Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Our First House

As newlyweds in the early ’70’s, my wife and I were both working and for the first time in our lives, had enough money to enjoy travel and dining out on a regular basis. But that meant we weren’t saving anything, so after a year or so of the high life, we decided to begin saving for our first house. We vowed to cut our expenses, so at my wife’s urging, we created the budget shown below (click to enlarge).

After a year, we had saved $7,671, enough for a down payment on our first house, a 2 bedroom bungalow for $35,000 that needed lots of TLC. So on weekends and evenings after work, rather than traveling or eating out, we remodeled our new home top to bottom, inside and out. The place was gutted as shown in the kitchen photo below. All the old wallpaper was stripped, cracked plaster (no drywall) was repaired, creaky floors silenced, old carpet and linoleum removed, walls and exterior repainted, new kitchen cabinets and appliances added, bath redone, tub reglazed, etc. etc. Fortunately, the home was close enough to work that I could walk, so we only needed one car. That savings allowed us to gradually purchase some new furniture as well. which meant we finally got rid of our Mediterranean-style furniture with all the red upholstery and dark wood. Ugly, but believe it or not, it was the style way back when!

One Sunday afternoon, before actually closing on the home and moving in, we made arrangements with the sellers to check out the place in order to better prepare for the planned remodeling. While inside, through a back window, I spotted two older men talking to each other near our back yard, so I took the opportunity to go outside and introduce myself to our new neighbors. Apparently, their first impression of me was not good, as they were like curmudgeons trying to outdo each other at not being very friendly to this new kid on the block. That is until my wife eventually came out to also meet them, and suddenly they became all gushy saying “Welcome to the neighborhood; great to meet you”. Obviously my wife made a much better first impression than me! From that day on, they were wonderful friends and neighbors, whom we stayed connected with through the years, always sharing and laughing about their curmudgeon transformation.

We enjoyed that first house for three years, at which time we accepted a promotional opportunity and transferred out-of-state to Indiana. So our first home was reluctantly put on the market after all the blood, sweat and tears we put into the place. But it paid off, as it sold in less than a week for $55,000, a nice gain on our original investment that provided a good down payment on a newer and larger colonial-style house that needed little work. It’s a good thing, because shortly thereafter, my wife became pregnant, so the only work required on the new home was to decorate a nursery, which was a labor of love (pun intended!). We were living the American Dream, while enjoying every minute in our pursuit of happiness; a state of mind that continues to this day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

More Slo-Pitch Softball Memories

Following up on last week’s column about slo-pitch softball, my playing days are long gone, but until about age 40, I played over 100 softball games a year, primarily in the Ford industrial league where I worked. We had a pretty good team (photo above - I’m the tall guy in the back row without a hat) naturally nicknamed the Mustangs. We won the league title a number of times, and subsequently represented Ford in the world industrial tournament at various venues around the county at the end of the season. Our team traveled to places like Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania for these tournaments. Best we did was second place one year. Our problem was we had too much fun at night between games of the tournaments. I recall a party song we’d sing with this sample verse: Hey la di la di la di, hey la di la di lo, I used to date a girl named Ruth, now you know how I lost my tooth. Hey la di la di lo. We’d ad-lib verses on the fly, and they would get funnier and funnier as the night went on into the wee hours. Fortunately we'd block an entire wing of the hotel, so no one complained (much). One of the guys fell asleep during the partying, so someone placed a famous Maryland soft shell crab on his stomach to craw around. To this day, his is still nicknamed Crab-Man!

Outfield was my initial position, but as I got older and slower, I moved to first base, then pitcher and finally catcher. As pitcher, rather than charge the batter, Ralph Fleckenstein’s tactic as described in last week’s blog, I would back-pedal, literally to 2nd base after each pitch, which gave us 5 infielders to field ground balls. After a few years of that, I finished my softball career by moving to catcher. It was the year when aluminum bats first came out without the rubber plugs at each end. The plugs were coming out causing injuries, so they were outlawed. As a catcher I would keep an eye on the bats each batter used and if they got a hit that scored a run with one of the old bats, I would appeal to the umpire, who would call the batter out and rescind the score. I had a record number of putouts by a catcher that year!

