Sunday, December 4, 2016

Be Glad you didn't get the "Big Snow"

*If you awaken some morning to find two or three inches of snow on the ground, just be thankful that you did not have the equivalent of the "big snow" of 1950 that took place in and around my hometown.
     Mother nature had a surprise in store for Zanesville and Muskingum County in November of 1950: “Gloves and ear-muffs got an unexpected workout yesterday as Zanesvillians  plodded through a heavy snow, muffled against a bitter and unseasonal cold snap.
    “The snow storm struck Thursday night (November 23rd) with plenty of strength, and if the weather bureau is right, winter has plenty of reserves to throw in next week.”  (Times Recorder, 11-25-1950).
    The city police and the sheriff’s department were kept busy investigating several minor accidents, but one mishap in particular could have been fatal: “The most serious accident occurred on South River road about 10:15 a.m. when a car driven by Robert Weyandt, 26, a sailor from Norfolk, Va., skidded out of control, struck a guard rail and crashed into a tree.  Weyandt’s wife, Anna and their 19-months-old son, Robert, Jr., were thrown from the car, the baby almost rolling into the Muskingum river.  All were taken to Bethesda hospital by passing motorists but were later dismissed.”  (TR, 11-25-1950).
    Unfortunately (at least from my point of view), the horrible weather aided arch-rival Michigan in upsetting highly-favored Ohio State in the “Blizzard Bowl” in Columbus: “Michigan’s wily Wolverines wrapped up the Western Conference championship and a probable Rose bowl bid today, blocking two attempted punts to defeat Ohio’s favored Buckeyes, 9 to 3 on a snow-covered, storm-swept gridiron.
    “Michigan failed to make a first down in fighting its way into the king row, but turned a pair of breaks into the nine points needed to give it the title.
    “A 28-mile wind swept across the Buckeye stadium and the athletes played like they were wearing boxing gloves as Michigan took advantage of a wired set of circumstances …”  (Sunday Times Signal, 11-26-1950).
    On the 27th the Times Recorder  stated that the city and county were still in a mess: “Zanesville and the rest of southeastern Ohio last night were still digging out from under one of the worst snow storms ever to hit this area and worrying about  forecasts of more snow.
    “Traffic was almost paralyzed in Zanesville and over most of the nearby areas.  Only main highways were open and they were unsafe for travel in most instances. 
    “Schools in Zanesville and most of the counties around will not open today.  City buses were not running and will not resume service until streets are cleared.  All bus lines into and out of the city , with one exception, were not operating.  The South Zanesville bus operated yesterday and planned to resume this morning.  Taxicab service was on an emergency basis only.  Trains were running late.” 
    That same day the TR reported a casualty: “At least one death was attributed to the storm.  Sherman C. Brooks, 60, of 112 Huey street, died at 3:30 Sunday afternoon following a heart attack suffered while shoveling snow in front of his home.”
    On the 27th the Zanesville Signal stated: “Six passengers, on a Marietta-Zanesville bus which was stalled at McConnelsville Saturday night, were still ‘weathered in’ at the Kennebec hotel there today.”
    The article had this to say about mail delivery: “If mail was delivered to your house today, you are lucky.  A few letter carriers braved the snow to the more accessible parts of the residential district.  For the most part, however, deliveries were limited to the business district. 
    “Rural carriers hope farmers will have the snow cleared around their mail boxes by the time RFD service is restored.  When it is possible to resume these deliveries was a matter of question today.  A majority of the rural roads were hopelessly impassable today.”
    Finally, on the 28th the TR saw light at the end of the tunnel:  “Zanesville is hopefully expecting to begin returning to normal today.  With the worst storm in 49 years now history and the heroic struggle against the ravages of snow beginning to show results, transportation, industry and business are expected to be back in stride before today is over.”
    City officials had called for and received help in clearing the streets: “More than a score of big dump trucks attacked downtown snow piles last midnight after an appeal had been sounded by Mayor William G. Watson and Service Director Bernard Dunmead… City equipment, including a road maintainer, two small loaders and six trucks had proven unable to cope with the snowfall.”
    In response to the city’s pleas, “… calls flooded police and the radio station.  All were instructed to mobilize at the city barns at midnight to start the cleanup and many streets were expected to be clear this morning.” 
    Evidently the streets of some other Ohio towns were in better shape than Zanesville’s: “A Zanesville man was in St. Louis for the weekend.  He drove eastward  500 miles without difficulty.  He said Columbus streets were well cleared.  But he became very angry when his car became stuck in a snow bank in front of his own home.”  (TR, 11-28-1950).
    On the 29th the Zanesville News listed the snowfall totals: “An official report on the total snowfall Wednesday left little doubt that the snow which began Thursday night had smashed all existing records dating to 1895. 
    “The snowfall at Municipal Airport totaled 24.8 inches at 8 a.m. Wednesday, with 13 inches still on the ground.  The rainfall equivalent was 1.15 inches.  At Lock 10, the official accumulated snowfall was 15.2 inches.  Near Philo, on Butterbean ridge where W. R. Burckholter maintains a Weather Bureau station, the total snowfall was about 24 inches.”
    Despite the workers‘ best efforts, , the wind played havoc with rural road  clearing:  “A mechanized battle against snow went into high gear Wednesday in city, county, and state, but ran into stiff rural opposition from winds which drifted across cleared roads.
    “Last night Rt. 40, clear from Indiana to West Virginia for trucks and cars with chains, suffered badly from drifts across the new stretch of highway at Norwich east of here, and in other scattered areas.” 
    On the other hand, the city was making substantial progress: “In the city meanwhile, the fight was being won with diesel shovels, bulldozers, scoops, scrapers, and snow-shoveling men.
    “A brigade of volunteer trucks and men (was) joined downtown last night at 7 o’clock by high-powered construction equipment which swept away hundreds of trucks full of snow from streets, sidewalks and parking areas.”  (TR, 11-30-1950).
    By the 2nd of December the Times Recorder believed that the worst was over: “The warmest day since last weekend’s record blizzard Friday melted several inches of the snow which has been plaguing transportation in southeastern Ohio. 
    “With the job of clearing streets nearly done, the Red Cross and city administration joined in thanking volunteers who pitched in to speed the job.
    “Mayor William Watson said the city owed a vote of deep gratitude to the crews of workers and other volunteers who worked for three nights. “
    Several ladies also  did their part.  Fifteen local women formed a canteen to supply the workers with coffee and doughnuts.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Car Problems

