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

Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Top of the Hill...

There are mansions top the hill. This one sits the further up, perhaps not so deservingly so. It was the home of Harry Packer; Judge Harry Eldred Packer more exactly. Harry Packer was the youngest son, the unexpected son, the baby, the only child born when the family was secure in wealth so he was raised without knowing any deprivation or the modest means his older siblings had known.

The obituaries of his day speak highly of him at his death, a man who accomplished so much as a young man, Associate Judge of Carbon County and President of the Lehigh Railroad, as well as Board Member of Lehigh University. All positions he had stepped into after the death of his father as he had stepped into that mansion on the hill his father had built for him. They talk of his long and painful illness, his death from the internal hemorrhage brought about by its complications.

A month before his death, The New York Times reported on his illness, how he was confined to that mansion on the hill and attended by, of all names, Dr. Pepper. Dr. William Pepper, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania assured everyone of the ultimate recovery of the young judge. But at 2:00 AM on the morning of February 2, 1884 Judge Harry Packer packed it in. It was mentioned in the Times that the judge suffered from an affection of the liver. What Harry Parker suffered from were the indulgences and indiscretions he chose to adapt as the spoiled baby of the wealthiest family of Pennsylvania. What he died of, at the age of 34, was cirrhosis of the liver. Harry Packer would have been better off if he had drank Dr.Pepper rather than being examined by him.

The Harry Packer mansion stands today as a bed and breakfast where they hold murder-mystery audience participation plays.

Just a bit down the road from it is the mansion of his father, Asa Packer (pictured left), a rags-to-riches industrialist, who started out building canal boats and ended up a millionaire. Along the way he developed boatyards, construction companies and mining industries, as well as the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University.

The Asa Packer Mansion sits high atop his beloved town of Mauch Chunk, now known as Jim Thorpe, PA. He could sit out on the front porch and gaze over much of what he had created, the railroad, the homes of his workers, the town and also the church he faithfully attended, St. Marks Episcopal.

Asa had not come to Mauch Chunk as an Episcopalian. He was a Methodist when he came. He took his family to a church in town and they sat down in a pew to await the service. He was embarrassed when he and his family were told to move because he had sat in a rented pew. He swore he would never go back to such a place of hypocrisy, and he didn't.

The Little Woman and I climbed the multitude of steps and stairs to take the tour of the Asa Packer Mansion. Believe me, their are a lot of steps from the streets of town to the front porch of the mansion. The town is in The Poconos and it snakes through the mountains like a low-lying river. You do a lot of steep walking, as I suppose one should expect when in a burg once known as "The Switzerland of America".

We paused for rest now and agin. I have grown use to scaling mounts from my morning walks through the Piedmonts, but inclines are difficult for the Little Woman, especially since she throw her one knee out of whack trying to keep up with our military trained daughter on a country hike a few months back.

This is the view as you approach the midpoint up the yard of the mansion. The tall pointy building in the center is St. Marks. Some of the brick buildings directly below are part of the Carbon County Courthouse.

The beginning point of the enjoyable tour back into the 19th Century life of the prominent begins on the porch, relaxing in a chair awaiting the guide.

You are led around to the left side and enter the building through Asa's office.

The mansion is not a restoration, but a preservation. What you see is how it was, at least at the time it was willed to Mauch Chunk in 1912 by his daughter Mary Hannah.

The Packers, Asa and his wife, a farmer's daughter named Sarah Minerva Blakslee, had seven children, most of whom died young. Daughters Catherine, Malvina and Gerdrude all died before the age of two. We already saw that Harry Packer, the last born died at age 34. The oldest son, Robert died at 40 or 41. Lucy, the first born was the only child to produce any grandchildren before she also died at age 40 or 41. Mary, who was the third child lived to be 73, the only offspring to live into the 20th Century.

All her siblings having died by 1884 left Mary as the heir to the Mansion and property of Asa. But Mary had a slight problem because of the thinking of the times, which simply put, did not allow a single woman to own property. Miss Packer was not about to let such a silly detail take this mansion away from her. She had a simple solution, she got married to a long time friend, a conductor on her father's railroad named Cummings. This marriage was preceded by one of our nations earliest prenuptial agreements. After a couple years, Cummings went his way with a tidy sum of cash in his pocket and Mary Hannah Packer Cummings sat in her home atop the hill.

Since she produced no children from this arrangement, upon her death her will deeded the Mansion and all its furnishings to the Borough as a memorial to her father's accomplishments. The town accepted the Mansion, but didn't know what to do with it (we all know how ahead-thinking politicians are) and so it sat there gathering dust for forty-two years. In 1954, just before the third wife of Jim Thorpe made her appearance that changed the name of the town, the Bear Mountain Lions Club asked to sponsor the Mansion as a community project and they opened its doors to the public on Memorial Day, 1956. [Gee, the Bear Mountain Lions, all they need is the wolf and they would be Cub Scout ranks. Of course, by 1956 when the Mansion opened as a museum, they were known as the Jim Thorpe Lions Club.]

Although it is a mansion, the rooms had a more homey feel to them than other museums of the rich we've been through. There certainly were many things in the furnishings or the imported wall papers, the chandeliers or the other accouterments that speak of wealth, yes, things people of that era put in their homes as status symbols. Still, for a time the Packers did not employee the staff of servants one would expect those of their financial level to retain. For a long time Sarah Minerva Blakslee Packer did all the cooking herself. She was a farmer's daughter and these type of things were in her blood. When first married the Packers attempted to eek out a living from the soil, but after four years they found themselves as poor as ever and he set out to find employment on coal barges. They were in their fifties when they built the mansion at a cost of $14,000. (Yes, 14 and only three zeros.)

I have not found any unkind word or scandal attached to Asa Packer or his wife. Perhaps his humble beginning reflected throughout his life even after he gained his fortune. At his death his estate was valued at $54,500,000, and remember he died in 1879. Certainly in today's money he would be a billionaire.

Although Asa Packer was a decent man and philanthropist (and Lehigh University charged no tuition the first 26 years of its existence), there were other rich and powerful men in the Carbon County coal towns not so generous to others and those who worked for many of these wealthy barons lived a life far below the top of the hill where the Packer's dwelt.

That is another part of the town of Jim Thorpe we will soon visit.

All photos by the author except:

The two mansion rooms (you are not allowed to photograph inside the house).
The oval photo of Mary Hannah Packer Cummings (from the Asa Packer Mansion Association).
The painting of Asa Packer by DeWitt Clinton Boutelle, 1873.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oh, Tell I Here of the Hotel There

No, that isn't a hotel shaped as a Wedding Cake. That is our hands fifty years ago in a mid-September. A lot of fuss is often made of the Golden Anniversary, proper parties and such. But times are rough and no one in my family is in shape to throw a big bash. The best we could come up with was a little trip of a couple days.

