Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Car Crashes, Dog Attacks & School Buses


In June 1991, we had finally had it with the Omni with its overheating no one could fix and decided to trade it in on  a new car. I said I was thinking about getting a Saturn.hMy wife was somewhat skeptical.  She had never heard of this car, understandable since GM didn’t start producing the models until 1990. Saturn was founded in 1985 as an employee-owned private brand until GM bought the brand. Gm spent the mid-1980s presenting the Saturn at shows as a concept car until they finally decided to market it as one of their brand lines of vehicles in 1990.
I had seen some marketing of the car and like the phrase, “A different kind of car company.” Their whole approach appealed to me and I thought it was a neat looking vehicle. She and I went down to a new Saturn dealership in Newark, Delaware to check it out. It was different. No high pressure, a super clean, airy, brightly lit showroom and very friendly people. After we bought our's there was this big celebration as we picked it up and drove away. The car was brought into a special  delivery area of the building and all the available employees gathered around to cheer us off. It was a bit embarrassing, actually.
The Saturn was quickly to the top of my favorite owned cars list. It was number 1, and I’d say still remains in that top spot. Following on the list was the Toyota 5-speed Corolla I had in the seventies, then the 1966 VW Beetle. Fourth of course, was the 1954 Ford; after all, hard not to always love your very first car. There are a couple cars we pirchased since 1961 I would add to my list today, including our 2005 Chevy Cobolt (left) and our current 2009 Honda Fit (right).

I really liked the Saturn. It was sporty looking. The paint was a sparkling blue-green, which changed color in different light. It was also deceptively fast. One of the features it had was this kind of sneaky button next to the gear shift.  The button was marked "performance". When you pushed it down the car got a real boost in power. I have read this button addd an additional 100 horsepower. I believe it. I don’t think I ever lost a street drag with the Saturn. (Yeah, right back to my teen years racing the main street of Pottstown.) I’ll never forget the shock on the face of a Porsche driver as we kicked off from a traffic light. He had been sitting, revving, looking superior, but when the green snapped on I left him standing. It was an amazing car. I dreamed of having it forever.
By 2005 the Saturn had about 150,000 miles on it, but I still loved it. It wasn’t as fast, since a new transmission had been installed. I had gone for pizza at Pat’s Pizza one twilight. It the dark I misjudged the drive in and slammed the car up over the curb - hard. After that I noticed something was definitely wrong and as it were, turned out I had ruined the transmission and had to get it replaced.
I still loved the car and I was shooting for eventually reaching 200,000 miles. It was not to be. In 2005, my wife was taking me in to work downtown Wilmington and picking me up in the evening. One evening I was waiting near the corner on Market Street at Rodney Square as usual, but she didn’t come and she didn’t come, and she didn't come. Obviously I wa getting nervous. I called home and one of the kids said she had left to get me nearly an hour ago. I went back to my waiting place. Perhaps there was a traffic jam on I-95, hardly an unusual occurrence.
Next thing I know this police car pulls up be the curb and my wife steps out of it.
If there was a jam up on the I-95 Brandywine Bridge then my wife had been involved in the cause.  I thanked the police officer and called my daughter to pick us up. I then borrowed Laurel's car to take Lois to the emergency room at Christiana Hospital, where we spent the evening into the wee hours

of the morning. The lady she had collided with was also there, but we avoided her. Everybody came out physically unharmed, but the Saturn was totaled. Because the other woman was rear ended she tried to put the blame on Lois, but that didn’t fly and we got a nice settlement from her insurance company.
It unfolded this way. It was not a nice evening weather wise, drizzle and haze. Lois had been coming in to get me and she came to a place where there is an exit ramp onto the Brandywine Bridge off of Route 202 joining that traffic with the interstate. Both roads are very crowded at rush hour. The woman came zooming down the ramp, went directly across the three lanes of traffic on I-95 to the extreme left lane nearly scraping the concrete divider. She then suddenly swung back across the through three lanes of traffic directly into Lois’ path on the far right (no political inference intended). Lois trying to avoid her went off on the shoulder, but so did this lady and Lois slammed into her car’s backside. In the end the lady was able to drive away, but the Saturn couldn’t move. It had to be towed away. The police who investigated, after interviewing some witnesses, sited the lady for reckless driving and not keeping her vehicle under control.
It was very well that Lois was free and clear of any responsibility, but my beloved Saturn was towed off to a wrecking yard and we were left without a car.

