Posted by: philipfontana | September 20, 2017

David McCullough, Bk #11

David McCullough

Book No. 11

The American Spirit

by

Philip Fontana

 

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      “One of our Nation’s most distinguished & honored historians, David McCullough has taken his own place in American history…The United States honors David McCullough for his lifelong efforts to document the people, places, & events that have shaped America.” – -From The Presidential Medal of Freedom Citation, December 2006.

  

 

     Excuse Us For Living is proud to bring to you David McCullough’s eleventh book, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, Simon & Schuster, 2017 (171 pages). David McCullough has put together a collection of some of his speeches over the last three decades. David McCullough makes very clear in the “Introduction” his motivation to publish these speeches at this time of “uncertainty and contention;” “…who we are and what we stand for, of the high aspirations that inspired our founders, of our enduring values, and the importance of history as an aid to navigate in such troubled, uncertain times.”

[You can find discussion of all the other ten books by David McCullough right here on this website. Just go to the right margin and click on “Book Reviews” where you can click again “D. McCullough,” Bks #1-5, #6-9, & #10. It has been my delight to have read all eleven of his books.]

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        Above, David McCullough’s latest book of speeches, published by Simon & Schuster, 2017 (171 pages). In addition to two National Book Awards & two Pulitzer Prizes, David McCullough has also twice won the Frances Parkman Prize. Along the way to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom & fifty-four honorary doctorates, David McCullough is also the recipient of the following honors; the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, & the Gold Medal for Biography from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

 

Over the years, David McCullough spoke at historic events at the Capitol and the White House, college commencements, historical societies and other institutions. His speeches were inspiring or informative, and many were both! In broad terms, the speeches are about our nation’s history, the people that were part of our American story, education and its many aspects, the most important being books and reading, and all things cultural from literature to art, music, science, and more.

David McCullough’s overall thrust here is the importance of history as a guide to America’s values and character. He fears that too many Americans are ignorant of the history that can enrich and guide our views for the present and the future. He says that history can inform people’s understanding of contemporary events and remind us of our basic values through the people that made America what it is today. What comes through strongest are decency, truth, good-heartedness, bravery, civility, optimism, hope, and “the drive to reinvent ourselves.” David McCullough seeks through his speeches to reassure people that their present fears and concerns have been felt by others in our past history and overcome!

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          David McCullough, as he appeared addressing a joint session of Congress, in 1989, for the 200th/Bicentennial of Congress, 1779-1989. Few “private citizens” have had the distinct honor of addressing a joint session of the United States Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

 

The Speeches and Their Overall Themes/Content/Messages:

#1. 1989, A joint session of the United States Congress, the Capitol, the House Chamber, Washington, D.C., the 200th/Bicentennial of Congress, 1789-1989; biographies of the great people of the Congress.

#2. 1994, Commencement, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; addressing the problems of America’s cities through studies programs at each city’s university(ies).

#3. 1994, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony; Thomas Jefferson, all he did and stood for as a model for these new citizens.

#4. 1994, Commencement, Union College, Schenectady, New York; this the first architectural “open plan” campus and first interdenominational college in America.

#5. 1998, Commencement, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Benjamin Rush, founder of Dickinson College in 1773, doctor, educator, and more, ranks among the outstanding Americans of colonial times and of all time.

#6. 1998, Commencement, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts; the lessons of history, “history is philosophy taught with examples,” Harry Truman said, “The only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.”

#7. 1999, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; the U.S. Presidents and the Presidency.

#8. 2000, The White House, Washington, D.C., the 200th Anniversary of the first President, John Adams, to occupy the “President’s House” in 1800; the story of our second President, John Adams, arriving from the previous capital of Philadelphia, wife Abigail’s arrival two weeks later, and their brief four months there in the unfinished mansion due to Adams’ defeat for re-election by Thomas Jefferson.

#9. 2001, sometime after the September 11 attack upon the World Trade Center, at a meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Providence, Rhode Island; the intersection of our great historic buildings and the “actors” of their time giving us today a sense of presence of our Founding Fathers.

#10. 2004, Commencement, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; the story of the University’s founding by the Reverend Manasseh Cutler as an outgrowth of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and how education is the basis of our democracy and “happiness.”

#11. 2005, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan; the importance of history to plan for the future with knowledge of the past and the teaching of history and teacher training.

#12. 2007, 250th Birthday of the Marquis De Lafayette, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania; Lafayette’s contributions to winning the American Revolution, his 1824 yearlong U.S. visit and celebration tour of all 24 states, the unique American-French relationship and alliance over the centuries, and the great Americans in all fields of endeavor studying in Paris in the 1800’s and beyond.

#13. 2008, Commencement, Boston College, Boston , Massachusetts; learning and education are more than facts and information, they are attained through “ardor” or hard work by reading books, leaving the graduates with the charge to, “Read. Read, read!”

#14. 2013, November 22, 50 year commemoration of the loss of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas; J.F.K.’s own words, ideals, and inspiration.