Our apartment complex also had a team that I played for. They were sponsored by a nearby restaurant called Van’s Coney Island, and the uniforms had hotdogs emblazoned on the back; so you can guess our nickname around the league. But we won the title and the sponsor treated us to all the coney dogs we could eat after the championship game. A good friend played for a team sponsored by Stroh’s brewery, and literally they were given 4 cases of beer for every game, 2 for his team and 2 for the team they were playing. Everyone loved playing Stroh’s for obvious reasons, even though they were really good and beat us mercifully.

So over my softball career, trophies for the various achievements our teams had accomplished started to accumulate, to the point where my wife decided they had to go. The trophies were disassembled and used to make participation awards for one of my son’s t-ball baseball teams. Philosophically I was against participation trophies, having earned every one of mine the hard way; by winning. But this made my son and his team happy, plus it represented a more attractive solution than simply trashing them. And my wife was pleased to have cleared out the old trophies from the closet to make room for more of her shoes and clothes in case they ever come back in style!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Slo-Pitch Softball

Summer meant lots of slo-pitch softball, starting as a kid playing with my younger sisters. The larger softball was much easier for them (and me) to hit than a baseball, plus safer. Besides, I could never hit a curve ball, so gave up baseball after pony league. We would play in the makeshift diamond on our farm described in last week’s blog. My glove back then was a Leo Durocher special pictured below. I had found it in a trash can at the high school baseball diamond. My plea for a new baseball glove for Christmas always seemed to go unanswered until the memorable Christmas described in this former blog posting.

During the summer’s in high school, I’d play softball in the Ft. Loramie Slo-Pitch Softball league for Middendorf Stockyards. Dad was a good customer of theirs, so their employees invited me to play for the team. The top team in the league was Brucken’s Barflies and they had a player on the team I considered then and now as the best slo-pitch softball player I have ever seen. His name is Ralph Fleckenstein, who is about 4 years older than me. He played just like Pete Rose; hitting line drives, playing a single into a double every time, sliding into second base headfirst in a cloud of dust. Plus he had power; hitting line shots between the outfielders for inside the park home runs, or when there were no fences, the ball would roll forever. He’d still run like a deer around the bases. Later, Ralph switched teams to Filburn’s Marina, who with him on their roster, became probably the best team in Ohio. Check out this Minster Post article from July, 1973 about Ralph’s exploits during a tournament against the best out-of-state teams in the midwest. During the tournament, Ralph had 3 doubles, 2 triples and 4 homers! Note in one the games he could have hit for the cycle, but remember, he never got singles; they were all automatic doubles. Ralph is number 23 below.

As Ralph got older, he became an excellent pitcher, using a scary tactic of charging right at the batter after releasing the looping pitch. That approach really unnerved most batters, but I wonder if he ever got nailed by a liner being that close to the batter? But since he was so quick, he could likely duck out of the way of any hit ball; or catch it! He also happened to be the best horseshoe player I had ever seen; hitting +60% ringers. He still throws horseshoes competitively as he remains a ranked player by the Ohio Horseshoe Pitchers Association.

Our Middendorf team wasn’t that good, but it gave me a great opportunity at a young age to learn the game, improve my skills and most importantly have fun. Weekend tournaments were the highlight, when you’d play till your team lost twice, with a losers bracket that meant sometimes playing 6 or more games. And once you lost, you hung around to enjoy the other games and the cold refreshments. Check out the 1973 Minster Post photo below of Russia’s Apartment C team that didn't made it through the losers bracket but won another trophy of sorts and obviously had a great time (love those mini-skirted Russia girls). They were in constant competition with a Loramie team called the Bull Twangers for the coveted refreshment trophy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Cousin Jared Hoying

You read it right, major leaguer Jared Hoying is my cousin!. Why not pile on the bandwagon like everyone else? It’s been great fun seeing him make his major league debut and get his first hit, RBI and run scored. His grandfather is my uncle and his grandmother is my wife’s aunt; so we are related two ways. Jared’s grandfather was a great athlete, playing baseball and basketball for Ft. Loramie High School before joining the Army in WWII. And his grandmother’s family had many outstanding athletes as well, so no surprise Jared’s a natural. But he doesn’t know me from Adam, as we left town years before he was born in May, 1989. However, no doubt we met at some family reunion over the years, like in the photo below from 1997, when Jared would have been 8 years old. He has his baseball cap on and is sitting in front of his grandparents in the highlighted area. The Hoying family farmhouse in St. Patrick's is shown in the background.