For awhile it seemed like any other typical day.  Pulling into the library parking lot, I turned off the engine and began to open the car door.  Then, to my utter surprise, the car alarm began honking loudly. A few people in the lot looked suspiciously at me, wondering if I were an outlaw. 

Grabbing my fob, I quickly pushed the red panic button, only to discover that the battery was dead.  Unfortunately, several other maneuvers proved equally worthless.  Finally a gentleman came out of the library to offer assistance.  He suggested that if we disconnected the battery and waited a few minutes before reconnecting  it the horrible noise would be stopped.  We tried that technique twice, but to no avail.

After thanking the gentleman for his help, I fired up the engine and headed for the nearest service garage.  Of course, people were staring at me since the automobile was loudly screaming: “Honk!  Honk!  Honk!”  I imagined that it resembled the cries  of a wild goose having an orgasm. 

As I passed a little boy and his mother he pointed to my loud machine; protectively wrapping her arms around her son, she probably told him that I was a car thief.  Since this was such an embarrassing episode I scrunched down into the seat so that my eyes were just above the top of the steering wheel. 

Thankfully, the station attendant showed me how to shut off the offending sound when one has a dead fob.  After thanking him profusely I once again headed for the library.

Thinking that my problems were now behind me, I decided to turn on the radio for a little entertainment.  Instead of music I was greeted with a message:  “Enter Cod.”  I will freely admit that my knowledge of automobiles is negligible, but I found it difficult to believe that I was supposed to jam a fish down that little slit where a CD goes!

Eventually I figured out that the message must be “Enter Code.”  Of course, the next question was: What code?

Later that day my wife Bev called the auto dealership to find out more about this mysterious code.  They told her that there was a five-number code listed on the inside of the driver’s door.  Finding the numbers, I began to plug them in.  The second number, a “9,” posed a major problem, for the numbers on the radio only went to “6.”  I tried six plus three, three plus three plus three, and even nine ones.  Each time I was greeted with an “error” message.

Bev, always a good detective, finally located another five-number code listed inside the glove compartment.  Unlike the previous one, it had no numbers higher than six, so soon I once more had a working radio!