We may not even went off on such a thing if reservations and plans hadn't been in place before I lost my job at the end of August. But sometimes the best way to deal with adversity is to get away from it for awhile.

So to what grand and exotic spot did we go to celebrate such an auspicious occasion as our fiftieth?

Mauch Chunk, of course.

Ohhhh-kay, why?

Back in 2008 the Little Woman and I started off on an ill-conceived vacation into Northern Pennsylvania. After eating lunch in the Bear Swamp Diner at Macungie (and perhaps that name was a hint of what was ahead) we traveled northwest until we hit wilderness. After a while of seeing naught, but scrub grass and trees we got the heebie-jeebies about where we might stay the night or even eat. I confessed I may not have planned this out very well as we decided to turn around and flee for more civilization. We ended up having a wonderful few days staying in Gettysburg. (You can get the gory details of that truncated jaunt here -- Getting to Gettysburg: Jim Thorpe and Traveling is Broadening.)

Well, between Macungie and dread, we passed through the little burg of Mauch Chunk. (The Little Woman said it sounded like some kind of animal eating. Not far off, the name means Bear Mountain in the language of the Lenapes.) The town was very crowded that day and there seemed no where at all to park, so we only saw it from our moving car, but the Little Woman thought it charming and intriguing and ever since that day wanted to go back and visit the place.

By the way, although the rail station reads Mauch Chunk as do many signs in the place, it is better known as Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Jim Thorpe (pictured right) is considered by some the greatest American athlete ever, even the greatest world athlete. He was born in Oklahoma and, like the Little Woman, was part Irish and part Native American. In 1904 he left the Okay state to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School where he first came to fame playing football for the Carlisle Indians. He went on to excel in football, baseball, basketball and win Olympic Gold metals in track.

So, he never lived in Mauch Chuck, perhaps never even visited, and Mauch Chunk isn't exactly a suburb of Carlisle, which is his connection to Pennsylvania. But like all humans, Jim Thorpe, super-athlete that he was, died and when his home state of Oklahoma wouldn't erect a memorial to him, his wife (his third) got angry. Most powerful weapon of mass destruction in the world is an angry woman. She made a deal with Mauch Chunk, an old coal town dying, and they erected a monument and renamed the town Jim Thorpe. He was interred there (His son began a lawsuit in 2010 to have his body exhumed and reinterred on Native American ground in Oklahoma.). His Wife got the memorial she felt he deserved and Mauch Chunk got new life as a booming tourist town. (There is a certain irony in Jim Thorpe and Mauch Chunk coming together this way, but I'll get to that in another post.)

This post is about hotels.

The Little Woman and I have been fortunate enough to do a little traveling. We have over time stayed in some interesting and historic hotels. Not the big grand ones, such as the Waldorf-Astoria, although we did spend a couple night in it many moons ago, but smaller, perhaps lesser known hostels.

(On the left is the Little Woman relaxing in our room at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, 1962.)

Here are some of the very old and interesting places we have enjoyed staying at over the years:

The Inn on Canal Square in Lewes, Delaware. We have been privileged to  stay here several times in recent years. The photo here was from earlier this year. It rained all the first day and then turned to snow overnight, which turned to a blizzard burying the Mid-Atlantic.  We always stayed here out-of-season because of the cost in season.

The Lighthouse on Casco Bay at Sebasco, Maine. Like The Inn on Canal Square, we had a marvelous view from our room of water. Here we were overlooking an expansive bay and inlet rather than a canal. It was an unique place to stay.

Part of our room in the historic Hawthorne House, Salem, Massachusetts. The infamous "House of Seven Gables" was a short walk away and across the street was the "Salem Witch Museum". Yes, in was named for Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Independent Park Hotel in the Old City district of Philadelphia, just around the corner from Two Street; surrounded by the history of our country's founding and a few steps away from a world of dining experiences, from an Havana Street at Cuba Libre, the Indian cuisine of Cafe Spice, to eating off a coffin in the Eulogy Belgian Tavern.

These are all fine establishments, places I would recommend to anyone, at least if they have remained as they were when we visited. But here I want to sing the praises of The Inn at Jim Thorpe. I would put it at the top of an enjoyable carefree stay for comfort, cleanliness and accommodations.

Jim Thorpe seems to have a way of taking you to other places, but more on that in later posts. There is a certain reminiscence of New Orleans to the Inn. This had caught the Little Woman's eye when we passed by several years ago.

The flowers trimming the railings are real, I hope anyway, since a man is watering them.

Parking is ever a premium in this town and for a moment I feared I would find no room at the inn for my car (actually the Little Woman's car). I drove about the rather cramped lot twice. It was quite filled-up it seemed and had narrow stretches I had to maneuver to escape on the first run through.

I had to exit thought a alleyway, which grew more cramped the further you went. This deposited us back on the main street we had originally entered from, much to my anxiety. There were no sign of parking spots along this avenue.

"What do we do now?" I said.

"Go back around where we went before," said the Little Woman.

I gave her a questioning look, but did so.

"There," she said as we entered the lot again, "turn left."

Up ahead upon a wall that ended this drive was a sign saying, "Inn Parking" with arrows pointing both left and right. We had turned right before and ended up exiting.

"I thought I saw more parking to the left," she said.

But the left was not a lane to extra parking, simply an indication that spaces lined this side of the drive. I pulled forward and amazingly, glommed what was apparently the last possible spot of the moment.

Yes, that is our little red Fit tucked away between two walls and a large SUV, almost a feeling of being in a garage.

If the parking lot seemed a bit -- oh, I don't know - spooky, intimidating, cramped, this was not the nature of the Inn once inside.

The hallways were like compressed galleries in an art museum, festooned with paintings right and left to escort us to our room on the third floor.

I look at this picture and realize it is some what surreal; it must be the Dali wing. The way the left wall appears to wave and waffle.

I think it sets the mood for this very interesting town.

Someplace that changed from street to street, a place still somewhat frozen in a bygone era, a place of fascinating history and a place with surprises around each corner.

We were in room 312, what was called a mini-suite.

The Little Woman was thrilled when we threw back the door and entered. Ahead we could see a wide-screen television. No, it was not the TV that made my wife thrill; I mean, come on. It was the mantle of what the TV sat upon, a working fireplace.

I am not exactly certain why she has this love of fireplaces, but she does. We had stayed in a hotel in Monmouth, N.J. a couple years ago, near the university. We were there for a concert and I didn't want to make the long trip home so late at night, something ironic as it turned out. It was one of the Marriott Residence Inns and it had a fireplace. Oh, the little woman looked forward to coming back from the concert and nestling down together before a blazing fire.

