Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things are different in Altoony!

Empty grain-train west at Cassandra Railfan Overlook. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

(“kuh-SANN-druh;” as in “Anne”)
Another foray to Allegheny Crossing in the Altoona, PA, area, where the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad crossed Allegheny Mountain in the 1850s.
Pennsy, once the largest railroad in the world, no longer exists, although its railroad does, operated by Norfolk Southern Railroad, which purchased most of the ex-Pennsy lines from Conrail when it sold.
Norfolk Southern is a merger of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway in 1982.
Pennsy had merged with arch-rival New York Central in 1968 to form Penn-Central, and that went bankrupt in 1970, the largest bankruptcy ever at that time.
Conrail, a government operation at first, was formed to keep northeast railroading going. Other northeast railroads beside Penn-Central were going bankrupt.
Conrail, which included both the NYC and Pennsy mains, succeeded and eventually went non-government. It was broken up and sold in 1999.
CSX purchased most of the ex New York Central lines; which is interesting because this is what was proposed in the 1950s: Pennsy was trying to merge with Norfolk & Western, and Chesapeake & Ohio (now CSX) was trying to get control of New York Central.
Quite a few Conrail branch lines (former Penn-Central, etc.) were turned over to shortlines or abandoned, and much of its commuter-service was turned over to government authorities.
The current arrangement of CSX operating NYC and Norfolk Southern operating Pennsy is what was at first not allowed.
I’m a Pennsy-fan, and always have been. I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2; I’m now 70.
I started with Pennsy, actually Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (“REDD-ing;” not “READ-ing”), which was still operating steam-locomotives in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, when I first visited.
I was scared to death of thunderstorms, but I could stand right next to a steam-engine!

Things are different in Altoony compared to the world I come from, which is western New York.
People talk with the Philadelphia-accent, which is where I come from originally, actually south Jersey.
But I’ve been in western New York so long, almost 50 years, only a smidge of my Philadelphia-accent is left.
I embarrassed the check-in lady at my motel. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said, when I pointed out her accent.
Like what accent?
“Well of course your accent is not an accent to you, but people in western New York don’t talk like that,” I said.
Flashing signs are everywhere, and giant roadside billboards that flash or change every couple seconds.
You don’t see that sort of thing in western New York, just small roadside entreaties to repeal the S.A.F.E.-act: “Protect our 2nd-amendment rights.”
Years ago we passed a hospital in Altoona with a flashing sign out front.
My wife, now gone, picked up on it immediately.
“Today’s special,” she said. “Liver transplants, only $895.”
I got lost this visit driving back to my motel.
I turned around in a shopping-mall parking-lot. At the exit onto the highway I faced a funeral-home.
It had a mausoleum attached.
A flashing sign was out front: “Ask about our specials!”
You don’t see things like that in western New York.
“No fancy funeral for for me,” my mother-in-law bellows, still alive at age-98.
“Just stuff me in a Hefty-bag, and drag me out to the curb.”
“Arrangements by Pratt Disposal and Flint landfill,” I once wrote into a suggested obituary at my newspaper.
“I better delete that,” I said; “lest it get printed.”
“Pratt Disposal” is my trash pickup. Out where I live trash is disposed of privately, not a gumint function.
“Flint landfill” is a giant trash landfill in the nearby Town of Flint. My trash ends up in that landfill.

Previous train-chases at Allegheny Crossing were led by my friend Phil Faudi (“FOW-deee;” as in “wow”), a railfan extraordinaire from the Altoona area.
He was doing it as a business at first; he called ‘em “tours.”
My first tours were with him as a business. But then he gave up the business. Too many near-misses, and a newer car he didn’t wanna abuse. He had been driving me around in his car per his railroad-radio scanner.
But he continued leading me around in my car with me driving. He’d monitor his railroad-radio scanner and tell me where to go.
But his beloved wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and he was afraid of her falling while he and I were chasing trains.
So now he stays at home monitoring his railroad-radio scanner, and calls my cellphone while I chase trains myself.
This works pretty well, although not as good as he and I together, in which case we snag nearly everything.

