Sunday, February 22, 2015

The C. and S. Railroad

Against my better judgment I decided to take the cheapest train available to San Francisco.  I was soon to learn that one gets what one pays for.

The taxi driver let me off about one hundred feet from the train station.  Two drunks were staggering along the tracks.  One said,” This is the longest stairway I’ve ever seen.”  The other man replied,” Yeah, and look how low the banisters are.”

No doubt the station had been around for quite some time; it was a log cabin with an outhouse behind it.  Out front there was a hitching post in case a cowboy needed a ride on an “iron horse.”

Inside the main building, above the entrance, was a large sign which stated: “If God had wanted us to fly he wouldn’t have invented trains.”

Advancing to the desk, I asked the agent what the letters “C. and S.” stood for.  I assumed they meant “Central and Southern.” 

“Them there letters stand for ‘Cheap and Slow.’  We’re the lowest priced railroad in North America, so in return for saving you some bucks you have to put up with the slowest railroad in North America.  What ticket do you need, bub?”

After purchasing my ticket I strolled through each car.  Although the train was old and in ill-repair, the caboose was magnificently large.  A few minutes after finding my rickety, uncomfortable seat the train lurched ahead, stopped, and lurched again, leaving thick black rings of smoke in the air and tiny pieces of soot which blew upon us from the open windows.  Miraculously, however, soon we were cruising along at nearly ten miles per hour.

The conductor, an elderly and slightly overweight lady, began punching tickets.  Evidently the company didn’t want to spend good money on a hole punch, for she made the holes with a pencil.  When she arrived at my seat, I handed her the ticket and commented: “You know, you have one of the biggest cabooses I’ve ever seen.”  Taking offense, she stuck her pencil up my right nostril!

Evidently, many years ago when the track was laid, the idea was to take the path of least resistance.  All those turns and twists soon upset my stomach.  One stretch of track was so crooked that I swear we met ourselves coming back.

An elderly gentleman slowly made his way through the car, selling popcorn and candy.  A lady said to him:  “Hey, old-timer, I thought boys were hired to do your job.”

Smiling, the old man replied: “Dear, I was a boy when we began this trip.”

At five p.m. each passenger was given a bowl of gruel, a stale piece of bread, and a cup of water.  “This is supper?” I asked the conductor while holding my hand over my nose in case she once again took offense.

“You get what you pay for,” she answered.  “This is what the customers in steerage got on the Titanic, and they paid more than you did, so shut your pie hole.”  This time I wisely took her advice.

At 11 p.m. I went to my assigned sleeping quarters.  Evidently there had been a mix-up because an attractive lady was already sleeping there.  After a brief discussion we decided to make the best of the situation.  She took the lower bunk and I took the top one. 

About four in the morning I awakened her.  “Sorry to bother you,” I said, “but I’m cold.  Would you please go see the conductor and get me another blanket?”

“How about for just tonight we pretend that we’re married?” she cooed.

It sounded like a good idea to me so I agreed.

“Fine,” she responded.  “So for tonight we’re married, right?” she once again inquired.

“That’s right,” I affirmed.

“Good.  Then get your own blasted blanket!” she responded.

I shivered until breakfast was served.

While enjoying a hearty breakfast of beef jerky and cabbage, I noticed that the train was no longer moving.  The conductor informed us that we had to stop because there was a cow on the tracks.  Soon the problem was solved and we continued to snake along, only to stop about fifteen minutes later.  An elderly gentleman asked the conductor, “Did we catch up with that cow again?”  I hope he didn’t feel too much pain when she shoved her pencil up his right nostril.  I had already learned to keep my mouth tightly shut (and my nose covered).

I was sitting next to a well-dressed gentleman.  I asked about his occupation.  “I’m a loafer at a bakery,” he answered.

“They pay you for loafing all day?” I enquired.

“Yes they do.  The more I loaf the more they pay me.”

“This sounds like a government job,” I replied.

