Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Indy 500 Memories - 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.

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

College Entrance Exam! - 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.

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

The Outhouse - 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 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

Rhubarb Patch - 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.

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

Spring Has Sprung For Mother’s Day - 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.

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.

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