#15. 2016, Meeting of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the Capitol, Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C.; the building itself, its people from the Congress to the common folk such as the police, barbers, tour guides, etc., the 3-5 million visitors per year, the historic events that took place there, and the architects, engineers, sculptors and artists that contributed to its creation.

 

Excuse Us For Living cannot sum it all up and say it better than the author himself. In David McCullough’s own words about our History:

 

“It is a story like no other, our greatest natural resource. It is about people, and they speak to us across the years…Yes, we have much to be seriously concerned about, much that needs to be corrected, improved, or dispensed with. But the vitality and creative energy, the fundamental decency, the tolerance and insistence on truth, and the good-heartedness of the American people are there still plainly.”

 

Thank you, David McCullough, for your book #11. And may God grant you the years to write a book #12 & more.

Comments: Please!

Sources: David McCullough’s book, The American Spirit, 2017  

 

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Posted by: philipfontana | August 2, 2017

More Vietnam, No. 4

 

 

More Vietnam, No. 4

Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam

Dogs, Movies, & Carpenters!

by

Philip Fontana

 

 

     Excuse us for living, but having already told my top favorite anecdotes from my military service in Vietnam (in “More Vietnam, No. 2 & 3,” found in the bottom right margin here), does not mean there are not more “gems” humorous and worthy to share. These are shorter vignettes and so I’ll combine a few here that are loosely connected.

As with my posts relating humorous stories that I experienced in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam in 1970, I feel I must give my apology for writing humorously about Vietnam. So Many thousands of G.I.s gave their lives or were severely wounded. (See “My Vietnam, 1970,” for the tragic numbers, also bottom right margin here.)

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     These side-by-side photos give a “panoramic view” of our 97th Military Police Battalion Headquarters in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam. The photos are marked with designated names of buildings. Of importance to the anecdotes about to be told here are: top right, “Bn Offices: S-1, S-2, S-3,” center “New S-4,” left “HHD Barracks,” and right of center, “Bn Movie and “Mess Hall.” This was the “studio lot” of my Vietnam anecdotes that were more like a M*A*S*H TV series experience for me! 

 

“They Shoot Dogs, Don’t They?”

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     It was 1969 when Sydney Pollack adapted the 1935 novel, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” into a film starring Jane Fonda. – -The story of a dance marathon during the Great Depression. So in 1970 Vietnam when the order was given by the Commanding Officer, the CO, a full bird Colonel, to put together a shotgun squad to shoot packs of wild dogs running around Cam Ranh, it was natural for us to adopt the phrase, “They shoot dogs, don’t they?” Army companies had adopted dogs as mascots and when the puppies became too many, they were abandoned and formed packs roaming the sand dunes of Cam Ranh. Any danger these packs of dogs posed was never mentioned. The CO’s Office was located in S-1 in the above photo. And we, the Headquarters Company MP clerks, worked in the various offices pictured here in S-1, S-2, S-3, and S-4, everything from personnel to supply. That’s me sitting on that platform in front of the offices. The shotgun squad, under the direction of a not too bright and not too respected S-2 Sergeant, was made up of clerks pulled temporarily, from time to time, from our office desk jobs, over a period of several weeks, to do this dirty duty. Needless-to-say, we were horrified! Somehow, I was not assigned “dog duty”…at first. In between this duty the Sergeant was subjected to surreptitious “barks” from we the “underground” as he walked about the Battalion area. – -So much so, that the order came down from the CO, “There shall be no more barking in the Headquarters area.”

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     Pictured here is my “bunk-mate,” Greg Butler from Toledo, Ohio. Greg was the Commanding Officer’s chief clerk in S-1, a position which did carry a good bit of weight and influence. “Bunk-mates” meant we shared a living area or “hooch” with bunk-beds, fan, lockers, refrigerator, frying pan, coffee pot, etc. Pictured here, Greg is standing next to a desk and liquor cabinet we built together out of shipping pallets. In these close quarters, we knew everything there was to know about one-another Through discussions we shared attitudes and viewpoints, including how we felt about shotgun squads shooting dogs. None of us liked what was going on and, as you might guess, I was very vocal about my opposition…in the barracks!

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       Look at this seemingly innocent beach photo at the South China Sea for a Battalion Headquarters Company BBQ. – -Two great guys in the foreground, Chick Plummer, left (I actually spoke to him on the telephone just yesterday!), and Mick Kirkeby, right. But if you look closely, you will see, center back, the dude in the Army fatigues and cap. That’s the XO or Executive Officer, second in command to the CO. He was a Major and charged with overseeing the dog shooting detail. He assigned our S-2 Sergeant to go out in the sand dunes and direct our shotgun squad.

