Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Bookmobile - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

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

Baseball On The Radio - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

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.

Baseball On The Radio

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

The Knack - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

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

RIP Uncle Tony - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

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.

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