Congratulations if you’ve read everything previous.
The art starts here.
Since I checked in my motel by 3 p.m., I figured I’d begin chasing trains Wednesday afternoon, unlike usual.
I figured I’d try to find the location in Altoona where my brother and I shot last January.
In Altoona the railroad splits into two groupings I call “the express-tracks” and “the drag-tracks.”
Fast trains take the express-tracks, and heavy coal-trains the drag-tracks.
But I was unable to find the location where I shot a coal-extra negotiating the drag-tracks last January.
So instead I shot an eastbound stacker on the express-tracks.

Eastbound stacker threads the express-tracks through Altoona. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

That was the only location I went to on Wednesday afternoon.
That stacker stopped to clear a westbound train of auto-racks, but that’s not a successful picture.

Day Two, the day of my full-on train-chase, Thursday (8/21):
I began at Cassandra Railroad Overlook (I call it “Cassandra Railfan Overlook”), an old overpass over the main.
The bridge is on the original highway alignment into Cassandra, and is supposedly the original highway-bridge.
The highway was rebuilt bypassing Cassandra, but that old overpass was a way for Cassandra residents to get to jobs across the tracks, without actually crossing the tracks at grade.
The bridge is iron and concrete, single-lane, wide enough to pass a Model-A.
From west the railroad threads a deep rock cut approaching the bridge.
Previously the railroad went right through Cassandra, but that was bypassed by a straighter route in 1898.
Cassandra Railfan Overlook is better than Horseshoe Curve, since it’s shady.
I set up on the park-benches, hoping to repeat a view I saw in a Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar.
I carry a railroad-radio scanner myself, and heard the grain unit-train being cleared at Cresson (“KRESS-in”).
Norfolk Southern delivers a unit-train of corn to a shortline in Cresson.
That shortline then takes the train up to an ethanol plant in Clearfield, PA.
What’s pictured (lede picture) are the empty covered-hoppers going back for another trainload of corn.
From there I began chasing trains with Faudi; he called about 9:45.
Unfortunately Faudi is on the east side of the mountain, and can only monitor that side. I was on the west side of the mountain.
All he could tell me about was westbound trains up the east slope. Eastbound up the west slope I was on-my-own.
I figured I’d go to the small town of Portage, Portage and Cassandra being the two locations I wanted most.
Portage is where the 1898 bypass starts. It’s a long straight to Cassandra Railfan Overlook.
Actually the original Pennsy went right through Portage, and that railroad still exists.
It passes a coal-tipple, so is used as a branch.
I had to wait a while, but Phil had told me a westbound was coming.

Westbound stacker at Portage. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Then an eastbound string of coal-hoppers, with SD80-MACs at each end, passed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Get with it, Bill!

