I will be specific about this as I go along.  The devil truly is in the details.  The larger message I strive for is that we were once really one.  Truly together in body and spirit.  We struggled mightily along our path, and did  in our senior years get back to this oneness.

When this is finished, I believe I will have completed my grief  journey, not just about Marge’s death, but also for the ups and downs we faced in life together, our sins of omission and commission. Please continue with me in my quest for understanding.

Posted in Marital difficulties, Syracuse, Syracuse University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Inside Margery Sutherland

“All happy families are alike – Every unhappy family if unhappy in its own way.” Wish I had thought of that but Tolstoy said it first. I believe our life together was sometimes one way, sometimes the other, and often in between. I truly believe that we both wanted to swim in the warm waters of life.  We were hampered in this swim by the dead weights of our  pasts that we carried with us to this supposed picnic on the beach.  In my last post, I tried to describe what I believe  are both my dead weights, as well as my life preservers.

This post reflects my attempt to collect in one text, from Marge’s writings and my recollections about her, those beliefs and conceptions she brought with her to our marriage.  I know this is not complete because Marge is not here to express herself in person,but I  will do my best in reconstructing the information I have, with every attempt to be factual, not judgemental.

Marge was born on Dec. 27 1939. President Roosevelt announced our country’s entry into WWII on Dec.8, 1941.  Marge’s father, Alexander Sutherland was an officer, a West Point man and he had made clear to Marge’s Mom, Dorothy, that the Army came first with him. During Marge’s formative childhood her Dad was in Europe fighting the war and got home perhaps 2 weeks a year at best.She had only a few dim memory of the pre-war years. Her mother Dorothy during WWII had the burden of caring for Marge and her older sisters Anne and Patricia, as well as performing the duties, traditionally then, the Dad’s job.

From Marge’s unpublished biography drafts made in about 1986, she recalls having some family fun and laughter at years 2 or three. Following the war, the family moved to Japan, as part of the Army of Occupation. Marge mentions one incident in Japan where another little girl tricked Marge into saying some negative things about another girl, whom the first girl had hidden in a closet. Marge tells of then feeling used, manipulated, and betrayed, in her now  adult vocabulary.

The family moved from Japan to Texas when she was in 3rd grade. She was aware then that her parents were not happy. Some time later, she recalls a scene in the dining room where her parents tell the children that Dorothy is moving back to New York and the girls had to choose to stay with Dad, or go with Mom. This was devastating to her, and she chose to go with Mom as she didn’t think Dad could take care of her. Even in her writing in 1986 she remembers how little and helpless, awful and vulnerable she felt which still brought tears to her eyes so many decades later. We shared a home office and Marge did not want me there. She did not want anyone aware of her emotions being so strong and so in control of her.

Marge’s father moved back to Cornwall, bought a house, and it appeared her parents were trying to reconcile.  Didn’t work to well as her parents got into big arguments and Marge couldn’t stand it. Physical, mental,and emotional pain which she tried to escape by running away from the incidents. She felt torn apart herself. ( as a personal aside, many service veterans have a difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life. The Sutherland’s were not alone in this) Marge’s father left the house and went to live in quarters in nearby West Point Academy.

During this period of unhappiness, tension, lack of communication and mis-communication, Marge decided that her Daddy, and men in general, were the enemy,not to be trusted with her innermost being because she could be hurt. Marge and her mother lived together and developed that being for Momma, with whom she lived, she had to be against Daddy.  Marge truly loved her mother and did reconcile with her father in 1970. She told him that she did love him and he responded that he always loved her

I, Bob, was not aware of the depth of these emotions until after Marge’s death and finding her archives. I had a general vague knowledge of events in the past, but not the distrust of men in general and fear in confiding in them which I believe then transferred to me. A note of irony now.  An earlier post described the time when I drove Marge to her mom’s home in Cornwall, since I had failed to take her to the rail station.  Marge told me later that her Mom said, about me, “Bob’s just like your father.”  I don’t know exactly what this meant.  The Col. and I were both tall, though he was heavier, and that not fat.  I saw the Col. several times and I admired him.  I think our outlook on life was very similar, and I think Dorothy’s comment referred to the entirety of both of us, not just being tall.  At the time, I thought this similarity as positive, but it may well have been at the root of our later relational troubles.

Marge was very intelligent and much more fluent in the use of language than I will ever be.  She was aware that though when was with her classmates, she was not of them. She wrote a very lyrical essay about herself in 1956 titled “Alone.” Her closing line in this is: The thing you fear most of all, unconsciously, is your mind and what it can both make you do and not do…and you fear being alone and that she was alone.  She also wrote some essays with the theme of abandonment. For example,an old and  abandoned house would be symbolic of her own fear of abandonment.  Being a sensitive girl, and her own personal history growing up this is understandable. Understandable to me now, but I never knew the depth of this while she lived.

I do not believe Marge had a boyfriend in High School.  She did write about a boy, I think Bill Ormsby, who invited her to the junior prom when she was in 8th grade.  Neither he nor anybody else invited her when she was a junior.  Alone again. She described herself then as tall, slim and intelligent.  The physical part was obvious and the intelligence was proven by the many accolades she received for composition, oratory, and public speaking.

After graduation from high school in 1957 at the age of 17 she started at Syracuse University, same as I did in 1954. She wrote, concerning that time, that she was very naïve, very innocent, very insecure. She had a roommate who called her “provincial.”  As I came from a remote prison town, I was not exactly Mr. Continental myself.  I did date some in High School, and working in the resorts brought me into contact with many waitresses.  I worked in many venues, and there were never waiters, just waitresses.  So for me some pleasant summer romances, but nothing serious. Getting back to Marge: she believed all she had to protect herself was her intelligence and dignified manner. She quotes a phrase she used to describe herself “as dignified as a tree-full of owls.” As far as I know owls are not social birds.  They don’t flock. They sit on a tree limb by themselves, observing their surroundings.  So, again, another example of being “alone.”

There was a prior Bob in Marge’s life at Syracuse University that I never knew about. He was 10 years older than Marge , saw her in choir and came over to her dorm asking for her. They went out several times, and on a big football weekend he asked her to go with him to the Persian Terrace, a very posh place to quote Marge. However, instead he took her to his brother’s apartment. Marge didn’t like the feel of it and managed to tear the hem of her dress as a reason to go back to the dorm.  End of relationship.  Also, another validation that men are not to be trusted.

At this point, I have to briefly introduce Roy.  Roy was my roommate all through college, and we stay good friends.  Roy was and is a charming person, and all 3 of us were at Syracuse with an academic scholarship so we were all quite intelligent.  Marge and Roy became interested in each other during a German class they took due to their common interest in and ability with language. Marge fell in love with Roy.  Their relationship lasted perhaps 6 weeks and Roy drifted away. Marge felt rejected and bereft but she still loved him. (comment by me, Bob…Roy and I would share with each other tales of our love life, and he said something to the effect, that he felt that Marge was in a higher social class than he.  So he did drift away, not really break up. At that time I had gone with a Polish girl who was artistic, tall, leggy, and drop-dead gorgeous. She was quite aware of this and she was a bit of an ice princess. We also said good-bye.  I asked Roy if it was OK if I asked Marge out.  His response was that probably Marge and I would be a better match than he and Marge, so go for it.  Thus did we meet.)

Marge left a folder containing results from a personality test.  I think this was prepared about 1990 and appears to be the results from a paper and pencil test.  I don’t think her personality changed much from 1960 to 1990, so I am including it here since I think it is relevent.  I chose to include, results that she has highlighted as being of relevance.


These descriptions show her to be in emotional discomfort with lowered psychological defenses. Overly critical of self and others, and likely to express negative views about self and others.

Antisocial features: hostile, independent, impulsive and rebellious. a history of conflicts with social limits is common.

She may express anger toward men. Impulsive, inappropriate expression of sexual conflicts. She has difficulties expressing anger in a modulated assertive way, becoming passive-aggressive and manipulative.

There is little concern about how others view her. Decision making tends to be indecisive.

She feels overwhelmed and stressed with coping with life. Excessive worry, depression, hopelessness, and futility are described. Stress likely handled by withdrawing, daydreaming and fantasy. There is some difficulty understanding the motivations and behaviors of others.

Others may see her as bossy, aggressive, as well as argumentative.


I don’t want to end on a negative note.  Margery was often a caring person, very intelligent, sensitive, attractive, and quick-witted with a quirky sense of humor. Marge often included in her letters to me typed copies of poetry that had a special meaning to her. She often wrote at night and often would end with a little teaser such as “time to go too bed now, alone damn it.” I have all the letters she sent me  before our marriage. I wish we had not just left them in boxes, but now and then read our real love letters aloud to each other. I wish she were alive to tell her own story. Obviously not to be.  This has been the best I can do with the material she left.

