Times-Gazette Columns, Page 1   -    Times-Gazette Columns, Page 2  
Highland Press Columns 
by Larry Chapman
These are various columns that were published in the Highland Press and Highland Sun newspapers.
Click the desired topic link.
Small World | Tragedy | Barbeque | Oh Brother | Ham Radio | Fishing
  Conclusions | The Nazi Menace |Role Models | Greenfield's Downtown
  Thirst Quenchers | On Being An Expert
   Email your comments to greenfieldohio@gmail.com

It's An Awfully Small World Lately 
November 18, 2001

When I switched the television channel over to CNN Monday morning, I had no idea that the plane that fell from the sky would hit my home. I have a first cousin, Mary States-Alden, who lives near Princeton, N.J. Mary is a Senior Master Sergeant in the Air Force Reserves and has been worried about the possibility of being called up for active duty with her KC-10 refueling unit out of McGuire AFB. She was concerned mostly about the effect it might have on her two young boys, Brad and Danny. Since the events of Sept. 11, she's also been worried about the safety of her husband Ed who is a senior pilot for American Airlines flying out of the New York area. In a recent email, she wrote that Ed, "has taken up Tae Kwon Do and locks the cockpit door with a seatbelt. He has kicked off three questionable people and felt like crap doing it. It fought all the 'this is America and freedom for all...'" She also said he questioned folks as they boarded the airplane. He really put a lot of heart into keeping his passengers and crew safe from terrorism. When I first heard the morning's news about the crash of Flight 587, I was relieved to hear it was a Boeing 767 and not the Airbus that Ed flew. Several minutes later, however, the news was updated and the report was changed to state that the plane was not a 767 but, in fact, an Airbus leaving from JFK Airport and headed for the Dominican Republic. Immediately I became concerned for Ed's safety, but did what everyone does in such cases and told myself that "nah, it couldn't be Ed." Half an hour later, the phone rang and another layer of my protective shell was chiseled away. It had been Ed's flight and it was his death that was unfolding in front of me in the security of my living room. The world has become awfully small lately.

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Family Tragedy And A Lesson Learned

Following the tragic death of my cousin’s husband Ed in Flight 587 our “to do” list has gotten pretty full. My wife and I left for New Jersey Thursday morning and arrived at my cousin Mary’s home late that evening. What awaited us then, and the next two days, was all too common on such occasions but taken to heights unknown to us. The house was literally filled with relatives, friends of the Alden-States family, members of the Air Force Reserve and employees and friends from American Airlines. American Airlines must be one of the most caring companies in our nation. They assigned two full-time grief councilors, a full-time events coordinator and a team of ten pilots whose job was to see that all the family’s immediate needs were met. The influx of food from family, friends and neighbors was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It required the collective refrigerators and freezers of the neighborhood to store the overflow and half of a three-car garage was filled with fruit baskets, baked goods and other non-perishables. A carload of cookies was sent to a local school while at the same time, ironically, that same school was delivering more food to the house. It was an outpouring of support unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. American arranged for close family and friends to find air transportation. They provided deeply discounted airfares and free limo service from the airports for those flying in. They saw that the supply of bottled water and soft drinks never dwindled, that the fish tank got cleaned and serviced, that the vehicles got washed and the lawn got mowed. They even acquired tickets to a special showing of Harry Potter for the children and their friends. On Saturday a memorial service was held near the campus of Princeton University. Over a thousand persons attended and the family was met at the church by an honor guard of nearly five hundred uniformed pilots, flight attendants and members of the Air Force Reserve along with the sobering refrains of a piper in the distance. The theme of the service, because of the closeness with the military, was very patriotic and the presentation of the flag to the widow by the Air Force Honor Guard was especially reverent and emotional. Following the memorial service a reception was held at the Nassau Room of Princeton University and I’m sure this was yet another tiring, trying and emotionally wrenching experience for Mary to work through. Until the summer of 2000, when we held our first ever, family reunion, it was only these tragic occasions that brought our family together. Given the events of recent I thank God that we did decide to unite during good times. Already, we have scheduled a second reunion for next summer because we have sadly learned the value of getting to know each other in life rather than waiting until death denies us that option.