So here I am placidly bopping east on the N.Y. state Thruway toward Boston when all-of-a-sudden “If you wish to perform a vehicle-health report now or later, please press ‘enter’ now.”
To me that’s a Hobson’s Choice, but only in the sense I get no option to decline.
Beyond that it’s asking me “now or later,” not specifically “now” or specifically “later.”
“WHAAAA......” I always exclaim.
“How about ‘Shaddup?’” I say, after which I press the only ‘enter’ button I can find, which is on the radio search console.
In other words, “Quit bothering me, Bill!”
Such are the mysteries of Microsoft “Sync,” which my car has.
Sync also does voice-recognition, and Bluetooths my cellphone.
“Please say a command.”
“Call Cleaning-Lady.” I have “Cleaning-Lady” in my cellphone-contacts.
It then calls my mower-man.
“Get with it, Bill!” I say, hanging up.
“Call Faudi,” I say, the guy I chase trains with in Altoona, PA.
It calls my sister Peggy in Lynchburg, VA.
I’m sorry Bill, but Apple’s Siri (“sear-eee”) does much better. I disconnect my Bluetooth so Siri will call Faudi on my iPhone.
Apparently Sync will also do GPS navigation, but it’s not the display-screen with map. It’s just voice-commands.
I’ve never used it. I’m not about to have some disembodied female voice lead me into the ozone.
Once I was following a BMW out of nearby Canandaigua.
We came to an intersection where I normally turn. The BMW was ahead of me, and it turned too.
But then the BMW pulled over, its driver looking feverishly at his dashboard. As if to say “Do I really wanna turn here?”
Sorry Garmin, but the GPS-navigation has to be in my head in advance.
That is, I hafta know where I’m going before I start.
I can print maps from Google, so I ain’t dependin’ on some ‘pyooter-program, or someone’s idea of what they think is the best route, if I think my route is better.
My car will also get Sirius satellite-radio. Like what do I need that for, when I never listen to radio when I drive?
I purchased my car over a year ago, and for about a year Sirius kept trying to sign me up.
I kept refusing. Finally they gave up — I hope.
So I’m driving a Sirius-enabled car without Sirius.
But what bothers me most is Bluetooth to my iPhone.
I’ve given up trying to make calls.
Although if I make a call to “Jack,” my brother, it will actually call my brother.
If I ask it to call “Kevin,” my niece’s husband, it will actually call Kevin.
Congratulations, Bill. You won’t have to work on them.
The fact it also takes incoming calls is convenient, although I have to stab around to answer them. —I hardly get any.
And I’ll be a son-of-a-gun if I know how to close out a call.
I push what I think is the correct steering-wheel button. There may be a delay. So I never know if it was me hanging-up or my caller.
Then there is the keypad problem. If I’m Bluetoothing I don’t have a keypad. Like NOW WHAT if an incoming call wants me to “press one now?”
And then there is the text-function. I fire up my car, and the Bluetooth display says “text.”
It will do voice-recognition texts? Voice-recognition is bad enough as it is.
The voice-recognition on my iPhone is pretty good, but I usually have to edit my texts.
I’m sorry but my iPhone is better than Microsoft’s Sync. I always end up saying “Get with it, Bill.”
If my car starts talking to me I say “Shaddup!”
I guess I come from the old-school.
I like technology, but leave off the blabbering.
Just get me from Point-A to Point-B, reliably without drama.

• “Bill” is Bill Gates, head-honcho of Microsoft.
• My car is a 2012 Ford Escape (that’s not the new Escape).
• “Siri” is the voice-recognition assistant on an iPhone. I can command “Siri” to call someone, and my iPhone does.
• “‘Pyooter” is computer.
• RE: “You won’t have to work on them.” —Gates’ response to the technical hairballs that usually accompany Microsoft’s applications is “We’re working on it.” If you drive a Windows PC, you get updates galore; otherwise known as “fixes.”


