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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Picking Up The Leftover Pieces

I left off posting about my life back in October of 2017. That post was titled, "An End to Something". I didn't mean to make it sound so final. It was the end of several things, but certainly not the end of me.

Much changed, but some things continued.

We were still doing family things and the kids had continued in their own pursuits. However, they were little kids anymore, so changes were coming there as well.

In 1996, I moved up to  Manager of Darryl's Little League team. We were still the Phillies, defending our league championship from the year before and Darryl was leading again in most offensive and defensive statistics. We repeated as League Champions again, but finished second in the playoffs.

It was Darryl's last year in true Little League. He was too old for the 8 to 12 year olds and he moved up to the Junior
League, playing for a team sponsored by Wilmington Trust.
He was named to the All Star Team again and played in the outfield. It was his next to last year of organized ball. He was tired of the grind after more than a half-dozen seasons.

It was my last years as a manager. I had managed one more year in the minors without Darryl on the team.  The next year I went over as a bench couch in the Junior League on his team, but I wasn't enjoying it either. I was struggling with my eyesight and it scared me to shag balls in the outfield. I could no longer pick up the flight path.

Noelle was doing a lot of art by now.  She had paintings selected two years in a row for displaying in the Young Brandywine Artist exhibits.

She also had joined SADD (Students against Drunk Driving). Noelle is the girl with her back against the Drunk Jack o'Lantern in this photo.

She was in Honors Classes and in 1997 she would be an exchange student living with a family in Torgua, East Germany.

We had that families daughter here staying with us. Her name was Katja Noch. She gave us interesting perspectives, having grown up mostly under Communist rule. Her parent's careers had
been dictated by the regime. For instance, her mother had been an English teacher forced to become a Russian teacher.  The photo on the right is of Katja while she was here with us.

She and Noelle kept in touch for a number of years, but the last I heard of Katja she was working for the United Nations.

Darryl, meanwhile had joined the ROTC at his high school, Mt. Pleasant. He is pictured on the left.
Laurel was continuing to ride at gateway Stables and participate in horse shows, where she won a
number of First Place ribbons. In school she was involved with the music programs and playing parts in shows.  She was a member of the Green Knights Chorus, who competed in a festival in Florida, and won. They also got to tour and appear in the Epcot Center. (Laurel is in the top row on the extreme left.)

Laurel was also in Honors Classes.

She graduated in 1996. Mt. Pleasant was being renovated that year, so her classes were held in the former Claymont High School. The kids were not happy about this, they wanted to graduate at Mount Pleasant. The kids called it Claymount..

If the family was seeing some changes, where I felt them the most was at work.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Toward an End of Something

Leonard Quill, who had replaced Barney Taylor  when he retired in 1992, announced he would be retiring in 1995. Leonard died in 2002 of pneumonia. Sadly, his son, the actor Timothy Quill, died in Sepatember 2017 of Cancer. Tim is pictured on the left in a scene from Hamburger Hill.

His direct replacement wasn't named.  Quill remained as CEO and Chairman of the Board for another year while Ted Cecala and Robert Harra were named co_Presidents.

The Major (actor Peter Cellier - right) in "Keeping Up Appearances" had a striking resemblence to Leonard Quill (left).

Just for the record, I felt The Major bore a resemblence both in looks and behavior to Quagmire on "Family Guy". (Just below left) "Giggity, giggly, giggly!)

I knew both Ted and Bob. (In fact, I knew Leonard Quill as well. I had even been to a party at his home.)  Ted Cecala had started in the Finance Division about the same time I came to the bank in Deposit Services. He was a short man, who during the years I knew him, sported a mustache that gave him a sort of Mafia Don look. He eventually worked his way up to Sr, Vice-President of Finance.  Dave Gibson would replace him in that position. I also knew Dave, had worked with him for a while when he was still there in a lesser roll.  I always felt Ted had a certain sinister look, but in the years after I left WTC he shaved off the mustache and without it he had a ceratin comic appearance (right).

Bob Harra had been with the bank for decades. He had started, I believe, as a teller, but by the time I knew him he was a Vice-President and then became a Senior Vice-President of Retail. His was a kind of inspirational story about a local kid making good.

I always thought of Bob as the "good guy". He spoke to people and it didn't spook you out. He came to company social events and mingled right in so you felt comfortable with him. He never did the power plays other higher managers pulled. What would happen in the future was a bitter disappointment to me, but it isn't time for that yet.

