Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Winter Warmth in Loonville

Ironically, I made a reference to the fire burning inside when we last visited Loonville. The old house in which we lived was heated with oil-burning space heaters, large stoves whose pipes connected to the central chimney. All went well more than 99% of the time. But on two occasions while we lived there, a tremendous wind, contrary to its normal routine, blew in from the northeast. Somehow this allowed the force of the air to push down the chimney, preventing the smoke from rising, and worse, blowing soot a-l-l o-v-e-r the interior of the home.

So there we were. Outdoor temperature below freezing, no fire now inside, and the whole place covered with black, oily grime. The amount of scrubbing, laundry, and overall thorough cleanup you really don't want to know about; and you certainly never, ever want to experience it.

Also, the tank for the fuel was a 275 gallon behemoth that stood on stilts beside the house. And even though the price of fuel was less than thirty cents a gallon most of the time, unbelievable as that may be, to fill the tank could easily take an "investment" of over sixty bucks. It was something one could not postpone to more flush times. If it was oil or bread, we took oil.

We did not have microwaves, garbage disposals, or television sets. Okay, okay. Finally when the oldest child was in fifth grade we bought a 19" b & w Zenith on which we could get two channels. We were no longer the only home on the block without this marvel, though we should have remained so. Two things I remember about this time frame. "Sky King" which we thought suitable for the kids after school; and Lorne Green and the Cartwright gang who changed the face of mid-America forever. How so? I hope you are asking.

To this time, most fundamental, evangelical, and even many of the old-line churches had Sunday evening services which typically were held at 7:30. Virtually all churches chose at that time one of two alternatives: move service up to 6 o'clock so everyone could get home in time to visit the Ponderosa; or, eliminate evening service entirely. Over the intervening years, many of those who chose the first alternative, eventually defaulted to the second, and churches all over the Bible belt sit darkened on the evening of the Lord's Day.
© 2010 David W. Lacy

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Back in the day, there were no computers. The interwebby thing did not exist. Television was a dream in the minds of the vacuum tube inventors. Telephones, yes. They were bolted to the wall, or they stood on a desk looking like, well they defied description The ringing of the phone was an event; and "wires" or telegrams were sure signs of tragic events in the lives of the senders. 89% of today's communications terminology had yet to be created. It may be 92%, but when one makes up statistics, accuracy is not gauranteed.
Pride of possession of a good fountain pen rivalled the pride that the young people today take in their itty-bitty hand-held communications devices. One should know better than to call them "phones" for, while one can use it to make a phone call, few actually do so. It is used for such a host of other tasks that I can only tell you that this old fountain-pen-using troglodyte does use it for phone calls. And for nothing else.
I have a stack of letters which were handwritten with a pen, delivered from one's place of residence to the home of the recipient by the United States Post Office. A first-class stamp cost three US cents. Mail delivery was effected Monday through Saturday, and it was brought to your door twice a day. I know. You are incredulous, unless you, too, can remember the day. Or unless you are so very young that you are thinking, "What do I care about the old poop and his day?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Off We Go to School, Tra La!

As I indicated, we lived in the last house but one on Water Street as you headed out of town. This location placed us just eight-tenths mile from the elementary school. Each day my wife sent the kid (only one in school so far) toddling off to the seat of learning, only to watch the Heton kids next door board the school bus bound for the same destination. Mommy very soon tired of this, and Daddy was directed to "do something about that."

So I approached the Superintendent of Schools. Was I thinking "professional courtesy" or what was I thinking? Dr. McClurg was a vast, I mean huge, Irishman who had served our country honorably during WWII as captain in the USMC. He affected the same military flattop he wore as an active-duty gyrene, though it was white now, but would still have been a full head of hair had he not had it shorn weekly. At six-five and two seventy-five, he was a formidable man-mountain.

He welcomed me into his office, and we exchanged a few pleasantries, a bit of banter actually, as his school district and the one in which I worked were keen rivals on the football field or in the basketball arena. Then, getting to the point, he asked, "What can I do for you?" I succinctly explained that my child was walking nearly two miles each day to and from school, while my next door neighbor's kids were riding the corporation bus; and since it would not require an extra stop, I would appreciate it if my child could board the same bus.

"Now, Mr. Lacy, it surprises me that you would ask that. You see, the alley between your house and the Heton's is also the town limits line. It is policy that no child who lives within the village proper may ride the bus."

"Well, Dr. M, Ann would be glad to walk across the alley to get on the bus."

"But, don't you see? the line has to be drawn somewhere. If Ann rides, then Mrs. Lewis will want her kids to ride, and so on, until the driver will be stopping 50 yards from school to pick up someone who could get there faster on foot. You take my point!"