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Houghton College

(“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”)
Despite graduating as a ne’er-do-well, that is, they didn’t kick me out, although they nearly kicked me out twice, I don’t regret my attending Houghton College.
And I have friends that tell me Houghton was worst experience they ever endured.
Once I was nearly kicked-out for wearing tight pants, a-la-Rolling Stones — the dreaded “tight-pants” rap.
The second time I was nearly kicked out for scrawling “Cheap American Trash” in the salt-encrusted flanks of the Dean’s son’s Pontiac G-T-O.
There may have been other contretemps; I forget. It seemed I was always riding the ragged-edge.
Such was the life of a free-thinker who dared mock conventional-wisdom.
With me it’s because Houghton was the first place that took me seriously.
That is, adult authority-figures there valued my opinions. I wasn’t automatically declared “Of-the-Devil,” as I had been before Houghton.
Houghton was a compromise with my father, who wanted me to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, like he did. And become a Bible-beating zealot, loudly preaching at and passing judgment on vagrants.
At that time Moody wasn’t a college; I think now it is.
My father wanted me to attend Moody first, then transfer to a college.
But I wanted to attend a four-year college.
Such a college was Houghton, which like Moody was evangelical.
I also wanted no part of Chicago. We stayed there once to visit Moody, and it was frightening.
During my high-school summers I worked at an evangelical boys camp on Chesapeake Bay in northeastern MD. I taught horsemanship and worked in the stables.
During the summer of ’61, that boys camp had many on its staff that were Houghton students.
One was David Droppa (“DROH-puh;” as in “owe”), Houghton Class of ’64.
He was enthusiastic about Houghton, and made it sound interesting.
I also visited Houghton, perhaps in my senior-year of high-school.
Houghton is extremely rural, yet it’s an extension of the east-coast megalopolis, where it got many of its students.
It was an island of suburban values in a vast sea of rurality.
Years ago a canal passed through the town, at that time named “Jockey-Street,” since renamed after the college. The college was part of an effort to clean up Jockey-Street, a bawdy canal-town. The clean-up man was zealous Willard J. Houghton.
I also applied at Wheaton College near Chicago. It’s the alma-mater of Billy Graham, and also the premier evangelical college.
Houghton was number-two.
Wheaton turned me down — I wasn’t very interested anyway — but Houghton would only admit me if I proved I could do college-level work at their summer-school.
So much for boys-camp, I would do six weeks of Houghton’s summer-school.
Which makes me part of the vaunted Summer-School gang; about 10-15 people who got into Houghton by attending summer-school to prove they could do college-level work.
My six-week summer-school course would be Bible-Introduction. I had no idea how I’d ever pass that, since my Bible background was nil.
But it was either that or ‘Nam. At that time our nation had a military-draft for the Vietnam War, but college-students were deferred.
I did pretty good in that Bible-Intro course; I almost aced it.
I would matriculate into Houghton College.
And so began my Freshman year, through 1963. Various members of our Summer-School gang flunked out, or were tossed out, but I did okay.
I chose Physics as my major, although my college-advisor, who also happened to be my Physics professor, counseled against it.
I almost aced Physics; I was the only one in our class who got the hang of it, mainly the math (algebra). The math was essentially a tool. I used it like a socket-set; I’d drive it every-which-way, which I could.
Others, trying to memorize Physics formulas, were utterly lost; and that was despite their megadollar slide-rules slapping their thighs. (Remember slide-rules?)
Mine was only a cheesy appliance held together with Scotch-tape, plus its hairline was missing.
The answers it gave me were only close, but it was clear I knew what I was doing. The others didn’t.
I could have aced college-Physics if I’d known I had an A-average going into the final.
My study for that final was scattershot, which lowered my final grade to “B.”
By then I had also lost interest in Physics. The Physics labs were in “the Dungeons,” musty basement laboratories in an ancient building, since torn down.
I had also been doing a History-requirement, and came across a professor I thought the world of.
His name was “Troutman” (same as the fish); and he valued my opinions.
He was always in trouble with his cohorts, since -a) his wife wore jewelry (gasp!), -b) he was a Democrat (double gasp!), and worse yet he was a liberal-Democrat (“Get thee behind me Satan!”).
I had run into such tolerance in Summer-School when my Bible-Intro professor said he was sorry I couldn’t have faith.
What to me was the faith that reversed all the tenets that worked against religion; like so-called scientific fact.
But he wasn’t loudly passing judgment on me telling me I was “Of-the-Devil.”
He just wasn’t as inspiring as Troutman.
I changed my major to History; I was majoring in the good professors.
During my sophomore or junior year (’64 or ’65), a second professor came to the History Department named Katherine Lindley.
She was also as good as Troutman. Now I had two excellent professors in my major, so I stayed a History-major.
Usually a department had only one good professor; the History-Department had two.
By then I was wondering what I’d do after college, so I decided to train for Secondary-Education.
The Sec-Ed minor was stupid, gut-courses. I used to say “If you can’t do it, teach it. If you can’t teach, teach others how to teach.”
I eventually did trial student-teaching as a junior in a nearby high-school, but it was awful. My mentor teacher was a droll politician. I remember a girl-student I wanted to take under my wing, and try to inspire, but he claimed all she needed was a spanking. In other words, he cut me off; and in so doing he cut off my efforts to become a teacher.
My “under my wing” bit was an extension of my successes at that boys camp.
But it was obvious the educational establishment had no room for such altruism.
What it wanted, apparently, was military order, that is, independent thinking was stomped.
The official student-teaching I was supposed to do at the beginning of my senior-year went by-the-boards —I didn’t do it.
Toward the end of my junior year I befriended a philosophy-professor named Miller.
He was a good argument, always poking holes in any assertion, just like Troutman.
Which is what I was doing.
He convinced me I should do an extra year at Houghton so I could major in both History and Philosophy.
I began various Philosophy courses in my senior year, one of which was logic. I was utterly buffaloed. I could have probably done well in logic if that was the only course I was taking. I had to drop it.
Earlier a math-professor wanted me to take Calculus, aware I had nearly aced Physics. I deferred. I decided the only way to make sense of Calculus was to only do Calculus.
But I also had a full course-load. How could I make sense of Calculus when I also had to memorize the beginning of Canterbury Tales in Olde English? Also the name of Napoleon’s horse. (“It’s on page 1024 of the text, class, as a caption.”)
I was also tired by then, tired of studying so hard. Professors were telling me I should be  scholar; the bane of a questioner.
But I had had enough — I was just cruising anyway. It seems all a liberal-arts college teaches you is the history of western civilization. Master it, and you can ace just about anything.
I felt like I wanted to move on, and live my life.
So that proposed Philosophy-major became a minor, and I only did four years.
I also had to do summer-school again, because I did poorly in two previous courses. In the end all that stood between me and a degree was passing second-year French.
They graduated me; an August graduate.
They also refused to issue transcripts, since I owed them money — which I soon paid.
So my college-education ended a whimper.
But I’ve never regretted it. They were the first ones to not tell me I was “Of-the-Devil.”
I have since decided college is mainly your mastering time-management; being able to crank out a gigantic amount of work, or at least what appeared to be gigantic, in not enough time.
I cranked out a gigantic annotated-bibliography for Troutman; I was the only one that did. His grading it took years; even he was time-challenged.
He gave me an “A,” but I doubt he actually read it. If he had, he would have seen what a cheap-shot it was — mainly a display of superb time-management.
To do an annotated-bibliography you’re supposed to read all 89 bazilyun books on a topic; for reviewing. Uh, all I read were the first few paragraphs of each. 15-20 minutes per day for weeks.
I figured out the time-allotments needed.
People also tell me the whole point of a college-education is getting a good wife, which I did.
But I think Houghton was more than that.