Meanwhile, back in 1991 my father sold “The Old Blue Shark” on June 27 for $950. That was my 50th birthday by the way. “The Old Blue Shark” had been my father-in-law’s car, it was an older model Chevrolet Bel Air. I can’t remember exactly what year, but it might have been a 1969.  Chevy stopped producing the Bel Air after 1980. He died in 1981. We hated the car. It was huge, difficult to park and eventually my dad took it to store it in his back yard.
My dad was an eighteen-wheel jockey. He was discharged out of the Navy in January 1946.
Honestly, I don’t even remember that first year after he returned from the South Pacific. I resented his return because now my mother gave all her attention to him, not me. I don’t know what he did or if he even had a job anywhere. We still lived at 424 Washngton Avenue with my grandparents after he returned. I started first grade at East Ward Elementary in September of 1947 and as far as I recall he wasn’t driving a truck yet. That began sometime in the fall of that year. I guess he didn’t want to go back to the jobs he held before the service, which were as a stoker in the Lukens Steel Mill at Coatesville and at the Modena Scrap Yard near where he grew up. Can’t blame him.
I think he was looking for something that gave him more freedom. He had a fondness for
Western Movies, saw himself riding the range, but wasn’t much opportunity to be a cowboy in Downingtown. He had a good friend named Joe Bender (Pictured left.). They had served together in the war. Joe was a mechanic at a truck terminal in Glen Lock, Pennsylvania and suggested my dad apply there. He told dad, “Don’t tell them you know engines or Old Man Hires'll make you a mechanic.” Dad didn’t tell Old Man Hires he had such skills and he was hired to drive milk tankers.
I don’t know where my dad learned truck driving. Of course prior to 1986 a CDL license wasn’t required, just an ordinary driver’s license would do. My dad didn’t test for or receive his Class A CDL until it became legally mandatory. He started off pulling milk tankers long distance. I don’t know from where to where, but I know he was seldom home during the week thereafter. His schedule stayed pretty set my entire childhood no matter who he hauled for or what he carried. He’d leave early Monday morning, stop home for a bit on Wednesdays, then be on the road through Friday.
He drove tractor trailers most of his life after that. He loved it. In his later driving years, he
generally hauled Hazmat or wide loads, quite often to Buffalo. He had started hauling milk at Hires, left them to haul steel and sugar for Atkinson Trucking out of Philly and worked for several other transports during his career, including A. Duie Pyle, the Miller Brothers and himself. (Photo right, dad driving for A. Duie Pyle, 1985.) During the late fifties into the sixties he had become what they called a Gypsy. During that period he hauled a lot of tomatoes.
But in July 1995 he called his boss in Buffalo and was told wasn’t much work. He figured he was done truck driving. That was on the fourteenth. On the thirtieth he went to the OJR School District offices and apply for a school bus driver job. He was almost 77 years old. He had been a truck driver for 48 years.

For the school bus job, for which he obtained a Class B CDL. He had to take a physical in July, then he had to pass a test. He took his first on October 4, but missed a few things. He took a second test on October 18. He passed everything except parking in a small space. All those years of driving the big rigs, but he is struggling with a school bus. On the 29th he was back again and this time he passed. He started working as a school bus driver on November 4, 1995 and continued doing so for the next 14 years. (Left, dad on his school bus run, 2004.) The school district finally took him off the buses in 2009. I suppose they didn’t want the kids driven by a man about to turn 91 that fall.

Lois and I went out for our 30th wedding anniversary on September 16, 1991. The next day Lois brought home a dog from the Delaware Humane Shelter. Both of us were volunteers there. She helped out at the counter and I came in a couple nights a week to walk the dogs. My favorite dog was Shadow,
a gray Pit Bull with clipped ears that had been rescued from a terrible life. Now she was a sweeyheart. I would walk her and toss tennis bowls across the field for her. She really liked chasing down tennis balls. She would fetch them and bring them back to me, only problem being she wouldn’t let go of the ball. I would carry several out with me. If I threw another ball she would drop the one in her mouth to chase, but no way was I going to try and pry a tennis ball out of that Pit Bull’s jaws. After chasing balls she would run over and jump in a plastic wading pool the DHA kept in the field for just such purposes. Eventually, Shadow got adopted into a nice home where she had her own room, plenty of treats and as many tennis balls as she ever dreamed of. 
Now as I started to say, Lois brought home a dog, a Border Collie, named Charlie (Left). Charlie liked my wife and he was very protective of her and my daughters, but my son and I were in mortal danger. I don’t know the dog's history. I do know his previous owner had been a woman. It was pretty obvious that Charlie did not like men. He would growl and snap at my son. After a terrifying night when he came after me until I somehow got him contained in the basement, we sent him back to the shelter. I was angry, feeling they needed to put some history out when someone adopted, like which dogs ate men for breakfast.

