Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why my hometown is fading away

It would be interesting or know how many jobs were lost since the sixties when the following industries closed and/or migrated away. Railroad, Acco. Shade Roller, Diamond National paper company, State Hospital, Augsburg Corp., other oil companies that had tank farms along Ogdensburg’s shore line from Patterson Street to western city limits, Newel manufacturing, Agway (probably in part by the loss of the small family farms in the surrounding area,) and lumber companies. With the loss of industry and resultant population loss we start seeing the closure of small businesses: Hackett’s Hardware, furniture stores (Hess, Sperlings, Clickner’s,)dozens of restaurants, motels, and taverns, jewelry stores, clothing stores, Montgomery Wards, Sears, fish hatchery, Bakeries, Shoe stores, and all the local small businesses along Ford St., The Crescent, and Lake St.

Let’s look a few miles down the road to Massena, once the industrial jewel of the north country and the loss of Reynolds, GM, and downsizing of Alcoa.

The list of reasons for this loss of jobs is as long as the above list, but it’s fair to say that the tax environment in NYS is at the top of the list; it’s nearly impossible for a small and larger businesses to survive in this State. And the prime motivation for larger industries to flee.

With the exodus of population we see a dramatic decrease in our school’s student population and a corresponding decrease in teaching jobs. Without job prospects a large number of our children are forced to seek good paying jobs away from home. And let’s not forget the loss of Mater Dei College.

Our airport has expanded, making it easier to find better lives elsewhere.

It’s not just Ogdensburg. Take a look around the north country; Massena as I mentioned but even Canton and Potsdam have seen decreases in businesses and if it weren’t for the colleges and university there they would be a bad off as we are.

For the foreseeable future our best chance of “rebirth” is the tourist industry and , as I see It, that’s where local gov’t needs to focus it’s attention.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Summer on the river

I do enjoy residing temporarily on the shore of the St. Lawrence River in the brevity of Northern New York’s summer. ( although I’m pretty sure he didn’t coin the phrase; Dr. Jerry Jacobson used to say, “we have two seasons up here; winter and the 4th of July.”) It’s a smorgasbord for the senses. For example, imagine you’re sitting in a wicker arm chair enjoying a refreshing breeze caress you while you read an engrossing novel under two fragrant cedar trees. A piercing scream from above interrupts your reverie and you look up in time to witness an osprey explode into the river with talons outspread and moments later emerge with a bass clutched tightly as he wings off to the nest atop the telephone pole up the hill a 1/2 mile or so away to feed the young ones.

The ubiquity of the flocks of ducks and geese swimming by with their hatchlings never grows old. Devising schemes to deter the geese from coming up on your lawn to feed and deposit fertilizer for you to squeeze between your toes becomes a challenge I willingly accept.

I find the Loon with it’s plaintiff cry more preferable to the Cormorant. And the stealthy Blue Heron as he stops to stare into the depths looking for a meal is appealing in it’s gangly grace.

The ever-present sea gulls with their screeching chatter does wear on my nerves, but I do admire their skill in flying against the wind and being able to spy a crawfish 2 feet underwater from ten feet above and dive precisely to snatch the delicacy and then watch as another gull swoops in to try and steal it away.

The magnetism of the huge lakers steaming their way up and down river is a sight that demands your attention and sends you scurrying to grab your camera and binoculars. I’m especially enthralled when one of these ships glide slowly past the cottage in the dark of night and all you see is their few running lights and the chorus of the engine chugging accompanied by the clackity clack of the train passing along the opposite shore.

And one must add to all this the visits from friends, neighbors and most particularly your family who come to barbecue, drink ice cold beverages, and watch the grandchildren frolic and swim in the frigid waters or make friends with the neighbor’s grandchildren.

Even the less than ideal weather can create memories and stories to repeat year after year as you gather at the picnic table; the hail storm that comes up suddenly and unexpectedly sending your friend’s daughter jumping into the river to retrieve your kayak which had been pulled offshore by the surging waves, while everyone else grabs plates, dishes, and food trying to dodge hail dashing to the protection of the camp. The wind so strong the the camp shakes on its precarious foundation sends pangs of fear to those seeking safety inside. And then 10 minutes later when calm has returned, going outside to fill martini glasses with the marble sized hail laying an inch deep on the lawn.