When Quill eventually did step down the next year, Ted Cecala was named the Chairman of the Board and CEO, while Robert Harra became the Bank President and Chief Operations Officer (COO). They were a Mutt & Jeff pair, Bob being fairly tall while Ted was rather short. I chuckle when I think of a special presentation where they came out together to speak. Bob stood at the microphone just fine, but Ted had been provided with a box to stand upon so their heights matched. (On the left are Bob and Carol and Ted and...oh wait, that isn't Carol, maybe its Alice. No, actually it is a woman named Erika Bush. I don't really know who she is.)

In 1995 I was a star. My name was well known throughout the Bank and I got involved in a lot of things, including being borrowed in other divisions when they had a problem they couldn't fix. I was also the go-to guy on PCs, the local guru. Once upon a time I was cutting edge computer savvy; not now-a-days. I'm like brain death when it comes to technology anymore. People around me these days probably can't believe I could have ever accomplished what I write of in these autobiographical posts. I come across, I think, as rather dumb anymore.

Anyway, in 1995, I was a member of the Bank Pricing Committee and Chairman of the New Product Committee. I acted as an advisor to the Accounting Division on Cost and they borrowed my costing reports for our divisions. I was an Officer of the Bank. I was also in my 15th year as Operations, Methods and Project Manager for Deposit Services and Data Preparation. On the right I am about to receive my 15 year pin from Walt Whittiker. My and his secretaries are looking at the cake I got. These were Diane Warwick and Francine D'Ambrosio.

Most of the systems operating in our divisions had been brought in by me: the Digital Sperry UDS-2000 Data Entry System that replaced the keypunches; Automatic Lockbox, that had replaced a heavily intense manual labor division, Bulk Filing of Statements, Statement Insertion Machines, Upgraded Encoders, Personal Computer Support, Self-Service Checking, Action Concept Teams, Intern Training, MAC-ATM Deposit Sharing,  Costing System, Check Retention Safekeeping, and many other smaller projects, as well as Overseening the move of our divisions to the Plaza Operations Center. I had written several of the United Way Presentations, the Deposit Services Guidebook, and a Presentation given publically at the then Radisson Hotel in downtown Wilmington called, "This is Deposit Services". I was co-founder and editor of the divisional newspaper, as well as facilitator for much of the employee training for ACT. I had written several books on Quality, Productivity and Managements for the bank.

There were several projects I championed where I had to fight to get Senior Management to acknowledge, let alone approve; however, once approved I often found myself battling to keep Senior Management from ruining them. I had fought about the need for PCs in the beginning of the '80s, about doing a bulk filing conversion over a weekend instead of a month, having employee participation teams and Check Safekeeping. An example of the type of thing which happened is with Signature Verification.

Banks were required to do signature verification on checks, whether they still are I do not know. So much is don't electronically now and paper checks are less prevalent. In the eighties and nineties, however, there were a lot of checks. When a customer opened an account he or she would sign a signature card and this would be filed. As you know, you sign your check and you sign the back of any checks you want to deposit or cash. These checks went to the Signature Verification Unit where they were stored in files by account number. Theoretically, clerks would check the signature against the signature cards. This was pretty difficult, really, given the volume. Therefore, signatures were often verified randomly. Large items would be reviewed and then a certain number might be selected, something like catching a terrorist by pulling people randomly out of line at the airport. Verification was also done by eyeballing the signatures. It is pretty hard to say if a signature is not forged, especially since people's signatures tend to change over time due to age or diseases like arthritis. Go ahead, sign your own name over and over several times and see if it doesn't change.

I came across a company that did digitized signature verification. It wasn't a large company, because most places were not doing this kind of thing yet. It was new technology. The company was doing this for the Casinos and decided to try and expand into other areas, banks seeming like a logical choice. I put them on the Project List and it got approved. I brought them in for a demonstration and they had a very good stand-along workstation. Signature Cards would be scanned in and when sigatures needed to be compared the checks were fed across a screen and the account number entered. The software compared the signures on something like a hundred points and if a high percentage matched, then you could have some confidence it was legitimate.

We decided to go with this product and vendor and all was going fine until Senior Management stuck its thumb in the pie. It crossed their minds how great this would be if it could be networked across the branches so Tellers could check signatures on the fly, so to speak. Yes, probably would have been nice, but here is the rub. In those days this was fairly new technology, this whole imaging thing. The vendor had been very successful in the Casino businesses, but had no experience with networking a system to support multiple workstations. Our IT programmers didn't have a handle on imaging software, but it was decided to go for this marriage anyway. They were never able to pull it off and the ventor got sick of us and our people were frustrated and things just got lost when we could have had a nice start with the stand alone workstation.