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     That’s me during off-hours in “civvies” outside our S-4 Office. S-4 was in charge of the supply rooms of the Battalion’s five MP Companies and our Headquarters Company needs. Notice that it was a mere 3-4 steps from the BN S-4 door to the rounded green “Quonset hut” on the right. That’s very important…because that Quonset hut led directly to the CO’s Office, the XO’s Office, and my bunkmate Greg Butler’s desk! After a number of safaris killing dogs with shotguns and continued “barking” at our Sergeant, the XO marched up to Butler’s desk and asked, “Butler, do you know if anybody would refuse to shoot dogs if ordered to do so?” Without losing a beat, Butler replied, “Yes, Sir! Specialist Fontana!” – -Now that’s a real buddy for you! – -Butler’s idea of a practical joke!

F Me Polaroid 

     That’s me at my S-4 desk. It’s a “photo of a photo” because this Polaroid photo scans in poorly. But it is so reminiscent of my job and days in Vietnam that 1970 year. The outer door right in front of my desk swung open with a bang. In walked the XO who said to me, “Fontana, I hear that if I order you to shoot dogs, you would refuse.” “No, Sir!” I replied. “I’m not shotgun qualified. And according to USCMJ number [such and such], you must be Army qualified on the shooting range.” – -I was referring to the encyclopedia size set of books across the way in my S-4 Office, the United States Code of Military Justice, that I just happened to read up on doing a little research. “Carry on, Fontana,” said the XO. “Yes, Sir!” said I with a salute.

 

“Roll Camera, Action!”

 

G Movie    

     Look closely at this photo. You can’t miss the roof marked “Mess” for mess hall. And if you look very closely to the right you see labelled, “Movie Screen” and “Bleachers & Projection Booth.” We had a new movie EVERY NIGHT, seven days a week! It was a great morale booster and located right across the Headquarters Company area from our HHD Barracks. The problem was that you needed projectionists. And everyone lived in fear of being asked to serve as one due to the “jeers” and “boos” when something went wrong in the middle of a movie like the film breaking!

H Projection

      That’s me in my civvies again sitting on the movie bleacher seats to the right of the projection booth. You can see the blocked front opening window for the projector. Well, as if my luck had run out, my S-4 Office Captain informed me, “Fontana, you’re going to be a projectionist!” “I can’t, Sir,” I responded. “According to USCMJ number [such and such], you must be Army trained and qualified as a projectionist.” – -I was getting pretty good at playing this Army game! The Captain found a training school for projectionists right on Cam Ranh. And so after a long delay with the scheduled classes that took weeks, I was put on the Projectionist Roster…after one more ploy/excuse, to get my laminated projectionist license card! – The guys never forgot that first night I showed a movie. I arrived early and spliced together with Scotch tape all the film cuttings on the projectionist booth floor from films past that had broken off. – -I can still hear all the “boos”! It was great!

 

 

Lee and Ho Chi

 

I Lee Ho Chi

     Ah, Lee and Ho Chi! – -They were our Vietnamese carpenters working out of my S-4 Office for Headquarters Company. – -Lee on the left and Ho Chi to the right. – -Again, a “photo of a photo” due to the Polaroid picture with not enough pixels to scan in well. You can see in the photo from my scrapbook memorabilia including my “dog tags.” Lee was 34 at the time, the Vietnamese looking older than their years. Ho Chi, a grandfather, usually wearing a traditional Vietnamese hat, looked ancient! The G.I.s nicknamed him “Ho Chi” after North Vietnam Chairman Ho Chi Minh. They worked under the supervision of a great guy, SGT Jerry Word from Start, Louisiana. His southern drawl had no effect on Lee and Ho Chi’s English. They managed to speak to us in simple English phrases. But prominent in their speech, as with all Vietnamese working for the military, was military slang like “ti ti” for “small/little” and “beaucoup” for “large/a lot” (from French occupation ending in 1954). And then “number one” for “very good” and “number ten” for “no good.” Of course foul language was a prerequisite for Vietnamese dealing with G.I.s; “God damn” and “huck”! (You can translate that last one!)

     With that backdrop and that photo above showing the white movie screen and bleacher seats next to the mess hall, the stage is set for Lee and Ho Chi. The movie screen was plywood mounted on telephone poles, at least 20 ft. by 8 ft., painted white. – -Just like an old drive-in movie screen. Lee and Ho Chi were assigned to repaint the movie screen a fresh coat of white. Apparently, the division of labor, Vietnamese style, was Ho Chi on the ladder with gallon paint can and brush in hand and Lee on the ground holding the ladder. From the top of the ladder, Ho Chi dropped the gallon of paint which landed on Lee’s big toe. The two of them came directly into our S-4 Office. – -Lee hobbling and shouting, “Ho Chi number ten huckin’ no good!” – – We got the message. Lee’s toe was “chop meat” and he was immediately off to the dispensary. Lee survived with bandaged foot, hobbling around for weeks, struggling to do his carpentry work, mumbling, “Ho Chi number 10 no good!”

J Lee Village       

      A fitting ending to these anecdotes is this photo of our trip to Lee’s village and house. SGT Jerry Word, Lee’s boss, took me there. It was a half hour or more ride from Cam Ranh Bay across the bridge to the mainland and down the main road. It was a Catholic village. And as you see, children came out in droves…so sweet. Some of the children were Lee’s. That’s Lee’s house behind us with Lee in the white shirt, Jerry Word kneeling, and me at Lee’s shoulder. This was very special for us and Lee too, proud and honored.