It wasn't to be. Leaving the University we got hopelessly lost and didn't find our way back to that Inn until the wee hours of the morning, weary and shaken. The Little Woman didn't get her fire and I traveled more miles late at night than I would have going home.

I sort of hated telling her that you couldn't light the fireplace here until October. I had read that in a room description on the website. However, no one at the checkin mentioned not using the fireplace nor was anything posted or in the Welcome to the Inn book in the room. I was tempted to flick the ignition switch and see if anyone squawked. There was wood in the thing. But I didn't.

There were plenty of amenities in the room beside the TV and fireplace. There was A/C and heat, of course. There was a CD player and clock radio, a DVD player hooked to the TV, Coffee Maker and assorted coffees and teas, a microwave and a refrigerator stocked with free bottled water.

There was also a ceiling fan and a skylight, which made other lamps unneeded most of the day. We were blessed with two beautiful, sunny days, a nice respite from all the rain of the last month.

There was another amenity, which we both made good use of and did it ever feel good on this old body, a whirlpool bathtub.

Sorry, it was not surrounded by mirrors so no accidental catching of me splashing about in the altogether.

On the floor below was a lounge for those who wanted to use such a place. Besides some magazines there was a shelving unit holding several board games.

As nice as these facilities might be, we preferred to be out and about the town or snug in our room.

The staff here was very accommodating. In a reversal of the maid accidentally walking in on the guest, we walked in on the maid or maids actually. The two young ladies were very friendly as we sat about watching them work. When the one noticed the coffee we preferred, she left us extra of it.

On Sunday evening after we returned from dinner, the Little Woman had a hankering for a candy bar. Finding such a thing seemed a unlikely mission, but I set out into the dark and empty streets to try. I saw a couple places that probably did have candy, but they were closed. I returned to the hotel defeated, but in my best conspiratorial voice, asked the Desk Clerk if they had any candy bars hidden about.

"No," she said, "but Dugans sells candy bars and he is still open. It is just a block up the street."

She was correct and I came back with a half dozen assorted candy bars. The Little Woman was happy, which is what you want.

The Inn was once known as the American Hotel. In the 1800s it was one of seven grand hotels that graced the town, but today is the only one still remaining and doing business. Those were the days when Mauch Chunk was a tourist destination second only to Niagara Falls and people flocked in to dance at The Flagstaff, its "Ballroom in the Sky". By the time of Jim Thorpe, Mauch Chuck may have long shed its title of "wealthiest town - per capita - in America", home at one time at the same time to 13 millionaires, when a million dollars was real money. (I'll let you in on a secret: a million dollars is still real money to me, so anyone who feels it is chump change can toss it to this chump.)

Anyway, this is the hotel of which I tell and I would tell you to stay there is you ever have the desire to lay over in Mauch Chuck. Maybe go during the October Fall Foliage Festival and ride an old train up through the Lehigh Valley River Gorge or take in Jay Smar, singing coal country classics in Josiah White Park.

And while there enjoying the peace and quite or the colors of changing leaves or the wonderful Inn at Jim Thorpe, learn some history.

See the upsides and downsides of our history. Learn of Asa Packer. Learn of the Molly Maguires. Visit, by all means, the mansions on the hill and then do not overlook or miss the dungeons of the Old Jail.

Then you will know why Mauch Chunk indeed.

All photos by the author, except the portrait of Jim Thorpe.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why I should Stop Being Lazy and Carry My camera

I guess I am lazy, but I hate to carry anything when I walk. Thank goodness I wasn't born a woman, I could never tolerate a pocketbook. But I have come to the conclusion I need to get over this laziness and carry my camera. You see, I keep my camera in a pouch strapped to my belt. Very convenient, but very difficult to get to quickly. As a result I am missing some interesting pictures, such as the fox I met face to face on the trail a bit ago. The fox froze in a perfect pose, but by the time I got my camera out it bolded into a nearby field and I missed it.

I've missed a few more good shots  the last couple of days.

Today, for instance, I thought a stroll up Rocky Run would be enjoyable. I haven't walked that path recently, especially with the rain and floods we've had. I went up the path, but at the meadow the trail disappeared into a marsh of mud and water. I didn't feel like sinking over my shoe tops thus I backtracked a little ways and went up what I call High Ridge. It is up atop a mount and runs parallel to the main trail. I walked back and followed up where it rises even higher up the Piedmont and through the woods and emerges on a campsite high on the hill. Then I turned around and came back.

As I was walking I heard a twig snap to my left. I glance over and thought I saw a white shirt and movement behind a bush. That made me edgy. Why would anyone be back there? It is the deep scruff and there is no trail, only rough ground and thicket.

I walked on and another twig snapped. I stopped and stood looking over in the direction of the sound. A few moments passed before I realized I was being watched. There between two trees stood a large deer staring at me. I don't know if it was a buck, it didn't have antlers, but it was very large and quite handsome. I reached to my pouch, but as soon as I did it bolted back into the brush. I saw another set of legs follow, so I have no idea how many deer may have been there.

But once again I missed the shot because my camera was zipped away at my side.

I continued down off the mount to Rocky Run heading out this time. As I reached that trail two dogs came bounding up it toward me. The lead dog was a Yellow Lab, looking much like my dog, Tucker (who died earlier). The other was also a large dog, but all black.

As they ran toward me, I froze. They had been at a distance when first I spotted them and there was no sign of a person about. The dogs stopped directly in front of me and I began to stick one hand out for them to sniff. Suddenly the yellow lab begins barking at me. The black dog quickly follows suit. Both are blocking the path and barking and making little lunges in my direction. I am saying something, probably, "It's okay, fellows."

I am glancing about for something to protect me, like a large sharp stick, when I hear a woman's voice far down the trail call a name and yell, "Come here!" The dogs pay it no mind. Finally two women appear and after several calls and admonishments to the pooches, the hounds turn tail and run to them. I see them snap leashes on the beasts.

The women are very apologetic and assure me this was very unusual behavior. We have a little chat of pleasantries and they go up the trail and I go down. After while I wonder if I should have told them of the deer. I wouldn't want the dogs to go chasing, but it is too late now. I go on.

I am coming up the main trail and happen to glance left at the creek. The Brandywine is several yards beyond this trail. There is a narrow barrier of trees along the left side, then the ground dips down to a large apron of grass. Across the way I see the Great Blue Heron sitting up on a downed tree branch.

I ignore the brush and press through the tree line, cross a patch of mud (this whole area had been under water a week ago) and pull my camera free as I step over the grass to the shoreline of the creek. Amazingly the great bird doesn't fly away as it has every time in the past I have tried to film it.

