Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Banking in Loonville

I had been in town but briefly when I deemed that establishing a line of credit with the local bank would enhance my reputation as a responsible citizen. So I entered the bank one sunny summer day and told the cashier that I would like to take out a loan. She ushered me to the front corner office where Banker Harley sat behind his mahogany desk. I introduced myself, he laid his seegar in the ashtray on his desk and waved me preemptorily to a chair. "What can I do for you?" I would like to borrow 150 bucks, a number that I only partly drew out of thin air, for I wanted to do a few things. Well, he asked me all the usual: why I wanted the money, how was I going to repay it, how many children did I have, and where did I obtain my livelihood. I don't recall that he asked where I went to church, but I have been asked that in interview settings.

I told him I was a teacher and was employed by the neighboring community. He picked up the stogie, took a long draw, then laid it back down. "Waaal," he drawled, "I can't say that being a teacher is a helluva recommendation." He then related to me about four stories illustrating his thesis that teachers weren't necessarily reliable. Then he picked up his pen, scrawled a note on a yellow pad, ripped it off and handed it to me. "Give this to the girl. She'll fill in when you're going to repay this and you can sign it." I walked out with $150.00, American.

Just outside Banker Harley's office was the desk of the bank veep. Unbeknownst to me, VP Warren had come back from his lunch hour and sat listening to the business being conducted between me and his boss.

Two days later, Saturday morning, I was filling the auto with petrol at the local station when Warren drove up on the other side of the pump. He introduced himself and said that he had heard that I was a teacher at Podunk Elementary School. Yes, indeed. "I", he said, "am vice-president and general flunky over at the bank. Why don't you stop by my house in a few and we'll chew some fat." Since he lived just around the corner and one block off the main drag, I thought, Why not? And thus began a life-long friendship. Warren was two years older than I, but his children were the same ages and in the same number as mine. Later, when our wives were introduced to each other, the foundation for a rewarding friendship was completed.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Retrotech in the House: Timekeeping

We have an old Ingraham Nyanza Banjo Clock on our dining room wall. It was manufactured about 1915 by the E. Ingraham Company. This is an eight-day key-wind pendulum movement. The case is 10 inches wide and 39 inches tall.

Elias Ingraham (1805 - 1885) was noted for his clock case designs, for which he held many patents. Following WWII, Ingraham Company continued making clocks, but dropped production of pendulum clocks in favor of electric and alarm clocks.

Our clock, when it is allowed to run, keeps very accurate time. Sometimes during a scrabble game, BBBH will say, "That ticking's enough to drive you to drink." There have been occasions when overnight guests have gotten up in the night and stopped my clock. Such nerve.

You may view pictures of our clock over at String Too Short to Tie, if you wish.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Engineering in Loonville

I am in the driveway behind the house cleaning the car. I have washed it and now I am vacuuming the inside. Delbert and his friend, Will, who lives next door to the east, are just the other side of the fence in our backyard. I stop the machine, as I have finished that chore, just in time to hear Will say, "Let's go over to my Grandfarter's. He'll give us a dime to leave him alone." Delbert said, "Don't you mean 'grandfather'?" Will replies, "Yeah, that, too. But I meant what I said. C'mon, you'll see. Just don't pull his finger!

Mrs. Lewis is a widow. She has two children, Will, seven and Pamela, nine. Like the neighbors on the other side of us, these are pleasant children, and our children have developed good rapport with them.

Mrs. Lewis, Carol to her friends, is a hard-working woman, clerking at the local general store by day, and taking in ironing which keeps her busy at all hours. She has her admirers; and has on numerous occasions, she confided to my wife, been asked "out." She has declined all these invitations, saying she is much too busy trying to raise her kids to get herself involved with a man who, "for crying out loud might need even more raisin' than they do."

On the other side of Mrs. Lewis live Mr. and Mrs. Adams. No one ever sees Mrs. Adams, except once a month when he guides her solicitously to the car. They always return in exactly four hours. I sort of got acquainted with Mr. Lewis when I discovered that he played chess. We would meet in the little park behind the firestation perhaps three or four times each summer for a game. I never learned much about him from the "horse's mouth." We were so evenly matched at chess that virtually all our games ended in a draw.

But talk is not an expensive commodity in Loonville, and many people over the years were quite willing to fill me in. Not all the stories would fit appropriately into a family newspaper such as this one, but one of the best followed along these lines.

