Tuesday, April 26, 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.

The Bookmobile

As a youngster growing up in a small community, exposure to world events was relatively limited, maybe thankfully during the Cold War and the fear of the atomic bomb - outta sight; outta mind! However, thanks to the bookmobile from the Sidney library that routinely visited our grade school, we were somewhat exposed to outside thoughts and ideas via the books and magazines stacked inside the large vehicle; much better suited than the comic books we were reading! 

Some of my favorite novels were 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, the Iliad & Odyssey by Homer, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Of course, I read westerns, war stories, mysteries, sports and adventure books as well, such as Shane, the Hardy Boys, Call of the Wild, Grapes of Wrath, Lou Gehrig - Pride of the Yankees, The Longest Day, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Last of the Mohicans, just to name a few (my favorite comic books may be the focus of a future blog, who knows!).

Because the bookmobile came every week, it was always my goal to have the book read by its next visit, so I could get another one. The bookmobile driver was very knowledgeable, and would get a copy of any item requested by the next week’s visit. Occasionally, I'd check out a book about a saint, such as St. Patrick or St. Francis, that I was invariable late in returning because my Mother would always want to read it, too.

For several years during grade school, we had split classes; in other words, the same teacher taught two grades. That type of class structure was great because I had a chance to read while the teacher was providing lessons to the other grade. Whenever a movie came out about a book I had read, it was fun to see the movie and observe how the screenwriter depicted the book compared to my interpretation. And regarding magazines, Look, Time and any issue about sports were my favorites. I especially enjoyed the Normal Rockwell covers of Look magazine (example shown below that pretty much depicted me back in the day, except Mom would never let the dog in the house, let alone on my bed).

All this reading helped me later in life as my jobs at Ford involved comprehending lots of reports, technical research and detailed proposals. The volume of reading material became so large I actually took a speed reading class that interesting enough used the book Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, supposedly the best selling novel ever written at 150 million copies. It, too, was made into a series of movies.

Now that I’m retired, my reading seems to be migrating to historical biographies, especially about Winston Churchill or US Presidents. So far, I’ve gotten about 2/3rd’s of the way through the list, reading them in no particular order, just as I run across them at the library. And books on CD are a listening favorite while driving. Plus now our local library has what seems like an unlimited downloadable on-line list of offerings that should keep me occupied and out from underfoot for a long while.

Tuesday, April 19, 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.

The start of baseball season and my recent blog about "The Knack” brought to mind listening to major league baseball on the radio as a kid back in the 50’s. With the advent of television, the old tube-type radio that was in our living room was all mine to use. It was similar in style to the model shown above, but obviously after many years of use, was in much worst shape. But that did not bother me a bit, as I could then listen to baseball in my bedroom all to myself since my only brother had not been born yet.

Waite Hoyt and Joe Nuxhall, pictured below, were my favorite Reds broadcasters. Nuxhall followed Hoyt in the broadcast booth after his 22 year playing career with the Reds. Joe’s favorite saying near the end of each game was “This old left-hander is rounding third and heading for home”.

After listening to to Waite or Joe for a few innings, I’d then try to find the broadcast of the team they were playing to hear their side of the game. That was easy if the Reds were playing the Pirates or Cubs, because those teams were in range of the radio’s built in antenna if the weather was right and there were no thunderstorms around. But to reach the Reds opponents further away took some ingenuity. That’s where having the “knack” paid off, as I noticed the reception was better if I touched the back of the radio. It improved even more if I used my other hand to touch the metal bed frame. After taking the radio apart, I noticed the antenna was located inside the back cover, so a wire was run from the antenna to the bed frame and suddenly the NY Dodgers, NY Giants and PA Phillies games on the east cost and the SL Cardinal’s and MIL Braves games to the west were all within range. In those days, all the baseball games were broadcast on 50,000 watt AM stations that were much easier to pick up than today’s low power FM stations. I recall using adhesive tape to mark around the dial the frequencies of each of the NL teams so the games were easier to find. Plus after the Reds game, I’d tune to the teams in the west who were in a later time zone.

That worked fine until 1958 when the Dodgers and Giants moved to California; so back to the drawing board. By this time I was a little older, so with some allowance money, new vacuum tubes from a mail order catalog were ordered to improve the power. Plus I hooked up a larger speaker from my grandma’s old console radio after mounting it in a separate plywood box. Then the radio antenna was connected to our TV antenna mounted on a tall pole just outside my bedroom window, as my room was right above our living room. Reception improved dramatically, but I never was able to pick up any of the west coast teams. I do recall getting minor league baseball in Colorado and Texas, and just once, hearing Wolfman Jack, a famous west coast radio personality.