Simple pleasures, year after year, bring the greatest joys. Such as watching the sunset every night.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer heat wave

Summer in New York State is a beautiful time of year.  It’s common in July to experience a least one torrid heatwave, and this past week proves my point.  When I’m at the cottage on the shore of the St. Lawrence River and the temps soar into the high 80’s or higher and the humidity climbs to above 60% it’s easy to find relief by simply jumping in the river and let the mid-60s water temp cool me down.  That practice, alone, makes sleeping much more tolerable.

However, I spend a part of each week in an apartment in south western NY. When the summer heat wave of July arrives there my west facing 3rd floor apt., (top floor) absorbs heat like bread baking in an oven. For example, this past Tues. when I arrived at my apartment building at 4pm, the outside temp was a blistering 88 degrees. With the trepidation of knowing my apartment would be a sweat box I entered into a stifling hot apt. Where the thermostat registered 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The apartment is equipped with an air conditioner, I think it was installed when the building was erected, and for 4 years this was my only avenue of surcease. To say that this appliance made living conditions in the apartment comfortable would be like me telling you that letting one ice cube melt and evaporate would cool the apt. to comfortability. The only thing this machine did abundantly was devour electricity and quintuple my electric bill.

Last year while working with one of our surgeons I mentioned my dilemma concerning this uncomfortable state of affairs. He went on to tell me about a free standing mobile unit air conditioning unit that he had purchased for his home. Being in dire need of surcease from my sauna like living arrangement I decided to purchase one of these units. They come in different sizes, big enough to cool an entire apartment/home to room size. I ordered one which would cool a room of the size of my bedroom. It took me a couple of hours to easily install this life saver. And after turning it on it took a couple of hours to cool my bedroom from 84 degrees to 68 degrees. Voila; nirvana.

So when I arrived last Tues. in my 90 degree apartment I immediately made my way into the bedroom, turned on the cooling unit and closed the door on my way out and went out onto my balcony. At 8pm when I reinterred to seek a restful sleep, the temperature in the bedroom was 73 refreshingly cool degrees.

The electric bill you ask? Well it just so happens that I received said bill yesterday and I’m delighted to say that it was only slightly above my usual.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

First date

A few days ago a long time friend and published author of some repute, Barbara Briggs Ward, posted on face book a story to commemorate icecream soda day.  Reading this sparked a memory from my distant past and I felt compelled to jot down that memory:

Ahh, Barb, thanks for the stroll down memory lane!  You missive compels me to relate a favorite memory, from the “Busy Corner,” of my own.  Dad was a frequent visitor and often let me tag along. While he commiserated with friends and relatives I would plop myself down on the floor in front of the magazine rack and devour the comic books there.
I, too, remember the aroma of cigars, and newsprint.  Dad told me once that Mr. Lynch and Mr. O’Donahue were relatives of our family; I think he referred to them as “touch hole” relatives 😂.  But I digress.

Only a few times in my life did I partake of ice cream sodas, but this one time is particularly poignant for me. It was the site of my first date with my first girlfriend.

The year was 1957.  I was 12 years old.  Judy Smith was the girl.  I doubt if anybody from the ‘Burg will remember her.  Her family moved here, to a little 4 trailer trailer park across from our home at 425 Oak St., because her dad worked for a company working to build the “Seaway.”   She only lived here for one year, but I was smitten from the first day we met.  Being a self-employed business man; two paper routes (Ogdensburg Journal an Syracuse Harold American) and I washed cars in my back yard. So I had money to burn in my pocket.

With trepidation and fear of rejection, I asked Judy if she’d like to go out on a date with me.  My heart kept with joy when, with a bright smile surrounded by her white blond hair and without hesitation, she nodded and said yes.

We went to the soda fountain that you have so eloquently described, at the “Busy Corner.”  We sat at one of those small round tables on the wrought iron chairs.  The waitress was super attentive and teased me about having a girl friend.  We ordered vanilla icecream with rootbeer sodas and grilled cheese sandwiches.