  

 

     Excuse us for living hopes you got some enjoyment reading and “seeing” these anecdotes from my Vietnam experiences. We worked hard there too at our assigned jobs, ten hours a day. And we knew we had it good with air conditioned office jobs, but for the occasional rocket attacks. But we also saw the humor during our time there and maybe that helped us get through it all and come home.

Comments: Please!

Sources: memories, scrapbook photos, & a little Wikipedia!

 

 

 

Posted by: philipfontana | May 17, 2017

Economic Inequality

Economic Inequality

and the

Threat to Our Republic:

Economic Inequality to Political Inequality to Demagogue to Tyrant

by

Philip Fontana

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         “Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” by Howard Chandler Christy, 1940, currently displayed in the House of Representatives wing in the Capitol building, Washington, D.C. (20 x 30 ft.). One of our most famous paintings depicts the meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, September 17, 1787, at which the U.S. Constitution was signed. On the right side of the dais stands George Washington, president of the Convention. Seated, painting center, can be seen prominently Benjamin Franklin & Alexander Hamilton. The framers at the Convention envisioned a strong middle class to ground the republic.

 

 

     “Excuse Us For Living” as a website has had more articles on the economy than any other topic. That is surprising in that I pride myself in not being “pigeon holed” and write on all sorts of topics. In fact, the very first post here, five plus years ago, was spawned out of a newspaper commentary I wrote, the essence of which said; “We’re not a bunch of greedy old Baby Boomers with our hands out collecting entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and pensions. We’ve worked all our lives and it just happens to be our turn to retire.”

The last time I addressed the topic of economic inequality I was talking about Thomas Piketty’s book, Capitol in the Twenty-First Century, 2013. (To see that, go to the bottom of the right margin here and click on “National Economy” and then click on “Inequality” to go to the article.) To oversimplify and summarize, Piketty’s central thesis was as follows; inequality of wealth is not an accident, but rather a feature of capitalism, and can only be reversed through government intervention/politics/legislation. Needless-to-say, Piketty’s book shook and swept the economic and government scene into a frenzy.

Piketty’s book was the last monumental say on the subject until now; enter this spring a new book by Ganesh Sitaraman, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, March 14, 2017, Alfred A. Knopf, at only 423 pages. Sitaraman brings Piketty’s “economic inequality as a feature of capitalism” home to America by arguing that a strong and sizable middle class is a prerequisite for America’s constitutional system.

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        Ganesh Sitaraman’s new book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, published by Alfred A Knopf, March, 2017. Sitaraman’s book makes the case that a prosperous middle class is a necessity for American’s constitutional system to succeed. The author gives America a stark choice: “Will we accept rising economic inequality & risk oligarchy or will we rebuild the middle class & reclaim our republic?”

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         Ganesh Sitaraman, author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, Harvard educated, is an associate professor of law, Vanderbilt Law School, & senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He is longtime adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). He has served as her policy director as well as her senior counsel. Sitaraman has published on foreign policy as well as domestic policy in numerous periodicals including The New York Times, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, & The Christian Science Monitor. He won the Palmer Prize for Civil Liberties in 2013 for his book, The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars.

 

 

     Ganesh Sitaraman’s book provides historical context to his thesis. He makes the case that throughout history civilizations from the Greeks forward were concerned about economic inequality leading to political inequality, instability, class warfare, and constitutional revolution. As a result, the great republics – – Rome, Florence, Venice, England – – had, what Sitaraman calls, “class warfare constitutions.” These governments designed different systems to prevent the clashing of rich and poor. The idea was to prevent “economic conflict” from becoming “constitutional revolution.” These governments took it as a “given” that inequality would exist and built in “checks.” They created various bodies within the government to represent the different classes of people. Balancing power was the objective to prevent one economic group from dominating. – – Simple example; England’s Parliament with the nobility in the House of Lords and the commoners in the House of Commons.

Enter the American Constitution. The author says that our Constitution is different in that it is not based on the assumption that class conflict is inevitable. He calls it “a middle-class constitution” which assumes “relative economic equality” with the middle class remaining dominant; the prerequisite of our republic! Sitaraman points out that the framers of the Constitution purposely adopted a design with no class distinction for the Senate or the House of Representatives, rich or poor. He explains that our founding fathers lived in a society of relative economic equality in contrast to Old World Europe. America offered available land to the west and with it economic opportunity.

     The author does an admirable job marching through American history with countervailing developments that maintained the middle class. – – Jacksonian Democracy; abolishing property ownership to qualify for voting and dismantling the National Bank. – – Abraham Lincoln and the new Republican Party; ending slavery and the expansion of our class of free working people. My favorite examples start with the Populist and Progressive Eras of the late 19th-early 20th centuries to off-set the wealth of the Gilded Age. – – Think anti-trusts, progressive income tax, the Federal Reserve System, direct election of U.S. Senators, and social reforms from the Pure Food and Drug Act to child labor laws, and more. Naturally, FDR’s New Deal programs and economic legislation to counter the Great Depression are paramount examples, along with the GI Bill in post-World War II America, all building the middle class. He ends with LBJ’s Great Society programs; Medicare. Medicaid, and Head Start. For the middle class it was a society more equal economically than in generations.

