Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Uncle Bob - 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.

Uncle Bob

Beyond my parents and teachers while growing up in Ft. Loramie, I probably learned more about life from my Uncle Bob, pictured above in both a 1946 & 2004 photo with my Dad, his older brother. Uncle Bob had just returned from the war at the time of the 1946 photo where he served in the Army as an infantryman. But in today’s Army, he would have been classified as a sniper, as he was the absolute best marksman since Davy Crocket. He loved the outdoors and was an avid hunter and fisherman. And I would classify him as an original environmentalist, because of his inordinate appreciation and respect for nature. Nothing ever was wasted around his farm, plus he could fix anything. His workshop was amazing. He had this innovative setup for precisely sighting-in his rifles. He could spot a groundhog from a 1/4 mile away and pick it off in one shot. Many a night I would be laying in bed and hear Uncle Bob’s dogs barking after treeing a coon in a nearby woods, then the single pop of Uncle Bob’s rifle, as he never missed! And when I was older, he would invite me along on the coon hunts - what a thrill. I also tagged along with him when he checked his muskrat traps and fished Lake Loramie. He made me promise to never divulge his best fishing holes and trapping sites. Squirrel hunting with Uncle Bob was a challenge, as you had to be totally quiet in the woods for hours waiting for a squirrel to scurry out of their nest to hunt hickory nuts, only to meet it's maker by eagle-eye Bob.

Bob was such a story teller, and he loved to “pull our leg” with with his tall yarns. For example, he incurred an injury during the war when a gun backfired on him and blew off the tip of his thumb. Who knows, maybe he even got a purple heart for the injury. But he would always tell us kids that an elderly neighbor who was a real curmudgeon by the name of Ben Olding purposefully ran over his thumb with his car. He also claimed that Ben Olding was flying any plane that ever flew over. Literally, thanks to Uncle Bob, Ben Olding got blamed for just about any unexplained phenomena that occurred when we were growing up.

Uncle Bob was a bachelor who lived with my grandmother on the farm pictured above that was across the road from our farm, both of which were the home farms of my grandfather and great-grandfather respectively. Along with a third brother who lived on another nearby farm, the three would work together, sharing equipment and helping each other out during planting and harvest times. I recall at Dad’s 80th birthday party when my brother, brother-in-law and I performed a funny skit about the three farmers at harvest time many years before. At another family get-together, a bat suddenly started flying around inside the hall where the event was being held, causing quite a stir. But Uncle Bob, undeterred, immediately went after the bat, catching it with his bare hands, released the bat outside and immediately sat back down to resume eating his meal without missing a beat - or washing his hands! As an outdoorsman and a bachelor, his personal hygiene was probably not the best! But that was about to change as indicated in the following story:

One Halloween, just after receiving my drivers license, I happened to drive by Uncle Bob’s place around dusk and noticed several people were toilet papering the trees around his house. Wanting to protect my favorite uncle, I snuck back and found their car hidden behind a shed, took the keys out of the ignition and put them under the front seat because that’s where Uncle Bob always put the keys for his car. As kids we would often listen to the radio in Uncle Bob’s car using those hidden keys, as Dad never had a radio installed in his cars. So eventually Uncle Bob arrived home and discovered the TP’ers sitting in their keyless car. First place he checked was under the seat and handed the perpetrators their keys. Unbeknownst to me, one of the culprits was somebody Uncle Bob had been dating, eventually to become engaged to and marry. Her name was Carolyn, about 20 years younger than Bob, but what a wonderful lady she was with a great sense of humor and a very memorable laugh, who eventually was somewhat able to “domesticate” Uncle Bob. Carolyn and I would kid each other for years about the TP job and the hidden car keys! I always blamed Ben Olding!