This summary of Marge’s personality profile are her indications of the impact of those results to her.  I believe that the condensed version of her own observations about herself up to the time we married do agree largely with this analysis.  I too am much the same person as I was in 1960. We both had our dark sides. My next post will deal with the conflicts and misunderstandings we both faced in our marriage, and our eventual success in dealing with them.

I close with a quote from Mr. Kalas, the author of my prologue. “Discomfort has to do with the yearning of our souls to grow and develop. Most of the time the discomfort is not evidence that the marriage isn’t working but precisely that it is working. The marriage is confronting you with the work of selfhood. Selfhood is  sometimes damn hard work”.

I know Marge would agree, since she cut out and saved this article.

So long for now from both of us.  By the way, when she died, we were happy.

Bob and Marge

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Bob’s Youthful Memories

I know you have seen the prologue to this site since I started it.  Please take another read as the subject is a topic that I am trying to come to grips with myself.  In this post I will do my best to recall and describe what I believe are the insecurities, beliefs, problems etc. that I have carried with me, mostly in an  unknowing way.  I will also try to find those characteristics of belief and personality that I now wish I had been able to call mine.

The next post, more difficult, will be to do the same for Marge.  Wherever possible I will refer to the archival material that she left.  Occasionally I will mention a comment or topic that she shared verbally with me. Finally, and most difficult of all, I will compose a post about our married life together.  I think that as a whole, our married life in its entirety, would probably have achieved a grade of B considering children, financial and professional attainment, lifestyle, etc.  However,  except for a few bright spots now and then, we shared many, many, years of mutual unhappiness based largely on the unknown baggage that we had brought along. Probably our grade for our personal relationship would be at best a C.

If I leave this out of my narrative, it will be intellectually dishonest.    We began   our years, when we were in college, truly but perhaps naïvely, believing we were in love, not understanding all the complexity this would involve. In the latter perhaps two decades of our life, we grew together in a mature love until death parted us.  I think that is something to rejoice in.  Don’t you?

My father married my mother in 1934, the heart of the depression. Dad was born in 1900, a second generation Scandinavian. Mom in 1902. Mom was third generation Welch.  Dad had to live with his older brother in 1917 when his father died, and Dad did not finish High School but went to work as a clerk. Mom and Dad met at a dance in Ohio, Akron perhaps. Mom was a schoolteacher and taught elementary school.  She went to what is now Kent University in Ohio. In 1920 I think all that was required educationally to teach was a year in  “Normal School”  Maybe two years at most.  So, both were white-collar workers, perhaps on the bottom rung of the middle class.

Dad had various jobs while living in Ohio.  I know he worked for a railroad, and a tire factory, and I don’t know what else. Somewhere he met my mother and they began a courtship in Ohio.  The depression came, he struggled for his living and was fortunate to get a Civil Service clerks job at the NY State prison in Dannemora in 1932.  He later told me that he hoped to ride out the depression with a secure Civil Service job and then move on.  Didn’t work out that way as he retired from there in 1967.  So obviously, he and Mom had a long distance romance for a minimum of 2 years, no doubt longer than that.

I share all this to define the matrix into which I was born, and in which I grew up.  A son of Civil Service workers.  Not in poverty, not in wealth, and born in the Great Depression. Some others in better circumstances, many in worse. Both Mom and Dad wanted me, and later my sister when she came along, to aim for college and the brighter future it would make for us.  I started school in 1941 while I was still 4 years old almost 5.  First grade since the school had no Kindergarten. When I brought home an A grade,  Dad rewarded me with a nickel. That would buy a candy bar, or a small ice cream, and for ten cents a comic book which could be read and possibly traded with a friend.

Thus began a lifelong interest in learning, not only for itself, but for possible monetary reward. Throughout school, caring teachers fostered this interest in learning. Both parents gave me educational toys, such as a chemistry set, Tinker Toys, etc. So this complemented book learning with hands-on experimenting. Very wise of them.

Dad did not play with me very much. He did like to read and there was a little library in our village. It was open a couple days a week and I can remember going there with him some times.   He often took me along when he went fishing.  To a small boy, this was as exciting as watching paint dry.  But for him, it was a “guy” thing to share.  Maybe he enjoyed it so much was the chance to get out in the open without being surrounded by high prison walls and dangerous criminals.

When I was about 11, there was a village movement to set up a Boy Scout program.  Dad volunteered to help and ended up being the Secretary of the group.  I remember the first meeting I went to.  The boys met in a community multi-purpose  building.  They started playing basketball and I left, never to return. Because I enjoyed school, I was  a “nerd” in today’s language.  I was, and am tall and sort of thin and was not well suited for contact sports.  Too many opportunities for me to get fouled and end up on the floor.  Dad did try to do something for me, but it didn’t work, unfortunately.

Dad was conservative with money. One of his sayings was  the definition of happiness was $101 in cash and $100 in debts; unhappiness was $100 in cash and $101 in debts. A cautious approach to investments is still with me and has served me well into a comfortable old age.

On the negative side, Dad was very sedentary and overweight as long as I can remember.  The only household chore he did was painting and even at that he was sloppy on details and never consulted any of us on colors.  I rejected this lifestyle  for myself, am still below the BMI index for weight and have learned to do many hands-on tasks such as carpentry, auto repair, etc.  Self-reliance.

Dad was also extremely un-emotional. The only time he hugged me and expressed what I would call joy was when I showed him the letter awarding me an academic scholarship to college.  I recall my sister telling me that he had only kissed her once. I did not want this attitude for myself, but then as Dad was my only male role model I absorbed more of this into myself that I wanted.  Very Scandinavian really.

I cannot recall Dad really giving my mother praise for her role in being what was then called a home-maker or housewife.  It was as though he thought she was doing her job, what was expected of her so that should be enough.  He did his part working at his job, she took care of the house and children.  Again, with my father as my only role model, in my life, I found it difficult to praise Marge just for her being herself when that was something she desperately needed. I never learned how to be empathetic, emotional and caring as part of being a man.  Probably neither did my Dad.  He did his best.  I did my best, but many times it truly was not good enough.  As the Bible says “the sins of the fathers are passed on to the next generation, etc. etc.”  Sadly, much truth in that.

My father could become very angry and petty with little or no provocation.  One example: I had finished my Sophomore year at Syracuse U. and Dad drove to Syracuse to pick me up for the drive home. This was in mid May and it was quite warm and humid.  This was 1956 and Bermuda shorts were quite popular then.  I had a couple and wore one and a T-shirt when I came down from my residence and Dad became quite angry and incensed.  “You’re not coming home dressed like that!! “Go back and change or you’re not riding with me!!”  The knee-length shorts offended him, Imagine. So, what could I do, almost legally an adult and treated and humiliated like that.  Because of this and other similar instances, when my father expressed an interest in us doing something together, I found or made up a reason not to go.  Much too little and much too late for that and as when possible I kept my distance from him.

I resolved that if I ever got angry with my children, when I cooled off I would apologize. And I did just that when I was a father. My father was very uptight in all ways.  He took mineral oil every night for his bowels.  You can fill in the blank for this one.  Nuff said.

In summary, my father was a decent family man, not a drunk, abuser, womanizer etc. He was a steady provider but a very introverted and insulated personality.   I learned what I would do differently when I had a family, but unfortunately carried with me, unknowingly, some of his negative aspects of what it meant to be a man, a  loving father, and a truly loving husband.

Now, on to my mother:

Mom was the caregiver and nurturer for us.  She had quit teaching in Ohio and went to join Dad as he worked in the Siberia of  NY. This meant a lot for her as it meant giving up her friends and life in an urban setting. Now she lived in a tiny, remote prison town   They married in the home of my uncle Carl in Dunkirk,NY a very small wedding.  My late cousin Larry, about 10 years older than I, recently told me how happy and joyful Dad was then.  I did not see much joy of life in him as I grew up.

They lived in an apartment in Plattsburg, NY, a small city on Lake Champlain.  I came along in 1936 and they were able in 1939, to rent a house in Morrisonville, closer to Dannemora, aka. Siberia. That I remember in a general way. Mom was the housewife responsible for cooking, home economics, cleaning, looking after my health and welfare, and later in 1942, for my sister as well.

Mom was of Welch descent and from her stories, and those of my cousins on her side, her family had much more of a joy of life than my Dad’s did.  According to Mom, for a while they owned a lakeside camp where, for a time my grandfather owned a reindeer and drove it on a little sleigh at Christmas. The Welch were hard workers, miners and metal workers.  Still, they found time to enjoy choral music societies.  Mom enjoyed singing and soon got involved in the Morrisonville Methodist church and it’s choir.

Mom would help me with my schoolwork,play games and cards with me which my father seldom did, reading his books instead. I was, and am, borderline asthmatic, I often had bronchitis in the winter, as well as some bouts with pneumonia.  Mom cared for me, read to me and nursed me through these childhood diseases.  Death from childhood disease was still all to common even in the 1940’s.

