High School Days

I graduated from the 8th grade in 1940 and the next fall started as a freshman in high school. My biggest problem there was to learn to stop calling the teacher Sister! The principle of the school was Miss Eskola, and she ran a tight ship. Her office was right off the large study hall, and anyone making noise during the study period was in danger of being herded into her office.

Of course we were all maturing sexually during this time, and I learned to be enthralled by looking at a girl as a girl, not just as a person. That was rather intriguing to me as I found girls were pretty good to watch. At least amongst the boys some small green books circulated with ‘dirty’ pictures and stories in them. They were always carefully hidden. There was a practice among the senior high students to pass around ‘slam’ books. People would write rather vicious comments about someone in it and of course not sign them. I honestly don’t remember in all detail about what was in them, perhaps because I was not picked on.

I remember trying out for the basketball team, but didn’t make it. So I became what was referred to as the manager. This meant at each break in the game I would run out to the team with a box of towels for them to wipe off the sweat. It also meant I had to wash those towels after each game. I would go to all the games, including the out of town. I remember one year when the game was in Baraga, and we were in the midst of a snow storm. I had the use of my dad’s car and drove to the game with a carload of friends. On the way back we could see in the snow ahead that a car had skidded off the road and was in the ditch, perpendicular to the road. I stopped a little way down the road and went back to see if they needed any help. I was standing in the road looking at the hood of the car when someone yelled “Look out!” The next thing I remember I was standing on the hood of the car and another car just careened past the point where I had been standing in the road. I also tried out for the football team, and made it to the third or fourth team. This meant I played every day there was practice, but never on Saturday. Except for the last game of my senior year. That game was played in Lake Linden, and the field was wet and frozen in parts. I was only too glad to be bundled up warmly on the sideline, but two minutes before the end of the game the coach decided to send me in. That was the last thing I wanted. Fortunately I was playing the end position and I didn’t have to hunker down to the ground. I was very successful in not being blocked down to the ground, or having to make a tackle, so I went home on the bus in pristine condition! I really enjoyed school, especially the math and science courses. But we also had a woodshop course and I made a nice sewing box for my mother. I also enjoyed some of the craft work we did. One involved making a mat out of rug yarn and had enough design work to it to make it interesting. Of course I had some girl friends while in High School, but was mostly afraid of girls. But I had curly dark hair and was not without female friends. I remember that as a sophomore I was invited by a junior to go to the junior prom with her, and I was petrified of dancing too close to her. I was certain that I would not be able to control my sexuality if our bodies touched while dancing. I am not sure who I went to my Junior prom with, but by my Senior year I decided that I would not go to the prom. One of my classmates was Joyce Verville and she had taken the unacceptable step of dating a student from Michigan Tech. We guys didn’t approve of that since it meant that the girl doing that was just showing off. It seems that for some reason he couldn’t go to our senior prom so a bevy of Joyce’s friends worked on me to force me to take her to the prom. Which I did. It’s possible that she had a good time, but I sure didn’t. The irony of all this is that she eventually married her Tech student, and they lived in an apartment in Hancock at 309 Franklin St. The very first apartment that Sally and I had was in that same building. We were on the top floor and Joyce was on the floor below.

More Proms

Another little incident involving proms was developed by my mother and her good friend Anne Goodreau. The Goodreau’s had twin daughters who were not quite the best looking kids. They lived in Chassell, a few miles down Route 41. Well our mother and Mrs. Goodreau talked things over and decided that Warren and I would be the twin’s escorts at their Senior Prom. So being the obedient sons we are that is what happened and we were all pleased with the result. The Williams family lived a few houses up Ryan Street, and Warren and I spent various amounts of time with them. They had several children, including George who was about my age, Mary Kathleen about a year younger, an older sister Helen and a younger brother. The Williams’ really wanted Warren to date Helen but he had no interest in that situation. As I remember he had a pretty steady date for a while with Eileen McMahon. However, Mary Kathleen, aka Gootsie and I sort of hit it off. The Williams family liked to gather in the evening and sing together while Mrs. Williams played the piano. They invited me to join them and I often did. As time went on it developed that Gootsie and I decided to go on a date. We wanted to see an evening movie at the Lode Theater in Houghton, about 1½ mile away, across the bridge. I had access to my dad’s car but Mr. Williams absolutely vetoed my using it on the date. We must walk there even though I had spent a number of evenings at their home. So, walk we did. We were supposed to be back to the Williams house by 9:30 at the latest, but we tried explaining to him that the movie ended at 9:15 and we had to walk home. He refused to accept any change in his orders, so when we walked in to the house about 9:45 he was furious and really read the riot act to me.

The Lake Street Boys

One of my strongest memories arises from the group of boys that hung out as a gang. There were seven or eight of us that stuck together, with always one or more temporary place holders. Most of the things we did were in and around Lake Avenue, and involved sports, water, and a shack that was put up by the City on a vacant lot. Lake Avenue ran east and west just north of the ship canal. A steep hill down from Lake Avenue led to a good sized peninsula that was devoid of trees and ended at the water’s edge. This was perfect for baseball and football and we played many pick-up games there. We referred to this area as ‘the Point.’ John Turk’s house was the focal point for our gang. We would always check with John to see what was going on, and his mother was very pleased to take care of us. John had an older brother, Judson, but we never saw him. Also, it was rumored that his father had ended up in jail because of some financial deals, but we never paid any attention to that. Of course most of our game time was spent arguing over technicalities of the game we were playing at the time. Rule interpretations are always subject to revision. And as the day grew on and we became somewhat more exhausted we spent even more time arguing. One time the older boys decided to build a diving helmet.

Some Exploration

The water at the end of the Point dipped down quite steeply and it was decided that it would be great to go down there and explore it a little. So someone found an old hot water tank, and took it to a garage that had a metal cutting torch. They cut it to the desired length then fashioned a face plate and a couple of holes for valves – one to accept air and the other to exhaust. They connected a tire pump to the input valve and the idea was that someone up above would be pumping air into the tank while the diver roamed around underwater. Well this seemed to work quite well. One diver went down far enough to see a sunken boat and that aroused more desire to dive. Of course it was quite tricky to keep the proper balance of the amount of air being pumped in and the amount exhausted. Too much input would mean that the tank would become light and tend to rise. Too little input would mean that the water in the tank would rise and cut off breathing. Finally when most everyone was finished diving Warren said I could try it. So I put the tank over my head and walked into the water. I would say that all went well for about 30 seconds. The tank started to rise, so I bent over to let out a bubble of air and overdid it so that the water surged into the tank and covered my nose. I should have just held my breath until the water level receded, but I didn’t. In panic I pushed the tank off my shoulders letting it fall to the bottom. It got entangled in some trash or something and they had a terrible time recovering the tank. That was my only diving experience with that tank.

About the Shack

But the really big deal was the shack. We didn’t use it in the summer, but it was our winter headquarters. It was right at the edge of a hockey rink sized field, had a wooden stove in it, and water was available at the side of the field. So it was natural to construct a skating rink there where we could play hockey. The winters in Hancock are long, cold, and loads of snow is dropped in that season. When the weather was cold enough we would level out the snow, tromp it down, and then water it to build up a thick ice cover. This would mean that we would have to water it at least a dozen times if not more. So when the real cold weather arrived – down to at most single digits – we would spend the night in the shack to do continuous watering. This was a high point of the winter season for us. The shack had plenty of floor space, a wood burning heater and an ample supply of wood. Then the gang would gather there after dinner on a Friday night and spend the weekend in the shack. Going home for meals, of course. It would take the better part of an hour to water the rink area, and not long after that was done it would be ready for the next coat. So all night long we would continue this layering of the rink. We did the icing in turns and when not watering we would play cards, talk, tell stories and perhaps sleep a little. One year a rather sad thing happened. Bobby Wills’s father was very rough on him and seemed to be always punishing him for something. Well, one year his father forbad him to participate in the icing detail. We all felt sorry for him, of course. Well, Bobby decided to come to the shack anyway in defiance of his father’s order. All seemed to be OK for a while, but his father showed up about 10:00 p.m. or so and dragged him off home. Bobby was crushed and it took him a long time to get over that scene.

Other Activity

 I was often trying to find some ways to make some money – I don’t remember that I bought very much but I had many different jobs.  One was being the local representative for the Milwaukee Journal.  This newspaper came  to Hancock by train so it was necessary to each day go to the train station to pick up the bundles of papers that were dropped off when the train stopped in Hancock.  The train line was referred to as the Milwaukee Road.  Each day the train would drop off the Milwaukee Journal for that day and also some of the inserts for the Sunday newspaper.  I would pick up the Sunday inserts and the daily paper and bring the copies of the daily paper to the homes of the several newspaper carriers I had hired.  Then on Saturday the final set of inserts were dropped off and I would stuff them all together in preparation for Sunday’s delivery after the final sections arrived.  By Sunday morning when the news section arrived and was stuffed with the other sections the newspaper became quite a heavy bundle.

Keeping a working group of paper boys and girls was quite a chore.  While each person wanted to deliver the papers they didn’t necessarily put that action at the top of their agenda.  Also, the carriers had to collect the money from the subscribers and the young folk weren’t terribly reliable at this.  Also their collection activity was complicated because each customer had the option to buy some form of insurance and this had to be factored in.  I had to pay the Milwaukee Journal for the papers that arrived so I had to get the money from the carriers.  This plus filling out the associated paper work made for an extensive job time.  I did this for a couple of years then had enough of that.

Elsewhere in these writings I refer to my jobs as a stock boy with F.W. Woolworth and to my stint as a shoeshine boy on a shoe stand that my dad built for me.

Ruminations – 15 1998 till 2010

On and On

After returning from the Philippines in March, 1998 I started to consider What Now? I no longer was a full time faculty member with Syracuse University but for a couple of years I taught a course in the summer. Much of the teaching I did was to part time graduate students who were employed full time in industry. Their motivation was to get through the course with a minimum amount of time allocated to it because they also were working at maintaining their jobs and families and many felt they were under extreme pressure. In this environment I noticed that I was getting a bit edgy with the students and this was the sign to me that my teaching days should end. While I miss Sally tremendously I was not morose – we had had a great life together during our 50 years of marriage and I still had some life to live. I decided that I should go to the Philippines to have a memorial service for Sally so I arrived there late in January and I stayed till March. We had a meeting in the Chapel where folks could talk about Sally, and it was wonderful.

After I returned from the Philippines I continued with the nice thing of having a weekly luncheon date with Jim and Mark. I enjoyed talking with them and sharing what was on my mind. One time we were meeting at a plaza and I saw Dolores Morgan walking along. We stopped and chatted and set a date to have a drink and dinner. This was a great date! A friend of mine, John Timothy Smith died in June. He and I knew each other from many years before, but we were both in cardiac rehab after heart operations. So I called Dolores to see if she were going to the funeral and so we went together since Dolores had known him for many years. (Nancy Murray claims she predicted at this time that Dolores and I would be getting married.) I then had a recurrence of chest pains and Dr. Battaglia inserted a couple of stents. It has been fine ever since.

After a little foray to Washington, D.C., I decided to head to Alaska and bum around there for a while. I flew to Fairbanks and we flew over Mount Denali around midnight and the sight was fantastic. In Fairbanks I met up with the Villarica’s who had driven up the Alcan Highway. They are driving fanatics and decided they wanted to see the Arctic Ocean. So they continued on to Prudhoe Bay on the Beaufort Sea. I did some sightseeing around Fairbanks instead and when they returned I joined them on a trip to Anchorage. We toured around Denali on the way and then continued the journey to Anchorage. I parted ways with the Villarica’s because they were to continue on to the southern end of the Alcan Highway and I stayed in Anchorage to visit with Gail and Bob French. (Gail’s father was Bob Pettengill, Janet’s second husband.) This is a picture of Janet and Bob Pettengill.

When I flew to the Philippines earlier this year the flight I took ran into some equipment problems and had to land in Anchorage. We had to spend the night there so I called Gail and she picked me up so that I could spend the night with her family. That was great for me since I didn’t have to spend the night in the airport.

But now it is the beginning of summer and I decided to spend several days visiting with Gail. One of Janet’s daughters, Evie, showed up and so the four of us went camping for a few days – Gail, her daughter Kelly, Evie and me. Gail drove us to the Wrangell Mountains along the Copper River. She decided to stop and do some net fishing for salmon for dinner. Lucky for her no salmon swam into her net or I believe she would have been upended from the weight of the fish and the velocity of the river water. We continued on to Kennecott which is an abandoned copper mine.

This is a picture of me after a hard day of being driven along a back road in Alaska. The road ran along the bed of an old railroad and, as expected, got a flat tire. The area is covered with iron scraps and nails. Gail was all prepared for this and immediately swapped with the spare. While she was doing this a van loaded with tourists sped by us and waved heartily. We then resumed our trek and a little way down the road we encountered the van pulled to the side and with a flat tire. So Gail stopped and we found out they were Korean tourists, spoke little English, and could not figure out how to find a spare tire in their rented vehicle or even if there was one. They also were quite worried because the rental agency would forbid them to travel on this remote roadway. So, Gail pitched in, showed them where the tire was and changed it for them. What a gal! Further down the road joined a larger highway and there we found a service station and both flat tires were repaired.

After a couple of days my sister Janet flew in from Hawaii bringing with her her grandson Myles. He is the son of Padmani (Carol Ann) and David Luedtke. David leases a commercial fishing license off Kodiak Island and Myles, Janet and I then flew to Kodiak Island which is just off the coast and southwest of Anchorage. Myles had been there before and knew just what to do to find his Dads cabin. This is a picture of the cabin where we stayed for the next few days. It is on the ocean and at the foot of a mesa. The mesa is well populated with Kodiak bears so we steered clear of that. There are many eagles in the area and it was fascinating to watch them circle and feed. The shoreline is littered with trees and logs that have been washed ashore over the years.

After spending some time here I returned to the mainland to continue my exploration of unknown (to me) lands. Janet and Myles stayed on Kodiak for several more days. Upon returning to Anchorage I flew to Whitehorse in the Yukon and traveled via rail to Skagway back in Alaska. This was the jumping off point for the great gold rush in the late eighteen hundreds. I then went via the marine highway to Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. In Ketchikan I bummed a ride with a bush pilot who was delivering mail to some of the settlements on the inner passage and visited a small school on one of the work sites. All in all it was a most interesting trek. Returning to Anchorage I flew to Kirkland, Washington and spent a day with my niece Essie before flying back to Syracuse.

So now it is August, 1998, and time to move on. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I did not want to live alone so I wondered what I might do about that. I even went so far as to follow up a personal ad in the Scotsman and that proved to be useless. Dolores and I started dating a little oftener. One time we went to Toronto to see “The Phantom of the Opera” and then did a bit of sightseeing around Toronto and Niagara Falls. In the fall of 1998 we drove to Vermont to view the foliage which is particularly beautiful with the sugar maples. Then the following spring we went to New Mexico and attended an Elder Hostel in Santa Fe. While there I found an anti-nuke demonstration going on, so I joined in that. We then rented a car and drove around the state including Gallup and into Arizona at Canyon de Chelly. We returned to New Mexico in the spring of 1999 and attended the Gathering of Nations and visited with Dolores’ brother in Albuquerque. The travel bug was really biting us so in April we drove to Gettysburg to view the Civil War battlefield. This was very moving – as we moved around you could almost feel the battle still going on and sense the death and destruction. We then went on to DC since there was another anti-war demonstration and we joined that. We then went to visit Dolores’ Aunt Vela. To top it off we visited Jefferson’s mansion in Virginia and Southern prison camp at Andersonville. In June I had an episode of chest pains and had a couple of stents inserted into my heart and it is been fine since then.

Dolores and I were spending a lot of together – in fact we started going to morning mass together at St. Andrew’s church. Also we looked at houses for sale in the Bradford Hills area and found one really nice one at 116 Killian Drive. My heart started to act up in other ways and in June I had a stent installed in my heart. On July 4th I had a holiday party at 212 Standish Drive and a great group of people showed up.

All of this mutual activity worked out so well for us that I realized I really loved her and so on July 5, 1999 I proposed that we get married. She agreed with me and so we were about ready to start our new lives together. Like the guy that I am I did not think ahead to any extent and I had not even thought about getting together with her to pick out an engagement right. Dolores and I had known each other for 36 years by this time and the time we shared back in the mid sixties left an indelible mark. So it seemed to me almost preordained that we would make a permanent bond.

Dolores wanted to put off the wedding until the next spring, ostensibly to save her deposit money on her apartment. But after some discussion we decided to have the big event Thanksgiving weekend, in particular on Saturday, November 27. We also decided that I would make an offer on the house at 116 Killian Drive. However, Dolores almost immediately left for Atlanta to participate in the wedding of her son Joe and I made the offer on the house shortly after that and after some negotiation it was accepted by the owners. We decided we would not announce our wedding plans until after the wedding of Joe and Mary. In late July I went to Atlanta and Joe and Mary were married on July 31. When we announced our plans it was well accepted and after a little touring around Atlanta we returned to Syracuse.

MaryAnn Gibson had a birthday party later in August which we attended. In the party I gave a little talk about MaryAnn and then made our announcement – it was greeted very joyously, to say the least. We decided to have the wedding at Dolores’ church, St. Anthony’s. We decided to ask Bishop Tom Costello to give the homily and he readily agreed. Thanksgiving Day was November 25th and Dolores prepared a meal for all the family here for the wedding. She served some 30 people two days before our wedding. Friends of Dolores who were priests officiated at the mass and Jim gave a Jewish final blessing. Our attendants were my sister Janet and Dolores’ sister Sister Clementine. Here is a picture of the happy couple. The church was packed. We had prepared our own vows and each of us said:

Here in the presence of God, our families and this community, I declare my love for you. I believe that the love I have for you will grow and deepen in the coming years. I pledge to you that I will strive to make our lives joyful and meaningful. I take you for my wife/husband fully aware that together we will find our way. Dolores/John, grow older with me for in God’s plan our youth is but the half. The best is yet to come.

The wedding reception was held at Lemoyne College where Dolores had been a member of the Board of Trustees.

For the first couple of months after we were married we stayed around our new home and got used to the new habitat. We also started our routine of having an open house on January 1, and the house was jammed with our friends.

By March, 2000, we were ready to go and flew to Birmingham, Ala, where we met Joe and his new wife, Mary. We drove on to Selma to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Voters Rights demonstrations. I couldn’t locate the apartment of Mary Lamar which is where I stayed back in 1965. Dick Gregory was at the celebration to relive the day. Then we drove around and visited a BMW factory that was making $50,000.00 SUVs, and then we drove across Georgia to attend an Elderhostel in Beaufort, South Carolina.

In April we flew to Albuquerque to attend the Gathering of Nations. We then drove by way of Java Junction to visit Taos. We saw an outstanding valence in Taos and had one made to fit our double windows in 116 Killian Dr. The picture shows it in our breakfast room.

We spent Easter with Dolores’ brother Fitzi, and his wife Jacki. That wrapped up our first trip as husband and wife. Was that our “honeymoon”?

During the summer of 2000 I taught a course at SU. After all that work we need a vacation so in October we joined a tour organized by Catholic Review and went to Rome for the canonization of Sister Bakhita. We made the usual tour of northern Italy but failed see the Sistene Chapel or Michelangelo’s statue of David. We then left the tour and went to Lake Como for a couple of days. At the train station in Milan I almost lost one of our bags but a security officer saw it was left on the platform and impounded it. We were able to prove it was ours and they returned it to us. We thus missed our train to Lake Como but did indeed got the next one so all turned out OK.

After our New Years Open House in 2001 we then flew down to Florida in February. We started in Fort Myers and then visited Warren and Joyce in Naples. They also have a home in Chokoloskie so we stayed there a couple of days then drove on to the Everglades. That convinced Dolores not to ever go there again – the mosquitoes found her particularly tasty. Then we drove on to Key West, turned in the car, and flew back to Syracuse. That ended any desire on our parts to vacation in Florida!

In March, 2001, we flew to San Francisco and attended an Elderhostel there that reviewed the history of the area. We had dinner on Fisherman’s Wharf, took the boat to Alcatraz and of course rode the cable cars. After that we rented a jeep and drove to Salinas. This was a high point of the trip as it included a visit to the Steinbeck Museum and also saw the golf course at Pebble Beach. We found we could easily add another leg to the trip so we flew to Hawaii and toured Oahu and The Big Island (Hawaii). We did this with Janet and thus had a mini family reunion. The volcano on the Big Island did us a favor by erupting nicely and we really enjoyed the night time viewing of the lava flowing into the Pacific. Of course we visited Pearl Harbor and I was reminded of my claustrophobia when I couldn’t finish a tour of a WWII submarine that was on display.

In June we flew to Seattle and were there for the birth of Shannon’s daughter Jayda. So this is another great grandchild for Dolores. Her grandchild Jay graduated from high school so that added a little academia to the trip. We decided to do some more hunting around and drove to Portland, OR, since we had never been there. While there we made sure to see the statue of Portlandia that Greg Pettengill was involved with. We then reversed direction and drove to Vancouver Island and bought some statuary in the Empress Hotel gift shop. This was the largest single purchase of such goods I have ever made. We visited Vancouver and I was very impressed with the environment of the city. We also visited the University of British Columbia and again very impressive. We wrapped up June by attending Rina’s graduation from High School. We then flew to Green Bay and drove up to Iron Mountain. I wanted Dolores to see firsthand where I grew up and also meet some of my remaining relatives. This included John Paul and Ethel and a tour of Brockway Mountain and the Copper Country. The summer ended with a pool party attended by Fitzy and Linda Corp Knapp and a course taught by me at Syracuse University.

Then came September 11, 2001.

I submitted the following letter to the Post Standard

September 17, 2001

To the Editor

“The war rhetoric from the President is frightening. He seems to imply that the military will be involved, and that they will search for ways to kill bin Laden. This means of course that there will be ‘collateral’ damage – death of civilians. I believe that if we follow this path we will end up with a real war between the Arab world and the west. Bin Laden will have achieved his objective. If we really want to bring the terrorists to justice, then declare bin Laden a criminal, and marshal the justice forces of the world to track down him and his cohorts and bring them to trial. But to start bombing and killing will cause millions of people to really believe that the US is the evil doer, and bin Laden will have achieved another objective of his.”

Joe Morgan died September 13 and so we went to Atlanta to attend his funeral. This was the second son of Dolores’ to die. A few years earlier, in 1997, Martin had died. What a life Dolores has led.

In October we flew to a tour run by Grand Circle Travel of Spain and Portugal. We flew to Madrid and then we stayed on Costa del Sol for a week and decided this is no place to go to run away from cold weather. On this tour we also went to Gibraltar and a short side trip to Lisbon, Portugal. In December we flew back to Seattle for Shannon’s wedding to Andre Griffin. It is there that Michael met Varnessa, Andre’s mother, and they just hit it off. Even Dolores thought Varnessa was something really special. So did Michael.

2002 started off with us visiting Egypt and Jordan in February and March. After arriving in Cairo we flew to Aswan and began an idyllic ride down the Nile that last for 9 days. The picture shows me cavorting with a belly dancer while sailing down the Nile. After spending more time in Cairo we flew to Amman, Jordan and visited Fr. Kevin O’Connell the former president of Lemoyne College. Of course we visited Petra then finally flew back to Syracuse. The rest of the summer we were at home except for a trip in May to visit Rina at St. Mary’s college in Maryland. We drove there with Jim and Jill and that was very nice to spend some time together. By November we had the travel bug and took a GCT tour of Italy. We made sure we visited the Sistene Chapel and also met Maryann and Jesse Hendrix along with Jay and Shannon and Jayda. The tour continued down the Amalfi Coast we visited Naples, Pompey and Sorrento. We then ended up in Pisa and Dolores got to see Michelangelo’s David in Florence.