Author Ganesh Sitaraman, having established the historical and political context, then goes for the jugular. – – The problem being that the foundation of our middle class constitution, “the prerequisite of relative economic equality,” is crumbling! Despite more than eight years having passed since the onslaught of the Great Recession, “disparities in economic power are at the forefront of popular debate.” Economic inequality is still on the rise with an increasing share of the wealth going to the top 1 percent and even more so for the top 0.1 percent of the people.

Concern then turns to economic inequality changing our system of governing into one of political inequality. “The system is rigged” to work for the wealthy and corporate interests, buying influence through campaign funding and “armies of lobbyists.” The result is outrage from both “the populist right” and “the progressive left.” (I hear Trump supporters and Bernie supporters!)

In conclusion, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution ends with a cataclysmic warning. Clearly, rising inequality threatens America’s middle class republic. The wealthy will stop advocating policies that promote the common good and, rather, support policies that lead to their private benefit. This will lead to the wealthy thinking “they are inherently better than the poor and that they alone are worthy of the right to govern.” – – The result? Our republic will slowly and silently be transformed into an oligarchy. And then with no political recourse from the elites, people will turn to a demagogue. (Are we already there with Trump?) That leaves only one dangerous step left; the demagogue overthrows the government and we are left with a tyrant.

Excuse us for living, but Ganesh Sitaraman provides us with the historic underpinnings to understand the predicament we face today as a nation, as do people around the world as well facing economic inequality. History tells us it is time to find the means to re-establish and grow the middle class through some government mechanism(s) to correct the imbalance and redistribute wealth. We have done so in the past. We must do so once again.

Comments: Please!

Sources:

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, by Ganesh Sitaraman, Alfred A. Knopf, Mar, 2017

“When the Rich Get Richer,” by Angus Deaton, The New York Times Book Review, Mar, 2017

“How the Disappearing Middle Class Threatens Our Democracy,” by Kristen Miller, online “Moyers & Company,” March 24, 2017

“Can the American republic survive extreme economic inequality?” by James Pope, The Washington Post, April 7, 2017

“Can the Country Survive Without a Strong Middle Class?” by Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic, March 21, 2017

Wikipedia online; factual content

 

 

 

Posted by: philipfontana | March 29, 2017

Repair & Replace, Part 4

Repair & Replace, Part 4

Getting Ready/Not Yet “For Sale”

by

Philip Fontana

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         Our 1885 Dutch Colonial as it has looked in recent years. Sad to say, we had to cut down our dear 150 year old & large sugar maple tree. It had to go. – – Just part of the latest house update that follows!

  

 

     Excuse us for living in one house for 42 years now. This being Part 4 in our house saga demonstrates that it will take a year or two to ready our 1885 Dutch Colonial in Montville, New Jersey, for sale. You can refer back to the previous “installments” I’ve written about by going to the archived articles in the right margin here, scroll down to the bottom, and click on “Our Old House.”

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        Here I am in the old “coal bin,” August, 2016. The coal bin in our basement was long replaced before our years in the house by a gas run steam heat furnace. But the old coal bin remains! – – Pretty neat with a wooden partition & slot for a “door” or hatch that slid up to let coal slide out the bottom to shovel into an old coal furnace. We still find small chunks of coal in the basement, around the yard, & buried along the Morris Canal bank behind our property. You can see the coal shoot next to me here in the photo, where coal was delivered outside & sent down the shoot pipe into the coal bin. – – Neat!

 

     The issue in the coal bin was the field stone. You can make out in the photo here that I covered it with cement. The problem was that, due to the field stone at the base of the foundation, water leaked into the coal bin two or three times a year when we experienced torrential rains for extended periods of time. So, last August 2016, I spent three weeks fixing the problem. I mixed and patched up the field stone with upwards of 400 lbs. of cement, not an easy feat in confined quarters. – – I used my old wheel barrel right in the coal bin to mix the cement! In the process, I bricked-up and cemented the far end of the coal shoot as well. And, like all water problems with foundations, I topped off the job with 400 lbs. of topsoil outside the coal bin foundation wall where the plush, deep pachysandra over the years hid the fact that the ground had sunk creating a “swimming pool” of water during heavy rains.

Next up, the dying 150 year old sugar maple tree!

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      Here is a more recent side photo of the house with the old sugar maple tree. Already, however, the tree shows that it has been cut back from over the house over the years & branches toward the street had died & were cut down.

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        Compare the tree in the above photo to same tree in this old photo of the house, more the way it looked in 1975 when we moved in. – -Before we had the beautiful porch with 5 white columns enclosed into a family room. The tree grew even more over those years before its decline. At one point, it reached the second chimney mid-roof, & you could see the leaves & branches out of the upstairs windows, front & back of the house!