Mom would give my father a kiss of welcome when he came home from work.  He actually seemed, to me, a bit self-conscious about this. I can’t remember him ever kissing and hugging her. Mom was an active Christian and did her best to see that I went to Sunday school and we often went to Church services as a family.  I think Dad this to accommodate Mom and he did not seem religious to me, while still not being anti-religious either. It was something he went along with as being part of family life.

My sister, Karen, reminded me of a family dinner at our dining table which Mom had obviously spent time and effort in setting up.  My Dad had a sweet tooth and we always ended dinner with pie, cake or something like that.  Dinner was over, Dad silently left the table and went to the cookie jar for a couple of cookies. Mom started crying saying “Nobody appreciate what I do around here.”  This of course directed to my father, since the rest of us did appreciate her efforts to serve us in her role as wife and mother.

I generalized from Mom that her behavior  is what the mother did.  She put husband and children first, relaxing by reading only when the dishes were put away. She socialized with other women, usually at church functions and we did have a few family friends who would visit and we them.  For the most part, as well as I could tell, Mom bore up in being under-appreciated.

My father was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died in a Plattsburg NY hospital a few days before his 75th birthday. He was in there only about 3 weeks and Marge was there with my Mom and Karen until his death. Both of them have told me, that though nothing specific was spoken, they believed he was hanging on until I could back from Coopersburg to see him. So, despite his personal demons, he did love me. I wish he could have shown that more in life, but maybe he did not know how. I bear no animus toward his memory. Rest in Peace Dad, I love you too.

I respected my father, but loved my mother and I am certain I idealized her into the role of what a wife and mother should be.  Some time, not all, this did not fit Marge at all and was a source of significant difficulty in our lives. I did write a long letter, about 2 pages, to my parents when I was about 30 years old.  I told them, best I could, how I appreciated what they had both given me while I was growing up. A secure home, always decently clothed, supported, decently and regularly fed, not abusive, cared for in sickness and health with solid life values about the value of learning, parenting, and sense of financial responsibility. etc. I received a very nice letter from Mom telling me how much she loved and treasured my letter.  I never did hear from my father.

I brought to our marriage what I had unconsciously absorbed in childhood. The positive values of being a provider, financially prudent, etc.  What I did not receive was much of a sense of being spontaneous, experiencing the joy of life as I swam in its waters. I loved my mother and can not think of anything negative I picked up from her.

I did not have much of a sense of empathy for those whose upbringing and perspectives of life were quite different from mine. Such as Margery and her perspectives. While I have not been as closed and insulated as I regarded my father to be, I have been and am, analytical and evaluative of about everything in life.  For me, I have not “seized the moment” when at times that was exactly the thing to do.  Those moments passed, never to return.

We are all flawed persons, I believe, but our individual flaws are all different.  We all “fall short of the living our lives in the glory of God”, to put a Christian perspective to this situation. I am what I am, warts and all. Writing this has been very difficult for me, while at the same helpful for me.  Possibly also for someone else who has had the  patience to read all this.  The remaining posts will be even more difficult.  I am on my own lonely road, and must continue to walk it . I hope you will continue to share this journey with me.

Road to nowhere

Road to nowhere

Posted in Pre Marriage life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marge’s Autobiography 1970-1980

I had not found a place to include some more of Marge’s autobiographical statements, and this seems a good place to pick up again.  At the time this segment begins, we had moved to Coopersburg, PA to the Beverly hills home.  She is writing about her association there with residents also part of the Charismatic Movement.

I had met people from Coopersburg through my new Christian friends in Binghamton, and when we moved there, I became involved in the group that met at their house.  It was a house church, and after some initial discomfort and adjustment on my part (no one ever does things exactly the way you are used to, in a new place) I dived right in.  I was still my basically conservative self; there is always a part of me that stands to one side looking on and sort of checking things out.

I was developing my relationship with the Lord, but I was still struggling with lots of feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  In some ways I was no doubt, rather arrogant, and not everyone saw me as I saw myself, as thoughtful and willing.  I had various personality conflicts with certain people in the group.  However what I started to say was about music.  One of the characteristics of the movement was an emphasis on worship, and worship was usually an audible expression of love and adoration poured out to Him, both in the group and when one was alone.

This was very frequently in the form of singing.  The songs we sang were either choruses, or Bible verses set to music, sometimes old hymns or new songs we learned.  The other kind of singing we did was called singing in the Spirit, where the words and the melody were spontaneous. Sometimes the whole group would sing together, everyone singing their own song to the Lord.  You would think it would be just noise, but it all blended together, and was incredibly lovely.  Sometimes one person would sing alone.  I did that.  It was sort of like gathering up what everyone in the meeting wanted to express to God, and pouring it out in one voice and song.  It is difficult to express what this meant to me, but you can understand that this was a very emotional thing, and in some ways very fulfilling.  I have always been reluctant to express my emotions freely, and yet I could do it there, almost publicly.  This gave a richness to my life that I had longed for and been frightened of for many years.

Meanwhile, during this period of about 10 years, from 1970 when we moved to Pennsylvania until 1980 when we moved to Las Vegas our marriage sort of went along.  Sometimes we were able to talk to each other, most of the time not.

We did have one really good period when we both joined a study group of the church we went to – it provided us with a neutral place to say what we thought, without being any kind of a threat or confrontation. When we had tried to talk about some of these things ourselves, we always ended up in some conflict, with one of us feeling defensive or attacked.Some time around 1978, perhaps Bob heard about Marriage Encounter from a man who worked for him and he suggested we go.

I was really afraid, because I didn’t know what was going to be required of me, but I went, and it was a very good experience for us.  We followed the instructions given to us, and I was very grateful that it turned out not to be a group activity, but each couple alone.  It was hard for me to answer some of the questions, which always started out “How does it make you feel when…”  We tried to keep up the method of communication, which involved taking a question, and each one writing a letter about your feelings to the other, and then sharing the letters. We had a terrible time thinking up questions.  And I found that when I tried to identify feelings about things, I frequently couldn’t come up with much at all.  It got so that it was more traumatic than the benefits derived, and we sort of stopped.

Bob was getting more and more dissatisfied with his work and he began looking for another job.  He applied for a job with Aramco , which would have taken us to Saudi Arabia, and I was very afraid.  Fortunately they didn’t even answer his letter.  Eventually he heard of a job with Nevada Power from someone he knew, and he came out to interview.  I flew out to be with him there – for some reason he was in Texas –  and we met people, went to the Dam and to Red Rock.  I knew when we went home was that we would be moving.

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Beverly Hills, PA – House & Home

There was a song in the 1960’s “A house is not a home”  The lyrics then go on to  say that someone to love makes it a home. We certainly had love, but not a house.  We had been house hunting for from September to November 1969.  Our sales guy showed us a lot of houses but none of them seemed just right for a home. It was obvious that, picturesque as the farmhouse was, neither it or the Kutztown area were what we wanted.  We had lived in many apartments, rental houses, even stayed with Marge’s mother for a while, but none of these were home.  Just places to live for a while.

Vestal was our first house and we changed it into our home, our first.  I checked recently and found it was built in 1920 so it was 45 years old when we bought it.  Older than I thought. It would not have worked except that in the interval 1920-1965, a 3 room + bath dormer was  added and this made it quite livable.  The kitchen was a bit dated so we renovated it, including a genuine cast iron Kohler  dark red porcelain finish sink.  Marge loved it and we repeated this feature on other houses as long as Kohler made it.

What we wanted was a spacious, but not huge house, preferably near Allentown, in a good school district for the children, and preferably in at least a relatively new subdivision, with neighbors something like ourselves, that is middle class professionals or business people that we could relate to as neighbors.  This says nothing negative about Kutztown, but the place, neighbors, and town were obviously of a somewhat different culture.  so, we learned from that.

Beverly Hills Coopersburg

Beverly Hills Coopersburg


It so happened that this time, as was the case in Vestal, I found a place that looked good in the For Sale part of the Allentown paper. It was a FISBO, but I drove around and looked at it and it seemed a very good fit, looking from the outside.  I called our agent, told him about the house and ad and asked if he could get us a viewing, which he did. The house, and its neighbor were built on spec as show houses for a proposed development.  the paper advertised it for sale at $32,000, 5% down and 5% financing at I think a Savings and Loan in Wilkes Barre. I don’t know if S&Ls still exist but they did then and were popular.  The house above is somewhat like ours.  Ours was better in that it was brick and this one looks like two halves of a pre-fab, but it is the best I could do for something similar. I think all of us went to see the new house, as soon as we could in daylight.  The house was a brick rancher built into the Beverly hill in Coopersburg, PA road on a .5 acre lot.  The road level featured a 2 car drive in garage with the rest of the basement storage area, utility room, etc.  The upper level had 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a small but useful kitchen, decent dining room and a large living room in front, including a bay window, and a similar sized room in the rear, called a family room then and included a fireplace.  The Vestal home had one and we enjoyed it and were delighted to find one in this house as well. The demographics were good as was the local school district. The only negative was that the lawn had not been put in.  The financing was doable so we did not quibble but made an offer on the terms listed in the ad.