Uncle Bob’s farm was located near the terminus of the Loramie Creek, the northern most tributary of the Ohio River. As a result, Native Americans traveling between the Ohio River and Lake Erie had to portage their canoes from the Loramie Creek to the St. Mary’s River north of Minster. So there were lots of Indian artifacts to be found in that area, and Uncle Bob was a master at finding them. His secret was walking a newly plowed field just after a rainstorm once the sun came out. The shiny surfaces of the arrowheads cleaned by the rain would reflect the sun to make them easier to spot.

After Uncle Bob’s death in 2009, his collection of over 400 arrowheads was assessed by an archeologist, who discovered there were artifacts from all six prehistoric Ohio Native American paleological eras spanning over 10,000 years. His collection is now displayed in perpetuity at the Ft. Loramie elementary school as shown in the photo above. For more information about the collection and Uncle Bob, click on the following links:

Friday, November 25, 2016

SCAL Girls Basketball Preview

Fish Report's 2016-17 Girls Basketball Preseason All-SCAL

Maria Herron, senior, Russia (12.7 ppg). Outstanding guard for the Lady Raiders in her fourth year on varsity. Typically faced opponent's best defenders last season. Sees the floor extremely well and should have a huge year as one of the best shooters in the league.
Tiffany Hatcher, senior, Russia (11.0 ppg). Can pop it from long range and led the Lady Raiders in assists last year. Look for her scoring ability from the wing to free up and Russia's post players. Quick defender also that will create problems for other teams.
Macey Huelskamp, junior, Anna (10.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Floor leader for the Lady Rockets that is capable of a double-double every night. Will be hard to stop underneath the bucket at 6'-0" and is versatile enough to bring her defender outside and score.
Sarah Bergman, junior, Botkins (9.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg). At 6'-0" a real threat in the post and a beast on the boards. Will be the key to a much improved Botkins team that returns eight of her teammates from last year.
Cassie Meyer, senior, Jackson Center (7.7 ppg). Fresh off another state volleyball championship means a late start to the season. Athletes are athletes though and expect Cassie's winning mentality to lead to Lady Tiger's success.

Two new faces should make big splashes in the SCAL

Jada Rowland, junior, Anna. Averaged 6.1 ppg as a freshman and 2.0 ppg as a sophomore for D-I Sidney that went 46-3 during her time there. Once scored 24 as a freshman against St. Mary's, which included six 3-pointers. Look for the 6'-2" junior to have her best season yet.
Alicia Kessler, senior, Jackson Center. 6'-2" volleyball star for the Lady Tigers that has decided to try basketball. Could be just what Jackson Center needs after the graduation of leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker Nicole Fogt from last year.

If you've never heard of Hattie Meyer, you will this season

Now that Jessica Boerger has graduated, it would appear the Ft. Loramie dynasty of the last four years has ended. What's next? The Lady Redskins seem to have no problem developing new stars and the best bets are a pair of juniors. Hattie Meyer came off the bench last year and will be the starting point guard this season. Abby Holthaus is a versatile post player that will be a tough match-up for opposing teams. Neither girl made our Preseason All-SCAL, but don't be surprised if they garnish some post season honors.

Not a year seems to go by in the SCAL where there isn't sisters on someone's roster. This year the best sister combo goes to the Houston Wildcats. Sarah Monnier is an experienced 5'-10" junior post player that averaged 5 ppg and 5 rpg last season. This year Sarah will be joined by her freshman sibling Jessie Monnier who already has a couple inches on her big sis at 6'-0". Sounds like double trouble for SCAL opponents.

Audrey Francis of Fairlawn was one of the most entertaining players in the league last year. She did it all for the Lady Jets as a junior averaging 18.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg. She was also a 1000 point scorer with her eyes set on her sister's school record of 1,622 points this year. Sadly, but understandably, Audrey decided to sit out this final season after surgery on her knee and a commitment to play college volleyball at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Audrey Francis was a pleasure to watch for three seasons

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Roto-Rooter - 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.