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Barbeque That I've Known
February 3, 2002

May be it's because I was born in South Carolina but I never tire of going south. When most folks think of the South visions of magnolias, antebellum homes, pine trees or NASCAR may come to mind. For me, it's barbeque. My frequent sojourns into the Carolinas are in constant pursuit of the perfect meal of pork (there is no other kind) slow cooked over a bed of hickory coals. The best barbeque is found in the Carolinas and even there regional differences will be found. In eastern North Carolina BBQ is usually "whole hog" and the traditional sauce is simply vinegar spiced up with salt and crushed red pepper. In the western region BBQ is typically pork shoulder and some tomato and sugar is slipped into the sauce. Hush puppies and slaw are commonly served throughout North Carolina as side dishes. In South Carolina, especially around Columbia, hams are the preferred cut of the hog and the sauce is a golden mustard-based sweet concoction served with white bread and something called BBQ hash. Hash is a liver-based gravy served over a red of white rice. Now, back to my quest and what have I discovered? To date the absolute best BBQ in this known world is to be found at a legendary BBQ joint in Goldsboro, NC. Wilber's is the place and it's an institution where typically twenty-five hogs each day are slow cooked over hard wood coals and a meal of chopped BBQ, potato salad, vinegar slaw, hush puppies and sweet tea (the vin ordinaire of the south) can be had for only $5.50. Wilber's, because it is located next to Seymour-Johnson AFB, is world-renowned. Second best is Sweatman's and is located outside Holly Hill, SC. Five generations of Sweatman's have been cooking up hogs for general consumption and $5.00 will get you all the food you can possibly handle at one sitting. It is superb but they're only open on the weekends. Third on my list is Maurice's Piggy Park BBQ in West Columbia, SC. The food is great but be prepared for a liberal dose of conservative politics that's served along with it. Maurice hasn't figured out that the Civil War is over and his side lost. These are my picks but the quest continues. Others, naturally, will disagree with my choices. But, if the best BBQ sandwich you ever ate came out of a can at the corner dairy bar you probably qualify for some government culinary disability program.

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Oh Brother, Where Art The People's Music

March 24, 2002

If you watched the recent Grammy Awards you observed at least three things occurring and there is most certainly a relationship between them. First, you sat through one of the least watched Grammy shows in years. Secondly, you saw the bulk of the awards going to artists who are the products of record companies that flood the airways with monotonous musical dribble designed to maximize profits rather than emphasize creativity or quality. And finally, you were witness to a reaction to all this. A small band of Appalachian hillbillies, armed only with basic acoustic instruments and with little industry support or radio airplay, assaulted the status quo and stole a goodly chunk of the gold. The movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” gave us a humorous and classic character study of life in the American South during the depression era. The movie was only moderately successful it but produced a sleeper sound track album that has become a runaway success that, before the Grammies, had sold over three million copies. More importantly, the success of the soundtrack was, as stated earlier, accomplished without the airplay that is normally needed for an album to become a hit. The success of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” simply happened by word of mouth. The people heard it, fell in love with the simplicity and honesty of the music, told their friends and millions of albums were purchased. It was such a success that whoever votes for Grammy winners were forced to sit up and pay attention. The album took home honors for Album of the Year and several individual awards. Seventy-five year old Ralph Stanley, the reigning patriarch of bluegrass music, won his first Grammy for the a cappella performance of “Oh Death”, an elderly man’s plea to be spared for another year. Also receiving a Grammy were the performers of the hit single “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow”. In the movie this tune was lip-synced by George Clooney but in reality it was performed by Dan Tyminski, a member of Alison Krauss’ band, Union Station. While searching the Internet for the lyrics and music for “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow” I came across some interesting history regarding this song. The song first appeared in a songbook published in 1913 by a Kentuckian named Richard Burnett. Burnett couldn’t remember if he wrote the song or heard it from somebody else. Cecil Sharp published it in 1918 under the name “In Old Virginny” and Emry Arthur first recorded it in 1928 under its current title. In 1936 a woman named Sarah Gunning recorded a version titled “I Am A Girl Of Constant Sorrow” and performed it into the 1960s. More recently, the Stanley Brothers, Ralph and Carter, popularized the song and its authorship is frequently credited to the late Carter Stanley. I also discovered that an amazing number and variety of artists have recorded it. They include Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, British rocker Rod Stewart, the queen of folk Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Bobby Bare, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Dillards of Andy Griffith fame, Vince Gill, Judy Collins and many, many others. For a song that many people had never heard of it’s incredible the number of times it has been recorded. Following the attention that the Grammy Awards brought to the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” album country music stations are now inserting it into their play lists, the video is showing up on the CMT and GAC cable channels, and it has sold an additional million copies with predictions of reaching seven million sales before it’s all over. For me, a person who thrives on folk and bluegrass music and believes that rock n’ roll ended when the Eagles broke up, this success is a certified victory for the people. This simple, folk based, music is “the people’s music” and the people embraced it, spent their working class bucks on it, and told the establishment to shove its canned trash into the trash can. Chalk one up for the Gipper and watch out for the copycats. It can’t be long before some greedy eyed dude from the Bronx comes out with a rap version of Wildwood Flower!

