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!

Tuesday, May 17, 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 Outhouse

After the blog entry last week about my Mother's rhubarb patch planted where the old outhouse used to be, my cousin emailed me the following excerpt from our recently deceased Uncle Tony’s memoirs about the outhouse on the family farm where he, my mother and their 9 other siblings grew up during the Great Depression and WWII:

The Outhouse
By Uncle Tony

During my entire childhood and teenage years on the farm, our home, and every home in our community that I know of, had no running water or indoor plumbing system. Even our elementary school in St. Patricks had no indoor plumbing or bathrooms. It wasn't until 1945, after I joined the Navy, that a bathroom, including running water to the kitchen was installed in our farmhouse. Until that time, our source for water consisted of a cistern near the house, as well as one near the barn, fed by rain water from the roof of each building. This water was used only for laundry and washing, drawn from the cistern by a pitcher pump in the kitchen. A well near the barn provided water for drinking and cooking, which needed to be carried year round from the well to the house daily, kept in a bucket on the kitchen counter.

No bathroom in the house meant that one was forced to go outside to a privy to relieve oneself. Unless one has actually expienced the lack of running water in the home and had to "go outside" before bedtime and early morning-- spring , summer, fall, and winter-- it is impossible to describe adequately what this necessary part of life on the farm was all about. No words can express the mindset of anyone who was subjected to doing without inside plumbing. Some third or fourth generation members of our families may think they can relate to outside toilets claiming to have camped in a "primitive" campground. Take my word for it--it's not the same by a long shot! On sweltering summer days, wasps and other insects, both flying and creeping kind were also regular users. Nature's call often was secondary to these critters when they were in a bad mood. Privy sitting in such circumstances became an art.

A dirt path led to the old outhouse, also known as the privy, or shanty, which was located adjacent to the orchard about 25 yards east of our house, just beyond the grape arbor. It was a three holer, with two different sized big holes and one lower child's station with a smaller hole. Large families needed more than one relief station!! Lumber from a poplar tree was usually the choice for the seats, since it was close grained and free of splintering, as is the case with oak. It was a somewhat dilapidated structure. Cracks in the walls provided much needed ventilation. The free swinging door was held closed by a small homemade wire hook. The famous Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs were standard equipment. Every spring when the ground was still frozen, Dad would clean out the contents of a year's use through an extended trap door on the backside of the building. I helped once, and never again! This process was often referred to as honeydipping.

During the depression, President Roosevelt formed a number of federal agencies, including the WPA (Works Project Administration) aimed at putting unemployed to work. Many of us remember this agency by the work done cleaning roadside ditches in our community.. Those in this ditch cleaning program were supplied with a turtle back shovel, assigned to a certain area, and worked with scores of others cleaning those ditches with no equipment other than those shovels. The beneficiaries of this program earned their pay, and didn't simply "draw checks".

Another of this agency's directives was to improve the nations health conditions. One way to accomplish this was to make low cost privies available to the rural masses. These privies would be sanitary and healthful in their use, stemming the spread of diseases such as hookworm. To the best of my knowledge, nearly all farms in our community availed themselves of this government subsidized program. My research shows that the farm family receiving a new outhouse would pay for the materials (about $17 per outhouse) while the WPA supplied the labor free. Records show that the WPA built a total of 2,309,239 outhouses and employed thousands of individuals.

Our new WPA privy was delivered and installed in a new location on a bright spring day while we were in school. It was a beautiful new white building with a concrete floor and only one hole. It sported a ventilation system and a hinged cover for the hole. Our outhouse was "purified" by applying lime. It helped to "sweeten" the smells and kept down the spiders. The new privy was hardly the epitome of sanitation, but it was a vast improvement for that day over what we previously had, and provided relief for family and visitors for many years. It served us well for many years until indoor plumbing was installed in our farmhouse in 1945, after most of us left home for good. Most privies were soon replaced with bathrooms and indoor plumbing after WWII, thus another symbol of rural life was lost forever. James Whitcomb Riley even memorialized the outhouse in his Ode to the Outhouse.

Tuesday, May 10, 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.