Thirty-four years ago, my Dad had what he termed “roto-rooter” surgery for a swollen, and fortunately benign, prostate. According to my nurse sister, Dad was exactly the same age as I am now, so it comes as no surprise that I was recently diagnosed with the same malady after a painful night in the ER and a urologist appointment the next day. Meds were tried unsuccessfully, so the doctor performed a more modern version of roto-rooter surgery called TURP on my prostate that was the size of an orange versus a normal size of a walnut. The plumbing caricature above pretty much describe the procedure. Ouch, indeed! The surgery was on the same day as the seventh game of the World Series, so staying overnight in the hospital was tolerable since I wasn’t going to get much sleep anyway. With the rain delay and extra innings, the game kept my mind diverted from the pain into the early hours of the next morning. Ditto on election night the following week while recovering at home.

Several of my friends have had similar surgeries, so thanks to their insight, I pretty much knew what to expect. Several suggested the whoopy cushion shown below called a Kabooti Comfort Ring, which would’ve come in real handy when attending church the first time after the operation. The sermon that week was about perseverance, which is exactly what I had to do to get through mass. Meanwhile, the wife of one of my best friends included the following quote in their get well card, “If it has tires or testicles, it’s gonna give you trouble”. The 1992 quote is from a State Senator and feminist from Ohio named Linda Furney. Having worked in the auto industry for my entire career, this was a double whammy! On top of that, my wife claimed I was a different person after the operation, but have since returned to “normal" as the recovery progresses. It appears she likes me better when I’m on pain medication and resting half the day! No doubt the medication cut the edge on my fabled German stubbornness, which must be coming back into form as I recover. She was told if I was that way all the time, we’d be in the poor house as I had absolutely no gumption to do anything productive (let alone hold up my end in a discourse).

Fortunately, the worst is now over and I’m on the mend to hopefully a successful recovery and full functionality, if you get my drift. My wife really has been a fantastic caregiver and my nurse sisters have also been very supportive from afar. On the other hand, my younger brother now knows what’s heading his way in about 9 years!

Lost about 20 pounds in the process, and now I have a bunch of lose skin in all the wrong places! Also, this procedure has somehow changed my taste in wine and beer, as I used to prefer reds and dark brews, now nothing by whites and lite beer. And regarding the age-old dilemma of boxers or briefs, now only boxers will do. Ironically, my wife purchased a set of plaid boxers while I was convalescing; one maize and blue and the other scarlet and gray. Guess which one I’ll be wearing Saturday?

President-elect Trump talks about draining the swamp in Washington; given my roto-rooter experience, I think the photo below better depicts what is needed.

And finally, Happy Thanksgiving, Fish Report readers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Volunteer Fire Department - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

Blog about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Volunteer Fire Department

After I participated in a recent meeting of the Tri-City Fire Commission, a fire consortium here in Michigan among several local communities including the city of Orchard Lake where I live, the Fire Chief was reminiscing about the most serous fires he had to fight over his career. So naturally, on my way home, I started thinking about major fires that occurred as a kid growing up. The Ft. Loramie Community Fire Department, pictured above in this 1964 photo, was a department of dedicated volunteers who took the job very seriously. Most were local proprietors around town who were available on a moments notice should the fire alarm sound. Chief Morrie Frey was the local barber and his shop and home was directly across the street from the Fire Department. So he was like a full time firefighter on call 24-7. He would take the fire truck out to the fires and the other volunteers would follow in their vehicles, many red pick-up trucks with magnetic flashing red lights that could mounted to the top of the truck during a run.