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When Tubes Glowed In The Dark
February 24, 2002

When I was a kid I somehow became interested in ham (amateur) radio. I use to build crystal radio sets out of copper wire, geranium diodes and oatmeal boxes and listen to Moon River on WLW late at night. It was the only station I could receive. Once I built a simple short wave receiver from a kit. With this I spent countless hours in my bedroom listening to ham radio operators and commercial short wave stations from all over the world. It was a major thrill to listen to the Voice of America, Radio Moscow or the BBC. Later, in the Navy, I was trained as a Radioman (RM) and spent my naval years at sea engaged in ship to shore communications using Morse Code (CW). At that time 95% of long distance naval communications was by CW or Teletype. In 1980 I decided to take the test for an FCC Amateur Radio license and have been active in the hobby ever since using the FCC assigned call of NE8V. A major part of the test at that time was passing the CW requirements. The entry-level license required you be able to copy at 5 words per minute while advancement into the top level (the extra class) required 20 words per minute. CW has always been considered of major importance to communications because when the spoken word cannot be understood because of weak signals and/or interference the CW signal can usually still be heard and interpreted. It is slow but very reliable. A number of years ago, however, the Navy stopped requiring a knowledge of CW for all of its Radiomen. Today, CW is not taught or used in any of the armed forces and VHF/UHF encrypted voice and digital communications via satellites is the norm. Recently I read about the closing of the last remaining commercial ship to shore CW station in the world. Additionally, the Navy has done away with the rate of Radioman. While still using the traditional lightning bolts as the job designator today’s naval communicators are called Information Systems Technicians (IT). Since today’s communications have become so heavily dependent on computerized digital wireless communications the ITs are simply the Navy’s version of “computer geeks”! Just as the computer has replaced the CW operator of yesterday it is threatening to kill the hobby of Amateur Radio. Today’s kids can jump into an Internet chat room and exchange typed exchanges with anonymous people all over the world without the need for costly electronics, big antennas or a Federally required license. The excitement of talking to people in far away places has become dulled by the commonplace and ease of it. I, however, still thrill at and enjoy the personal aspect of speaking into a microphone with someone in South Africa or Borneo. The heat from the amplifier tubes, the static of distant thunderstorms and the strangeness of their speech only adds to the realness and excitement of the moment. The typical user of the Internet has nothing to do with making the Internet work. The Ham radio operator, however, is totally responsible for establishing communications with others. He must become licensed, assemble the equipment, absorb knowledge of many universal laws of physics, erect the appropriate antennas and broadcast a powerful enough signal to be heard in the far corners of the earth. I doubt the Internet will ever provide that kind of a feeling of accomplishment. If you think you might be interested in Amateur radio as a hobby you can contact the American Radio Relay League at www.arrl.org for additional information.

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Why I'm A Fisherman
December 16, 2001