2003 began with a trip to Manila. After leaving Syracuse we stopped in Seattle to visit with Michael and rest up a bit before the Pacific hop. Upon arriving in Manila we met Rachel as I had made arrangements for her to visit the Philippines with Dolores and me. We stayed a couple of days with the Villarica’s as no trip to visit the Philippines would be complete with seeing those good friends. Then we flew to Cebu. We were met by a group of my friends from the University of San Carlos and so the visit was off to a great start. Dolores and I stayed in Santo Nino Village in the tourist gardens where I had stayed several times. I had made arrangements for Rachel to stay in the apartment Sally and I had occupied in the Talamban Campus of the University. We took a side trip to Bohol as a way of completing the indoctrination of Dolores and Rachel. After a couple of weeks in the Philippines Rachel returned to the States and Dolores and I flew to Bangkok, arriving there on February 13. There we met the GCT tour and in particular made new friends of Charlie and Lita Askanas. We visited northern Thailand including Chang Mai and Chang Rai. The tour also included a side trip to Myanmar and Laos and then we flew back to Manila and thence to Syracuse on March 2.

On April 4, 2003, we took a GCT tour that started in Lima, Peru. Then we flew to Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. I developed a short spell of altitude sickness while in Cuzco but it didn’t seriously interfere with our traveling.

In May we went to Rachel’s graduation from Mount Holyoke and then to Missouri where she received the Truman Scholarship award. Quite a gal. We stayed in the East for the rest of the summer – drove to Ottawa to see the changing of the guard and then there was a wide ranging electrical blackout just after we left Canada.

In late April we started on a lengthy tour of parts of Europe. We started in Warsaw and began a GCT tour with our friends the Askanas’. In this process we stopped at Auschwitz, which is not far from Krakow. This left us in awe of how cruel people can be. The Holocaust becomes very real when such a place still exists. The tour passed through Prague and it was particularly meaningful to our Polish guide. While we were traveling the rules changed and she no longer needed a passport to go from Poland to the Czech Republic. The tour ended in Budapest. We then made our way via train to Vienna, Munich and Paris. There we joined another GCT tour that went down the Seine to Normandy where we visited Omaha Beach one of the D-Day landing sites. We then bussed back to Paris and took a train to Frankfurt. MaryAnn lived there and we attend her son DJ’s high school graduation. After that we took a train to Amsterdam and spent several days in that area. We visited my niece Jackie Broek and Professor Kuik, a man I had worked with in the Philippines. That ended our odyssey and we flew back to Syracuse.

During this time Dolores came to meet a woman, Maureen Anderson. Then some interesting event occurred. At one time Maureen was visiting relatives in Upper Michigan – her folks lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Maureen has an uncle, Robert Peterson who lives in Chassell, Michigan. A notable point is that Robert Peterson is married to my cousin, Rita Bishop – Rita’s mother and my mother were sisters. Well Maurteen was in the Peterson home chatting with her uncle and somehow the Brule’ name was mentioned – Maureen indicated she knew of Dolores and John Brule and the lights came on! John and Maureen are some sort of cousins!! So this is a delightful coincidence and another nice part about it is that at one time Maureen and her husband Doug ordered some pasties flown in from Upper Michigan and she invited us over for dinner. What a great way to spend an evening. So now we see each other from time to time and it is great to have an extended family around.

For some weeks Warren and Janet and I had talked about getting together. We all felt it would be a good idea to share our memories about our life in Hancock. Janet had the original idea to do it, and we slowly chatted about the gathering. At some point Dolores said “Why don’t you push it, John, and make it happen?” That got me going, so I contacted Janet and told her that I was going to try to set a date. We talked it over, and it seemed to Janet that sometime in the first two weeks of June would be best for her.

In mid May I called Warren, and we talked about it, and I told him that I was writing a sort of autobiography. “I really can’t say much about the three of us as children in Hancock, because I don’t remember much about Janet during that time. How is your memory about that time?” He indicated somewhat the same feeling, but he remembers more because he is about 1 ½ years older than I. I’m 5 years younger than Janet and she left home while I was barely a teenager.

Well, we were proceeding along the path of meeting, and decided that we should all be in Kingsford at Warren’s home around June 8 or so. Then Janet emailed us to ask if it would be OK if she and Roger stayed together in Warren’s house. Roger is Janet’s man friend, who, incidentally, neither Warren nor I had met. Warren indicated he didn’t care, and it seemed we were on target. However the situation became clouded when I called Warren to just chat with him and he was quite upset. Part of his concern was whether we were going to have an inquisition type of meeting. That is, would we be digging up old decisions and second guessing them? Also, he didn’t like the idea that at times the three of us would be talking without Joyce and Roger being involved with us. “What do you think they are going to do, they don’t even know each other”, he said. When I reported this to Janet she decided she and Roger would stay in a motel, and told Warren that. He would not accept that – “you’re stay at our house”, he said. Janet immediately agreed since now she had a direct invitation to do just that.

So all that fluff passed on, and our original plans took hold. Janet and Roger flew in to Milwaukee on Tuesday the 7th, and drove to Kingsford that day. That made a long trip for them, since they flew to Milwaukee overnight from Honolulu. I left Syracuse on the 8th and flew to Green Bay. I rented a car and drove to Kingsford, arriving late in the afternoon.

After I arrived we all five sat around and chatted, and got to know each other. Dolores had originally decided that she would not join us, feeling that we three siblings needed time to get together alone. However, it turned out that Dolores’ daughter in Augusta, Georgia, had an operation on June 3, so Dolores went to help her out in the post operation phase. She left Syracuse June 2, and returned June 12.

Up in Kingsford Janet got us started talking about what we remembered about Mondays at home. This was especially about washing the clothes, the soap bars we shaved, and then walking to the Venice Café to buy a pot of spaghetti for supper. Of course mother’s great love was to be asked to substitute at the school. She had given up teaching in order to raise the family, but returned to teach full time as soon as she could after we three left home.

For about 40 minutes or so we continued to talk about our memories of growing up in Hancock. We got it straightened out what dates we were married, kids born, and for Janet her separation from Paul and eventual divorce. Our conversation was going on so well the we decided we didn’t want to go out to dinner but instead had some pizzas delivered.

Since we had been raised in a strict Roman Catholic home the conversation drifted over to churches, beliefs, and how that affected our lives. Roger was brought into the conversation at this time, and he had some well modulated thoughts to share with us.

I had hoped that the meeting would be more successful in having us share our young lives. At this point I think it was a mistake to open it up beyond just the three of us, but there was no way to do that.

The summer of 2004 moved on and I went to my Urologist for a checkup on my rather minor kidney stone. He took a sonogram to see what was going on with it and he announced to me that he saw I had a seven centimeter aneurism in my aorta. I was immediately n touch with a vascular surgeon and a plastic tube was inserted in my aorta to prevent the explosion.

We ushered in 2005 with our New Year’s Day open house and then on January 10 flew to Malaga/Torremolinos, Spain we stayed 4 weeks in an apartment in Bajandillo with a side trip to Tangiers, Morocco. That was not a good time to be vacationing on the Mediterranean. So on March 27 we flew to Rio de Janero to start a cruise around South America. We took this cruise with the Askanas’s and again had a great time. We traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Falklands (Malvinas in Argentina!). Then we went around Cape Horn and the rough water was great! We went up the Beagle Channel and ended the cruise in Valpariso, Chile. We went on to Santiago and had the good timing to visit with Dolores’ granddaughter Clementa. So then back to Syracuse.

We spent the rest of the summer in Syracuse.

October, 2005. Flew to Johannesberg, South Africa. Stayed there a couple of days visiting Soweto, then flew to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Then we flew back to Johannesberg and joined a tour from the office of Black Catholics. Went again to Soweto and visited the Apartheid Museum. Bussed to Kroeger National Park and saw the five main animals: lion, giraffe, hippopotamus, leopard, elephant.

We returned to Johannesberg then flew to Capetown where we saw Robbin Island- the place where Mandela was imprisoned. Then we flew to Dakar, Senegal and went to Goree Island, thence to The Gambia. That brought us to the home island of Kunte Kinte. We then bussed back to Dakar and then flew back to Syracuse.

In January,2006, after our New Years Day Open House we went on a six day cruise of the Caribbean with Michael and Varnessa. We had fun when we snorkeled on Grand Cayman and fed the sting rays. Then on to Jamaica and Ocho Rios. We had reserved an apartment for us in Buenos Aires – on Basavilbaso We were there for four weeks. During that time we met Ariel Lutenberg a PhD student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires. We saw him every year after that for the next four years and one time he visited us in Syracuse.

After the Argentine trip we visited Michael and Varnessa in Seattle and attended Jay Hendrix’s graduation in Spokane. That summer the Lynch/Alcee reunion was held in Syracuse and it was immediately followed by a celebration at camp Brockway of the 75th birthday of Dolores.

In October Nannette and Brian were married. Following that Dolores and I flew to San Diego to visit with Mark and his family and on October 20 took a GCT tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. While in New Zealand we visited Maria and Paul Fawcett – I had met him in the Philippines in 1967-68.

In February and March, 2007 we stayed in Buenos Aires at the apartment on Basavilbaso. We visited Iguazzu Falls, Wanda Mines and San Ignacio Mini and did a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay. Upon returning to Syracuse Dolores had knee replacement surgery on April 25.

While Dolores was recovering from this operation, Rina and I went to the Philippines.

July, 2007

Starting a couple of months ago I decided to travel to the Philippines for a couple of weeks this summer to see old friends. I had enough World Perks awards on Northwest Airlines to get an upgrade from Economy class to Business class, so that sealed the decision. I don’t think I’ll ever again travel such a distance in Economy class.

I planned to stay about two weeks and seats were available on July 10 with return on July 25, so that fixed the decision. I wrote to Karl Salva and Roger Bajarias to let them know I was coming and to ask them if perhaps I could have a room in Cocofed, the on-campus dorm. Karl carried the word on to the Dean of the College, Nicanor Buenconsejo, and he wrote to me:

Hello Dr. Brule,

I’ve heard from Karl Salva that you have plans to visit Cebu and USC Engineering in particular. We are very happy to have you back for a reunion. We plan to have a special get together for you; we’ll invite alumni and friends and we also plan to hold a special program and documentation of the event, e.g. souvenir program or sort of coffee table book on your historical involvement here in the College. We have organized a committee composed of faculty and alumni of the College to do the preparations.

We’ll give you updates on the preparations.

best regards,


This sure came as a huge surprise. I passed this word on to the family so that they would also be aware. Rina responded with a great desire to be a part of the trip. So, I offered to bring her along, and she readily accepted. Due to other commitments she could not spend all that time in the Philippines, so we set it that she would fly into Cebu on July 18 and fly back to the States on July 25, the same day I was leaving.

I still had to make the reservations to fly round trip Manila-Cebu-Manila, and Rudy Villarica suggested I use Cebu Pacific. So, I found them on the Internet and made reservations for the two of us. However, a major tempest arose when I changed the date of my ticket for the flight from Manila to Cebu. Cebu Pacific had no way to make such a change on line, so I asked Rudy to do it. This resulted in them having to make a trip to their Manila office to pay the 300 peso fee for making the change. Also, Cebu Pacific for some reason didn’t trust my debit card and Rina and I each had to supply detailed information about ourselves before they let us board the plane. It was a real nightmare – at one point they said we were not on their flight list and thus we had to make a special trip to their land office. But, it all worked out in the end.

I left Syracuse on July 10 at the start of the 21 hour flight to Manila. While we were flying the great circle route and were somewhere above Canada the heating system in the cabin broke down and we had to make an emergency landing in Anchorage. The transit room in Anchorage was swarmed with over 400 passengers from the Boeing 747 – something they were ill prepared to handle. We landed late in the day in Anchorage and we were finally told that we would spend the night and leave the next morning at 11:00 a.m. This was at the height of the tourist season in Anchorage, and there were almost no rooms open in any hotel.

However, my niece Gail French lives there with her husband and daughter and she was only too happy to put me up overnight. Gail and Bob is the couple for whom I had served as Marriage Commissioner. I had not seen them since Dolores and I were married. So, that was a very pleasant night. The above is a picture of Gail and me with their daughter Kelly.

However, my travel mates on Northwest Airlines did not fare so well – some of them didn’t even have a chair to sit in during their overnight stay in the airport. They were a mite cranky on the rest of the trip. The balance of the trip to Manila was uneventful, and not too bad in Business Class. We arrived late in the day on Thursday and Rudy and Pilar met me in Manila as they were able to keep track of my flight. I spent a nice Friday visiting with them. Rudy and I went shopping and I saw a laser-made paper weight that could have an image of Tony Parker put inside. When we returned to Rudy’s place we found a good picture of TP and Rudy sent his driver over to the shop to have the thing made. I picked it up as a gift for Dolores when I returned to Manila on the 24th.

The flight to Cebu on the 14th went OK once I straightened things out with Cebu Pacific. The stewardesses on the flight put on a songfest, as seen in the picture. Then the fun began.

When I entered the arrival area at the Cebu Airport, there assembled was the arrival party, as shown in the picture. They had a nicely lettered sign and had found a rather old picture of me. There was much greeting and picture taking, and it was certainly an auspicious beginning to the week of festivities. I rode back to Cebu City with Nick, and we spent the next couple of days touring around the city and getting filled in on what has been going on. The most important feature that I saw was the three new buildings constructed at the Talamban campus. The most beautiful of these is the building for the College of Architecture and Fine Arts. The other buildings that were built include a Liberal Arts/Science building and a building for Nursing and Pharmacy. However, the nursing enrollment is already so big that the new building is already too small. Hence, the overflow is in the current Engineering building. There are plans to build a new Engineering building, but nowhere near enough money is available. And this building will be further up the road, towards the Retreat House at the top of the hill.

On Sunday of that first week Roger, Joy, their daughter Vegie and I had a fish dinner at Sutukil, a fantastic restaurant on the northern part of the island of Mactan. This picture shows the display of the fish available at this restaurant. We pick out the fish we want, plus anything we want as appetizers such as prawns, etc. The cost is amazingly small. The following Saturday there were five of us who ate there and the total cost was less than $30.00

On Wednesday Rina flew in from Manila, and at 4:00 pm the event started. It was billed as an “Honorary Lecture”, with the title of the lecture given as “Effects of 9/11 on the Development of Science and Technology.” The event started with an Invocation, singing of the National Anthem, opening remarks by the Dean, then my Introduction and then my talk. An open forum was supposed to follow, but since it was very quiet I asked Nellie to join me on the podium and we talked about the Cebu Braille Center and how it started.

Following this there was a Fellowship Dinner, preceded by a serenade by the USC Choristers and a lengthy message from the President of the University, Father Roderick Salazar. Following that was dinner during which a video presentation was displayed on a screen. I had sent in some 20 or more pictures dating way back to my first visit in 1967, and they were augmented by some pictures of my family sent in by Jim. Following dinner was a Cultural Presentation by the USC Dance troupe and the evening was wrapped up with the closing remarks given by the Vice-President for Academic Affairs. Below is a picture of most of the people in the EE/ECE/ComE departments that put together this program. Also many of them were students of mine in previous years. I realize this is rather boring reading, but I asked Rina to write up her interpretation of what occurred. She did so the next day and that is what she wrote:

Dear Family,

I’m sitting here in Nellie Bautista’s house – they basically live under a bridge in the middle of Cebu and yet have broadband internet access! Grandpa is taking a nap, so I thought I’d take this chance to record what happened last night. The School of Engineering at USC put on a truly amazing event for Grandpa. It began with many introductions about Grandpa’s life, his critical involvement in the school, their appreciation for all that he’s done, and expressing how he is truly a member of their family and a great friend. That was the first 20 minutes! Then Grandpa gave a talk which was supposed to be about the effects of 9/11 on science and technology, but Grandpa focused the talk on change – the importance of embracing change instead of shying away from it, and pushing for change even if nobody else is on board initially. Then the School presented Grandpa with a plaque of appreciation, a book about the history of USC, and many more moving speeches about how much Grandpa means to the School of Engineering. It was very emotional.

Then came some really fantastic stuff – they put on a catered event that began with the USC Choir – they sang about 5 songs. They were strong singers and some of the solos were sung right to Grandpa. Throughout the singing they showed pictures of Grandpa and Grandma’s life in the Philippines as well as in the States – everyone laughed at old pictures and really loved seeing photos of our family. Then the USC dance troop performed for us – WOW! They peformed dances from all different Filipino cultures – the Muslims in the south, traditional native dances, and some Spanish dances. Each dance had different elaborate costumes. Just for Grandpa! They were really amazing!

Truly the most incredible part of the evening was realizing how much these people value and adore Grandpa. We were really treated like royalty – everyone wants a piece of Grandpa. I wouldn’t be surprised if 500 pictures were taken last night – every one of them with Grandpa in them. Our time over the next 6 days was quickly divided up last night – everyone wants their own time with Grandpa. We are very lucky to be a part of this family – Grandpa and Grandma contributed so much to USC and the blind community in Cebu. We documented the entire thing with photos and movies! Can’t wait to share them. I hope you’re all well!


The following few days were filled with some of the sights I wanted Rina to see. On Thursday Rina and I left for an all day tour of the island of Bohol. This included seeing the small primates called tarsiers, viewing the Chocolate Hills, and going to Hanagdanan cave. Following is a movie of tarsiers – get the URL into your browser and then you can see the little darlings.

Above is a picture of Rina entering the cave. I have similar pictures of Rachel, and the starter of it all, Jim.We returned to Cebu the same day, an on Friday I showed Rina the various places I had lived in Cebu.

One of the most important stops was at the Cebu Braille Center, that Nellie and Sally were instrumental in starting. Here is a picture of some of the students. On the left is Amore, Nellie’s sister-in-law and one of the original four students that learned braille from Sally. She still is the braillist with the Braille Center.

We had the opportunity to meet with Beth Saldivar, the person in charge of the Scholarship office at the University. We met with her during a birthday party for the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Beth had made sure that the young scholar being supported by the Brulé Scholarship was on hand. Her name is Antoinette, and she is a delightful young lady. She had one semester where her grades were quite poor, and she was rightly concerned that she might lose the scholarship. However she attended summer courses at her own expense and recovered her academic quality. The picture shows Beth, me, and Antoinette. The young lady was born with only one eye, and she is quite short. She is well spoken and displays confidence in herself and I am glad she still qualifies for support. Following this meeting we all went out to lunch and Nellie Bautista joined us.

On Saturday we had dinner again at STK and this time Vic Abarquez and his wife Tet-tet joined us. We talked at some length about what everyone was doing, and heard about a housing for the poor project that they are both involved with. The target group are people popularly known as “squatters.” They are people who have no place to live but when they find some unused land they gather together the bare essentials needed for housing and squat on other people’s land. This seemed very interesting to us so a couple of days later, on Monday, we went to visit the development in Cebu. It is essentially in the city of Mandaue – the land is owned by the city but the organization builds houses, improves the infra-structure, and even builds a school on the land.

The picture shows a part of the school as the students are preparing to sing a song for us. The picture shows the current state of its water system – their fresh water is hand pumped from a well. Plans are afoot to get an electric pump installed, but must wait till the plumbing has been completed.

On Sunday there was a beach party held by the ECE Department. This is an annual affair and we were invited to it. They had games to play – like a tug-of-war and other such things. There was also music with the powerful speakers turned up to full volume. Rina went swimming and we all held out as long as we could, then headed back to Cocofed and a nap.

Our trip wound down, and on Tuesday we flew back to Manila and once again Rudy and Pilar picked us up. Rudy had picked up the figure to Tony Parker, so Dolores’ gift was all set. The dinner that evening involved us and all the Villarica’s that live in Manila. It was a pleasant affair and the conversation went on for hours. Then early the next morning they transported us back to the International Airport. My plane left an hour earlier than Rina’s so the transportation was done in just one trip. The trip back was uneventful, and Ollie Clubb picked me up at the airport.

You can see a movie of the dance called Tinikling. This is very popular in the Philippines, and it takes different forms depending on where in the Philippines it is being performed. Here is the Cebuano version:

Following is more tinikling

One more tinikling

Note: Click on the Select Text tool in Adobe Reader, and then you can highlight the address and then Copy and Paste it into your browser.

JD So that ended our trip to the Philippines.

Dolores was soon recovered from the knee replacement so we scheduled a trip to Turkey for September 26 through October 20. We flew to Ankara then toured Cappadocia, Borsa, Ephesus, Galipoli and Istanbul.

So ended our excursions for 2007.


This year promises to have a remarkable number of events, and I might as well try to connect with them all. This will include a Carnival cruise and tour of the Western Caribbean lasting for 8 days. Michael and Varnessa will be with us and that will be great. Then immediately following the tour we will fly to Buenos Aires to our new (to us) apartment and stay there till March 31st. We will then have a couple of months off until June 10th when we will fly to San Diego for Corey’s high school graduation. After spending a few days at Mark & Francine’s we will make our way to San Francisco where Rachel is at school. We hope to spend a couple of days with Charles & Lita Askanas before flying to Seattle for a Morgan family reunion. Then on August 1, 2, and 3 there will be a Brulé family reunion in Hancock, Michigan that I am putting together along with Janet and Warren. We figured that even though I would be away for a couple of months we could keep in contact about the reunion via email. Also scheduled this year is the Democrat Convention and our hope that Obama gets nominated for President and then elected in November. Then we celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary and Christmas shortly afterwards. That should about do it.

The year started off as a normal one, with the January 1st open house at 116 Killian Drive. It was a marvelous turnout of friends, even though there was a fair amount of sickness and several people decided it was better to stay home and recuperate rather than to join the party and share their misfortune. I made two batches of eggnog which people really enjoyed, but not too much. As usual the place overflowed with food and desserts – the first mostly due to Dolores and the second due to many of the friends arriving with their contribution. As usual Jane Feld brought her cranberry bread and we tucked it away for our own consumption.

I decided to add some money to the Brulé Scholarship fund at the University of San Carlos and I found that I could give the money to the fund via the SVD Mission Central in Techny, Illinois. Let’s hope this works out OK.

As we started to pack for the cruise and Argentina we realized that we were going to have to carry an enormous amount of baggage onto the ship, since we would have all our clothes, etc. for the 2+ months in BsAs. So I brought our trusty balance scale into action and ended up with the four suitcases to be checked maxing in at 49 pounds each. Plus two notebook computers – my older HP and a new ACER that I had just bought. I figured it would be great if Dolores and I could each have our own computer equipment. At first we thought we would use a commercial storage company to hold our excess baggage, but found out that we could actually fit it all into our stateroom on the ship, and that there is a baggage storage facility at the Miami airport.

I had the usual concerns about bad weather interfering with our flight to Fort Lauderdale, especially since we had to fly through JFK. But, no problems arose and we arrived in Florida in good shape. Michael and Varnessa were already there so we visited for a while and then made our way to the ship.

Our cabin was comfortable and not too crowded. I received a note from the security office on board requesting that I come to their office. Apparently some unacceptable item was found in our baggage. While we were packing I included in the checked baggage a metal hammer and screwdriver combination that I figured might prove useful in the apartment. This was a gift to me from Mary Ann Gibson some time back. While the airline didn’t worry about the hammer, the shipboard security said it was forbidden as it could be used as a weapon. I had a great time hassling them over this since their policy statement was quite vague and I was tired from the activities of the day. But all was taken care of in fine fashion.

Then the trip began. The first two days we were at sea traveling from Fort Lauderdale to Central America. Varnessa and Dolores had a great time checking out the various stores and shops on board. I found out that Michael is a picture fiend. Every place you went around the ship there was a photographer wanting to take your picture for posting on the bulletin board and potential later purchase. He seemingly never disappointed any of them. But I also should point out that Varnessa was right with him in the photo-hound business. Here is one that Varnessa took while we were touring Gatun Lock on the Panama Canal, at Colon, which was one the three tour stops we made.

One thing that really impressed my on the canal was the enormous size of the container ships, and how high the containers were piled up on the deck. It serves to emphasize just how huge those ships are, and the depth of their draft. From this picture you can get some measure of that. The two vehicles alongside the ship are electric engines that through means of two ropes keep the ship from scraping the sides of the locks as they travel through them. The ships are lined up for miles, and it takes about 11 hours to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but there is also a couple of days delay to get into the locks.

