Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Pouring Cement - 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

Pouring Cement

Our next door neighbors were recently re-doing the landscaping on their yard and while the work was underway, I noticed the landscaping company was about to remove and discard the above cement slab from the yard. It was created by the family who had previously lived there. They had three young children as commemorated by the footprints in the concrete and shown in the photo below.

The children's grandparents were all deceased, so we, in a way, filled that role for them. Fortunately we had stayed connected over the years, even though they were transferred overseas, but were in the process of repatriating back. So I texted them offering to save the concrete slab if they’d like. They immediately responded yes, so Sunday, the family came over to pick it up for placement in the yard of their new home. It was great seeing our old neighbors and their kids again.

This occurrence made me recollect times growing up as a kid when we’d leave our mark on any cement that Dad would be pouring around the farm. We would have plenty of time to scope out what to put on the cement as it took some time for Dad to set up the forms and mix the cement. Then as it was hardening after Dad had left to do something else, we’d do our thing in the cement before it fully set.

No doubt Dad got a kick out what he discovered when he removed the forms a day or so later. However, some were accidental. I can recall my young brother walking across the entire floor of a hog stable that Dad had poured earlier. The footprints were quite deep and no doubt are still there. Hogs didn’t care, but Dad sure did!

Sometimes my sisters would pretend they’d be movie stars just like on the sidewalk at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

But most of the time we simply wrote our name, initials or the year.

When older, I enjoyed helping Dad with the cement work, digging trenches for foundations, setting up the forms, adding rebar, mixing the materials for the cement (sand, gravel, cement and water) and finally pouring the cement. Dad would sometimes have me throw boulders in the bottom of the foundation trenches to save cement. I also remember a couple times burying a time capsule with some of our drawings or newspaper articles inside a tin can.

One cement project that unfortunately Dad never accomplished was to pour a basketball court in front of our garage. To improvise, I played on a cement pad outside our milking parlor where the cows were left out after being milked. I hung a rim and net from the barn and could play basketball between milkings; however, since the cows had a habit of pooping just as they were released outside, it meant dodging cow paddies while dribbling!

For posterity, be sure to inscribe something on the next wet cement you run across!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Making Hay - 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

Making Hay

This time of year on the farm while growing up was always an extremely busy time. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, my Dad could make a decent living while supporting a family of seven only farming 100 acres. He rotated the crops each year by planting corn, wheat, oats, hay and then back again to corn in sequential years. That way he didn’t have to use much if any fertilizer or herbicide as each crop took out or added the appropriate nutrients to complement the crop planned for the following year. Mom used a similar technique for her garden as noted in the diagram below.

Weeds were prevalent in the fields and garden, but us kids would be sent out with hoes to clear them out several times each season! I can recall times with Dad driving by one of our fields when he suddenly spots a weed, stops the car and sends me out into the field to pull it out.

Thinking back on those times, using today’s terminology, we had an extremely sustainable and organic farm. Literally nothing was wasted. All food scraps were fed to the hogs and no more than a grocery bag of trash was accumulated each week, which went into the coal furnace to help heat the house. The manure in the stables was spread over the land and plowed under in the spring to provide natural fertilizer for the corn, which depleted the land more than any other crop. Any metal junk was dumped into 55 gallon drums and collected by the high school’s Future Farmers of America organization during twice-a-year scrap drives. I can’t think of a single item of waste generated by our farm during those years. Amazing!
July meant it was time to harvest the wheat and oats, bail hay and straw and cultivate the corn. Those efforts along with the routine livestock feeding and milking of the cows lead to really long days working in the heat and humidity of a typical Ohio summer. Dad would enjoy every minute though, especially if the weather had cooperated and the yields were good. He knew the family’s livelihood was directly impacted by a successful harvest.

Of course, as kids, we didn’t really have that same appreciation, so found the work much less enjoyable and a real chore most of the time. I can recall sweating profusely in stifling heat and dusty conditions up in the hay mow packing away bails as they were loaded onto an elevator from the wagon full of bailed hay. Each load held 100 bails each weighing about 75 pounds, so it was quite a workout. We much preferred the lighter straw bails which also didn’t itch as much as the hay. Hay was used to feed the milk cows and the straw was used to bed down the stables all winter while the cows remained in the barn. During other times of the year, they were let out to pasture to eat grass as pictured in this aerial photo of our family farm. Note the cows under the shade trees near the creek at the upper left corner.