The man who advertised the house, I think his name was Norbert Weiner, and the money man behind the proposed development was a guy who had made money making cabinets,don’t know his name.

The money guy would visit the house under construction and if he didn’t like some feature, he had it torn out and redone, several time in several places in the interior.  The house was laid out well in the end, but the total construction costs, I found out later, had run to about $40,000, considerably more than it was worth.  The partners decided to quit the development deal and sell both the house we bought as well as the neighboring one, which was a 2 story.

Weiner, in my opinion was a shyster and he invited me to see him in his office, which was quite near where I worked to verbally talk about a possible counter offer.  Sounded strange and it was.  He was not going to back down from the terms he himself had publicly advertised but he wanted to wiggle the figures around and give me some sort of credit to make the sales look like $40,000.  this looked so fishy to me that it smelled and I said I would think about it and we could all get together soon in my lawyer’s office.  When I got back to my office, I called my lawyer told him about the shaky verbal proposal and asked him to set up a visit at the lawyer’s office.

For those of you who live in different parts of the country, a digression on the closing rules in the East and the West.  In NY and PA the closing ceremony would involve both parties getting together around a conference table going over the documents and signing as required.  both buyer and seller were there, with their lawyers. In the West, it is more casual.  The closing is basically done by what is called here Title Companies.  They do the title search and make money from selling the buyer title insurance.  I really felt more comfortable in the East knowing that I had a lawyer looking out for my interests, as well as the title search, and I still do.

So, with that backdrop the three of us met and Weiner did his smoke and mirrors act. My lawyer politely told him that his client, the Frantzens, had made an offer that exactly corresponded to his public advertisement for the property and he strongly advised me against Weiner’s as yet only verbal counter offer.  That sealed it, Weiner could not back down he accepted the offer, I made the down payment to bind the deal,  and we set a closing date for the end of December. However the weather in Allentown then was very snowy and bad causing the closing being put off for about 10 days.  Not desirable, but we got it done.

We moved in shortly after closing and it was still cold Jan. weather.   The move took longer than expected and when finally completed, Marge got some emergency dinner ready, franks and beans and water based instant cocoa as I recall.  It was hot food, it was in our new home and it felt great to all of us.

During the walk through, we did make note of some things that should be taken care of and Weiner duly noted them.  Nothing happened though and I called my lawyer to complain. He did some research on the records and as I recall told me in a day or two that there was about $8000 of judgements ahead of me and in his mind was not worth a legal fight. Live and learn. At least we had a clear title and owned the house and our new home. That was what counted, let Weiner take are of his own problems.

That started a new and important phase in our family’s life.  More on that later.  Below is a snapshot of  Marge in our kitchen around 1979. It is hard for me to imagine that this house is now 45 years old, as was our first home in Vestal.

Beverly Hills Home & Marge

Beverly Hills Home & Marge

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Siegfriedale lane PA

Our first PA home was a rental farmhouse at the place below.  I don’t have a photo from then, and Google maps was no help as I don’t have an exact address and the lane is a quite rural one, but this photo shows the general layout of the place we rented.  It too had a covered front porch, a central hall into the house with stairs to the second floor, with the first floor in two wings. It was very picturesque and quite livable about three miles from Kutztown, PA on the linguistic border of the state.  I think the house was part of a 200 acre parcel the Realtor had bought, probably with the idea of development, and meanwhile was renting the buildings to tenants and the land to farmers.

Our Farmhouse rental in PA

Our Farmhouse rental in PA

Marge took care of the PA end of the move and unfortunately they broke a large ancestral hall mirror that had been in Marge’s grandparents house.  The original mirror had a very artistic bevel around the edge of the glass, which was nice but in many places the mirroring silver had deteriorated badly.  The movers replaced the glass so it made a more effective mirror but did not have the antique look.  Fast forwarding, last week the mirror, which until then was in my living room, fell down and broke during the night.  I guess gravity got the better of it. Neither of the children were particularly attached to it so all went into the trash for disposal.

The first thing I remember doing was taking Ingrid to the local elementary school to enroll her.  She was then 7 years old and I think then in 2nd grade.  They told us about the bus that would pick her up and some other unforgettable facts and Ingrid and I went back to the house.  I filled Marge in and recall mentioning that the principal was helpful but her speech was accented,very similar to the German dialect speaking people in the area I was stationed when in the Air Force.  That was my introduction to PA Dutch.  I did not shop much in Kutztown but I did when I needed something quickly, such as a hardware part, in a hurry and Allentown was too far away.  On entering the hardware store, nobody was speaking English, it was like being back in the Old Country again.

This house included about two acres with a large garden area and a few fruit trees.  I remember walking around the property early on with Ingrid and I told her we two were going to play a little joke on Marge.  I would say to her “Ingrid you really have growed.”  Her response was “Grown, Daddy.”  To which I responded with a gut wrenching GROAN and the three of us got a laugh out of that.

Marge really did not like life there.  Ingrid’s bus schedule must have meant that she was the first to be picked up and the last to come home. Her portal to portal time was about the same as mine going into work in Allentown.  So, Marge was left by herself with only little Louise as a companion.  Marge had no friends and was very unlikely to make any as all our neighbors were some variety of Amish, an entirely different culture. They were not unfriendly but we and they lived in very different worlds.  On a Sunday afternoon sitting on the front porch we could easily believe we were sucked up in a time warp to a time 100 years ago.  Quite a few people were on horseback and many carriages as well, and some people just strolling along.  To add to illusion, most dressed in Amish period costumes.

Marge had bad memories of being alone and until we bought a house in a modern subdivision, that was not going to change. We continued to look for a house using a sales person from the Realtor who owned the house.  We knew no others and could break the lease if we used him, so why not?  We even looked at one stone home considerably larger than the one we lived in as it was recently listed and near-bye.  Maybe we could adjust to country living.  The house was quite large, much more  than the one in the picture, and came with 5 acres of land.  The place was obviously old, probably dating back to the early 1800s as our did.  It had a very grand stairway to the second floor, maybe 5 feet wide with banisters on each side.  There was electricity but only surface mounted wiring, probably fit only for lighting.  It had not fallen into decay, but had definitely seen better days.  I think the clincher not to buy was when Marge asked “Where is the kitchen?” The answer ” where ever you want it to be.”  The owner was asking $20,000 for the house and it would take easily that for basic restorations so that was the end of picturesque stone homes.

Later in the Fall, I took Ingrid to the Whitehall Mall north of Allentown to see a children’s movie.  I think it was Heidi, if not that, something similar.  Our plan was to see a matinée and I must have made a mistake on the show time, as when we got there it had already been showing maybe 45 minutes.  However there was another showing shortly after the finish.  I explained all this to Ingrid and said that we still could still see the movie, but it would be later, what would she like to do?  She wanted to see it, so we window shopped for a while and then stopped in a mall restaurant for an ice cream sundae.  It made for a very pleasant father-daughter time, but what didn’t we do?  We (that is I) didn’t call Marge to tell her of the delay.   So, when we did get home, Marge was frantic with worry. In her mind we were both dead in a ditch victim of a horrible car wreck.  Of course she didn’t get an ominous call from a hospital ER or the police.  No information whatsoever.  She was both relieved to know there was nothing wrong but very vexed with me for not calling ahead.  With good reason.

Our sales person, Wally Furler, as I remember him was a WWII veteran and was going to give a talk in the downtown Lutheran church to which he belonged.  He invited us, so why not?  He had taken a lot of time in showing us houses that for some reason or other were not right for us and we could support him in this way.  This was our first exposure to a Lutheran service.  Our church background had been Presbyterian and Methodist and we knew nothing about liturgical worship.  I think we were alone in this as we helplessly flipped back and forth in the Hymnal/Order of Worship book.  We ended up standing when everyone else did and sitting likewise but were clueless about the details.  Wally did give a nice talk about some of his war experiences and what his faith had meant to him.  It was meaningful, sincere and we were both glad that we came to give our small  bit of support.

So, like Judy Garland and Toto, we were not in Kansas any more.  We were only maybe 150 miles from the greater Binghamton area, but the “feel” of Allentown was somehow different from that in the NY where we had lived.  Even the food was somewhat different.  A steak sandwich in Bingo  usually meant a cube steak on toast points with a couple of sides. Here it meant a Philly steak sandwich which neither of us had ever heard of.  And the spiedinis of Southern NY were never heard of here.  We were catching on though, if only we could find the house we wanted.  Seems like this is a good place to stop with that being the next chapter.