I was still trying to push ahead with some kind of imaging, but no one saw the practicality, until the big equipment vendors came knocking on the door about imaging sorters and data capture. We had, as a matter of pride, contuned along with 1419 sorters, while most other bank had gone to the 3890s. We bragged about our ability to go on running this outdated equipment, but now IBM came with these new imaging beasts. I didn't know this would become my last large project.

IBM flew us by private jet down to a bank in Charlotte, SC for a demostraion of their latest sorters and data capture. Chris Honorowski was also on the team that flew down. Man, I wish I could travel this way all the time. A van picked us up at the WTC Plaza and took us basically across the street where the private aviation company was. (The blimps, such as the Goodyear, used to birth here and Air Force One would land at the airport just on practice runs.)

Thee van pulled right up to the waiting jet. There was even a red carpet rolled out for us. It was so
comfortable in the cabin. Our seats were plush and swiveled, plenty of leg room. (Left, I settle in for the flight.) We were served by young ladies on the trip. A stretch limo met us on the tarmac in Charlotte and drove us to the Bank. Ah, the life of luxury! On the right is our group about to fly down to Charlotte, along with two IBM Representatives. I am standing on the far left. The lady in the red outfit is Chris Honorowski, a software coder of great talent and one of my favorite people to work with.

Then came the changes. George Craig had already retired, some say he got out while the getting was good. Cecala was installed as the CEO and Bob Harra as the Bank President. I had noticed that Walt Whittaker was not his usual self. He seemed more disinterested in new idea or activities. It wasn't too long before he announced his retirement. This is the advice I pass along. If you have a boss you want to work for your career, make certain he isn't 11 years older than yourself.  Walt was turning 65 that year and decided to give up all the stresses of corporate life. I was 54 and had some time left to go.

I had opportunities over those 15 years. Other areas would have taken me, but I didn't want to work with anyone except Walt. I got along so well with him and I loved my job, probably too much.

I expected, we all expected, that John Behringer would be our new Vice-President. It was always that he was being groomed for the job. He had worked for Walt even longer than I, although he was younger. It was a shock when Walt's boss, the man who replaced George Craig, came down and introduced Walt's replacement. It was not John.  It was Fit Sherry, (right) who at that time was around 33 years old with no experience in Deposit Services.

Maybe I shouldn't say anything, but remember a few years earlier the Bank had started an intern program. I was put in charge of developing the training in our devisions. Fil had been in the first group of interns. He was the one who often showed up late, didn't show as much interest as the others, made phone calls during class and who got the lowest score on the final test I gave them. He was now our new boss. I think John was devastated by the turn of events. It had been considered by everyone that the job would be him, now he didn't get it and this effectively closed the door on any further advancement for him.

Sadly John passed away from Lung Cancer a few years later. He had been a heavy smoker, who tried, but couldn't quit. He had even tried hypnotism, but that failed as well. For years he was in a small group that took a lot of smoking brakes. One of those was Phyllis, who died of lung cancer while I still worked in that division. I do not know the fate of Teena, the third member of their little group. After John died it came out that he was a homosexual. He had definitely kept that in the closet, but it kind of explained a couple thing.

John came to most all the social events, which often included dancing and he would dance some with the other women in our party, but never his wife. He had been married, had a daughter in her 20s, but he never brought his wife to anything at the bank, even though spouses were generally invited.One day, through happenstance, I met his wife. I was taken back on meeting her, because I didn't expect her to look as she did. She had some form of Drawfism and was quite small, with disproportionate limbs and a hump on her back.

Fil was decent enough to me and I felt safe, but after Walt packed up his things and left I saw I wasn't as involved with projects as before. I was still Chairman of the New Product Committee and I was then named to the Security Committee as well, but most of the time I was working on my cost program. I wasn't even much involved with the new sorter project despite having kind of initiated it.

Then one day Fil called me into his office. There was another man sitting it there, who rose to shake my hand. Fil introduced him as Dave Ernst, Vice-President of Sales Support. (I will explain the picture of Dave in another chapter.) We all took a seat. This Dave didn't really say anything, Fil did all the talking.

"Dave has a problem," said Fil. "He is trying to institute a new program, one that has top priority. It is called Strong Points. He hopes to build it using Access (A MicroSoft Database application), but it has to be tried to an existing sales program on dBase. So far he hasn't been able to get the data out of dBase.