Rhubarb Patch

After last week’s blog about my Mother’s garden, my sister reminded me that the blog entry was posted on what would have been my parents 69th anniversary, May 3rd,1947. I was born on Feb 6, 1948, nine months and three days later. At Mom & Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration, during my congratulatory speech to our parents, I asked Dad & Mom what the heck took them so long and what they did for the first three days of their marriage!

Also, my other sister reminded me I had neglected to mention Mom's rhubarb patch when talking about her garden, which brought to mind the following story:

Back in the spring of 1982, the Sidney Daily News had an article about my mom's rhubarb pie including the photo below of her serving a piece to my father. Not sure if she ever won best pie at the Shelby County Fair, but in my book her rhubarb pie was a sure winner! The article went on to describe how she makes the pie, but the reporter failed to dig out one valuable piece of information about her rhubarb that I clarified in a follow-up Letter to the Editor that read:

Sidney Daily News
Thank you for your recent article about my mother and her rhubarb pie. It is indeed the best tasting pie around, no doubt because of her skills as a baker, but also for a reason my mother didn't mention to your reporter; her rhubarb is planted where the old outhouse used to be!
Her son, Dave

My sisters are now about the same age as mom was in the 1982 photograph posted by the SDN; However, they look 10-20 years younger than mom. On the other hand, dad is the same age as me and everyone says I look just like him! Go figure!

Several of my wife’s friends have come to discover my love for rhubarb, so they are so kind as to make rhubarb pie and rhubarb jam for me each summer. I savor every bite; the jam on toast for breakfast and the rhubarb pie warmed up in the microwave with a scoop of ice cream. To die for!

Tuesday, May 3, 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.

Spring Has Sprung For Mother’s Day

Nice day today so I took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed some phloxing that was in full bloom at a neighbor’s home. It was just a small patch; nothing compared to the extensive bed my mother-in-law has in her front yard as shown in the above photo. Unfortunately, several years ago, her yard maintenance company sprayed on a windy day, which somewhat stunted the blooms ever since. Back in the day, chemicals were never used on any of my Mom’s gardens as she had us kids to pull the weeds and plenty of fertilizer from the farm. I guess that meant she was an organic gardener using today’s vernacular.

Mom's garden was located between the garage, smoke house and chicken coop (a great source for that "organic" fertilizer) on a large plot that would yield enough food for our family of seven during the entire year. Right when my mind was totally focused on baseball, my Mom’s thoughts were instead on us helping plant her garden. And you know who won that battle! She would have us prepare the soil for planting rows and rows of vegetables in the garden and tons of flowers in the beds around the house. And most were all planted from seeds, not seedlings, so that meant the ground had to be prepared and seeds planted early in the spring so everything would sprout just after the last freeze was supposed to occur. That plan didn’t always work out as I recall many times covering plants with old sheets when jack frost was forecasted.

All winter long, Mom would scan through the mail order seed catalogs and order the latest flower and vegetable varieties. Plus she would harvest some seeds from her dried flowers grown the prior year. And for potatoes, she would cut up spuds that were stored in our basement all winter. Each piece had to have a small sprout that would be planted, take root, and yield a new potato plant. She also had a large strawberry patch that we had to spread sawdust around all the plants each spring to control the weeds and to keep the strawberries from touching dirt. The strawberries would be sold to the local markets each summer to provide her with some much needed spending money. And it was all pure profit, because her labor force of me and my siblings were paid nada. On second thought, we did get an allowance of $1.25 a week. Considering we worked what seemed like 60 hours a week during strawberry picking season, it came to a about 2 cents an hour. No need for a UPick’EM sign at our farm!

But the effort was all worth it at dinner time after the fruits and veggies were harvested throughout the summer. Plus she always had a vase of cut flowers from her garden that were beautiful. For example, Mom had one special old rose bush that seemed to bloom all summer long. The photo below shows her on Mothers Day about 30 years ago with a vase of roses from that old rose bush and in the background, are our cards she received along with a paint-by-number painting of da Vinci's Last Supper completed by her father a year or so before he died. After my Mother passed away in 2003, I recall cutting off a growth from the old rose and planting it at her gravestone, but it never took or the cemetery workers removed it. So in honor of Mother’s day and in her memory, this nice video about an English County Garden is included for all you gardeners out there to enjoy. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers who read the Fish Report.

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.