This picture shows the side of a container ship already in the lock, a ship behind it that is waiting its turn, and the tracks that the engines travel as then climb from the lower lock to the upper lock which will be where the ship is after the lock has filled with water. The water that is used to raise the ship comes from a (fresh water) lake and is just dumped into the ocean after use. New larger locks are to be built and the process will change so that the water is conserved. We also were bussed to Panama City and found this to be an impressive location. It certainly is well developed and was pleasant to view the old part of the city.

We also spent a day in Limon, Costa Rica, and took a boat trip along a river into a mangrove swamp. The place was just alive with flora and fauna – we saw howling monkeys, bats, termite towers, sloths and so many more other fauna. After the boat trip we got on an antique train that somehow was continuing to function and went for a ride through a rain forest. We rattled on through the jungle for the better part of an hour, and saw a banana plantation and also a group of children that had a sloth as a house hold pet. The boy in the middle there is holding the sloth in his arms. I certainly can’t imagine the pleasure one would get from this animal as a pet – maybe its greatest usefulness is as an amazing sight for tourists to see.

We also stopped in Belize – formerly known as British Honduras. Dolores and I thought perhaps this might be an alternative site for us to stay during our snow bird flights, but I soon developed the feeling that it was not at all what I wanted. Belize City is at best a dumpy place and no apparent pleasant places to stay were seen. But the main reason we wanted to visit Belize was because of the presence of a Mayan ruin – one thing we had never seen in our travels. It is about an hours ride into the countryside on poorly maintained roads – we bumped and jostled our way there and back. But the trip was certainly worth while.

The Mayan ruin is known as Altun Ha and it means Water of the Rock. There were several significant sections to Altun Ha, and one of the more significant is pictured in this shot. I include the people in the picture so that one can get a better idea of its size. This all dates back over one thousand years and it is remarkable to see. There is much speculation about what happened to the Mayan population and why it was able to develop such great cities and roads in the first place. Certainly the conquest by the Spanish in the 16th century had much to do with the decline, but the civilization continued into the 17th and 18th centuries.

Shown here is a figure built into the wall. Presumably it is the face of one of the leaders of the Mayan community at some time.




Life aboard the ship was almost unreal, compared to life in the “real world.” Food was available at almost any time of the day or night, and from any one of several locations onboard. It was all part of the fare, but also there is a special restaurant for people who like to buy their own meal and get even more special treatment. The four of us, Michael, Varnessa, Dolores and I, ate dinner together each evening. We ate during the ‘second seating’, which started at 8:15 p.m. The service was great, we could order as much as we wanted from the entire menu, and our conversation would continue on into the evening. The room stewards liked to leave little surprises, and each evening upon returning to our stateroom one would fine a new ‘towel figure’ gracing the bed.

There were all sorts of diversions for passengers including hot tubs, spas, swimming pools, game rooms, a casino, and on and on. No money exchanged hands during the cruise – anything that was not free was put on the credit card we had to present before boarding the vessel. Also, a $10 per day per person tip fee was charged to the credit card. This was to be the tips for waiters, stewards, and other support people we had contact with. There was a separate tip to be given to the Maitre de. It was forbidden to bring alcohol on board, and any such drinks that were purchased at a bar were not only expensive but had an additional 15% service fee automatically added. The biggest danger aboard the vessel was the problems that would arise from over-eating. So for eight days we ate, slept, and toured. Quite a life.

The trip was over on Saturday, January 26, and we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale about 10:00 am that morning. Our flight to Buenos Aires was not scheduled to leave until 11:20 p.m. that night so we had a full day to ourselves. We gathered our entire luggage together, my ‘gold plated hammer’ was returned to me and we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to the Miami International Airport. We had found out that we could store our baggage in a facility in the MIA terminal so that relieved us of any need to watch over our luggage. We found that there was a huge mall a few miles away and checked that a shuttle bus could take us there. We waited for the bus for a couple of hours until we were informed that the bus does not run on Saturdays. So, we hung around the terminal for the remaining couple of hours before we could check our suitcases on to BsAs.

The overnight flight to Argentina was all right, and upon arriving in BsAs Sunday morning we and all our baggage were transported to our new apartment by a taxi we had hired before hand. The weather was great, and when we got to the apartment the representative from Buenos Aires Habitat met us and gave us a tour of the apartment. I checked to see if the high speed internet connection was working, and it wasn’t. So before the rep left us we made sure that arrangements were made to have a technician arrive the next day to straighten up the trouble. Then we started unpacking and settling in to the apartment. Here is a picture of one of our notebook computers set up on the dining room table. The apartment has a kitchen with breakfast nook and ½ bath, dining room, living room, full bath, main bedroom and a second bedroom we use as an office. Also in the kitchen is a washing machine and clothes drier along with a dish washer. The WiFi output is in the living room and has a signal strength that is just strong enough to allow the use of a computer in the office. However, the connection to the internet didn’t work and the representative said that they would have someone come to fix it. It is a really nice apartment with lots of room. The technician arrived the next morning and after disabling the codes on the modem everything worked just fine.

Santa Fe Street (avenida) is quite busy and it has loads of shops all around. Within one block there is a grocery store, pharmacy, newsstand, laundry/dry cleaner, an exercise gym, a Roman Catholic church, several eateries and of course many buses. It is about 4 or 5 blocks from San Martin Plaza, a favorite hangout of ours last year – and of course Florida Street is also nearby.

Our first Thursday here we went to a gathering called Meet and Chat. This is populated by Argentines wanting to improve their English. We ride the subway (Subte) to get there and spent an hour with them. There wasn’t a meal involved so after about an hour or so the gathering ended. I enjoy this meeting because we get to meet real Argentines and participate to some extent in their discussion. And, it is particularly interesting to find out what kinds of subjects this little group wants to talk about, and how they manage it. There was a fair amount of crude sex jokes and the gathering was pretty much dominated by the organizer of the group.

We went to the meeting again the following week and this was quite interesting in the way the women in the group forced a discussion about gender discrimination. Some of the men did their worst to try to crack jokes about what the women were saying, but eventually the women did make their point.

There is another group in BsAs that is interested in mixing in society, and this is called the Ex-Pat Connection. The group is made up of Ex-Pats, (foreigners) who are here for some length of time – not tourists. One further requirement is that English be the common language. We first met with them in a bar the night of the Super Tuesday primaries. That was mostly unsuccessful because the place was too small and it was really impossible to carry on a conversation.

This group is run by an American who used to work as a marketing agent in some local business. He had put together a trip to Gualeguaychu, in Buenos Aires province. There is a Carnival in that small city that is run every Saturday night during February and a week or two in January and March. It’s a three hour bus ride and two mini-buses of participants left BsAs Saturday afternoon, the 16th of February. We arrived in Gualeguaychu late afternoon, and after a city tour and dinner we got to the carnival at about 10:00 p.m. Early Sunday morning we left for BsAs and arrived at our apartment at 7:00a.m.

The Carnival was fantastic, to say the least. Huge floats covered with all sorts of decorations and three or more tiers of dancing participants. The event is enjoyed by just about everyone – even the crowd will jump into the path of the floats and dancers and join in the fun. So did I! The organizer gathered the pictures of the event that were taken by our group, and here is a link to them.

I also made some movies of the floats, and here are some links to them.

An unforgettable experience, and one surely that we are glad we took.

Following that trip we calmed down for a bit, but then on Thursday the 21st we doubled up again. That is, for lunch we went out to Palermo Soho for lunch with the downtown BAIN group. This is Buenos Aires InterNational. We met more people this time all English speakers and had a pleasant afternoon. Then we came back to the apartment for a few hours and went back to Cabildo for an evening gathering of the Meet and Chat group. Friday we caught up on food shopping, and rested up for the next adventure.

That next adventure was waiting for us. A couple of the men who went to Gualeguaychu decided it would be nice to gather together some of our fellow travelers for a dinner. They set that up for Saturday night at a restaurant in Palermo. So off we went via Subte to that part of the city and went to the restaurant arriving at the suggested time of 8:30. By 9:00 a couple of others showed up, and as the evening wore on even more showed up. Above is a picture of the wild group. Starting at the left front is Christine, a program evaluator on a six month sabbatical from her job in New York City. Then is Dolores and next to her is Ifti, a Paskitani who works at the Pakistan embassy. I am across from him and standing behind me is Dennis. He didn’t have dinner with us but happened by the restaurant with a group of friends. Finally on the right is Luciano, an Italian playboy that forces me to keep a tight rein on Dolores. (She later told me she’d rather have Ifti!) Also showing up later was Steve, and I hope to get him in a picture on some other gathering. He says he is married, but no spouse is ever around. We all had a great evening, and Luciano said he would set up another get together for us to attend the horse races some day.

On Sunday afternoon we took Bus 152 to San Telmo because Dolores had seen some Rose Inca Gem stones there and wanted to check them out. They were as good as she hoped so we picked up some gem stone jewelry to add to our collection. The street performers were out in force of course, so I made a short movie of a juggler. Also, Ariel’s school is right out there, so here is a picture of the Engineering School of the University of Buenos Aires. Below is the link to the juggler video.

As I was writing in my memoirs I reached the point in time where Dick Congdon and I went to Auburn where Dick had set up a blind date for me. This was how I met Sally. These thoughts brought to mind the fact that I hadn’t heard from Dick in several years, so I went on the web and did a search for him. Richard Congdon is a bit popular as a name, but I did find the following link:

This is an article by Amy Calder in the Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel of November 15, 2002. It describes how Dick Congdon had a large dog and the USPS refused to deliver mail to his neighbor because they were afraid of the dog. This is a picture of Dick and his dog, and the neighbor whose mail was being held by the USPS. I know it must be the Dick Congdon that I am looking for because it looks so much like him, and only Dick would be involved in this kind of complexity. So I contacted Ms. Calder and she hopped right on the story, but to date has not had any success in locating Dick. He no longer lives at the address of the incident and none of the neighbors know where he went.

We heard from Brenden Murray, son of John and Nancy Murray, and he indicated he was going to be in our area of the world for a while. We were pleased to hear from him and via email we told him to be sure and stop by to see us. Indeed he did, and on two different occasions. He flew in here from Guatemala and we had dinner together and renewed acquaintances. After a few days he left to visit various areas in Patagonia, but stopped in again around February 26. He left the next day for Montevideo and indicated he was going to fly from Buenos Aires back to Central America late in March or April.

Early in March we went to a “gourmet dinner” set up by the ex-pats group. This was held at the CuaCua restaurant in a new region, to us, of Buenos Aires called Caballito. I hunted around and found a street guide called Guia T, and figured out where the restaurant actually is. I found that taking Subte Line C to Independcia and then switching to Line E at that point got us right to the restaurant. Unfortunately I concluded that we should disembark at a certain station – San Moreno – that was one stop too far. So I had to hire a cab to find the restaurant – it was one of those crazy cases where the name of the street the restaurant is on changed between stops and nobody seemed to know where the missing street was located.

Anyway we got there in good time and there were about 30 people in attendance. We sat with a strange couple – Audrey and Dimitri – who said they travel continuously with no home base. They came to South America over a year ago, purchased a car and are busy driving around the continent. He asked me what I knew about trying to sell a car here, and I admitted ignorance. He complained heartily about how complicated it is but couldn’t quite handle the question about why he didn’t check in on that before buying it. Two glasses of wine were part of the dinner, so I had mine and Dolores stayed dry, at least in part because of Lent. Audrey and Dimitri bought a whole bottle and a little while later discovered that it was empty. This happened when Audrey wanted another bottle and Dimitri refused. She said “He won’t buy another one because I am a lush.” She surely was.

The dinner was touted as a typical Argentine meal, called an asado. This is a roast made up of several different meats. It started with blood sausage, then spicy sausage, then a slab of beef and ended with a large piece of roasted pig and dessert. I can’t stand blood sausage, the other sausage was OK, the slab of beef I was served was mostly fat and suet and the roasted pig was inedible. They need a good Filipino chef to show them how to prepare lechon. Above is a picture of the pig carcasses being roasted.

We had heard some fascinating things said about Mendoza, an Argentine City in the Andes. I struggled with trying to set up a good trip for us, in spite of my ineptitudes at this field of endeavor. I talked with Sebastian Christansen at Pezzati travel and worked out a schedule for us to fly to Mendoza, take a tour of the high mountains around Mendoza then bus to Santiago, Chile to finish off the trip and then fly back to Buenos Aires.

Monday we flew via LAN airlines to Mendoza and spent the afternoon and evening doing some sightseeing. We arrived there shortly after 2:00 p.m. and the shops were all closed, hardly any people on the streets and little vehicular traffic. We guessed perhaps this was some sort of a local holiday. We unpacked our one suitcase and went out for a walk. By 5:00 p.m. the city had come to life and was bustling with all kinds of activity. The streets were crowded with people and temporary stalls that had been put up.

The hotel room was adequate, but the street noise went on till quite late. Nevertheless by 7:00 a.m. we were ready to go on the High Mountain excursion. That day we rode for several hours into the Andes and up to the statue of Christ of the Andes. Of course the views were spectacular and the altitude not too bad. However, the statue was in a retreat at an altitude of some 12,700 feet and that proved to be too much for me. When I alighted from the bus everything was OK but then I climbed about 10 steps up to a shop and got very dizzy – even that little bit of exercise was too much. So I went back to the bus and sat quietly trying to breathe deeply and slowly. As soon as we started down the mountain things seemed to clear up.

The road servicing the statue was made up of sharp S curves and steep drops. On our way down we found that a large bus had tried to turn too sharply and had its front end become lodged in the dirt. We were able to get around it, but it didn’t look like the bus would be freed very easily.

That evening back at the hotel I felt very ill at ease – I was severely constipated. I went to several Farmacias trying to locate a laxative or a suppository but without success. I even went to a computer, typed into an English-Spanish translator the sentences describing what I wanted and then copied the Spanish translation onto a pad. This didn’t help me to find what I wanted. The next day we were supposed to take a bus to Santiago and it would go back over the route we had just completed. So, in desperation we cancelled the remaining part of the tour and flew back on Wednesday to Buenos Aires. We still enjoyed the part we completed but also were pleased to be back in BsAs.

That Thursday we again attended the evening meeting of the Meet and Chat group. We also got a call from Luciano, our Italian friend from the trip to the Carnival at Gualegualchu, and accepted his invitation to join him for dinner Saturday evening at a Mexican restaurant in Puerto Madero. Christine was also part of the dinner party and we had a great time. She works for the court system in New York City and is on some sort of extended leave. She has been here for a couple of months and will be leaving in July, 2008. At one point a mariachi band showed up and serenaded us. I tried to get a movie of their performance but there wasn’t enough light. So instead here is a picture of the band. They seemed to be having a great time and stopped to serenade each table of diners. After we had enough of this we called it a night and taxied back to our apartment at 1277 Santa Fe. I went to see Sebastian at the travel agency to see if I could get a refund for our unused tickets from Santiago to Buenos Aires. He said he would take care of it, and could expect a full refund in a couple of months.

After a quiet couple of days we decided to do some more exploring. There is a palace near the end of Florida street that reportedly is quite stunning to see. So we walked over there only to find out the hours and availability of a guided tour. We found out that there are no English based guided tours this week, being Holy Week, but on Tuesday of Easter week there will be a tour starting at 4:00 pm. So we decided to check out our train expertise and walked over to Retiro station. This is the main railroad and bus terminal in Buenos Aires. We wanted to do two things-go to San Isidro Cathedral and take a ride on the Tren de la Costa, or coastal train. The coastal train is a touristic adventure going from Mitre up to Tigre where the Plata river essentially starts. So we looked over the train maps for a train to San Isidro, the town where the cathedral is, and found one. So I went to the ticket counter and purchased two tickets for Dolores and me. Then we were faced with the problem of which train is the one we want to get on. There are five separate lines and we weren’t sure which one we wanted. There are trains leaving on these lines every few minutes so we didn’t have to wait long. I asked a guard which train went to San Isidro and he said: “linea quatro”, and then counted out on his fingers “uno, dos, tres, quatro.” Encouraged, we went to line quatro and hopped on the train. As we moved along I watched the stations pass and noted that the stations were not on the line with San Isidro. A kindly gentleman helped me out and told me we have to go back to Retiro and take a train going to Mitra.

So, we hopped off the train, went around the terminal and passed underneath the tracks to get to the opposite side. As we rode back to Retiro Dolores reminded me she had seen a sign specifically outlining, in English, how to take the coastal train. When we arrived in Retiro and tried to leave the platform area a guard stopped us to look at our tickets and said something to the effect that I owed some sort of fine for not having a valid ticket. I then put on my negotiating hat and we were kindly escorted to the proper ticket window to buy the tickets to Mitra. Of course that train left almost immediately and we were on our way.

The right way to do the coastal trip is to get off the train at Mitra and go to another ticket window to buy the tickets on the Tren de la Costa. We did this and again we were on our way. I should point out that the regular train tickets cost us about thirty cents – we were hardly losing any great amount of money. The Tren de la Costa runs from Mitre to Tigre, but our tickets allowed us to detrain at any point and return when we wanted to. All we had to do was to keep traveling in the same direction and buy a new ticket when we wanted to return to Retiro.

When we got to San Isidro we walked up to the Cathedral and went inside to investigate it. Above is a picture of the Christos that we saw inside. It was basically a very plain church and not much more to say about it.

We had not yet had lunch and didn’t want to eat in the San Isidro train station. We decided to go back to BsAs, but the only feasible route for us was the Tren de la Costa so we went back to Mitra. The conductor didn’t bother us for a ticket so that was a free return ride. We then decided to bus from Mitra to our apartment because the bus stopped right at our door and the train would require us to travel another 10 blocks or so from Retiro to Santa Fe. We should have done that and taxied those 10 blocks since we found the bus to be very hot and dusty. But we treated ourselves to a very good lunch/dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening.

That night we had a rather disturbing experience in our apartment. On a lower floor of the building, but right under ours, there was an all night party that began about 11:30 pm or so with extensive yelling, screaming, and loud sort-of music. Dolores, having raised 11 children, slept through it, but it awakened me and it went on until about 4:15 a.m. I was somewhat upset and the next day I called the office of Buenos Aires Habitat to find out what they would do about it. They contacted the owner of our apartment and he was very concerned. So he made some contacts and called me to let me know what he had done. He also told the custodian of the building about it, but that person works till only about 5:00 p.m. I tried asking the custodian if there was some way I could contact him in case it happened again. He couldn’t understand me so I went to an automatic translator online and translated by question into Spanish and I copied it onto a note. I gave the note to the custodian and of course he knew no English so he went to a third party and had them write out in Spanish what his rely was. But, their handwriting was so foreign to me that I couldn’t type it into my Spanish to English translator and so that series died. Anyway, there was no party in our building that night. However that Saturday night (Holy Saturday) there was another party in a building behind ours that was equally loud, but not as bothersome. It seems that during this period – Good Friday through Easter Monday – the good citizens of Buenos Aires pretty well desert the city and the kids left at home use the time to their advantage.

In reading the local paper, the Buenos Aires Herald, we found a Chinese restaurant that was highly recommended for its great food. It was off in a part of the city, Belgrano, that we had never visited, so we got out our trusty maps and guides. We found that Subte D had a stop about six blocks from the restaurant. So we walked some 4 or 5 blocks to the nearest Subte D access point and rode to our desired station. The train was very heavily packed so we were crushed most of the way there. Once we got to our desired station we de-trained and walked to the area of the restaurant. I was very close to a train station, Belgrano C.

We hadn’t checked to see when the restaurant was open and we arrived there about a half hour before they were ready. It is located in a small China Town neighborhood so I had time to take some pictures. Here is one of Dolores patiently waiting for the restaurant, Todos Contentos, to open. It was a very small China Town, maybe a dozen or so restaurants and shops around one corner. The food at the restaurant was indeed quite good and we had a pleasant time sitting there and watching the people around us.

When it came time to leave we decided we had enough walking for now and went over to the train station, bought a couple of tickets, total less that $1.00, and then caught the next train to Retiro. This was a very nice ride – we had a good seat for a change, and then when we got to Retiro we hired a cab to take us to our apartment – this cost 7 pesos, a little over $2. So, that was a nice little bit of exploring.

The next day was Holy Thursday and Dolores went to the evening services that lasted from 7:00 pm till about 8:30. She reported that the church was packed and overflowed into the street. Something like five priests were involved in the services. On Good Friday we went for a walk about the area and noticed that the traffic was essentially gone. An amazing experience because normally the streets are almost full of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Along the way we saw a procession headed by a priest, a sound truck and a crucifix. It was a goodly sized group but we were not sure what exactly was their motivation – however they were praying the Hail Mary, so it certainly was a Roman Catholic group.

Easter Monday we stayed around the apartment most of the day and then went with Ariel and Paula to the demonstration of the “Disappeared.” This is a memorial to the pregnant women who were kidnapped, allowed to give birth, and then tortured and murdered. This happened in the mid 1970’s early ‘80’s under the dictatorship. The demonstration also included political groups who are anti-government, indigenous Inca peoples, farmers, etc. Here is a picture of one of the signs carried by demonstrators. They were of all varieties, including some hammer and sickle signs.

Leaving the demo we had a brief snack with Paula and Ariel – Paula had to get back to her class preparation. I made a video of part of the demonstration and it is on You Tube at:

In the video you will see checkered flags of many colors. These are flags representing various Inca tribes.

Tuesday dawned clear and warm, and we slowly joined the world. Outside our bedroom window is an empty lot and someone is storing hundreds of steel reinforcing rods for construction purposes. The men working there were busy unloading another collection of these rods – they come in bundles and are very heavy. That afternoon we went to tour the Paz Palace down near Florida street. So we made our way there for the 4:00 p.m. English tour and found the Palace to be very beautiful but the weather was hot, the air in the building was close and we tired of the place. This is a closeup of a very beautiful carving on the side of a fireplace in one of the rooms. Walnut was used in many places and this piece was particularly fine.

We stopped on the way back to the apartment for a bit of refreshment. After dinner we were just settling in when a noise started up from a nearby apartment, and then from the street. We went out to find Santa Fe just jammed with marchers beating on pots, pans, drums… Just about anything metal that makes a noise. We enquired as to what was going on and found out that it was a protest against the government planning on raising the taxes on exported food. There was what appeared to be a spontaneous demonstration against the government. There were demonstrations in many places in Argentina, with varying reasons for marching. Here is a link to some movies I took of the marchers going down Santa Fe just in front of our apartment.

Beating on pots and pans relates back to the demonstrations in 2001 when there was terrible inflation and much agitation around the country. You might notice that these particular demonstrators, which are in the affluent region of Buenos Aires known as Barrio Norte, are having a good time. Laughing, talking, socializing and in general out for a pleasant walk on a beautiful evening. Everyone marched to the monument at Avenida de Mayo.

Wednesday afternoon we went to a BAIN meeting where the speaker was a young professor of History at a local college. He was great and I got his name and address for future reference. He spoke about the current political strife and related it to historical events that help give light to what is going on now.

On Friday we went to a postponed Meet and Chat group to say our goodbyes, and this was nice. We always had a good time with this group and they were most pleased we joined them.

But that night there was another party in our building, and it was in apartment 6A directly above us on the next floor. I went up to the party to see what was going on and was informed that the custodian had given permission to have the party. I stayed up for a while and at 2:00 a.m. sent off a letter to BsAs Habitat asking them if the building was becoming a party center, and asking them to check with the owner of our apartment what recompense he would give us since obviously he is violating the lease. There is nothing in the lease that indicates that some weekends and during long vacations there might be no opportunity to sleep in the apartment. This complaint was passed on to the owner of the apartment and that person indicated I would receive some sort of recompense.

It now was time to make a reservation for transport to the airport on Monday and BsAs Habitat said they would get a large car for us since we had four large suitcases.

Then I had an unfortunate problem. I had about $700 in cash stored amongst my clothes in a closet and it appeared to me that it disappeared. I ran into this problem on Sunday as we were preparing to pack our suitcases. I made matters worse by so informing BsAs and the owner avowed as to the complete trust they had in the woman who cleaned the apartment. I didn’t make a big issue of it, fortunately, and just decided to write it off as another experience.