Mr. Adams is a genius. I can believe it. Mr. and Mrs. Adams are reclusive. No kidding. In his youth, Mr. Adams studied engineering at Purdue and was employed throughout his career by a leading construction company, where he rose to the level of High Mucky-muck. They bought the little house on Water Street when he retired and moved into the community. (This datum in itself leads me to suspect that much of what I was told was created from whole cloth, inasmuch as they were not "local." Neither were we, and heaven knows what was said about us.)

Mrs. Adams liked her little house very much, and Mr. Adams found much pleasure in tending the flowers and dressing the yard. But there was one flaw. The house had no basement, and the Missus very much wanted one, for whatever reason no one could fathom. So the Mister devised a plan to create the desired unit. Having sources (from his past career, you know) he obtained an unspecified amount of dynamite. But then we don't need to know how much. Only he needed to know, and he did. He labored over his drawings and the mathematical calculations into the wee hours of many a morning, until one day the time had come. He went into the crawl space with his blasting equipment, wires and such paraphenalia and set his charges, oh, so carefully, in just the right places.

Shortly after eight the following morning, that is after all the neighbors had gone to work and the kids were in school, there was heard a dull "Ka-whump!" in the neighborhood. It was said that the chinaware in the cabinets nor the vases on the tables never so much as jiggled. Mr. Adams then hired a group of transient laborers to remove the loosened earth from beneath his house. Then he proceeded to construct a finished basement under his domicile!
© 2010 David W. Lacy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Retrotech in the House: Sewing

Over on String Too Short to Tie, I have posted a sewing story which is accompanied by pictures of an old Abbott Sewing Machine which occupies a decorative space in our home. You may go there if you wish to see pictures.

The Abbott was, I think, produced in Ontario in the last half of the nineteenth century. The machine is a work of art. But the seamstress in the house uses a Singer 401 Slant Needle DeLuxe, which while a bit old itself, is still a very efficient machine. The Little Lady, in her younger day, was a sewing instructor and demo operator for Singer. She is still adept at the skills entailed in sewing. But while she has looked at the up-to-date offerings in the sewing machine market, she is satisfied that she prefers sewing to mastering computer skills, hence chooses not to buy new equipment.

Besides, I am fond of the old New England motto, "Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without." And the current machine is far from being worn out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Independence in Loonville

Directly across the street from us lived Mrs. Smith. She was ninety-two years old, and as the cliche says, spry as a spring chicken. I had cultivated a friendship with her since she was a very interesting lady and seemed to have very few visitors. She would sit on her porch of an evening, gently rocking in the swing. I would saunter across the street and sit on the step and visit with her. But our relationship had gotten off to a rocky start.
This occured when, one Saturday as I watched her pushing her old reel-type mower across the front yard, I thought to do the Boy Scout thing, you know, the good deed. I walked over. She stopped. I reached for the machine handle, saying, "Let me give you a hand with that." Mrs. Smith jerked the handle away from me and snarled, "Look, Sonny. I'm perfectly able to take care of myself and my yard. I'm old, but I ain't dead yet." I allowed that I was sorry, only trying to be a good neighbor. She apologetically said, "I'm sorry, too. But if I stop moving, I'll lock up and maybe never get started again."
One evening, I confided in her that Dr. Malton seemed to me to be even more arrogant than the average sawbones. "Don't you give him no nevermind. I recollect that whippersnapper when he was nothin' mor'n a snot-nosed ragamuffin, runnin' 'round annoying all the neighbors. He ain't no better'n he oughta be."
Sadly, several years later, Mrs. Smith, now well past 95, said to me one day, "I just wish I could die." "Oh," I retorted, "you don't mean that." "Yes," she assured me. " I most certainly do. I've lived way too long. If you ever get to be this old, you'll understand."
It was not long before her wish came true.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Treasure Island

I have a much-too large collection of old books. (Nah, one can't have too many books) Occasionally I pick one from its shelf and peruse it for old-times' sake. I decided a few days ago to re-read Treasure Island. My copy was published between 1901 and 1904. I know this because the company that printed it was in business only during those years. The book is intact, except for bits and pieces of paper that have flaked off in handling; and a lot more of these bits fell to the lap and the floor during my recent handling of the book. But the text is all there, undamaged.