Probably the most memorable fire as a kid was Ray Hoying’s barn fire around 1960. He was the neighbor to my grandparents in St. Patrick’s, so when visiting, we would play in that big barn with his children, who were second cousins. The fire started around dusk and from our farm about 10 miles away, we could see the flames and smoke shooting in the air. Dad knew the direction of the flames were about where his in-laws farm was, so the family took a ride to the fire. When we got there, the barn was totally ablaze pretty much as depicted in the photo on the right. That’s as close as we could get because of all the fire apparatus and other gawkers like us. However, we were thankful no one was hurt and that it wasn’t our grandparents barn that was on fire. I recall the first responders had gotten the livestock out of the barn, but that several cows ran back into the burning barn sensing they were in danger and instinctively returning to the only “safe” place they knew, the barn.

Once the fire was out, the barn was eventually rebuilt, with lots of help from the locals including Dad, who participated in one of the last barn raisings of that era.

Another serious fire that occurred after I left home was the factory fire of the Francis-Schulze company between Newport and Russia on Range Line Rd. The company was owned and operated by my in-laws, so upon the word of the fire, we left our home in Michigan to help the family recover from the disaster shown in the photos below. First order of business was getting production started again in what was an adjacent warehouse not damaged by the fire, which meant moving and repairing some fire-damage equipment literally on the fly while procuring and transporting new or used equipment and production parts in an expedited manner, and organizing the workforce to man the transformed operation around the clock to make up for lost production. Bottom line, the company never missed an order and they kept the pipeline flowing to their customers while the factory was rebuilt, this time with a sprinkler system fed from a large diesel pump adjacent to a much bigger retention pond behind the plant. My wife’s sister Joan tells the following story about that day, "Still amazes me looking back at these pictures and story how the Francis-Schulze sign (shown in the second photo), made of pressed board ever survived! Firemen all said a miracle! We took it as a sign from above; not to give up and build again! That sign still hangs today in the factory for all to see as a reminder to never give up."

Well, those memories came home to roost with me in 2002 when I was asked as an elected council member in the City of Orchard Lake to represent the city on the aforementioned Tri-City Fire Commission. After being on the Board of the volunteer fire department for less than a year, the Fire Chief suddenly announced his retirement, so we used that opportunity to investigate merging with the full time fire and EMS department of the neighboring township. A committee was formed that included me to work out the details, which we were able to accomplish in short order. The Township needed a new station, so they took over operation of our exiting almost-new station and truck pictured below.

The merger allowed the township to avoid the cost to build or buy new; meanwhile our citizens starting receiving fire and EMS services on a full time basis, cutting response times from 10 minutes to less than 4 minutes. Plus the firefighters were trained and licensed paramedics who could administer medications in route to the hospital rather than our volunteers who were trained as medical first responders who could only monitor the condition of the patient at the scene and while in route. Because we saved the cost of hiring a new chief and incurred lower fees from the township for the use of our station, the net cost was essentially a wash, which meant no tax increase for the better services. After the merger was consummated, the Fire Board was given the opportunity to participate in Fire Ops 101 training with new firefighters to learn firsthand the nuances of fire and EMS services. It was an amazing experience; in fact they gave each of us a fire helmet pictured below to keep along with the group photo in front of a burning tanker we had to extinguish during the training. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several people who thanked me profusely claiming they would not be alive had we not made the conversion to full time fire and EMS services.

Back to those dedicated firefighters in the Ft. Loramie Fire Department. They somehow inspired me much later in life to get involved in the firefighting services as described above, for which I'm eternally grateful. They must have influenced my brother as well since he was a volunteer on Russia’s fire department when he was living there. No doubt the firefighters in the 1926 photo below of the members of the Ft. Loramie department and their horse-drawn fire engines in front of the school, almost two years before the first motorized fire truck was purchased, inspired the group of dedicated volunteers on the department I knew growing up. And those guys surely have passed on a similar dedication to today’s crew serving the department pictured below in front of St. Michael’s.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fall Butchering - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