Just think; I only have to wait two more weeks until the old car is recalled to fix the passenger -side airbag.  For the last two months I have not been able to have a passenger in the front seat, but maybe that was a good thing while I had no working radio, for the poor passenger would have had to listen to my singing.   Let’s face it; my voice would have made the car’s honking seem almost pleasant!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The End of the World

Dad hardly ever missed watching the nightly news on TV.  One evening in April of 1959, the announcer stated that Florence Houteff, the leader of the Seventh-Day Adventist Davidians, had predicted that the world would end the very next day.  Unfortunately, if she was correct I might have to spend my last hours in school!  What a bummer!

The following morning, after packing my lunch and eating a bowl of cereal, I trudged off to school, wondering if I’d ever again see my house or shuffle through my beloved baseball cards.  Of course, on the brighter side of things, if Mrs. Houteff was correct I would no longer have to mow the lawn or help paint the house.

Perhaps I would not have been so terrified if I’d realized that folks had begun doomsday predictions  before the birth of Christ.  Even a pope had once figured out when the end would come.  Innocent III was certain that the final curtain call would take place somewhere in the year 1284.  On the other hand, Martin Luther explained that the end would come no later than 1600.

When Christopher Columbus’s prediction wasn’t fulfilled in 1656 he simply recalculated and came up with the year 1658.  Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister, lived by the slogan “try, try again.”  He had doomsday predictions for 1697, 1716, and 1736! 

The Shakers picked the year 1792.  When that didn’t pan out they selected 1794.  John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was surprised when 1836 ended and most folks were still around.  Representatives of the Catholic Apostolic Church were disappointed when 1901 was not the last year.

These are only a sample of doomsday predictions, but you get the point. 

At school on that appointed day it was difficult to concentrate.  After saying the pledge to the flag and listening to the principal drone on and on over the p. a. system for several minutes we began language arts class.  I was called upon to read, but had lost my place.

Somehow, someway, lunchtime rolled around and we were still alive and well.  Because this could be my last meal the peanut butter sandwich, the cookie, and an apple took on a special significance.  Maybe I should have broken into the old piggybank so that I could have gone over to the nearby malt shop, for if the lady was correct the money in my account would no longer serve any purpose.

At one in the afternoon we were working on math, but of course, my mind was elsewhere.  Our teacher gave us an assignment, but I decided to wait until after midnight to do it just in case the prophesy was correct.

At about 1:30 we were still here so as usual we went outside for a fifteen - minute recess.  While the other kids jumped rope, played softball, and climbed the monkey bars, I stood by the bicycle rack, checking the time on my watch and wondering when this great event would begin.

Naturally, I hoped that Mrs. Houteff’s prediction was premature by a few million years or so, but if it was correct, I preferred that the end would come at the end of the recess period.  After returning to the classroom we were scheduled to take a long and difficult science test.  Why go through all that agony for nothing?

Thank goodness, just like the prophesiers before her, Mrs. Houteff was incorrect.  The scary thing is that someday someone will get it right.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Negotiating a Ransom

I had been reading about some of the more famous kidnapping cases in which huge ransoms were paid.  Then I got to wondering how my wife Bev would handle such a situation if some bad guys grabbed me.

“First of all,” she said, “no one would kidnap you because you are not famous, and even more importantly, you’re not rich.  A crook would have to be pretty stupid to kidnap a retired school teacher.  You don’t see too many of your kind driving Cadillacs, living in mansions, and owning yachts.”

”But the economy hasn’t been so hot lately,” I retorted.  “Maybe there aren’t enough millionaires to go around.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” my better half replied.  “No kidnappers are that desperate.”

“Okay, just for the sake of conversation let’s say that I’m kidnapped and you receive a note demanding $500,000 for my release.”

“That would be like trying to get blood out of a turnip.”

“So what would you do?” I asked.

“Naturally, I’d negotiate.  Since we don’t have any money maybe the bad guys would settle for a batch of my famous mint brownies.”

“That’s all I mean to you?  A batch of brownies?”

“Well, if they were polite I’d throw in a few homemade cookies. You know, the ones with the cherry fillings.”

“Would you be willing to give up our big-screen TV?”

“Well, husbands are a dime a dozen, but a good TV is expensive, and like I said, retired teachers aren’t exactly rolling in the dough.”

“Couldn’t you take a second mortgage on the house?”

“My mother told me never to remortgage the house unless it was an emergency.”