I stand on the bank as still as I can for nearly a half hour filming the Heron. I am staying so long now hoping it will raise its wings and fly so I can capture that graceful departure. But it doesn't leave. It stands on the branch and looks about. It preens itself, looks across at me, but it doesn't fly. I finally move on. I have the bird recorded, but it is still at a distance. You can see it in the photo at the top of this post if you look closely. You can almost see it better in its reflection in the water than its actual body against the background.

But this is what I mean, for the day before I had been walking on the Northern Greenway from Rockwood to Bellevue and back. Coming back I turned a corner and there was a Great Blue Heron standing directly in the middle of the path not more than 15 feet away. Magnificent, what an opportunity, but as usual, when I began to unzip my camera pouch it took flight. For such a large bird it disappeared very quickly.

Later, as I was driving through the woods after my walk, heading home, a pelican flew directly in front of me. This was rather unusual for around here. Perhaps the pelican had been driven northward by the hurricane, but it was definitely a pelican. I was driving then, so there was no chance of retrieving my camera from its garage on my belt.

As disappointing as it was to miss these pictures of wild beastee and bird these were't the most disappointing of all. That missed shot had come earlier on my Rockwood-Bellevue walk.

When I parked at Rockwood and exited my car, I also pulled out my camera. There were three large trees that had been uprooted near the gazebo. I filmed these and walked up the hill and around past the mansion. Here I took some more film of those trees from above. Now I walked on, taking some shots of downed trees and branches in the mansion yard. I decided I would film the creek that ran alongside the woods I was entering. I had been here the day before and that creek was roaring, splashing high over rocks and creating the white foam of rapids.

I came down today and no roaring, no big splashes, no foam. The creek was wider than normal, but pretty calm. I decided not to film and to put my camera safely away in its little black pouch. I stood on a curve of the path struggling to get my camera back in its bed. The pouch isn't large and I carry my id in it (I don't take my wallet or money on my hikes) and also my car keys. It took some effort, but I got the camera in and zipped the pouch closed.

Now as you pass through these woods to the rear of Rockwood you see a community of homes across this creek. Up ahead of me was a footbridge over the water that joined a path which meandered through that community and if you followed it, you could walk all the way into Alapocas Run State Park.

I noticed a woman standing just on the other side of the bridge. As I came nearer on my path, she stepped out to the middle of the bridge and leaned against the railing to the far side from me. She was looking down toward the creek. I then noticed a man on my side, presumedly her husband. He was on the grass and walking down the embankment toward the stream bed.

They were saying something to each other, but I couldn't hear.

He disappeared behind the bridge and down the slight hill and suddenly she pulled her shorts down.

I do not know why, but yes, she pulled her shorts down and she was wearing nothing beneath.

I do not think she was mooning me because I am fairly certain neither of them were aware I was there. They had both been intently looking down at the stream. Perhaps it was an accident, a wardrobe malfunction. I have sometimes had my pants slip down, in fact, a regular happening this year after I lost several pounds when I started walking regularly again, although I always caught my trouser or shorts before they fell that far.

Maybe she was flashing her husband.

I do not know the reason and she pulled them up a moment later. I only know if I had kept my camera in my hand I would have recorded that posterior for posterity.

I must get over my laziness.

Upticks and Updates: More Why the Rich Get Richer and You Don't

That is pretty much the stock market these days. They seem to jump this way or that on whispers of the least little thing. Yesterday the Dow jumped up 186.45 points for what reason?  What have we heard this week that says buy? Retail sales last month were flat, nothing was selling, especially clothes and back to school didn't sent people out spending this year. The number of people beneath the poverty line rose, the medium household income fell. Europe is in financial turmoil. We had a rise of violence in the Middle East. First time unemployment claims were up...again; and the unemployment rate didn't fall. There were no new jobs created last month and a number of employers announced big lay offs to come. The cost of living rose and ever people are moving in together in homes, which tends to decrease spending for goods.

It was noted Wednesday that mortgage applications rose last week because the interest rate had fallen to a new low. Well, hallelujah, happy days are here again. Of course, a good number are people refinancing while they got the chance to maybe lower their payments. Meanwhile, a way too high percentage of home sales are on foreclosed property and foreclosures remain a problem, bloating the inventory.

Stock Markets went well up today on the belief now that Greece won't default. That is the state of it now. We don't have stock growth on positives, just that the worse negatives don't occur.

But no matter the state of the state or whether Greece is well greased or not, it doesn't mean you can't make money in the market if you are a Wall Street type and have wealth. If you have lots and lots of money you can play the Long and Short Selling game and you can even make money by betting stocks are going to fall. If you have enough dough, you can even manipulate the rise and fall by buying large amounts of a stock.

The rich guy buys enough of one stock hoping others jump on the bandwagon seeing his buy and they start buying and the stock goes up.  Then when the rich man wishes, he dumps the stock at a high price and sends it plummeting. Once it has bottomed out, he may buy it back at the low cost again. This is having your cake and eating it too. The guy makes money on the profit from his initial purchase and then buys it back low, thus keeping his profit and having the stock as well.

Now to update y'all on my previous post, "Tangles of the Ticker Tape: Why the Rich Get Richer and You Don't". In that piece I spoke of a certain CEO who bought 342,876 shares of his own company at $.92 a share. That was the report I read that day. It seems he actually bought a bit more than that over a couple more days. He bought another 342,876 shares on the 9th at $1.19 a share and then 481,714 shares on the 13th at $1.36. Notice how each time he has bought, the price has been higher. He spent $1,378,599.40 overall and do you know where that stock stands now? It is currently at $1.59, meaning if he sold it this instant it would sell for $1,856,270.94, a tidy profit in a week of $477,671.54 less broker fees.

Now the price has went up because his purchases gave confidence to other investors to also buy that stock. They believe if he has this much faith in his company turning around, he must know something. So, his money enables him to manipulate the price upward.

Could you or I do that? Well, if you be rich, probably. I am not rich. I might have been able to buy, oh say, 100 shares of that stock at $.92, a cost of $92 (plus broker fees of course). I don't think my ninety-two dollars or my reputation is going to encourage any followers to jump on any stock because I do. Then if I sold my 100 shares at the current price I would make a profit of $67 (less those broker fees cause brokers gotta eat too). That is a nice gain on my investment of 73%, but a long way from making me rich.

Besides, by the time we little fish jump in the pool, the sharks have driven the price to the heights, then they drain the pool and leave us high and dry. Of course, a bit earlier in the day I could have made $79, but by the end of the day that stock dropped $.12 since the opening

Will the stock regain today? Will it continue up, stay even, begin to drop back where it started? A lot will depend on how well the CEO's new business plan succeeds. If the efforts to turn the stores around faultier, then so will the stock price, and then will the CEO dump the stock for a profit or go down with his ship?

