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Hi To Our Friends Around the World!

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WordPress provides interesting stats about the blogs they host, and guess what?

Since starting this blog back in July, I’ve been gratified and amazed not only at how many folks here in the United States have visited it (several thousand), but also how many folks from other countries have stopped by.

In order of the number of views– and we’re talking hundreds of views per country in some of the top ones– we’ve had viewers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, France, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Netherlands, Mexico, Poland, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Russian Federation, Romania, Sweden, Japan, Portugal, Malaysia, New Zealand, Denmark, Serbia, Republic of Korea, Belgium, Switzerland, Pakistan, Norway, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Egypt, Macedonia, Lithuania, Ireland, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Peru, Georgia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Solvenia, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, French Polynesia, Venezuela, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Uraguay, Lebanon, Macai, Taiwan, Chile, Uganda, Bhutan, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Nepal, El Salvador, Mozambique, Czech Republic, Moldava, Slovakia, Jordan, Iceland, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Grenada!

That’s over 75 countries other than the U.S!

Am I excited about this? You bet! I’ll continue to try to create entries that I hope you’ll find interesting and informative. I also greatly appreciate all the nice comments I’ve received.

Maybe this blog is in some whacky way useful in bringing people from all over a bit closer together!

Thanks again!

–Jim

Naples When It Was

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Many of us who grew up in Naples, Florida back in the mid- to late-1960s are still in daily contact and we have a lot of laughs. There was something unique about that out-of-the-way spot way down the left side of Florida. It was a strange mix: locals who lived there for the fishing or hunting or because they’d inherited a place jumbled together with the fabulously wealthy. Add in a few drug runners and such for spice.

Through the years, Naples has grown and the average income has risen. In our day, we teens had to make up ways to have fun and we had a blast!

I visited Naples for a high-school reunion a couple of years ago and it was a great week. We resurrected a variant of the high-school bands we had been in and played a few sets at the reunion dinner. During the days, we’d drive around and marvel at how much the town had changed, but also at how much was still recognizable if you knew where to look.

Earlier this year, I finished writing a fun mystery novel set in the Naples of those days, entitled Blood on a Sugar-Sand Beach. It’s on Amazon Kindle if you feel like taking a look.

One day, some astute filmmaker will create a film about that town in that era; it should be something like American Graffiti meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, with a bit of M.A.S.H. thrown in to snaz up the dialog. There are a million zany stories and many of them are almost 100% true!

Where are George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when you really need them?!?!?!

Ocean City Storm

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My wife, Patty, is a talented photographer. She took this photo from the balcony of the condo where she, my daughter and granddaughters were staying in Ocean City, Maryland, the last week of August.

Patty just corrected me; I thought that she took this photo with her Nikon DSLR, but she took it with her iPhone. Even more impressive.

The photo shows a storm coming from the south; the colors just knock me out. Double click to view the image full-size and see if you don’t agree!

Be Careful, John!!!

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The gentleman across the street from us is a great guy and, as you will see, a brave one as well. He’s probably in his 70s, but he thinks nothing of putting a ladder on the second-story roof overhang of his house to do some repair or maintenance on the third story or even, as seen here this morning, the roof above the third story.

I have a fear of heights and it frankly gives me the willies to see John doing that! I salute his courage as I cringe at the thought of what could happen to him if all did not go as he had planned.

John’s house is the former home of T. Howard Duckett, who was one of the founders of the Washington (DC) Suburban Sanitary Commission, which handles the water and sewerage for much of the DC area. It’s a lovely house sitting in the middle of six city lots.

Duckett, who evidently was a very good business person, put up the five Sears kit homes across the street from his house as rental properties in the mid-1920s. My house is the middle one of the five.

On the next street south of us is the old and vacant original WSSC building. After the WSSC moved to new quarters, the city gained ownership of the property and has struggled for years with what to do with the huge building. From time to time, we hear it will soon be a retirement home or an arts center or a school but what it has been for the nine years I’ve lived here is a big vacant building.