The day I submitted my retirement papers I purchased the first fishing license I’d held in twenty-five years. I don’t know exactly why I began fishing again but I have come to know why I continue. First, fishing is a wonderful form of relaxation. It has been said that you can see the stress exit your body via the line and be dispersed into the water. Secondly, whether you catch anything or not, a body of water is generally a beautiful place to be. I find golf courses to also be nice places to be near. Just don’t try playing the game, too stressful! Finally, the most important reason I continue to fish is that fishing is the perfect opening line for establishing interesting relationships with other people. Every guy has found himself in a tavern trying to figure out what would be the perfect opening line to use with the young lady sitting at the far end of the bar. Whatever you come up with is usually clumsy or about half ignorant. Fishing, however, provides one with a plethora of opening lines that are always appropriate. “Anything biting?” or  “Catchin’ anything?” will typically get a conversation going. You don’t even need to be near the water to meet other people. Just walk around K-Mart with a Bass Pro cap on, saunter into a bar with the aroma of a little fish slim emanating from the front of your t-shirt or pull into a gas station dragging a bass boat behind your vehicle. These, and more, are open invitations for others to walk up and begin a friendly chat. On a recent trip to Florida I met a world of interesting folks because I am a fisherman. Even people who don’t fish would walk up to the boat and ask questions like, “What kind of creatures inhabit those waters?” If you’re wise, and have the time, you let fishing be only the opening line. On my last day in Florida I took a pole, a folding chair and some bait out onto a fishing pier and parked near an elderly black man. A simple “catchin’ anything” opened the conversation and three hours later I had been privy to wonderful stories about his growing up in rural South Carolina, working cotton fields with a team of mules, his mother’s fried eels and hunting rabbits with “throwin’ sticks” because they couldn’t afford shotgun shells. When you’re my age that’s far more interesting than that babe at the end of the bar.

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The Conclusions I’ve Reached

April 14, 2002

As my sixtieth birthday approached I began thinking about entering into this new decade of my life. Being sixty certainly means you’ve lived long enough to have reached a few conclusions or truths about life, people, places, government, etc. With this in mind I took a tape recorder with me on my last fishing trip to Florida and recorded my thoughts as I navigated I-75 one more time. Here are a few of the conclusions I’ve reached: 

  • In Ohio we say “hi, how’s it goin?” while only two-hundred yards across the Ohio River Kentuckians say “ha, how y’all doin?”
  • An intense study of the world’s great philosophers won’t do you as much good as an hours worth of Jimmy Buffet’s music.
  • People who don’t “Buy America” first shouldn’t have God Bless America stickers on the bumpers of their foreign made cars.
  • The litter along our highways proves that Iron Eyes Cody lived and died in vain.
  • Despite what guidance councilors say you don’t have to have two years of a foreign language to go to college.
  • Kentuckians have difficulty saying the word Quesadilla at Taco Bell.
  • Any form of extremism is dangerous.
  • I’ve never met anyone that served in the military who hasn’t concluded it was one of the most important and influential experiences of his/her life.
  • Despite your accomplishments you’re not really taken serious until you’re in your mid-thirties.
  • I can’t touch my nose with or curl my tongue.
  • Racism makes no sense and some of our more fervent racists are those who have the least reason to hate.
  • People who have a right to “have nice things” are those with incomes sufficient to buy them instead of renting. It costs a lot of money to be poor.
  • The truly ugly won’t be made better looking with the addition of another tattoo or body piercing. Nor are the truly beautiful made more beautiful.
  • Jerry Seinfeld isn’t funny.
  • Too often the most opinionated are those who have made the least effort examining the facts.
  • Lotteries are a tax on the poor and the desperate.
  • There are too many Americans today who judge the worth of comedians by the number of times they can work the “F” word into their act.
  • I never met a man who looked better with a toupee.
  • North Carolinians all believe they are genetically engineered with the skills to be race drivers and have the right to exceed the speed of sound on Interstates.
  • For decades blues music was known as the Devil’s music. If true, it obviously hasn’t won enough converts, so the Devil’s created hip-hop.

  • The popularity of tabloid newspapers and reality television proves that human evolution is a very slow process. In the same vein, those who watch pro wrestling are on a different evolutionary branch than those who watch conventional sports.

  • Despite all the studies, education and laws far too many people continue to drive without using their seatbelts.

  • Too many things today cost more than what I paid for my first house.

  • Political correctness is destroying the seasoning of our lives.

  • Old people shouldn’t wear clothing made of Spandex.

Basically these are some of the random thoughts I experienced while headed south on the Interstate. I did notice, however, that while I was sitting on my bass boat in Lake Okeechobee I didn’t have such thoughts. Now there’s a reason to fish more often!