In November Reba Greenleaf called my parents. She was the lady living with my Uncle Ben. My Aunt Dot (Right)  had died in 1985, her death hastened by her alcoholism. At some point Ben met Rebecca Ora Reba Whiteman Greenleaf a nice Jewish widow. She and he began to live together, which proved very good for my uncle, even though she was 10 years his senior.  Reba died in 2002 at age 91.
She reported to my mother that Uncle Ben wasn’t too good and so she took him to the

hospital. She called the next day to say he was feeling better, but he had fallen recently and was pretty banged up. He had a cracked vertebrae and they were taking x-rays of his gull bladder. He had come home from the hospital, but a week later she called to say he wasn’t doing well. He was having trouble eating, couldn’t get food down. By the 30th he was back in the hospital. He was in the Special Care Unit at Lancaster Hospital. Dad went to see him on the seventh of December and he was much improved. Ben was back home for Christmas. (Left, Uncle Ben and Reba Greenleaf, 1990.)

As usual now, we had Christmas at our place and we were home watching 1992 arrive on TV.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kid Stuff

Dog days of August. We did some car trips. On the 2, mom came with us up route 340 to the Gast Classic Car Museum in Strasburg and had dinner at Joe Myers Restaurant out on the Lincoln Highway. Like a lot of places from my past, both are gone now. Joe Myers Restaurant changed hands at some point and it is now Lapps Restaurant. Gast Classic Motorcars Museum is simply gone the way of the Stanley Steamer.
Seems as if we escaped to Dutch Country a lot in my life. My grandparents would take me there as a child. Back then it was mostly farms, windmills and Amish. You couldn’t go on many a road without being slowed to one horse power speed by a Amish buggy. The tourist business gradually seeped in exploiting these strange Plain and Fancy folks. The tourist spots grew and grew and the simple life the tourist came to see dwindled and dwindled. It used to be a quite ride, then a pleasant diversion. Lois and I were up a week ago and it has become a nightmare. Man can’t be trusted in any Garden of Eden; he eventually ruins it.

