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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I was recently in the mountains of Northern Georgia and around several bends in the road and tucked down in some holler there’d be a sort of enclave of broken down house trailers where people were eking out some kind of a life for themselves. There’s nothing unique about this, you can see the same thing in any state and any city, people barely getting along.
What caught my eye in Georgia however, were the occasional displays of rabbit support for Donald Trump. There would be weather-worn commercial MAGA flags and Trump signs along with crudely painted Trump signs made from whatever flat surface could be found.
As always I was stunned at the support given to a man who has no knowledge of or affinity towards these hidden Americans. Trump doesn’t know they exist and even if he does, he doesn’t care. He has made no effort to address the needs of poor Americans, in fact, just the contrary. His most recent budget proposal calls for drastic cuts into Medicaid and SNAP, both federal programs that often spell life or death for the poor.
It’s warming up and getting closer to Earth Day. Like every spring there’s a winter’s worth of trash in our yards, streets, and highway ditches, much of it comes from drive-thru restaurants and beverage barns.
No need to do the research or to manufacturer some story, because I personally witnessed it. Several years ago my wife and I volunteered to pick up litter on Foraker Street between SR 138 and the 7th Street Bridge. From just one side of that very short street, we filled our pick up truck with trash that was, as stated, carry out wrappers from fast food, and tossed beverage containers, especially beer cans. Not a single resident offered to help and within a couple of months, it was as littered as ever.
A week or so ago I published a photo of Donald Trump on which someone had Photo-shopped a set of male testicles to replace his chin. It was obviously gross and offensive and I’m sure the artist meant it to be. When I chose if from other such photos I meant it to be offensive, for the simple reason that most everything Trump has or does is offensive. He is a person who thrives on being offensive.
A Facebook friend challenged the photo as being totally disrespectful and I replied that, yes it was and rightfully so. I argued that respect is something earned and never owed. She countered that she was brought up as a small town country girl and taught to respect her elders. Well most of us were brought up to respect our elders and to respect authority. In teaching government I was always instructed to respect the office if not the person in the office. Throughout my career, I both followed that tenet and preached it to my students. Over twenty years into retirement and faced with a breed of politician atypical to America, I’ve changed my views about dispensing respect like it was trick or treat candy. You just can’t threaten a trick anymore, you actually have to roll over, bark twice, sniff my ass, and hold out your paw to earn a dab of respect.
I followed a Facebook thread today begun by a former student who was reacting to the unfolding college admittance scandal. She was relating how hard she worked to get into college and to pay her own way without help from others, including her mother. There is nothing unique about this woman, she did it the way most of us did it, on our own merits and our own labors. She wasn’t whining or bitching but instead, just expressing the disappointment she felt that American higher education is so difficult for the most while others can evade the hurdles with little more than monetary bribes from their parents.
I recently received a news feed that I found interesting. Not important, just interesting. The Axios-Harris Poll did a study of what companies are preferred most by Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
For example, Democrats for whatever reasons prefer buying products made by Kraft-Heinz while the favorite GOP product is Chick-fil-A. I can only suppose that the John Kerry connection to Heinz explains the Democratic choice and the Chick’s opposition to all things same-sex draws the loyalty of the moral high ground crowd.
Over the weekend my wife and I watched a PBS special titled, Talking Black in America. It dealt with the untold number of African American dialects spoken in America and how it all came to be. I was especially impressed with how important language is in black history and culture and how versatile many are in switching back and forth between standard-English and African American English.
It reminded me of a time I was in a fast food line near the Mexican border and how the clerk had was so adept at switching between English and Spanish. My brain has never been that flexible.
We’ve had forty-five presidents in our nation’s history and there’s a prevailing myth that anyone, regardless of wealth, can grow up and join the club. While it is possible, and we do have examples, to be born poor and make it to the White House, is not the normal way things happen, especially in the modern era.
Everyone knows about Lincoln being born in a log cabin and splitting fence rails for a living. But besides Abe, there are a number of others who had similar humble beginnings. On the list of those who weren’t born with a wooden spoon in their mouths would be George Washington, the Roosevelts, John F. Kennedy, and the Bushes.
Last evening we watched an Independent Lens (PBS) production titled Black Memorabilia. Basically, it spent an interesting hour focusing on the memorabilia that has and continues to reinforce African American stereotypes. Those stereotypes that have been used to demean, belittle, psychologically harm, instill fear, sell products, and continue to be profitable as the collector market explodes.
In all the flea markets and auctions I’ve attended I can’t recall coming across such items. I have, however, seen a lot of Nazi memorabilia changing hands. Being a child of the WWII era I have a cursory interest in these items but never had the desire to own or collect them. Just touching an SS lapel badge feels kind of slimy to me.
Continue reading Considering Black Memorbilia
Back in the ’50s, it was quite common to see bent willow furniture sitting on people’s porches and patios. A childhood friend had two chairs on their porch and I always loved sitting in them. They were handmade by an older man who lived in a small shack along a nearby creek. The creek and surrounding wetlands gave him all the raw materials he needed.
He would build single chairs as well as couches and side tables. The fellow didn’t have a car or truck so he pushed a large two-wheeled cart loaded with his furniture up and down the village streets peddling his wares. On days he didn’t have furniture to sell he would push his cart around town hauling away people’s scrap metals and newspapers.
I believe the only piece of willow furniture we ever had was a small child’s rocking chair that one of our daughters used for her children.
Several years ago I was driving through the Florida Panhandle and came upon a large pickup truck with a cab-over rack. The vehicle was heavily loaded with beautiful bent willow furniture. I don’t know where they were from or where they were going but I sure wish I’d chased them down and brought a couple of chairs home.
It’s been a long time since I gave the subject any thought but today I came across a video of a young man in Kentucky who’s keeping the craft alive. If I wasn’t so damned old now I’d look the guy up and place an order. I’ll post the video below and hopefully, this will bring back some pleasant memories for you.
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