Tag Archives: History

Secret agent man

You folks never knew I had a secret, did you?  Well sure enough, I once had hair.  Yeah, that’s the big secret.  But these pics looks like I almost ended up being a FBI agent in the 80s I think.  I would have had lots of secrets if I had gone that way I think.  And with my memory, you should all be glad that I didn’t let my 1987 career choice take hold…I couldn’t keep my lies from my truths straight.  I honestly couldn’t remember my way out of a wet paper bag!

I have no idea why we were dressed up, but I definitely remember that get-up.  I was especially proud of the knit tie with th squared off bottom…remember those?  I had a ton of them.  I can’t imagine why I was gussied up as I never wear a tie…well, that is unless it’s for a wedding or a funeral.  I figure that either case is the end of a life and worth honoring.  Anyhow, with smiles on our faces (my brother and I were quite the duo), I doubt we were going to either a wedding or a funeral…

I worked with a guy a few years ago who always wished for a return to the days when men wore hats and the world was a bit more civilized.  I am not sure that time ever really existed but wearing hats would surely make for interesting conversation!  It seems like I had a hat just like the one my bother wears in the first picture….hmmm…I think I like nowadays when men don’t wear hats just fine.  What about you?

Earning a Broken Arm

I love this old picture of Emily when she was a kid.  We call it her “abused baby” period.  Her parents never abused her of course…she did it all herself.  When she was about 2, she climbed out of her crib and, like Isaac Newton, learned the truth about gravity…it works!  Somehow, she broke her arm.  Babies are supposed to have “green” bones that bend and flex.  I hate to think about how her arm must have twisted to break.  Anyhow, along with the broken arm is the skinned up knee.  This picture captures her childhood through junior high as near as I can tell.


We played pretty rough and had a lot of freedom to explore when we were kids.  I sometimes struggle as a parent to know how much to allow my kids to roam.  Off and on, I have been reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and it makes me think.  Now, ask anyone and they’ll tell you just how rare it is that I think.  But this book has made me wonder if I am giving my kids enough room to roam and explore and understand nature.  The premise of the book is that kids used to be in touch with nature and outside stuff.  Now, in an attempt to shelter and protect our kids, we have removed them from the natural world we (and our parents before us) loved so much.  It’s where we learned teamwork and problem solving and a good bit more about how life works.  So, I don’t know exactly how far to let my kids roam, but I know they need to do so.  They may get bumps and bruises and maybe even a broken arm.  But a broken arm that is well earned is worth the pain I think.

Where I struggle is with all the “big scaries” that exist out there.  I see the sex-offender list and there are bad folks not far, no matter where we may roam.  Still, I think we (meaning I) need to do what I can to let my kids roam and pick up snakes and turtles and catch fish and see the bats fly around in the fields at night.  It’s important and the only way that they can truly appreciate the world around them I think.

My kids may not be able to roam quite like I did (and I am certain I never roamed like my grandparents did…were their parents crazy?!), but I think there is room for them to explore and still be safe.  Who knows, someday they may even earn a broken arm like their Mom…

So, what do you think…do you ever consider the freedom your kids have or what you had when you were a kid?  How do you let kids roam and explore?

Happy Mother’s Day…I’m early

I am feeling really great about Mother’s Day. I am 355 days early and here I am already wishing my Mom a Happy Mother’s day! I mean, how many mothers could ask for a better son?!

I thought it might be fun to show some old pics of my mom and tell a few stories…

My Mom grew up above a gas station that my grandparents owned in the same town in which I grew up. She knows everyone in town and has for a long time. She graduated from the local high school (one of two in the county) a really really long time ago.

After school, she went off to school, married my Dad, moved to Washington, DC, birthed me and moved back to Tionesta. I am sure I am glossing over a few details there but the part where she had me was the important part anyhow.

So, Mom and Dad moved back to a small town to raise me and so I was raised. We lived close to all sorts of family, some of whom we even liked! I am very thankful to have been raised “back home” and by the parents who claim to have made me (though sometimes I wonder).

It’s funny how growing up makes a person appreciate their parents more.  I am sure you have all noticed the same thing. Anyhow, I think one of my favorite adult experiences with my Mom was in 2005 when we went to the beach as a family for the first time.  In all her many, many years, my Mom had never seen the ocean. We happened to arrive together and my Mom sprinted for the shore and jumped right in, clothes and all! It was glorious!