“My kidnapping wouldn’t be an emergency?”

“My mother wouldn’t think so.  As a matter of fact, she might throw in some cash if the bad guys would keep you.  Don’t worry, honey;  I would get you rescued safely and soundly.”


“ Simple.  I would use delaying tactics.”

“What do you mean?”

“After having you for one full day they would get pretty tired of hearing your old jokes.”

“I call them classics.”

“On the second day of your captivity you’d probably bore them to tears with those goofy political arguments.”

“I can’t help it because I’m an informed citizen.”

“I figure that by the third day they’d be plugging their ears with toilet tissue as you rambled on about all those trivial sports facts.”

“Come on; what crooks wouldn’t want to know Babe Ruth’s lifetime batting average?  So what’s your point?”

“After holding you for three days the bad guys would start negotiating with me.  I figure that I could stiff them for $500,000 just to take you off their hands.”

“You’d do that?”

“Why not?  We have bills to pay.  You were a school teacher, you know.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Husbands can Prepare Elaborate Meals (We just don't want to)

My wife Bev and I share the workload around the house.  There is one area, however, that she  monopolizes.  From her point of view, the kitchen is her personal property.  Bev insists on doing the cooking (but she graciously allows me to clean up the mess afterwards).  Sadly, she does not appreciate my cooking skills, or perhaps she is a little jealous.  Therefore, the only time I get to show my masterful and creative culinary abilities is whenever she is out of town.
A few weeks ago Bev took a trip with our son, leaving me behind to feed our cats and look after her aged father.  Although I missed her, I was excited to get the opportunity to be a master chef.  Unlike our wives, we men know how to prepare delicious meals without spending a bunch of time slaving away in the kitchen.

I decided to start out with something that is complicated to make but is well worth the effort.  Digging into the back of the refrigerator, I found the remaining pieces of pizza left over from watching “Monday Night Football.” Served cold, they make a wonderful breakfast treat.  To top things off, I washed the pizza down with an ice- cold Coke.  Now that’s living!

For lunch I prepared a delicious peanut butter sandwich.  Just take two slices of bread, smear them with butter, and then cover the butter with lots and lots of peanut butter.  The sandwich was so delicious that I treated myself to  a second one.

For supper I rustled up  a half-used bag of potato chips, some lunch meat, a few slices of bread, and an apple.  For dessert I consumed a tasty chocolate bar. Now that’s good eating!

The next morning, upon discovering that the two remaining boxes of cereal-one consisting of oats and the other of corn flakes- were almost empty, I simply poured the contents of both into a bowl and added milk.  Not bad!  A master chef must be creative!

Lunch began with a delicious bag of cheese curls.  Then I devoured about five girl scout cookies.  This was washed down by some cider that had been sitting in the refrigerator for some time.  It had a kick to it.

All day I had been thinking about the special treat I had planned for supper.  After opening the can, I sliced the Spam into several pieces and piled some of the slices between two pieces of bread.  After adding a piece of cheese and lots of ketchup my masterpiece was complete.  After eating this sandwich I opened a can of tomato soup, poured it into a pan, and heated it for a few minutes.  Then I crushed about fifteen crackers into the soup, creating a mushy substance that was quite good.  And, of course, all of this was washed down with a cold brew.

The next morning, since there was no cereal or pizza left, I had to be creative, so while exploring the freezer in the basement, I discovered a box full of ice cream bars.  Unfortunately, they were small, so I ate about six of them before I was satisfied. 

A good chef must think outside the box.  With that in mind, for lunch  I made a peanut butter sandwich and then added copious amounts of grape jelly!  There was a banana lying on the shelf that had seen better days, but it was still edible.  Well, I ate it, anyway.

For supper I decided to dine out, so heading to my favorite eatery, I ordered two cream-filled doughnuts and something called a cinnamon twist.  These were washed down by three cups of hot coffee.

Getting out of bed the next morning, I realized that this would be my last time to be the head chef for awhile,  for Bev was due home sometime before lunch.  Looking into the refrigerator, I discovered half of a pumpkin pie.  I hate to brag, but it made a wonderful and memorable breakfast.

When Bev arrived home she was surprised not to find dishes stacked all over the kitchen.  She was also surprised to discover that I could more than hold my own in the culinary department.  “It looks like you’ve even gained a little weight while I was gone, “ she observed.  Good cooking will do that to you.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Tar and Feather Justice"

*This article appeared in newspapers across the country in July of 1902.  Evidently, back in those days folks administered their own brand of justice.

