Ask Any Indian

January 29, 2010

On my recent trip to Branson, Missouri, I purchased two T-shirts: one for me and one for a friend. This particular friend and I don’t always see eye-to-eye (understatement?), but we do agree on some things.

The shirt I bought him read, “Homeland Security – Fighting Terrorists since 1492”. In the middle of the shirt was a row of Indian warriors on horseback.

The middle of my shirt showed an Indian on horseback, with his head bowed low. The words? “Of course you can trust our government. Ask any Indian”.

Yesterday on my Facebook page, I brought up the subject of racism. I was recently accused of racism because I disagree with some of the policies of President Obama. Obviously, the charge was made by a black man and some of his ultra-liberal white friends.

I did not vote for Mr. Obama. My vote had nothing to do with the color of his skin. It had everything to do with his inexperience and his far left-wing leanings. I voted for John McCain because I saw him as THE LESSER OF THE EVILS.

In eleven presidential elections, I have never voted FOR a candidate and it really angers me that our two major political parties can’t find more suitable candidates. Of course, I firmly believe that anyone talented enough to do a decent job is smart enough not to want the job.

But getting back to discrimination…

In 1984 I dragged my family on a six week tour of America. We pulled a camping trailer and visited 29 states in those six weeks. I cooked many of our meals, but from time to time we ate at a restaurant.

The restaurant that sticks in my mind was in South Dakota. I don’t remember the place for its food or ambiance. What I do recall is an American Indian family standing in line waiting for a table.

I believe there were seven of eight people in their party. There were six of us and we were quickly shown to a table… ahead of the Indian family.

More than an hour later, we were finished and on our way out. That’s when the place became memorable to me. The Indian family was still waiting to be seated. And there were empty tables that could’ve been pushed together.

I later mentioned this to a family member who spent some time in that part of the country. He explained that the whites saw the Indians as lazy drunken bums that didn’t deserve to be treated as equals.

As I write this, I recall a trip to Copenhagen where I saw discrimination on an unbelievable scale. Some Danes absolutely hate the Swedes. I learned this when a shopkeeper tried to throw a Norwegian out of his store because he thought the man was a Swede. To make matters worse, the Norwegian also hated the Swedes and was, therefore, highly insulted to be called a Swede.

Why is it that some people have to look down on others simply because of their race or nationality?

A good friend (the harmonica player in our Nostalgia band) explained that the trouble with Baptists, Catholics, and Methodists is that they think they’re just as good as us Lutherans.

While such a statement is laughable, it seems that it may be truer than we like to think.

While working an assignment with IBM Europe/Middle East/Africa, I met many people from other lands. Through them I learned that the Germans dislike the Portuguese with the same sort of passion as the Danes in regards to the Swedes. There were other examples of discrimination between nationalities, but I’ve erased them from my memory banks.

In the United States, we have all sorts of laws to protect the blacks of our society and ensure their civil rights, but what about the American Indians. Does the NAACP have any programs that benefit the original settlers of this country? The Indians could be consider “colored”, couldn’t they?

Perhaps things have improved in South Dakota. I certainly hope so. That will give us all more time to turn our hate toward the Mexicans.


I searched, unsuccessfully, for our camera before writing this post. Then my bride jogged my memory and I found the missing technological wonder! So, finally, here is the photo I wanted to include.

My newest T-shirt


January 28, 2010

Ready to hunker down

I haven’t listened to an entire State of the Union speech since… Come to think of it, I’ve never listened to one from beginning to end.

Why? Because I view it as an annual campaign speech. If it truly was a “State” of the Union speech, it would be a multimedia extravaganza with charts and graphs. It would be a well researched and carefully planned presentation to let the public know exactly where we, as a nation, stand.

Instead, the State of the Union has come down to two things: First, a litany of excuses (the blame game) to explain why things are not better. Second, to make the same promises that were made in the past.

Politicians have no intention of keeping promises. That’s why they make them so freely. In the same speech, a politician (I’m not pointing the finger at Obama or any other individual) can blame the deficit on others, promise to cut back government spending and waste, and promise billions of dollars will be spent on new projects.

The shame of it is… the blind followers fail to see the contradictions. They stand up and cheer the politician’s every word. Oh! Wait! That was the senators and the other members of congress and the Cabinet. I guess they were simply cheering for the man’s audacity! Such gall! Let’s hear it for our fellow politician!!

To be honest, I’m glad this President was unable to move much of his agenda forward. Bush might have begun this deficit, but Obama wants to take it to new heights.

Hopefully, he and the congress will slow down and give more careful thought to the things they propose. Instead of a lawyer deciding what should be in health care reform, let’s put together a committee of doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and insurance company executives and tackle the problem areas.