I have come to suspect that when most people say, "I am re-reading..." followed by the name of a classic, they in truth are reading it for the first time. I know that that is true for me in this case. As were you, if you are "of a certain age," I was introduced to Stevenson and this story in high school Freshman English class. And though I have been, since toddler stage, a voracious reader, guess what would "kill" the desire to read a selection quicker than anything? Give up? To have it assigned in class to be read. Thus I probably learned that RLS was a seminal novelist, that this particular story is a morality tale and a "coming of age" tour de force, blah, blah blah, and yet I never read it until last week! Shame on me? Indeed. But I was fourteen, what do you expect?
I quite enjoyed this story; and I think I would have done when I was fourteen. What's the difference between a fourteen year-old boy and a seventy-six year old man? About 62 years.
Here you go, Miss Long. I've completed that assignment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ben Lacy

Ben B. Lacy was born September 25, 1919 in Wiley, Colorado. Uncle Ben passed away July 12, 2010 in Pueblo, Colorado.

I posted this tribute to Uncle Ben on his 90th Birthday.


I will miss this wonderful strong and righteous man.

Fun and Games in Loonville

The Heton kids were suitable playmates for our children, and since all our children had free-rein of the neighborhood, yet all were confined to the neighborhood, anyones yard in the square block was playground.

One weekend, the Hetons had burned a stack of trash in the edge of the alley between our houses. The following day, the kids were all out to play, and our daughter, Ivy, in her excitement, in the heat of the game, so to speak, ran through the ashes where the fire had burned. Unfortunately, there were still hot embers beneath the subtly silent ashes. Her right foot was quite severely burned. We called our local doctor, about whom more will be related. But, as with every emergency we ever had, it seemed, the guy was out of town and unavailable. It was clear that medical attention was necessary, so I called an old sawbones in a neighboring town. He agreed to see us, so the fifteen minute trip with a hurting child was made. The doctor took us in at once. Now "old" was not a mistatement of fact. In truth the old practitioner took down his shingle and moved to Florida shortly after this incident.

The doctor seated himself in a chair and had me place the child on a stool in front of him. He lifted the foot and visually inspected it, then to the eight-year old child said, "Jesus Christ, Girl. What'd you do that for?"

Not all the loons live in Loonville.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fuss and Feathers and Greatgrandpa

Genealogy led me to this bit of family lore, which I have combined with a bit of historic information I have gleaned from various sources. My maternal grandmother's grandfather served in the USArmy under Winfield Scott during the Mexican campaign. It is said that Grandfather, Spencer Lawson, was with Scott during the incursion into Mexico. It is historic fact that Scott took Mexico City. What role Private Lawson played in this is unknown, other than the fact that he survived and returned to his native Hawkins County, Tennessee.

Prior to this war and on a visit to New Orleans in 1846, General Scott was defeated at chess by eight-year old Paul Morphy. Scott was not amused. Though Scott was a Virginian, he maintained his loyalty to the United States when the Civil War wracked the nation. He is credited with the "Anaconda" plan by which the South was eventually strangled into submission.

Meantime, when the War Between the States started, Grandpa Lawson said, as did his general of the Mexican campaign, "I will not take up arms against the flag I fought under." It is said that he joined the Union forces; but while home on leave, he was betrayed by a relative, captured by the South and imprisoned at Andersonville. I visited Andersonville a few years ago and sought to verify this. While I found Lawsons from Hawkins County, there was no record of Spencer Lawson having been there. It is a known fact, however, that wherever he was held he was paroled due to illness, records of which I have obtained. He died in military hospital in Annapolis in 1864. His widow was eventually able to draw a pension for his service in the Mexican War amounting to twenty dollars a month.

Scott was the Whig Party nominee for President in 1852. He was defeated by Democrat Franklin Pierce. He died in 1866.

[Sources: Morrell-Palmer Family Records, National Archives,Wikipedia]

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Retrotech in the House: Compaq

I am the proud owner of a Compaq Portable Computer. This "portable" was released by Compaq in 1982. It is a nearly completely compatible IBM clone. I purchased it from my son several years after he had moved on to higher technology. He needed the money to purchase a piece of equipment to aid him in the care of his horses. And he no longer need the computer. Neither did I.

I still have this lovely item, which at one time was coupled to an Epson dot-matrix printer, which I also still have. My closets, barns, and even the rooms in which we live, are filled with ancient, nay, even nearly-extinct stuff.

The Compaq processor is Intel 8088 operating at 4.77MHz. RAM 128K, up to 640K; ROM approximately 12K. MS-DOS. Storage via 5.25 floppy drive, 360K. 320x200x16 color monitor!
It came with a padded carrying case, which we use to this day for transporting the spouse's karaoke machine. Nice looking item, too.