Checkout time came on Monday afternoon and everything in the apartment was in good shape. However the BsAs representative said that the technician who had enabled the internet connection said that the problem was with my notebook computer and he had to alter it so that it would work. She told me I owed $25 for this work. At this I became angry, unfortunately, and loudly informed the young lady that I would not pay it. She checked with the home office and they agreed to waive the fee, and gave me some reimbursement for the partying. All in all the closure of the apartment was not a pleasant experience and I felt badly about the way I acted and the confusion. To finally cap the whole process when the transportation arrived it was a car that was too small for all our baggage and us. The BsAs Habitat representative said that was because I failed to inform them we needed a big car. So, we stopped a taxi on the street and then in the two vehicles we made our way to the airport. What a lousy way to end a wonderful stay in Buenos Aires!

Everything went smoothly at the airport. We checked in at American Airlines and got our seats. The flight left on time, and off we went to JFK. I sat next to a woman who was heading for a meeting in New York City. She was a lawyer and lived quite close to where our apartment was in BsAs. She indicated that all that partying is part of the action as people return to the city from their vacations.

When we got to JFK some 10 hours later, we went through immigration, picked up our baggage and brought it through customs and then handed it over to the transfer station where it would be sent to our Delta flight to Syracuse. We arrived in Syracuse about 20 minutes early, but we had reached Brian via cell phone and he was there to meet us. However, a little snag with the baggage occurred. It seems that the AA agent in Buenos Aires put the wrong flight number on the baggage checks and instead of going to Syracuse, our baggage ended up going to Orlando. But later that day, Tuesday, the baggage showed up at 116 Killian Drive.

So now it was time to readjust to life in Syracuse. After restocking the food shelves we started to look for a new kitchen stove. That didn’t take too long and in a couple of days we had a brand new GE range. Dolores really likes that appliance.

I decided that the new stove needed proper christening so one Sunday we made pasties. I asked Jane and Verah Johnson to join in and we made 20+ pasties. The recipe I used had too much meat in it and the dough didn’t ask for enough shortening so that will be corrected the next time. But they sure tasted just fine. We gave some to Jim & Jill, Nannette & Brian, and of course Verah and Jane.

The planning for the family reunion got started and Warren wanted to be in charge since he had much experience with reunions that involved his friends who traveled in super RVs. However, a family reunion involving people flying in to the reunion rather than coming in with their own vehicle posed many different problems and he asked me to take over. We decided to have the first day of the event at a site at Michigan Tech. This is my undergraduate alma mater, but also Warren’s son David is on the Board of Control there and is a former Chairman of that Board. Warren will pick up the cost of many of the meals, and David will pay for the rental of the buses we will need.

Since it seems that I will have some free time upon our return to Syracuse I decided to sign up for a writing course in a new program set up by Syracuse University. It is called the Lifelong Learning Program and classes meet twice a week for two hours at each meeting. The course runs a total of 4 weeks. So that is 16 contact hours, which is more than a third of a semester of work. About half of these course hours are spent working with an elderly resident of a local nursing home – Menorah Park. I really want to improve my memoirs by putting more of my own feelings into the pages and I hope that taking that course will help me.

The course was quite interesting, as usual, and we had a good group of people in the class. Some of them had written a book and were very interesting to interact with. After the first week we went to Menorah Park and I met my senior citizen. She was a Jewish lady whose family had been affected by the holocaust, and had led an interesting life in Syracuse. Attached to this document is the report I presented to her and the writing group. (d:\new writing class\DorothyKruth2.doc) It turned out that the people at Menorah Park want to prepare a record of the lives of the patients there, and our project fits right in with their plans.

By the time I finished with the LifeLongLearning project it was mid June and the next event was ready to unfold. Corey is to graduate from High School in San Diego and we will travel there to attend the event. Also, Rachel is currently living in Palo Alto as she attends Stanford. Dolores’ family is having a reunion in Seattle in late June so we can put all this together to take a trip along the “left” coast.

The first leg was a trip to San Diego where we attended Corey’s graduation. He looked great and we had a wonderful time visiting with Marks family and looking over their new house. We also looked around the neighborhood at all the burned out houses and realized just how fortunate Mark was that their house was spared.

We then took the train up to Palo Alto and Charlie Askanas met us at the station and transported us to Rachel’s apartment. We stayed in her room and Rachel moved to the living room couch for the nights we were there. On the first day we visited Stanford and I was thrilled to see Donald Knuth’s office and also to marvel at seeing the Stanford robotic manipulator arm. This was part of my robotics course that I used to teach.

We also toured the campus of Google and came away absolutely amazed at the freedom the young workers there had. They could work on any private project they felt like for 20% of their time. Food, free, was everywhere and there were community bicycles available for anyone to use to travel around the campus. We also observed the Facebook home office and found it to be amazingly small and inconspicuous.

We met with Charlie and Lita on the next day – visited their home and spent time “schmoozing” with them. The following day Rachel drove us to the airport in San Francisco and we flew off to Seattle for the Morgan family reunion. This was basically a full day picnic with games, food, and general mixing. However we were in Seattle for a few days for food preparation. We stayed in Michael’s house.

On Sunday we flew back to Syracuse in time to wrap up the plans for the Brulé Family reunion. The final report on this event is another attachment – “Once in a Lifetime”. It was indeed a fantastic affair, and I believe has affected in a positive way the lives of all the participants. While the report is entitled “Once in a Lifetime”, some folks are saying we should have another one. This is fine for the ego, but people don’t realize the amount of effort entailed with the type of reunion we had. Three days of activities had to be planned and coordinated and this adds up to a lot of contacts. Most of the communication was done by email and telephone, and Jim set up a good internet communication process. It also cost a lot of money. David paid for the buses and a couple of open bar nights, but Warren carried the major cost of the facilities at Michigan Tech including the meals both there and on the trip to Copper Harbor. Roger Wickenden and I contributed a total of $2500 to this, but Warren still had a significant amount to cover. But it was well worth it.

The next time we have a reunion it should be set up so we have more time to spend just being with each other, and possibly for a shorter period of time.

Upon returning to Syracuse on August 4 we entered the end of the preliminary phase of Election 2008. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama were slugging it out, but Hillary had misjudged the type of campaign to run and lost out narrowly to Barack. She is having trouble coming out strongly for Obama in his campaign against McCain. The battle between Obama and McCain is getting rough, and we are in tension awaiting the big November 4 election day.

Then all hell broke loose with the apparent collapse of much of the banking system. Any stocks I own are diminishing in value, but I guess I will stick with it. Not much choice besides that. The politics is getting dirtier too, so life is not pleasant. However, we have reserved our apartment in Buenos Aires starting January 16 through March 31, so that will be great. And then of course, Obama won and most of the world is breaking out in happiness over the potential for real change.

Another big event involved locating Dick Congdon. When we were all at the Father Brady dinner commemorating the 30th anniversary of his death, I started talking with Lee Connolly, the author the book “God Love Ya”, the story of Father Brady. I mentioned how I had run in to a dead end in my search for Dick, and she said she would take a shot at it. Well, two days later she had turned up a daughter of Dick, Clare, who at one time taught at Colby College in Waterville, ME. I found her web site and discovered that she was now at the University of Southern Maine. Her web page had a phone number and I called her.

She knew that her dad was living someplace in Gorham, NH, and gave me the email address of her sister Alice who lives nearby in Berlin NH. I got in touch with her and found that she recently became a registered nurse and works part time at the very nursing home where Dick is living.

With Alice’s help I was able to set up a phone call with Dick, and he and I chatted for 15 minutes or so. He of course was delighted to receive a phone call, but a few minutes into the call he asked: “How do I know you?” We went over the names of his high school buddies, but not all of them were meaningful to him. In fact he wasn’t too sure who Sally was. So I will call him again in a week or so, but I expect he will not remember this first call at all. It makes me really aware of the heartache that his daughter Alice must be feeling. Dick has almost no memory, at least that I have been able to activate, of most of his former life. But he is genuinely happy when I call him and we have a pleasant visit. He indicates he is happy, happy with his life, and appreciative when I call. I find this is having a lasting effect upon me. I feel somewhat alone in that while Dick is still around physically he is nevertheless not here. I think I find this more depressing that he is still alive and lost as opposed to how I would feel if he were dead. Very strange.

It seems as though we haven’t done enough traveling yet. We were informed by GCT that space for two opened up for a trip to Israel and Egypt in late September so we jumped at the chance. We were particularly anxious to get to these two countries. We had never been in Israel and we love to travel the Nile. We went to all the usual tourist places and also went to Bethlehem which is in Palestine territory. Our Israeli guide couldn’t go there with us.

After we returned we had a small birthday party for Gina and we gave her a cartouche that I had bought while in Egypt.

Later we decided to drive to Endicott to have dinner with Father Charles and his Bishop. (They are from Uganda.) We had a delightful visit with them and were amazed at his beautiful church, St. Joseph’s. We left for Syracuse about 8:00 p.m. and as we were driving back I found we had a number of lane changes in the Binghamton area. I would put far beam on when I had to read the sign, and then shut if off. Of course I was stopped by a trooper and given a ticket for failure to dim the lights. So that takes a fair amount of maneuvering to get it finally settled. I planned on fighting it, but that meant driving to Binghamton at the time of the year when the weather is at best difficult. So, the DA’s office sent me a form I could use to plead guilty and on it the DA was recommending that I should not be fined. So, I bit the bullet, pled guilty, and I await the judgment of the court. (No fine, just costs and 2 points on my license.)

Thanksgiving arrived right on schedule, and Dolores and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. Some of Dolores’ family arrived for the holiday:

Cathy with Eugene and their two children, Jeanne and Danniele, Billy showed up with his latest – Joyce, Michael Jones, the Masingales – Jane, Michael and Naomi, and for dinner we also had Nannette with Brian, Gina and Brian’s daughter Jade. The weather was great and we all had a good time. Joyce is with the Police Department in Chicago and seems like a nice person. I gave Dolores a small computer, called a Netbox to take to Buenos Aires – much easier to carry.

I contracted with Tom Yager to plow the driveway all season and it is paying off. We have had an enormous amount of snow so far this year. Christmas approached and the house and yard got decorated. On Christmas day the Brulé family had our stocking session starting about 4:00 pm with dinner around 6:00. I had decided to give Gina a camera for Christmas but thought that at first I would give her a small one until she got used to handling it. This did not sit well so I relented and gave her the good one. I gave an identical one to Rachel and I gave a Palm Pilot to Rina

The year ended and on January 1, 2009, we had our usual New Years Day party. It was well received, as many people commented about what interesting people were there. Now we await the inauguration of Barack Obama and the future with an apparently intelligent President, for a change. Here follows a detail on the Brule Family Reunion.

Once in a Lifetime Reunion

Sometime late in 2007 Dolores and I were talking about the reunions she has had with the Morgan family, and I groused about the fact that we Brulé’s have never had one. “Well, why don’t you put one together?” was her way of putting me on the spot. After chatting a bit about this I found I had no good reason to put off at least making the attempt to have a reunion. I checked it out with Warren and Janet (Jay) to determine where they stood on such a plan. Here is a picture of the Brule’ siblings taken at the reunion. We talked about it at some length and had varying concerns. A lot of time and work would be involved. We generally agreed and we felt we should proceed with plans for the gathering. I realized that the main reason I wanted to have the reunion was to make sure my children and grandchildren had some appreciation of where their forebears came from. While I had some pretty good knowledge of my paternal lineage I realized I knew nothing about where my maternal grandparents came from. I didn’t want my offspring to have the same lack of information.

We then had to figure out where to hold the reunion. We agreed that we felt it would be a good idea to start in Kingsford. Warren then indicated that he would host the event and supply music for entertainment. This was a fantastic offer and after some more discussion we figured it would be great to then hire a bus to take us to Hancock so that we could view the area where we grew up and even visit our maternal grandparent’s home. Then on a third day we could take a tour around the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The beauty of Lake Superior and the clarity of the air up there were not to be missed. Warren and Jay also agreed with these thoughts.

Then the logistics of this plan started to sink in since there would be a fair amount of travel and also require renting motels in two different locations. Warren suggested that maybe it would be better if we started in Hancock/Houghton and thereby have motels only in that area. He also indicated that it makes no difference to him if he had the meals catered in Kingsford or in Hancock. This was great by me, so the plans were really shaping up. Family could fly into the Hancock airport and also leave from it instead of having to plan routing from different locations and spending successive nights in different motels.

So now it became necessary to find a venue in the Houghton/Hancock area to have the first day of the reunion. When Dolores and I were married (nine years ago) we had our reception at Lemoyne College where she had at one time been a member of the Board of Trustees. Of course I am an alumnus of Michigan Tech and David Brulé Sr. is a member of the Board of that fine institution so we decided to contact Michigan Tech (MTU) to see what would be available to us. We found that there was a site known as the University Residence that would be perfect for us, and indeed it was available for our reunion weekend of August 1, 2 and 3. So now everything was all set. The opening day meeting on Friday at the University Residence is to be followed by a bus trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula on Saturday and a bus tour of the Houghton/Hancock/area on Sunday. Warren then said that not only would he host all three meals on Friday at the University Residence, but also dinner at the Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor on Saturday and finally lunch and dinner at the University Residence on Sunday. David had indicated that he was willing to help out and when I called him he said he would pay for the bus on Saturday and Sunday. Thus the participants would only have to pay for their transportation and lodging in Hancock, and the other meals on Saturday.

Next we decided to consider what could be done on our 3 days in the reunion and we figured that everyone could just schmooze on Friday. I asked Rina to serve as registrar and she agreed immediately and did a marvelous job. Warren decided that we should have some specially designed name tags and he had 50 of them made from local material. This is a picture of the tag. Each person wrote their own name on their tag and they looked really nice. For the entertainment that was planned, Warren hired a local group of musicians.

I then decided to contact a lot of people to see who might come to the reunion. Since us three siblings, Jay, Warren and I, also had a mother I felt it was essential to get attendance from our mother’s side. John Bishop and his sisters Ethel and Rita all live in Houghton and I wanted them to attend. Rita is suffering from Alzheimer’s, but her husband Bob Peterson and their daughters Terri, Nancy and Barbara were all in town and they were all invited. Thus it appeared that the reunion was getting larger than originally estimated because of growing interest.

Our father was one of several children of Hercule and Aurora Brulé, the others being Mary, Alvina and Freddy. One of Mary’s children, Corbin, is living in Houghton and he too was invited. He is the senior member of the living Brulé’s having reached the ripe age of 95. He was delighted to hear of the reunion since he knew little or nothing about the area. He lives at a retirement home called The Bluffs, right in Houghton. By coincidence Johnny Bishop, who also is 95, lives in that same home.

Next to be contacted was my first cousin John Fish and I filled him in on what we were planning. He said he couldn’t attend but he passed the information on to his sister, Nancy (Fish) Berg. She called me and we were able to renew an acquaintance that had hibernated for about 70 years. She and her husband Karl came to the reunion from Denver, Colorado.

I also figured I would like to find out more about the side of the family I knew as the Latendresses. I had known my cousin Minnie very well and also one of her sons, Cyril. So I tracked down Cyril’s son Dean and got the full listing of the Latendresse family. Cousin Minnie’s mother Delina Cote was the sister of my grandmother, Emelia Cote who was married to John Dosithé Poisson, the man I am named after. Delina Cote was married to Thelmas Soumis and one of their children was my cousin Minnie.

On Friday morning the reunion began. People started to arrive shortly after their breakfast, or in time for the breakfast that was served at the University Residence. As they came in, Rina, along with help from Jill, got them all registered. There was a lot of “Hello, how are you?” going on and searching out where each person fit into the family tree. We actually had both sides of parents of us three – Brulé and Fish (Poisson). Each participant received a folder that had been prepared with the help of David Sr.’s office. It included various forms of family trees and a picture of the original Brulé family headed by Hercule Brulé.

There were a number of round tables already set up for breakfast and lunch and people stared at the pins to find out first names. They found long lost relatives and also new family members. Nancy had brought a wonderful album with many pictures and a sign-up sheet for anyone who wanted a personal copy. Also laptop computers were in evidence as slide shows were being enjoyed.

This schmoozing continued on for most of the afternoon and it was just wonderful to see so many people that all had common family interests. I had hoped that video interviews would be set up, especially of Janet, Warren and me. This was part of my desire to create a meaningful history of our family and how we got to where we are. I interviewed Johnny Bishop and that went very well. Later Jim interviewed Warren for almost 40 minutes. Gail interviewed Jay but something went wrong with the video and it ended up being just one picture of Jay and Gail.

Most had to travel some distance to get there – probably the furthest was Jay from Hawaii. While David Sr., Ellette and Joyell were all there that was the full representation from Iron Mountain/Kingsford. Jay had great grandchildren at the reunion, the children of Jennifer Strand who is the daughter of John Strand and Cherie Brooks. Cherie is now Skysong Mitchell – at first she was going to come but later asked to be taken off the mailing list since she found she couldn’t come. On Sunday afternoon Jennifer’s brother Rodger Strand showed up on his motorcycle.

Dinner Friday night was the high point of the day and some 50 people were present. Jim gave the invocation – presented as a story. Basically the story was about a man who went looking for a treasure and after much fruitless searching found that the real treasure was his family and that he should learn to appreciate them. The food was great – MTU certainly went all out and the ambience and service was outstanding.

After dinner we were entertained by the band Warren had hired. They played mostly polkas, waltzes and some Rock & Roll. Everyone seemed to get involved with the dancing – even 85 year old Jay danced several numbers. I only did a couple. Warren really let loose, but was hobbled with leg troubles. The three Peterson sisters really put on a show – what a wild crew they are. The Peterson household must really bounce when they are around! Gail and Bob French were quite the accomplished dancers, but unfortunately Bob became badly hobbled due to some knee troubles.

The band shut down about 10:00 p.m. and we all found ways back to our sleeping quarters. It was a proper end to a fantastic day.

Saturday dawned clear and warm and began our second full day of the reunion. The bus arrived at the motel right on time and it was a most comfortable vehicle which included an onboard restroom. First we drove to the top of Quincy Hill for the view shown in the first picture of this paper. I particularly like this scene for it gives me a sense of what these two towns look like and include the Portage waterway. At this point one can see some of the mineshafts that were so active during the peak of the copper mining period – they also brought back to my mind the times Warren and I donned our carbide lamp gear and went exploring some of the abandoned mine shafts.

We figured it was time to give the folks a little taste of souvenir hunting so we next drove to Lake Linden and stopped at the Copper Land shop. They make a lot of their own copper items and I particularly like their copper leaves. This is a picture of a spray that I purchased and I love the way they fill the space.

After the shop we drove in to Lake Linden and observed the street where Grandmother Brulé lived. Our grandfather Hercule died before we were born, but we do have memories of visiting his wife Aurora. Then we spied the Catholic Church, St. Ann’s, which the Brulé family attended so we decided to stop in and check it out. It was very well kept and had an aura of prayerfulness about it. We were all discussing it as we left the church but the priest popped out of the confessional and scolded us for making so much noise while confessions were in progress. I wonder if we then should have stayed and gone to confession?

Warren knew where in Lake Linden are the gravestones of the Brulé family so we went there next. Here is the stone of the family, and buried there are the remains of grandfather Hercule, Grandmother Aurora and uncle Freddy. It was now approaching lunchtime and we proceeded to Calumet where reservations had been made at the Michigan House on Oak Street. The food they served was not only tasty but also came in very large portions. The walls of the restaurant were well covered with the mounted busts of animals that had been hunted. Not quite the right place for animal rights types of people. Unfortunately the restaurant personnel were overwhelmed by us and it took a lot longer to have our lunch than had been anticipated.

By 2:00 p.m. we were on our way again and this time we went all the way to Eagle River before we stopped again. There we paused and viewed Jacob’s Falls – a beautiful little waterfall by the side of the road and one worth a few moments of quiet and repose. Nearby is a Catholic monastery of the Benedictine rite. They sell many different jellies and jams in a little shop called the Jam Pot. Once again we stopped, this time so the folks could buy some of the offerings of the monks. Dolores picked up a six pack of cookies which we found to be quite tasty.

Then we drove up Brockway Mountain because the view of Lake Superior from there is remarkable. One can see for miles out into the largest freshwater lake in the world and watch the huge boats in their travels between Minnesota and the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The ride down from the mountain was particularly risky because of the sharp hairpin curves on the road to Copper Harbor. But our bus driver was very cautious and we made it just fine.

Upon arriving in Copper Harbor we first checked out our dinner reservation at the Harbor Haus and found that since we had added another customer a little rearrangement was necessary. Then we proceeded to the pier because we had made reservations for a sunset cruise on Lake Superior and wanted to make sure that we were all set. Our dinner started at about 5:00 p.m. because the sailing time was 7:30 and we needed that much time so that we could have a leisurely dinner. We ordered from the menu so each person got just the food they wanted, and this was hosted by Warren. During this tour I kept count of how many riders were on the bus during each leg – we didn’t want to leave anybody behind. Well, at dinner time we found that Jay and Roger were missing. We scoured all the shops in Copper Harbor to no avail. Anyway about ½ hour later they showed up at the restaurant – they had found a small park, spread a blanket under a tree, and while out of sight from the street took a short nap.

The sunset tour was just great. We motored easterly out into the lake and observed fish jumping and breathed the absolutely pristine cool air. This air had come out of the unpopulated north western part of Canada and then a hundred miles or so across Lake Superior before reaching our nostrils. What a fabulous way to live and breathe! Then on the way back to the pier we were treated to a gorgeous sunset. The tour ended about 10:00 p.m. and we all gathered on the bus for the hour ride back to the motel. Thus ended our second day of the reunion.

Sunday morning was free time for everyone to do as they desired. There was a mass at Resurrection Church for the family. Rina had to catch an afternoon flight back to Maryland, so Jay and Roger took her and Jill on a sample of the tour that the group would take in the afternoon. The bus picked us up at the motel and brought us to lunch at 12:30 at the University Residence. Once again it was great food and well presented. Skysong’s son, Rodger Strand, showed up on his motorcycle and joined us for the rest of the day. We drove first to the cemetery in Houghton where the graves of our parents, Ed and Stella, as shown above are located. Then we got all four generations of Brulé’s into a picture. Also in this same cemetery are the graves of our maternal grandparents John D. and Amelia Fish (Poisson) along with our aunt Josephine. Then we moved to the Fish graves and repeated that picture taking. I was particularly pleased at knowing these grandparents were there because Nancy Fish Berg was so anxious to get more information about the Fish side of our family and we were able to assist in that. She and her husband Karl Berg came to the reunion from Denver, Colorado, and I was hoping she would find the trip worthwhile. What a delight it was to make contact with her after about 70 years of being out of touch with each other! Besides our mother Stella and siblings Josephine and John (Nancy’s father), there was another sibling Wilfred. He has a daughter Rita Fish who is a nun and lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I had tracked her down, but she did not feel she could handle the trip to the reunion. But we at least had phone contact.

Upon leaving the cemetery we drove around Hancock to view the places where we grew up. Also we found the home on Water Street where Jay had lived for a while with her children, and Jennifer was very pleased to find that house. We then took the bus to the Paradise area which is on Paradise Road above Chassell. The original home of our grandparents Fish is still there and occupied by a new owner. They were very friendly and had invited us to come into the house and view its current state. They had expanded the house, but the original structure is still there and it brought back so many memories of sitting in the living room and trying to stay out of trouble. My grandmother Fish did not speak English, nor I French, so there was not much communication. When we visited there I spent most of my time sitting on a swing in the barn with my grandfather John D. and we were able to talk together. He was the most educated man in the area, having finished fourth grade.