"Now we met with Ted and Bob Harra, and they felt you were the right fit to work on this new program. Therefore, you are being transferred to Sales Support. We think it may take a year and then you will be transferred to the Finance Division."

My opinion wasn't called for. This was a done deal. I went home that evening beleaving this was a case of "greasing the skids". If you are unfamiliar with that term, it is this. You have an employee you want to get rid of, but have no grounds to do so. You then give that employee a job where it is certain the employee will fail giving you a reason to say bye-bye. They felt I was a perfect fit, come on. I knew nothing about dBase, except the name, and I had never even heard of M/S Access. I had no experience in sales support. It sure sounded like a set up to me.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Jagged Bones and Yellow Eyes and becoming a Big Shortchanged

Back in 1992 something happened I haven't mentioned. That shows how impressed I was by it. In mid-October I was named an Officer of the Bank; Operations Officer to be exact. My title was now Bank Operations Officer, Operations, Methods and Project Manager, a bit overly long and redundant. My Officer designation would change over the years: Operations Officer, Retail Officer, Financial Officer and I finished out as a Marketing Officer.

Being named a Bank Officer was considered quite the honor. Personally I could never take it all that seriously. I told people the benefits of being an officer were:

I got to go to a boring quarterly meeting with all the other officers to hear announced what we usually already knew. This required going to the Gold Room at the Hotel Dupont in the late afternoon after normal hours. A cocktail party was held immediately after the meeting with plenty of free booze. I hated cocktail parties and avoided them like the plaque. I was not a particularly good schmoozer and I had no taste for standing about gulping down cocktails. I am surprised half our officer corps weren't wiped out in DUI accidents following these meetings.

I got my picture in a whole bunch of different newspapers.

I was able to sign certain transaction. This proved a real nuisance. People in the office were required
to obtain an officer's signature on many of the transactions they wrote. I became a prime signer for these clerks because I tended to be more available. There were a lot of these mundane slips, too many to read. Heaven knows what I was signing for. I just hoped no one was slipping their car payments in there.

This did give me the right to eat in the Officer's Dining Room, meaning I could pay more for basically the same meals served in the Cafeteria. I wasn't going to go to the Officer's Dining Room. It was located in downtown Wilmington, by Rodney Square, in the headquarters; my office (pictured right) was in the Wilmington Trust Plaza in the New Castle Corporate Commons. We were behind the Wilmington Airport and the Air National Guard. I would have hd to drive up I-95 and back to eat there and the drive would have cost me my lunch hour.

There is always a certain pattern to each year. On March 1, 1994 came Laurel's birthday.  It was hard to believe that this was the year she turned 16. This meant she might be riding horses today, but she might be driving cars tomorrow. In the picture, with her cake, is Laurel and her brother, Darryl. I stand between them, what shows of me. I really wasn't feeling well that day.

We had Easter dinner at the Spring City Hotel in 1994, my parents paying for us all.
April 20 was opening day of Little League season. Darryl had been drafted by the Orioles, which was the same name as his first team when he was in the instructional league. Mark Tracy was the manager. I was on the team as the bench coach and record keeper. One of the other coaches went out and bought everyone on the team an official Baltimore Orioles cap. Some of the league officials were upset with this, but we wore the caps all season. The coach on the left is the one who did this. Mark Tracy, Sr., the manager, is the second adult from the left. I'm the guy all in dark clothes on the far right. Darryl is the second boy standing to my right and I believe that is ark TracyJr., his right.

I believe that was the year started playing first base. He also pitched, but he didn't like that position.

He had come into his own batting the year before. Now he was up near the top not only on the team, but also in the league, for average. He was very fast, so could often stretch a hit into an extra base and was always a steal threat. He became our best power hitter, something Mark TracyJr., better known as.

Darryl gave me one of my biggest thrills this year. We were behind the Tigers by 2 runs in the ninth. They were contending for the playoffs. We had two outs and one of our players on base. MarkJr., at the plate. The Tiger manager told his pitcher to walk Mark to get to Darryl. You never saw this in Little League, any intentional walk. I never understood what that manager was thinking. Darryl not only had the top average on the team, he also led in homers, which is exactly what he did then, hit a homer to left field, driving in 3 runs. We won the game and that lose put the Tigers out of the playoffs.