Of course I took his point, and besides as a child I had walked farther than that to get to school. Didn't kill me; wouldn't kill my kids.

How cold it can get inside one's domicile, even with the fire burning brightly.
© 2010 David W. Lacy

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Retrotech on the Farm

The annual Mid-America Threshing and Antique show was conducted at the Tipton County Fairgrounds this past weekend. This provided an opportunity for collectors and old machinery aficionados to get together for show and swap. The sound of steam whistles cutting the air throughout the day on Friday lured me to the fairgrounds Saturday morning. Couldn't go on Friday: too hot.

The steam powered stationary threshing machine brought back memories from my early childhood; for until I was five years old, we lived in a tiny Nebraska village where our house abutted a huge wheatfield. One of my earliest memories was harvest time, watching the workers bringing the sheaves to the thresher as it stood in the field behind our house, belching smoke as it did whatever it did.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting the Job Done

I had to work, of course, and as I related earlier it was a twelve-mile drive to my place of employment. After a year in the elementary school, I transferred to the junior high to teach mathematics. Marie's classroom was across the hall from mine. She taught English to the seventh and eighth graders who were our charges. This lady was the same age as my mother. We worked together for five years until I left the community, and she still had several good years before her retirement.

We soon figured out that a good bit of gas (read: money) could be saved if we were to share rides to work, as we lived only three miles apart, and we were both a dozen miles from school. Thus, we alternated weeks, stopping by one another's house to pick up and drop off the passenger.

The farm of Jim Griggs was located along our route to school. The pigster had posted a large yet tastefully done sign at the entry to his property.

-------------Griggs' Pigs------------

----------Hampshire----- Poland China---------

Marie, in her typically pedantic manner, was offended by the sign, for she claimed the apostrophe usage was incorrect, and the sign should read "Griggs's Pigs." I allowed that that would destroy both the rhyme and the lilt, and should therefore read "Griggs's Pigses." Marie was not amused.

There was a saying amongst school people at the time that "every teacher should be an English teacher." But not all English teachers are so willing to share the responsibility. I had occasion, created an occasion, once in a seventh grade math class to assert that "ain't" was a valid word in the language, and that it could be correctly used. "Ain't I" is a contraction for the phrase "am I not" and may be used in a construction as follows: "I am going to town with you, ain't I?" This was reported by my students to the English teacher, who in turn sent a message back to me, telling the kids to tell me that she "will teach English, and Mr. Lacy should stick to arithmetic."

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Visit again tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Retrotech in the Shop: Tools

I am not a handyman. Oh, I have managed to provide some home maintenance over the years. I even worked for a few building contractors from time to time. I learned a few things. But I am grateful that I do not have to put bread on the table today using the skills of carpentry, woodworking, masonry, plumbing or mechanics. I know enough about most of those fields to be a danger to myself and any inattentive bystanders; although I can drive a nail or a screw. I can measure a board and cut a pretty straight line.

My father was a craftsman. He could do more with a pocketknife and a pair of pliers than most guys can do with any tools that might be at their disposal. I let most of my dad's equipment go at auction, but I kept a few handtools, mostly for sentimental reasons. But I still use them from time to time.

I have a crosscut handsaw which may be the first saw I ever used as a child. It is small, easily carried in a handy-man tool kit. The upper ear is missing and has been ever since I can remember. I have a brace and several bits. These virtually never get used. I kept a pair of forceps (dental) which belonged to my maternal grandfather and which my dad used to pull teeth-- mine, from time to time, when I was a child. Squares, wrenches. I regret a little bit that I let all the hand planes go, but I hope someone is giving them the use they deserve.

The most modern of Dad's tools which I have is a 7" electric Skilsaw which I use in preference to my own much newer and very expensive high-end brand name saw.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Car for this Loon

I met the owner of the local Ford dealership at Lions Club. I had purchased a few small items from his parts department; and I had been "accosted" on the lot by one of his salesmen. In early 1965, I was driving a 1962 Dodge Lancer which now had 93,000 miles on it, and while it still looked quite spiffy, I was beginning to think new car. Who am I kidding? Most 30 year olds of the guy persuasion are always thinking new car. A shiny new 1965 Mustang (remember the Mustang had been introduced only a very few months earlier) was resting proudly inside the showroom; and I entered the store.

Mr. Ford himself (is that a name for a Ford dealer or what?) rose from the desk in his cubicle and sauntered over to me as I walked round and round the vehicle. I was not drooling on the floor, but I might as well have been to the practiced eye of the fellow who had "put" hundreds of people into vehicles that they did not arrive in. Gorgeous metallic green body, Ivy Green; and when Ford lifted the hood, what should appear to my wondering eye but a "289." Cutting this short for conservation of space, I took delivery on the vehicle the following day.