In my preparing for this trip I had found out that the village of Chassell was preparing for a big event in late August called the French Canadian Heritage reunion. I had contacted the organizers and they were so pleased that we were in town that they gathered together some volunteers and they opened their museum for us. The rooms were filled with memorabilia from decades past and our information about our grandparents proved very useful to them. I found pictures of Delina Cote who was my grandmother’s sister. This leads to a whole new branch of the family, the Latendresses. So, I will be able to fill in more of the family tree.

It was now getting late so we headed back to the motel for people to have the opportunity to freshen up before our 6:30 p.m. farewell dinner at the University Residence. The farewell meal was a pasty dinner since I felt that anyone who travels all the way to the Copper Country must have the opportunity to try the local delicacy. While some people had already left the reunion due to travel restrictions, nevertheless we had about 30 people at the dinner. Even after the dinner was over and the reunion finished, people continued to chat well into the late evening. Warren had prepared a plaque for me, and below is a picture of it. This means a lot to me to have my brother give me this honor, and it is an event I will never forget. I am so happy we had this reunion – let us hope that the results of it will remain with us and into future generations.

Here are some movies for you to watch:


This event is the result of the cooperation of a good number of Brulé’s. But I want to especially mention Rina for her preparation and help at registration even though she couldn’t stay for the whole reunion. Also Jennifer for her transportation to and from the airport at all hours of the day and early morning. And Jay for her help with pictures and memories of the family that gave more meaning to what we did. Of course Jim not only for his invocations but also for behind the scenes help in the software for the family trees. Special thanks to David Sr. for supplying the buses, the open bar on Friday, and secretarial help. Then Joyce for her care and consideration of the meals. Finally, Warren for his intense involvement in hosting the meals, checking out the itinerary of the Keweenaw tour, but mostly for putting up with his young brother’s mistakes and demands.

Well, we were having a busy year, so we decided to make it even busier. After re turned home from the reunion we received a notice from Grand Circle travel that there was room for us on a last minute trip to Israel and Egypt. Well the chance to visit the Holy Land and then have another trip down the Nile was just too much for us, so we signed up for it. On September we left for Tel Aviv, via Vienna. This involved 12 hours of flying and a 2 hour layover in Vienna. We left Syracuse at 5:40 Sunday afternoon and arrived in Tel Aviv at 3:oo p,m, Monday. For the next six days we toured Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, and assorted side trips. Then on September 21 we flew to Cairo and toured around there for 5 days, taking a nice side trip to Alexandria. Then on September 26 we flew to Luxor and rode a river boat up river to Aswan. After a fine ride on the Nile everything came to a close when we flew back to New York, via London. What a fabulous trip that was!

No more traveling in 2008! 2009 was a much calmer year than 2008. We of course went to Buenos Aires and this time stayed in an apartment on Arenales. We were there about two months and found the place to be much to our liking. However I developed some rather severe pains in my right foot and went to see a doctor there. He prescribed Lyrica but no idea why the pain developed. So we left a few days early and went back to Syracuse. Upon arriving in Syracuse we found a puddle of water by the chimney and realized we had a roof leak. Possibly from deteriorated shingles but also possibly from degraded flashing around the chimney. So we had the front half of the roof replaced along with repaired flashing.

When I visited Dr. Croglio in Syracuse about my foot he wasn’t able to get me to see a neurologist until mid July. When I finally did get there it turned out that my trouble was a Vitamin B12 deficiency. So now I give myself a shot every couple of months or so and the trouble is gone. (At least for now. Later it returned.)

We decided to take a trip to New York City to view Ground Zero and other touristy things. On the way Shirley Lockwood offered us the use of her apartment which is right in the regionwe wanted to see and we stayed there for a couple of nights. That was great.

2009 was the year to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and we started making arrangements to have it at a room at the Palace Theater and it worked out just great. However before that we decided to go to New Hampshire to visit the Salvatores and for me to have a chance to visit Dick Congdon. When I contacted his daughter, Alice Evankow, in Berlin, New Hampshire I found out that Dick had died. So we went ahead with the trip and met Alice midway between Berlin and Bedford, NH. Barb and Bob Salvatore and Dolores and I all met there and I was so pleased to meet one of Dick’s daughters. So that was a very successful visit.

We then moved ahead with our plans to have our Anniversary celebration at the Palace and invited many of our closest friends. I also made sure that Rachel and Rina were able to attend along with Corey and Alyssa so all my children and grandchildren were there. Dolores’ family also showed up in good numbers and a happy time was had by all. Of course Dolores put on a big meal while all this was going on – what a remarkable person! Thus ended 2009.

Ruminations -12 –not used–

Between Philippine Trips

We arrived home in late July 1968, and did our best to become reacclimated to US living.  It didn’t take long to realize we were back.  The Democratic Convention in Chicago burst upon us, and we could see there was a long road ahead of us as regards the war in Vietnam.

Our lives traveled several paths over the next years.  Of course for me there was the University, for Sally there was a deep feeling of a need to become involved with the peace movement, and the children needed to readjust to the American way of doing things. Jim turned 15 in August and he faced the fact that he was in line to be drafted. He joined the peace movement along with many of his classmates at Nottingham High School. Nannette decided to continue her involvement with animals of all sorts. Mark was well into his sixth year and started to develop friends outside of the home.

During our first year at home after the Philippines we talked a lot about how much of the world we had seen, and really how much of the USA we had missed.  So in the spring of 1969 we bought a tent trailer and figured we would start to travel around the States.  The idea was to wait till the school year for the children was over and then head west.  We made a sort of ‘dry run’ and went camping up at 1000 Islands for one weekend to see how good we were at it.  We even allowed Nannette to bring her dog, Roscoe, along on the trip.  This proved to everyone we were right about not having any pets on a camping trip.  The trip proved to be highly successful, and we figured we had made a smart decision to get the camper.

In late June we packed up the car and trailer and headed west.  We decorated the sides of the camper with various signs and symbols, and had a large peace symbol attached near the entrance door. Starting in 1969 and continuing through 1980 we traveled west every summer to go camping.  This first year was quite typical.  My parents were still alive, and living in Hancock, Michigan.  It is about 1000 miles to that part of Michigan and we went there first on our way to the mountains.  We drove north to 1000 Islands and then headed northwest up to North Bay, Ontario.  The original home of the Dionne quintuplets was nearby, and one year we stopped there to check out their homestead. 

We often spent the night in Sudbury, Ontario, before continuing on our trek to Upper Michigan.  The land around Sudbury is highly unusual due to a meteor strike that occurred almost two billion years ago.  As a result the area is rich in minerals and they are being exploited.  However, the picture shows the result of the exploitation.  In addition the entire area was almost devoid of vegetation due to the great amount of acid rain that occurs as a result of the mining.  But the area has worked hard to improve this and in 1992 the city was given the “Local Government Honours Award” by the United Nations.

After out stay in Sudbury on the following morning we continue the journey westward to Sault St. Marie, Michigan.  This is a small city on St. Mary’s river between two of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. There is a 21-foot difference in levels between Lakes Superior and Huron and the Soo locks are here on the St. Mary’s river to allow freighters to sail between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. It was still about 300 miles to Hancock, so we hurried on our way. 

We arrived in Hancock late in the day, and spent the next couple of days with my parents.  This picture shows our trailer in Hancock on our way west.  You can see the various decorations, and how we all looked in 1969.  My folks were a bit upset with my hair, and Sally was wearing a wig for she felt her hair was getting quite thin.  The three children all seemed anxious to begin our trek.

Leaving Hancock we now were really on our way to the west.  We traveled for a day through Upper Michigan, part of northern Wisconsin, across Minnesota and ended the day in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  Setting up our tent trailer went just fine, and we relaxed after the long day on the road.  However, soon people were running through the campground shouting.  It seems that a tornado was on its way towards us, and everyone was told to go home.   Home for us was about 1500 miles away so we just lowered the tent and tied everything down.  We could feel the change in pressure, and watched to see what would happen.  The sky changed to weird colors and the birds all stopped singing.  The wind picked up and we kept a wary eye to the western hills.  Fortunately the tornado skipped over, or around, us so we had no trouble.

The next day we passed through Wall, S. Dakota.  This is really a world famous stop over.  Their big advertising project is: Free Ice Water at Wall Drugs.  You will see signs for this store from many hundreds of miles away and it is worth a short stop to check it out.  Also, the Badlands of South Dakota are nearby, so it is a last stop before reaching that sight.  The Badlands are quite fascinating if only because they are so different from the rest of the landscape.  These large mounds of rock just seem to jump out of the ground and appear to be formidable.  We roamed around in the area for a couple of hours and then continued on our way to Rapid City.  This was our first major stop, and we camped in Custer State Park, which is nearby.  Of course this is also the home of the famous memorial, Mount Rushmore, and the ongoing project of the Crazy Horse Monument. Here is a picture of the Mount Rushmore group of four.  It is quite a site to see.  Of course we had a history lesson in the process, and the kids were easily able to identify Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln,

Another monument was under construction when we were first there in 1969, and in 2006 it is still in the process. The work was begun in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of Native Americans. Korczak died in 1982. His wife, Ruth, and their family continue the project working with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The project is progressing at a snails pace, and the most recent picture of the monument doesn’t seem much different than one taken 37 years ago.  This composite picture shows the monument in the background and a 1/34th model in the foreground. 

The hole that is seen in the background is eventually going to be the open space between the arm of Crazy Horse and the horse.  Or so I was told.

Each year we went to Custer State Park we made our way to Sylvan Lake, in the park.  The campground here was just perfect for us.  It was close to water, a horse stable for Nannette to spend her time at, buffalo nearby, and much exploring to be done.  Harney Peak is also close by, and we could climb it to get some beautiful views.

Custer State Park will stay in our memory for quite some time, especially due to an incident on one of our trips.  In this particular trip we brought along at least one of our teenage relatives, Gail Pettengill.  This is Janet’s stepdaughter.  We drove to the park and set up the tent trailer and started doing some exploring.  There were so many of us on this trip that we set up a two-person tent for Sally and me and let the kids have the tent trailer.  We had a great time cooking our dinner and getting used to the area again.  Jim and Gail, along with others of our group, decided to go off and do some exploring.  They were gone quite some time but eventually we heard them coming back.  They were really excited, with a lot of “Oh Wows” to be heard.  They were carrying a number of long stalks of greeneries and they figured they had harvested a field of pot.  It certainly looked like it, but we couldn’t be sure.

But anyway they decided to lay some out on the top of the camper to see if it would dry, since we intended to be in the park a few days.  Their immediate attempt was to see if they could make some good tea.  Everyone was having a great time, but finally we all went to sleep. 

Early the next morning, not long after sunrise, a couple of park rangers showed up at our campsite and wanted to know what we were doing with all that marijuana!  This took me by surprise since I didn’t think it was pot, and anyway it had been gathered here in the park.  I tried to explain this to the rangers but they were quite skeptical.  So I woke up Jim and Gail and told them to show us where they had gathered the weeds.  So off we went leading the rangers through the woods and fields.  Sure enough, after a bit of a hike we came upon the source and showed it to the rangers.  Well, they were still stuffy about it all and I thought that they would cite us for destroying vegetation, but they didn’t do that.  Instead they said they would leave us with a warning, but I never did figure out what the warning was.  They never verified if it was pot, so the mystery remains.  We stayed in the park through that day and then left the following morning to search out our next adventure.

The most harrowing trips we made were in the early 70’s.  For a couple of times we camped up above Boulder, Colorado.  We would climb the long trail up to Nederland, and then settle down in a campsite on the road to Estes Park.  One time we stopped near the deserted town of Ward.  Many young people who were pulling out of society populated the area.  Drugs were everywhere, the worst being STP.  It was dreadful seeing the damage they were doing to themselves.  We drove in to Ward to check it out, and some people were attempting to start up an intentional community.  However we didn’t feel particularly welcome so we moved on.

A couple of times we drove to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and camped along the Taylor River.  One time we camped next to some fishermen and they shared their trout catch with us.  The taste was beyond belief.  They had set up a couple of hummingbird feeders in the trees near their campsite.  These are bright red and filled with red water and some sugar.  One day they left and we were bombarded with hummingbirds.  These little fliers attacked the red taillights on the camper and our car, as they were desperate for food.

Another interesting spot was along a river at a campsite known as Avalanch campground.  One of the times we visited there we had another passenger with us- Vickie Lichtman.  We inquired about the reason for the name and were informed that if there was a heavy rainfall we could expect the campground to be flooded.  The river was very nice and we enjoyed our stay.  We found out that a mile or so up river there was a shelter built over a hot spring.  So we made our way up there to check it out.  Sure enough there was a crude spa and several naked people were seated inside the shelter soaking in the hot water.  Just across the road was the river and there was a deep pool at that point in the river.  Well the thought of the chance to soak in some hot water was overpowering and we decided to join them in the shelter after first removing our clothes.  We would stay in the hot spring for several minutes and then dash across the road to cool off in the river water.  We all had a great time, you may be sure.

Early on in our trips we stopped at Yellowstone National Park.  We camped in Shoshone National Forest which is just outside Yellowstone.  Of course we all enjoyed looking at the many geysers throughout the Park and the many features due to the unique geological structure of the area.  I’ll never forget the first stop there.  It was in 1969, and we knew that the first moon landing was scheduled to occur while we were camping in Shoshone.  There was very poor radio reception there, but we drove to a high point in the forest and indeed we heard the announcer talking through the landing.

We also toured south of Yellowstone to view the Teton’s and they are magnificent.  Jackson Hole is just south of the Grand Teton National Park and this was a great hangout for musicians.  It was in the open quadrangle in the town that I first heard a guitar player use the technique of bottle-necking and I was enthralled by it.

Jim came with us on these camping tours just once, in the summer of 1969.  Then he got a job as a camp counselor in the Adirondack Swim and Trip Camp and he went there instead of staying with us.  Nannette made several trips but she only enjoyed the trip if there was a horse stable nearby where she could hang out.  Eventually she stopped coming and one summer we set her up with an equestrian camp near Cortland so she could get all the riding she could handle.  The woman in charge of the camp was a former military officer, so she also got all the control she wanted, and then some.  Mark stayed with us to the bitter end.  The very last trip, which took us through the Canadian Rockies, was done under the duress of either that or go to the camp in Adirondacks where Jim had been a counselor.  He opted to stay with us.  Also, as I mentioned above, from time to time we took another teenager with us.

A big concern while we were camping like this was the possibility of extensive rain.  The tent trailer was pretty good for keeping out the rain, since it had a metal top.  One year we tried taking a tube tent with us.  This is just a long tube of plastic.  In the rain this was horrible, and we never did that again.

Getting out to the Rockies was a long and boring trip coming across the great Midwest.  One day as we were driving through Nebraska I suddenly felt a lurch.  I looked out the rear view mirror and saw one of the trailer wheels bounding off across the wheat field.  We retrieved it and found that what had happened is the nuts holding the wheel had loosened and fallen off.  So I stole a couple of nuts from the other wheel and we carefully limped our way into the next town.

As we drove in we found there was a farmer’s supply store right on the main street, so good luck was on our side.  We went in to the store and showed the man the nut size we needed and sure enough he had them in stock.  So I proceeded to tell him about our bad luck in losing the wheel.  Well, he one-upped me on that.  He indicated that just a couple of days ago he had purchased a new combine for harvesting wheat.  He left it parked alongside his barn, and somehow the barn caught fire and the combine was destroyed along with the barn.  I guess there is always something a bit worse that what we think we are facing.

One time when we were in the Black Hills of South Dakota we got to know our next camp neighbors.  They were pulling a house trailer and had driven all the way from Texas.  The next day they left a little sooner than we did, and coming around a corner we saw that their trailer was wrecked and had one whole side ripped open.  It seems that a moose got in the road and in swerving to miss it they tipped over the trailer.  That served to make us be more cautious in the way we were riding.

On this first trip when Gail was with us we went to Mesa Verde National Park to check it out.  The Hopi Indians lived in earthen structures along the side of the mesa, but for some unknown reason some few hundred years ago they just moved out and disappeared.  We were able to tour around their structures, and climb the ladders into their dwellings.  The ladders that had to be climbed between levels petrified Gail and Sally.  But they lived through it!

One time we looked for something different that was going on, and we found a tourist trap where one could try panning for gold.  So we got Nannette and Mark into it, and they tried their hand.  If they did get any gold it was significantly less than the amount needed to pay for the experience.  However, I bought a couple of bags of dirt from the miner with the intention to pan it after I got back to Syracuse.  I never did do that and only threw out the dirt when I sold the Standish Ave. house some 30 years later.

Mobile Art Forms

There were a number of long term effects upon our lives as a result of the camping, and I will now describe one of them.  As we often were in the Colorado Rockies we met young people who were experimenting with new life styles.  One time I saw some people carrying a huge sewing machine up a mountain trail.  They indicated that they were camped not far from a resort and anything they made they could sell at the resort for a very good profit.  They could work with leather and were merely upgrading their ability to turn out a large quantity of finished goods.  Other times I saw people making macramé wall hangings and jewelry made from nails and leather straps.  This looked like fun and so I figured I would try it also.

So one year I started to make things to sell at the craft fair put on by the Syracuse Peace Council each December.  They called the fair ‘Plowshares’ to link in with the concept of beating our weapons into plowshares.  The first year or two I sold necklaces made of leather with beads strung on them.  Then I got into macramé and made some interesting hangings.  I next tried making jewelry out of horseshoe nails and had some success, but the jewelry was quite heavy as you might imagine.  And just making horseshoe nail rings doesn’t go very far.

The next idea was to try to make figures out of the horseshoe nails.  The number of different figures could be enormous when one thinks of all the athletic games played and the many instruments in a band or orchestra.  This raised two problems – how to hold the figures together and how to sell them.  My first attempt at making the figures was to solder them.  Well, this never worked out because the solder joint wasn’t strong enough.  So then I thought I would use silver solder and this worked better.  But, it was very embarrassing if I would sell the figure and very soon the buyer would track me down because it broke.  Finally I invested in an oxy-acetylene torch system and braised the nails together.  This worked great.  The picture to the left is that of a cross-country skier.  Five horseshoe nails, two slate nails and two pieces of welding rod make up the figure.  The figure to the right is a saxophone player.

Another question that needed to be answered was how would I market the nail figures?  One way was to mount them on a metal plate and sell them as trophies or as tabletop decorations.  But the best idea was to string them into mobiles.  Any number of figures two or greater could be tied onto arms and hung so that they were in balance. The largest mobile I made had 45 pieces, and it was a full orchestra.  Brasses, strings, woods, percussion and of course the conductor completed the hanging.  This was made for friends of ours, the George Sterns, who had a house with a spiral staircase leading to the second floor.  I hung it in the open space of the staircase and it was beautiful.

So now I had a very pleasant hobby to play with.  Sally and I decided to call ourselves Mobile Art Forms, and we took out a dba to sort of formalize it.  The first place we sold the mobiles was at the Plowshares Craft Fair and it was quite successful.  We decided to try going to craft fairs on weekends and this worked out fine also.  I made a portable welding stand and we would take that with us to craft fairs.  Then during slow times I could make new figures and keep our inventory up to date.

We also had to give some thought about how to display our work.  I got intrigued with domes and so built one where the edges were conduit.  This was a lot of fun to build, at least the first time, but it required too much time to assemble and disassemble.  So we settled for a framed display device as shown in the picture.  We would pack all our mobiles and extra pieces into boxes and put our stand into the back of our station wagon and off we would go to the next craft fair.  The picture on the next page shows Sally running the stand, but it is hard to see the mobiles because the pieces are essentially just two dimensional and not very large.  We went to craft fairs pretty much throughout the entire northeast.  The first time we had gross sales of $1000 worth of mobiles was at the Allentown fair in Buffalo, New York.  Our sales were not always that high, but we had a lot of fun.  We went to the Allentown fair a couple of times and enjoyed it.  Sally’s brother Bob and his wife Rita lived in the Buffalo area so we stayed with them during the fair.  One year their daughter Linda worked the fair with us, and the three of us had a great time.  Our time with Bob and Rita gave Sally and opportunity to bond with them, and we usually had a great time.  The scotch flowed easily with them, and perhaps we overdid it a bit.  However we always had to back off a bit because the next day we had to go back to the fair, set up the stand, and sit in the hot sun all day.

We enjoyed going to craft shows and one of our favorite fairs was the event in downtown Syracuse.  One time I even set up our stand in Syracuse University during a program conducted by the school of Home Economics.

This mobile business started to feel pretty good, so I figured I would try it out full time and see how it worked out.  After talking it over with Sally I made arrangements with the Dean of Engineering to go on Administrative leave for one semester to give it a try.  The deal was made so that I could keep my benefits, just giving up my salary.  I obtained a contract with IBM Owego to teach a course in digital control systems to a group of their engineers during this semester.  This augmented our income nicely and Sally would come with me to Owego each week as I taught the course on two successive days.

However I found out that I did not want to do this mobile stuff full time.  I found that I spent all my time in my workshop and couldn’t do many things I liked to.  So at the end of the semester a little sanity returned to me and I resumed my full time position at the University.  After about ten years of this activity I retired from the mobile craft, and stored my inventory in my basement.  I had well over 200 figures at the time I closed up shop so I still will assemble a mobile from time to time for special occasions. Some people still approach me to ask for a mobile, especially people who I knew during that period but who never bought a mobile.  It brings back happy memories when I assemble a mobile for our friends – perhaps one of these days I’ll make a few and donate them to a silent auction held by one of our political groups.

Of course we always met interesting people at the craft fairs – especially fellow crafters.  One fellow sold plaques that he would customize for the buyer.  He engraved the names, or messages, that the buyer wanted onto the plaque they picked out.  He would take orders during the day and tell the customer that they could have the piece the next day.  In fact at one point he convinced one customer that he had to order them from overseas, HongKong in particular, and that is why they couldn’t be ready right away.  Of course in the back of his truck he had a workbench and router and he turned them out at a furious rate in the evening after the fair ended.

It was always a challenge to make the figures realistic and readily recognized.  My first attempt at a new action figure was usually a disaster.  For example, I made what I thought was a good figure of a skier racing in a slalom event.  Gordon Kent looked at it and said it was awful.  He carefully criticized what I did and stuck with me while I bent a new set of nails according to his specifications.  The knee must be bent in just the right amount and the body balanced correctly over the skis.  Once this was done the figure was remarkably good.  Another example was with a sailboat.  I wanted to give the impression that the boat was really racing fast.  So I had the beam way out to the side and hung the boat in a tipped position.  Steve Woiler was appalled at what I had done and told me that when the boat is racing at high speed the beam is barely over the gunwales and with his help I made a boat that looked quite realistic.  The first musician I made was a person playing a cornet.  This one was really good from the start because I had a model of such a player to work from and it got me started on the correct footing.  Mary Jo Fairbanks gave this model to me, and I think her ex-husband Bruce first obtained it.

The experience of Mobile Art Forms was quite good for Sally and me.  We entered it as a joint venture and together put a lot of time into it.  I made all the pieces, but Sally ran the business, keeping the records and all that sort of thing.  When we entered a craft fair we often had to supply photographs of our work for jurying purposes and Sally took care of that sort of paperwork also.  Of course when we were at a craft fair we both participated in the sales and interacting with the potential buyers.

Other things that happened during this interval included Jim getting married to Jill on June 1, 1975.  We planted a nice tree in the front yard on their first anniversary, but it wasn’t put in perfectly straight.  It lasted for many years, but in 2005 the people that bought 212 Standish Drive had it cut down.  Also the huge evergreen tree that was in the front yard was also cut down at the same time.

The Syracuse Peace Council became a large part of our lives.  Sally felt very strongly about the whole peace issue, and we were all concerned about the war in Vietnam.  She began as a volunteer with the SPC, and for one year I was on the Board.  Then Sally was hired as an employee and became very active.  Dik Cool was released from prison where he had been sentenced because of his refusal to serve in military and he had a position with the Peace Council.

Sally really enjoyed working with Dik, although she often found him to be frustrating.  One of the important things Dik started was the annual Peace Calendar.  This was in the days before the use of computers and so there was a lot of cutting and pasting to put it together.  Dik would make a bunch of decisions about what goes where and Sally would carefully fulfill his orders.  But partway through he would change things, and much work would be lost.  Sally really liked Dik, but his work process drove her to distraction!