We shall see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waters Rose, Factories Close, So It Goes

There is a great similarity between this year and June of 1972 in the upper central portions of Pennsylvania.  Land covered by flood water. In 1972, Wilkes Barre, Pa. found itself devastated by a little lady called Agnes. The storm and those floods were to have a direct effect on the course of my life.

That particular year found yours truly gainfully and happily employed by Olson Brothers, Inc. aka Olson Farms, Inc. We broke eggs.

Yes, there is an industry known as Egg Breakers.

The name is pretty much self-exclamatory. We would buy eggs, we would break eggs and we'd sell whatever we could get out of those eggs.

My position there was Office Manager/Cost Accountant. At the end of that year I was Assistant General Manager, but that was a brief tenure. The whole experience was somewhat weird, I suppose. In that year I learned a lot about corruption, bribery, stupidity, bullying and never putting all your eggs in one basket.


("Broken Eggs", Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1756)

They say getting there is half the fun. My half of the fun got lost somewhere along the line, replaced by a lot of anxiety.  I had been working for a bank, but my managers lied to me. I don't take being lied to lightly and I resigned. But before I dove off the deep end, I did go out and seek another job. I was able to be offered a position within two weeks of looking, and then I quit my banking job.

But then I wasn't hearing anything from my new boss. Time passed and I called the man and a person answered and said he was unavailable. This was not boding well. I had been told he wanted me to start before the person I was replacing had left, so I could get some training. But now the days ticked away and I had still not been told to report and the last day for that guy came and went. Finally I received a call and was told to report on the next Monday.

When I came to work that first day what did I find? A lot of missing people is what I found. The person I replaced was already gone. The General Manager, who had hired me, was gone. The new General Manager was gone, apparently to Puerto Rico although why or for how long was not known.

Eventually all this became clear. The man who had hired me had suddenly quit and disappeared to parts unknown. It was a mystery because he was something of a legend in the industry at that time, well known and the company was certainly showing a profitable operation. I know, because one of my duties was to do the Profit & Loss Reports each month. Each month our statement of condition certainly showed us well in the black and we were running at full production. However, this seemed odd because we didn't seem to be selling a whole lot.

I was to unravel this conundrum, conscientious accountant that I was. I decided to take a physical inventory of stock. Most of our product was frozen egg, frozen whole egg, frozen yolk, frozen white, frozen salted egg and frozen sugared egg. If their was a part of an egg you could freeze, we froze it, excluding the shell. So at the back of the plant was a huge freezer where all prepared egg product was stashed until sold.

Except it wasn't being sold.

I crawled about over and under and around all these big containers of frozen hen fruit, counting and checking off my list each drum there. Well, what do you know? No wonder the old General Manager was looking good. He was running at full production alright, but he was simply storing all that outcome away. We weren't looking good on the bottom line because of our low per unit cost and brisk sales, we were just carrying a very high over valued inventory, most of which would never leave our freezer.

Thus what product that did dribble out to customers was being sold way below cost.

This discovery was one of the nails in our coffin.


There is no better way to learn a job than to be thrown into it with no one around to tell you how to do it. You just do. With the old boss out the door and the new boss on a distant shore and the once-upon-a-time holder of this job on to his next, I had to pretty much teach myself the egg business. The production manager certainly helped me on that and in the absence of the General Manager, who was officially the wheeler and dealer of the place, we had to step into the gap.

We did pretty good even though neither of us had any experience in buying and selling. We did have one philosophy about it, buy low, sell high. You'd think that was obvious, but I'll come back to this in a bit.

You'd be surprised (or maybe not) by what comes about in the egg business. Eggs are pretty durable product actually. You can store them for like six months if kept at the right temperature and a lot of eggs that look ugly are perfectly fine. Farmers sold us the eggs the supermarkets wouldn't carry. They might be oddly shaped or discolored. Some might have hairline cracks. Some were too small or too big. Mainly they just didn't look all nice, even and pretty sitting in a dairy isle.

You candled every egg that passed through the doors. Mostly you are checking for any fertilized eggs or eggs with blood. Such things would not please the Rabbi.

I guess I should mention the Rabbi. The Rabbi came around  couple times a year and wandered though the plant. If he liked what he saw, he would certify your product as Kosher. Now lets be brutally honest here. We knew when the Rabbi was coming and the day before arrangements were made, or should I say rearrangements, so nothing was touching anything that would perhaps conflict with the Laws of Moses, at least not until the days after the Rabbi left again. And also, the rabbi didn't spend a lot of time on his inspection. He tended to whisk through the place until we handed him the check for his services. His services did not come cheap. That check had a one on the left and a whole lot of zeros to its right.

Now, I'm not saying that transaction was a form of bribery, but I will say this next instance probably was.

Representative of a big time chicken guy came in to visit one day, trying to make a deal for us to take more of their eggs. Eggs weren't what they built a reputation upon, it was the chickens that lay the eggs that they concerned themselves with. They sold some pretty good tasting roasters, but I will tell you, they shipped us some of the worse eggs you'd ever lay your eyes on, let alone smell with your nose. Although I had the "white-collar" job of Office Manager and Cost Accountant, there were times my duties extended to a more hands-on approach.

Not that I wanted to lay hands on that companies raw materials, but I was out there unloading their truck and what I unpacked was black eggs, rotten eggs and eggs with maggots.

Now here comes this representative wanting us to take more of this stuff from his company. He came in like a movie cliche, big old cowboy hat and a sur'nuf down home good ol' boy accent, with y'alls and back slaps all around. "Want you boys to come visit our plant," he says. "We'll take good care y'all. You come on down. We'll get you a woman and a good bottle of bourbon."


Remember that thing about buying low and selling high? Well, after a few weeks our new General Manager finally shows up back from Puerto Rico. He's all proud because he made a deal to sell the people on the Island a lot of egg white to make meringue.

Now that he had returned, for the moment, the buying and selling was back in his hands. He apparently hadn't read any pillows stitched with the production guy and my philosophy, because he bought high and sold low.

Now, and maybe this will surprise some, but there are consequences to buying high and selling low, and to having an overstocked inventory, and of running full bore full productivity when your sales are underperforming. It is called, NOT MAKING MONEY! Now that the inventory ploy was exposed (by yours truly) and the valuation reevaluated our bottom line so it didn't look so great. It looked a little red in the face. Things needed tightening up and our General Manager's idea of tightening up was not paying our suppliers.

This resulted in some suppliers refusing to sell us anything and those who would demanding a premium to do so. In other words, our buying high got higher.