This computer sold at three grand and northward and Compaq produced 100,000 of them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rootedness of Residents in Loonville

The Carnegie Library was built tall, literally, I believe, to tower over the smallness of the town. One ascended to the heights via a most impressive exterior stairway; but the rewards to be garnered therein were certainly worth the climb. This was the highpoint of life in Loonville.

Since one had to make his or her own entertainment in this village, the library was a godsend to those who could read. No, don't talk to me about videotapes, music CDs and other such johnny-come-drive-the-books-off-the-shelves that have afflicted modern "libraries." Oh, yeah. And computer rooms and electronic card catalogs and how many other ways have we lost something once precious?

In addition to the books and magazines, this little haven of intellectual challenge had a collection of newspapers. No, not microfiche or microfilm or digitized data. It had local newspapers going back to 1868. This little place-too-small-to-make-a-dot-on-the-map actually had a newspaper in the nineteenth century. No more, of course, even at the time this tale reflects.

It was in this town and partly with the help of this collection that I developed a sense of the meaning of "roots." I had been raised in a minister's home, and we had moved eight times by the time I left home and had lived in five different towns. Imagine the sense of wonder that crept slowly into my awareness when I would talk with an individual in the local drugstore or at the post office, then read that person's name in a newspaper from 1879 a few days later. Not just the family name, either, but the whole name just as it is carried by my acquaintance today. I would read, for instance "Jim Griggs transported eight head of hog to the railhead Saturday." And now in the middle of the next century, Jim Griggs is proprietor of the biggest hog operation in the southern half of the county. "Marcus Wright traveled to Muncie this past week for the funeral of his brother, Frederick Wright, late of that community." Marcus Wright is the fifth grade teacher in the local elementary school today.

I could cite many other examples, but this will serve to help you understand how I came to an appreciation of people's "rootedness", how those who are attached to the land develop a sense of belonging and right of possession. It is small wonder that newcomers to rural communities and small towns are viewed with suspicion and have such difficulty establishing themselves, having to prove themselves on a daily basis.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The 'old' book collection that I maintain receives its share of criticism from the Little Lady. Or rather, I receive the criticism for maintaining it. But what fun. A while back, I picked up a "TV Guide" from 1960. It can easily be held in the hand, the listings are easy to find and easy to read, totally unlike what they call "TV Guide" these days. To which, by the way, I let my subscription expire, because it is neither easy to read, nor are the listings easy to find; not to mention the adverts which obscure any usefulness it might have had.

So end rant and share the fun. Here's what you might have watched on a Saturday night.
6:00 Amos & Andy
6:30 Perry Mason
7:30 Bonanza! [In color!] (If you had a color TV. I didn't.)
8:30 Have Gun, Will Travel
9:00 Gunsmoke, or bust up the Western string with "Lawrence Welk."
10:00 Pat Boone Variety show, if you can stand this after LW. Maybe if you watched Gunsmoke.
11:00 News, of course. Or if you're feeling daring, Playboy Penthouse.

Now, wasn't that a Blast from the Past?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Comers to Loonville

These tales from Loonville are populated with real people, both living and dead. Some names have been modified or changed to suit my whim; the events are true, for filtering and sweetening may slightly alter details, but truth perserveres. The sun continues to shine on the just and on the unjust; and Loonville is ever only a memory away.

We rented a small two-story house on Water Street, two blocks from Main Street, less than three blocks from the general store and four blocks from the post office and the library. The landlord, Rusty, was also the local barber whose shop was at the corner of Main and Water. We got along very well, he a good landlord; and we were good tenants. The only time of true embarrassment between us was on a Saturday morning during our fifth year in Loonville. I was in the chair, Rusty was cutting my hair. For some reason which I couldn't put my finger on, I thought the barber was a bit ill at ease. The conversation was not flowing smoothly. As I paid him at the cash register, Rusty flushed with embarrasment, stammered something to the effect that "he hadn't seen the rent this month." With immediate embarrassment and a totally sinking feeling, I realized that for the first time in my life I had missed a payment when it was due, and I was now almost two weeks late with the rent.