• RE: “His wife wore jewelry (gasp!).” —At that time, Houghton was run by Wesleyan-Methodists, who were against wearing jewelry. Later Troutman’s house burned out, and the Wesleyan-Methodists who ran the college loudly declared that a sign from above. —I don’t know as Houghton is Wesleyan-Methodist any more.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kitselman’s birthday

Gail Kitselman. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Every morning I usually get up early enough to hear Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac.
The classical-music public-radio station out of Rochester (NY) I listen to airs it about 8:20 a.m.
It usually grates this retired newspaper employee because Garrison, who majored in English, is always “entitling” things, like poems, books, whatever.
At which point I scream “Entitled to what?”
“Today is Tuesday, August 12th, 2014,” he said yesterday morning.
He then started listing various birthdays, Zerna Sharp, the person behind the “Dick and Jane” readers, Cecil B. DeMille, etc.
“It’s also Kitselman’s birthday,“ I said.
Gail Kitselman is one of my first girlfriends, not the first, but the first I felt serious about.
Her mother thought I was wonderful, but her father, a highly-paid executive, quite-rightly felt I was a waste; that I’d never amount to anything.
I met Kitselman in a roundabout way, after driving her and friends to visit their basketball-coach in a distant hospital.
I took Kitselman on various dates. The ones I remember are -a) a day-long sojourn to 59th-Street beach in Ocean City, NJ, and -b) to a nearby amusement-park in southeastern PA.
That amusement-park closed long ago. 59th-Street beach is the finest beach in the entire known universe.
Ocean City had a boardwalk, and we walked it after dusk holding-hands.
We had a really great time, and Kitselman wanted me to kiss her when we got back home. But I couldn’t do it.
I’m a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of sexual relations, where no girl would have anything to do with me.
My relationship to Kitselman was my senior year of high-school, and we drifted apart when I started college.
Kitselman was still in high-school. She was Class of ’64; I’m ’62.
The last time I saw Kitselman was in that high-school.
She didn’t wanna continue if I was 400+ miles away, distracted by other college girls.
So now I wonder if Kitselman is still alive.
I say that because my beloved wife, who would have made 100 had she not developed cancer, is GONE. —Her mother is still alive at age-98.
Kitselman and I would have been a difficult match. I was too messed up, and Kitselman wasn’t.
I never amounted to anything because I was too messed up.
I always felt I was borderline insane compared to my wife; like my wife was the sane one.
Kitselman used worry she was too thin, that she didn’t fill out her clothes.
She also worried she’d get varicose veins in her legs like her mother.
But Kitselman was really great person, to parry me screwed-up as I was — and still am, probably.
So now I wish I’d kissed her, like I carry a debt to fulfill.
We had a great time at the seashore, but I’m a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of sexual relations.