After our lunch we walked down the street to the Strand movie theater to see the matinee.  I’ve forgotten the movie, but remember that we sat in the balcony and I put my arm around her shoulders for the entire time.  My arm “fell asleep,” but I didn’t notice ‘til the movie was over.  We walked home afterward, holding hands.

Thanks for bringing this delicious memory to my consciousness Barb.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ogdensburg Journal dies. Whittling away at rural America

Often the question arises; when is the actual moment of death?  Is it when all brain activity ceases or when the heart stops beating?

Without delving into the legal definitions I like to think death occurs when the heart is silent; stops beating.  To be sure there is a short segment of time that intervention may re-start a non-beating heart, but that time is infinitesimally short; minutes.

The heart as a descriptive word doesn’t always refer to the organ which pumps blood.  It is also used to express when something is central to the life of a community or an organization.

I’ve always thought that a local newspaper is the heart of a community.  It represents the matrix, from birth to death,  through which every aspect of a community flows; from the political to the athletic, cultural, and economic happenings.  Each member of a community will find some topic of interest in their daily newspaper.  From the kids whose interest lay on the comics page and later on the sports pages to their parents interest in the editorials and letters to the editor which expose the feelings of the community at large about topics far ranging that affect our lives.  Businesses rely on newspaper advertising to get their message out; what’s for sale and what’s on sale.  World events and politics splashed across the front pages to keep us informed of life beyond our region.  Last but certainly not least was the obit page.  Maybe it was the most important page for the older, aging members of the readership, as well as an invaluable resource for those doing genealogical research.

I still have the clipping my mother saved of my birth announcement.

The death knell is tolling for our local “Ogdensburg Journal.”  The heart of our community is being laid to rest.  Of course there will be other avenues to bring us “news,” school activities, political discourse, advertising and opinion.  But nothing will take the place of our newspaper.

The death of a parent or child can never be replaced by well meaning, caring friends and relatives.  And nothing will replace The Journal!

I remember when in 2014 the Journal announced it was transitioning to a Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday publication.  I heard the death knell beginning then and wrote the following piece to mark the announcement;

It’s pleasant to look back and remember the wonderful pleasures brought to our doorstep every day in the form of our daily newspaper.  And while you are remembering note this; just as my grandchildren do not remember my parents, your grandchildren will have no fond memories of a local newspaper and how it tied a community together.

River life

Finally made it to spend the night at the camp by the River’s edge.  We are about 3 weeks late; what with the cool spring nights and rising river levels,  but still here we are enjoying one of my favorite times at camp; the hours between 4 AM and 6AM.  Especially this morning with cloudless sky to view, unobstructed, the hugely full Strawberry moon as it migrated in a westerly direction being chased by the sun rise in the east,
As a bonus, around 5 Am, I watched as a mother fox trotted along the sea wall from Bonnie’s to Nancy’s. And then at 0530 catch the skittish Blue Herron land just this side of the wall and stealthily tiptoe to the wall’s edge to peer endlessly into the water seeking breakfast.

I love calm, brisk, early mornings by the river.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Operation Harvest Moon Vietnam

”On the 10th, General Henderson ordered Utter to drive east, and Dorsey to push northeast, LtCol. Robert T.Henifin's 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines were to be heli-lifted into the area and the avenue of escape for the VC to the south was to be closed. At 1100 "Fox" Company was heli-lifted to a landing zone near the hamlet of Cam La, the helicopters came under 12.7mm machine gun fire from Hill 407 and the Marines in the landing zone were kept under continuous machine gun and mortar fire. Since the rest of the Battalion landed West because of the intense ground fire, LtCol. Utter's Battalion was ordered to move South to aid the hard hit unit. "Echo" Company finally reached the stranded unit but was hit hard on its right flank; the Marines managed to join forces but sustained casualties of 20 dead and over 80 wounded for the day. As darkness fell on the battlefield that day, General Walt relieved General Henderson, and BrigGen. Jonas M. Platt became head of Task Force DELTA”

A personal vignette from Operation Harvest Moon for Memorial Day 2019.

After recovering in Japan from wounds sustained in Operation Starlite I was reassigned to Echo Company 2/7 under LtCol. Utter.