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  We Defeated The Nazi Threat 

May 3, 2002

When I was a kid and summers seemed to last forever, most of my friends and I lived to play war games. We went to elaborate lengths to relive the major battles of WWII. There seemed to be no weapon that couldn't be fashioned from wood and nails salvaged from orange crates. We carved rifles, machine guns, bayonets, etc. in numbers sufficient to arm the entire neighborhood. A coned top beer can was a hand grenade. Stuff a stick in the opening and it became a German “potato masher” grenade. We even constructed a working tank from a refrigerator crate we found out back of Ashling's Hardware. We mounted it on wheels, cut gun ports for our Daisy “Red Ryder” BB guns, constructed a revolving turret and installed a working carbide canon that shot roofing nails and/or pop bottle caps as ammo. We even scheduled a battle with kids from another part of town but when word got out about the tank they "chickened" out. On one summer day we discovered a boat dock that had broken loose from above Island Grove dam during a storm and decided to use it as a raft. For several days we floated down Paint Creek getting into all kinds of things. Each day we'd ride our bikes down the Creek Road to where we'd hidden the raft and start a new day's set of adventures. On about the third day we came across a house. It was obvious no one lived in it and to our G.I. Joe mentality it was just as obvious that it must be a German machine gun bunker on the coast of "Fortress Europe" and needed to be "taken out!" For several days we assaulted this fortification with every weapon known to young warriors. We did a great deal of damage while never considering that we were destroying someone's property. When we finally became bored we floated further down the creek seeking new adventures. Several days later, and very early in the morning, my mother woke me with the news that the police were at the door and wanted to talk to me. The bunker had an owner and that owner was mad as hell! I, certain that I would never see my parents again, left with the police. At the police station the other nine juvenile defenders of liberty, justice and the American Way were waiting for my arrival. This saga ended with one of the parents writing a check to pay for the damages, and I working two (sometimes three) paper routes for several years to pay him back. I don't know what all I learned from this but I certainly learned that actions have consequences and that my parents weren't going to keep me from experiencing those consequences! In the long haul this was a valued lesson and I hope my wife and I taught it to our children and that our grandchildren have their chance.

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A Rant On Role Modeling 
May 22, 2002

Charles Barkley, the former NBA star, was being interviewed by a reporter and was asked how he felt about being a role model to millions of American kids. He hotly fired back that he was not a role model, parents were role models, and that he was just a basketball player. What he, and so many others, failed to acknowledge is that people don’t have the freedom to choose whether or not they are role models. If you’re in a position of importance, fame, influence, leadership, etc., you are automatically, and most likely, somebody’s hero. Even if you’re not you may still be some kids example of what he wants to become “when he grows up.” The kids in my neighborhood loved to watch war movies and play war games in the neighborhood’s back yards. One of them got a G.I. Joe comic book every month and we would faithfully reenact the stories in each issue. There was also a ju-jitsu lesson in each issue and we would put an old mattress in the side yard and spend countless hours throwing each other around. On Saturdays we went to the movie matinee and were mesmerized by the silver screen. In one weekly serial feature the heroes wore broad capes tied to their neck, hands and feet. They would fly above the earth in a hokey lookin’ space ship and when trouble appeared below would jump out the door, spread their limbs and, using the cape as a wing (ala Rocket J. Squirrel), silently soar onto the backs of the unsuspecting bad guys and beat them up. Well, after several episodes a few of us decided this was doable. We took some old army blankets and, in this pre duck tape era, tied them to our hands and feet, climbed to the second floor of a nearby hotel fire escape, and…!!! The image that remains in my mind’s eye of the first (and last) volunteer is akin to Wile E. Coyote falling from a high canyon wall and disappearing into a small cloud of dust far below. The characters in those movies and comic books were role models regardless of whether they wanted to be or not. A few years later all of us began sneaking cigarettes out of our homes and experimenting down by the creek. I’m am certain that my later addiction to tobacco derived from the fact that every rock n’ roll star, movie cowboy, military leader, baseball player, parent, parish priest or friendly policeman I ever looked up to had a Lucky Strike cigarette butt dangling from his/her lower lip. Once, during my teaching career, a senior female student asked me who I thought was the coolest boy in school. I offered an opinion and two weeks later she was dating him. Shortly after graduation they were married and in due time they had a child. A few years later she volunteered that they were having marital problems. I asked her why she married him in the first place? Her answer rocked me! She said, “Because you said he was the coolest.” Who would have ever thought that a mild mannered “schoolmarm’s” simple answer to a teenager’s juvenile question could set someone on a path that would affect their entire life? So, the next time you hear some sex goddess movie star, bat head bitin’ rock n’ roll icon, mega-buck WWF hero or baggy panted gold-laced hip-hopin’ nineteen year old multi-millionaire claim they can snort a line of cocaine, cop a joint, loudly shout expletives at each other across a basketball court, brag about their sexual conquests or sing lyrics that are so gross they would make our First Amendment Founding Fathers vomit, without negatively affecting the millions of young people that are their fans, please let them know they are dead wrong. And for heaven’s sake, quit buying their t-shirts!