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         Here is that same side shot of the house without the tree, cut down late August, 2016. It broke our hearts to have it cut down. But the tree was reduced to only three thriving branches.

 

The tree had been an issue for years and years, i.e., having dead branches cut down as the tree failed. It got to the point of having the tree service guys here every other year to cut down two branches or so. And in recent years, discussions turned to “taking down the tree.” The bone of contention to me was not the $4000 expense as much as the means by which to take the tree down. Various tree outfits wanted to bring in a huge crane: place it on my neighbor’s driveway; or remove a portion of our fence along the road and place it, one “leg” of the crane on our property, and the other leg on the street, hiring the police to direct traffic. But long ago I read that you can’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it. And I wanted the old tree taken down the old fashion way by hand!!!

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        And here is the result! – -The slabs, or “rounds,” of wood taken down section by section, the last week of August, 2016. My neighbor introduced me to someone who ran a tree service that did not use heavy equipment. Two men took down the tree by hand! One man climbed the tree & cut 18 inch slabs/rounds & pushed them off the top of the tree to the ground. The other man laid the rounds on the patio to form a “bed of wood.” Once the tree was cut to the level of the gutter of the old porch roof, the men cut the trunk & down came the remainder of the tree. The trunk was cut into rounds. They carted the rounds by hand with a large/high hand truck or cart across my driveway to my neighbor’s property! My neighbor wanted the wood. Pictured here are most, but not all, of the rounds. And the branches were cut & stacked into piles.

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         But the biggest triumph is pictured here; asbestos removal from the basement heating pipes. – – February, 2017, by me with respirator mask & eye goggles; four weeks of work, 3-4 hours a day, 45-50 hours total. The job turned out to be 45 linear feet removed & replaced with $359 of new pipe insulation. I took 84 lbs. of water sprayed asbestos pipe covering sections & loose asbestos from pipe fittings at corners & joints, double plastic bagged & sealed with duct tape, to Morris County’s hazardous waste facility for disposal. Here I am pictured holding two old asbestos sections of pipe covering & standing below the new white insulation that I installed on the heating pipes above me. 

 

 

     Excuse us for living here so long, as I said at the outset of this piece. Before we can think about a “For Sale” sign on our house, among other smaller items to address, there is one more major item to replace or try to sell the house “as is”…

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– – The old electric wiring, knob & tube, 70% of the house electrical system. 

 

Comments: Please!

Sources:  What sources? This is hell!   

 

Posted by: philipfontana | January 31, 2017

Principal’s Stories #1

 

A Principal’s Stories, No. 1

The Snow Day

by

Philip Fontana

 

     Excuse us for living, if I repeat myself here. But as educators all of us have enough stories to cause us to say that familiar phrase, “I could write a book.” (See in the right margin here, at the bottom, “Education,” for “A Teacher’s Stories, No. 1”) In this instance, I take the liberty to fast-forward from my teaching years to my years as principal to relate a story that will forever stand out in my memory as the most bizarre and, yet, endearing of them all.

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      High Mountain Road School, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 1962 to the present, on High Mountain Road, near the “circle,” on Franklin Lakes Road, at the well-known Market Basket strip mall. It’s just down the road a bit coming out of urban Paterson, New Jersey, as surprising a change in landscape as that is. Decades ago going from Paterson to Franklin Lakes was crossing into a new world, from city to countryside. It was the “Urban Farms” housing developments of the late 1950’s-early 1960’s that put Franklin Lakes on the map. The McBride family started it all with luxury homes and swim club and golf club. The first stories I recall growing up in Paramus, down the road from Franklin Lakes in Bergen County, were of professional baseball players buying lavish homes in a place called Franklin Lakes. By the time I arrived in 1988 as “HMR’s” (High Mountain Road School’s) third principal, Franklin Lakes had become quite affluent and HMR was in the “most affluent of the affluent” areas of town.

 

 

     This story from the early 1990’s starts as just a typical “snow day” for the four schools making up Franklin Lakes Public Schools, three elementary and one middle school. As principals, we got “the call” from our superintendent of schools somewhere in the range of five to six o’clock in the morning that the schools would be closed due to the snow and road conditions. This particular snow fall, as I recall, was in the four inch range, but with the potential to continue snowing through the day. It doesn’t take much in New Jersey to close down the public schools! Curious to the public, whether teachers could get to the schools with the road conditions weighed as importantly as the safety of the children riding school buses. We then as principals initiated our “telephone chain,” calling pre-selected teachers on our listing, who in turn called the next teacher on the list and so on down the line. As the years past, a PTA parent was included in order to initiate a PTA telephone chain to parents.

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     Here I am at my desk in my office at High Mountain Road School, dressed casually for a snow day. In those days, we were in suit and tie for regular school days, naturally. But on a snow day we could relax the dress code. In most school districts, principals stayed home on snow days just like the teachers and children. But somewhere along the line in Franklin Lakes Schools, the new superintendent started saying, “Take your time getting in to school. Drive safely. We’ll have a meeting at my office at 1:00.” – – That did not go over well with my fellow old timer principals! 