We were ordered to proceed into the rice paddy, at least 3 football fields wide, to aid Fox company and to recover dead and wounded marines.  “Fox” company was pinned down about halfway across.  We ran in waves across the foot deep water in the paddies to seek cover in the next 3 foot high dyke.  Wait ‘til enemy fire subsided then jump up and over the dyke and race to the next dyke.  Some of our platoon were 2 dykes behind us.  One of the marines was a sgt. who was 1 week from rotating back to CONUS.  he looked reluctant, with fear, to advance, but with encouragement from myself and those on either side of me he made it and planted himself face first against the dyke beside me.  Time has dulled,if not erased, many details and names of my wartime experience so let’s call the Sgt. Jose.

We were told to hold our position because air support and artillery were on the way.  Within minutes we could hear and feel shrapnel, like a hail storm, hitting the water all around us; tunk, spit, tunk spit, tunk.  As I waited to feel the searing pain I was sure was imminent I probably thought; mother-fucker, here it comes. I’m gonna die in this godforsaken hell hole half way around the world from home, and from fucking friendly fire.  Fuck!  I couldn’t plaster myself any closer to the dyke in front of me without becoming mud itself.  After an eternity which was, in actuality, only a few minutes the tunking stopped; I felt nothing, and I was still alive.  Simultaneously the marine immediately next to me and actually touching my right shoulder began yelling; help me, help me Doc, I’m fucking hit, I’m fucking hit.  I asked, while checking him over for blood and other signs of injury, “where are you hit?  Goddammit, where are you hit?  Quickly I realized he had no injury and talked him down from his hysteria.

Then, as I turned my attention to Jose who’d been against my left shoulder, saying are you ok sarge, are you hit anywhere? I pulled him away from the dyke.  Dead eyes stared back at me.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

adjusting to standard time

I've always been a day late and a dollar short, it seems, when presented with the obvious and failing to see it.  That trait which I was somewhat aware of in my youth has become more pronounced in my aging years.  To wit; I've been awakening every morning this week at between 0200 and 0230.  disconcerting to say the least.  Last night, after work, I was so tired I skipped super and went to bed at 1830.  Again this morning, at 0210 I was awake; wide awake!  And then, for the first time, it dawned on me;  (pun intended)  my body physiologically is still functioning on daylight savings time.  So at 0200 to 0230 my body thinks it's 0300 or 0330, which is my usual habit/time of rising for the past 40 years or so, give or take.

So now that I've figured out what, I suspect, most of you knew a week ago what  are the important points to take from this revelation, if, indeed there are any?

Well the first thing I see on Facebook in reference to this phenomenon is; Hurray, hurray we get and extra hour of sleep on Sunday.  Really?  Really?  It's Sunday for Christ's sake: sleep as long as you want.  What? you can't?  Exactly!  if you're like me and too bad if you are, you sleep a certain number of hours routinely exempting those mornings after a night out on the town and your drunken stupor keeps you asleep and or semi-conscious for longer than normal.  It's really a misnomer to believe that turning the clocks back will afford you anymore sleep.

What then are the advantages of turning the clocks back one hour?  Well, you get an hour more daylight in the morning when you're in the shower getting ready for work and an hour less when you have leisure time after work.  Snarky?  Well yes, it is.

So then the advantages seem to be nil for turning back the clocks.  Are there any disadvantages?
How about the statistical increase in motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents.  Just this week I've seen numerous videos of cars passing stopped school buses.  I wonder if this has anything to do with the decrease in awareness brought on by the fatigue generated in the first few weeks of the transition back to standard time. Maybe, It's worth considering.

Because it's now dark when we are driving home from work visibility is reduced and therefore more difficult to see cyclists and walkers,

During this transition there is an increase in heart attacks.  Stress induced?  Maybe.

There is also purportedly an increase in crime. 

There is also an increase in occurrence of depression.  I'll make a guess here, a speeding into seasonal affective disorder  time of the year.

Here is an interesting piece from which much of the above was gleaned:

My vote, not that anyone is asking or cares, is to quit frigging around with the clocks.  Leave it be daylight-saving time year round.

But since no one listened to me, at least take the time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors this time of year.