The first few issues of the Peace Calendar were assembled in our basement, and so everyone got involved.  One year when the calendar was put together Sally was checking it over after it was printed.  Lo and behold she found that the number for January 5 had been left out of the box for that day.  This caused some chaos and a lot of time was spent putting in the number on each of the already printed calendars.  That year they added a new task in the calendar preparation process – date checker.   In 1974 Sally was honored by the Peace Council by being awarded the 18th Annual Peace Award.  The award was given because her “..good humor touches our lives in her intense and continuing commitment to the struggle for peace and justice.”

As time went on Mark also became involved with the Peace movement.  When the Peace Council was housed in the Church Center Mark became the operator of the mimeograph machine.  This was while he was a student at H. W. Smith middle school.  After school he would come down over the hill to the Church Center to do his work.  Jim too was deeply involved with Peace Council and related groups.  During the New York State Fair the Peace Council would do politicking against the war and the military.  The military often had a tank there, and the Peace Council would maintain a deathwatch over it.  Jim was one of those and he would dress in a long black robe and wear a death mask and stand by the tank for extended periods of time.

There were almost daily actions against the war, and Sally participated in most of them.  She would picket in front of the induction center – sometimes all by herself.   The law required that when Jim turned 18 he was expected to register for the draft.  So we had discussions about what to do.  We finally decided that we would all go with him to the Selective Service office and bring in a candle and cake to share with the employees.  This would give us an opportunity to express to them our opposition to the war, but he would nevertheless register as required by law.  During this time the draftees were periodically gathered onto a bus and transported to the induction station.  On one of these occasions Jim joined the picket line in front of the bus station and blocked the path.  He and many others were arrested for this action.  I happened to be teaching a course at University College at the time, and midway through a lecture I was called out and informed that my son was in jail.  Upon returning to class I had a good opportunity to discuss the war and my opposition to it.  Mostly General Electric employees who were working on military related projects populated this particular class.  It was an interesting class.

Nannette had a great interest in animals, and at one point she decided to raise guinea pigs.  So I built a small cage for the couple she had, and kept them in the basement.  We used cedar chips for a covering, and the aroma of the chips wafted through the house. Well, one thing led to another and at the peak we had some 35 guinea pigs housed in the basement.  To this day I think I have an allergic reaction to the smell of cedar chips.

During the first few years upon our return from the Philippines I tried some different activities, outside of the University, to help out where I could.  Ruth Colvin was running a literacy program to have volunteers teach adults who are illiterate how to read.  I did this for a year or so and found it very rewarding.  One man I worked with wanted to learn to read so that he could read the baseball news and statistics before meeting with his buddies.  Then he could tell them what had happened instead of having to wait to hear what they had to say. 

One of the difficulties was that we had no fixed place to meet and we had to find our own facilities.  This caused some trouble because I could not describe to him where we would meet by describing the streets to follow.  In fact it was this sort of difficulty that eventually caused me to leave the program.

Another activity that I became involved with was draft counseling.  The Vietnam War heated up after we returned from the Philippines.  I wanted to help young men who were in danger of being drafted to determine if they were conscientious objectors, CO’s.  I went through a training program with the AFSC to learn ways to help young people handle this matter, and then implement their desires.  I found that most of the people I counseled were college students.  The process to apply for CO status is quite complicated and requires study and careful preparation for questioning by the draft board.  It became apparent to me that I was helping well-to-do young white men find a way to get out of being drafted.  This bothered me quite a bit, so I checked in to see if there was any way I could do this counseling in the African-American community.  I felt that every college student I help avoid the draft would be replaced by a black man.

Indeed I found that through the Bishop Foery Foundation I could do some counseling.  The process was that an individual would make an appointment with me to talk things over.  This worked somewhat but the number of young black men seeking CO status was quite small, and so that activity just slowly petered out.  After thinking about all this I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to work against the war machine was in the University environment.  This is where I could be most effective because it was at the University that I had most to lose, and thus my actions would be more than lip service – I would be putting myself on the line.

Sally was quite busy during this period between trips to the Philippines.  The experience of reading to Nellie made her consider if there was something more she could do in working with blind people.  She decided to look into the possibility of doing brailling for them, and contacted the Library of Congress.  Indeed she found out that the LOC has a certification program that she could work towards.  They informed her that there were certified braillists in the Syracuse area and she could work something out with them.  This group is the Onondaga Braillists Organization (OBO), and several women were members of the group.  So Sally got to know Jean Henderson and with her help started to learn to Braille.  She started out with just a slate and stylus – this equipment meant that one had to punch each of the dots into the paper for each of the Braille cells.  And of course you learned to make the cells from the back side.  This picture shows the slate and stylus.  The stylus is just a punch with a handle, and the slate has holes in it to guide the stylus into the proper location for each Braille dot.

After a few months of work she took the certification exam from the LOC, and passed it with flying colors. In July, 1971 she received certification from the Library of Congress as a “Volunteer Braille Transcriber”.   So, she joined the OBO and they then loaned her a Perkins Brailler.  This device has six keys and Braille paper is inserted at the top.  Pressing a key causes a Braille dot to appear on the paper in the appropriate position in the Braille cell.  It is much faster to use than the slate and stylus, of course.  So once Sally was certified by the LOC and in 1971 then she began to Braille for the OBO.  They basically did textbooks for schools with some private work for individuals that wanted to send a letter to a blind friend.  All the labor they did was free and they only charged for the material they used.  You can also see that making multiple copies is tricky.  Once the original was completed it was copied onto special paper by a thermoform machine.  The blind reader much preferred the original made by the Perkins Brailler as the dots were much crisper.  Sally really enjoyed doing this work, even though at times it was quite complex.  There were many rules to follow, especially when it came to formatting the Braille for special cases like tables.  Brailling the Periodic Table was a particular challenge.

At one point I found a set instructions about how to rework a manual Perkins Brailer into a motortzed and computer driven brailler.  So I did this and it worked fairly well.  I also found out about the Kurzweil Reader that could scan a document and produce both a voice output and a digital record of the text.  This sounded fascinating so I connected the Kurzweil to my computer and passed the digitized text through software that converted the text into grade 2 braille.  The software of course had a print output so that output was sent to the motorized Perkins brailler.  Thus in one operation the printed text was converted into embossed braille.  I put on a demonstration of this in the SU library and it was well received.

Upon our return from the Philippines I again dug into my work at the University and continued along the path towards getting promoted to Professor.  But I also realized that spending time with the family and taking advantage of my ability to take time off in the summer were also important goals.  My technical work up till this time was in the fields of Control Systems and Networks.  However the field of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) seemed to be a natural extension of these areas since the world of digital computers was enlarging.  I got a grant to go to a seminar series held in Miami at the Hotel Dural, which was really a tutorial about DSP.  Sally and I both went so it was kind of a vacation for the two of us.

I really enjoyed this new field – there is a lot of mathematics involved and it expanded what I could do in Control Systems.  So I established two graduate courses and found that there was genuine student interest in them.  I was able to do this because of the unique opportunities that existed in the off campus teaching environment.  The centers at Poughkeepsie and Endicott were always ready for something new and after teaching the first DSP course for a couple of years I developed enough new material for a second course at the PhD level.

The early 1970’s were highly charged years on campuses around the country, including Syracuse University.  The Vietnam War was a constant issue and the students were expressing their distaste for what was going on.  At one point the campus got taken over by the students.  Barricades were set up, classes were cancelled, the computing center was threatened, and the students took over the Administration building.  During this time I was Chair of the University Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (AFT), and also President of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

All sorts of other issues arose at this time.  One came about because of my desire to get promoted to Professor.  At one point the Chairman of the Department, Wilbur LePage, called me in to his office to let me know that he didn’t think I could get promoted so he said I shouldn’t submit the paperwork that would be needed.  This caused my ire to rise and I decided I would do it anyway.  So, as a member of the Senate I lobbied strongly to get students to serve on all University committees.  Of course this fit in well with the current surge of student power and indeed the Senate passed such a requirement for the University Senate and each College to have students on all committees – most importantly to me, the Promotions Committee.  I felt my strongest case was my teaching abilities and my course development work.  I am the publisher of a minimal number of scholarly papers.  The Department, College and Senate Promotions committees all approved my promotion so that matter was disposed of adequately.  Much later I found out what happened on the Senate Promotions committee.  A friend of mine, Bill Pooler, was a member of that committee and he told me that at first things were not going well for me.  But I had at one time or another told him about the things I was doing academically and he was able to change the minds of enough members of the committee to get them to approve my promotion.

Another significant event was also developing at this time in the English Department.  Jo Ann Davis Mortenson had been hired as an Assistant Professor a few years ago, along with two other male faculty members.  The time arrived for consideration of reappointment, and the male members were reappointed while Jo Ann was told she was not.  Jo Ann’s husband, Peter, was a faculty member of the Department.  Jo Ann decided that she was a victim of sexual discrimination and filed a complaint with the Senate Academic Freedom and Tenure committee. 

Our procedures on that committee required us to set up a fact-finding committee, which I did, and they found that indeed it looked to them like her complaint is valid.  The English Department did not like this and refused to budge on their decision.  The next step was to set up a hearing panel to take public testimony from all sides and make a recommendation to the Senate and the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  This was done, and led to a most interesting sequence of events.

I appointed a Hearing Panel of some of the finest people I have ever met.  Sam Fetters was a Professor in the Law College, and he was made the hearing officer.  Sidney Thomas, a Professor in the School of Fine Arts proved to be a most stable and thought provoking individual.  (Years later Sam and one or two other friends and I ended up having lunch each week to settle all the major problems of the world.)  There were several other members of the panel, but their names elude me now.  We had a few weeks of hearings, loads of controversy, some very strong feelings expressed by members of the English Department, and a final result that recommended that the decision about whether to reappoint should be reconsidered. Well, it turned out that Ms. Davis had also filed a complaint with the State Commission on Human Rights, so the University held off doing anything while that complaint was being handled.  She is a very strong person, and kept up the action for many years.  Currently she and her husband are faculty members in the English Department; Jo Ann has a part time appointment and Peter is a tenured Associate Professor.

As a result of meeting Sam on this issue, Sally and I developed a relationship with Sam and his family.  At the time Sam was living on a farm in Cazenovia and had a few horses on his property.  I think this was mostly because one of his daughters was really into horseback riding.  Later on he and his family moved into the so-called White House.  This is a house donated to the College of Law by E.I. White.  The house was given to the College for the express purpose of supplying housing for the Dean of the College.  Sam was not the Dean, but the Dean at the time, Ralph Kharas, didn’t want to live there and Sam was selected to have the honor.  This White House is in the middle of a golf course in Fayetteville, New York.

We would visit with the Fetters from time to time, and drink a good quantity of scotch.  One Friday evening we were there and Sam was rather nervous.  He was not his usual self – much less open and cheerful than usual and not smoking.  After some questioning he revealed that he had been having some tests made and the next day he would see his doctor to find out if he had emphysema.  Sam was a heavy smoker as were both Sally and I.  This was all I needed to convince me to quit smoking.  I felt that I didn’t have to go through the trauma of facing the possibility of having emphysema in order to convince myself to quit.  So Sam undoubtedly added several years to my life.  Sam found out that he did not have emphysema.

Another fascinating situation arose over the matter of unionization of the full time Faculty members.  The matter came to a head during the year I was President of the Syracuse Chapter of the AAUP.  The executive committee of the Chapter met each Wednesday during the academic year, and we had much lively discussion about the issue.  Finally one Wednesday it all came to a head and we took a vote about whether we should petition the NLRB for an election.  By the narrowest of margins we voted to proceed.  This meant we had to have a petition prepared and have a significant number of faculty members sign cards requesting to have an election.  The issue was hotly debated around the campus, including at the University Senate.  We held meetings with representatives of the various colleges to try to bring them on board to sign the petition cards.  Representatives from the Law College were Travis Lewin and Robert Rabin.  They decided they would disassociate themselves from the AAUP’s effort to form a union and instead go it alone.  I think it was just a different way to say NO. 

By the time the election was held the President of the Chapter was Josh Goldberg, and he organized things very well.  In fact he hired Nancy Lorraine Hoffman as the office manager.  (Nancy later was elected as the representative of our district in the New York State Senate.  She was originally elected as a Democrat, but after a few terms she switched to the Republican party.)

The election campaign went on for some weeks, and the Administration was adamantly opposed to the idea of unionization.  However one powerful member, Cliff Winters, the Vice Chancellor for Administration, said to me:  “John, I hope the AAUP wins this vote because when the negotiations for the contract begins ALL items will be on the table, including tenure.”  Cliff used to be the Dean of University College and thus I had a significant amount of contact with him due to the off-campus teaching.  I really respected him, and I was surprised that he had such a strong feeling against tenure for faculty members.  This is especially surprising since the previous Chancellor, William Tolley, was one of the architects of the AAUP’s “1940 Statement of Principles” which developed their case for tenure and its importance in the Academic world.

With some creative counting of the ballots on our part we lost by only 38 votes and the issue died.  Later the NLRB ruled that the NLRB did not cover faculty members at private institutions since we were deemed to be part of management.  So that ended the unionization attempts by the faculty.

My academic work proceeded as well as I wanted it to.  I thoroughly enjoyed creating new graduate courses and I was able to teach them first at one of our off campus centers and then to graduate students on the main campus. 

I often served on departmental and college committees and from time to time on search committees for a new chairman.  Wil Lepage stepped down from the Chairmanship in 1974 and following him we had a steady succession of Chairs, all from inside the department.  Brad Strait was his successor, and he was a good choice since he is an Orangeman all the way through and served until 1979 when he became head of the CASE Center.  He also subsequently became Dean of the College and served as long as he wanted to.  Virgil Eveleigh followed Brad as Chairman, and served until 1983.  One of the nice things about being Chairman is that you received a good increment in your Academic salary for being the holder of the position, but most importantly, the bonus was not taken away when you were not longer Chair.

These were interesting times in the Department.  There was much more play of politics at the time and as a result some friction.  The most severe politicking that I was aware of was the case of Steve K.  wanting to get Virgil E. fired as chairman. This never happened but resulted in an awful lot of bickering.  Part of that time I was academic chairman at the Poughkeepsie off-campus center and that consumed much of my time.  The faculty who taught there would fly down and back on a chartered flight by Executive Air.  We would fly down in late morning, teach from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., and then fly back to Syracuse.  This meant that we got lunch and dinner on the University.  One time a faculty member who was a true vegetarian wanted to pick up a gelatin that was not made from horses.  So, after teaching at Poughkeepsie he would take the train to New York City, buy his gelatin and spend the night, and then fly back to Syracuse the next day, all at University expense.

While Virgil was chairman we had a really bad situation develop over a faculty member who eventually got fired.  This man, John S., was hired out of Brown University where he had a research laboratory.  Much of the push to hire him came from Steve K., since their work was in the same general field.  So, he came here in fine shape and started to set up his lab with some funding supplied by the University.  He taught at the Poughkeepsie Center while I was Academic Chairman, and I found that he was highly unreliable.  He did not necessarily meet his classes as scheduled, gave everyone A grades, and other strange activity.  Also, equipment that he purchased seemed to disappear rather mysteriously.  One time he decided to put on a big party in his residence in Syracuse and even had a number of friends of his who lived in Toronto fly in to the party on a chartered plane.  It was a gala affair, and everyone had a good time.  But, then it was found out that he had told the plane company, Executive Air, that this trip was an extension of the flights they were chartered for teaching in Poughkeepsie, so they billed the University for the service.  Well, all hell broke loose and further checks were done on his background.  Phone calls to Brown University turned up the charges that he had also manipulated funds there, and in addition sometime during his tenure at Brown there was a suspicious fire in his laboratory.  Apparently no one had bothered to check his references at Brown University.  I am not sure how it came about but shortly thereafter he left Syracuse University.

Our next chairman of the department was Norman Balabanian, and he served from 1983-1989.  Norman left the Department in 1990 Sally wrote the following:

(she said dangling her participle)

Norman’s been here a long, long time.
I’ll say goodby with a bit of rhyme.
When I say long I’ll make it clear
I think maybe Norman’s ALWAYS been here.

At SU he earned his BS, MS and PhD
So he’s a natural home-grown variety.
When John came here to get his degree
He was already a member of the faculty.
And as John’s advisor he never lost sight
Of making sure John knew how to write.
Even now when proposals are written he’ll say:
“It’s written wrong, do it over Brule'”

Norm has a drive, a push and a flair
And though he’s short you know he’s there
He’s stood on a justice platform or two
Which helps both the cause and his stature too.

In the 60’s we thought the war wouldn’t cease
So he ran for Congress on a platform of Peace.
On our car his poster was taken around town.
His ideals were high the vote count was down.
We’ve kept his poster for many a day
And now it’s time to give it away.
No wonder, Norm, you lost that race-
There isn’t a single hair on your face.

He’s a damned good cook, a real gourmet.
I’ve eaten his meals and I know what I say.
Do you think his taste buds will still be keen
When Bostonians on Saturday eat baked beans?

Politician, Educator, Crusader and Cook.
Enough characters there to fill a book.
But one thing is omitted from this tome-
I’ll enter it now before they roam
What’s the best part of his life? that’s a cinch
It’s the woman he married, Rosemary Lynch.

Norman first moved to the Boston area and thence to Florida.  He died in 2010.

We had another bad situation develop while I was chair of the tenure and promotions committee of the Department.  It seems that a faculty member, K., had been hired while Norman Balabanian was chair and his teaching evaluation after the first semester was quite bad.  Faculty members were evaluated by the students during the last class of the semester before any final examination.  Each student filled out the form, then they were collected and put into an envelope which was subsequently delivered by the faculty member to Mary Jo Fairbanks who was the person to put all the numbers together.  So when the evaluations came back Norman had a serious talk with K.

The performance by K. improved remarkably and everyone was pleased by this.  This went on semester by semester until the end of the Spring semester of his 7th year.  The letter granting him tenure letter was sent, since his research work was deemed adequate for the granting of tenure.  He taught a course in the summer session, and again passed out the evaluation form.  After the class one of the students felt she wanted to amend the document she had handed in, so she went to Mary Jo to ask her to let her change it.  Surprisingly Mary Jo gave her the envelope containing all the evaluations so that she could identify and pick out hers.  The student looked through the stack and said:  “The form I filled out isn’t in here.”  Then the checking started.  Bob Belge became involved and in checking over the forms he noticed that K.’s name was never misspelled on any of the forms yet he had a very unusual name.  Also, certain words describing the high quality of his teaching were always misspelled in the same way.  What he had done was to swap envelopes that were filled with rating forms.  He had filled out the forms and put them in a large envelope.  When the students brought him their forms in an envelope he just swapped them.

The senior faculty members of the department were convened and shown all this evidence.  Then K. was called in and was given the option of either resigning or facing the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee of the University Senate since we would bring charges against him.  He resigned.  There is a footnote.  He applied to another University and gave the name of some faculty members in our department as references.  At least one of these faculty members knew why he had resigned.  Yet, K. was hired by this other University.

One time when I was serving as Chair of a Search Committee I got into a very negative situation with the Dean.  The Dean was Jim Luker and one day he showed up at my office and was furious.  He felt that I hadn’t been conscientious enough in keeping him informed about the activities of the Search committee and he really climbed all over me for that.  I found him to be a very difficult person to talk with – which was probably part of the reason why he would always put me off when I tried to see him.  At one point I actually had to threaten him, through his secretary, that if he wouldn’t see me then I was going to write to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and to the University Senate and blow the situation open.  After that I could see him when it was absolutely necessary.

The next chairman of the Department was Kamal Jabbour.  He was born and educated in Lebanon, and received his PhD from the University of Salford in England.  He applied for a position with us while he was still in England, and at one point called the Department to get some indication about what he would be faced with in coming here.  He was originally offered a position as Visiting Professor, and he wanted to know the differences with that as compared to a normal full time appointment.  I was asked to speak with him and I advised him about the lack of setup money as a Visiting Professor and that any time spent with that appointment would count as time to tenure.  After working it all over he decided to come over and join us. Kamal is a very well organized individual and gets things done on time and in order.  He was elected Chairman in 1989 and served two years.  (Kamal resigned his position at the University in the Spring of 2007 because he had accepted a lucrative position with the government at the Rome Development Center.)

Kamal was Chair of the Department for two years, 1989-91.  At that time the Dean of the College was Dr. Steven Chamberlain.  Steve had received his PhD from Syracuse University, and was a researcher in the Institute for Sensory Research.  At the time he was appointed Dean he was the director of the Bioengineering Department in the College of Engineering.  Steve was a very powerful person, had many strong ideas about what should be done, and ruled with an iron hand.  Somehow he and Kamal became enemies, to say the least.  It was clear that Kamal would never get promoted to Full Professor certainly as long as Steve was around – even though he might not necessarily still be the Dean.

I am not sure why Kamal’s term of service as Chair of the Department lasted only two years, but he was promoted up and out of the job.  Kamal has always done a lot for the College and Department, but must have rubbed some people wrong.  Anyway Kamal was replaced as Department Chair in 1991 by Don Weiner, a long term Professor in the Department.  Steve continued on as Dean until 1995 when Ed. Bogucz was appointed who at that time was a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  Steve went back to the Institute for Sensory Research and served there for some time until he was summarily retired after a short time.  Finally in 2006 Steve resigned from the University. Ed. Bogucz moved on to become Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems in 2003.  He was replaced as Dean by another faculty member of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Eric Spina who has since been appointed as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost.  Shiu-kai Chin was then appointed Acting Dean of the College until he was replaced in 2010

Don Weiner is a very meticulous faculty member, and demands much of his graduate students.  He has had many PhD students, and requires extensive dissertations.  Somewhat the opposite of me.  It is not unusual for his students to have some 300 or more pages in their dissertations.  I told my PhD students that if they couldn’t describe what they did in 100 pages then they didn’t really understand what they were trying to do.

The story went around that at one time that a faculty member had his driveway at home covered with blacktop.  It seems that he was told there would be a 3 inch cover.  Well, after the job was done he went out and took borings and found that in some places it wasn’t a full 3 inches.  He refused to pay the contractor, and this dragged on for some time.  In frustration the contractor finally came back and ripped up what they had laid down.  That’s the rumor, anyway. 

Anevent involving Don came during the period of final examinations.  It seems that his room was right next to another room where the teacher was giving a final examination to her music class.  It seems she was playing some music very loudly – so much so it interfered with Don’s class.  He tried to convince her to lower the volume but she informed him in no uncertain terms that the music had a large dynamic range and she would not compromise her examination to satisfy Don’s concerns.

Don served as Chairman from 1991 until 1996, when Carlos Hartmann took over.  A major reorganization of the College was underway – Departments were merged in some attempt to improve efficiency.  Carlos was officially installed as Director of the combined departments of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

Of course during the 10 years between our two sabbatical leaves to the Philippines our family was growing up and finding their own lives.  Jim married Jill on June 1, 1975 and they moved on to New England where they found employment as house parents in a halfway house for disturbed youths.  About that same time Nannette received a bequest of $1000 from one of Sally’s relatives who died.  She immediately sunk the money into a used Ford Mustang and from then on I could expect to receive desperate calls for help when the engine died, or the muffler fell off, or any number of similar catastrophes.

At one time Nannette was driving Sally’s car out around Chittenango someplace and was paying more attention to her companions in the car than to the traffic.  Suddenly she plowed into the rear end of a car that had stopped for a left turn.  That ended Sally’s car and broke Nannette’s jaw.  She was taken to a hospital in Oneida and we drove out there to be with her.  The hospital decided to transfer her to Syracuse, so an ambulance took her with me inside with her.  Sally drove our car home.  The ambulance driver was absolutely insane.  He drove with siren blazing and at extra high speed – climbing up and around banks to pass stalled traffic and very nearly got into an accident just before reaching the hospital in Syracuse.  But, we lived through it, although Nannette certainly remembers what it is like to have your jaw wired shut for 6 weeks.