Blog about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Fall Butchering

As a kid growing up, after the fall harvest in early November came butchering time. Dad and his neighbors would congregate on a Saturday morning at one of their farms and butcher a hog or two for each family. I suppose the process was considered gruesome by today’s standards, but at the time, it was a natural part of being raised on a farm. One of our neighbors was Lud Busse, one of the owners of Busse’s Meat Market in Ft. Loramie. He was there to help make the sausage using his famous recipe. Ft Loramie was so well known for Busse’s Meat Market that people would come from miles around for their meats, especially the tasty pork sausage, available in either smoked or fresh varieties. Campers at the lake each summer always made the trip into town for some sausage to take back to their homes in the cities. There was even a place in Dayton that carried Busse’s meats as I remember it being located along my route to Frigidaire where I worked. There was a large sign saying “World Famous Busse Sausage”.

Busse’s slaughter house was part of co-owner Lud Busse’s farm adjacent to our farm. I spent many a day at the slaughter house observing the butchering process and was amazed how effectively the butchers could carve up a carcass into prime steaks, ribs, hams, pork chops and bacon. A similar process was followed on those fall butchering Saturday’s at our farm. The sausage was made from portions of the hog not used for the prime cuts, which were ground up and stuffed into tubes made from pork intestines. And the animal’s blood was saved for blood pudding, a tasty concoction that Mom would serve hot with lassie bread for breakfast. The bones were saved for soup stock and the fat turned into lard for frying. Not much of the animal went to waste on our farm.

Some of the meats, especially the hams, sausage and bacon slabs, were hung in the smoke house where a small hickory fire would smolder for days to cure the meats so they wouldn’t spoil. Other cuts were packaged and sent to the Wagner’s Locker in Minster for freezing, as most farm homes at that time did not have their own freezers to store meat. Then afterwards came the best part when the pork chops and spare ribs were barbecued usually over an open fire and everyone enjoyed a feast after a hard days work butchering enough meat to last the winter.

Dad used to know the recipe for Busse’s sausage, but I think he went to his grave with that world famous recipe still a secret, although some claim current day Wagner’s and Winter’s sausage comes close, but in my book (er blog), those don't quite measure up to the original.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Why I Love Sports

(The following was written by Russia alum and University of Dayton sophomore Corrina Francis after Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night. Corrina was kind enough to share it with Fish Report.)

As I sit here at 1:10 AM, I should be studying for an economics test I have tomorrow, or more likely, sleeping. But I’m afraid sleep would elude me after such an incredible Game 7.

The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Some people have gone a lifetime without ever such a statement being made. 108 years to be exact.

Now I am by no means a Cubs fan. Rather, a Reds fan, so quite the opposite. But I am a sports fan and a baseball fan and that game 7 epitomizes everything I love about the game of baseball.

From a leadoff homerun, a homerun by a 39-year-old backup catcher, the Indians improbable comeback off Aroldis Chapman, a rain delay, and finally a game winning hit by Ben Zobrist in the 10th inning. This game was such a roller-coaster of emotions (or rather glass case of emotions), and I didn’t even have a strong rooting interest!

The on-field celebration was awesome to watch and I was taken aback by how humble the players were. Just watching the raw emotion of the players was so fun, and I couldn’t help but smile along with them. It was like they didn’t even believe what had just happened. Every player interviewed seemed to be in awe that they were at last world champions.

I was able to find a livestream of Wrigley Field. You could see the tension on the faces of the fans, just hoping against all hope that the Cubbies could record those final three outs in the bottom of the 10th. So much was at stake. A 4 hour 45 minute game, a 7 game series, and the Cubs best season in over 100 years would all be for naught if they didn’t win. More than that, 108 years of losing was looming.

I was watching the livestream when the final out of the game was recorded. It was pure madness. To anyone who could appreciate it, the scene was actually kind of beautiful. Strangers were hugging strangers. Fathers were sharing a special moment with their son. A man was kissing his wife because his favorite baseball team had finally the World Series after 108 years. And of course, all of Chicago was singing, in unison, “Go, Cubs, Go!”

