If you live in a city of 18 million souls the legacy you’re remembered by may not count as heavily as it would in a small town of less than 5000. Mr. Wert Ash lived and died in a small town and for decades his legacy has been stained by what small town’s are good at; accepting rumor and half-truths as fact.
During much of his life, this descendant of a grandfather who had experienced slavery first hand, was known as “Hammerhead” or “Hammer.” Few knew his real name but most in town knew him by those nicknames, didn’t know why he was called them, but knew that shouting those words at Mr. Wert Ash would drive him to a fit of anger, evoking oaths, threats, and at times hot pursuit.
You’re probably aware that I’m a great fan of blues music and when I’m in the car I’m usually listening to BB King’s Bluesville on XM Satellite Radio. Recently a song being performed by Maria Muldaur, a contemporary performer, titled The Panic is On began playing. It had a sound from the 20s or 30s and the subject was economic hard-times. The lyrics were so familiar I couldn’t tell if the song was addressing hard-times today or hard-times during the Great Depression. Muldaur had added a last verse containing the name of our current president, further confusing my thoughts.
So, later in the day I did some Googling and discovered the song was written by and first performed in 1931 by Hezekaih Jenkins and Muldaur had resurrected it for Continue reading The Panic is On→
Recently I wrote a piece about the demise of the old-fashioned hardware store. Well, another retail business genre that’s dipping below the horizon is the local book and office supply store. Shot from the saddle by the young bloods in town, Staples and Office Max.
In my hometown, Greenfield, OH, we had Gossett’s Bookstore. Gossett’s began selling paper, pins, thumb tacks, gifts, books, accounting supplies, typewriters, adding machines, ditto machines, postage scales, staples, paperclips, pencils, pens, crayons, tempera paint and artist supplies, all-occasion cards, Sunday School supplies, school supplies and workbooks, and much more since before Saint Peter strolled in one day and ordered some very large blank journals.
Seriously, every person who ever walked the streets of Greenfield, beginning in 1841, could relate some pleasant memory of doing business at Gossett’s. If a chemist were to enter his lab and synthesize the aromas of all the items I’ve listed above and then Continue reading Gossett’s, The BOO(k) Store of My Youth→
Let me tell you story, my Chapman’s General Store patrons. ‘Twas way back in the winter of ’64, and my music world consisted of listening to the likes of Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka, yes, even Andy Williams. Hell, we didn’t even have much Elvis in the house. My sister Karen had some Elvis soundtracks but even The King was way too controversial for Bourneville, Ohio at the time. Mom and Dad had some Dean Martin stuff I could throw on the turntable, if that clarifies my situation at all. I was 8-years old but listened to music as often as I could. I was too young to buy 45s, so I was dependent on whatever was brought home by Mom & Dad or my two older sisters. Bleak times indeed. Those times had become bleaker in November of ’63 when my 2nd grade teacher walked in the room to tell us that JFK, a man for whom I’d passed out flyers around Ross County with my strongly democratic family, had been blown away in Dallas. I was shaken, even at my young age. Seeing your dad cry for the first time will do that to you. With the country knocked down to one knee, it certainly needed a wake-up call. I, and everybody else, got one in February.
So you think you’re middle-class. I’ve already written several pieces about America’s disappearing middle-class but many Americans still cling to the notion that they remain in the middle-class. I’ve done a little homework and I’m beginning to wonder if many of those who think they are/were in the middle ever actually were.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is my family’s gross income close to $50,000 annually?
Is my family’s income secure? Can we count on it being there tomorrow and many tomorrows in the future?
Do we own our own home or are able to meet the mortgage payments with little difficulty?
Is the neighborhood we live in safe?
Do we own at least one dependable vehicle?
Are we able to save enough for our children’s college tuition?
Are we able to save enough for retirement?
Do we have enough disposable income for a few frills?
A single income family in 1970 had more discretionary income than a dual income family in the 2000s. By the way, the average 1970s family didn’t earn over $40k and the average today does not earn $75k.