I think another word for “politician” is “arrogance”. They see no need to bring in a panel of experts. They’ll put together a 2,000 page bill that is full of crap… sorry, full of earmarks that have nothing to do with the proposed legislation and try to convince people that they’ve created the greatest thing since the Federal Reserve.

I didn’t listen to President Obama’s State of the Union speech for the same reason I ignore most political speeches. When a politician’s lips are moving, it’s a sure bet that he or she is lying.

I never did like listening to lies.

Picture this… Again

January 27, 2010

Crafton Heights

For the most part, this scene has changed little since I was a lad in the 1940s. The major difference is the lack of plate glass windows. When I was growing up, most of the store fronts had large glass windows so people could see the merchandise. Today, brick walls are used to protect the merchandise.

I moved away from Crafton Heights around 1970. I left the Pittsburgh area in 1977. I’ve driven through the old neighborhood countless times, but I’ve seldom stopped. (The day I got out of the car to snap the picture was a rare exception.)

I have no idea who is living in the houses on Stratmore Avenue. There was a time when I could rattle off the names of most of the families living on the street. I have no idea what sort of people are now living in Crafton Heights. Thus, I cannot say they are a bunch of evil crooks who forced the shopkeepers to replace the glass with bricks. Perhaps the troublemakers came from the West End, or Westwood.

All I can say is that it is a shame that this scene has played itself out in so many parts of America.

Talk to any old-timer and you’ll hear stories about leaving car keys in the car, leaving the doors on houses unlocked… even when no one was home. You’ll hear that there were thieves and troublemakers, but not many. And there was no need for special “Neighborhood Watch” groups. Neighbors who watched out for other neighbors were the norm.

I count two items responsible for the change: television and air-conditioning.

When I was child, – NO! Wait! – When I left Pittsburgh in 1977, we still did not have air-conditioning in our home. During the hot summer months, we opened the doors and windows and ran fans. We also spent a lot of time outdoors. We had a very nice patio with a roof.

As for television, our family bought one in the early 1950’s. At that time, there was one channel and much of the schedule was devoted to the test pattern.

Because we didn’t have those things that caused us to spend most of our time indoors, people sat on their porches and watched the world go by. This deterred many would-be crooks.

Perhaps we need to go back to that aspect of the old days. Turn off the TV, turn off the A/C (and save a lot of money), and take up a position in the yard or on your front porch. Armed with a modern cell phone, you won’t even need to go into the house to call the police when you see something or someone strange.

In case you’re wondering… Once again I couldn’t come up with an idea to write about. So I went to my picture files and picked one.

He Who Hesitates

January 26, 2010

I’ve often advised people to pick the brains of their older relatives while their brains are still around to be picked. For whatever reason, people don’t seem to get interested in genealogy until later in life… after their parents and grandparents have gone on to their eternal rest.

I’m down to my last two good sources of information: my sister, Gert, and my cousin, Ruth Morris.

I’m going to ask my sister to read this post. I’m hoping she can answer some questions that never occurred to me prior to this morning.

First, some background. Our oldest brothers, Bill and Lew (Seward and Somers to the family) dropped out of high school and joined the Navy during World War II. They both became Sea Bees (Construction Battalion) and spent at least six years each in the service.

As Sea Bees, they drove trucks and operated heavy machinery as they helped build landing strips, boat piers, bridges, and other facilities for the military.

So, why, after leaving the Navy, did they each go out and get a job working in an office?

Bill (Seward) went to work in the city or county Prothonotary’s office. For those of us who had no idea what a Prothonotary is, it’s the principal clerk of courts.

At the time, the Prothonotary was a gentleman by the name of David Lawrence. Lawrence would later become the Mayor of Pittsburgh and, still later, the Governor of Pennsylvania.

Bill did not like the job and soon went to work at Hammel’s Express as a truck driver.

In the meantime, Lew (Somers) took a job with American Standard and was soon transferred (promoted?) to New York City. Like his twin, he failed to warm up to the office environment and left American Standard to take a job driving a truck for the Fort Pitt Plumbing Supply company.

Now I find myself wondering why either of them took office jobs in the first place. I also have to wonder how they got hired back in the early 1950s when neither of them held a high school diploma.

Unfortunately, I never thought to ask those questions while they were still alive. I’m hoping Gert knows the answers.

In the meantime, let this be a lesson to anyone who might one day get interested in family history. Don’t hesitate to ask while you still have someone around to provide answers.

He who hesitates is lost.

The Big Loop

January 25, 2010

I wonder what ever became of my Uncle Lewis’ cabin cruiser.