• “Q” stood for Quincy, her maiden-name.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Virginia Twaddell

Ginny in ’62.
In December of 1957, when I was 13, soon to be 14, my family moved from suburban south Jersey to suburban northern Delaware.
I was in eighth-grade.
It was because my father had got a new job that paid much more than his old job.
My father could have gone to college. He apparently even skipped a grade in school.
But his parents, my paternal grandparents, wanted him to get a job as soon as he graduated high-school.
He was graduating into the Depression.
His first job was supposedly as a caddy at a golf-course. He also mowed and did maintenance.
Other jobs may have followed, but the first I remember was in a shipyard on the Delaware River in nearby Camden, which is across from Philadelphia.
It wasn’t a large shipyard, like Sun Ship in Philadelphia. They built tugboats and mine-sweepers.
A family moved in two doors from us, and the guy worked in Texaco’s Eagle-Point oil-refinery south of where we lived.
That guy got my father a job in that refinery, and it lasted a few years.
Then Tidewater-Oil (Flying-A) built a new oil-refinery in Delaware, and they were looking for workers.
My father joined as an Inspector.
That was 1956, and required a daily 100-mile commute to get there from our home in south Jersey.
So we decided to move to a new suburban development in northern DE.
The move was traumatic for me. I was being ripped out of a familiar life and friendships.
I would have to start anew.
Northern DE was also perceived as a backwater of the vast Delaware Valley. This was partly because a turgid educational-TV station came out of Wilmington in northern DE.
The educational-TV station was boring compared to the three network TV stations out of Philadelphia.
What I didn’t realize then, but realize now, is I was moving to a better life.
Free of “rumbles” (fights) and hard-rock DA greasers manning switchblades and zip-guns.
The kind of world Springsteen sings about.
It was also free of trollop wanna-bees.
I didn’t move when my parents moved. I stayed behind in south Jersey at my grandparents’ digs in Camden.
I’d take the bus out to my old suburb, so I could continue attending my south Jersey high-school.
This arrangement lasted through December, when I finally moved to DE toward the end-of-the-month.
This was so I could attend the last day of my DE school before Christmas-vacation.
That last day was also the last day my DE school would attend their original school in our district.
A new junior-high had been built to accommodate the post-war baby-boom, and we would transfer there in January.
Previously high-schoolers from our district went to a city high-school in Wilmington.
Our class was among the first to make this change.
A few years later our new high-school was built, and we transferred there.
I quickly learned who all the boys were lusting after: it was Virginia Twaddell.
And she wasn’t much of a sexpot, not like south Jersey.
She was cute and attractive, and recognized she was class sexpot.
But it wasn’t like she milked it as the trollops did in south Jersey.
Northern DE was DuPont-land; our neighbors were mainly DuPont engineers.
It was a much more classy setting than south Jersey, and Virginia Twaddell reflected that.
Virginia was the younger sister of a less-attractive girl that graduated in my high-school’s first graduating-class; 1960.
I and Ginny are Class of ’62, the third class.
My high-school class has been very good at reunions. They hold one every five years.
I’ve been to a few, and so has Ginny.
Ginny was head cheerleader while we were seniors.
Ginny married a guy from the class behind ours, yet continued being the class sexpot.
She seemed a bit put-off by this.
I remember attending a reunion Ginny also attended, but I couldn’t talk to her. She was still the class sexpot, and I’m a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of sexual relations, where no girl would have anything to do with me.
But in 2012 I attended my 50-year high-school reunion, and we visited our high-school, which still stands.
I noticed a lady who looked somewhat familiar, so I asked her name.
Surprise-surprise! It was Virginia Twaddell, and here I was talking to her.
At age-68, she was no longer a sexpot, although I’m not sure she ever was.
It’s just that all the boys lusted after her, including me.
Despite her not being a south Jersey slattern.

