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

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

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, 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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Normal Year, except for the death and destruction

January 21, 1993. deja vu all over again, as Reba Greenleaf called to say my Uncle ben had been taken to the hospital once again. This time it was a bad infection in his arm.On the 24th my parents and we visited ben in his room. He looked terrible. The Doctors didn't know what had caused the infection, so didn't know how to teat it. They were calling in a specialist.

The hospital called my parents on the 28th and said if anyone wanted to see Ben they better come at once because they thought he was going to die. Dad called my Uncle Francis and Aunt Doris and all descended on the Hospital. They found Ben asleep from the painkillers he had been given. All went to dinner and then came back. They were shocked to find his room empty, but it turned out he had simply been moved to a different location.

Ben was still alive on January 30 and my parents went to see him. They were surprised to find him alert and trying to talk. He was even moving his bad arm about. He was still having some trouble getting his breath, but seemed to be gaining new life.

At 7:00  AM on the 31st, the hospital called to say ben had passed away.

My parents went to the MacLean's Funeral Home in Coatesville to make arrangements. The viewing was at the home on February 3 at 6:30 PM. The actual funeral was held in a hillside cemetery in Coatesville the next day. It was a military funeral. Uncle Ben had been a highly decorated Army Air Corp veteran in World War II.  He served on a B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber as a gunner.

He was awarded theDistinguished Flying Cross, the Air Metal with three oak clusters and a Purple Heart among others.

There was a celebration party of his life after the funeral at the Ingleside Diner in Thorndale.

On March 13 Henry, Reba's son called to see if Uncle Francis was going to pay the undertaker. Dad called Francis, but got Aunt Doris.

When he got off the phone he said Francis is keeping the check. Dad had gotten tired of listening to Doris' stories. He told her to enjoy the money and hung up.

At the beginning of the month my parents were down for Laurel's 15th birthday.

Back on February 20 a Karate Tournament was held in the
Edgemore Community Center (Now the bellevue Community Center). Laurel took 2nd and Noelle got 3rd all around, each earning a trophy. Darryl was disappointed that he did not win anything.

For some reason I had been feeling fatigued as the year continued. I was sent out for tests, but nothing was showing up to explain why I was so tired all the time, unless it was my medication. The doctor told me to stop taking my thyroid pill every day.

Darryl's Little League team this year were the Angels. The Manager was a man named Chris Lacy.  Chris's son pitched and played shortstop, pretty typical positions it seemed for the Managers' sons. Mr. Lacy seemed a good Coach in the beginning when the Angles were doing well, but he changed as the season progressed and the team didn't. He was especially hard on his boy, constantly berating him. You could see Chris Junior was unhappy and only playing because his father made him.

When became a Bench Coach the next year and throughout Darryl's career, I determined  would never be like a lot of the coaches. I would never yell at my son or put his play down in front of others. If e did something wrong I left it to his Manager or the other Coaches to correct him. I was discuss with anything needing discussion in private. It is a kid's game for kids and they should be enjoying it. If you are a frustrated ballplayer as a man, don't take your own disappointment out on your kid.

As it was Darryl got named to the All Star team. He played left field that year.

Laurel was in another Horse show at Gateway Stables on May 15. My parents came down for this. Odd how my parents made so many of my kids events when he seldom found time to come to mine when I was a child. Laurel competed in three events. She took a First, Seond and a Third.

On the left is Laurel receiving her First Place Blue ribbon.

In August my parents joined us as we took the kids down the The Wildwoods on the Jersey Shore.

To be honest, I mainly go now for the Boardwalk Fries. I get a big bucket and then we watch the kids
on the rides. You couldn't pay me to go on some of those things, not with my fear of height. Merry-Go-Round and the Teacups and Tilt-A -Whirl are about it for me. I sure didn't go on that swing thing with the kids (you ca just see them on the right). Of course, that was n 1993. Today I am content to just walk about and sit and watch. It is also true, now that the kids are grown, we really don't go down to Wildwood anymore.

On September 1, Lois went back to work. This time she got a job at Delaware Technical Institute
(DelTech) as a Tutor in the Computer Center. (By the way, people think their Driver's License photos are bad, that DelTech Id photo is awful.) Very interesting that Lois became an instructor in a technical college teaching students how to use computers.

We had left Highlands Episcopal Church at the end of 1992 and returned to the fold at Bethel Baptist. We were back in the groove, more comfortable being somewhere that the Bible was the center of preaching and teaching. We were going Sunday Morning and Evening and to Wednesday night Bible Study and Prayer meeting. We were headed for the church on September 8 when disaster struck.

I hit a kid.

I was angry at that boy for a long time. He caused me to get the only traffic ticket I ever got.
I had turned down the road going toward the one where the church stood. A DART (Delaware Authority for Regional Transportation) Bus was parked on the narrow shoulder just before the next cross street. I slowed way down as I passed the bus. Just as the front of my car came even with where the driver sat, a boy dashed from in front of the bus into my path. He hadn't checked the road, he just ran out and saw me too late for hm to retreat or for me to stop.

I hit the brake, but what was there, two feet between us, if that. He jumped in the air and next crashed across my windshield, smashing it inward, a cobweb of shattered safety glass. Lois was screaming; my three kids in the back seat were screaming.  I don't think I screamed. I eased the brake pedal down. I feared any sudden stop would send him flying. He had rolled up off the windshield onto the car roof. One foot dangled down in view.

I didn't follow the road, but kept a straight path ahead until came t a stop. When the car stopped, he rolled off the roof, down the hood and into the road. My first thought was, "I killed him". I got out, hoping no vehicles came about the curve ahead from the other direction. The boy lay on his back upon the macadam and he began to get up. I knelt and gently pushed hm back down.

"Stay still," I said, "don't try to get up".

But he was trying. "I want to get up," he said. "I want to go home." He point to some home on the cross street. "I just live back there."

I wouldn't let him get up and thankfully in want seemed like only a couple minutes we were lit by flashing red and blue lights. Response vehicles came from everywhere and filled the street. There was a cop car, a rescue van, an ambulance and even a fire truck. Some paramedics had surrounded us and took over tending to the boy. I stepped back. A policeman in a patrol car motioned me over. I walked over, glancing back as they lifted the boy onto a gurney. They put one of those restraining collars around his neck and that worried me.

I leaned on the patrol car window. First question the officer asked was, "Have you had anything to drink." That annoyed me, I was on my way to a Bible study at a basically fundamental Baptist church; I was hardly going to be drinking. I realized they had to ask that; they have to try and pin alcohol to everything.

He asked me some routine questions, than said he was giving me a ticket for passing in a no-passing zone. I looked at him. "I didn't know it was illegal to pass a parked vehicle, " I said as he handed me the citation.

"It is if the parked vehicle forces you to cross the center line," he said.

Seriously, because the bus was too wide for the shoulder and I had to go over the white line while going by, I was considered passing in a no-passing zone.

I didn't take us to church. I drove home with my shattered windshield. All of us were in a state of shock. I called the insurance company first. They said not to worry, they would take care of everything, which they did, even my windshield replacement. I then called my minister. I was as shattered as the windshield. I didn't know where to turn. I was scared. And God's shepherd was the only one I felt I could turn to.

I knew I wouldn't get him, of course, because the Bible Study was still in session. I got someone in the office, explained what had happened and ask to have Pastor Ryle call me as soon as he could.

He didn't call me that night. He did not call me the next day, or the next.

What had made thing worse that night was my oldest kid knew the boy, His name was also Larry. He was 15 years old, the same as Laurel and was in some of her classes. On Friday, two days after the accident, Laurel reported that Larry was back in school. He was fine. He had spend one day in the hospital for observation and that was all. What a relief!

Pastor Ryle still did not call. He finally stopped by the house two weeks later, almost like a routine social call. He had little to say. It didn't matter anymore. I needed the solace and comfort two weeks prior, not as an afterthought, which his visit appeared to be. I stopped going to Bethel for quiet a time after that. I didn't lose faith in God, just in my minister.

I still had a court date. I showed up. It was a magistrate. He was very friendly. We catted a bit, then I plead "no contest, neither guilt or innocent, aid my $56 fine and left. I didn't raise any objection about being ticketed for passing a parked vehicle, even though I felt it was unfair. One concern, given the times as they were, was this was a Black kid I hit. I feared a fuss or protest if I got off Scott free, even though I felt it was the kid's own fault, not mine. I was angry at that kid for many years because he caused me to get my one and only ever traffic ticket.

I hear he was a nice kid. I'm glad he suffered no injury, but I hope he learned his lesson about running into traffic from behind parked vehicles.

On October 29 Darryl and Laurel received their Black Belts in Karate. Noelle would get hers a few months later since she had started later. This was not easily earned. It was four years of three nights a week without breaks, except for Christmas, plus tests. They earned those belts.