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The Good, The Bad and The Downtown

What I’m about to say is easy for me because, not being a resident or property owner of Greenfield, I don’t have to pay the bill. I am, however, one who considers Greenfield to be my “hometown” and I want to be proud of it and do whatever I can to promote it. Therefore, here are a few thoughts, both positive and negative, I would like to expound upon.  

First, ain’t what’s happenin’ downtown just wonderful? The renovation of the city building, the adjacent park that was built several years ago, the newly installed brick drive around the city building, the new clocks in the city clock tower, new street lights and wonderful new sidewalks are giving us all something to smile and be proud about. 

Additionally, many of the downtown merchants and/or property owners have done much to improve the appearances of their storefronts and deserve to be recognized. If you take the time to step back and look there’s some neat old architecture in Greenfield’s business district. 

Couple all this with the recent, and continuing, renovations to Greenfield’s school system, the preservation and restoration work of the Greenfield Historical Society, the improvements and condition of our community hospital and the efforts of many individual homeowners to maintain their properties and it’s easy to see that this town is “on the move.”

Now, let’s consider the down side of our downtown. Too much of that “neat old architecture” was long ago hidden behind what is now aged and shoddy 1960s “art decrap.” The facades that were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, in an attempt to “modernize” our stores, look like trash today. It would be nice to see those property owners spending some dollars ripping away the facades and restoring these storefronts to something resembling the period in which they were originally built. 

If you’ve ever been to Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA or Eureka Springs, AK you’re aware of what preservation and restoration projects have done for those communities. If Greenfield was to adopt similar policies and attitudes, and develop a “turn of the 20th century” theme, there’s no telling how many visitors might want to spend their time, along with their income, in our community. It may also create an environment that could help encourage more new industries to locate in our town. 

Hopefully, to get the ball rolling, here are a few suggestions the citizens, merchants, landlords, city council, mayor, other interested parties, Indian chiefs, and cheeses of any size (big or little) might want to consider:

·         Try power washing, or scrubbing, the pigeon guava off the canvas awning above your entrance.

·         If for no other reason than the people’s health, the city government needs to use all its powers to force building owners to fix their third floor windows, patch up all other egresses, and rid their properties of the pigeon blight that threatens the health of the citizenry and the esthetics of the community. If you don’t think pigeons are a threat just go to www.google.com and type in “health risks pigeons.” In the immortal words of Pigmeat Markham, “Do the word histoplasmosis ring a bell?”

·         Get with a sign company and have a new sign designed for your business that harkens back to the early 1900s. And please, try to avoid the use of Day-Glo paints (ala Sundry Store).

·         Take a look at what other property owners have done to restore their storefronts (i.e. Castle Hallmark and Burnie’s) to near original and get a quote on what it would cost you. 

·         See if the city can come up with some kind of matching funds or tax incentives to help merchants in such endeavors.

·         Make sure you participate in the next grant money that does become available.

·         The city government should consider taking a tax issue to the voters for the expressed purpose of replacing all of the downtown sidewalks, keeping with the theme of the current renovation project. It all needs to be fixed and the total shared cost wouldn’t break anyone.

So, there it is, the good, the bad and the whichever. I would simply ask that anyone affected by the subject/s of this rant take the time to consider it and to dwell on the doable rather than simply, and immediately, writing it off as being “too costly.” Some money spent today could simply end up as, “money spent today.” Or, it could manifest itself in returns far beyond what we can imagine. As our nearby cities get larger, more crowded and more hurried, people are going to be looking for “quaint little enclaves” within easy distance. Greenfield, with the right ambiance and some unique shops and restaurants, could become some citified folk’s Sunday morning refuge.