On the 23 we were at Dorney Park, a large amusement park near Allentown, Pennsylvania. It has been in existence all my life. My folks use to take me there as a child. Of course, it predates me by a bit. Solomon Dorney began converting his trout hatchery over to a public attraction way back in 1860. When I was a kid there was no waterpark added yet and the central attraction was a rickety wooden roller coaster, which I have never ridden. 
My fondest memory, however, is of the park's envy arcade. They had these machines that dispensed old cowboy movie scene on postcard sized cardboard. They were a penny a picture. Except for old coots like myself most people probably wouldn't recognize guys who were once big stars, Hoot Gibson, Bob Steel, Tim McCoy, Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard, Lash Larue, Whip Wilson and others.
The yearly Wilson Family Reunion came on August 26 in 1990. It always fell on the last Sunday in August.
A big elm tree fell over against my neighbor’s house on August 30. It didn’t do much damage, thank goodness. It basically just leaned up against the rain gutter on the side of their house.
This was the year Laurel went to her first slumber party at a friend’s house. Several other girls were invited. Laurel is the girl on the far left of the top row.
She had a great time; however, the next week she was sent home from school. She had lice. For someone of my generation that is a statement of out and out horror. When I was a boy in Downingtown having lice was a disgrace. I was told to stay away from certain kids because they had lice, which meant they came from a dirty home. I remember kids with shaved heads because they had lice. Last thing I ever wanted to hear was my girl had lice.
It didn’t seem to be as big a deal as when I was Laurel’s age, at least, it didn’t carry as much
stigma. We were told to get this stuff from the drugstore called Rid. We had to shampoo her hair and use a very fine tooth comb to scrap out the nits. It was a lot of work and Laurel cried a bit.  We had to wash everything in sight, too. The school sent a paper home announcing lice had been discovered on a student and everyone should check their child for the bugs. I don’t know who had the lice, but I hope the girl was cured. Of course, maybe the infestation was in the home of the party host.
The remainder of the year was typical. We dropped the kids at my parents while we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. My mother gave a large dinner party (13 people) on October 30. People attending included Lois, the kids and I, George and Ethel Garnett, friends of my parents, Dot and Elmer Lentz, long time buddies of my father, and one of my oldest and original friends from Downingtown, Iva Darlington and her husband, Olin Seivers. On the 29th, my parents came to Laurel’s horseshow. Laurel won a second, two thirds, a fourth and two fifth places. Thanksgiving was at my parents. They came on the 3oth to see Darryl take a karate test. On December 9 we celebrated Noelle’s birthday. (Despite the tree in the background, this photo was of Noelle’s birthday.) My parents were there as was Evelyn Weinmann, whom my mother kept spelling as Wineberg. Christmas was at our home and then…
Just like that it was 1991.
Noelle came home one day and told us the Bonavita’s cat had kittens. “Can I have one?”
What can you say? We had allowed Linda to give Laurel a cat a couple years earlier. You need be careful not appearing to slight one child over another. Yes, Noelle could have one of the kittens. She brought home this little gray Tabby and named him Tigger.
Tigger was very much Noelle’s companion. He looked for her and he slept in her bed at night. For some reason Darryl didn’t pester us for a cat. I had no reason to suspect what was coming later in the year, how the flood gates would open or should I say the cat gates.
On January 16, the United States declared war against a brutal, thug dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq over his invasion of Kuwait ( or is it Quwait, and why in the world did they start calling it Cutter). This little to-do in the Middle Eastern desert would have ramifications for us in the near future as well. The ground war began on February 23.
Back on February 23 my Uncle Ben was taken to the hospital. He had fell and now had a broken collar bone and cracked pelvis. When visited at the hospital his arms were wrapped because he had skinned them and they were badly bruised. He remained in the hospital until February 17.
It was also in the chill of February that Darryl went to tryouts for Little League. He was 7 years old, but since he would be eight before September he was allowed to try and make a team. Our first barrier was his birth certificate. It was required to produce his certificate to prove his age and I duly showed up with it, except it wasn’t his birth certificate. I always thought it was, but it was a certificate given by the hospital, not his official document. I would later discover I had the same problem. I thought it would be difficult, especially since Darryl had been born in Pennsylvania. I anticipated driving to some government bureau in Harrisburg and getting bogged down in red tape. Amazingly, it was relatively easy. I made a phone call, got a form sent to me, paid $10 and within a week had the proof I needed. It would become even easier years later when I needed to obtain my own. The internet existed by then.
Darryl went to tryouts and he was drafted onto a team in what was called the instructional league. His team was the Orioles. This was certainly a step up from T-ball, but still a training ground for first time ball players. Darryl was a catcher, exactly the position I had when I first started playing ball as a child. It was kind of ironic. Usually you saw heavy kids in the catcher position at this age. You might have expected to see the kid to Darryl’s left, the only kid taller than he on the team, in that position. I believe that boy broke in at first base, a position Darryl would star in a few years later. (Despite his height, Darryl was one of the youngest kids on the team.)
It wasn’t a great challenge being a catcher in the instructional league. He didn’t have to signal pitches to the pitcher, because there really wasn’t a kid pitcher. One of the three coaches lobbed the ball in and all Darryl really had to do was keep it in front of him when the batter missed, which at this age usually was the case . There was also no base stealing at this level.