Uncle Lewis on his boat - circa 1950

Rich Grimshaw recently commented on my 2010 Wish List post and asked if I’d ever considered “The Big Loop.” In truth, I’d never heard of it. So I went to the Internet and found a web site called “Love to Know Cruises”. There I found the following:

“The Great Loop – also called the American Loop or the Great Circle – is a long distance circumnavigation voyage that encompasses the entire eastern portion of the United States and parts of Canada, from the Atlantic Coast to the heartland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico depending on the route taken, the Great Loop may be from 5,000 to 7,500 miles long and is primarily in sheltered waters, making it one of the safest long distance cruises in the world. This voyage is undertaken by many avid sailors and cruisers, and as more people take up hobbies such as boating and sailing, the various routes for the Great Loop are becoming ever more popular.”

Rich Grimshaw estimated such a trip might take a year or more. His wife, Jan, quickly added that the boat used for such a voyage must have a nice shower. When I suggested she jump into the water to bathe, she responded with a glare. I took that as a “Not on your life!”

As I recall, my Uncle Lewis’ boat had a toilet (that dumped its contents into the water when flushed), a small sink, an old fashioned ice box, and a small gas stove; but no shower. Thus, such a boat would not be acceptable to Jan.

I doubt if it would be acceptable to my bride either. To be honest, I’d want something a bit larger myself.

Back to the Internet! This is what I learned about the ideal boat at a web site called Trawlers and trawling.

The quick and safe answer is, that there ISN’T an ideal or perfect boat for doing the America’s Great Loop Cruise.  The Great Loop has been completed by almost every imaginable type of vessel from a personal water craft (PWC or Jet Ski®) to large luxury yachts both power and sail, gas and diesel.  Keep in mind the limiting factors for air height, draft and beam, each listed separately in the specifications below.  Along some of the Loop’s waterways, a “big” boat is between 26 and 32 feet, has a beam of 8-1/2 to 11 feet and draft under 4 feet.  So, mega yachts are not recommended nor are they needed.

Needless to say, Rich got my attention. I’m going to have to learn more about this and start saving my money so I can go off gallivanting for a year or so.

Combined Birthdays

January 23, 2010

Rachel and Daniel share cakes

Today is my granddaughter, Rachel’s birthday. Tomorrow is my grandson, Daniel’s birthday. Daniel will be two, and Rachel is now a teenager! The cousins were scheduled to celebrate together later today. Unfortunately, Rachel is sick today and her family will not be there. We’ll catch up with her when she’s feeling better.

In the meantime, I thought I’d discuss birthday cakes.

The ones in the picture were made by my bride. The grandchildren threw her a curve this year, Daniel is totally fascinated with Thomas and every other train imaginable. So, he wanted a cake that looked like a train.

Rachel, on the other hand, is into Superman.

In truth, the arrangement worked out well because a number of family members are gluten intolerant. Therefore, one cake is regular and the other is gluten free.

I don’t know if my children remember or not, but I used to bake unusual cakes for them. I definitely recall making a cake that looked like a guitar. I used licorice strings and lollipops.

On other occasions, I served up a soccer field and a bicycle.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of those masterpieces. But I do have pictures of some of the cakes Lu has baked for the grandchildren.

Dominic's first birthday... I think

Rachel's octopus

Dominic's dinosaur fossil

Landon's lorry

Emma's princess... I thinkI think this princess was made for Emma. Other granddaughters had similar cakes.

A Thomas for Landon

Lu can be extremely creative when it comes to decorating cakes. I guess that’s why the children all get their requests in early.

Perhaps if I behave myself, I’ll get a Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet Cake for my birthday!


January 22, 2010

Container Ship on the Savannah River

I’d never been this close to a container ship prior to the day I took the picture. I continue to be amazed at how many containers were on board this vessel. When you realize that each of those containers would eventually become part of an 18-wheeler, it’s almost beyond comprehension.

Take it a step farther and think about the TV show, “Deadliest Catch” and try to picture this ship being tossed around like a cork in a storm at sea. That’s when the power of nature becomes even more awesome than this ship.

In case you’re wondering, I’m flipping through my collection of pictures again.

Sunrise at Port Angeles, Washington

The above photo was taken while my brothers, two nephews, and I awaited a ferry to take us to Victoria, British Columbia. The body of water isn’t the Pacific Ocean, but it’s close enough.

I often think this photo is almost “post card” quality. But there are better ones in the collection.

Sunrise at Ocean City, New Jersey

My bride took that picture.

Shore line in Puerto Rico

I captured this image during our visit with a future movie star and his bride.

Richard Pastush - the future star

Our friend, Richard Pastush is the fourth from the right – the guy in the purple tank top. These folks are part of the cast of the movie, “Men Who Stare at Goats”.

The wall around Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I think it’s rather obvious that my bride and I enjoy visiting places close to the water.

I’ll have to dig up some pictures taken before we bought the digital camera and see what memories they invoke. Watch this space for future entries!