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Leaving Vestal

Have you ever had difficulty making a major decision?  You know, such as “Is he/she the right one for me, or not?”  “Should I buy this house/car/boat?”   Probably most of you have at one time or another.  I decision that I wrestled with for months was what to do about my job at GAF?  On the one hand, the job was the most interesting I have ever had for the various assignments I was given.  Also, I was then employed, in the late 60s, almost at the dawn of the computer age .  This could be the opportunity to advance in what was obviously to have tremendous opportunities for an engineer and statistician in the years to come.  Also, my boss gave me wide latitude and had a great sense of humor.  At that time I shared an office with a technician and we got along well.  One time we thought we would play a little gag on Cal and somewhere I bought a very large B&W poster of Raquel Welch wearing a  bikini or something like that from a recent movie.

From an engineering perspective, Ms. Welch was very well constructed indeed and the poster left very little to doubt.  Our office was long and narrow in shape and my desk was at the rear. There was space on the end wall of this office, and with the help of my office-mate, we taped the poster to the wall during the lunch break time.  That afternoon after Cal came back from lunch, I called out to ask him to help me with a coding problem I was dealing with.  Of course he did and bent over to see what I was working on and I made up some question about how to handle an algorithm.  He then straightened up, looked over his shoulder and there was Ms. Welch in all her sensuous glory.  Cal laughed so much, I almost thought he might have troubles breathing.  He enjoyed the gag even more than me and my office mate and I believe called in some of the other engineers.  I could never have done that anywhere else.  Of course, I took it down when the show was over.  Sexual harassment was not an issue then, but still…..boys will be boys and so will engineers.


Raquel Welch Poster

Also, some of the other operation managers were about my age and we often ate together for lunch.  We had got into a rut just going to the same places every week and one of us came up with the idea that every week, one of us was to find new places to eat that were not too far away.  It was a great idea with some of the places being little hidden gems and others should have stayed hidden.  so, the job itself, as well as the work socialization made for a very satisfying work experience.

On the other hand (there is always at least one other hand) my analysis of the economics of the GAF film business unit showed me that the company did not have a good future.  It actually took me a while to figure out both the plus factors as well as the minus ones.  Although I was promised the department manager’s job, nothing happened for Cal and so also, for me. I received my MS degree the first of June 1969 and my plan was to line up interviews and see who else might be interested, see what kind of offers I received and then with that in hand, I would let GAF know that I was considering leaving if the promised promotion did not materialize.

I did line up interviews that summer, not sure of exactly when, but probably July.  I almost did not schedule the last interview I had which was for an electric utility.  I knew nothing about this industry either from experience or education.  It was and is headquarted in Allentown, PA which was not really a long drive on Rt 81 from Vestal.  After some paperwork preliminaries with the Personnel department I went to meet Mr. Edwin Seidler who was the manager of the Transmisssion and Distribution Construction department. In 1969, customer growth at PP&L was about 6.5% per year and this entailed a lot of  construction work.  Ed was a graduate engineer and  earned a Master of Business Administration degree.  He wanted to hire someone like me who he hoped could take a fresh look at the construction work from the perspective of this being a system, and to suggest improvements.  We really hit it off and I enjoyed the interview.  Probably most of you have had an experience where you just hit it off with another person, same gender or otherwise, and you are in the same zone.  It was that kind of experience.

MSF June 69

Marge in June of 1969 location unknown

When I got back to Vestal, I went over my week with Marge and told her that I was strongly considering the PP&L situation as I was certain they would make me an offer.  We both liked the Vestal house which was our first one and we had made improvements to make it our own.  We both had friends there and Marge’s circle of friends were very important to her.  She was concerned that if we were going to move, we had to do it before school started.  Marge was very supportive and understanding, did not want to move but realized it was part of life.  She had been an Army brat and moved a lot in her lifetime, much more than I. The expected job offer soon arrived and it included about a 20% raise in salary.  When I went in to work at GAF next day, I told Cal that I had an attractive job offer, and if the promised promotion did not occur, I was going to leave, though with regrets.  We then had a meeting with the plant manager who asked for 2 weeks more and I said sure.  2 weeks came and went and nothing happened. I handed in my resignation promising to finish as many of the things I was working on as I could, but I wanted  to start at PP&L no later than September 1, 1969. I was given a very pleasant farewell party and several others quietly told me they were thinking of leaving also. Just before this, as I recall now that I think back, I contacted PP&L and told them I was very interested but it was a family decision and wanted to bring Marge down to look at the area and houses for sale.  No problem there for either PP&L or ourselves.  This could work.

The next thing to do was sell the house.  I tried a For Sale ad in the local newspaper and that really did not lead to anything.  I believe we listed it with the agency who sold it to us.  It sold reasonably quickly with a closing date for the end of August.  During that month, I was able to fly to Allentown again to look for a house to rent until we got settled.  I found a stone farmhouse about 22 miles from Allentown.  The price was reasonable and the home in good condition despite it being built around 1810.  It did have a peculiar feature though.  That was a very small, very slow stream in the basement.  The water table there was very low and the practice for food preservation before refrigerators had been to build what is termed  a spring house, basically a concrete enclosure that the water could flow into and out of.  Food was placed  into something like milk cans placed in the cool water and the water kept it at about 50 degrees.  This house had a smaller version of a separate spring house in the cellar and the little stream was the source of fresh water for it.  The Realtor would not rent it to us until Marge had seen it, since he had trouble along these lines in the past.  When I got to the hotel I called Marge and did my best to explain the stream in the basement and that they would not rent it until she put her OK on the deal.  So, another trip for both Marge and I to see the house and though it was a bit strange to her, Marge agreed and we signed a year’s lease. This was a big moment in our lives. We experienced anticipation for the future, as well as regrets for leaving Vestal, forever a special place to us.

The exact date then is a bit unclear to me now, but I was able to start on Sept 1, 1969.  I stayed in a hotel for about a week while Marge took care of the mover and other details on the Vestal end. Everything fit together even if off by a few days.  This seems  a logical place to end this post, and the next one will cover our transition to living on the fringe of the PA Dutch area of the state.




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Marge – Music and Religon

This blog is about both Marge and I, but to date most has been about our life from my perspective.  I have quoted some of her letters and writing from the time we were dating, but nothing really from her when we were married.  She did make some drafts of a biography though which I found recently when going through her files.  I think she wrote this around 1983-85 as we had our first computer then, and Apple IIe and I recognize the font.  This post will consist of sections of her final draft copied by me for this post, and perhaps where relevant, add some more later. Unless I specifically note that I (Bob) am commenting, what remains will be from her writings about herself.

There are two subjects which I need to discuss briefly.  One is music.  I began to sing in he church choir when I was 14 or 15.  My sister Pat, whom I admired very much, had sung in it before me, and I enjoyed it very much.  I didn’t know any music, but by singing I gradually learned a fair amount.  when I went to Syracuse, the only activity I joined was the Chapel choir.  I sang in it for 5 years, and left about 6 weeks before Ingrid was born.  The singing, and being part of a group that had a single purpose was very satisfying and was the only emotional expression that I had which did not threaten me.  Music doesn’t ask anything of you, it just is, and you are free to like it, dislike it, find it exciting or boring, whatever.You don’t have to have a relationship with music. I sang in choirs almost continuously until we moved to Pennsylvania in 1970, but by then something else had happened to me that changed my life.

In 1967, our second child, Louise, was born.  In January of 1968 I heard some people talk about making a commitment to the Lord. I thought about it, and decided that if I had dome such a thing I would know about it and since I didn’t remember having done that, I hadn’t.  So one day I sat in a rocker in Louise’s room and said “God, if You’re there, I haven’t made too good a job of my life and if You want my life, You can have it.”  I happened to mention this to some people what I had done, and they befriended me, and helped me, and talked with me, and prayed with me, and generally kept me alive as a Christian for a year.  I remember that I waited three weeks before I told Bob what I had done, because I wanted to make sure it was real.   I had tried at various times to change myself, to pull myself up by my bootstraps as it were, but those attempts never worked. But that was real, something changed, and so I told him.  Bob asked me what it meant, but I really know myself, so I couldn’t tell him.

(Bob here) I remember this conversation and it ended there, at least for a while.  By nature and training, I am skeptical and analytical so I waited about another month before I brought the subject up myself.  I said something like this “Marge I really do not understand what your personal experience has meant to you, but you have become easier to live with and more pleasant to be with and I appreciate that.  Whatever your experience was, it has shown itself in an improved life together. Thanks for sharing with me, I certainly hope this change will become permanent.”

Back to Marge:

About a year later, I became involved with a Bible study group.  These people, like the ones before, KNEW the Lord and had a daily, intimate relationship with Him.  It was something I deeply desired.  One of the things I heard about was the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I was afraid to do that too, but I got more hungry for Jesus and so I asked for that too, and it happened to me.