The married folks in front of us were having a heated discussion: “I was a fool when I married you, Jane,” the husband stated.

“I know,” said the wife, “but I was in love and didn’t notice.” 

Directly behind us a lady  was angry because the guy sitting next to her said that her baby was ugly.  Finally, having taken all she could, the mom complained to the conductor that the man next to her was being rude.

“Don’t worry about it,” the conductor told her.  “I’ll move you to another car and I’ll get your monkey a banana.”  Luckily for the conductor, the mother did not have a pencil.

From the engine I heard the following chant: “I think I can.  I think I can.”

“What’s that all about?” I asked the conductor.

“That’s our new engineer.  He has never operated a train and so he’s trying to convince himself that he can get the job done.”

Holding my right hand firmly across my nose, I asked: “Why would the railroad hire an inexperienced person to operate the train?”

“Because he agreed to work for food, “ she answered.  “Increasing our profit is always the bottom line.”

Somehow, someway, after three weeks we reached San Francisco.  The conductor had a few parting words: “We at C. and S. want to thank you for giving us the business while we took you for a ride.”

As one last favor she asked the departing passengers to get behind the caboose and give a push to get them started. 

I then spent a glorious week in San Francisco and had a wonderful trip home. I took a plane.

Monday, February 9, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When...

1. You begin to enjoy accordion music.

2. You and your teeth no longer sleep together.

3. The candles on your birthday cake cost more than the cake.

4. You begin to enjoy elevator music.

5. You own underwear that is older than your dentist.

6. Your back goes out more than you do.

7. You get winded from playing checkers.

8. A dripping faucet makes you run to the bathroom.

9. It takes longer to rest than it did to get tired.

10. The fire chief limits the number of candles on your birthday cake.

11. The insurance company sends you only half a calendar.

12. Your knees buckle but you can’t buckle your belt.

13 You see a pretty girl and your pacemaker makes the garage door go up.

14. You realize that your Social Security number has only two digits.

15. You donate to PBS.

16. Your children have grey hair.

17. You sink your teeth into a juicy steak and they stay there.

18. You begin to believe that the “good old days” really were that good.

19. You begin looking like the picture on your driver’s license.

20.  Most of the names in your little black book are followed by “M.D.”

21. You begin wearing long black socks with your Bermuda shorts.

22. You become exhausted from walking down a flight of steps.

23. You attempt to get rid of the wrinkles in your socks, only to discover that you aren’t wearing any socks.

24. You don’t care where your spouse goes so long as you don’t have to go along.

25. “Happy Hour” becomes nap time.

26.  An “all- nighter” is any night that you don’t have to get up and go to the bathroom.

27. You have more hair growing on your ears than you have on your head.

28. You and your pharmacist are on a first name basis.

29. A bowl of hot soup trumps a hot date.

30. Boy Scouts begin grabbing your hand at every intersection.

31. Your son or daughter retires.

32. You can no longer be judged by your peers because there aren’t any left.

33. You go braless so that gravity will pull the wrinkles out of your face.

34. All your favorite songs are now known as “golden oldies.”

35. Your favorite TV station is the Weather Channel.

36. You visit historical sites that are younger than you are.

37. The Smithsonian Institute wants your living room furniture.

38. Your dog tries to bury you in the back yard.

39. You begin to wish for longer arms so that you can read the newspaper.

40. You check the obituary section of the paper each morning to see if you’re in it.

41.  Through long years of experience you have become more tolerant and caring.

Monday, January 26, 2015

1915 News Items

 Here are some interesting 1915 news articles taken from January and February local papers:

*In this article, we learn about Carrie, the telephone operator on the party line: “When my wife wants to know if hats are being worn at an afternoon reception she calls Carrie.  Ten to one Carrie has caught a scrap of conversation over the line and knows.