Right after the season ended, one of the coaches held a swim party for the team at his home on June 17.  It was a Friday evening. We left the party and headed home later in the evening. I had the car radio on and we were startled by a strange story. The football player and actor, O. J. Simpson, was in a slow motion police chase on a Los Angeles Freeway.

We didn't live far from the swim party and were home in minutes. We rushed inside where the TV was following this very surreal slow-motion chase of a white Bronco, slike a scene from the "Twilight  Zone".

Speaking of surreal moments, back on April 21, the day after baseball season began, I was at the work when I received a phone call.

"Mr. Meredith?"


"This is the school nurse at Noelle's school. Don't panic."

Now when the nurse of your child's school calls and says, "Don't panic", you know it is time to panic.

"Noelle fell in Gym and broke her arm. We have sent her to the hospital in Wilmington. Everything is fine."

Really, everything is fine?  I told my boss, went home, picked up Lois and we went into the hospital.
Noelle had been taken back to a trauma room in the emergency center. The doctor and nurses were cleaning up her wound and Noelle was watching everything they did to her with rapt interest. At that time, she was 13, she talked about becoming a surgeon. She had a number of VHS tapes in her room of operations. She was a very stoic girl; although, I am sure the morphine they were giving her helped.

She hadn't actually fallen. They were doing fitness exercises in gym and were running from one end and back to the other. When she had reached the far wall she put her arms out to slow herself and when she hit the wall they said you could hear the bone snap clear on the other side. The impact broke both the ulna and the radius and the ragged bone ends were sticking out through her skin, which is what makes this a compound fracture.

It was a very serious break and she required a couple operations to piece the bones back together. She was put in a cast. She couldn't go to school as the Doctor had to keep checking her arm. She was finally alloed to return to classes on May 9. In the meantime she had a tutor who came to the house. Four months later, when we took a trip to Gettysburg in August, she was still forced to wear a brace on her arm.

At least it makes it easy to pick her out in the photograph. Laurel is to Noelle's left and Darryl traits along on her right.

The day after Noelle was told she could go back to school, I was at the eye doctor being informed I had cataracts. My right eye was the worse and needed surgery. The left could wait a while. It took a time to schedule the surgery. In-between life continued. On the 15 of May, Laurel (left) competed in an Ice Skating contest at the Wilmington Ice Rink. She was taking skating lessons that year. She did okay and didn't break anything.

In August we all went with my parents to the Rough & Tumble Museum in Kinder, Pa. This is a museum of antique farm machinery and once a year they have a big carnival-like affair called "Rough & Tumble Days" (right).

The Wilson Family Reunion was held the last Sunday of August, as usual, at Cousin Horace Wilson's Farm. There were 28 attending. Either the family is shrinking are people are losing interest. It was  more the latter. The patriarchs were dying off and the younger generation was that into it.

On Halloween I went to work as the "World's Ugliest Playboy Bunny".

I had my cataract surgery on November 14. I was quite nervous about it. I mean, this was my eye and they were going to cut it.

Preparation took much longer than the procedure. I was there a couple hours while nurses dripped drops in my right eye to numb it. It was also scary knowing I would be awake for this whole business. Finally they wheeled me to the operating room. I was placed face up on the table. There was a large bright light shining in my face.
The doctor, who I could not see, told me to relax and I would not feel anything but a pit of pressure. Not only was the doctor a disembodied voice, so were the nurses. I could see nothing but the bright light above. I saw nothing of the operation.

First the put a big metal clamp on me that held my eye wide open. The doctor made a small incision in my eyeball, went in and pulled out the cataract and my natural lens. He then put an artificial lens in. That was the only time I felt the pressure he had mentioned. There were stitches, but they were of the self-dissolving kind. The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

They slapped a pair of big, dark sunglasses on me and sent me home.

Wow! At home I was able to remove the sunglasses and what a difference. The colors seen with my right eye were so vibrant and also different. I walked about the house closing one eye, then the other to see the comparison. It was like when Dorothy walks out of the black and white scene into the technicolor of Oz. I looked at the dining room table and discovered the tablecloth was a pretty blue. I always thought it was green. You see, cause I sure did, the cataracts are yellowish and they give a dull yellow accent to the world. The yellow of the cataract had turned the blue tablecloth to green.

We went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving, not to my parents or with them. Christmas was at our house and my parents came down. I know they were disappointed me wanted to have a separate Thanksgiving. I think they were disappointed on Christmas as well. Lois had roast beef and Cornish Game Hens for dinner. My mom would have preferred the traditional turkey dinner.

Thinks were changing, and next year would see a lot.