One of my Amish neighbors just opened a harness shop and I was offered a tour. Afterward, I thought he’d be interested in knowing the history of E.L. McClain and his invention of a hinged collar and the manufacturer of collars and horse pads. He said he’d heard that Greenfield’s high school had been built by a millionaire but wasn’t aware of the source of the wealth. We both learned a little something and he sincerely enjoyed the story about McClain’s collars.
A couple of friends recently visited Savannah, GA and posted some food photos on Facebook. They mentioned the names of a couple of restaurants they visited but not Paula Dean’s place. I’ve never eaten at Dean’s and probably never will after her fall from Food Network grace. But, I do have a story to tell.
Sometime in the late ’90s a friend and myself were headed to Florida for a fishing trip. We decided to take I-95 going through Savannah and stopping at Dean’s for lunch. We were in a large van and pulling an 18′ boat making a parking place hard to find. My friend was handicapped and used a modified crutch to get around. So, I drove by Dean’s and dropped him off to secure a place in line while I found a place to park the boat.
First of all, we’re not talking Austin Power’s shag here, we’re talking about popular dances! As a kid growing up in Greenfield, OH in the 1950s being able to jitterbug earned you just a little higher step on the socially desirable ladder. We waltzed, we foxtrotted, we twisted, we strolled, but those who were really cool jitterbugged and we jitterbugged differently than what we thought anyone else did.
You could, as we did, run home after school and catch American Bandstand and those Philadelphia kids just weren’t cool because they didn’t jitterbug as we did. Their steps just weren’t as smooth and crisp as ours and there wasn’t the refined coordination between partners like there was with us.
Ohio never had much of a barbecue heritage and growing up there I had no knowledge of what real barbecue was. I also had no knowledge of the great variety and the forever argument over who has the best. Barbecue to us buckeyes was what you got at a drive-in restaurant and it usually came out of a can, sauce and all.
My first experience with real Carolina ‘cue was at Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro, NC. We spent a week at Atlantic Beach and when we’d talk to people on the beach they’d ask us if we had stopped at Wilber’s for the barbecue. At the end of the week, on the way back to Ohio, we stopped and had a large family style meal of pulled pork, vinegar slaw, potato salad, hush puppies, sweet tea, and banana pudding. For years we went to Atlantic Beach every year and never passed Wilber’s without stopping for a plate. It was my first and to this day, remains my favorite. Matter of fact, there’s a bottle of Wilber’s Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce in our fridge at this moment.
When I left Ohio for California in 1964 the old slogan was California or Bust! Since the 1840s California had been considered the land of golden opportunity and that’s pretty close to what I found there. I found immediate employment and access to affordable education. I also found this and more at a price that was within my economic means.
I haven’t been in the Golden State since 1970 but I’ve kept tabs on what the years have brought. Mostly time has brought more people, more traffic, and the cost of living that is becoming increasingly less affordable for working class people. In 1968 a nice two-bedroom starter home could be had for around $40,000. Ten years later that same home was selling for over $100,000. A quick Google of current prices indicates it would take a half a million, or more. The same home in Greenfield, OH can be had for around $80,000.
Going into the service does lots of things for a young man from small-town America. One of the most important is introducing him to the great variety of humankind we share this nation with.
In boot camp, I met my first person from the state of Washington, learned some of the slang of Italian-Americans from the steel mill towns of Pennsylvania, and had to learn how to pronounce a Polish kid’s name containing almost no vowels.
I’ve recently been scouring through things I’ve written over the years since retiring from teaching. I came across the following that I penned as I neared my sixtieth birthday. Well, In a few days I’ll turn seventy-seven and I decided to reprise this list of seventeen years ago.
As my sixtieth birthday approached I began thinking about what being sixty meant. If anything it 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
MONEY HONEY: There used to be a good economic argument to be made for $1 coins — coins are more expensive to make but last much longer than paper money. But now, driven in part by our increasingly cashless world, that’s no longer the case. In 2011, a typical paper dollar lasted for a little more than three years — now it lasts nearly eight. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the government would lose between $611 million and $2.6 billion over three decades by eliminating the dollar bill (NPR)
Several weeks ago a fellow on Facebook was seeking input on what local high-speed Internet ISP services were available, he was still using telephone dial-up. Almost instantly my eyes bugged out and my ears rang with the memories of 56K squealing as they strained to make a connection to AOL (America Online) or some other provider.
Hearing Greenfield people talk about how much they enjoyed the Midsummer’s Night on Midway events back in the early 2000s got me thinking negative things. People are always talking about there not being anything to do in a small town and then when something does happen, most don’t show up.
This was true in 1970 and truer today. I’d guess it is due to there being more recreational options and greater pressure on people’s free time. I don’t know about other towns but I suspect it isn’t much different.
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I was listening to NPR recently and in the discussion, it was mentioned that much of Trump’s support comes from people who distrust learned people. People who are educated and have some degree of expertise in a field of knowledge. Even people who are not formally educated but who have taken the time to acquire a significant body of information from either reading or experience have experienced this rejection.
I have no problem agreeing with this assertion. Many times I’ve seen people who can’t get beyond their own “gut” feelings or unfounded assumptions and become defensive when they are challenged. Trump himself has exhibited such behavior. We’ve all heard him say that such and such is correct because he just knows it is, his gut tells him it is.
LAUNDRY STARCH: Have you tried to buy a can of spray starch lately? Almost non-existent. As a kid in SC poor people would buy boxes of lump starch and eat it. When it hit the tongue it would turn to a sweet sugary substance.
Early in my teaching career, I attended a conference for history teachers. One of the workshops I attended concerned local burial practices and using a communities cemetery as a source of historical information. If, for example, you notice a large increase in burials around a certain date, it may indicate a medical epidemic. Burial practices, obviously, are often dictated by an area’s geology.
If you’ve ever been to New Orleans or Southern Louisiana you probably noticed that people aren’t buried underground. This isn’t dictated by any religious or ethnic custom. Instead, it all has to do with the water table. If you dig but a foot or more in New Orleans you hit the water table and caskets just won’t stay buried when the rainy season arrives. Therefore, long ago it was decided that bodies had to be buried in above-ground vaults. (SEE POST NOTE BELOW) Continue reading We All Don’t Bury Our Dead the Same
KENTUCKY ELK: Apparently Kentucky’s program to reintroduce elk is working. Coming through the mountains of Eastern KY I saw any number of elk crossing signs.