If you’re having trouble answering these questions in the affirmative you’re probably not middle-class. If you’ve never been able to answer yes to these questions then you’ve most likely never been middle-class. According to an ABC News poll in 2010, “45 percent of Americans define themselves as middle class (very similar to a CNN poll that year). They earned about $55,000 a year, compared with about $95,000 for those who defined themselves as above the middle class…” How one sees perceives their situation is often quite different than reality. The anorexic looks in the mirror and sees a fat person.
We were on a short driving trip recently and I was sipping on a travel mug of coffee I had brewed earlier in my Keurig single-cup brewing machine. I don’t know how many methods of brewing coffee I’ve bought into over the years but Keurig is my current choice. I love the quality and variety of the coffee and having to brew just one cup at a time.
When I took the last swig I remarked to my wife how I, “was going to miss that cup of coffee.” Every mug of coffee is not created equal. It may have something to do with variations in the coffee blends, stage of the tides, or phase of the moon. I suspect, though, it has more to do with the day to day status of one’s taste buds. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.
When I was nineteen I didn’t know much about Israel, Palestine, the Mid-East, where oil came from, and many other things. What I first learned about Israel came from sitting through the 1961 screening of Otto Preminger’s film, Exodus in Copenhagen, Denmark.
To keep it brief, the story is about Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust seeking their own nation in what was then Palestine, a place already occupied by people calling themselves Palestinians. Palestine was under the control of Great Britain as mandated by one of the treaties ending World War One and directions of the old League of Nations.
Emigration to Palestine by European Jews, being frowned upon by the British, made the central characters illegal immigrants seeking to force the newly formed United Nations into partitioning Palestine into two nations, one Arab, one Jewish.
If you’re younger than I you may have never heard of Rusty Warren or Redd Foxx. Even if you know of Redd Foxx it’s probably from his role as Fred G. Sandford of television fame. But long before Sandford and Son, Foxx was known as the king of dirty jokes while Warren was the queen.
In the 1950s people secretly listened to Redd Foxx and Rusty Warren on long-play, 33 1/3 r.p.m., vinyl record albums which society in general viewed as extremely raunchy humor. Everyone owned a couple of these albums, or had a friend who did. Adults routinely held house parties with a part of the evening’s entertainment consisting of sitting around the record player listening to the latest album from one of these comedians.
America has been taking the first Monday in September off since the late 1800s. The holiday rose from the labor violence of that era as a reaction to the growth of the unionism and collective bargaining. It is a day whose purpose is to honor the efforts of those who fought so hard to attain better conditions for the nation’s working classes.
Back in the spring I ventured over to the Atlantic coast near Virginia Beach for some salt water fishing. I love to drive and don’t seem to have any trouble finding things to do as I wind my way along the Interstates and secondary roads. I stop frequently to stretch the legs and on occasion back track to take a look at some point of interest or historical monument.
I am fascinated to know the origin of sayings and clichés. I have several books on the subject. My grandmother and mother had a trove of sayings and my brothers and I use them frequently but I notice that most younger people do not “GET” them. One old saying I do NOT use is “RULE OF THUMB” because it stems from the fact that in old English law a man was allowed to punish his wife and children with a rod as large as this THUMB! Continue reading The Rule of Thumb→
Frequently when discussing the distribution of wealth in America a conservative will employ the phrase, “class warfare.” They argue that liberals and the liberal media are trying to drive a wedge between the haves and have-nots that will somehow lead to a forced redistribution of wealth at the hands of government.
My wife, after reading Mike Newman’s piece about his great-grandfather homesteading in New Mexico, asked me, “Why 160 acres?” The only answer I could give her was that it had something to do with one of the several Homestead Acts passed by the US Congress and possibly with the terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. I also recalled it had something to do with the old saying, “forty acres and a mule.” Forty acres being about what one family with a mule could work in a years time and Continue reading Why 160 Acres?→
My wife and I were recently in a local steak house and on the wall was a sign that read, “Visit Wall Drug.” There are probably many people today who have no idea what that sign is all about or what Wall Drug is. Back in the 1960s it didn’t seem to matter where one traveled, you ran into “Visit Wall Drug” signs. I even remember seeing one on the side of a double-deck city bus in Continue reading What the heck is Wall Drug?→