Jared’s grandfather had 10 brothers and sisters, one of whom was my mother. And almost every weekend during the summer, our family would get together with one of the other 10 families for a visit and a baseball or softball game would breakout. The makeshift ball diamonds at each venue were something to behold. They were as unique to us as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. For example, our diamond, superimposed on the aerial photo below, was situated between our farm buildings, with the first base line abutted by our corn crib, third base running along our hog stables, a fence with a corn field beyond in left field (ala Field of Dreams), the barn like a red monster akin to the green monster in Fenway making up right field, center field terraced up a hill to the upper level of the bank barn like the outfield at Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field, and Mom’s garden was a little ways behind home plate like the ivy at Wrigley. 

Needless to say, all those idiosyncrasies of the field created situations to argue a play, just like in the Major Leagues. The ground rules were made up on the fly, and with the competitive nature of our family, there were some heated arguments , accentuated by the fact that we were all stubborn Germans. But eventually a compromise was reached to resolve such issues and allow play to continue; life lessons learned on the fly, I guess.

Jared and his wife Tiff are expecting a child soon, and no doubt that child will inherit the same family spirit that drove Jared to his success. What a memorable year for Jared and his family, as well as for this long distance relative of his just along for the ride.

Friday, June 3, 2016

D-III State Track - What I'm Watching

Russia senior Molly Kearns returns to the 2016 OHSAA D-III State Track & Field Championships in the 3200 Meter Run where she competed last year. Molly set a new Russia school record at the Troy Regional Meet last week.

The 2016 OHSAA State Track & Field Championships take place Friday, June 3rd and Saturday, June 4th. The state meet is truly the best post season tournament of the entire year. Jesse Owens Stadium is a dedicated track facility and the perfect venue to host such an event. I've been to Hayward Field, home of the Oregon Ducks, and while nothing can match the history of Hayward, Jessie O is a close second and the parking is even a lot better!

For a $10 entry fee you can watch 34 different events (17 boys events and 17 girls events). Every race and every competition has a story and every one will be decided by seconds and inches. I'll be on the track reporting on Division III and below is a list of events I'm most interested in watching:


1600 Meter Run - This should be a battle between two distance runners that have been going at it all year. St. Thomas Aquinas senior Athena Welsh won a state cross country title and beat Botkins senior Chloe Flora this past fall. Chloe won a state indoor 1600 title and beat Athena back in March. Both girls clocked 4:59's at the regional meet and are equally talented. This race will be won on guts.

4x200 Relay - The top two teams are St. Thomas Aquinas who qualified with a 1:45.04 and Minster who qualified with a 1:45.65. Perfect handoffs make all the difference at this level and will decide the winner in this one.

400 Meter Dash - 2015 state champ and senior Micah Johnston from Toledo Christian, and 2014 state champ and senior Lauren Heaton from Russia are back. Both girls would love to ride off into the sunset with a second 400 title.

In 2014 Russia sophomore Lauren Heaton won a state title by 4/100ths of a second. 

800 Meter Run - Russia junior Grace York ran a personal record 2:14.73 at the regional meet last week, which was a little over a second off 2011 state champ Katie Borchers' school record. Minster's Madeline Magoto is making her debut as the only freshman in the field. They will all be chasing another junior star from St. Thomas Aquinas in Kalee Soehnlen, but I expect a close race down the final front stretch.

3200 Meter Run - Another distance dual between Athena Welsh and Chloe Flora you say? It takes a pretty special athlete to double in both the 1600 and 3200, which is what both those stars would be doing if they don't scratch this race. My pick is Peebles freshman Jenny Seas. Local fans may remember Jenny from her junior high career at Coldwater. She's pretty special too.

Peebles freshman Jenny Seas (left) is our dark horse pick to win the 3200 Meter Run.

High Jump - Ottoville senior Brooke Mangas set a new Troy Regional record last week with a jump of 5'-7". She's the defending D-III state champ with a jump of 5'-8" last year. The current state meet record is 5'-8.25" by Anna's Laura Gehret in 2008 and the D-III state record is 5'-9". Sounds like plenty of motivation for Brooke and well worth watching.

Brooke Mangas has her eyes set on a couple state records after setting one in Troy last week.