With no inter-league play, I had little interest in the American League teams, except during the World Series, when I’d listen to the teams in the Series, like in 1961 when the Reds and Yankees played. Mel Allen was the Yankee announcer, whom I couldn’t stand, cause he was such a homer (as if Waite Hoyt and Joe Nuxhall weren’t). Allen never gave the Reds their due, likely because the Yankees blew them away in 5 games, so there wasn’t much of anything good to talk about. In those days World Series games were played during the day, so I recall distinctly helping my dad build a new corn crib while we listened to that disappointing ’61 Series. They even announced the score during school for that Series, resulting in lots of moan and groans as the Yankees killed our beloved Reds. The only good news was keeping Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris from hitting any home runs after they had hit 54 & 61 respectively during the season. There was a lot of controversy over Maris beating Babe Ruth’s 60 home run record for a season, as the number of games had increase to 162 games versus 154 for the Babe. But that controversy paled in comparison to the Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds steroid-induced home run records years later.

Eventually my brother was born so we shared a bedroom together until I went off to college, and the radio was likely junked for some newer model, probably along with my baseball card collection and Erector set (another “knack” thing!), as all are now "long gone”.

Tuesday, April 12, 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.

The Knack

Our two adjacent neighbors on the farm where I grew up are shown on the photo above riding their hand-buit vehicle. The photo was taken well before my time in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. The guy driving is my wife’s uncle, while the one following on his bike is my uncle. They built the vehicle from scrap material around their farms.The two were very creative and it was fun growing up around them as they, along with my dad, would help each other out during harvesting season. I recall one such occasion while combining wheat in about 1955 when a cast iron part broke on the harvester. To obtain a replacement part from the implement store in Minster, the part number was needed, which typically was molded into the casting. So my dad and the two neighbors went about removing the broken part, cleaning it thoroughly in kerosene to remove the grease and searching for the part number for some time without success, when my mom called everybody in for noon lunch,. So dad and the neighbors cleaned up and went to lunch in the summer kitchen, an additional room on our farm home that had lots of windows so was much cooler in the summertime than the kitchen with the heat from the cooking stove. However, rather than go in for lunch, I stayed back to search the broken casting for the elusive part number. Once I pieced together the various broken parts, I found the part number that was difficult to see because the part broke right along the seam of the part number. I immediately grabbed the parts and ran into the summer kitchen just as everyone was finishing the meal to tell them that I had found the part number. Needless to say I was full of grease and smelled like kerosene. So my Mom shewed me out the door to clean up. As I was quickly departing the summer kitchen after receiving the appropriate reprimanded from mom, I heard her say that Dave has a "knack" for such talents, but exhibits little common sense when it comes to proper manners! Dad and our neighbors soon also left the lunch table to see the part number for themselves, as they didn’t believe a 6 year old kid could find it when they couldn’t (what’s somewhat disconcerting these many years later is why no one even missed me a the lunch table)!

Fast forward many years later after obtaining an engineering degree, working at Ford and getting married, my wife was surfing the Internet a few years back and found this Dilbert video about the “knack” that she said “explains everything”. I’ll let you be the judge.

Had my dad and our neighbors been given an opportunity to receive a college education rather than having to quit school as teenagers to help on the farm, no doubt any one of them could have been an engineer or just about anything they wanted to be. They too clearly had the “knack”. But they were extremely happy owning their own farms and raising their families in such a nurturing environment, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, April 5, 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.

RIP- Uncle Tony

Last Monday, my Uncle Tony, pictured above with his family in this circa 1970 photo, passed away at age 91. Recall this recent blog I had written about him and his brothers. Digging through my Uncle's records, some notes were found that I’d like to share about his memories of the family farm in St. Patrick’s. Enjoy!

The Barn

On my last visit to the family farm before it was sold, a thousand thoughts and memories crossed my mind as I observed that wonderful building. As I stood there and gazed at those 60 ft. long hand hewn beams, still as square and straight today as the day that barn was built over 100 years ago, I marveled at the craftsmanship of that generation, and how they produced that magnificent building with few basic tools, and from trees growing within a few hundred feet from the foundation. I noted again how the framework of that barn was put together without bolts or screws or nails: no metal building materials of any kind. Hand formed wooden pegs hold the entire building frame together. What a marvelous piece of workmanship! This occasion had me mesmerized. You just can’t help but shake your head in amazement at the ingenuity of the people who built these structures.