Sterling, Illinois- “An incident that is probably without a parallel in the history of the world transpired near here today, delaying a funeral and causing the biggest sensation ever known in this state.

“Two days ago Mrs. John Seibert of Morris, after being nursed through a long illness by her husband, John Seibert, and her sister, Mrs. Theodore Wolf, died and all preparations were made for the funeral at 1 o’clock this afternoon.

“Shortly before the funeral cortege was to leave the house and while those who had gathered to accompany the remains to the church and the cemetery were taking their last look at Mrs. Siebert’s remains , one of the mourners happened to enter the private apartment of Mr. Siebert and found him hugging and kissing Mrs. Wolf, the dead woman’s sister.

“Within an hour the cortege started to the church and it was while on the way to the sanctuary that the discoverer ventured to tell of his discovery.  There was an outburst of indignation from the occupants of the vehicle.  The procession was halted and other mourners were told. 

“The result was that the whole cortege was delayed while the guilty man and woman were taken into a neighboring corn field and a coat of tar and feathers administered to them.  They were then driven from the village and ordered never to return, after which the funeral procession wended its way to the church and the obsequies were conducted as quietly as the state of excitement into which everyone had been thrown, would admit. 

“The dead woman was highly respected and her husband and sister had never been suspected of sustaining other than proper relations.”

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back to School at 65

Recently I read an article in which the author argued that folks can actually slow the aging process if they stay active.  That is why, despite arthritic joints, each day I take enough steps to cover five miles.  All this exercise has indeed kept my legs slim and muscular, but it has done little for my stomach, which over the years has gotten bigger and rounder.  Maybe I should change my walking route so that I will no longer be passing by a certain wonderful doughnut shop! 

There are some studies that argue for an inverse correlation between actively using your brain and getting some form of dementia.  It’s the old “use it or lose it” argument.  So taking these studies into consideration, I decided at the age of 65 to go back to school.

Ohio has a wonderful program in which senior citizens 60 years and older may take classes for free at state supported colleges as long as those classes are not full.  Having been a history teacher for thirty years, I began looking at the nearby branch college’s offerings.  One that caught my eye was an American history course that begins with Reconstruction and ends in the present time.

After applying I had to wait a few months, but the professor graciously allowed me to be part of the class.  Here’s the good news: I don’t have to take the tests or do the projects! 

My wife warned me to more or less keep my big mouth shut: “You do not want to take over his class,” she exclaimed.  “Just watch, listen, and enjoy.”  That’s great advice, but I must admit that so far there have been several times when I wanted to put in my two cents or lead the discussion into another direction, but my wife’s command has kept me in line.

During my teaching days I found that many 7th and 8th graders cared nothing about social studies in general and history in particular.  I had to “con” them into liking it by developing an American “living history” course.  We played sports as they were initially created.  We had musicians come to our school to play the music that was most popular during the era we were studying.  During the study of the 1950s we had a sock hop.  The master of ceremonies was none other than Elvis Presley (well, actually it was one of our teachers dressed in a wild jump suit). The students read old newspaper articles and picked period clothing from old catalogues.  We ate popular foods from each era; the students especially liked our Depression era soup kitchen.

So naturally, I was eager to discover if college kids, unlike my middle school crew, would take an interest in history.  One of the students is quite knowledgeable and is constantly involved in the discussions.  Another three or four occasionally put in their two cents’ worth.  The others do not speak much unless they are asked a question, but they answer intelligently. 

There must be some level of interest here, for I have not seen a single student play with his cell phone, doodle on his paper, or stare out the window, and unlike during certain church sermons, no one has yawned or fallen asleep.

For my part, I’m having a ball.  Of course, there’s a downside; I’m being reminded that not all things in our history are positive.  For example, the treatment of Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese immigrants and other minority groups is rather shameful. 

Yet, this class also reminds me that in many ways, at our best this nation can be a positive role model for mankind.  Even as an old person it is a good thing to remember our nation’s ideals and to keep reaching for them. 

My wife playfully suggested that next semester I should take a sewing class.  Somewhere down below will freeze over before that happens, but I might be interested in a woodworking or photography class.  Just so I keep using those little gray cells.  And I’ll try to stay away from that doughnut shop.