Then one day, this new General Manager was gone. It really wasn't unusual for him to be gone. He was gone a lot, a la Puerto Rico, but he wasn't selling more meringue this time. Oh no, turned out he had another business on the side and he was devoting more hours to that business than to our eggs. And like our egg products, he was canned.

I suppose this belongs here under stupidity, but I thought I had a bright future with that company. I liked working there, liked my job, liked the people. It looked like we were going to expand. They were going to buy a bigger and better plant in Blue Anchor, New Jersey, move operations out of the confines of North Philadelphia. They had big plans, big dreams and here I was in on the ground floor of all this expansion.

I revisited my old employer, the bank, and discovered those managers who had lied to me were gone. In their place was the former auditor and he asked me if I would come back to work there. He even asked me to name my own salary to do so. But I told him I had a great opportunity where I was and turned it down.

Then my wife and I moved to New Jersey. C'est la vie.


Despite the corruption and the stupidity, it actually looked for a while we might turn it all around and get that dream factory over in Blue Anchor. But something else happened, which I'll get to later. The result of what happened I will deal with here. Basically, we tanked.

When things became clear that hope was going south, the company stopped production altogether. Everybody in the back was laid off, all the sorters and the sniffers, the washers and the breakers. These people weren't paid a lot to begin with, now they were getting nothing.

It wasn't long after the workers were laid off that there came a loud knock on the office door. I happened to be there with my secretary and no one else. We answered the knock and there were these gentlemen standing there who would have made find cast members for The Sopranos. These were guys who instantly made you wonder just how much broken kneecaps hurt. They were Teamsters, the Union that represented our now laid off work force.

Were they here to plead for the works jobs? Not exactly. They wanted us to know that they expected us to make sure these workers continued to pay their union dues.

I told them we couldn't do that. They would have to deal directly with their members.

As you can see I am still around and my kneecaps are fine. I can't speak for those long ago workers.


So what happened to finally kill that job? What promoted me from Office Manager to Assistant General Manager helping to oversee the dismantling of the plant? A sweet young thing known as Agnes.

This hurricane came up the Eastern Seaboard and inundated upper Pennsylvania with water, lots and lots of water. Much of the same area was flooded by Agnes as suffered the same fate last week. Up in Wilkes Barre was a big company called Interstate Bakeries. Interstate Bakeries was our biggest customer, too big to fail, at least too big to fail us.

In reality, Interstate didn't fail. They had an old factory in Wilkes Barre and it was destroyed by the floods. Rather than rebuild this ancient structure, Interstate decided to pull up stakes in the region and as a result, they no longer needed our egg product. And without Interstate, we had no reasonable chance to make a profit.

Good bye Blue Anchor. Goodbye Philadelphia. For me, hello unemployment. No company, if smart, should ever depend too much on one large customer.

One other lesson I learned there. Never eat dog food. Eggs rated not fit for human consumption went into big barrels and was sold to pet food manufacturers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

And Then...

I was on the computer at home, not particularly unusual for me in the morning. It was somewhat later than a normal Tuesday though. For most of the Tuesdays for 21 years prior to that one I would have been sitting at a desk at work by 8:30 AM. I wasn't this time because I had been "retired" the week before.

I was putting together some information about my career for an outsourcing meeting I was to have later in the day.

At some point I was skimming the web when a headline popped up. It said, "A plane has accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City."

How odd. I figured it was a small plane, some private jet gone astray. I left the computer and went to the living room and flicked on the TV. I didn't have to search for news. By now it was on all the channels and it was not some little plane. It was a big plane, a large commercial jet.

And then...

A second plane crashed into the other tower and this was no accident.

There was chaos, confusion, panic. Another report quickly followed, a plane crashed into the Pentagon in DC. Rumors floated in, reports of planes here, there, everywhere it seemed, although most quickly proved just false fears...except one, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

On the TV it seemed some disaster movie was playing, one with amazing special effects. Giant plumes of smoke poured upward over Manhattan.

And then...

A tower crumbled downward, great pillows of dust rose like a poisonous fog embracing all that stood about it. People were running, screaming, down the streets. Behind them came the dark gray shroud, seemingly chasing after them, trying to swallow them up.

No one knew anything. The images just kept going on and on and I sat down and watched, unable to take my eyes off what was happening, and like the chattering reporters I listened to, knew not knowing why it was happening.

And then...

Our way of life forever changed. Things have been different ever since. There is never a true sense of real safety. Doing many once mundane things has become more inconvenient, especially flying. Wars have been begun and they go on and on and on. And I don't know who to believe about anything anymore.

During that morning I wondered about my meeting. It was to be the first of several to teach me how to get a new job. I tried calling the place, but no one answered the phone. I didn't know whether to get dressed and drive to the city or not. In the end I decided not to go and as it turned out I made the right choice.

My meeting was to be held on the top floor of the tallest building in town. Someone made the decision to cancel all activity in that building for the rest of that day. No one knew the targets. My city was a financial center, a banking town, and the tallest building was owned by a then very well known, large New York bank.

In the days afterward I talked with a friend who had also been kicked out of a job where we had been employed. He was also scheduled for a meeting in that same tall building on that day. He had other things on his mind that morning. One of his daughters worked at the World Trade Center and the train she took was scheduled to arrive at a station beneath the towers at 8:45 AM. That morning he wasn't concerned with finding a new job, he was concerned with finding out if his daughter was safe.

In one of those strange quirks of fate, his daughter had been to a party on Monday evening and coming home tired, had forgot to set her alarm. She over slept and missed her train. She was safe.

And then...

For sometime after I felt a nervousness whenever I was out walking and a plane engine caught my ear. We are on the path for landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Planes come overhead low in the sky. I would look up and wonder, "Isn't that plane much too low?" There are chemical plants all around us, and refineries, and just across the river a nuclear power plant. And so I would watch the plane move into the distance with that thought, "Isn't that plane too low?"

That is some of what I remember from that day.

Photo taken by the author.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tangles of the Ticker Tape: Why the Rich Get Richer and You Don't

You can consider this a companion piece or a sequel or the continuing saga of "We All Must Do Our Part to Save a Sinking Ship."

We are approaching the infamous tenth anniversary of a hateful attack on America. I am certain there will be a million Blogs, columns, TV Specials and other media reports commemorating that dire event. This is not one of them.

9/11 marks a tenth-year anniversary for me as well, one of lessor importance overall, but one of some trauma in my own life.  On the morning of 9/11 I was scheduled for my first meeting with an Outsourcing Firm on the top floor of the tallest building in Wilmington. For some reason the meeting was cancelled and that building was evacuated.