“Carrie is also our confidant.  I hate to think of the number of things Carrie knows.  Prowling into our lines while we are talking, as she does, in search of connections to take down, she overhears enough gossip to turn Homesburg into a hotbed of anarchy if she were to let loose.”  (Daily Courier, 1-1-1915).

*Here’s an interesting sports story: “’Speaking of trading baseball players for pet bulldogs, canaries and ball bats, why I can beat ‘em all to a frazzle,’ said Enoch Somers, veteran baseball player today.  ‘Why, when I was manager of the Catlettsburg, Ky. team in the Ohio-Virginia league, we ran out of tobacco on the railroad train between here and the Kentucky state line one day and I traded ‘Goldie’ Ayers, outfielder, to the manager of the Huntington W. Va. team for a package of scrap. (tobacco). ’” (Daily Courier, 1-14-1915).

*In Chicago several unemployed people protested: “Twenty-one persons, six of whom are women, arrested yesterday in the streets in front of Hull House, a social settlement, were to appear in court today to answer charges of inciting to riot.

“The riot was the result of an attempt of about 1,500 unemployed men and women to parade.  Some of the marchers carried black banners on which in large white letters was the word ‘Hunger.’  Police demanded that the marchers  halt as no permit had been issued for them to parade.  Fighting started instantly.  Police with revolvers and clubs drawn rushed the crowd, felling all within their reach.”  (Daily Courier, 1-18-1915).

*Officials in Seattle would no longer sink money into the street car business: “In two propositions submitted to the city council, abandonment of projects for municipal ownership of street railways was foreshadowed because of motor bus competition.

“…  Mayor Hiram C. Gill, vetoed a bill passed by the city council to submit to voters a plan to extend the present municipal line three miles.  The mayor’s message said: ‘Automobiles are about to supersede car lines.  Street railways in all parts of the country are experiencing difficulty in raising money for fear of motor bus competition.  If the city, in the face of this fact begins to spend money on further extensions we are fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.’”  (Courier, 1-19-1915).

*Back in those days divorce rates were rather low, but we discover that not all unions were working: “Claiming extreme cruelty, Orris F. Houck has filed an action for divorce against Ada P. Houck.  He alleges that she frequently called him vile names and also treated his mother in a shameful manner.  He further states that she was always in a bad humor when he would return from his day’s toil, and although he turned over to her the $12 a week he earned at the Ransbottom property she repeatedly claimed that he failed to provide.  Furthermore, he declares that she would accuse him of … (unfaithfulness), which was untrue.”  (Courier, 1-19-1915).

*Do you have an irritating in-law?  Here is how one local citizen took care of the problem:  “If you have a pesky brother-in-law that persists in bothering you during the late hours of the night, take your revolver and fire it out the upstairs window.  You will get results.  If he does not leave the police will call anyway and you can perhaps persuade them to take him.

“This was the plan resorted to by a resident of Jewell street about 11:30 last night, according to Chief Arter.  The police heard the sound of the shot and on investigation found that it was only a pestiferous brother-in-law.  He was warned that another offense of that nature would give him a ride in the police taxi.”  (Courier, 1-21-1915).

*On the 25th of January was posted a complaint about the police: “One frequently hears comment to the effect that the members of the police force make little or no effort to enforce the traffic law.  This is not surprising when it is considered that the police themselves often violate the law in making runs with the auto patrol. 

“The other day the patrol wagon was seen traveling at a high rate of speed and on the wrong side of the street.  This was on lower Main street and two girls are said to have narrowly missed being run down.  The driver in his zeal to make a quick response to a call had turned from the right side of the street to get in advance of other vehicles going in the same direction.  The traffic ordinance applies to the police officers who drive the auto patrol wagon, or rather it is intended to.”  (Times Recorder).