Harvesting the wheat and oats was a much more enjoyable process, primarily because it was significantly less labor intensive. The harvester or combine as it was called back then was quite a machine that intrigued me to no end.

Amazing how it could cut the stalks and thresh out the grain, separate the straw and auger the grain into hopper wagons that would self unload into an elevator carrying the harvest up to the storage granary in the barn, all by barely lifting a finger compared to the hard work associated with the hay and straw bailing process.

But Dad would always remind us how good we had it compared to when he was younger, as they farmed with horse-drawn equipment. He would tell about all the neighbors convening for a threshing “party”, that really wasn’t much of a party, at least until the work was done, when the food and drink was served well into the night.

But of all the chores at that busy time of year, cultivating corn was by far my favorite farm task, as it meant I could listen to the radio mounted on the tractor while traversing the rows and rows of corn. It provided a restful interlude to the busy farm life during the summer months.

Farm life back then was indeed a challenge, which was the primary reason I chose a different career path and studied engineering. However, I’m very grateful for the farm experiences that helped me throughout my entire career and beyond, especially with the skills to fix things and solve problems, along with the farm work ethic ingrained into me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Australia (Part III) - 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

Last week’s blog was the second post about the exploits of my Uncle Tony, his wife Mary and their 5 children pictured below while in Australia where Tony worked for John Deere down under from 1964-69. The third and final installment follows as the family discovers Australia:

Australia (Part III)

Australian Sheep Station
One of our most memorable family trips was to a 9000 acre sheep station, near Young, North South Wales (NSW), about 120 miles from our home. Here we became better acquainted with a rural family, the Page’s, whose children attended boarding school in Sydney. Our kids became acquainted with the Page children around the local pool, and as a result we were invited to visit with them at their home. Jennie, their daughter, later came to the USA as an exchange student in Indiana.

As a side note, a number of years later after returning to the States, we noticed a picture of a local girl in the newspaper indicating she recently returned from Australia where she was an exchange student, having lived with the Page's in Young, NSW. It also noted that Jennie Page, whom we met in Australia, was scheduled to visit with her the following week from her USA host’s home in Indiana. That same time, I became acquainted with a recently returned Vietnam veteran who mentioned to me that he bypassed the tourist areas of Sydney to take his R&R in the country, staying with the Page’s for a week. What a wonderful coincidence, when Jennie Page, along with the local girl who’s photo was in the paper and the Vietnam veteran (a new John Deere employee), all came to our home for dinner. Small world!

JFK park - Melbourne
Exploring out of the way places has always been one of our interests, and with a myriad of new places to discover, there was no shortages of destinations to visit on weekends. Whale Beach became a regular for us if we weren’t out of town with the family exploring the neighboring areas. Some of the places which come to mind, in addition to the Page’s 9000 acre sheep station, were visits to the Blue Mountains, fishing for trout in the Goodradigbe River, the Snowy Mountains, Castle Hill where Alan Jackson lived, tea at the Coleman’s; visit with Bill and Molly Carty (Bill was General McArthur‘s personal photographer and author of the book Flickers of History), deep sea fishing on a commercial fishing vessel out of Woolongong, Australia’s capital Canberra, kangaroo site seeing at Braidwood; the city of Melbourne and its J.F. Kennedy Park, Phillips Island’s fairy penguins, cruising the Hawksbury in the Elimatta, and a host of school activities as well as an occasional a round of golf at the local course early on a Saturday.

Sydney itself was a most interesting city to explore. Doyle’s cafĂ© was one of our favorite eateries, where patrons were permitted to bring their own wine or other drinks. The controversial and famous Opera House was constructed during our stay. Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral were also on our agenda.

Sydney Opera House

Mary and I took several vacation trips alone or with friends, such as a cruise of the Great Barrier Reef, the Goroka, New Guinea Highlands Show, to the New South Wales outback, to Queensland Gold Coast and to the Atherton Tablelands.

Company travel to the various distributor locations were sometimes extended to more than a week, as was the case traveling to New Zealand for the World Ploughing Contest, to lengthy sales meetings at distributors in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, and to our main store in Melbourne.