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To quinch a modern thirst

Every time I whip into a convenient store for something to sip on I’m overwhelmed with today’s available choices. Besides soft drinks you’re faced with considering dozens of flavored teas, coffees, chilled bottled coffees, cappuccinos, dairy drinks, an infinite variety of juices and bottled water. And speaking of water, in this new world of paying hard cash for a slurp of nature’s gift, there are even more choices. Will it be foreign or domestic (Sam’s Club sells their own brand of water and stamped on the label is “Made in America”)? Will it be from an Artesian well, a natural spring or simply from some city’s spigot? Will it be carbonated and sparkly? Will it have some artificial fruity flavoring injected into it? Finally, will it be clear or colored? I suppose all this choice makes America more democratic but frankly I liked life better when it was simpler. Remember when your choices were Coca-Cola, Pepsi or Royal Crown? Throw in a few oddball flavors like Nehi Grape or Barq’s Cream Soda and that was it. You walked into Ed Grate’s grocery, grabbed you a cold one out of an old red Coca-Cola ice water chest, pried the bottle cap off in the side mounted opener and swilled it down while the ice cold water ran down your arm. Today, the world is polluted with giant gaudy soft drink machines sitting in front of too many businesses and none of those machines will let you “put it on the cuff until Friday.” I mostly never drank Coke because it came in six-ounce bottles while Pepsi and RC Cola came in ten and twelve ouncers. There wasn’t near the litter back then because if you carried any of those bottles out it cost you a nickel deposit. So, you made sure the bottle didn’t end up in some ditch. Soft drinks were a rarity when I was a kid. Unlike kids today, who probably have syrupy, caffeinated, carbonated blood in their veins, my mom never kept soft drinks in the house. We simply couldn’t afford them. Sometimes, on Sunday evening, dad would give us some money to run down to Pete’s Market and get a couple bottles of cream soda and a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream. Mom would then whip up some ice cream sodas while we watched Ed Sullivan on our old black and white Crosley TV. My great aunt Allen always had a few six-ounce Cokes in her fridge but getting one would cost you several hours of yard work. What a bummer! Probably the first time I ever walked into a place and bought a soft drink was when I was six years old and cashed in a “borrowed” milk bottle at Jamar’s grocery for a nickel. I then asked my “girl friend” Ada for a date and together we walked uptown to a restaurant where I bought us a glass of Coke with two straws. When I became a teenager and worked a few odd jobs, my soft drink consumption increased. I used to hang around Penny’s (America’s only true “malt shop”) and sip on Cokes until my supply of nickels ran out. At one time my friends and I discovered a free supply of cool carbonated refreshment. A local body repair shop put a chest type soft drink machine outside their front door for the convenience of the public. This was one of those machines that held the bottles in a vertical rack and the buyer would insert the appropriate coinage and then slide the bottle out of the rack and through a gate that would then release. Well, one of us discovered that with a screwdriver you could pry the cap off a bottle of your favorite flavor and empty the contents with a simple soda straw. Needless to say, that machine was quickly moved inside. I suppose the point of all this is that if you’ve enjoyed these remembrances with me they are the product of a simpler time, a time when pleasures were fewer, harder to obtain and more appreciated. A time when coming up with a nickel to buy a soft drink or the enjoyment of an ice cream soda were so rare that they still bring a smile to my lips nearly forty-years later.

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You know what makes me sick? You know what makes me want to bang my head into a brick wall for an hour just to lose 150 calories? It’s not just doing something stupid. It’s being a so called expert in something, doing something stupid regarding your field of expertise, and then having everyone who finds out say, “Well of all people, you should have known better!”

I’ll be sitting in a restaurant having a bowl of oatmeal, while everyone else at the table is enjoying fried eggs, bacon, home fried potatoes with onions and heavily buttered white bread toast, when someone will say to the table, “Say, which one of Henry VIII’s wives died of an infected hang nail?” Someone will immediately say, “Now, I may be wrong, but I think it was Catherine of Aragon.” A grizzly and calloused old farmer might reply, “Naw, she’s the one what invented the Bloody Mary and died from acid poisonin’ from all that there tomato juice she drunk. I’m figgerin’ it was Anne of Cleves.” There may be another round of similar exchanges, but eventually, someone will turn to me and say, “Hey, you used to teach history, which one was it?”  Then I have to admit that I didn’t know any of Henry’s wives and incur the wrath of, “Well what kind of a history teacher were you? You outta’ know this stuff!” Now, if I were a brighter person, I wouldn’t have hesitated before saying, “Oh, that was Mary of South Salem.” No one would have known the difference and my reputation, as an expert historian, would have remained intact.