 

 

     This particular snow day, I arrived at HMR around 8:30 AM, in contrast to my usual 7:30. School started at 9:00 AM. Teachers “signed in” by 8:50, if my memory serves me correctly. On a normal operating day, school buses were rolling in by 8:40 with two teachers “on duty” outside in the two respective line-up areas for the children. But this was a snow day, right? – – Well sort of. – – Apparently not for everyone!

Somewhere approaching 9:00 AM, the time school started, I thought I heard something outside my office. My office was somewhat adjacent to the front door line-up area. I went out my office side door to the hallway near the double-front doors to HMR. And there at the front doors, right up to the glass, in the snow, were three lonely little boys. “Mom” had driven them to school as was her custom, not taking advantage of school bus service, and dropped them off at the curb under the bus portico and driven off!

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     The High Mountain Road School faculty was everything a principal could ask for in a teaching staff. They were more like a private school faculty, highly intelligent, capable individuals, with substantive interests in their own right. As their principal, I was there to support them and not impede them. I took pride striving to be “a teacher’s principal,” having taught half the years of my career. By that I meant that “teachers came first,” and that if I served them well, students would be best served, and parents to follow. Maximizing instructional time meant everything to my teachers. I called this faculty photo, taken at the opening teachers’ meeting of each school year, a “crazy photo.” Everyone was asked to do something silly as a pose with the idea that humor would help us through the upcoming school year. You have to checkout Al Manfredi, second from photo right, sticking our his tongue! He was our in-house philosopher, loved & respected by all. That’s me, photo left, in the blue suit.

 

 

Well. Obviously, Mrs. “So-And-So” didn’t get word that this was a snow day.  – -I know. – – You can say it. – – At the time, I could not! So here I was with three nice little boys to welcome into the school building and make them feel welcome and secure and not feel bad in any way just because Mom had “goofed.” The first thing we did together, naturally, was to “call Mom.” – – No answer on her home telephone, before the days of cell phones. We left a “polite message” that there was, “No school today, Mrs. So-And-So. It’s a snow day.” That being done and without my crackerjack teachers, it was “bonding time” for me and three of my students, who I really knew out of the 230 some children in my charmed little school, but was about to get to know very well before this saga was over. The facts were that I had a one o’clock meeting at the superintendent’s office with him and the other three principals and the director of special services, but I also had three little boys on my hands!

Now let’s pause to spell things out here succinctly, what was off the top of my head at the time. – – A snow day! No, there was no such thing as a school website in those days. But there was or were…

  1. a PTA telephone chain
  2. radio and TV announcements of school closings
  3. no school buses on the roads passing houses and at bus stops
  4. no teachers’ cars parked in the school parking lot
  5. no parent cars dropping off children
  6. no school buses pulling up to the bus portico and dropping off children
  7. no crossing guard on the road directing traffic
  8. no teachers on bus duty
  9. no principal scurrying about checking on things
  10. no children milling around and lining up

But there was one lonely car parked in the snow covered parking lot in its usual parking space; mine! And what did this mother do? She just drove in as usual and dropped off her dear little boys. And they really were “dears.” I told myself, with such nice little boys, this mom must have some redeeming qualities!

So, what did I do? I refer to the boys and me “bonding” above. Oh, I telephoned “Mom” twice more…no answer and left similar, simple messages as the first call. As is my way of looking at things, I then called upon everything at my disposal; an entire school! – – First, a ride on the principal’s famous “book cart” through the hallways! – – Faster, faster! – – Again and again! Then there was an entire gymnasium at their disposal, a boy’s dream, with all sorts of equipment! – – Next, the library, with books and more galore! – – And then, of course, the principal’s office with my stash of children’s books and amusing things. And, how about the boys’ lunch boxes! Mom remembered to pack those! The boys had “snack time” and, yes, as you may be concluding already, this “adventure” stretched out to “lunchtime” and eating their lunches.

By now it was 12:30 PM and I was supposed to be at that meeting at the “super’s” office by 1:00. But guess who rolled into the parking lot at 12:30? – – Mrs. So-And-So, Mom! The boys were having a grand time with the principal but I guess it was time to go! Mom was here! “Hi, Mrs. So-And-So,” I said. “We had a snow day today.” “I was out shopping,” said she. “Did you hear the messages I left for you?” I said. “Yes, thank you. I’m very sorry,” she said. “If you ever pull into the parking lot and no cars are here, that means there is no school,” I said. I walked to her car with the boys and as they got in the car I told her, “The boys and I really bonded together, quality time.” “Thanks,” she said.

“Excuse Us For Living” may have had his “finest hour” here. Make that about three and one-half finest hours!

Comments: Please!

Sources: my memory!