• “Zip-guns” were hand-made guns, usually made from car-antennas; the antenna being the gun-barrel. A .22-caliber bullet could be shot through a car-antenna. “Switchblades” were folding pen-knives operated by a button. When threatened, a greaser might flip open his switchblade, grist for Springsteen.
• “Q” stood for Quincy, her maiden-name.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Cross not a Hughes, Part-4:

Sometime in the early ‘80s we got our first color-TV.
I know color-TV had been around since about 1956, but I didn’t think it was worth it.
With the coming of cable-TV, and Sony’s Trinitron, I decided color-TV was worth it.
In fact, for years my wife and I had no TV at all. Our first TV was a black-and-white Sears portable with rabbit-ears.
There was Senator Sam wagging his craggy finger at John Dean: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
We probably got that TV just so we could view the Watergate hearings.
Hearings over, that TV went back into disuse, except for the news.
My TV viewing us still pretty much the same: just the news, and not all of it.
So out to a small suburban TV store just east of Rochester (NY) to buy a Trinitron.
It was called “Suburban TV.” I guess they also did repairs.
I walked out with a Sony Trinitron, my first color-TV.
I plugged it in when I got home, and NOTHING.
I dorked around, but still NOTHING.
Back to Suburban TV.

They too tried it; NOTHING. But their demonstrator worked.
“It looks like you need a new channel-selector, Mr. Hughes. It’s guaranteed, but we’ll get it in about two-three weeks.”
“Wait a minute!” I yelled. “I just gave you guys $475; I think I’m entitled to a working TV.”
They were terrified; I was scaring off customers.
“You got one here that works,” I screamed. “Why can’t I have that one? I shouldn’t have to wait two-three weeks.
I work for Regional Transit Service, I’ll blast your store’s name all over my Drivers’ Room. No one from Transit will patronize your store.”
I walked out with their demonstrator, the Trinitron that worked.
I left their store-manager a quaking mass.
So now I wonder if I could grandstand like that since my wife died, leaving me with no confidence at all.

So far I’ve recounted three previous incidents of not crossing a Hughes.
I guess it’s still in there; in each case my grandstand reaction was totally unplanned.
But with my wife’s death I feel like I have no confidence at all.

• “Hughes” is me, Bob Hughes, BobbaLew.
• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Mess not with a Hughes, Part-3:

