Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Theo the Thief - Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

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

Theo the Thief

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with my long-time, now retired barber-friend, Theo. He retired about six years ago and is enjoying every minute, stating he’s never been happier or more content. My sentiments exactly! Theo's dad was originally from Canada having immigrated as a youngster and eventually marring a girl from West Virginia. Theo was born shortly thereafter. He has many relatives from both areas who invariably creep into his conversation and are featured in his many stories. Theo visits Canada and West Virginia regularly to see his relatives so he can “refresh” his stories.

Theo is about my age, so we have a lot in common. Like me, he loves sports and history. Because of his storytelling prowess, I always enjoy our lunches twice a year or so. Whenever he’s sharing a story, his hands are moving all over the place to accentuate the tale. This most recent lunch was no exception, as napkins and silverware were flying off the table as he expounded about this and that. I recall him once nicking my ear during a haircut while he was telling one of his infamous stories.

Speaking of stories, here’s how he got his neighborhood nickname, “Theo the Thief”! Alongside his barber chair, he maintained a thriving sports card and memorability business in his shop, which tended to attract the neighborhood kids, including the two sons of a local family we’ve befriended. Theo would invariably connive her two boys out of a valuable baseball card, exchanging it for several cards of less noteworthy players. The boys, thinking they got a good deal because they traded one card for multiple cards, always bragged to their parents about their “steal”. They never broke the bad news to the boys, not wanting to disappoint them, but privately, they stuck Theo with that pesky moniker.

Theo also was an avid reader about anything related to the Civil War, as his West Virginia mother had distant descendants who fought for the South during the war, so his shop included many prints from that era, including this one from the battle of Antietam. Inspired by this print, my wife and I had the honor of walking over the famous bridge several years ago while touring the battlefield.

Theo loves old cars, especially his chopped and customized 1949 Ford shown above. We captured this candid photo of Theo while cruising in his classic to the local Dairy Queen. You can get a real feel for his sense of humor just by the expression on his face - meanwhile his wife, next to him is on her cell phone, having seen and heard it all before, is tuning him out!

Shortly after Theo retired, I contacted the owner of the strip mall where his barber shop had been located to see if we could remove the sign that hung above. The owner gave us the go-ahead so my son and I were able to get it down. It sat on my workbench in the garage for several months as I attempted to clean and restore the sign. The most troublesome part was getting the neon lights to function properly, which was accomplished after buying a used but functional ballast on Craig’s List. My son and I then presented the restored sign to Theo, where he made room in his crowded garage to hang it on the wall next to his ’49 Ford classic. He proudly lights it up every time I visit.

A video was sent in Theo's most recent email that I enjoyed. It’s a song by Toby Keith about Clint Eastwood about “not letting the old man in” with excerpts from Clint's recent movie The Mule.

Theo's emails always sign off with the familiar barber pole emoji: TheoHe’s one of a kind and a true friend!


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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Hidden Figures - Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

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

Hidden Figures

My wife and I watched the movie Hidden Figures on Netflix recently. The movie tells the incredible true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA in the 60’s during the early days of the space program.

The trio served as the brains behind the February 20,1962 launch of the first American into orbit, Ohio’s own John Glenn. The achievement turned around the Space Race against the Russians, eventually leading to the first man on the moon, another Ohio native son, Neil Armstrong, 50 years ago this coming July 20th.

At the time of Glenn’s accomplishment, I was in the eighth grade and recall listening to the launch over the school's intercom system during class. The flight only lasted 4 hours and 56 minutes, as Glenn circled the earth three times in his space capsule Friendship 7. He reached speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour. The successful mission concluded with a splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

Here’s what John Glenn saw on February 20, 1962. Just 5 minutes and 44 seconds after launch, Glenn offered his first words about the view from his porthole: “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.” Three hours later, at the beginning of his third orbit, Glenn photographed this panoramic view of Florida from the Georgia border (right, under clouds) to just north of Cape Canaveral. His American homeland was 162 miles below. “I have the Cape in sight down there,” he noted to mission controllers. “It looks real fine from up here. I can see the whole state of Florida just laid out like on a map. Beautiful.”

While Glenn was in orbit, NASA controllers received an indication that the heat shield on his craft had come loose. Glenn called the issue a “glitch”, a common term in Ohio, but apparently not elsewhere, as the term went “viral” from that point on (this tidbit came from a recent Jeopardy episode!). Glenn was instructed not to jettison the rockets underneath the heat shield during re-entry, because the rockets might be able to hold the shield in place. Fortunately, the “glitch” turned out to be a false alarm, but there must have been some tense moments during re-entry.