So political inertia is a powerful force and so, Neighbor John, is gravity. May it always remain your friend as you perform these home-repair duties.

The Office May End, But Scanton Lives!

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Just heard from my son-in-law, Greg, that next season (season nine) will be the last for The Office. Too bad, but it had a long run and was always entertaining.

Greg and I visited Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to the fictional show, a couple of times and took the Office Tours of some of the locations where the show either filmed or mentioned frequently. The other Office fans on the tours were always a great bunch and we had a lot of laughs with them.

Scranton lays claim to being the Electric City and the electricity there was certainly splendid.

Poor Richard’s Pub, often mentioned on the show, is actually in a bowling alley across the parking lot from Alfredo’s Pizza Café, where I had what may well be the best pizzas of my life.

Scranton is an interesting city even without the Office connection. It has lots of trains; the Steamtown Mall downtown is adjacent to the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad yard that goes back many decades and still has steam locomotives moving about. It smells very odd; coal fumes, I guess.

Thanks to the good folks at http://www.Shorpy.com, we can see a view from just about the same position taken in 1900. Doesn’t look all that different, does it? That long, sloping walkway is still in place, leading now to a railroad museum, I believe:


Scranton is also in coal-mining country, though I’m a little too claustrophobic to want to tour a coal mine.

Poor Richard’s is more my style:

There’s a street-corner sign claiming to be the site of the birth of doo-wop but I didn’t have time to explore the site or the claim. The town’s newspaper building has great old-fashioned elevators and there’s a 1930’s-era radio broadcast studio there that’s most interesting.

Greg and I had lunch both visits at Cooper’s Seafood House as part of the tours. That’s one of the tour buses in the photo below. Cooper’s as seen on the show is a Hollywood recreation, but they did a good job of it; it’s a fun and funky place and the food is excellent. You may not think a beet salad would be something special, but at Cooper’s it was. The bathrooms are even themed: Elvis for the ladies and The Beatles for the gents. Click on my photo below to enlarge it and you’ll see the pirate above the entrance and the octopus on the deck above that! Wonderful place and very near where Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton’s dad were born.

If you plan to visit Scranton, the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, as the name implies, is the old train station repurposed and a very pleasant place to stay.

I didn’t take the two hotel photos; they’re from the hotel’s website, and the old black-and-white railyard photo is from the Shorpy.com collection of glass-plate and other historic imagery. All the other photos were taken with my trusty iPhone.

I hope to visit Scranton again. There’s a lot to see and do.

Is It Uhtz or Ootz?

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The movie at the beginning of the tour pronounced it Uhtz, so I suppose that’s the official way to say it! As long as you don’t say Frito-Lay or Planter’s, the folks at Utz are probably happy.

My daughter and grand-daughters and I visited the main Utz factory on High Street, in Hanover, Pennsylvania, today. It was impressive, though the term “tour” implies that you are guided through a facility by a person. Not so. The folks at Utz barely have one toe in the water when it comes to promoting their history and manufacturing technique. Seems odd.

They don’t allow photography inside the plant unless someone in authority has okayed it first and I couldn’t find anyone to ask. So I can’t show you the manufacturing there; you’ll have to imagine what it looks like.

If I were Utz, I’d be fine with folks taking photos of their chip-making process. It was modern, efficient and ultra-clean. The sight of all those raw potatoes whizzing through chutes and conveyers and turning into mounds of tasty chips seems worthy of a picture or two, wouldn’t you think?

Before the tour, which is self-guided, one walks up a flight of stairs into what looks like a medium-sized company’s break room. There is a small theater running an endless-loop 15-minute film, which I didn’t watch once they said the word “Utz.” As I mentioned earlier, I wanted the official pronunciation.

Here’s the Utz Mission Statement at the foot of the stairs. Since I hadn’t gone up the stairs yet, I hope this photo isn’t in violation of the Utz no-photo policy. This is a typical over-thought mission statement, which I guarantee you won’t finish reading and that no employee there can recite. A mission statement shouldn’t be over twelve words. So something like “Making the World Happier With the Best Snacks We Can Make” would probably be better and about 60 words shorter:

Also below the stairs is a display showing some old machinery:

Hey; it’s an iPhone photo! Be nice!!!