I had just been jettisoned by the company where I had worked for 21 years. It was not for cause, in fact, along with another, I shared in rescuing from the ash heap a five million dollar blunder made by management. But I was 60 and a long-timer with a very good record, which meant I had a decent salary from a number of merit increases over the years and more troubling, expensive benefits. Therefore my unrequested departure was simply a case of economics. A number of us fellows and gals whose hair had turned gray and teeth had grown long, if indeed we all still had our hair and teeth, were set adrift to lighten the load on the bottom line. If at fifty-five many places offered us a senior's discount, to this company at fifty-five we had become discounted seniors.

Officially the department of my employ had been reorganized and my position eliminated.

I was to find myself on the law of diminishing jobs several times over the last ten years. I worked at a place for a year and a third and then was handed a letter stating I was being let go "due to cost reductions". I worked another place for four and a third years and found my hours greatly reduced and my days numbered do to faltering business. I left there for a promising situation, which did not blossom and after a year and a third (you gotta watch those fractions, especially one-third) I again became familiar with the phrase, my position eliminated. All these were economic considerations not in my favor and reminders of the old saying, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." I fall on the second side of that, I have definitely grown poorer.

Now I don't 100% subscribe to that bromine. But I got to tell ya, I don't completely discount it either.

There is another old saying, "It takes money to make money." If this is true, friends, then I am plum out of luck.

So let's review a bit about my last bounce into the ranks of the unemployed. But do not worry, I will not push up that 9.1 unemployed stat. I don't get counted. Anyway, I played my part in the grand plan to save the ship, which had barely floated the last five years and had a whopping loss in their last quarter pushing them ever deeper into the water of red ink. They got rid of the lowest level of employees, who really contributed little to the company failures, but are easy to make walk the plank. They plan to close 10 to 12% of their stores. Or as some one said on a financial message board, and I quote, "I just hope that the stores they are closing are the ones that are NOT". 

And of course, the CEO gave up his $1.00 per year salary.

Perhaps all this has bailed the ship out, especially that last, for yesterday when the stock market fell over a hundred points, this company bucked the trend and jumped a whopping 27% in their price. I mean, this was a stock with a steady decline, a penny stock that had fallen below a dollar making it a risk of being dropped off the NASDAQ board. Even though we are talking in cents, this sudden jump upward caused a bit of chatter and speculation.

What happened was the CEO snapped up 342,000 shares of his companies stock at $.92 a share. I guess dropping his $1.00 a year salary didn't dent his wallet too much. This is an expenditure of $314,640.

Perhaps this shows great faith in the company's future, putting your money where your mouth is, to use one more old cliche in this little broadside of mine. Perhaps this will infuse confidence in investors. At the very least, perhaps this will push the stock price above the one dollar sticking point and keep it listed on the NASDAQ.

Indeed it did accompanist the latter. The stock, in a down market, finished yesterday at $1.15. Yahoo, way to go and all that to the credit of the CEO for saving the ship from being striped of recognition in the world of Wall Street.

But there is a darker possibility and it is why the rich can get richer and you can't. This CEO bought this stock at 92 cents and by days end it closed at $1.15. On paper, in a few hours, this man made $78,660. That is not a bad days work, despite the fact no real work was involved. If he sells this morning he will grow richer over a cup of coffee.

Now I can't imagine he would do that. If he did it would go very badly for this company. But you know this type of quick profit taking goes on.

If he holds the stock, maybe the company will rebound with their fall collection, with their new TV marketing campaign, with their adding numbers of clerks and salespeople to the lines at the unemployment bureau. If so, well, then the rich man grows richer and I'm sure we will all be glad for that.

After all, none of us want to see our good old sayings prove false.

Photo is of the Breakers, the Vanderbilt Mansion in Rhode Island, taken by the author, 2009.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dark at the Edge of the Road

The call came about 9:30 Labor Day night. I didn't hear the phone, but the id flashed up on the bottom of the TV screen. t didn't recognize the number, but it was a cell phone with a local exchange. I thought I should answer it. I headed to the computer room where the main phone resides.

My oldest daughter was in there working on her novel. She answered the phone.

"It's Darryl," she said. "His car broke down."

I took the receiver. "Where are you?"

"Along Route 1 heading up. I'm between the toll booths."

Between the toll booths covers a wide territory. I told him I was on my way, but it may take awhile.

My daughter asked if I wanted her to come along. "Sure, if you want."

We rushed out. She had to move her car so I could get mine out of the drive. She pulled her car back into the driveway and then we headed south. It was dark, drizzling off and on. We weren't thinking clearly. I should have written my son's cell phone number down, but didn't. I thought my daughter had told her mother what happened, but she didn't, so now my wife got worried when we were gone so long since she didn't know where we went.

Oh well, I didn't know where I was going anyway, not exactly.

We went via I-495. I almost missed my exit lane. I had gotten in the habit of passing it every day I went to work, except I didn't have that job now, did I, and I had to make a last minute swerve to make the exit.

We were on Route 13 and my daughter said I needed to get over a lane. I did so and Ker-blang, something heavy and solid hit the undercarriage of my car. My daughter said their was debris in the road, car parts or some such thing. Now I am concerned if the object did any damage to my car. What if I break down, too.

My daughter asks, "Do you have a spare tire?"

"Yes, but don't even think it."

Of course now that is in my head as well.

We make it onto Route 1 south. We cross the fancy bridge and we go through the first toll booth. Now it is a mystery of where he might be. We are trying to see across the highway and medial strip for any white car parked on the opposing shoulder. It is hard to see that side of the highway.

We keep driving.

There are several cars along the highway as we pass mile after mile. None of them his. Oh, wait, on our side was a white car. Was that him. Didn't he say he was heading up, maybe I misheard. I'm too far past, man, I hope that wasn't him.

"I don't think there was anyone in that car," says my daughter.

We drive. We see some cars along the opposing lanes, but none are white. The second tollbooth is in Dover, maybe we will have to go all the way there.

Then we see a car the other way, parked with its hazard lights blinking. Behind it is a police car with all its flashers flashing. It's a white car, that's him.

Now we need a way to get around to the northbound lanes. We have to go to the next exit, Smryna, three miles. Three miles never felt so far. We exit and must now get to the other side of another decided highway. We drive awhile to a turn with left turn arrow lights on red. We wait. There is no other traffic, but these red lights won't change. Are they broke? Come on, change, before I am tempted to run you. We wait. Finally they change and I make a U-turn the other way. (U-turns are legal in delaware, in case you are wondering.) I have to drive quite the distance for the entry back onto Route 1 north. There are several false left turns before the real one.

Now the three miles north and then we pull onto the shoulder just ahead of my son and the cop. We get out and walk back to his car. My daughter gets in. I lean in the passenger side window fishing my AAA card out of my wallet.