It was cool to see a group of people so united. In a time when politicians and protests seem to be dictating the direction of social discourse in the country, it is impossible to see so many people passionate about a good cause and be so united. Any given Cubs fan didn’t care if the fan next to him was black or white, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Jewish or Muslim. All he cared was that he was a Cubs fan and the Cubs had won the World Series.

I love the game of baseball. I love diving catches, extra innings, homeruns, and comebacks as much as the next person. But I think what I really love about baseball and sports is the uniting power. It’s ability to bring people of all backgrounds together with a passion and unite them for a common cause.

As lame as it sounds, when watching the post-game coverage, I felt a tear run down my face. I could just feel that I was witnessing something special. And I realized, this is why I love sports.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1960 Presidential Election - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

Blog about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

1960 Presidential Election

This election season has definitely been memorable, but for an entirely different reason than the first election I recall while growing up; the 1960 presidential race between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. As a 7th grader, Civics was one of our classes, and a new teacher had been hired, Mr. Hancock. In Junior High, students rotated to various classes, as opposed to elementary school where the entire day was spent in one classroom with a single teacher - boring. I enjoyed the hourly change in class rooms, teachers and subject matter in junior high.

Mr. Hancock would focus the first half of the class on the normal Civics curriculum, then would shift the discussion to the election. Since literally all the students in the class were Catholic, plus at that time, counter to today, Ft. Loramie was predominantly Democrat, John Kennedy, being a Catholic Democrat, was the overwhelmingly preferred candidate. So Mr. Hancock, whether he actually was a Nixon supporter or not, to make things interesting, took the Republican side in these discussions. But we made some hay against him the day President Eisenhower was asked what contributions Nixon had made as Vice President during his administration and Ike responded by saying "If you give me a week, I might think of one."

There were four debates that election, and all were broadcast for the first time ever on national TV. While watching the debates, my Mom commented that Nixon looked “shady and had shifty eyes”; never could get anything past her! The day after each of the four debates, Mr. Hancock dedicated the entire hour to the previous night’s opposing arguments, re-enacting the war of words with him portraying Nixon going against the entire class (he even looked somewhat like Nixon). The last debate actually involved using split screen technology since each candidate and the moderator were in separate locations around the country. I don’t recall a vice-presidential debate, as that would have pitted Lyndon Johnson and Henry Cabot Lodge against each other.

Mr. Hancock sure got us engaged and involved in politics, an interest that sticks with me and a number of my classmates to this day. I can clearly recall the exact location of his classroom right across from the gym and my exact seat in the class . The only other similar such remembrance was the seat I enjoyed during typing class as a senior sitting between two cute freshmen girls; but I digress! However, luckily, those typing skills sure came in handy once PC’s were invented - and for typing out blogs!

Finally, election day came with the race not called until the wee hours of the next morning. In fact, our neighbors, when the outcome was still unclear, rolled there big black & white console TV into the bedroom and watched the returns until CBS’s anchor Walter Cronkite called Kennedy the victor at 3:00am. Our family visited the neighbors the night after the election and the big TV was still in the bedroom.

Mr. Hancock’s class the next day was special in that with Kennedy winning, we could all rub it in and bask in the victory. But it turned out that Ohio actually went for Nixon, along with the 25 other red states shown below. Note how the popular vote was only about 112,000 votes apart.

Exactly 1000 days after being inaugurated, John F. Kennedy was tragically assassinated in Dallas, a day that I’ll never forget. I had the opportunity to meet up this summer with the two guys I was with at the time we found out Kennedy had been shot. We shared a special bond and this indelible memory for the last 53 years, as if it happened yesterday. One of my favorite books is A Thousand Days - John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to the President. It’s my bedtime reading, so I’m lucky to read 2-3 pages of the 1200 page testament before falling asleep. When finished, I merely start over at page one, as the story never gets old. But this election, whatever the outcome, will likely mean more reading each night since it will be much harder to fall asleep.

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