A more recent example has to do with using computers. If success in retail sales depends on, “location, location, location,” in computing the adage is, “backup, backup, backup.” Having been in the computer business for thirteen years I’ve preached the need for backing up information to countless customers. I, however, have more than once had to face the grim reality of losing information because I didn’t follow the aforementioned rule. Most recently the information I lost included all the passwords and owner’s documentation for the many software programs I’ve downloaded and purchased over the Internet. Also missing is important family genealogical information, which I had spent more than a few hours assembling. The loss that hurt the most, however, was just about everything I have written in the last year. Gone are all the guest columns that were previously published in this newspaper along with a half dozen or more that hadn’t been printed yet.

The truth is, most of this information can be replaced but it will take time and effort. The hardest to replace will be those unpublished columns. I can now claim that they were all “great American masterpieces,” and one or two may have been. I might even be able to recreate a few of them. The hard part, however, is that I can’t even remember what most of the subjects were! I write for the moment and once it’s finished I forget about it. Could this be the age thing?

When asked about my obvious state of depression by some friends at the truck stop, I was immediately made to feel worse by a “friend” saying, “Well, I thought you were the computer guru. You’re the expert, you should have known better!”

Does anyone have a brick wall I can borrow? Mine is worn out!

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Hi Larry, thanks for the memories... 

I was especially sad to read of Billy Kerr's passing.  However the stories about your youth and the Kerr's side yard did bring back some great thoughts. (I have been reading your columns) While I didn't run into that gang until the fifth grade and the Boy Scouts I remember your inventiveness in making the weapons and grenades you wrote about.   

The very mention of Pete's store, Ed Grate's, Pearl's cigar ( I couldn't place Jack the pool player) really lit my fire.  I haven't spent so much time on this machine in several years.  I can't wait to read the rest.  I didn't know about the UFO though.  Picture that.  However I do remember the house on Paint creek, to my never-ending shame.  I still cannot figure put what we thought we were doing. 

Like I said, Thanks for the memories... 

I also think you are right about cleaning up the town, underneath it is a very beautiful place.   

We will see you this summer I hope. 

Charlie Moore, cmore1@bellsouth.net  2/18/2004 


Remember when someone made a good shot at the pool hall and "Shotgun" would clap and say, "That was a good shot?" His name was William Southerland, as I recall. 

Remember when old man Bush (I think his name was) came in on his noon hour and played nine ball with the boys? He had the shoe repair shop on the corner of the alley behind Rexall. He wore coke bottle glasses and I always wondered how he even seen the balls...but he was good! 

Remember Larry's favorite player...(Jack Mills) wearing a bow tie made from a hundred dollar bill? (Probably the first one I'd seen) Jack was a classy dude...the way he dressed, the way he acted...even the way he held his stick when shooting pool. His brother came to town once upon a time and I was at Penny's Restaurant getting ready to get on the skating bus and someone informed me that it had already left...and Jack's brother and Jack said they were going down and I could ride with them. GREAT! They had an old 50 Ford and they had me begging to slow down going down old 41 to Bainbridge. I got on the floor board in the back seat. I guess that was payback for beating Jack at the pool table as my practice was free and I was getting "pretty good." 

Remember George Montgomery (Eddie's grandfather) who was also a regular in one of the big oak chairs and had the Lucky Strike brown on his index and middle fingers from smoking so much? Eddie would come in and borrow a quarter from him now and then. 

Remember Saturday night when it was hard to even get a table?...and there was always a nine ball game on the first table...and they played for sometimes five or ten dollars a game! And the place was never raided or criticized for it...maybe that’s how it is when your brother is a senator, huh? 

Remember when Ja-Rod Pavey shot the arrow from the front door at the IOOF lettering atop the building across the street from the pool hall? It stayed there for years...the painters just painted around it. The fletchings gave way after a year or so. I haven't looked for years...is it still there? 45 years...I'd think not. 

Remember when the coin collecting craze hit us and we would talk about it at the pool hall and Ernie would get in the safe and get out that string of gold coins all cellophaned together in a row and go (I can't write how his laugh sounded)...but you can hear it in your mind can't you? 

Well, “Remember when” is over for now...go ahead...it's your shot!

 Fred Martin, mung@in-touch.net 2/18/2004 

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©Copyright Lawrence E. Chapman, all rights reserved, 2002