On several occasions I traveled with territory managers to get a feel for the vast areas they needed to cover to fulfill their duties, as well as a taste of the real Australia. On one occasion, we drove the inland route north from Brisbane through rural Queensland to Townsville. No evidence of human habitation was evidenced anywhere along the three hundred miles of gravel road, not even a petrol station (extra fuel was carried in metal containers). We observed many iguanas, emus, exotic birds, and kangaroos. On this trip we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn during the noon hour on December 21st as the sun was directly overhead. We cast no shadow.

I remember on one occasion Mary accompanied me on a business trip to the NSW outback We had an interesting experience and learned of yet another custom of that culture. Alcoholic beverages were available to the public only in hotels, and ladies were not allowed in the hotel’s standup bar, and men were restricted from the lounge unless with a lady. Coat and tie was mandatory and ladies were NOT to wear slacks, as Mary did that day. Being a Yank fortunately relieved us of such a requirement on that occasion. However, a selection of coats and ties were readily available for men on racks near the entrance for those who came without.

Our first car was a red and white Holden, a General Motors car, which was about equivalent to a US built compact car. Later on we purchased a Volkswagen sedan, a model not sold in the USA. I traded for a new white Holden after three years. This was the largest car built in Australia. VW beetles and the Mini Minors were the most popular cars on the road. Japanese-built small cars were just beginning to be introduced to the Australian market at that time, long before they became available in the USA. Many of these brand names became familiar in our country years later.

Our kids in the back of the Holden

Deere & Co. executives, included CEO William Hewitt, often visited to review manufacturing and marketing operations, attend to governmental issues, make management personnel changes, investigate growth possibilities in Australia and revise contract provisions Somebody would arrive almost weekly , especially during the winter months in the States! This often involved meeting them at the airport, showing them around, delivering them to the hotel, and spending time with them in conferences for a few days and often entertaining them in the evenings. Factory reps from the USA were often invited to present new product information at our scheduled sales meetings.

My personal claim to fame with John Deere to this day is the establishment of the first independent Australian John Deere dealer, in Tamworth, NSW. This is now one of the largest dealers in Australia, owning and operating six dealerships, all as a family endeavor I’m proud of the fact that Deere & Company's annual sales in Australia have reached $1 billion starting from zero in 1964.

Each year, the family was allowed an all expense paid trip back home, which we looked forward to immensely. However, one year we decided instead to take a trip with all five kids including stops in Singapore, Bangkok Thailand, Karachi Pakistan, India, Kuwait, Istanbul Turkey, Athens Greece, Rome Italy (where we saw the pope), Switzerland, Munich Germany, Mexico City, Honolulu Hawaii, and Western Samoa – around the world!

Early in 1969, I was re-assigned to a position back in the States after having spent 5 wonderful years in Australia; an adventure our family will never forget. And in 1983, I retired from Deere & Company after 34 years, moving one last time to Sun City, Florida between Tampa and Sarasota.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Australia (Part II) - 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

Last week’s blog was the initial post about my Uncle Tony and his family’s exploits in Australia when he worked for John Deere down under from 1964-69. Recall the photo of the family as they were about to depart, all in suits, ties and formal dress. Imagine flying all the way to Australia dressed that way? The second installment follows as the family departs for Australia:

Australia (Part II)

Now, back to reality. We had lots of work to do. Deere recommended that we not ship much household goods, especially electrical appliances, since Australia used 220 volt power to residential homes. Any electrical appliance we would bring required a transformer. The timetable established that I be in Australia on the job as soon as possible, preferably within a couple of weeks. Disposal of most of our household goods and car, securing passports for all, special inoculations for certain tropical diseases, visiting with our respective families to say goodbye, and a thousand other things contributed to the flurry of activities leading up to our departure in September, 1964.

That last day in the “states” we packed all our belongings into 10 suitcases, and drove our station wagon to Springfield to say goodbye, then on to Ft. Loramie to stay with my sister and her family (Note: that would be us!) before departure from the Dayton airport the next morning. It was quite a sight to see all seven of us and all our luggage in and on top of that station wagon. Our first flight was on a DC6B from Dayton to Chicago, changed to a Boeing 727 to San Francisco, where we changed to a Boeing 707 for the flight to Honolulu where we were to stay over for a couple of days. We spent an anxious day without luggage, which accidentally continued on to Sydney. But, it was eventually returned, and all was well. While in Hawaii, our former next door neighbors in Springfield, Jack and Elsie, who were now living in Honolulu, visited with us. Two days later we were on our way to Sydney aboard another Qantas 707.