Another  step I took involved interviews by the FBI.  If a soon to be graduate applied for a job with the military or the Defense Department the FBI would check their backgrounds by interviewing people that might know them.  Thus faculty members were high on the list that the FBI wanted to talk with.  I felt I did not want to cooperate with getting my students involved with the war making branches of the US economy so when the FBI showed up at my office door and indicated they wanted to talk to me I immediately interrupted them and let them know I was not going to cooperate with the FBI in this matter. I preempted the conversation in this manner so that I took that stance before the name of the individual had been mentioned.

Of course lots of people were refusing to pay the “war tax” on their telephones, and I too did that.  However, this meant telling the Payroll department what I was doing because the government would contact that department in an attempt to garnishee my wages so I had to warn payroll this might happen.  When I explained what I was doing to one of the employees there she became seriously upset.  In fact I was contacted by the supervisor about this to let me know about the chaos I was causing in that person’s life.  So, the biggest problem I had in the tax matter was soothing the trauma of one clerk in Payroll.

The vast majority of the research money that came into my department at that time came from the military.  Not only is much of the work in the electrical engineering department rooted in military needs but also we were teaching Master’s Degree level course work at the Rome Air Development Center in Rome, New York, and so all those students were associated with war making activities.  As the sign outside the Griffiss Air Force Base says – “Peace is our Profession.”

As time went on we found that the urge to return to the Philippines was still strong with us.  So we searched around for a sponsor again, and found a program run by SEATO, the SouthEastAsiaTreatyOrganization.  Also I was able to once again get sabbatical leave support for the trip, and had an easier time convincing the Syracuse University Administration that the University should support my application.

Ruminations -7 Addenda


Now I will add some more feelings about my early years.

The Tree

My first memory was of being in a crib and pretending to make a rain storm – then things seem to have become encrusted with other tensions and concerns and my story disappears for a few years.  We moved three times in a matter of just a couple of years, so my brother and sister remind me.  I remember one home, on Hancock Avenue, that had a monstrous poplar tree in the front yard and positioned close to the street.  It was a marvelous sight, stretching up to the sky and watching over us day and night.  But, that tree was unapproachable – so remote that even my older brother couldn’t reach the branch closest to the ground and thus found it impossible to climb the tree.  I remember feeling that I live in a world of giants, but the giants like my mother and father let me climb into their arms and I would feel whole and loved.  The tree kept me at limbs length, and the leaves were dull even in the summer, and even worse after they turned for the winter.

Very soon we moved to another house, this time on Ryan Street and I developed a feeling that I was home.  The house was not large but it had a front porch that extended the full width of the house, and a deep back yard that seemed to be full of wonders.  But in the front of the house was a maple tree that over the years became an integral part of my life.  The leaves on the maple tree are broad and friendly, not like the flattened greenery of a poplar.  Also they turn color with the seasons and are like an ever changing display for the world to enjoy.  This tree extended its arms to me and its branches were thick and while long at the bottom they diminished in length as they rose to the top.  Thus it formed a living bouquet that found its nurture in the sun and rain, and made our home a point of beauty.  

The trunk was sturdy and I found that by standing on a chair I could reach the first limb.  This was merely the first step into a wonder world of branches, twigs, leaves, and security. This tree was next to the sidewalk that ran from our house to the city sidewalk, so anyone coming to the house would have to bow to the tree to get out of its way. It was a friendly tree, but still demanded, and received, due respect.

Mom and Dad warned me not to climb too far into the tree, at least until I got a little bigger and understood more about how to move from limb to limb. The grade school I attended was directly across the street from my home, so I could climb the tree right after school and stay there to feel it move and adjust to the wind that might be blowing. I also found a special branch that was curved just right so that I could lie on it and feel the strength of the branch support my body. One time I had a role in a school play and the nuns became very worried when they saw me climbing around the tree. They informed me that I had to be very careful not to hurt myself since I had a responsibility to be in the play. I tried to convince them that my friend the tree would not hurt me. They agreed to that, but also reminded me that it was the ground that could hurt me if I fell from the tree.

All summer I would use the tree for my special place, and enjoy the smell of the leaves and the sound of their rustling in the breezes.  At night I could hear the branches rubbing and playing with each other as though this was their free time. As the summer moved on and turned to fall, the leaves also turned and created an ever changing display of colors.  The weather continued to get colder and the leaves bid the tree goodbye and as they fell the wind picked them up and spread them around and they said – ‘We’ve done our job, and now we too will learn to play.”

The tree went to sleep as the snow fell, and then I could easily get onto the first branch as the snow built up all around us.  The snow continued on and finally became deep enough so we could build tunnels in the drifts and throw snowballs and generally make good use of what the skies dropped upon us.  Then as spring arrived so did the new leaves, and the cycle continued.

As time went on we all grew up and left home.  My parents died at a ripe old age and the tree also finished its life.  My brother donated the house to a nearby college for them to use for academic purposes.  Unfortunately as time went on the College found less use for the house and let the property deteriorate.  My brother decided he did not want to see our home become an eyesore, so he had the house torn down and the tree was removed.  So all that is left at the site is a level field, but in my memory the tree lives on.

The Shack

I think the shack is getting too hot – maybe we should open a door or something.  The fire in the pot belly stove is alive and jumping.  The city built this shack for us, and even supplies us with firewood.  We certainly make good use of it in the winter when we use it for our gathering place to build up our hockey rink.  Everyone is sitting around telling stories or reading dirty booklets.  Of course John Turk is quietly taking the lead – he is really such a nice guy.  I like him because he is so quiet, yet forceful with his ideas and his gentleness.  He’s not very big, but large in his presence.  Hank Nissonen is carrying on as usual – full of himself and all that he thinks we should hear.  But, he is a hard worker and when we have to construct our ice rink from scratch that is surely what we need. Bobby Wills just grabbed the “green book” out of his hands and pushed him aside.  “I’m not finished with it, you squirt” he sneered. Bobby can always be expected to be rough – especially on us smaller guys.  Poor old Bobby Wills, usually so afraid to create a disturbance and always looking over his shoulder to see if someone is about to criticize him, yet he is the biggest guy of the bunch.  My brother Warren is the tough one – possibly the eldest – and full of strong opinions.  If ever I have some change I want to make I had better make sure he is on my side or it surely will be defeated.  Pete Waisenen is the runt of the group, and kind of a mousey fella – you never can be sure where he will turn up next.  But he really is a fast skater, and our hockey team is much better because of him.

The stories that everyone is chattering about each have elements of truth in them, but are also richly embellished – specially the stories about our diving with our makeshift diving helmet.  That’s the one where I panicked while underwater, threw off the helmet, and we darn near lost it.

Wow – that gust of wind really shook the shack and I can feel the cold air pouring in around the rattling windows.  The fire is great, but the stove is too large for the size of the shack.

But it is time to lay another coat of ice onto the rink.  The temperature outside is well below freezing and it has been over an hour since the last flooding of the rink.  We have to build up an inch or more of ice before morning or we won’t be ready for our game.   Warren says – “Okay, Bobby, it’s your turn to go outside and get to work.”  We have a hose connected to an outdoor water faucet, but of course we have to leave a low flow of water in it or it would freeze shut.  Bobby reluctantly starts to pull on his boots, but the door bursts open and there is Bobby’s father with his face livid.  “I told you that you are not allowed to be here tonight, and you lied to me.  Get your boots on and out you go with me.”

We all just sat there taking it in, and were distressed for Bobby.  He darn near was in tears, but he did follow his Dad out of the shack.  We felt so helpless to be able to do anything for Bobby.

So we finished off the night with our flooding the rink, sleeping and watering in turns.  We built up the required amount of ice and played our game.  It was great to be able to do that, and we had many more games over the winter.

The gang continued to meet over our high school years playing baseball, football and of course hockey.  Usually we played our games together, but one winter night a couple of years later John Turk accepted an invitation from another group to go tobogganing in the moonlight.  They were from another part of town and John was the only one from our bunch that went out that night.  They went to some hills outside of town that were not familiar to us, but John really wanted to be with them.

The worst thing happened.  Tobogganing at night on a strange hill proved too much.  We found out later that John was in the front of the toboggan when it careened into a barbed wire fence, and that was the end of him and the heart of our gang.  We all gathered the next day at Mrs. Turk’s house and mourned our loss with her.  Fortunately we all had each other to help build our great memories with John, and our gang stuck together as we reconstructed our life without John.


Well, here it is Hallowe’en, and we’ve got the whole evening ahead of us to have some fun.  We are hanging around in John Turk’s house – his mother always has something nice for us to eat.  John is his usual calm self, examining everything carefully and quietly leading us in the directions he enjoys.  Hank Nissonen has his mind on a whole world of things to do, but not sure of any of them.  Of course Warren, my older brother, is the powerhouse, knowing exactly what should be done and ready to go.  Jack Tervo, the tall and thin one, is busy talking things over with Glen Bettens and Bobby Wills – I wonder if Bobby’s father knows he is out tonight?  He sure keeps a close rein on him.  Eddie Shea is older than the rest of us, so we eye him with caution.

Well, we figure we should start by going out and checking to see how many folks have left clotheslines up for us to use.  We figure if someone leaves those lines up on Hallowe’en, then that is their gift to us.  A few of us have pocket knives available, so we are all set in that area.  However, we also feel the need to stock up on candy and the like, so we decide to go up to Water street and do a little ‘trick or treat’ first.  Can’t have a good night if we aren’t properly provisioned!  So we head out, and are very polite as we knock on the front door and ask for some goodies.  Of course, while this is going on, a couple of the guys are in the back yard cutting and gathering in the clothes lines of our benefactor.  We continue down the street until we are satisfied with things, and then move up to the next street.

So, now we have all this clothes line in our possession, and have to decide what to do with it?  We walk up to Hancock Avenue and the answer slowly develops.  Many of the houses have an iron picket fence in the front yard, and of course each fence has a swinging gate in it.  A little checking shows that the gates are easily lifted off their pins, and thus are freed from their confinement.  But so what, what will we do with the gates?  Gazing down the street we observe that it is lined with utility poles on which the telephone wires and electric power lines are mounted.  The poles are wooden, and each has a series of metal pegs that are arranged so that a person can climb the pole.  Of course, the first peg is about 7 or 8 feet above the ground to prevent the casual trouble maker from easily climbing the pole.

Now, wouldn’t the whole appearance of the street be improved if each pole was decorated?  Of course, and we have the perfect decoration for the poles – iron gates.  So now we have work for everyone to do.  One team sets about gathering the gates and distributing them to the base of the utility poles, another team ties clothesline to each gate, and a final team boosts a climber onto each pole.  So, one by one, the gates make their way from the fences to the poles.  The climber passes a clothesline over the top peg of a pole, and the rest of the team raises the gate to the top of the pole.

This goes on uninterrupted for the better part of an hour, and then we are done.  We then can gather together on the street and admire our handiwork – we have really made Hancock Avenue into a delightfully decorated street, and we hope the homeowners will appreciate this when they view the scene in the morning.  At this time we figure we’ve had enough fun for the night, and head off to our homes.

P.S.  It turned out that this was the only year we did that decorating.  On the following year when we went back to the street, we found that all the gates had been removed from the fences by their owners, and safely stored away for the night.

Ruminations -6 MTU & Army

Michigan Tech

After I returned from Chicago in the summer of 1944, I started my freshman year at Michigan Tech. This campus was located at the far eastern end of Houghton, 3 or 4 miles from my home in Hancock. I lived with my parents during this freshman year so for the first time I had to do some traveling to and from school. I would drive my dad’s car sometimes, or take the bus, or walk. In Michigan one could get a drivers license at 16 just by passing a written test. When I took the test the examiner sat me at a table with a copy of the answers judiciously placed on the table top.

I met a great bunch of guys at Michigan Tech, and some of us have stayed in touch over the years. This is especially true of Barney (Layton) Binon. He was a student in the geology department and now lives in Ohio. We keep in contact and he even came to Syracuse when Dolores and I got married. Mitch Siepak was another of the crowd and we keep in touch mostly by him sending out email selections and me getting upset with him for what I consider their grossly right-wing treatment of current topics. Johnny Jerys was another soul mate, but I remember him as being somewhat introverted. I have lost all contact with him. Bill McFarlan is the one other I remember, but again we have lost touch. However we found out that he died in 2007. I remember one time when we all piled into his car to take a trip to Detroit. This was the usual way to travel there since the train to Detroit took over 24 hours. It is about 600 miles from Hancock to Detroit. Well, his car was old and had become an oil burner. We had to stop at least every 100 miles to replenish the engine oil and so we were up and about all night doing that task.

During this first year at Michigan Tech I had a great time, both with the courses and the friends I made. Often this meant driving up to the Paradise Inn on the road to Calumet and drinking way too much. We would all pile into my dad’s car and spend an evening talking and drinking. I used to be able to drink three boilermakers and still drive everybody home. Being an engineering school all students were male except for one. She wasn’t excused from any of the courses, which was quite a thing at that time. We had machine shop courses and courses that involved a forge and pounding out welds and the like with hammer and anvil.

There were initiation activities that involved both the freshmen and the sophomores. Of course there was a greased pole surrounded by the sophomores in a tight cone around the pole and this was attacked by the freshmen. If the freshmen could climb the 12 foot pole and lower the flag then they would be free of further hazing. We freshmen didn’t succeed at that. We would be sent out on treasure hunts and one night we ended up at the schools golf course at about 2:00 a.m. All in all we got through the hazing period with no serious injuries.

There were also social fraternities on campus, but commuter students like me rarely got involved with them. However, I seem to remember that Mitch Siepak became a Sigma Rho. The academic year was divided into 3 twelve week terms, with one term in the fall and two more starting after the first of the year. The academic credit for each course was determined not only by the number of lecture hours but also by the expected preparation time. With this process you ended up with some thousands of hours when you graduated.

I was a pretty good student during my freshman year. I decided to join the ROTC program because I knew I would be drafted as soon as this year was over and I felt maybe having the ROTC program behind me would make my passage into military life somewhat smoother. I certainly didn’t have any anti-war thoughts or a distrust of the government.

I did well in this first year and really enjoyed the life. However, I turned 18 in March of 1945 and was required to register for the draft. The last term of my freshman year ended in mid June and I was drafted on June 25, 1945. This brought an end to the beginning years of my life and the changes now began to really mount up.

The Army

The “Greetings” letter arrived right on time, with my induction date all set. I don’t recall being particularly upset at the time – induction was just the next step in the order of things I was expected to do. We were sworn in and then transported to Navy Pier in Chicago where we stayed for a couple of days until we were shuttled off to Texas. I ended up in Camp Fannin, about 10 miles east of Tyler, Texas, after an all night train ride.

Tyler is in East Texas and this area is remarkable for a couple of things: first, red dirt and second, lots of oil well pumpers. The camp no longer exists – just about every vestige of it has been wiped out. If you look at a map, you can get the approximate location of the camp by finding Owentown, which was the railroad station serving the camp. All of us recruits were exhausted, but the work had just begun. We were assigned to barracks and then proceeded to unpack what little we had brought with us, and were issued a whole range of army type equipment – including shots and what we called, “short orm” inspections. These were genital inspections and we learned that these inspections can be ordered at almost any time.

The days at Camp Fannin are still stuck someplace in my memory – and when they surface they always evoke feelings of sweat, dirt, and fatigue. I was in Company D of some regiment of some battalion. That company was to be a service unit, and the platoon I was in was the Clerk-Typists group. Another platoon was the bakers, and so forth. We lived in barracks made up of about 20 or so double bunks, and a couple of rooms for the non-coms. Some of the recruits were married and some of them had their wives living in apartments in Tyler. I never did understand how these men managed to hold everything together. I remember coming in from a long hike, or a day at the firing range, having to clean my rifle, and after getting cleaned up just dropping in exhaustion onto the bed. These poor men had to change clothes and get into Tyler, spend the night with their families, and then get back to the Camp for the next days work.

When I was drafted the war was still underway, although Germany had surrendered in May, 1945, because the war in the Pacific didn’t end until September 2, 1945. Thus much of our training was with live ammunition. I became what was referred to as an Acting Gadget – that is, a sort of squad leader but still a raw recruit. Besides countless numbers of “short orm” inspections we were faced with almost continual inspection of our rifles. Of course the weapons would get dirty every time we fired them on the firing range, but also from just marching through the dirt and dust.

The very worst dirt got into the rifle when one used a blank shell. When we affixed a grenade launcher to our M1, the grenade was propelled by firing a blank. One time I figured that I would try to avoid firing my rifle in order to make cleaning it that much easier. We were having a training session where the squad was to cross a field by crawling, and I as Acting Gadget was expected to give arm and hand signals to the squad so that they would know what to do. All went well and I didn’t fire my rifle. However, some NCO had been watching me and when we got across the field he pulled me aside and said: “Brulé, why didn’t you fire your rifle?” “Well, sir, that is because I was so busy giving the signals to the squad that I didn’t have time to.” “Brulé, fire it now!” I did.

I remember experiences with the Southern heat, ticks, chiggers, and other discomforts, but also dances and visits to Kilgore–where alcohol was available–and Tyler, where it was not. Tyler had a USO and some times I would go there to dance a bit and get some free food. I met a girl there, Beth, and would walk her home some times. At one point I asked her for a date, but her mother indicated that we would go on the date in her house, not elsewhere. We would play cards in a separate room, but mom was always around to 0chaperone. After I left Camp Fannin I never saw her again although we exchanged letters a couple of times. She gave me a chain with an inscription on it –“Hands off he’s mine.” This surfaced a year later in Auburn, New York.

From time to time I would hitch-hike to Kilgore and other near-by towns like Gladewater and Longview. All I remember of them is that there were oil pumpers everywhere. Kilgore at one time boasted a single downtown city block with the densest concentration of oil wells in the world. This is a picture of a modern pumper, and it is unlike the pumpers of 60+ years ago. Imagine a street lined with these, each head bobbing up and down continually like a crowd of yes-men trying to make a point with their boss. Here we could purchase a bottle of liquor, whereas in Tyler that was not possible since that was a dry city.

At one time I hitch-hiked to Shreveport, Louisiana, just to round out my visiting the –at that time – 48 states. Nothing more remarkable than that was accomplished by that trip.

Basic training at Camp Fannin went on throughout the summer, but after V-J day in September, 1945, we stopped using live ammunition. By the time we finished basic, Camp Fannin was turned into a separation center where returning GI’s received their separation papers and mustering out pay. I was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN, for training on computation of the separation processes for officers. The base was closed in the 90’s. Today, the site of the base has been largely redeveloped, and includes residential neighborhoods, a golf course, and Fort Harrison State Park. I don’t remember much about this tour – except that it was over Thanksgiving of 1945. I remember a strange odor I detected in the bus station there – but that’s it!

Upon my return to Camp Fannin I worked in the separation center until I was transferred to Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This is the site of the Army Information School that was established there in 1946. I was assigned to the Schools office, and served as a clerk-typist. There my life changed rapidly and began an odyssey that would last the rest of my life. The company clerk was Richard Congdon, and he trained me as his replacement since he was due to be discharged in a couple of months. This was great by me because the Company Clerk has a lot of control over his own life, and I saw Dick exercise that. It is merely a matter of making sure that the first Sergeant, Myron Fore, likes and trusts you. Then the company clerk, who makes up the passes and duty roster, has pretty much a free rein. The picture is of Dick Congdon and his dog as they appeared in a news article in 2002.

The job at the AIS was very simple – the school was brand new and we enlisted men were to serve as service personnel to the school, and when Dick left I became the company clerk of those enlisted personnel. I found that I had time on my hands, and so got involved a little with the politics of the AIS. The cook there was very anxious to raise the quality of the food served in the enlisted mens club and wanted to add steaks to the available menu. He and I got along quite well, and with his urging I wrote a long letter to the post commander extolling the benefits of improving the club. In due course the commander called me into his office for a discussion of the suggestion and then he did indeed institute that change. So, everyone was happy about that.

Ruminations -5 Chicago & Return

To Chicago

While Hancock is an isolated small locality, we nevertheless did have some contact with the outside world. In the summer of 1943, between my Junior and Senior years in High School, Warren and I decided to go to Chicago to look for a job and spend the summer. Our parents apparently agreed to this, for one day in June we hopped on the train and made our way south. We rented a room in the YMCA that was located near the loop on South Wabash and we found a job working in a factory run by Western Electric. It was a very boring job that involved wiring some communication boards, but it paid well enough for us to survive in Chicago. I don’t remember much about the people there except that our supervisor spent most of his time trying to make out with one of the female employees.

At some point in that summer Warren quit that job, and got a job in a warehouse. Maybe the pay was better there, but he was then working with a totally different group of people.  We had only a little social life for I remember very little about the city. We did walk over to the loop from time to time, and marvel at all the things going on there. We were particularly enthralled watching the tattoo artists and would hang around them a lot. Of course at one point we decided that we should each get one. I am amazed that we decided first to let our folks know of our intention, and wow, by telegram the next day my dad said “ABSOLUTELY NO TATTOOS, LETTER FOLLOWS”.

The YMCA was actually a hotel, and a very pleasant place to stay. Looking back on it now I realize that at one point some strange things took place – once when Warren & I were riding up to our room a couple of men got on and were quite interested in us going up to their room. Warren would have none of that.

So, the summer went by without any serious incident, and we returned to Hancock late in August.

The following summer, after I graduated from High School, I went back to Chicago to work, but this time without Warren. I am not sure what he was doing then, but he had been out of school for a year and probably had a real job – maybe with Jay. B. Coon electric. I stayed at the YMCA again, but got a job at the Goodman Manufacturing Company. I don’t remember what they manufactured, but the factory included a sizeable machine shop and hundreds of employees. I worked in the electrical maintenance department and did a little bit of growing up during that summer.

The department I was in had a half dozen or so employees, but I remember only one person – his name was Walter. One of the things we had to do was to clean the commutators on d-c motors and Walter was most friendly and helpful with me, for I knew little or nothing about such equipment. One of the things our department did was to respond to emergency calls from the shop when things broke down. I would go with Walter when he went to analyze the problem and fix it, and he was a very thorough person – good training for me.

Finally at one point I was permitted to answer a call for help, by myself. Off I went with all my technicians’ tools on my belt and feeling quite important. A man working at a lathe called in to report that the light on an extension cord hanging over his machine had fallen off – there was a lot of oil in that environment and the cord just deteriorated. So, the cord end was electrically hot but I knew how to avoid getting a shock by very carefully handling the cord and taping the two ends separately. This took a few minutes since I was trying to be extra careful to not get a shock. When I had done this the machinist just looked at me and said – “Why didn’t you just remove the cord from the socket and take it away?” Learning can be an embarrassing situation.

I remember having talks with Walter and telling him that while I was intending to go to College in the Fall I found that working in the environment of Goodman Manufacturing was fun and maybe I’d just stay on there. He really climbed all over me for that bit of stupidity – pointing out that his lack of education was the cause of much limitation on his future employment. So that ended all thinking about not going back to school.

One significant item of company wide interest was the safety record of each department. In fact the Electrical Maintenance department had gone a few years without a lost time accident, and as I found out guarded that record with powerful politics. A large bulletin board carried the name of each department and the number of days since the last lost time accident. My department was way in the lead – days numbered in the hundreds since the last lost time accident. One day I was busily cleaning the commutator bars on a motor when I carelessly turned the armature and caught my little finger between the armature and the field coils. It scraped rather deeply, and I continued on with my task. Well, in a day or so it got infected and when I went to the clinic they sadly informed me that the nail of that finger had to come off. That was done, and the pain was rather remarkable. The head of the department told me to go and hide someplace in the factory, in the hopes that I could stick with it.

Well, I soon realized that I was not going to put up with this and told my boss that I had to leave work – the pain was too heavy. So I left, hopped on a train to Hancock, and stayed there a couple of days. When I returned to Chicago and went back to work I found that I had been on vacation for a few days! But their record was untarnished. I did hear some grumbling about the legitimacy of a brand new employee getting vacation time, but that seemed to end it all.