 

Posted by: philipfontana | November 30, 2016

Spiritual-Lite

 

 Spiritual-Lite

My Life Anchors

by

Philip Fontana

 

     Excuse us for living, but over the years of our lives many of us find we have need to call upon sources for spiritual sustenance. We need these fountains of strength to get through difficult or demanding moments or chapters in our lives. I look at these sources as my life anchors. These are very “portable” entities, separate from or outside customary church-going and organized religion. I refer to these anchors as “spiritual-lite.” They offer guidance, comfort, strength; solace, if you will.

The first is “Desiderata,” Latin for “desired things.” This poem, written in prose, words to live by, was very popular in the 1970’s and I found it personally instructive and inspirational. I used it in my middle school history classroom with my students. It hung on my podium as a poster and I would play a popular 1971 spoken word recording of it made by TV and radio talk show host Les Crane. I would go over the text with my students for its meaning. It is a neat recording recited well by Les Crane with a musical background sung by a choir or chorus.

Once read or heard, most people are curious where “Desiderata” came from. It does not help that there are copies floating around that say, “author anonymous, c. 1620. Baltimore, Spain. from the wall of a monastery.” Actually, it originated as a poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann. The music was added later, composed by Fred Werner. “Desiderata” was saved from obscurity in 1956 by Reverend Frederick Kates, rector of Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, Maryland. He included it as part of a “compilation” of devotional materials for his congregation. On the cover page was printed, “Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore AD 1692,” the date of the founding of the church! These words had nothing to do with “Desiderata,” but so began the various mistaken corruptions of the poem’s derivation!

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            Max Ehrmann. 1872-1945, of German descent, was an American writer, poet, & attorney from Terre Haute, Indiana. Spiritual themes were characteristic of his works. Ehrmann’s 1927 prose poem, “Desiderata,” achieved notoriety in the decades after his death, recognized today with a statue honoring him in his hometown.

 

“Desiderata” – – the recording – – peaked at #8 on the “Billboard Chart” in 1971 and won a Grammy! Here is the URL to click on (if it works for you) or “copy and paste” it to go to YouTube to listen to it. It’s really nice! – – Or just read it here as follows. You may find as I did, the poem offers wise precepts by which to live. – – First, the URL.

 

 Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater
and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble,
it’s a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

                                 –Max Ehrmann

     The second of my spiritual-lite anchors is “Footprints,” referred to as a poem, but to me it is more of a spiritual narrative. It comes in a least four versions, including an alternative title, “Footprints in the Sand,” often accompanied by an appropriate photograph.

Here again, the authorship of “Footprints” is disputed among dozens of people, a discussion of which I will spare you. However, the source and inspiration was indisputably conceptualized in a 19th century “footprints imagery” traced to the opening paragraph of a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a British preacher, in 1880. – – I’ll spare you the details here as well.

“Footprints” was introduced to me in the form of a plaque, given to me by a teacher when I was a principal. Reading “Footprints” for the first time is truly special. If you never read it, you may be pleasantly surprised as I was. My first reaction was almost one of disappointment, as if I had been denied some special truth up to that point in my life. And yet, I knew in my heart that through the most difficult times in my life, I must have received help “from above” with faith and strength. – – See what you think. See how you feel.

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Footprints

One night a man had a dream.

He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.

He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, You said that once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.”

The Lord replied,
“My son, My precious child, I love you and I would
never leave you. During your times of trial and
suffering, when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I Carried You.”

And the third “spiritual-lite” anchor, “The Serenity Prayer,” familiar to you in part, no doubt, is by far my favorite. The first stanza is well-known due to its use at “AA Meetings” (Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings). But to my delight, many decades ago, I discovered the prayer in its entirety in, of all places, a “Dear Abby” column in a newspaper! I was so taken by it, I gave small, laminated copies to my wife and three sons. I considered knowledge of it a real gift. I always carry a little card copy in my pocket like a money clip. And it stands at my bedside and on my desk shelf as well.

My greatest surprise was to discover that “The Serenity Prayer” was written by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, known to me as a political theorist and scholar and author through my political science studies. Little did I know that Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the most renowned theologians of 20th century America. He was a Congregationalist and professor at the Union Theological Seminary in Brooklyn, New York, for over 30 years, 1928-1960.

See what you think of “The Serenity Prayer” in its entirety…just in case you’ve been reciting the first stanza alone at Friday night meetings. It really is so meaningful, helpful, and beautiful at the same time. – – Talk about “spiritual anchors”! “Serenity” reduces life to the basics and grounds you.  But first a little more about Reinhold Niebuhr.

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           Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971, was of German ancestry, born and raised in Wright City, Missouri. Niebuhr was such an accomplished & controversial theologian & political theorist, he cannot be done justice in a mere caption here. He was praised & scorned by conservatives & liberals alike at different times in religious & political circles. His political philosophy & political theology were intertwined. Author of numerous prominent & distinguished books, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1964, he went from being a prominent leader of the Socialist Party of America in the 1930’s to being a strong voice confronting Soviet communism after 1945.

 

         The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Excuse us for living with a little help along the way from these spiritual sources. May you too have your own favorites that you rely upon!

Comments: Please!

Sources: My personal files & notes, