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

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.