Anyhow, Thanks Mom and Dad for having me and for getting so much smarter as you’ve aged. Happy Mother’s day…early!

My First Wife

We were looking back through some old pictures and I always laugh out loud when I see pictures of my first wife Emily when she was a kid. I know it was a long time ago, but old pictures always seem like a different world.

I think most of these pictures are pretty cute, but Emily’s Great-grandmother gave her opinion to the contrary. She told Emily that she “…always was an ugly child, but she’s growing out of it.” My wife has grown so good at holding her tongue…and I think she is a beauty now for sure!

Emily has always been a competitive girl and you can see evidence here…she was participating in an egg hunt and ran out of “arm space”. Her final egg she carried in her mouth!

It sort of cracks me up to look at pictures of people as they grow up. Emily was a pretty tough thing (notice the broken arm in a baby picture above). In fact, growing up she wanted to be a truck driver, a bar tender and Supergirl. I am glad she stuck with the super hero choice! I am so happy though, that her parents did not let her change her name as she had planned to do. “Emily” suits her much better than “Supergirl”!

Anyhow, I really cherish these pictures of her and hope you’ll indulge my need to share…

Swedish Fish

When I was a kid, we used to spend every day at the Tionesta beach. It was wonderful basking in the sun, preparing ourselves for skin cancer, learning about swimming and other kids and fish and crawdads.  One of my favorite memories of the beach was the concession stand.  They sold all sorts of junk there and we got a quarter to spend each day.

They sold frozen candy bars and popscicles and fun-dip and wacky wafers.  I love sugary candy.  It’s a terrible weakness that I still carry.  Probably my all time favorite thing to buy was swedish fish.  I guess they were a precursor to gummy-bears?  Anyhow, I like the red ones.  They sold swedish fish at the beach for a penny each….bag included!  Just about every day, I would get a little sandwich bag full of 25 swedish fish…the red ones.  

I have eaten them since then, but it is fairly uncommon for me nowadays.  The other day though, I was passing through a store and saw a bag of swedish fish.  The are significantly more expensive now than the used to be.  I didn’t count, but I suppose they cost at least 2 pennies each now.  Anyhow, I bought a bag…the red ones.  I ate the whole bag by myself the day I bought  them.  That’s right, 1400 calories of red sugary goodness!  I skipped breakfast and lunch and figure I broke even for the day.

I got another bag a few days later and spaced them out a bit.  I figured that buying swedish fish this way wasn’t sustainable though.  I decided to try my hand at a breeding program.  I looked very carefully and choose a male and female swedish fish and put them in a fishbowl I had laying around at the house.  I do have some experience with fish reproduction (a story for another time), so I figure it ought to be a piece of cake.  Anyhow, I expect to be up to my eyes in swedish fish in just a few days.  I’ll be taking orders soon!

Do you have anything from your childhood like in which you still indulge now and then?


In 1985, the Boy Scouts celebrated their 75th anniversary.  In 1907, British General Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouting movement in England. Shortly afterwards, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce visited London and learned of the Scouting movement. When he returned to the U.S., Boyce formed the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.

As I have mentioned before, I was big into Boy Scouts and had a lot of fun in the organization. Every February, the month that the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated, every troop has a big celebration dinner. At our 75th anniversary dinner, we decided to make a big production. There is a famous (to scouts anyhow) statue sculpted by Tait McKenzie, of a scout standing at the ready.  The sculpture is titled, “The Ideal Scout”.  The original stand in Philadelphia where scouting really started in the United States.  We decided to trick folks by pretending that we had ordered a replica of the statue for our small town.  I was, of course, a natural for “the ideal scout” (mainly, the uniform fit me).  We painted an old uniform gold and any part of my body not covered by a uniform was also covered in gold dust, just like Goldfinger.  It was really weird to see if all go down the drain later.  Anyhow, I was prepared by scout leaders and stood behind a curtain, waiting to be unveiled.  