Over 44 years of marriage, my wife and I have had various banks.
My wife is now GONE, and left me with the last bank we had, Canandaigua National Bank.
We were both working for Lincoln-Rochester bank when we got married; she as a teller, and I as a management-trainee.
So we banked at Lincoln-Rochester, since as employees we were fee-free.
Lincoln-Rochester no longer exists. It affiliated with other New York state banks to become Lincoln-First, and that affiliated with Chase Bank in New York City.
I worked for Lincoln-Rochester over three years before I was “laid-off;” which to me was more like being “canned.”
Things had changed. The management position I was training for disappeared, so I was redirected to front-desk duty, which I could hardly do.
The bank was also upset I wasn’t a viper, hot to fleece the customers, especially the small ones. —That I had this despicable  compulsion to be fair.”
That is I was more a Democrat (Gasp!) than a Kiwanian REPUBLICAN!
So I was cut loose, and drifted listlessly unemployed seven years.
During that time my wife and I moved to another apartment, plus my wife began her life-long career at Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company.
I also was trying to freelance motorsports photography, and sold a few photographs to nationwide magazines.
I also tried motorsports coverage for a small weekly newspaper in Rochester called City/East.
City/East was sort of an outgrowth of a neighborhood organizing against eminent domain by the state to put in an expressway.
During those seven years we may have switched banks; I can’t remember.
The next bank I remember is Central Trust of Rochester, third largest bank in Rochester.
It was only bank that remained Rochester-based, although it later affiliated with Irving Bank in New York City, and no longer exists.
The other banks in Rochester were Lincoln-Rochester and Marine-Midland. Both affiliated with outside banks during those seven years.
My wife and I also bought our first house during those seven years based on her income.
Our house was at 323 North Winton Road in Rochester, and we lived next to two employees of Regional Transit Service (RTS), both bus-drivers, Kathy Young and her boyfriend, whose name I can’t remember.
My attempt at freelance photography had crumbled, and it seemed my motorsport coverage was going nowhere.
So at the suggestion of Kathy I went to work for the bus-company, as a so-called “temporary-job” driving bus.
That temporary-job lasted 16 & 1/2 years until my stroke in late ’93.
And during that time we were banking with Central-Trust.
My stroke ended my bus-driving, and we may have switched banks before my stroke; I can’t remember.
Some time we switched to First National Bank of Rochester, tiny, but the only Rochester-based bank after Central affiliated with Irving.
I recovered fairly well, and after an unpaid internship sponsored by my stroke-rehabilitation I began employ with the Messenger Newspaper in nearby Canandaigua.
I interned there because I had done a voluntary newsletter for my bus-union while at Transit.
That newspaper was the BEST job I ever had. I refused to go back to bus-driving, although it would have paid better.
We also moved to my current home in West Bloomfield, south of Rochester, in 1990. That house was designed by us.
Marine-Midland had affiliated with HSBC out of Hong Kong, and we switched to HSBC because -a) they had a branch nearby, and -b) HSBC had bought our mortgage originally floated by a savings-bank in Rochester.
We stayed with HSBC the whole time I was at the Messenger, and also paid off our mortgage.
But our safe-deposit box was still in faraway Rochester at the savings-bank that originally floated our mortgage.
Which my wife felt was inconvenient.
So we started looking around for a nearby location for our safe-deposit box.
HSBC had a branch maybe seven miles away, but it was a safe, not a walk-in vault.
Canandaigua National Bank in nearby Honeoye Falls (“hone-eee-oye;” as in “oil”), about four-five miles away, had a vault.
They would rent us a safe-deposit box as part of a package that included a checking-account.
But that checking-account also had online bill-pay, and was otherwise online.
I’m sure HSBC could have done that too, but Canandaigua National Bank is independent; it’s not affiliated with some distant bank.
HSBC’s nearby branch also closed.
First National Bank apparently tanked, so Canandaigua National Bank is the only remaining locally-based bank.
Of course, the banks are always at war with each other, so there could be other banks claiming to be local.
But they’re not as local as Canandaigua, even if not affiliated with a New York City bank.
One day I picked up my paycheck at Transit, brought it home, and made what the bank calls a “split-deposit.”
My paycheck would be cashed, it would pay some bills the bank processed, and deposit $60 to our checking-account.
I took that all to a nearby Central-Trust branch, and transacted it.
I was given a receipt for $60.
That night the bank called. Our checking-account was overdrawn, and bouncing checks.
Apparently the bank had charged back the $60.
Um, I got a receipt!
I went up to the bank, and did what I call a “grandstand.”
I confronted the front-desk personnel, and said I wasn’t leaving until they redeposited that $60.
After all, I had a receipt.
Weeping and wailing and gnashing-of-teeth. They just wanted me out; I was upsetting customers with my yelling.
“But I ain’t leavin’ until you redeposit that $60, and reimburse your overdraft charges.
I worked for a bank once, and I know you can charge your bad-items to redeposit my $60.”
They did, but with my help.
They had apparently lost my Transit paycheck, and charged my checking-account $60 to recover part of their loss.
Don’t mess with a Hughes; you’ll get a grandstand.
Transit stopped payment on the lost paycheck, and issued me another.
With that, Central-Trust recovered their entire loss.
But they probably lost a few customers with my grandstand.

• “Hughes” is me, Bob Hughes, BobbaLew.
• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.
• The “Messenger Newspaper” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger, from where I retired almost nine years ago. I worked there almost 10 years (over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern). It was the BEST job I ever had.