*According to Judge William J. Ahern, Jr., “ill-advised” marriages should be avoided: “’By ill-advised marriages I mean those where the man or woman or both take but little thought of the contract they are entering into.  They give but little heed to the fact that it is a serious matter and many make light of marriage.  In many cases probably the man is making just enough to take care of himself comfortably.  Perhaps he can care for a wife too in comfortable circumstances.  But then later there come the children…  His earning power during this time perhaps has not increased to a great extent and he is trying to care for four or five on the same salary he formerly cared for one or two, the result-failure.”’  (Times Recorder, 1-29-1915).

*A Chicago physician declared that morals were damaged by youthful clothing styles: “’Overnight children become the ‘younger set.’  They step from the nursery into young manhood and young womanhood.

“Clothes worn by girls of 15 and 16 encourage advances from the opposite sex; waists are so low, skirts so thin and short that attention of the least desirable sort is invited.

“’Even respectable mothers cheat their daughters of their precious girlhood.  Most boys of wealthy parents are launched into ‘society’ at marble-playing age.’”  (Times Recorder, 2-2-1915).

*Long distance telephoning was possible in 1915, but due to the prohibitive cost, this service was used mainly by businesses: “The rate of $21.00 for three minutes talk over the new telephone line from Boston to San Francisco will be prohibitive for ordinary conversation.  Yet it will be used more for business than most people realize.

“It is quite an art to use costly telephone conversations with a minimum of expense.  A great deal can be said in three minutes.  The points of the conversation, and the questions to be asked, should be written out as carefully as if you were delivering a formal address. Every time you say er-er-er, as you jolt along in ordinary talk, costs high.”  (Times Recorder, 2-2-1915).  I’m certainly glad that today the rate isn’t $21 for three minutes; my wife and kids would have me in the poorhouse.

*The next article is downright scary; it sounds like something Hitler would have advocated: “Representative Cowan of Putnam introduced a bill in the house today providing for sterilization of defective persons such as feeble-minded, epileptics or moral perverts.  An operation could be performed only after ordered by a state board consisting of a neurologist, a practicing physician, a surgeon, appointed by the governor;  the secretaries of the state health board, and state charities board.  They are to examine all inmates of public institutions in which defectives might be found.  The law would apply to both men and women.”  Of course, if you were not a “defective,” there would be strict measures to ensure that you would not fall prey to this proposed law: “Fines of between $100 and $500 is provided as a penalty for performing or encouraging such an operation on other than defectives.”  (Times Recorder, 2-16-1915).  Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?

*In 1915 efforts were made to prohibit the purchase of cigarettes.  No doubt such a measure would have worked just as well as the clampdown of alcohol during Prohibition: “The house today voted 41 to 40 in favor of Representative Danford’s bill prohibiting manufacture or sale of cigarettes in Ohio, but as the bill failed to get the constitutional majority…it failed to pass.  (Times Recorder, 2-24-1915).

*Now go out and create some positive news that I can write about  100 years from now

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Just Trying to Make a Recording

Last fall I had to visit student teachers who were located in two different cities.  After spending time with the first teacher I drove to the next town, where I enjoyed a fine lunch.  Pulling into the parking lot of the second school, I realized that I was still two hours early.

Thinking ahead, I had brought along a recorder and several pages of material that  needed to be taped for the university.  Naturally, I didn’t want someone to come out of the building and hear me seemingly talking to myself, so I left the car windows up.  Although it was the beginning of fall, twenty minutes later I felt like a Thanksgiving turkey that had been in the oven for quite awhile, so the windows came down.

Unfortunately, the major highway by the school is a favorite route of big noisy trucks.  I would be reading something like, “The Spaniards forced their religious beliefs on the…”  to be followed by “ROUR” as a huge semi rolled by.  To deal with this problem I attempted to watch the highway and read the printed words at the same time, but I’m not very good at multitasking.  So upon detecting the sound of a large truck I merely shut off the recorder.

Directly across the street from the school was a church.  At twelve o’clock sharp the church’s bells began to ring: “Bong! Bong! Bong!”  After twelve of those I waited for a minute or so to make certain that I could proceed.  About two seconds after once again beginning to tape, the bell system started playing a song, so again I had to turn off the recorder.  After the song ended I waited  about three minutes to make sure that the bells were finished.  Except for the rumble of a truck here and there it was relatively quiet.  This time the bells allowed me to tape for about two minutes before beginning another song.