I envisioned Grandpa’s neighbors getting together for the "barn raising", an event I witnessed as a young boy, when my dad was one of those helping a neighbor rebuild after a disastrous fire. Framework for the sides and ends were assembled on the ground, then dozens of men with ropes pulled the assemblies into position, inserting more of those hand made wooden pegs at the corners to hold the sides and ends together, with every joint in perfect alignment. An amazing feat!

This barn, standing alongside the venerable farmhouse built in 1886, stood the test of time, enduring all kinds of weather, bearing the brunt of severe thunder storms , tornadoes, the scorching summer sun and the freezing winter weather. That fantastic building has seen a lot of winters with snow and ice and howling winds. At all times, in the spring, summer, fall and winter, this old barn was a place of refuge for animals and man alike.

This old barn is a handsome building, standing straight and tall, proud to have served our family for well over a century. It’s condition today is a testimonial to the love and care of it’s four generations since 1887, and instrumental in the Centennial Farm Award granted this farm in 1997.

The barn is where we usually started, and ended our workday with chores 365 days a year. In the summer and fall, we stashed hay, grain and fodder in the mows and granaries to feed the livestock during the winter months.

The barn was also a place for certain social occasions, hosting hoedowns to celebrate various family events, including wedding receptions. The threshing floor was cleared of hay and chaff, a wagon moved to one end for the local fiddlers’ stage, a keg of beer was tapped, and the party was on!

It was also used as a gymnasium of sorts for rough and tumble boys. And it was here I first heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor reported on the constantly playing radio.

I learned a lot about life and death here. We knew the function that a bull, or boar, or buck rabbit served. Many a litter of cats and dogs were born under the barn. I’ve watched the miracle of birth, and assisted in the delivery of calves when the mother cows needed some help. Some animals reached old age, some died of natural causes or disease. Others were slaughtered to provide food for our family. It didn’t take much imagination to factor such experiences into some understanding of human reproduction and life.

Even as I write this today, I feel a great amount of nostalgia. So many wonderful memories are connected to that old barn. No longer is it used to house and shelter our dairy herd, horses, rabbits, cats and dogs. The stanchions are gone, stables removed, the watering tank demolished, the grain storage bins taken out, and the sweet aroma that only a hay mow can give, as well as the pungent scent of stables, is gone forever. The original "barn red" painted vertical wood siding is now covered with man-made material. The 1887 numerals cut into the peak of the south end is covered up. Now the barn is just one big storage area for tractors, machinery, boats, and motor homes. No more are milking stools, or harnesses or saddles or forks or ropes all neatly lined up and convenient for the next time they were needed.

This old barn has observed many changes on the farm, watching four generations of my family born and raised here. It has seen farming revolutionized from tilling and planting with horses to farming with huge tractors and machinery, and to no till, chemical, and biological farming practices. If only this old barn could talk. It could reveal much more about life on the farm as it existed then.

When I learned that the farm was for sale, a new and unexpected sadness came upon me, knowing that we’d no longer visit and enjoy that old barn. Never again will kids play basketball on the threshing floor, shooting to a homemade hoop and backboard. No longer will kids frolic and jump into the hay mows, or walk the 4" wide beams 12’ above the threshing floor on a dare or for a thrill. No more will they find the haymow a place of refuge, where one could be alone, reading or fantasizing, as many a rainy day was spent alone in the haymow, reading whatever material was available, while listening to rain battering the shingles.

What amazes me most, however, is the fortitude of my forbearers, who labored so hard and diligently to provide a living for their families. Their strength was much like the strength of this old barn, the strong timbers of the frame, the pegs, which held the entire structure together, and the roof, and siding which protected it from the elements and danger. Yes, this old barn had a soul, too.

I had better stop before the list of nostalgia grows any further. The bottom line is that the barn was the focal point of the entire farm, for work as well as play.

Not long after Pearl Harbor, those of us who were eligible went off to war, never again to work and play in that old barn. Only thoughts and memories of bygone days remain. Not only are these thoughts endearing, but they also bring back so many memories of when I was a simple farm boy. And these memories will never, never die.

Godspeed, Uncle Tony. Rest in peace and thanks for the memories.

Tuesday, March 29, 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.