Once we were settled in at the Shore Motel (pictured above) in Sydney, one of the first things we needed to address was education for our children. The normal school year in Australia runs from February through mid December. Being in the southern hemisphere, September was springtime, and over half the school year had already been completed. After much thought, we decided to place them in the same grade they just completed in Ohio, to give them a chance to become acclimated to that system. They were temporarily enrolled in the Chatswood school system, near the Shore Motel, where we occupied the manager’s suite, until we could find a 4 bedroom house to rent. Mary did most of the house hunting, scouting the areas with wives of other Deere employees. After scores of hours she spent with real estate people, we finally decided to rent at 39 Lancaster ave. St. Ives, NSW.

This location was in the northern suburbs of Sydney, a rapidly growing area, so rapid that phones for most homes could not yet be supplied. Finally, after a two year wait, telephone service was finally supplied to our home.

The four school aged kids were enrolled in the local Catholic schools. Deere reimbursed us for all tuition and school expenses, including uniforms, books and supplies. The youngest entered the first grade on his 5th birthday, June 6, 1968, as was the custom in Australia, and was appalled upon our return to the States eight months later where he was not yet old enough for the first grade, therefore was placed in kindergarten!!!

We soon became acquainted in our new neighborhood, and became friends with many, especially the Wilcox’s, who hailed from Canada Our interest in bridge introduced us to many other Americans living in this area, and enjoyed many, many interesting parties with them. It was here that we really learned this card game by playing with experts.

And we quickly learned about the many, many differences from our previous lifestyle in Ohio. Our new home in St. Ives was of brick construction, no central heat or air conditioning, not conducive to comfort with year round temperatures ranging from a low of about 40 to a high of 95. It became mighty cold many mornings with inside temperatures in the 40’s. There were no closets in the bedrooms, small screened openings to the outside near the ceiling in each room for ventilation in case of carbon monoxide buildup (many homes were heated with charcoal).

Other differences included such things as lever type door handles, higher on the door so little tykes couldn't reach them, 220 volt electricity, light switches flipped up for off, down for on, seven foot high privacy fences around every backyard, milk not homogenized, and delivered in glass bottles, totally different sports at school, no stores open Saturday afternoon or Sunday, grocery stores did not provide bags, a totally different monetary system and a host of strange wildlife were just a few new things we had to quickly learn in this culture.

Even the spelling or pronunciation of some common words were different. The cadence of speech, and some of the slang words often threw us into a bit of a culture shock. For example:

But of necessity, all of us soon learned the meaning of these terms and others as time went by. There were many more.

Learning to drive on the left side of the road required total concentration, but after a while, it became so routine we had some lapses when driving back in America on our home leave!

Australia was still on the British type currency system: pounds, shillings and pence. Conversion to the decimal currency system occurred on 14th of February, 1966. Learning the system was not easy for anyone. Coins and bills looked so strange--different colors and sizes. Preparing expense accounts for our housing allowance, cost of living allowance and educational expenses on a monthly basis was not easy, considering that currency valuations between USA and Australia fluctuated from month to month, Converting pounds, shillings and pence to American dollars always gave me problems. My starting annual salary as General Sales Manager in 1964 was about $9000, up from $8000 as a territory manager in Ohio, then increased by increments to $12,500 by 1969. About one half of that was deposited in our Springfield, Ohio bank account by Deere so our General Manager, would not be aware that my salary exceeded his.

All our family soon settled in to our new environment, but nothing became routine. Much of my official time was spent out-of-town, sometimes for weeks and over weekends. Entertaining visiting Americans and others from other Deere facilities also demanded much of my time. This saddled Mary with all the responsibilities of running a household, which she did with aplomb. The older kids bought used bikes, and we all enjoyed frequent trips to the outback and other places of interest. There was so much to discover in this wondrous place far away from home.

Check next week’s blog to read more about the family's adventures while in Australia (and beyond).

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