After waiting for several more minutes I came up with the bright idea of closing the car windows and turning on the air conditioning.  This way I could muffle truck and bell noises and any folks walking into the parking lot could not hear me talking to myself.  What’s a little gas?  Mentally patting myself on the back, I once again began the taping process.

Things went smoothly for the next fifteen minutes.  Then an indicator on the dashboard warned me that the car was overheating.  Sadly, I had no choice but to turn off the engine and once again roll down the windows.  There were occasional roars of truck engines but at least the church bells were taking a siesta. 

Suddenly the loudest siren I have ever heard began blasting away. It seems that the entire fire department was called out to handle some disaster, and naturally, every fire truck had to noisily speed by the parking lot where I sat with my little recorder.  Hopefully, only a second or two of that noise is recorded for posterity.

To the student listening to this tape, I sincerely apologize for engine, bell, and siren noises.  Of course, maybe those sounds will improve the tape, for the subject matter was rather boring.

Looking at my watch, I realized that my meeting with the student teacher was still forty minutes away, so I turned off the recorder, got out of the car and locked the door.  Perhaps I would have better luck walking around the town.  With the way my day had been going, however, I donned my hat just in case a bird decided to use me for target practice.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Misunderstanding (a spoof)

I have enjoyed several years of idle retirement, but recently my wife Bev suggested that I find a job.  Perhaps she is tired of being micromanaged in the way she sews and cooks, or perhaps she’s upset because I don’t always pick up after myself.   Therefore, I found a job at a local bakery, but I didn’t tell her about it until the training period was completed.

“Dear,” I informed her, “you will be glad to know that I am now gainfully employed at a bakery.”

“That’s wonderful, dear.  What do you do?”

“I loaf all day.”

“I know that; working was never one of your strengths.  My mother said that you didn’t fear work.  In fact, she stated that you’re so brave that you can lie down beside it.  Of course, she also said that I should have married that lawyer.”

“Your mom said a lot of things, but I won’t open that can of worms.  For the last five days I’ve been in training to learn how to loaf.”

“You already know how to loaf; if practice makes perfect you should be an expert.”

“I was taught a specific way to loaf, dear.”

“There’s more than one way to loaf?”

“Of course; the company executives want loafing done their way.”

“Let me get this straight; the company encourages you to loaf?”

“Of course.”

“They pay you for loafing?”

“You bet!”

“You won’t get fired for loafing all day?”

“Heck no!  The boss said that if I keep improving my loafing technique I’ll get a raise!  He believes that in time I could become the best loafer the company has ever had.”

“This sounds like a government job!”

“No, the company is privately owned.”

“We have bills to pay, you know.  Just how much dough do they give you to loaf?”

“I can have as much dough as I want! All I have to do is ask for it!”

“Now it sounds like you’re a member of Congress.”

*Anyway, things went well at work until I was promoted to inspector.  Then my better half forced me to resign. There was no way my wife was going to let me inspect Miss Jones’ buns every morning to make certain that they were fresh and soft.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What George Washington Feared

George Washington was a brave man.  As a young officer during the French and Indian War he often faced the possibility of being struck down by the many enemy bullets that whizzed past him.  When taking an active and important role in the Revolutionary War Washington realized that if his side lost no doubt he and other American leaders would be executed.  Yet, this great and brave soldier and statesman had a great fear.

On December12, 1799, on a cold, wet day, the retired Washington inspected his plantation on horseback for about five hours.  Upon returning to his residence he went to dinner without changing from his wet outfit. 

By the next morning the “Father of his Country” was ill with a fever and a sore throat.  On the 14th he had difficulty swallowing and speaking.   Mrs. Washington then called for a doctor.  Before medical help arrived the general asked his plantation overseer to bleed him.  Soon he was attended by three doctors, who bled him three more times.  In all, about half his blood was drained.