Others I'm Watching... Minster #2 seed & Russia #5 seed 4x800 relay... Ft. Loramie senior Olivia Quinter in both the 100 Hurdles & 300 Hurdles... Marion Local freshman Aubrey Thobe in the 100 Hurdles and Long Jump... Covington sophomore Breanna Kimmel in the 100 Meter Dash... Jackson Center's 4x200 relay team... Minster freshman Kaitlyn Albers as the lone freshman in the 1600 Meter Run.... Minster & Anna's 4x100 relay teams... Lehman sophomore Alanna O'Leary in the 200 & 400 Meter Runs... Russia's Lauren Heaton in the 200 Meter Run... Russia senior Molly Kearns in the 3200 Meter Run...  Minster senior Kaci Bornhorst in the 3200 Meter Run... 4x400 relay with Botkins, Minster and West Liberty-Salem... Jackson Center senior Nicole Fogt in the discus for the fourth consecutive year... Botkins freshman Grace Homan as the lone freshman in the Discus and Shot Put... Juniors Savanah Luthman from Minster and Maddy Moeller from New Bremen in the Shot Put... Pole Vault with Ft. Loramie senior Andrea Meyer, Russia sophomore Emily Bohman and New Bremen sophomore Celeste Kuck... and Minster junior Jordyn Heitbrink in the High Jump.


Brady McBride of Newton, Tom Ballas of Ft. Loramie and Joey Adams of West Liberty-Salem all advanced to the State Meet

1600 Meter Run - I'm a sucker for distance races and I'm biased towards the local kids. So, would I bet my house on West Liberty-Salem senior Joey Adams or Ft. Loramie junior Tom Ballas winning this race? No, but I'll be rooting for them.

3200 Meter Run - Much like the 1600, the 3200 will give local fans reason to cheer. Newton senior Brady McBride runs for a final time. Former Coldwater star Dan Seas, now a senior at Peebles, will be there. As will the only freshman in the field, Joe Ballas of Ft. Loramie. There's a phenom from Fisher Catholic named Aaron Wood who led his team to a state golf title last fall and finished 5th at the state cross country meet. Count on him picking up a title in the 3200 this Saturday as well. 

4x400 Meter Relay - The boys 4x4 always creates a buzz with fans because it's the last race of any high school track meet. Now consider it's the last race of the high school season and you can triple that buzz! Russia and Covington fans will be buzzing no doubt with both of their teams expected to compete in this final event. Russia qualified at regionals with a 3:27.07, Covington with a 3:28.73. The top qualifying time of the field is Eastwood with a 3:24.21. I'll warn fans now, don't leave early or you might regret it.

High Jump - Russia senior Josh York watched the state meet from the grandstands last year. This year he qualified with a jump of 6'-3". St. Henry senior Jesse Niekamp will also be there qualifying at 6'-4".  The top jumper coming in is junior Isaac Naayers of Lancaster Fairfield Christian at 6'-5". Sounds like anyone's game to me.

Others I'm Watching... Ft. Loramie 4x800 relay... Covington sophomore Cade Harshbarger in the 110 Meter Hurdles and 300 Hurdles...  Ft. Recovery's Robby LeFevre as the lone freshman in the 100 & 200 Meter Dashes and part of the 4x200 Relay Team... Botkins junior Josh Miller in the Shot Put and Discus... and Pole Vaulters Ethan Monnier a senior at Minster, Alan Holdheide a junior at Ft. Loramie and Jett Murphy a sophomore at Covington.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Indy 500 Memories

The 100th Indy 500 held this past weekend brought back fond memories of seeing the time trials in 1967 and the race itself in 1972 with a bunch of fraternity brothers attending General Motors Institute. Attending college at a place like GMI meant racing was in our blood. The 1967 time trials featured Parnell Jones in his controversial red No. 40 STP turbine-powered car owned by Andy Granatelli. The track record at the time was 167 (now 239) mph, and it was expected the turbine would break the record; however Jones “sandbagged” the trial so as not to risk having the vehicle banned. In the subsequent race itself, Jones had the lead for 171 laps when a $6 bearing failed with three laps to go, allowing AJ Foyt to win his third 500.