One other facet I remember about the experience with this company involves the president of the organization. It was his policy to meet with new employees and give them a lecture on values that he felt were important. Chief among these was to be alert and examine things to make sure they are valid and useful. We new hires were all together listening to this when he came to his little anecdote to emphasize his point. He remarked how people accepted the song – dancing around the mulberry bush. “What is wrong with that title” he always asked. He did this every time he met with the new hires, so indeed some people knew this was going to happen and were told the answer. So, when he asked the question one smartie shouted out – “there is no such thing as a mulberry bush – it is a tree!” That ended the lecture and the president left in anger.

Back to Hancock

My work in Chicago ended in late August, and I returned to Hancock and my senior year in High School. One of my favorite subjects was math, again due at least in part to the teacher, Mrs. Moyle. She was very supportive and highly encouraging for me to continue on to college.

During the months when school was in session I took up various after school jobs, besides working for my dad in the bakery. The first job I remember having was to wash the windows in my uncle Nap Brodeur’s office. He ran an insurance business and had a store front right next to the Orpheum Theater. This was on Quincy Street across from the High School. He paid me twenty five cents for washing the store windows and dumping the trash, usually once a week. He was a short dumpy man that didn’t have much to say to me. He was married to my father’s sister, Alvina. They lived in the east end of Hancock, which meant they were rich. They had a large house with a tower and a circular room. My mother was usually upset when Alvina would want my dad to do some chore for her. Alvina and her sister Mary Roy would often want him to do some household maintenance job and mother was perturbed by that. We didn’t visit them very often at all.

Another job I picked up was to be the distributor for the Milwaukee Journal in Hancock. This newspaper arrived by train seven days a week and I had to meet the train to pick up the stack of copies that were dumped off the freight car at the depot. I had three or four carriers who delivered the paper and collected the payment from their customers. So I learned a little about reliability of employees, especially when it came to getting them to give me the money they owed for the papers they delivered. One young girl was particularly difficult to keep in line, and of course from time to time I had to find new carriers. There also was a fair amount of paper work, because at that time the customers could purchase life insurance for a dime or so a week and I had to keep track of that and make the payments for the papers to the Milwaukee Journal company. It was a rather demanding job because during the week the various Sunday inserts would arrive and they had to be sorted and prepared for stuffing with the news sections that arrived Sunday morning.

At one point during this time I felt I could make some money if I had a shoe-shine business. My dad thought this was great and so he built a really great stand for me. It was about 4 feet square and solidly built so that a raised chair could sit on it above the two metal foot rests for the shoes. I started out by setting up the stand on the sidewalk in front of his bakery and had a good little business. A barber suggested to me that I could set up my stand in his barber shop if I would sweep the floor of the shop as payment for use of the space. This was great because now I could keep my business going during the winter.

I remember one time I was in the barber shop doing my thing and a rather drunk individual came into the store for a haircut and shoeshine. So he was able to climb into the chair and I started my job. I would first wash each shoe with saddle soap and then after drying it put on a world class shine. Well, this customer decided after a minute or two that his liquor was getting the better of him and he wanted OUT. I felt I should still do a good job even though he was restless but then the barber told me to back off and get out of the way. Just in time.

For a couple of years I worked as a stock boy at an F.W. Woolworth store in Houghton. That meant walking across the bridge, and this was a memorable chore in the winter time. The job started out with me handling the stock and transporting it as requested by the clerks. In the basement of the store was a large machine for baling the cardboard boxes the materials came in. This meant cutting the boxes and laying them out in the press. Then I would operate the press and use wire to wrap around the pressed boxes for preparation to be picked up by the waste paper company. On Friday evenings I was allowed to come to the sales floor and wait on customers. I thought this was pretty great compared to slogging away on the box press, so I dressed accordingly.

During this time our mother’s sister, Josephine, moved in and out of our lives. She was also a teacher, and an accomplished pianist. However, her mind was troubled and she was classified as “insane.” At times she stayed with us in Hancock but then she would regress and she would go back to the hospital in Newberry, Michigan. This is a picture of her taken in our back yard in Hancock. This really shows her as she was – hidden and remote.

Ruminations -3 Grade School

Grade School

My schooling started when we were living at 412 Ryan St., and continued on for practically the rest of my life. We lived directly across the street from St. Joseph’s school, which was a part of the Roman Catholic complex of school, convent, rectory and Church. The teachers were Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet, with their Mother house in St. Louis. St. Joseph’s school didn’t have a kindergarten, so I went to Hancock Central School for that first year. That school was also on Ryan St. and its property abutted that of the St. Joseph complex. So, I never went to a school that was more than a block away from my home.

Miss Dee was the kindergarten teacher. A robust motherly type and it was a joy being in her room. She did all the right things to make the children be happy to be there, which is a great way to start the school experience. I started first grade in St. Joseph’s school, and really enjoyed it. The classroom was a little large as it held grades one, two, and three. Sister Celesine taught all three grades and it seemed quite good to me. Having three grades in one room made it possible for me to listen in to the higher grades when I was all through with the work for my grade.

When I was in the second grade I was quite far ahead in my reading and Sister Celestine would send me in to another room with the slow readers to help them with the lesson. I remember one goof I made. It was in a story about castles and such and at one point the story talked about a palace. Well, I was careless and forced the group to read it as place.

I started third grade on schedule but early in the year Sister Celestine pulled me aside and said I was to go upstairs to Sister Anna Clare’s room and move up to the fourth grade. This was fine by me, as Sister Anna Clare was reputed to be a great teacher. This room also had three grades in it, 4th, 5th and 6th. Her teaching technique involved doing a lot of board work and she expected us to memorize the multiplication tables up through 12. One time when we were first learning long division I had great difficulty with it, and she made me stand at the board for quite some time until I got it right.

All went fine and in due course I moved to Sister Anastasia’s room which had 7th and 8th grades in it. Living so close to school and church meant that we were well watched by the priests and religious people of the Church and School. I was in a class play one year and on the day before the play I was having a great time climbing trees in our back yard. I was called into school and scolded for putting the play in jeopardy.

Of course I was an altar boy, along with my brother Warren. This meant we were often called to serve mass when a scheduled boy missed his assignment. I also took piano lessons and Sister Anastasia wanted me to play the organ during Sunday afternoon benediction. She would send me to the church in afternoons to practice, and I was not good at it at all. In fact on the first day I was to play in church I totally messed up the music to Tantum Ergo and she shoved me to the side of the bench and took over. That was the end of my church music. Warren and I often played mass, and we celebrated our mass using milk and water. Even for a time I thought about becoming a priest but that soon passed.

During our growing up days I remember Warren as being told to keep an eye on me, his younger brother, to make sure I was all right. I think Warren accepted this without too much trouble – at least I don’t remember feeling any great animosity from him. I think he was more independent and resisted demands upon him – I believe the existence of “the stick” grew out of that. But maybe Janet was part of that too, since I think there was a lot of difficulty experienced by our folks in attempting to keep her “in line.” Janet left home in 1940 or 41 so she was not around during much of my adolescent days.

Warren was the leader of any group of boys that got together. Everyone would expect him to be a part of every decision and often we couldn’t decide what to do next if Warren wasn’t around. Then Warren and Joyce Zerbst discovered each other and as time went on we found that Warren would rather spend time with her than with the rest of us. Because of that an on-going hockey game on our rink would soon languish if Joyce was there.  So it came as no surprise to us when later he and Joyce were married and now they have been happily married for over 60 years.

Ruminations -2 Growing Up

Life in Hancock

Since I was the youngest child in the Brulé household, I held a very special position. In particular, Warren, who is 17 months older than me, was responsible for my well being when we were out of the house. This did not necessarily sit well with him – but he did a great job of baby sitting his little brother.

As I remember my dad he was a baker operating his own shop, and worked long hours. This was not his first choice for a way to make a living, but as I understand it he was forced into it. My dad was born and raised in Lake Linden, a village about 12 miles east of Hancock. He went to a parochial school there, where the teaching was all in French and thus he became fluent in Parisian French. At the time he met my mother he was working as an engineer on a train serving one of the local copper mills. My mother was a teacher in the small settlement named Paradise, and dearly loved this life of teaching and single blessedness. They met in her sister’s boarding house, and were married. That must have been around 1919. Apparently the first year of their marriage they lived with my dad’s mother, and this almost resulted in their breakup.

This is a picture of Grandma Brulé. My mother left Lake Linden alone and took a teaching job in Hurontown, a little village near Houghton. She informed my dad that he could live either with his mother in Lake Linden or with her in Hurontown. Fortunately, he chose the latter.

Janet was born on August 20, 1922, Warren on September 30, 1925, and I was born on March 13, 1927. This was during good economic times and my father and his brother-in-law Napoleon Brodeur started up a bakery business. But then the depression hit and Uncle Nap pulled out of the business. My dad struggled hard to make ends meet, as I found out later. For example, around 1945 he showed me a saffron storage container. He said, “John D., today I finally paid off the last installment on the saffron.” Apparently he had bought the saffron in the mid 30’s for about $25 and had been slowly paying for it. It took a decade for him to achieve the goal of eliminating that debt.

 But my dad wasn’t all work, although he put in long hours in the bakery. One spring he decided that he would build a small boat. Uncle Nap’s insurance business office was right near our house – most everything in Hancock was right near everything else, and he let dad use a spare room to do the work. He decided to build a 12 foot rowboat. He used marine plywood for the sides, and covered the sides with canvas. He worked at this for many weeks, and finally when it was done he borrowed a 5 horsepower outboard engine and off we went to check it out. We drove out to Lake Superior, near the small town of Gay, on the Keeweenaw peninsula. We launched the boat, my dad and we three children got in it and he started the engine. It was lots of fun, and we each had a chance to steer it.

A little way off the shore, perhaps about ½ mile, there was an island. We thought it would be great to go to it and check it out. So we did, and naturally without any thought about such things as life jackets. We explored the island for a while, and then decided to head back. My dad encountered serious trouble in trying to start the outboard motor, and then to keep it running. It would start up, after several pulls on the lanyard, but then stall out. He finally decided that we had to start back as it was getting late. (The trouble was that he failed to open an air vent on the gas tank, and thus the engine was starved for fuel.) Of course Lake Superior is at best unpredictable, and shortly after we started back a breeze sprung up. And there we were on a small boat whose engine would stall every minute or so. Well, it doesn’t take much of a breeze to develop some waves that are dangerous for a 12-foot rowboat filled with 4 people. We had a bailing can in the boat, since this was our first time out and dad wasn’t sure how much it would leak. We made good use of the can as my dad kept restarting the motor; the boat was bobbing and rolling severely in the waves. Obviously we did make it back and the only problems were that my dad was exhausted from restarting the motor, we were all frightened, and we all got drenched.

My dad seemed to me to be a very pleasant and friendly person. Of course I didn’t see him much, but he seemed to like to talk with friends and he was always very quiet. The only time I saw him get angry was when I was helping out in the bakery. We three children had to pitch in since there always seemed to be a lot of work to do. I cleaned pans mostly. Whatever Dad baked always resulted in some material left in the baking sheets and pans. We would have to scrape the pans with a special knife and then give them a light coating of grease. This was an after school sort of job, which wasn’t a great deal of fun.

 The bakery had a large bench in the work room – large enough for 4 people or so to be working at it. I think I must have usually complained a lot about having to work there, because even the other help in the bakery got tired of my attitude. One time I started to moan, but then turned it into a song. The people on the bench cheered at my finally joining the team.

 I didn’t do much actual baking, but Dad would buy eggs by the crate. He had built a freezer in the work room and I had the job to break and separate the eggs as that is the way he stored them. However, he did teach me how to make pastys – a sort of meat pie in a shell. The pasty had its origin in Cornwall, England. After I got married Sally and I lived in Hancock for two years, and we tried to eke out a living on the $100 per month that I got on the GI Bill. Since that was impossible I started to make pastys in the bakery. I paid my Dad a portion of the sale price of each pasty, and this turned out to be a great source of income. So, every once in a while I make pastys again, and that feels good. I first made them in Syracuse with Dick and Verah Johnson and this always turned into a great baking, drinking, and feasting session. I showed Mark how to make them, and he soon outclassed me in the quality of the work.

 Another job I did around the bakery was to deliver orders to the stores – usually on Saturdays. This is truly where I learned how to drive in the winter as Hancock is built on the side of a hill and the snow there is enormous.

 My mom didn’t go in for camping and exploring and such. She had a small circle of friends and preferred to talk with them rather than to go off into the woods. My mother had given up her teaching career to be a stay-at-home mom, but whenever she was asked to fill in she was thrilled to be a substitute teacher. As you can see from the map, the backyard of our house was nearly adjacent to the Suomi College. So my folks opened up our home to a College student who was looking for room and board, and the student became a ‘mother’s’ helper. This was in the 30’s during the height of the depression and everyone was looking for help. My mother would also take in roomers during this time, so we all crowded up some more in our rooms.

 One night the doorbell rang and when my dad answered it he found a family of three that were driving a car with a Canadian license and looking for a room for the night. They were from Quebec City, and were conversing in French. According to my dad, the wife indicated to her husband how exhausted she was and she hoped we had a room for them. Well, before there could be any translation my dad greeted them in French and assured them that indeed we had a room all prepared. They certainly were pleased to hear that!

 Just about every weekend, except during the winter, we would go for a ride in the car. We rarely would go to Lake Linden, where my grandmother Brulé lived. The visits there didn’t last very long. The conversation was all in French, since grandmother didn’t speak any English. At best this was a most boring visit for she lived in a small house and there was little or nothing for us children to do.

 On these Sunday rides we would more often go to Paradise, the small settlement above Chassell and about 7 miles from Hancock. My mother’s maiden name was Poisson, which her dad had anglicized to Fish. Her father’s name was John D., and that’s where my name came from. I have never really believed what the D stands for. After pressuring my mother on the issue she said my middle name is Dosithé, but I think she made it up on the spot. Anyway she had no idea what the name meant. Grandpa and Grandma Fish also spoke almost no English, but at least they lived on a farm, so we had more exploring we could do.

This is a picture of Grandma Fish taken late in her life. Grandfather John D. had a horse named Jerry, and at times would hitch him up to a buggy to ride in to Chassell. I remember sitting with him on a swing in the barn. He had a fly swatter, of course, and used it on the local fauna. He was a tall and stately man, but of course there was very little conversation between us. My grandmother Fish was a very short woman, and ruled the roost. I don’t know what she would say to him, but when she spoke, he acted. He was one of the few people in the Chassell/Paradise region that had been to school. I believe he had a fourth grade education, and since he could read he became the Postmaster. But this was long before I was born, and I merely remember him sitting on his swing and swatting flies. 

Across the road from my Grandparents Fish was another farm, this one belonging to the LaTendresse family, Minnie and Eugene. Minnie and my mother were first cousins, and Minnie again was a very small person. Her husband Eugene was tall and soft-spoken. She spoke enough English so that we could converse, but Eugene was illiterate in English, as I was in French. The children of Minnie and Eugene included Cyril, Walter, Loraine and others I did not know very well. When I was quite young my mother had to go to the hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as she was sick with Bell’s disease. She was there for several weeks, and we three children were parceled out to various relatives. I was too young to remember, but I was with Cousin Minnie for that interval. Cyril, who was about 10 years older than me, was basically my baby sitter. In ensuing years I spent some time in the summer on their farm. I remember riding on the hay wagon as Cyril and others drove the horses up and down the fields first cutting and then baling the hay. 

The Latendresse’s had a business, called Twin Elms Dairy, selling milk. It was not pasteurized, but each day Cyril would deliver milk along his route in Chassell. I would ride with him and help a little bit. They had a herd of about 30 cows, so I got to help turn out the cows to the fields after milking, as well as herding them to the barn in the morning and helping with the milking. I never was very good at it, but I think I did reduce their workload a trifle. Every couple of weeks Cyril drove his team of horses to a local brewery in Houghton to fill his wagon with malt. He augmented the cows feed with this to increase their milk output. So, I got to know Cyril quite well, and always thought of him as a grownup man, not a teenager. Over the years I saw Cyril only rarely, although in the last several years my contacts increased. I love to drive up to Paradise whenever I visit the Upper Peninsula, and I always stop in to see him, and his wife Florence. He wrote a booklet of his memories, and it makes fascinating reading. He had a world of experiences in his life, and was less than a gentle person. This latter characteristic came as a surprise to me because I only remembered him as my guardian. But he sure ruffled feathers during his lifetime. A couple of years ago he died, but Florence still lives in the LaTendresse house.

This is my dad when he was about 7 years old.  He was to get his first “short” haircut.  He was the darling of his sisters and he wanted this picture to include his dog.  However the dog jumped away at the last minute.  His hair was strawberry blonde and I remember we had a lock of it in a drawer of a library table.  The lock seems to have disappeared.

Ruminations -1 The Beginnings


Lake Superior country is at times threatening,  and at other times a most welcoming environment. Situated in the northern part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it has some of the strongest winters and also some of the most beautiful summers in the nation. Lake Superior is also the largest freshwater lake in the world. The weather that reaches this area, the so-called Keeweenaw peninsula, has traveled some 50 miles or more across the open waters of Lake Superior, bringing fresh and clean air from the far reaches of Canada. The picture shows the Keeweenaw peninsula extending out into Lake Superior. Canada is to the north, and well out into Lake Superior is Isle Royal National Park. I was born in Hancock, and spent my first 18 years there. Hancock is on a waterway called the Portage ship canal. It used to be that huge ore boats would load up with iron ore from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota and travel the full length of Lake Superior to Erie, Pennsylvania where they unloaded their cargo for the steel mills in Pittsburgh. But, sometimes the storms are so bad on the lake that the boats avoid going around the tip of the peninsula and instead take a safe, but longer, path through the ship canal. Over its entire length of the ship canal there is only one bridge across it, and that bridge exists between Houghton, on the south side, and Hancock on the north. When the ore boats use the canal because of a storm there could be dozens of them that have to pass through this bridge, and traffic could be held up for hours.

My First Memory

Wow, that was a great nap! Now, I wonder what I can do? It is so bright, and what is that I feel on my face? It must be that wind thing again. I wonder where wind comes from? Well, I’ll never find out lying here on my stomach – all I can see is the sheet I am on. I wonder where my piggly rag is – my toes feel very lonesome and alone without it. Ah, there it is. I guess I’ll get up and see what is around me – it sure is great to be able to just jump up and down on this bed. Let’s try that for a while, to find out how much noise I can make.

Here I am standing on my bed, and there are lots of bars all around me. I guess they are there for me to hang on to. Way over there I can see some water with a boat on it. Why can something stay on top of the water like that? When I am in water for my bath I sink to the bottom of the tub. Is the sky always so bright and sunny? I remember some other times when the sky was very noisy, and a bright light flashed on and off. Oh, and that was when water fell from the sky and everyone tried to run away from it. But I’m not afraid of water from the sky. I think that is called rain.

I wonder if I can make it rain by making the bright light go on and off? Maybe when I do that then rain will come from those pretty clouds up there, and that might scare my mom and dad. That would be fun. Let’s try it. Well, when I close my eyes it’s very dark in here, just like at night. Whee – I opened my eyes and it flashes light, but there is no noise. I wonder if I could make a noise like that? So, I’ll try flashing the light for a while and see what happens. That’s fun.

I think I have done that enough for now. Where’s my mom? Maybe I frightened her with all those bright lights. I’ll call her and let her know she is safe and not to worry. Mommy – Mommy – Mommy. Ah, she is here now, and I’ll let her pick me up so that I can snuggle up next to her. I love you too, Mom.

Much of my activity while growing up was centered on Lake Avenue, which you can see of the left side of the map.

South of Lake Avenue you can see a plot labeled Rink, and then another plot labeled Ball Field – just above The Point. As the years moved on these places figured deeply into my growing up years and much is to be said about these places.

But first, we moved from the Lake Avenue home to the house labeled #2, on Hancock Street, thence to #3 on Dakota Street, and finally to 412 on Ryan Street. Our stays in homes 2 and 3 were quite short, because I remember we were in 412 Ryan when I started kindergarten, so that must have been in 1932. We were living there when I was drafted into the army in June, 1945, and I lived there with my parents from the time I returned from the army in December, 1946, until I left home for good when I got married in the summer of 1947. My bride Sally and I lived in an apartment on Franklin Street for the first two years of our marriage.

Drones, Robotics and the Future

March 12, 2010

Drones, Robotics and the Future

A few years ago John Oldfield energized John Jureller and me to consider the reality of UAV’s, drones, coming to Syracuse.  We knew two things about this-

1) Some drones would be based in Syracuse and flown to Watertown, Camp Drum, for warfare practice.  This meant that the drones would be flown through civilian airspace,

2)  A base would be set up in Syracuse at the 174th site, for guiding drones flying in a war zone where they would be gathering information and firing weapons onto targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At that time we three decided to concentrate on the specific problem of UAV’s flying into and out of Hancock field.  When John Oldfield tried to pass out a leaflet at a Peace Action dinner meeting he felt rebuffed.  When I presented our concerns to the Peace Council they felt that they would be supportive of what we were trying to do but that they would not pick up the program as a Peace Council project.

The next thing we knew Ed Kinane latched onto the project and began organizing picketing out near the 174th base.  In addition people associated with NYSDAP (New York State Direction Action Project) appeared on the scene and they too were concerned about the drones.  I would say their interest is more in their use in warfare, including the effect of collateral damage upon the civilian population.  Syracuse is thus coming to be the center of attraction for people opposed to the drones and their use.  The original problem of the drones being flown through civilian airspace seems to have faded into the background.

It seems to me that we have entered a very different new stage in the art of military spending.  The genie is out of the bottle and the development of robotic equipment for warfare has become the latest computer game.  A new weapon is available to add to the tools for killing.   The high altitude huge bombers with support teams of the Vietnam era can now be replaced with slower moving nearly invisible unmanned vehicles.  And a person does not have to be physically near the point of attack.

But the box of tricks is just starting to be explored.  If robots can fly then they can also be made to swim and to travel over land.  As far as I know the firing of weapons from the current drones are under the control of a remote operator.  And you can be certain that the sophisticated sensors that gather gigabytes of information from the drone will begin to further process that data to have the decision to fire and what to fire at be made without the intervention of a human.

What does this mean to the anti-war pro-peace activist?  To put it into perspective we must note that the Military Defense budget for 2011 is $895 billion, and the budget includes $159 billion in contingency funds to support the war in Afghanistan and the battles in Pakistan.

I believe that the development of drones in warfare is just the opening salvo in the juggernaut of the automation of the weapons of war and war itself.  Over the decades progressives have tried to support their struggle for sanity in the war department by pointing out how much money is spent there and how sensible it would be to be able to use some of that money for peaceable living.  I don’t think this approach has been effective at all in terms of changing the minds of  people ouside the anti-war movement.  One would think that in the current environment of huge deficits and struggles to supply health benefits to a large group of people that the economic argument would be listened to.  But that does not seem to be the case if one just looks at the printed arguments.  But in back of it all the money being spent on war, the weapons of war, and the funding of research and development of new weapons of war is what keeps the military-industrial complex well funded even if it means borrowing even more money from foreign powers, like China.,

By concentrating our efforts on a particular weapon, like the drones, we contribute to the continuation of ignorance about the real cost of war.  The use of drones in warfare has been criticized as being “cowardly’ – should we try to find a non-cowardly weapon to kill with?  Whether the use of drones is cowardly or not just raises a side issue and hides the war behind a cloud of petty arguments.

Another parochial issue is the decision to do a major part of the anti-drone demonstrations in front of the air base on Molloy Road.  The thought seems to be that this can have some effect upon the personnel at the base.  This may be true and whether it has some effect upon the personnel flying the drones and directing their use is worthy of serious analysis.

However I think it is even more important to give serious consideration whether the current mode of protest is useful.  On the positive side, it has resulted in the formation of a coalition of activists coming from regions well beyond Syracuse and this is good in itself.  But perhaps the force bringing people together in Syracuse could be better utilized to focus on the war itself and not on a particular weapon.