Today even non-medical people realize that the physicians were doing Washington no favors by draining his blood.  Those procedures only weakened him and thus diminished his chances of survival. 

Doctors of that era, however, believed that by draining blood and cleansing the patient’s system with enemas they would rob the disease of sources upon which it could operate.  This is the “starve a cold” theory taken to a ridiculous extreme. 

Only the youngest doctor argued against further bleeding, stating that the patient needed his strength to fight the illness.  Unfortunately, he was overruled.

Near the end, Washington told one of the physicians: “I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.”  Among the general’s  last words was a request to his personal secretary not to put his body into the vault until at least three days after he died.

A little before midnight on the 14th George Washington took his last breath.  Honoring his wishes, the body was not put into the vault for several days.

Washington suffered from “taphephobia,” which is the fear of being accidentally buried alive.  In those long-ago days his fear was not entirely unfounded.  According to Wikipedia: “In 1905, the English reformer William Tebb collected accounts of premature burial.  He found 219 cases of near live burial, 149 actual live burials, 10 cases of live dissection and 2 cases of awakening while being embalmed.”

So as you see, even the bravest folks among us have hang-ups.  Of course, this does not deter from the fact that George Washington was a great man.  Henry Lee III most eloquently described our first president: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Channel Surfing

 Long ago my wife Bev gave up trying to curtail my watching five football games in a row, and when it comes to scratching and burping she has come to realize that one cannot stop red-blooded American men from doing such things.  Currently, however, she’s on a crusade to limit my channel-surfing activities.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot stand to watch three, four, and  even sometimes five commercials in a row.  I don’t like to waste my time hearing someone trying to sell me something that I neither need nor want. If the networks spaced them out I’d be okay, but after about two minutes of mind-numbing advertisements I’m ready to find another program.

Bev’s biggest complaint is that often I don’t quickly return to the original program, but why should I if the second show is more interesting than the first?  After dinner last night we began watching “Dancing with the Stars.”  That show is okay (some of the ladies’ costumes are more than okay), but when I changed channels there was a program that presented “evidence” that aliens had helped the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids.  Why would anyone want to return to a dancing program when one can learn the secrets behind the construction of the pyramids?  Besides my wife, that is…

Like most men, I’m willing to compromise.  As soon as the Egyptian story was interrupted by commercials I dutifully but reluctantly returned to the dancing show.  Although we had missed only two dances Bev was not a happy camper.

With a little experimentation I discovered that we can have a small picture from one channel in the upper right hand corner while a second network fills the remainder of the screen.  Being a sensitive and caring individual, which, of course, is a trait common to all men, I was willing to place the dancing show in the corner of the screen.  I think Bev was exaggerating when she put on her glasses and sat within two inches from the TV.

The most important time to use channel surfing is when there are multiple football games on the tube.  During commercials, of course, one flips to another channel.  About forty-five minutes are “wasted” on commercials during a televised game.  If a typical man did not channel surf during these advertisements, during his lifetime he’d spend about  three years accomplishing nothing!   Of course, Bev has on occasion argued that I waste my time by watching all those football games!        

 One may also change channels at the end of each play, unless the team is in a “hurry-up” offense.  By this method the football fan simultaneously can keep track of Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, and other top teams.

Bev turns to a particular channel that lists what is currently on each network.  Men know, however, that there is a more fun way to check things out; do channel surfing, of course.  Just watch each show for about two minutes.  Once you are through all four hundred channels repeat the process if a choice has not yet been made.  If you’re lucky you will find a show about aliens helping the ancient Egyptians build pyramids.

For Christmas Bev bought me a bow tie.  She bought herself a small TV that she placed in her sewing room.  Just to be safe, she hid the new set’s remote control.
*Merry Christmas!  May we have peace on earth and goodwill to all!