As you can see, this story no longer goes neatly in a straight chronological line, but jumps back and forth, picking up threads.  I must now revert to music.  After we moved to Pennsylvania we didn’t find a church that we felt comfortable with, although we went to several at different times. By that time I had become a Christian and gotten involved with what came to be known as the Charismatic movement.  I had met people from Coopersburg PA through my Christian friends in Binghamton, and when we moved to Coopersburg I became involved in the group that met at their house.

(Bob again)  There is more to Marge’s story on this but the chronology is getting ahead of some more posts from me about our life in the Binghamton area. Through her religious experience Marge did in fact make some very good friends there.  I believe most were women of her age or older and there may have been some men in the group but I don’t recall exactly.  This companionship with other women who shared her beliefs was the first for Marge since she had left women’s dorm living in college.  This was really good for both of us.  I had a few friends and many of my fellow workers at GAF whose company I enjoyed and now Marge had a group she associated with as well and was not confined to home being a housewife and mother, though she was that as well. All in all, we were slowly moving ahead.

This is a good time to end this post and finish later with details of our life in Vestal which we left in 1969 and moved to the Allentown PA area.  Then I will pick up more of the threads of Marge’s personal history as well as my own.





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Till death do us part

We married  in 1960. The service was conducted  by the chaplain of the S.U. chapel and as I recall the ending of the marriage vows finished with the phrase which is the subject of this post. This is then followed by the exchange of rings and the service is almost complete.  I do have a Lutheran hymnal published in 1978 and it ends with  a promise …I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us. Then the ring ceremony.  So, the wording is less archaic than the vow we took, as well as I can remember it, but very similar.  The current Lutheran service actually gives two suggested vow endings.  The first ends with the phrase….until death parts us.  So quite similar to the endings I just quoted.  The second ending closes with …as long as we both shall live.

I recently attended a wedding at my church and the couple, both in latter middle age at least, I would guess, chose the second ending.  Then the ring exchange. So, the ending they chose has more emphasis on life, but implying at least that it will be of a finite length. I go into this because the wedding service was one of those events that can cause unexpected  grief and it did so for me.

It is now getting on to two years since Marge died and I have still been wearing my wedding ring from so long ago.  I had thought occasionally that I should remove my wedding ring at some time, in the future.  The effect of the service I attended was that continuing to wear my ring was a form of denial since Marge and I do not both live, she has died and I have survived her.  We by death, as we so blithely vowed when we were oh, so young, are now parted.  Then we were going to live forever.  We did for a long time, but not forever.  The time had come to recognize this by removing my ring.

I did this and it was much more gut-wrenching and painful than I had imagined.  My whole left hand felt oddly different.  I think the ring has been on my hand all those years with the exception  of a few times when I had to remove it for some form of medical scanning.  The ring had become a part of me, but no longer an appropriate appendage. After struggling with this sensation and what to do about it, I came to a response that satisfies me.

Way back in 1980 when we first moved here, I had my 44th birthday in November of that year and we decided to celebrate it by playing tourist, staying at a hotel for Friday and Saturday night, seeing some shows, shopping dining, etc.  We had, as a family, some unexpected situations to deal with that year and had done so.  The girls were old enough to take care of themselves and we gave them our hotel phone number, and of course we could call home easily.

It was a very pleasant relief to step outside the day-to-day routine, even for a few days, and play tourist.  Marge surprised me with the gift of a gold ring which I really liked.  On my right ring finger, I wear a gold nugget ring that Marge had made as a gift for me which includes a gold $10 coin that had been my maternal grandfather’s.  This gift was also  a surprise maybe 25 years or so ago.  I decided to replace the wedding ring with the birthday ring. The ring fingers on both hands are now balanced with these thoughtful gifts from Marge.  Now my left had feels whole again and I have acknowledged to myself that I am no longer married but widowed.

This transition has been more difficult for me that I at first thought it would be.  However, I think it was another step in slowly coming to terms with my residual grief.  Quite likely there may be more,  though I am looking forward to the future, doing some new things, making a trip or two, etc.


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Curious how just writing about the past brings up almost forgotten memories. While I was working at the Ozalid plant, I teamed up with a man whose name was Maurice Lee, “Morrie” for short, He was older than me by about 15 years or so and we got along well. He had worked his way up in an organization to being a tool and die maker so he really knew a lot about machine shop operations. I had only  one course at school called something like Industrial Manufacturing Processes and it had a lab with lathes, milling machines, etc. So he had hands-on skills and I had the engineering degree and we complemented each other.

Marge’s cousin, Bob Nelson had a canoe that somehow was rigged up  to use as a small sailboat. There was a small lake or reservoir at Whitney Point, NY about 20 miles from Vestal. sometimes our family and the Nelson’s would go up there for a get-together or picnic and Bob and I would sail around in his sailing canoe. it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

At the same time, several in the Manufacturing Engineering department at Ozalid were interested in sailing. Morrie had become interested and built a catamaran that was capable of holding at least 4 people, and a couple of times Marge and I joined Morrie and his family for a sail in his boat.

I became quite enthusiastic about fresh water sailing and wanted a boat of my own. I started to get sailing magazine and even took a course once at a Community College on the fundamentals of sailing. Morrie wanted to build a boat for his son who was about 12 then. I said that well maybe we could get together on this some time. I shared my interest with Marge and showed her an ad or little article in a sailing magazine featuring a kit built sailing dinghy. Marge decided to get me one of the kits for a Christmas present in 1965. Of course this was her secret. To her dismay, Christmas came and the kit had not been delivered. She was in tears about this and told me how she wanted to surprise me but her gift had not arrived. I did my best to console her, it was a wonderful thought and I was sure it would come soon. Actually UPS or whoever did show up late Christmas afternoon and delivered the boat kit. So that cheered up everyone.

I told Morrie about the boat kit and he thought that would make a nice boat for his boy so he decided to buy one as well. At that time he was living in the upper half of a duplex in Binghamton that his father owned and did not have much building space. I offered the use of our basement in Vestal for a construction site and we could build two of them together and he thought this a good idea.

In some ways, building the boats was more fun than using them. We built it in the basement and from time to time Marge would come down and offer coffee, soda or something like that if we wanted a break and we would usually do just that. We had some practical problems to solve and Morrie had some tools I did not. One problem we had was how to soften up the mahogany rails so we could curve them around the boat. Our solution was to take our masts, plug up one end with a potato, insert the rails and fill the mast with water and  plug up the opposite end with another potato. This really worked and we worked slowly and put wood clamps on as we went to hold the shape properly. Nothing broke and we congratulated ourselves on our field engineering.

The assembly took a while as we could get together about one evening a week and maybe a long Saturday. We built them pretty much in parallel so they would be done at about the same time. Finally, the moment of truth came. We had to get the boats out of the cellar. Our house was built in an era when the washing was done in the basement and there was a clothesline in the back yard as a dryers were not common. There was a door in the cellar with steps leading up to a small covered door that opened on to the yard so the clothes could be hung to dry. Of course when we owned it, clothes dryers were common so the door was usually kept locked on the outside. Before Morrie and I got started building we got the boat measurements of length, width and depth and it seemed a close but likely fit using that door. BUT when we tried this, a diagonal measurement came into play and the boat got stuck in the door way. Fortunately we could pry the door jambs off and this gave enough clearance to free the boats. All we would have needed was to have not one but two complete boats build but stuck in the cellar. We never would hear the end of THAT.

In those days,it was common for cars to have a trim piece over the door(s) and windows that would drain rain off the roof. My 1967 Mustang has one. Auto parts sales outlets sold various roof mounted carriers for large items, extra luggage, that could be installed using this trim piece as an anchor. I did not thing I would need a trailer for my boat as it was maybe only 8′ long. So I put a roof top rack on the Ford to hold the boat. I could get the boat up on it and anchored firmly, but it was more work than I had estimated. Likewise getting it down, then stepping the mast, putting the sail in, etc. The you could launch the boat but when done, the process had to be reversed. So using the boat proved more of a hassle than I had anticipated.

Of course, next I had to launch the boat and I chose the next Saturday coming up to do this. I got the boat on the car and drove to Whitney point with Marge and the girls in the car. It was very windy that day, I should never have gone, but I  determined to get the boat in the water. I did get it in and launched and sailed about 40′ or so then the wind changed quickly and I capsized. This upset the children but Marge quickly found an attendant, guard or someone like that and he came out in a powered boat and rescued me. Sort of embarrassing, but at least the boat did sail, even if the captain was too much an amateur.

New York has many ponds, lakes and large rivers and I did get to use it from time to time, but only when we were able to plan a long enough outing to make the work worth the effort. Pennsylvania was different. PA had plenty of rivers, but not many of the little ponds and lakes as did NY. So, though we moved the boat to PA when we moved in 1969, it was never used. Just sat upside down on some 2X4s in the back yard. Even when I had moved to Las Vegas in 1980 and Marge stayed behind until the school year ended the boat still remained. She was able to sell it, as well as an old Evinrude one cylinder motor that I had. My Dad bought this after WWII but had given up fishing by the time we moved to Vestal and he gave it to me. I did use it once or twice.
So that is the family history of building and using a small sailboat. It was fun, though as I said earlier, I think that building the two boats with Morrie was the most enjoyable part.