Across the alley to the west of us lived the Hetons. This family, at the time we moved to town, had eight children; and when we moved away there were eleven kids. Chuck Heton was an over-the-road truck driver, and it was laughingly said around town that Chuck came home twice a year, once for the birth of a new child and once for fun. These people were good people, their children were well-behaved and we were in town long enough to see two of them graduate high school and go on to university.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Two decades ago when I asked my father for family history since I had developed an interest in tracing my ancestry, he replied, "I was laid as an egg on a fencepost by a jaybird, hatched by the sun and blown away by the West wind." Further, he made it clear that he had no interest in looking backward into the generations that preceded us. Finally, he went to his file cabinet and pulled out a manila folder which contained two sheets of paper, telling me I could have it. This turned out to be a sketch of the research that one of my aunts had done and which gave me a starting point. From there it was to the library and the IGI on microfiche. Genealogical research bug had bitten me.

Someone once told me that one didn't want to look too far up the family tree, lest he find someone hanging there. This is virtually inevitable for most of us since our interconnectedness is bound to hitch us to the good, the bad and the ugly. Somewhere back in the branches of my tree I have found Frank and Jesse James; but I have also found Dolley Payne Madison, so President James Madison occupies a place in the family tree ("Husband of third cousin six times removed.")

This hobby leads to many fascinating stories, some of which are verifiable and some of which are questionable, or at least lack substantive proof. I like this one. My ten-greats grandfather was killed by my ten-greats grandfather.

John Woodson came from England to Jamestown in 1619, where he was ultimately killed by Opechancanough in one of his raids on the settlers. Woodson came to the "New World" to make a life for himself and his family, whereas Opechancanough was attempting to preserve the only world he had ever known. Fortunately for me each had offspring and two of them got together somewhere down the line. This is one of the tales which is reliably recorded.

Have you taken a shot at your family history?

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Move to Loonville

A few weeks ago, I started this series on String Too Short to Tie. I'll catch you up here over the next week or so; then we'll continue on Tuesdays as we are doing on STSTT.

Blog Pally Lin refers to her village as "Weirdville." A few nights ago when Morpheus declined to visit me, I got to thinking about the strange people and behaviors in my neighborhood. I realized that none of that was happening in the town of Perfect where we live. In Perfect, all the realtors, car salesmen and preachers are honest. The women are all comely; and just as in Lake Wobegon, the children are all above average.

But wait! I thought. Though it is ancient history, I did live for six years in Loonville. And my memory is quite good for details of experiences forty or fifty years ago. (Just don't depend on me to remember my dental appointment, or where I put the car keys.) And thus for the rest of the night I "wrote" the story of Loonville. I hope to share it with you in dribs and drabs from time to time. How do Tuesdays sound? I think I'll do it on Tuesdays. So excited was I about this that I had to grab my steno pad and write the first installment before the computer was booted up.

We moved to Loonville, Indiana in 1963. Loonville, not to be confused with Loov'l, which is a major city across the river from Indiana and in another state.
Loonville is today home to a little bit under a thousand souls, just as it was then: LOONVILLE
Population 949.
About half the population, as you might infer trom the name, were "looney". The other half were either on their way there or on their way out of town.

At the time of our arrival we had three children, the oldest just turned six. A fourth would arrive during our residence there. I had just taken a contract to teach in a community twelve miles south and west of L-ville. I chose Loonville deliberately so that my children would not have to attend school where I was teaching.

Loonville is situated in the extreme southeast corner of a very long county, north to south. This village was actually closer to county seat cities to the east, to the west and even to the north than it was to its own county seat. This created some issues if one had business in the courthouse, and who doesn't have? To its credit, the Indiana BMV maintained an office in Loonville, though it has long since been closed, which is less inconvenient today than it would have been in the 60s. I was lucky enough to obtain license number "49" preceded by the county code. So proud of my "low number". But I was young, and I thought that that had meaning. Ah, the delusions of youth!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Why Retrotechnocracy

It has come to my attention that there are users out there who are still using dial-up internet access, if not horse-and-buggy transportation. Some of them would like to access blogs that do not require a day and a half, or three hundred sixty-three hours to download.

I have been blogging nearly two years now under the title "String Too Short to Tie". It has expanded from spur-of-the-moment notions as they pop into my head to just such notions accompanied by photos, graphs and whatnot, just the stuff that slows down your downloads. I propose in this site to offer pure text, well text, anyway, without pictures, graphs and gobbledegook. Okay, the ideas may be gobbledegook, but you get the picture. Or rather, you don't get the pictures.

Many of these posts will be lifted directly from past issues of STSTT, but without the impediments to your swift download. It will be a potpourri gleaned from many bands on the spectrum of human experience, but political commentary will be kept to a minimum. If politics and vituperation are your bag, may I suggest that there are plenty, nay, too many, sites in the blogosphere where you may satisfy your yearning for such commentary.