Sports Injuries

During the NCAA basketball tournament, its tough to see a player suffer an injury. Every time someone goes down, I am distinctly reminded of the pain and scars of my injuries playing sports as kid and young adult. From having a tooth knocked out, countless sprained ankles, a bunch of stitches, back surgery and tearing a cartilage in my knee, the injuries still impact me years later. Fortunately, I don’t recall ever suffering a concussion that seems so prevalent today.

Regarding the torn cartilage in my right knee, in those days before arthroscopy, one had to go under the knife to have the meniscus repaired. The recovery was long and painful, having to be on crutches for weeks and avoiding sports of any kind for about 6 months. The injury occurred at a YMCA and happened because I did not properly warm up. That 4” incision on my right knee is a constant reminder of the injury (people think I’ve had knee replacement surgery), plus the occasional pain that still occurs if overdo it or I make a wrong move. Contrast that experience more recently when I tore the meniscus on my left knee while playing tennis. Arthroscopic surgery was performed in an outpatient clinic that I walked out of with no crutches and got back to playing golf and tennis within a few days.

The back surgery was due to not a single injury but an accumulation of problems over the years. After going to a chiropractor with little success, I was about to go under the knife when my mother-in-law fortunately saw an article in one of her magazines about a new procedure called laparoscopic spine surgery. I called the 800 number she gave me and as it turns out there was a surgeon experienced in the new technique about a half mile from where I worked. The procedure was scheduled on a day off, and I was able to returned to work the next day, allowing me to keep my perfect work attendance record intact that still existed when I retired 20+ years later.

The physical therapy after the procedure included stretching exercises shown in the chart below that I still perform to this day before playing tennis and golf to help with my flexibility and prevent further pain and injury. They work!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Top 6 track & field girls to watch in the SCAL...

Track fans won't enjoy weather quite this nice yet when the girls open the season this Saturday at the Versailles Lady Classique, but with temps in the 50's there won't be snow like in some years past

High school track & field begins this weekend and I'm forecasting a spectacular year for the Shelby County Athletic League girls. There is plenty of young talent emerging, but it's the seniors who will dominate the league. The regular season goes by quickly in about six weeks and then the focus turns to the post season. Below is my list of the top six senior girls to keep your eye on from now until the state meet in June.

Chloe Flora, Botkins - Top Event: 1600m (PR 5:02.11)
Distance runners like Chloe Flora don't come around often. Never mind everything she accomplished on the cross country course, this is a track preview. She's simply the best D-III 1600 runner right now on this side of Ohio and that's a fact. She also keeps getting faster. Chloe just completed an outstanding indoor track season where she ran a personal best 5:00.99 at the Indoor State Championships and won a state title. She also did well at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York, NY just a couple weeks ago. Chloe signed last fall to run with the University of Dayton after graduation, but she's amazingly still training like she has something to prove. Maybe she does. Chloe was runner-up in the 1600 at state last year by a little over 3 seconds to Athena Welsh of St. Thomas Aquinas. Athena is back this year for her senior season also and might just be Chloe's biggest rival. I'll enjoy watching Chloe during the regular season, but I'm marking my calendar for a showdown in Columbus on June 4th.

Chloe (#1) beat Athena Welsh (#4) for an indoor state title back on March 5th and will be aiming for an outdoor state title to close out her high school career

Andrea Meyer, Ft. Loramie - Top Event: Pole Vault (PR 10-06)
I got the brief opportunity to watch Andrea pole vault at an indoor meet at Bowling Green State University back in February. She finished 3rd that day at 10-06, which matched her personal record and the height she reached at the state meet last year when she finished 6th. Andrea's focus this season will be on the pole vault and high jump, the only two events she will likely compete in. While I expect Andrea to be the SCAL's best in the high jump, I'm certain the pole vault will take her the farthest in the post season. A lot of pole vaulting can be mental and I believe once Andrea breaks through that 10-06 barrier there's no telling how high she can go.

Olivia Quinter, Ft. Loramie - Top Event: 300H (PR 45.63)
Olivia was already a great hurdler last year as a junior and she proved it at the state meet finishing 6th in the 100H and 5th in the 300H.  Unfortunately, she also followed in the footsteps of two other great hurdlers from the SCAL. Leah Francis of Russia was 2nd in the 100H and Whitney Bornhorst of Botkins was 2nd in the 300H. Leah and Whitney have since graduated and Olivia is now the one to beat in both those events. By the way, while she was in Columbus last year she also finished 8th in the long jump. I look for Olivia to continue that same success and perhaps be one of the brightest stars in southwest Ohio this season.