A few displays inside the break-room show the early history of Utz and gave my daughter and me a clue as to where the firm started in Hanover. More on that in a minute.

The main portion of the “tour” is a walk down a long corridor where the various stations in the chip-making process can be viewed through large windows. You can press a button and a recording explains what’s going on at each point.

This reminded me of the corridor in a brushless car wash.

The Utz staff as seen through the glass windows was friendly; some waved at my grand-daughter and she was delighted. Also, they have cute little wooden stiles where kids can climb up and see through the glass. My older grand-daughter thought they were the best part of the tour.

The pototoes are turned into a variety of chips and packaged before your eyes. Too bad I can’t show you any photos, as it really was impressive. It is a huge operation.

My thoughts drifted back, as I looked at this lackluster effort at a factory tour, to the Tampa Busch Gardens tour setup back in the early 1970s. It was much the same as the Utz tour is now, except they had people walking you through the place and there were gardens and exotic birds outside the facility. Now there are rides, shows, music and other entertainment and the whole place generates revenue.

After the tour, my daughter and I decided to try to find out where Utz started. We knew it was a house on McAlister Street in Hanover. We also knew that, as the company grew, William and Salie Utz, who started in 1921 by selling chips cooked in their kitchen, enlarged their home. After a few years of growth, they built a small factory behind the house.

The house isn’t marked, but Neenie found it by spotting the factory (now closed) in the alley behind the house. Notice the additions on the back of the residence:

Here’s the front of the original Utz factory, which reminds me somehow of the Alamo:

Quite a history and quite an impressive operation. I hope the firm someday decides to showcase it properly!

Flying Boats

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My dad was in love with the idea of flying boats; we’ve seen photos of his small float plane earlier in this blog. In this photo, taken by him in 1958, we see a Catalina PBY flying boat which was then owned by the Brazilian Air Force. It was in the U.S. being converted to a cargo plane; the plane itself was probably built in 1944. I don’t know where this was taken, but it was probably an airfield in Texas (NOTE: Please see Bill Bailey’s comment; this was taken at New Orleans Lakefront Airport in front of the Pan-Air hangar):

These planes are large; the photo doesn’t convey a sense of scale. The lovely blue-and-white plane also shown is a Piaggio P-136-L1 seaplane, and it isn’t small. I’m willing to bet Dad was there trying to buy that smaller plane when he took the photo.

This photo below gives a better idea of the size of a Catalina PBY; these two men are standing on the horizontal and vertical stabilizers of a Catalina; the rudder of the plane is missing:

Dad wanted to own one of these planes in a bad way; the second photo was taken by either my dad or me at an airplane graveyard out West. I was dragged there by my dad on a search for a PBY he could buy, but that’s a story for another day. Today, we’re discussing one particular aircraft.

Here’s what I found on the Net.

This PBY was in air-force service in Brazil until the late 1980s, from what I can find. Here’s the same plane seen in the first photo above, wearing a different paint livery:

Planes can have a very long service life, as we are seeing today! At some point in the last 20 years, this Catalina was purchased by the U.S. Navy and given a new registration. U.S. planes have a reg number with the letter N in front of the numbers; Brazilian aircraft use two letters in front of their registration numbers, but they all start with a P.

In this final photo, we see the same plane recently, being lovingly restored by volunteers at Floyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn, New York. She’s currently at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida, though she was in Long Beach, California for at least a while. Pretty cool for a plane that’s at least 68 years old. I’ll try to find a photo showing the plane after this restoration.

Ladies And Gentlemen . . . The Beatles! And A Theory!

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When The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night, February 9, 1964, it was a very big deal, at least to the kids in this country. Our family was living in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and for once, I put my foot down and told my mom we had to have a new TV. Our old one had conked out a couple of months before, and I wanted to see and hear The Beatles on TV.