Glenn returned to space at age 77 aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, making him the oldest person to fly in space. His mission’s primary scientific aim at that time was to study the effects of spaceflight on seniors.

Back to our mathematical heroines, the movie showed them calculating launch and re-entry trajectories on a large, multi-story blackboard with ladders to access the upper reaches of the board to make the calculations.

They also relied on Friden mechanical calculators to do the math.

Both the huge blackboards and mechanical calculators were mainstays during my high school and college days, as it was not until nearly graduating with my engineering degree did the first Wang electronic calculator became available.

Wang Electronic Calculator Innards

It was 12 years later when Apple’s Steve Jobs unveiled the first desktop computer, dubbed the Macintosh and 23 years after that introduced the first iPhone.

My current iPhone now has significantly more computing power than that original Mac. As an engineer, I really appreciate and enjoy tinkering with the latest technologies, sometimes to the chagrin of my wife, who's has to contend with the nuances of all my sometimes quirky gismos around the house.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Thugs - Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

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


Several weeks ago I had written about playing pick-up basketball back in the 1960’s on the west side of Dayton in a pretty rough neighborhood. Rereading that blogpost brought to mind another incident while I was living in that end of town. It was a Friday after work one summer during my college years when the phone rang at our apartment that I shared with three other college friends. We were planning a night out on the town to start the weekend; however, one of our roommates had car problems at his place of work, a General Motors plant also on the west side of Dayton.

His car had a starter that was acting up and it finally gave up the ghost in the parking lot. He asked us to go to the auto parts store to pick up a refurbished starter before they closed, then head over to help him install it. I recall having just been paid, but hadn’t had time to cash my check. So it was left on my bedroom dresser. My two other roommates were in the same situation, but between us we scratched up enough cash to buy a starter, as there were no credit cards back in those days, especially for college students.This is important as it plays into the events to follow.

We picked up the rebuilt starter, got to the parking lot and began removing the defective device. The car's owner and I were under the car unbolting the unit, while the two other roommates were on top of the engine unhooking the electrical lines to the starter and aiming a flashlight as it was now getting dark outside.

While the repairs were underway, three thugs approached the car to rob us and one had a gun! When they saw our legs sticking out from under the car, they threatened at us to slowly get out from under the car. This gave my roommate under the car with me some time to take the cash out of his wallet and stuff the money in a crevice near where the starter was mounted. I did not catch on as quickly, so when we slid out from under the car and stood up, one of the thugs said, “Whoa, put a gun in that big dude's back right now” when he saw I was 6’5”. To this day, I can still sense the exact spot where the gun barrel pushed hard into the small of my back. I was just hoping none of my roommates would do something stupid to excite the trigger man.

Fortunately they did not, so the thugs had us empty our pockets, grabbed our billfolds and ran off. Likely they would have stolen the car had the starter been working. Luckily, the thugs didn’t realize my unlocked car that we had arrived in was parked nearby. Keys were still in it and not in my pocket, which was also fortuitous.

We notified the plant guards, who called the Dayton Police to take our statements and file a police report. They indicated it was unlikely our billfolds would be recovered. Since none of us had time to cash our paychecks before the call came in, coupled with the fact that we had pooled our money to pay for the starter, we only lost a dollar between us. And thanks to his quick thinking, the car owner avoided losing about $50 still stuffed under the engine, so we retrieved his cash, put in the starter and headed to our favorite “watering hole" where they knew us as our drivers licenses had also been stolen. We spent that crumpled and greasy cash on some much needed refreshments, while thanking our lucky stars for surviving the ordeal with no losses (except the dollar!).

The next day, the local newspapers, TV and radio stations all picked up the story from the police report, no doubt because they were enamored with the fact that the thugs had only gotten away with $1 from the group of 4 college students!

There were two other times in my life when thugs robbed us; once in 1975 at our first home just weeks after my wife and I had moved in. The robbers stole our stereo system and a beautiful Zeiss Ikon 35mm camera that my father-in-law had loaned me for a trip we were planning. He had purchased the camera in Germany while in the service after WWII. Police were called, but the items were never recovered. We suspected our paperboy had been somehow involved, because before that incident, he was very friendly and personable, likely staking us out, but after the robbery, he barely ever spoke to us again.