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Vestal 1965-1966


We lived in Vestal from the summer of 63 until the fall of 69.  Quite a few things happened then and I’ll do my best to remember them in sequence. in 1965 we were still members of the First Pres. church in Binghamton.  We continued our membership their mostly out of inertia, I think.  Religion as such to me was more of a cultural phenomena than a spiritual one.  You were born to a Protestant parent, you went to a Protestant church, born Catholic, you went to a Catholic church. Things were much different 80 years ago.  After I finished high school, I didn’t darken the steps of any church until we had Ingrid baptised, which was what Marge wanted.  The Binghamton church had social events where we at least made acquaintances, though perhaps not quite close friends.  I believe Marge went to church as she grew up that way, and maybe even more important, she could sing in the choir, and occasionally do a solo.   The Binghamton church had a paid quartet, as well as a choir and I don’t think she did anything musical there.  Vestal had a mission Presbyterian church, South Hills Presbyterian as I recall.  It was a small new church in an area being developed for residential usage. We went there now and then and perhaps by Christmas we transferred our membership.

The pastor  Walt, newly ordained and I think this was his first church.  He and his wife seemed like decent enough people, though Walt seemed not as deeply involved with his ministry as some other pastors I have known.  Like maybe, perhaps, this was not the occupation for him, but he was trying to make the best of it.  Maybe not, but that is the way I remember him.  The congregation was people very similar to ourselves.  That is, WASP, young couples, most of them college educated, engineers, college professors, businessmen, etc.  We both felt quite at home there.  I don’t think Marge joined the choir, but for the first time in my life I became actively involved with the church.  I team taught Sunday School with a very nice woman to a group of elementary students.  You may think this a bit odd, but I have believed, and still do that Western civilization would be quite different if it not for the growth of Christianity.  So, a worthwhile subject to study.  After about maybe a year, I the church asked me to join the lay leadership, which is named the Session in the Presbyterian system.  I became involved with the details of the worship service planning, interviewing organists, finding relief ministers when Walt was on Vacation, etc.  Toward the end of our life there, I took over the Treasurer’s job.  I really enjoyed the trust and responsibilities given me, though as I said, my feeling was that if Walt was not a fish out of water, he was pretty close to the shoreline.

1966 started with a lot of overtime work for me.  The plant had landed a big contract which meant a lot of overtime for the manufacturing engineering group. Being exempt we did not get time and a half, just straight time, typically 2 hours a day extra and often a half day on Saturday.  So, this meant that I was gone from home most of the week, I was getting tired and had to catch up on house chores when I could.  One day when I was in Binghamton, I happened to pass the Cadillac dealership.  They had a 1962 Coupe De Ville in the showroom.  It looked beautiful.  I went inside talked to a sales rep and if one can fall in love with a car, I did.

Us and our Cadillac

Us and our Cadillac

The car was immaculate with very low mileage considering it was 4 years old. Typical little old woman car who never drove in bad weather.  I told them that I liked it, would buy it but wanted to test drive it to my home to see if it was OK with my wife.  They let me do that, I came back and bought it.  I figured, if I had to work all the time, at least I deserved a nice car to drive to work.  Every time I see a period movie with a similar car in it, I dearly wish I had been able to hang on to it.

In the fall of 66 we went to my parent’s home in Dannemora, NY  where my Dad took the photo above , and left Ingrid with them while Marge and I took a trip up into Quebec.  While I was in college, I was once offered a summer job at an aluminum factory in Chicoutimi, Quebec which is about 400 miles north of Dannemora.  The interview was good and almost over when I learned that the Canadian universities quit the spring semester in April and Syracuse quit in May. So no job.  I always wanted to at least take a look at the place and I asked Marge if she would like to take a vacation in Canada to do this.  We had been to Montreal a few times and enjoyed that.  So, we decided to go to Montreal, stay a night, then to Quebec city, stay a night, and then to Chicoutimi which is on the Saguenay river in Quebec.  Montreal was a treat.  The hotel we stayed in had a subterranean entrance to a very large underground mall. We had a delicious lobster dinner there and did some window shopping after we left. I have never seen another underground mall exactly like that.  But then I didn’t live in a cold weather city.

To back up a bit, during 1966 Marge became insistent about wanting another baby.  I was a bit dubious about this myself but did what I could to help. Sure.  Anyway, the vacation trip to Quebec was very pleasant, scenery excellent and the hotels were very enjoyable.  So, we enjoyed ourselves and Louise was born 9 months later (July 5, 1967).  I don’t think that qualifies her for dual citizenship but I am positive that trip is when Marge became pregnant.  So, Louise would come along about the time Ingrid started kindergarten.

The Ansco film plant included a section that possessed an IBM computer.  It was a second generation model 1620 and they sent out a local company newsletter that announced they were having an open house to illustrate how computers could aid in plant operations.  I got the OK to go over to it and this turned became a life changer of sorts.  The senior engineer there gave a talk about the machine and gave some simple demonstrations such as playing tic-tac-toe, drawing pictures, etc.  The department manager was a person that I knew from the church in Binghamton, Calvin Besore.  A very smart and quick person.  He had degrees in both photo science and mathematics.  We got to talking a bit about what they did and I filled him in on how I was coming along on my MS degree.  By that time the now SUNY Binghamton had expanded their offerings and I had opted for a program called Management Science.  The course content  was  application of quantitative methods applied to economics and business with a few behavioral courses thrown in.  50 years before BIG DATA.  The result that Cal asked if I would like to come back for a more personalized visit.  Naturally I said yes went over in a week or so, and the result was that Cal asked if I would like to come over to work with him.  I said “sure but I really should finish up on a warehouse layout project I was working on.”  So he finished the paperwork with the personnel dept.   and I was soon on board as a Senior Statistician with a salary increase as well. I finished my warehouse project in a month and then went to work for Cal and stayed there until 1969. It turned out that I now would be working about 2 miles from where we first lived in Binghamton. Well worth it though.  More details to come on that. Stay tuned.












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1628 Old Vestal Road


This is a Google image taken of the front of the house from the old Vestal Road as well as 3 snapshots taken last summer by Marge’s cousins.


Google image of 1628 Vestal Road

Google image of 1628 Vestal Road

Rear and side view of house

Rear and side view of house

Garage view as it now exists

Garage view as it now exists

Front view of house and foliage

Front view of house and foliage



Above are some recent photos of the house we bought inVestal, NY. As I said in the last post,we could not make the trip to Europe that we had hoped for.  So we decided to do the sensible thing and buy a house instead of renting.  I Think  we had saved up to about $1500 then, so it was definitely feasible.  Not as exciting as travelling around Europe,  but since that did not work out, buying a home was sensible indeed.

Marge and I talked about what we wanted for a house, approximate location, what we thought we could afford  and  concerns like that.  Somehow or other we had settled on using a middle-aged real estate lady, Jeanette Boyd, to help in the search. I have no idea of how we chose her as we certainly did know her prior to our decision.  She drove a Buick 4 door sedan and showed us around to many places she believed were suited, based on what we had described to her.  There were some nice older homes in the general area of where we lived, reasonably priced, but we decided we wanted a newer area. So, she showed up quite a few very nice homes in newer developments, but they were asking more than what we thought we could safely afford.  I believe she did get tired of driving us around, and even showed us a small farm which was old but nicely kept up about 20 miles from town.  I think I was more tempted to get that as it was priced considerably below our target price and I thought we could afford to spend the rest on a second mortgage to really make it our own.  It did not appeal to Marge so that was out.

Marge and I were getting a bit discouraged with all this so we agreed with the agent to take  a breather, give it some more thought ourselves and get back to her later.  In the meantime we kept scanning the Houses for Sale in the local paper and I noticed a house for sale in Vestal that was asking $18,750.  That was about our target price, the location was close to  plant where I worked and there were newer developments going up to the south of the Vestal Road and there was a small mission Presbyterian Church in that development.  So we decided we wanted to look at it and called Mrs Boyd to see if she would show it to us.

She did this and we really liked the place.  It is the only house we owned that is one story and had about 1900 sq. ft. in it and a detached 2 car garage.  It was on a small lot, about 50′ by 100″ which was fine with me as I did not and do not enjoy yard work.  As it stands now the lot is very overgrown with shrubbery, as you can see.  Someone after us added those mismatched garage doors UGH!  We later renovated the kitchen, enclosed the porch with windows and replaced the heavy old wooden storm windows with attached aluminum ones.  Other than that it looks now much the same as it did in 1963.  I think, but am not sure that the house was built around 1940.  I also think the dormer on the 2nd floor was added later. the flooring was different, and there was a second floor bathroom that was not quite like the style of the first floor bath.  In addition to the bath the second floor had 3 bedrooms, one for us, one for Ingrid and a spare bedroom for our second child who came later.  What’s not to like ?  I think that deep down Marge liked it better than any of our other homes.