Several regional scout leaders were invited and were in attendance and could not believe that we had acquired a replica statue.  The dinner went on and numerous awards were presented.  All the while, the mysterious statue remained behind the cutrain.  Finally, as anticipation built, I was unveiled.  The lights were dim and I stood completely motionless as folks looked on in amazement that scouting was so important in our town.  Fellow scouts recited the scout pledge while looking on the statue tom commemorate the occasion.  At the end, however, as they finished, the “bronze” statue lifted one arm to salute them in response to their pledge.  No one knew I was the statue until I moved to salute.  It was awesome as the trick played out!

Maple sugar time!

We were in PA this weekend at my childhood home to visit my parents and celebrate my grandpa’s 95th birthday.  We got into all sorts of things with cousins and aunts and uncles, but one of my favorite things we did was help my dad make maple syrup.  Sometime a long time ago, when my brother and I were kids, we decided to make homemade maple syrup.  We lived in the woods and had ample maple trees all around and Dad had made syrup as a kid with his dad so we were set to start tapping our trees.

Sap begins to really flow in the late winter when the days are above freezing but the nights are still cold.  We usually tap trees in early to mid February and pull the taps when the trees begin to bloom (about now this year in PA).  Of course, sap will flow after that but one risks taking too much from the trees I suppose.  Maybe we just got too tired to go on at that point.  Anyhow,  to tap our trees, we would blunt the end of 1/2 inch pvc pipe, drill a hole slightly upward 1.5 or so inches into the tree and pound the tap (aka the pipe) into the hole in the tree.  It sounds pretty ugly I guess, pounding a pipe into a tree, but I promise it isn’t that bad or hard on the tree.

Sap will begin to drip from the pipe almost instantly.  Now when my brother and I were collecting the sap, we had 25 gallon barrels strapped to the side of the tree to collect it.  Well, maybe they weren’t that big but I truly believe some were 5 gallon pails.  I guess it makes sense when one has child labor to do the work.  My brother and I finally unionized.  It got pretty ugly there for awhile…you may have heard of the maple wars of 1983…yeah, that was us.  But we won and now my dad uses 1 gallon milk jugs that he ties to the trees.

We used to save the sap (it was always cool there…like a giant refrigerator) until the weekends.  Every Saturday, we would build an enormous and very hot fire and start the sap cooking.  Dad had a 55 gallon drum that we set on its side.  The lengthwise edge was cut off so we had a large trough in which to boil the sap.  I don’t remember how much we had in a typical week but we always had the barrel very nearly full and we added more as the sap cooked down.  If I recall correctly, 50-60 gallons of sap will cook down into about 1 gallon of syrup.  Wood cooked syrup has a definite maple, but somewhat smokey taste that is pretty awesome.  We saved it in mason jars and it typically lasted all year.

My Dad still taps a few trees each year though, now that the child labor is gone, they are closer to the house and far fewer in number.  He also cooks his sap in a turkey frier over a propane flame.  They used to heat the house with wood too…my brother and I chopped a powerful lot of wood growing up…funny how that changed too.  Anyhow, propane fired syrup has a much more mellow taste and the maple flavor is very pleasant (and wholly unlike the artificial stuff you buy in the stores).

It was such a thrill to once again go maple sugaring and this time, to take the kids along with me.  We tasted the sap, we ate some syrup, and we loved walking in the woods.

From the Whens-day archives

I was very involved in boy scounts when I was a teenager.  Someday I’ll post more on that as there are many interesting stores to tell.  Anyhow, Boy Scouts has a sub group in it called Order of the Arrow.  OA, as it is called, is based around Native American lore and has all sorts of traditions related to that.  Typically, OA is comprised of the older, more involved scouts so it is a pretty neat time.  One aspect that many OA “lodges” (regional groups) have is a Native American dance team (we used to call it an Indian dance team…but that was a while ago).  My brother and I both were members of such a team for the Langundowi Lodge in PA.  I was a dancer and he was a drummer.

We practiced weekly the authentic “fancy dance”  dances that modern plains and western Native Americans might dance now.  All of our costumes were hand made so each member had a direct hand in researching and building the dance outfit.

We travelled all over the place putting on shows for groups of all sorts.  We danced in parades and in malls and for nursing homes and cub scouts.  It was a lot of fun and we put on a loud and rowdy looking show as we spun and jumped and rattled the dozen or so cowbells around our legs.  While dancing, I am sure I was in the best cardiovascular shape that I have ever been in.  Anyhow, these pictures are from some of the dances in which I participated.  Check out my mad rhythm!