The 1972 Indy 500 was won by the Sunoco sponsored blue No. 66 driven by Mark Donahue and owned by Roger Penske, both pictured below. A little know fact about the pair was that earlier in their careers they would acid dip the race car body and chassis to reduce weight until they were caught in 1967, after which time they would still acid dip, but then use offsetting weights strategically placed around the vehicle for better weight distribution. The parts were so thin that no one was allowed to lean up against the body for fear of denting.

In 1972, Al Unser had won the 500 the previous two years so was the crowd favorite; however, since Roger Penske was affiliated with General Motors, we rooted for the Donahue/Penske team and were not disappointed. That also was the first year Jim Nabors, of Gomer Pile fame, sang “Back Home Again In Indiana”, a tradition that carried on for the next 36 years.

At both events, in order to avoid the notorious traffic jams entering the race track, our group arrived at the track around 3:00 in the morning, with most but not all of us crashing in our sleeping bags and blankets until race time on the infield grass in the first turn as shown in the photo below.

Here’s was the infield looked like at the Indy 500 this weekend:

Thanks to our GM ties, we were able to glean a couple pit passes, so before the ‘72 race, we took turns checking out the pits. I recall during my stint in the pits meeting Miss Hurst Shifter shown below in the Hurst Olds 442 pace car with the famous T-shifter.

The weather was perfect both days, just like this weekend, which meant lots of sun, sunburns and suds (slang at the time for beer). The cars were a blur as they zoomed by our infield spot but the well-stocked coolers keep us refreshed and having tons of fun throughout the time trials and race. Memorable times!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories from the 50’s & 60’s

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

College Entrance Exam!

This is the test question posed to me when I first applied to college at General Motors Institute (GMI) in 1967. At that time, applications were made through a specific GM division; in my case, Frigidaire in Dayton. They had to accept me first, then submit my application to GMI for final admission. At the time, I was working as an hourly employee at Frigidaire on the night shift so I could earn some money for college. One day, my foreman asked me if I was raised on a farm, and immediately I thought there must have been some manure or something on my shoes from helping Dad around the farm during the day before heading to work in Dayton. Instead he had noticed that I could fix the equipment myself rather than calling for a machine repairman. Then he asked why I wasn’t going to college, and when he was told why, he suggested GMI, a co-op university that alternated a semester of school and a semester working at a GM division, where you’d earn more than enough to pay tuition, room and board and after a year or so, even buy a new GM car. My foreman had just graduated from GMI and he too was a farm boy from near Greenville, OH.

Needless to say, I was interested, so he arranged for me to meet the person in charge of recruiting co-op students at Frigidaire, an old timer by the name of Ed Malone. The very next day before starting my shift, I arrive at Mr. Malone’s office in my work clothes.There were two other recruits, both in a suit and tie. Mr. Malone needed a quick, yet reasonably effective way of identifying the applicants qualified from those who were not, so he devised the above series to test new applicants. I got it right, was accepted into GMI and eventually graduated. The two other potential students applying with me at the time must not have made it in as I never saw them again!

It was a fluke how I got the puzzle right and the others did not; the explanation of which will provide a hint at the puzzle's answer. Us three applicants were sitting around Mr. Malone's desk in his office. The two other potential students were on each side of the desk and I was luckily seated directly opposite him. As he was writing the sequence on a piece of paper, I must have had some sort of dyslexic moment, because I provided the answer before he had completely transcribed the test series. Ole’ Ed Malone was surprised and said the best time he had ever observed was 20 seconds and here I got it in zero seconds before he could even write it down!

So I’m off to GMI, eventually receiving a dual degree in mechanical and electrical engineering. And soon after graduating, GM was rumored to be selling Frigidaire, and my choices would be to go with the buyer, transfer to GM's Harrison Radiator Division in Buffalo, NY or find another job. Fortunately, my new wife of six months saw a Ford ad in the Sunday Dayton Daily News while she was reading in bed before turning in one Sunday night. At her urging, I immediately called the number in the ad and the Ford recruiter answered from a local hotel where he was staying for the weekend to hold interviews. He invited me to breakfast early the next morning, where he offered us an expense-paid trip to Dearborn, MI, the location of Ford’s headquarters, for a series of interviews (no puzzles to solve this time) and to check out the area, Soon thereafter we accepted a job offer at Ford, where I rose to the position of Vice President before retiring, all thanks to my foreman from Greenville, ole’ Ed Malone and a moment of dyslexia.

PS: Another puzzle follows. Click here for the answers!