I had planned to depart for Portland, Oregon on June 16 as I was going to study graduate level mathematics at Reed College during the summer session. Friend Warren was going to go along, and we calculated that with perhaps one overnight stop in Wyoming, we should otherwise be able to drive straight through. Warren had an older brother who lived in Portland, and they had not seen each other in over five years.

On June 13 as I was driving home from work, a horrendous squalling signalled that I had big trouble. I managed to get the car into the dealership, the mechanic did not take long to ascertain that the transmission was shot. No, literally. A thrust washer had been omitted in the assembly and a shaft had eaten through a casing. How long for repairs? It will take at least three weeks to get a new tranny from the factory, and it will require that. I went up front to talk to the owner. I explained that we were planning to leave for Oregon in two days, and I didn't have any slack in my scheduled itinerary. Oh, I was told, I think I can solve your problem. He picked up his interoffice phone and called the service man. "Bring in that red Mustang that just came in on the truck today, pull the transmission and put it in Mr. Lacy's car."

And it was that simple. And we made the appointments scheduled in the Pacific Northwest.

Believe me, these are the kind of loons I appreciate knowing and dealing with. Good people are wherever you find them, may their tribe increase.

© 2010 David W. Lacy

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Retrotech in the House: Audio

I am not an audiophile. I enjoy listening to recorded music, but I do not go into rhapsodies over the equipment on which it is played. I started acquiring my small collection of vinyl in 1952. Any recent additions would have been found at a flea market, for I stopped buying "new" when I started having children. That was in 1957.

I have a so-so amp connected to a couple decent speakers. All pretty retro. But the turntable. Even more out-of-date, and worse, a belt-driven table with an ancient and floppy belt is, frankly, due for the trash heap. Much as I hate going "modern," if I am to continue listening to the LPs I am going to have to get a new turntable. There are times when a self-professed Luddite just naturally proves himself to be a hypocrite.

My mistake was taking the works out of my Victrola and using the cabinet for electronic stereo, circa 1970.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Friendship Begins in Loonville

Warren invited me to visit a local meeting of Lions International as his guest. I met two dozen citizens I had not previously known, and encountered several I had already met in the community. I liked the experience. Without going into detail, I will tell you that I "passed muster" and became a member of this group.

I met Phil at Lions, though I was certainly to have "business" with him as he acted in his professional capacity, for he was principal of the local elementary school. And I had kids. Phil could be fairly described as a feisty individual, not large of physical stature, sandy hair, and peering at the world through coke-bottle lenses. He affected a cookie-duster mustache, just enough to be called a mustache. I soon discovered that Phil and his family were thick with Warren and his trible. Soon I had been admitted into this orbit, and we became the Three Musketeers of Loonville.

When Thursday evenings rolled around, there were six adults and eight kids gathered at the home of one of the Musketeers. Good food, good conversation and lots of laughter kept this routine alive for so long as I lived in Loonville. We had much in common, though our professional lives differed, if not in calling, at least in the stage on the ladder. But we saw the basic requirements for proper living in very much the same light. Yet from the religion angle, we were a fundamentalist, a traditionalist, and a free-thinker. We got along famously, because, though we did not agree on many things, we harbored deep-seated respect for each other's right to formulate and express his own opinion.

Our sessions together were not gossip sessions as such, but inevitably our friends and neighbors contributed to the conversation, because in Loonville, well, how could they not?

Warren had a most interesting manner of speaking. He would make leaps from point A to point D, for example, without ever touching B and C. Until one got used to this, it seemed at times that he was dropping non sequiturs into the conversation. Phil and I both recognized that Warren could think so much faster than he could talk that it was up to us to learn to follow portions of "unspoken conversation." And since we could, in fact, do this, our bond of friendship grew ever stronger.

Even after I moved from the community, our friendships continued so long as we were all alive. Warren moved to the southern part of the state to become president of a bank overlooking the Ohio River. Phil remained in Loonville until after the death of his wife. My spouse was the first to pass away, followed shortly by Phil's wife. Then Warren's wife became terminally ill, and after a long battle, she too, was no longer with us.

It is almost incredible to believe, but the paths of our lives bore great similarity even after our respective tenures in Loonville were long past. Warren retired from the bank, married a widow lady and moved to a small acreage near I-65 north of Louisville. Phil remarried, and moved to Indianapolis with his new bride. I also married for a second time, and continued to live in Perfect.

We saw each other from time to time and always picked up right where we left off. Phil was the first to depart the group, and Warren and I met in Indianapolis to attend his funeral. Several years later, I got a call from his wife telling me that Warren had literally passed away along the berm of the road as he and his dog were on their morning walk.

Phil, Warren, I miss you guys.

© 2010 David W. Lacy