The other time was in our hotel while visiting California in about 1985. Our young son was traveling with us and my wife was tired from jet lag so she took a nap in the afternoon while my son and I saw a movie at a local theater. While we were gone, a thug tried to break into the room, but when my wife called out, the burglar fortunately took off immediately. However, that night, while we were all sleeping, the brazen thug returned and stole an overnight bag holding our return airline tickets plus other valuables. Again we reported the matter to the local Police and the hotel management, but never did find out if the perp was apprehended. And our room charges were not refunded in light of our loss.

These incidents have sensitized us to the risk of thugs invading our personal space. Speaking of that, the comedian in the above video really hits the nail on the head how times have changed:

Following this trend, our security system was recently upgraded in our home to include video cameras at strategic points that can be viewed on-line and also record the previous several days should the need arise to go back and view the monitors. No problems to report so far, but it does give us an enhanced sense of security. The front door bell camera also comes in handy when Amazon deliveries arrive, or if another thug were to be following the delivery van to steal the dropped off packages. Or as shown above, so my wife can make sure I’m watering the ferns by our front door!


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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Monster- Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

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 Monster

In a recent blogpost about the PGA golf championship, I had mentioned my volunteer marshaling opportunities during 5 major championships held ver the years at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, MI. For each event, I was fortunate to marshal Hole 16, the signature hole on the famed course dubbed the “Monster” by professional golfer Ben Hogan in 1951 after he won the US Open on the course. Click here for the highlights of that event.

Marshaling was really easy duty in that all we did was watch great golfers up close and personal. We also were given matching shirts, slacks and cap for free. The Hole Captain would direct 6 marshals to a particular area of the hole, with two at the tee, two at the landing spot for the drive and two at the green. Our job was to blend into the background and make sure the fans were quiet and stayed outside the ropes.

But occasionally after an errant drive, the marshals would have to clear the crowd around the wayward ball so the pro could hit the next shot. That was always a challenge as all the spectators wanted to be as close as possible to the golfer. I’m always amazed how little clearance the pros really need to hit their shots from behind the ropes down a narrow corridor of spectators without hitting anyone. Plus they typically make it onto the green!

Recently our Senior Golf Association was invited to play Oakland Hills, so I readily signed up as the course is a favorite golf venue. My plan was to take photos of each shot I played on Hole 16 for inclusion in this blogpost; however, those plans went awry when the event was rained out. I’m hoping for a make-up day later in the season. So without the first-hand photos, I went on-line to find images of Hole 16 and was not disappointed. Here’s my favorite view showing 16 green with the lake in the foreground and clubhouse in the background.

Before marshaling the 1996 US Open, there was a huge rainstorm the night before the tournament started, which flooded many of the holes, including 16, with the lake overflowing onto the fairway and even part of the green. I can recall my beige slacks splattered in mud from marshaling the next day, with play delayed several hours as the grounds crew restored the course, pumping off the standing water and repairing the washed out bunkers as shown in the following photos.

Here’s a YouTube flyover of the hole from tee to green, with hints on how to play the hole. Since I’ve never parred 16 after playing the course dozens of times, this flyover undoubtedly provides a much better perspective than any photos of my shots. Another reason I liked the hole is during Ryder Cup and US Amateur match play, Hole 16 was many times the final close-out hole for many matches because of its degree of difficulty.

As is evident from these aerial views of the course, Hole 16 is a dogleg right par 4.

It’s length is only 406 yards from the Championship tees, but it gave amateurs and pros alike a tough challenge, primarily because the water comes into play on both the drive and the difficult shot to the narrow bifurcated green.

Here’s the view from the tee. Notice the lake on the right about 200 yards from the tee. Many a player has ended up in the trees on the left just to avoid the water. Or if you lay up from the water, there’s deep rough in front of the lake that makes it nearly impossible to make a good second shot. And if you do manage to land your tee shot on the fairway, the next shot is intimidating flying the ball over the water towards the green.

The hole is so famous it’s been painted by a number of artists, the results of which are shown below and on this link. The paintings sure aren’t cheap!

Here’s how Golf Digest describes Hole 16:
"This dogleg right is the signature hole at Oakland Hills. Players must keep the ball in the fairway by avoiding water right and trees left. The second shot is one of the most intimidating shots at Oakland Hills. A short-iron approach will be one to a wide, shallow green that has a ridge running from front to back with water protecting the green along the front and right side. Some players may be tempted to use one extra club and take the water out of play. They run the risk of catching one of the three rear bunkers and leaving a difficult sand shot”.
With all this added insight, I’m definitely going to par #16 the next time I play Oakland Hills!


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