I went to work as an M&M on Halloween.
Thanksgiving was celebrated at my parents and Christmas at our place.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Washington Respite and Going to the Dogs

The year began like many others in this time period. We left the kids at my parents on Groundhog Day while we went driving off somewhere, which would have included dinner. A month later, on March 1, the Cub Scouts held their annual Blue & Gold Banquet. My parents came to it since it proved a double feature for them. This is because the Gentle Palm Karate Team was the entertainment. My folks not only got to eat with Cub Scout Troop 62, but saw Laurel and Noelle perform Karate.
One of our best family times occurred in 1992 and somewhat accidently. I had begun the year promising a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. You can imagine the excitement that generated. What I planned also shows the level of earnings I had reached. I was going all out on this jaunt. Wilmington Trust owned a travel agency located on the main lobby of the Rodney Square headquarters and I stopped in one lunchtime to allow them to guide the trip plan and do all the booking. After all, I got an employee discount.
It was first class all the way; well, except for the air flight. That would be coach. True, between my wife and I we made pretty good money, but not that good. We would fly down on Delta Airlines, of course, the flight included in our Disney package. I had selected the Bungalows in the Polynesian Resort within Walt Disney World, which at that time was the most expensive of their on-sight hotels, and looked to me like the most unique. The monorail stopped right at our doorstep to whisk us into the Amusement areas. The park, entertainment, meals were all included. By the time I was done our vacation was costing several thousand dollars. It was going to be a blast.
And we never went. To this day I have never been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland or any other Disney attraction. I have seen Disney movies.
What happened?
Just as I was finalizing the details of the trip, Lois walked in and said she had left her job. This was staggering news. We were about to spend a huge chunk of cash and she was suddenly without an income. Together we had been making a very good income, but the idea of having to live on mine alone was a scary proposition and we decided this was not the time to be so frivolous as to blow our bank account on Walt Disney World.
I had to eat some humble pie and tell the travel agent we were cancelling the trip. She was agape. Her mouth dropped open down to her collarbone. She had probably already spent her commission in her mind and here I was asking if we could design something a bit easier on the pocket book and what we came up with was exchanging one Famtasyland for another. Our trip would be to Washington DC another place removed from reality.

Washington didn’t have a bunch of rides or Mickey Mouse; just a bunch of Mickey Mouse politicians.  No one called it the happiest place on earth, but it did have advantages. One being it
was a lot heck of a lot cheaper. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to visit a glorified amusement park, we would pay a few hundred to stay where we were surrounded by history. Our biggest expenses were the AMTRAC train to and from Washington, and our stay for a week in the Embassy Suites, which included breakfast. Breakfast was great, by the way. It had everything one could want, fresh omelets made before your eyes, bacon galore, home-fried potatos, pancakesstacked high, you name it. Our hotel was in Georgetown, but a quick cab ride costing but a couple of bucks delivered us to the action. All the sights to visit in Washington were free.  Our only other expense was lunch and dinner. The photo on the left is looking down from our suite floor to the area where breakfast was served.

Our kids loved the trip. They quickly forgot Walt Disney World, but they have never forgotten our trip to Washington. They still talk about it today, 25 years after the fact.  (In back of the White House left to right, Noelle, Darryl & Laurel.)
Although we did pause by some sights, such as the White House and the Hoover FBI Building, we did not take the inside tours. The lines at the places were very long and there was pleanty to see in the city that didn’t involve waiting around a couple hours. After all, if we wanted to wait in long lines we could have went to Walt Disney World. On the left are Darryl and Noelle standing in the courtyard of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building.

Of course, I had visited both these sites inside and our during my 1958 Senior High trip to
Washington. I suppose some things have changed. After all, I never did get to see President Blue’s room in the White House. If you don’t understand that statement or recall a President Blue, then I suggest you look up Vaughn Meader on the Internet, a once popular comedian whose career died on the day President Kennedy was assassinated.  In reality, this particular site didn’t exist when I was there as a teenager. At that time the FBI was housed in the Department of Justice building. Plans for a separate FBI center weren’t made until 1962.
I had created a quiz for the kids to answer while we were there. It had questions like find the star on the Senate floor where John Quincy Adams died. There were about 25 odd sites to locate and we did find them all. I wish I still had the list. There was so much to do and see from riding a tram touring Arlington Cemetery, seeing Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot to the kids delight in just ordering pizzas from room service. We were never bored.
You are kept busy visiting the museums surrounding the National Mall, all part of the Smithsonian and all free. I think we hit them all including the National Art Gallery. One of the favorites of the kids (well, actually of us all) was the Air and Space Museum, where Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis greets the guests.

Darryl was especially enthralled with the Insect Zoo within the Natural History Museum. That was where you could gaze on dinosaur bones as well.
They also got to lay hands upon a piece of the moon in this museum. It must have been an argument at some point about whether this moon rock belonged in the Natural History Museum or across the way in the Air & Space Museum. Could have been both, couldn’t it?
Another popular tour was through the Museum of American History. There was a room
displaying every First Lady’s Inaugural Dress, as well as a miniture White House. The highlights were displays more from our own time, like Fonzie’s leather jacket and Archie Bunker’s chair.
Another room contained antique automobiles, such as this three-wheeler.
Some things in the Smithsonian reminded me too much of my passing years, though. In 1959, after high school, I had graduated from an IBM technical school. The publicity for this school said, “Learn the job of the future.” So I learned these machines, how to operate them, how to
program them and how to wire the control panels, which were the brains that told them what to do. The photo on the right is a man holding one of these plugboards. When I had first started working at Wilmington Trust in 1980 I had seen some control panels laying around on a junk heap. I had seen one for years since.  But here, on display in the Smithsonian were IBM plugboard control panels. My job of the future was now the memorabilia of the past.
We were walking in downtown one afternoon, looking for a place to have lunch probably. We crossed this wide street and suddenly behind us was a loud crunch of metal on metal. Looking back, I saw a box truck had slammed into a car. I hurried everyone along because I had a scary feeling we may have been the distraction that led to the crash.
We ate lunch in a second floor restaurant inside some kind of bazaar like place. There were a lot of stalls with exotic and not-so-exotic trinkets for sale, as well as clothing, souvenirs and other sundries. Out the restaurant front window we could see the one end of the National Mall and the traffic on the boulevards. A waitress brought our order and as the server walked away we realized it was the wrong food, except for Laurel who took a hearty bite of her sandwich before we could signal the waitress back. The waitress apologized, snatched up the plates and deposited them before several gentlemen a couple tables over. These men dug right in, including the sandwich that Laurel had started to eat. They never noticed the big chomp out of the center of one half.
We had dinner one evening at Blackie’s My wife and I had eaten here on a couple of our
earlier trips to Washington when I had classes with the AMA. It had become a favorite of ours. It had been a landmark eatery for several decades, known as Blackie’s House of Beef, although they dropped the House of Beef as they expanded the menu, located on 22nd and M Streets NW. It had been founded back in the early ‘fifties by Ulysses “Blackie” Auger along with his wife Lulu. It became a powerhouse restaurant and for a long time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover dined there every Wednesday night with his friend, Clyde Tolson.
An old fashioned steak house, the servers were mostly older guys with long aprons tied about their waists. Our particular Old Guy had some problems juggling the food; in fact, a couple salad deserted his tray as he delivered them, smashing against a nearby wall. He was embarrassed, but the kids were entertained. They often remark on the flying salad.
Blackie Auger, who hailed from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, near where I was a teenager, died
in December 2004. He was 83. The restaurant closed finally on New Year’s Eve 2006. In its heyday it served such regulars as Bobby Darin, Harry S Truman, Hubert H. Humphrey and others. The cheesecake was a favorite of Jackie Kennedy. Lulu Auger (right) passed away on December 29, 2012 at age 87. Apparently December was a dark month for Blackie’s.
We had been on our trip in May 1992. Soon after we returned I was greeted at home by my children, jumping about me yelling. “We’re getting a dog!”
I thought, “Two cats aren’t enough?” I didn’t know then that two cats would not be enough indeed.
My wife said, “I just thought we should have a dog.” I was surprised by that, especially after the experience with Charlie. I had also never heard Lois express much feeling toward dogs, except grumble about a neighbor’s hound that constantly barked. She hadn’t grown up us with dogs, as I had. I thought it would be the last thing she would insist we were getting.
We drove into the Delaware Humane Association shelter on A Street to look at pooches. There in one of the cages, between a dozen or more barking beasts, was this little Yellow Lab puppy. He came home with us and his name was Tucker. My wife’s dog. She promised to care for him and to walk him. I would not have any responsibility. Yeah, right!
He was a smart little guy. In one day he was housebroken. He was also full of energy and strength. It wasn’t long before Lois asked if I could walk him. She couldn’t control him. He was too strong for her. Good grief, he was only a puppy! Thus for the next 17 years I lost my free walk every evening to being a dog walker.

But he also learned not to go to the bathroom on his walks. He was quite good at this, meaning I never had to carry a scoop and plastic bags. If he had the urge to go, however, he would make a beeline for home, dragging me behind.

I wondered what was coming next. If only I had known.