Actually, there was a kid placed in the pitcher position and a few times that was Darryl. The photo on the left was taken of him looking like a fierce pitcher. Like I said, he didn’t pitch any balls toward the plate. He mainly stood over to the side and a bit behind the Coach, who was lobbing the pitches, and try to field any chance hits that came up the middle of the infield. At this level these were few and far between, but that was good, because at this level fielding was also close to nonexistent.
But Darryl was enthusiastic about playing, while all I could think was “one more thing I got to get him to”.  It was getting jumbled. Three kids in karate three times a week, Laurel taking weekly horseback lessons, Darryl in Cub Scouts and now also Little League Baseball. Oh, Noelle, beside Karate, she had joined a Brownie Troop. (Noelle would turn 11 in December 1991, then she would graduate up from Brownie to Girl Guide, that’s my little blond bombshell on the right.)
Let me get this off my chest while we’re on this particular subject. As mentioned a bit earlier, I was Treasurer for the Cub Scout pack. You can toss in my mix of getting kids around the pack meeting, the den meeting and planning meetings for the officers. One of the things that came along was fund raising. I’m not a big fan of fund raisers as a parent. There was always something to peddle and parents with children would tote a lot of this stuff into work to sell. Usually it came down to, “You buy my kids offerings and I’ll buy yours”, which meant we parents were actually doing the buying. We already were doing much of that, of course, shelling out a good bit so our kid didn’t look too bad. In m childhood there were very few of these. There were some, like selling seeds in Grade School, but nothing like in the 1990s. We had fund raisers for Cub Scouts, Karate, Horseback Riding, School, Chorus. Little League and the one which took the cake, or should we say, the cookie, for me was the Girl Scouts.
There was an aspect to fund raising I didn’t care for besides turning small children into door-to-door salespeople. Let’s call it, “Who gets the benefit.” In the presentations the kids did, but in reality they got very little of the take. Most went elsewhere with a good chunk to the manufacturer of the product. We Cub Scouts sold popcorn and believe me I did not think our share of the proceeds was very satisfactory. I looked at our budget and figured out we could charge each Cub $10 a year and cover our expenses. I did not think $10 a year was a great handicap on anyone. Most were spending more on the popcorn anyway.
My feelings were intensified when I became the Cookie Mother for Noelle’s Girl Guides troop. Yeah, you heard right. I had a little saying about our family:
My son was in the Girls’ Club, my one daughter was in the Boy Scouts, my wife was a Road Runner, I was a Cookie Mother and my other daughter wore combat boots. We were one mixed-up family.
Let me explain. When both my wife and I were working during Darryl’s younger years. We had to put him in an after school program at the Community Center. The after school program was run by the Girls’ Clubs, so Darryl spent a couple years in the Girls’ Club. Laurel as a teenager got interested in the justice system. The Boy Scouts ran a program for teens on jurisprudence. Laurel had to join the Explorer Scouts to enter the program, which she did. They had speakers and lessons on the law and court system, even taking the Explorers to Wilmington’s Court House to attend some trials. I already told about my wife being the Road Runner mascot for the kid’s grammar school, so that just leaves me to become a Cookie Mother.  That is Cookie Mother, not Monster.
Somebody had to do. None of the moms stepped up and Lois was tied up with her job, so I volunteered. Seemed simple enough. Sent in the cookie orders. Receive cookies. Distribute cookies as sold. Record each Brownie’s sales. Collect Brownie’s customer money. Send receipts in. Okay, here is the reality and how it worked.
The Troop decided how many cookies they believed we could sell. Once they determined this I sent the order to the Girl Scout Councel cookie liaison. In about a week our stock of cookies was delivered. We were a small troop, but it was still a lot of cookies. We stored them in one mom's garage.
When you ordered you had to put down a quantity of cartons. Thus you received cartons
filled with individual boxes of cookies. Each carton contained a certain type, like Thin Mints in one carton, Trefoils in another carton and so on. We as a troop had to pay the council for every carton we ordered and opened, whether we sold all the individual boxes or not. If a carton was unopened it could be sent back, but if we had to remove one box from a carton to fulfil an order, then we had to pay for the whole carton. When you see Scouts standing at a table outside your favorite supermarket, they are selling off their left over stock, which they had to pay for. If they can’t sell it, then their troop probably loses money. The local troops get very little of the proceeds anyway, so pretty much have to sell every box to make anything for themselves. The biggest chunk of the monies for sales flows to the Girl Scout Council confers, out of which the cookie maker gets a good slice.
Our goal was to get enough profit that our girls could go to camp. We had two girls in our troup, sisters, although their last names were different. Their mother had a different last name from the girls as well and all had different names than the man their mother was then living with. These two girls sold the most cookies of any in the troop. Each girl alone outdid every other girl. However, all the other girls collected from their customers and brought the money in. These two girls collected the money, but didn’t bring it in. Their “parents” spend the money of drugs.
Well, there went the troops camping trip money. We were in debt to the Girl Scout council for those cookies. The Council Liaison was coming to me for the payment. I wasn’t going to pay it. The two girls and their “parents” disappeared. Last I heard the Girl Scouts were pursuing them. The Girl Scouts don’t let people get away with such things. They want their money. I believe these people were caught.

I didn’t volunteer to be Cookie Mother next time. Too much drama for me. If I want this stuff I’ll watch “Cops”.