At that point, I was on the fence about whether I liked them or not, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to see them and make up my mind. Amazingly, my mom caved in and bought us a new GE 19″ portable, and, of course, it was a black-and-white set, with the nifty stand as shown in this ad. Television wasn’t usually in color in those days; the first primetime TV season broadcast totally in color wasn’t until 1966.

This was arguably the most important television session The Fabs ever did; it was their first chance to perform in the United States and Ed Sullivan was the (then) most popular show on TV.

Now here is something I think is pretty obvious, but I’ve never seen it written about or discussed elsewhere: I firmly believe John’s mike went out on him during the last song (I Wanna Hold Your Hand). The key to this: Watch George! I can hear the audio change about 11:22 in this clip and after that point, all I hear in the vocal mix is Paul. I also think you can see at about 11:55 George is starting to realize something is amiss. If you don’t want to watch the whole clip, just move the slider at the bottom of the view to the time markers I indicate!

Listen carefully to the vocals beginning at 11:58; that should be a two-part harmony but all you can hear is Paul’s part.

I contend that George realizes at about 12:00 that John’s singing into a dead mike and starts laughing at about 12:05.

No matter; they sounded great and by the end of that show, The Beatles had done what they had set out to do: Become the first British rock-and-roll band to be taken seriously by U.S. kids. As for me, I was convinced The Beatles were something new, different and exciting, and thus began my quest to switch from playing an alto saxophone to an electric guitar.

That theater, on Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th in Manhattan, has a wonderful history. Opened in 1927 as Hammerstein’s Theater, it was converted in 1950 to use for television and was renamed CBS-TV Studio 50. Now it’s called the Ed Sullivan Theater and it’s home to David Letterman’s Late Show.

It’s About TIme!

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Back in the early 1960s, there was a lot of interest in time capsules. Usually these were a big deal and there were World’s Fair time capsules, scientific-society time capsules, and, of course, home-made ones. I buried one, made of a big metal coffee can, in our backyard in 1961. That was the year JFK was inaugurated, and I thought it was the beginning of a brave new world.

Being nine years old at the time, I chose what was important to me for my gift to the people of the future. I remember stuffing a Superman comic book into the can, some toys, and a couple of silver dollars I had saved. It was fun imaging how impressed people of the year 2061 would be when they found it!

Of course, my brother and his troops could have dug it up a week after I buried it for all I knew. But it was something to have fun doing.

Fast-forward to today. Remember the post a couple of weeks ago where I identified the home we lived in 50 years ago? Well, I just sent them a letter telling them about the time capsule. Photos taken in 1961 show them where the thing was buried, and I told them if they found anything at all, they were welcome to it.

Whether or not they’ll find anything, or do more than simply toss the letter in the trash, I can’t say. If nothing else, they may get a kick out of seeing what their home looked like over 50 years ago. But if anything interesting turns up, I’ll share it here!!!

UPDATE:

As of the end of November, three and a half months after I sent the letter to the folks at our old address, the people there haven’t responded.

Hi! We’re Taking A Pole . . .

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No; not that kind of poll!

In our neighborhood in Hyattsville, they’re replacing all the wooden telephone or power poles. I say, “they,” because since contractors are doing the work, I can’t tell who “they” are! But they’re doing a fine job. There are hundreds of these poles going up right next to the old ones. The new poles are a tad bigger in diameter than the old ones. Once the new ones are in place, they transfer the wiring structure to the new poles and chop down the old ones. After they’re done, you can hardly tell there was an old pole there at all. Whoever “they” are, they’re certainly efficient.

I can’t imagine what this must cost. Crews with big trucks are all over the place doing this work.

What I’d like to know, and I’m hoping one of my readers can answer this, is: What the heck kind of tree are these poles made from? The poles are uniformly straight and, I guess, about 25-30 feet high Probably five or six feet more are stuck in the ground. So we’re talking a fairly substantial tree to begin with. I don’t know of any tree that grows that straight except maybe a pine tree.

Anyone know the answer?

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