At that time you could buy a house for 5% down and 5% interest.  I was making around $8500 a year at that time.  We offered $18500 for the house and the offer was accepted.  I then learned a rule of thumb concerning real estate  buying or selling.  That is “something is going to go wrong you just do not know what it is ahead of time.” In this case, the zoning board would not approve the sale as the house was not connected to the sewer system.  The cost to install the sewer lateral was about $400,  the owner did not want to pay this, nor did we.  This was resolved by us paying 1/3, the owner paying 1/3, and Mrs. Boyd paying 1/3 out of her commission.  The paperwork was modified to reflect this and we closed not long  after.  The house payments were $175 a moth and by this time, the Syracuse University costs had been resolved,so though the payments were more than our rental we could afford it.  And of course there was an income tax break.  We were now proud homeowners.

I think we closed on the house effective the end of May that year.  The former owners moved out and while the house was empty, I took my 2 weeks of vacation time to paint the interior.  I’m not sure of the exterior, maybe yes, maybe no.  Marge and I went to paint stores, took a lot of sample paint chips home and decided what colors we wanted in each room.  I think we decided on Sears paints as they had good quality paints then at reasonable prices.  We had given our 1 month notice to our landlord who lived in the duplex unit next to us and moved in a month after our closing.

After the furniture and appliances were in we decided to get rid of some of our old tired furniture and buy some new items, particularly for the living room.  So, again, a lot of shopping around for Marge and I.  We looked for furniture in the style of the 60s, sharing our individual thoughts on what we liked and disliked and jointly deciding on the purchases.  Take a look at an old “Dick Van Dyke” episode or other similar period TV show and you will get the idea of the then current look.

But then, as the excitement of the new house was wearing off, our old inter-personal issues started to come back.  I have mentioned our failed attempt at marriage counselling shortly after our wedding.  When we were preparing for my deployment to France with th Air Guard, Marge’s mother said something to her like “Marge, you should be nicer to Bob…he may not come back.”  Not that I was, perfect, nor am I now.  Far from it.

If we could only have shared our emotional needs and wants, respected each others opinions, agreed on compromises that each of could honor, our life together would have been a lot smoother.  It worked for all the things we shared, house, furniture, etc. but we did not apply these principles to our personal lives.  Looking back, I believe we were not really aware of all the life assumptions we had unconsciously brought with us to our marriage and that these assumptions were different.  Not that countless other families did not have similar issues, and many much more serious.  On balance I believe we did pretty good as a family, but there were episodes of angry flare-ups, the silent treatment, and I am sure anybody reading this can add some behaviors of their own.  all in all, our life was better than OK, but every moment was not.  We still had a lot to learn.





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Binghamton, New York

This is the duplex we rented when we moved to Binghamton.  The photo is from Google Images and we lived in the house on the left.

133 Leroy St

133 Leroy St. Binghamton,NY

Marge and Ingrid 133 Leroy St. Binghamton

133 Leroy St. Binghamton

Marge in rear yard of 133 Leroy

Marge in rear yard of 133 Leroy


We lived in this house and the street next to us to us was Beethoven St. There were quite a few streets in the area named for dead German composers and the locals really mangled the pronunciation of Beethoven. The nearest I can approximate it was called Beth-Hoven and I cringed every time I heard that at first. I did get used to it, but when I did have occasion to refer to I did it properly. We lived there for 2 years and when Ingrid got old enough to walk, we used to go over to a little park on Leroy and Beethoven and spend some play time there. Leroy ended at the Chenango River not too far from us and at the time, there was a local arts center overlooking the river. They had speakers now and then, a movie studio and a small sales area where local artists could sell their art on a consignment basis. The center had a Link organ, I believe commissioned by Ed Link the founder of Link Aviation. Some of you may remember the Link Trainer for airplanes. We bought a large landscape picture there once to go in our living room over the couch.  The center is gone now by looking at the map. There were large trees along the street on both sides and when fully leaved, almost made a complete canopy covering the street. All gone now also replaced by much smaller trees.

We paid $125 a month for the rental which was about the market at the time. The neighborhood was old, I would guess about 40 years old in 1963, and quiet and stable. There were some quite nice single family homes on the street and the manager of the GAF blueprint paper factory lived across from us. We would chat with once in a while when we both happened to be outside. He must have been about 60 years old at the time, and his wife had become wheel chair bound due to some serious illness. He told me wistfully once that they had planned, when he retired, to take some cruises, but of course that was not possible now. Marge and I talked about this and how it was not going to happen to us. Much later, after I had retired early we did take some very pleasant cruises. We had talked of some others that would be nice, but then Marge’s cancer metastasized and travel became impossible. At least, unlike our neighbor we did in fact realize some of our retirement plans.

Marge’s aunt, Mildred Nelson, lived in Binghamton for quite a while and belonged to the First Presbyterian church. So we joined it as well. It was, maybe still is, a big old center city landmark. They had baby sitters for little children during the services so we brought Ingrid. One of the church activities included a group of young married couples and we began to go to that, and met quite a few people with similar backgrounds and interests. Frankly, to me the sermons themselves were incredibly boring. The senior pastor who had a PhD. in Theology said the sermon as if he were a lecturer to Freshman Theology students including long quotations from other theologians who I don’t think any of the congregation were familiar with.

Aunt Mildred also had done the necessary genealogy work to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Marge also joined the DAR. This did not work out as well since the other members were as old as Marge’s aunt and her mother. So it was not a good fit due to the age difference and Marge had no personal interest in genealogy or revolutionary history, so that did not last long. Aunt Mildred was at that time quite ill, I believe with Leukemia. I remember both of us visiting her once in a hospital, and she died in the fall of 1963. The funeral was held in Hancock NY and I was a pallbearer as well as my brother-in-law law Paul Hammond. I still remember that, the only time I was ever a pallbearer. Mildred is buried in the Nichols family plot, as is Marge now, and when my time comes, I will be there as well. Good company I think.

Speaking of company, Marge’s cousin was Robert Nelson and he and his family lived in Endicott NY not too far from us. We visited them from time to time as did he, his wife and his children, now grown are, as are ours, into middle age. Bob Nelson was involved with the programming of the IBM computer operating systems. He was an amateur radio operator and was interested in small boat sailing. Sailing was fun and I later built a sailboat myself. Both families got along well and for Marge there were at least some people she knew in the area.

My job with GAF was a manufacturing engineer. I started to work in what was the Ansco Camera plant. They no longer made Ansco cameras but bought them from Japan with the Ansco name on them. Their business at the time I started was contract manufacturing producing things such as microwave waveguides and other relatively small metal products.

I was hired to become involved working at the Ozalid blueprint machine shop. All gone now but at the time all architecture and engineering began with hand drawn vellum prints and the copies were made on the Ozalid copiers. The project for which I was hired there involved learning and implementing a new system of time estimating for the manufacturing processes in the plant. This was new to me and I thought it would be a good idea to learn something new and be on the ground floor, as it were. After a while, the novelty wore off and the daily tedium of applying it set in. I worked there until about the summer of 1966 when I was able to get a more challenging job at the Ansco film plant, which did in fact produce photographic film. More on that later.

In 1964 I did start working on an M.S. degree at what was then Harpur College in the Binghamton area. This was originally a 4 year college part of the NY University system. The school had recently started to offer some advanced degrees and by that time the U.S. had finally decided to award veterans, such as I, educational benefits. I had taken quite a few economics courses at Syracuse and declared that to be my area of choice for my MS. As Harpur grew, it changed its name to the State University of New York at Binghamton. It is now Binghamton University, well thought of I understand, and the largest single employer in the area. Not that it matters any more, but I now regard myself as getting my degree from Binghamton University rather than SUNY Binghamton as that name no longer exists.

I really enjoyed my flights on the Royal Dutch airline and Marge and I had talked about how nice it would be to fly to Europe together. At that time, airlines were still regulated although the airlines or any group really could set up a charter flight at rates that were considerably less than buying individual tickets. I think we were planning on having Marge’s mother take care of Ingrid in our absence. I paid the down payment for our flight and I think by that time were number 3 or 4 on the alternates list. I was given verbal assurance that people always cancelled and almost certainly we would get our seats. The date for the flight was still many weeks in advance and this seemed a reasonable assumption. As time passed, I checked in from time to time, but no change. Finally when there was about a week to back out without losing the down payment, there was still no change. Marge and I talked about what we should do and we decided to back out and to use what we had saved to buy our own house. Another step forward, the American Dream, our own house complete with a mortgage to pay off.

This feels to me to be a logical time to end this post and begin the next one telling about our search for, and eventually purchase, our first house.


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