Whitney Bornhorst (left) has graduated and Olivia (right) will shine even brighter this season

Nicole Fogt, Jackson Center - Top Event: Discus Throw (PR 130-0)
Nicole is no stranger when it comes to Jessie Owens Stadium at The Ohio State University. After all, she's been going there for the state meet the last three years to compete in the discus throw. She keeps getting better too. Nicole finished 14th as a freshman, 11th as a sophomore, and 5th as a junior. She set the SCAL meet record last year at 130-0 and I don't expect any competition in Shelby County if she stays injury free. Nicole also throws shot put and does well at that, but the discus is clearly her best event. Confidence should be sky high after coming off an appearance in the state basketball tournament just a couple weeks ago, and nerves shouldn't be a problem in her pursuit to yet another trip to Columbus. Discus throwers always get better with age and I expect this season to be another record-setter.

Molly Kearns, Russia - Top Event: 3200m (PR 11:36.57)
You won't ever find Molly jumping over hurdles or hanging out at the long jump pit. Molly is a 100% distance runner and a good one too. She would have to be considering Wright State University recruited and signed her to their cross country and track teams back in November. Molly made her first state track appearance last year as a junior in the grueling 3200 meters and finished 10th overall. That experience seemed to propel her to the level she's at today. After a very successful senior cross country season in the fall and a winter track training program that kept her in shape, Molly is already in excellent condition. She will be a distance work horse for the Lady Raiders competing mainly in the 4x800 relay, 1600 and 3200. Her biggest obstacle will be the fact she runs in the same league as one of Ohio's elite distance runners in Chloe Flora of Botkins. That competition will only drive Molly harder and I'll look for those benefits in mid-May.

Russia has a long history of great distance runners and Molly is the next one 

Lauren Heaton, Russia - Top Event: 400m (PR 56.75)
Lauren is the only athlete in Russia history to have her name on two state banners. She was the anchor leg of the 2013 state champion 4x800 relay team as a freshman and she won an individual state title in the 400 meters in 2014 as a sophomore. Earlier this school year she committed to run track for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland after she graduates. You might wonder how hot the fire still burns in a kid with all those accomplishments? I've watched Lauren run since her junior high days and one thing you never want to do is question her heart. Lauren bleeds blue & gold and is no doubt the most versatile runner in the SCAL. While she could easily be successful in long distance events like she has in cross country for the last four years, her focus in track will be on sprints and middle distance. Lauren can rack up points fast in the 100, 200 and 400, but I also expect to see her in the 800 and perhaps the 4x800 relay when the time is right. Heck, don't be surprised to see her in the 300 hurdles if she thinks she can win.

Lauren will finish #1 in a lot of events this track season

Tuesday, March 22, 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.

Lent, Easter and March Madness

Growing up in a Catholic family, the 40 days of Lent meant praying the rosary every night, fasting, no meat on Fridays and definitely no candy. While praying the rosary, mom would randomly pick one of us 5 kids to recite the appropriate mystery, so we had to pay attention! And as a mass server during Holy Week, it meant hours of church services, including Holy Saturday, which one year happened to be the same night as the finals of the NCAA basketball championship. As servers, we could see the large clock in the church sacristy and since we knew exactly when the game was to start, anxiously awaited the completion of the long service. Our focus that night was clearly elsewhere, as unbeaten Ohio State, lead by All-American Jerry Lucas, was pitted against in-state rival Cincinnati Bearcats.

Finally the services were over, so we went to my grandmother’s home to watch the game as she had a color TV. Although the Buckeyes were a big favorite, they lost in what many consider one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. To say the least, as an avid Buckeye fan, I was devastated and disappointed.

Since the next day was Easter, and as the oldest child in the family, it was my job to hide the Easter eggs around the yard for my younger siblings to find early that morning. I was still upset about the Buckeye loss, so I took it out on the eggs, hiding many of them in unfindable places all over the farm. Since I was taller than my brothers and sisters, some of the eggs were placed in full view, but at a height they could not reach. And some were stashed in places that were never found; in fact, I venture to say, there are still some eggs hidden away some 55 years later! After that stunt, my mother said I was due for the confessional right after Easter, but my sins were nothing compared to the crime that the Bearcats pulled on my (at the time) beloved Buckeyes. PS: The Bucks sure could have used a Jerry Lucas this year!

Happy Easter, Fish Report readers.