The cop strolls up beside me.

"Callin' AAA, eh?"


"They take their time down here. Usually takes them a couple, two hours to come."

"Oh,well,"I say.

"You gonna wait here?" he asks. "Maybe they'll tell you you don't have to wait for the tow." He paused a moment, thinking. "Course maybe you shouldn't just leave it. You wouldn't want to leave it here. Somebody'd hit it sure enough."

I'm giving my son the number. he's dialing. Hands me the phone.

"They probably won't come for a couple hours. You gonna stay for that"

"You got any suggestions?" I say.

"Yeah, better stay though. Wouldn't want anybody to hit you."

I am talking to AAA, the lady says they are putting me on priority because of where we are. A tow will be there in about 30 minutes. I tell the cop this.

"Okay then. Well, probably be longer. I'll leave you. I'm gonna put a couple flares back here."

He lit a couple flares and stuck them in the shoulder behind us. He left and I pulled my car further up the shoulder so the tow truck would have room to pull in front of my son's car.

We sat in his car and waited. His phone rang. It was the two driver, said he would be there in 10 to 20 minutes.

We waited. It a dark and lonely stretch of Route 1. Every few moments a car or an 18-wheeler would road by. The big trucks shook our car. It was a bit scary being stranded there in what was now late night. We kept stretching our necks back, looking for the tow. False alarm, just a car, that's a semi, where was the tow?

It seemed a long time, but finally some blinking lights, a turn single, a tow truck pulled in front. The driver told us we didn't have to hang around  we could go. We left him fixing to hoist the car and we drove north.

It was raining steadily. I hate driving at night, especially in the rain. The further we went, the harder the rain. We finally reached our home grounds, got off the interstates into town.

 My son was hungry, he hadn't had dinner. We hit a McDonalds.

The tow truck we left behind working to secure the car had beaten us home. He was waiting two door up the street. He dropped off the car in front of our house.

My hands were shaking. I was too pumped to sleep. My son and I watched Pawn Stars repeats for while. I finally grew sleepy enough to go to bed.

This morning he took my car to go to work. I drove down to a mechanic in town. Then I called AAA once more to have it towed the couple miles from our place to the garage. They said the policy was one tow per breakdown, but since it was labor day and late night when it happened, they would wave that and give the tow for no charge.

The new tow truck guy called. He was on his way and fifteen minutes later he arrived. He was a nice guy. He tried to jump start the car, but that failed, so he winched it up on his truck bed. Of course it began to pour rain at that point. I felt bad, he had to get down and under with the chains in that downpour, leaning in the gutter. He wished my a better day and he was off.

Now we wait to see what this will set my son back. Sometimes I hate cars.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Parsley, Sage, Larry and Time at the Arden Fair

It must be the end of summer, at least the traditional end, for here we are at the Arden Fair. It comes but once a year, on Labor Day Weekend.

This is my neighboring community and an interesting one. It is perhaps the only community on the National Historical List. It goes back to the early earliest 20th Century and was part of a utopia movement of created towns. It had unique ownership rules, tax structure and has long been the home to artists, sculptors, writers and other creative people. There have been some famous people who lived or visits the village in the past.

There are theaters there, Shakespeare plays, music concerts, poetry readings, and the Fair. It draws a crowd, an eclectic mix from all over the area, including yours truly.

It takes over the center of the village, with lanes of booths selling all sorts of crafts and wares from Gild Hall to the outer limits of Arden proper. The place is made of three named areas,Village of Arden, Ardencroft and Ardentown.

Here is how Wikipedia describe it:

"Arden is a village and art colony in New Castle CountyDelaware, in the United States, founded in 1900 as a radical Georgist single-tax community by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price. The village occupies about 160 acres, with half kept as open land. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the village is 439.[1] In 1973, the entire village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two neighboring villages of similar size were founded on Georgist principles, Ardentown, in 1922, and Ardencroft, in 1950. In 2003 they were also listed on the NRHP. Many Ardenites, as the villagers of Arden are called, consider themselves to be "close-knit, nature-loving, liberal, tolerant, free-spirited, artistic, intellectual, even ex-hippie."

My wife and I have often kiddingly called it a place where Trolls live under the bridges, but in all honestly it is my kind of place and I am not sure there are even any bridges in it.

I decided to make a visit too the fair my morning walk yesterday. It is perhaps a mile and half to chug out of my place, up the road and into the Villages. The road is narrow with not much of a shoulder that runs through the place, and is heavily traveled. I have walked along the road through Arden, but with fear for my life. Since I always here into the interior on the right, amble up its curious streets past the Candlelight Dinner Theater and Eden Rock Home, until a cross street where I can then cross to the fair at a traffic lighted cross street doubly made safe by a State Policeman on Fair day.

There is no cost for shuffling hear and about the fairgrounds and take in the sights. One can stay quite a time and not spend a dime.

One could, in turn, stay a brief time and spend a fortune. If you begin to peruse the wonderfully varied vendors selling very imaginative wares at not what I would call Hippie prices. Of course it does say, ex-Hippie, doesn't it. 

I am not tempted by these trinkets and treasures. Two years ago I did by a T-shirt memorializing the 100 anniversary of the fair. 

However, do not think I am not lured by temptation. I spend a total of $5.50 on what I always graviate to at the fair. Food.

Oh, nothing exotic. I hat a hot dog and French Fries. The fries were terrific, hot, crispy outside, soft inside, tasty. I am a long time fan of carnival type fare, things you can wander about chomping upon.

There were other things to do. For the children there was a complex of rides, some sort of bungee cord thing, slides, pony rides. There are potions and cures. There are games of skill, a flea market and down in Shady Grove music of different styles all day long.

I walked down to the crowded grove and caught the end of a Sousa March.

The Fair began at 10:00 AM and I arrived about twenty after. As I was walking in, a lady was walking out. "Leaving already," I laughing asked.

"Taking a break," she replied. "I've been here since seven. When you work the Fair, you need a break."

I bet you do. This thing is all volunteer and it must take a lot of hard effort to pull off.

When I had reached the light at the cross over, I was behind a young lady on a bike with two miniature collies cheeringly dropping along with tails away. The back of her tee shirt read, "Old men Rule!"

"I'll go along with that," I told her.

"Absolutely!" she replied with a smile.

As you can guess, dogs are welcome visitors at this event. Everywhere you go you see canines of every shape and size. There are special watering stations for "your thirst dog" here and there. I don't know if there is a dog porte-potty.

At any rate, it was a beautiful day for the fair and a wonderful day for walking, so I had a charming, delightful venture.  Here are some faces of the fair.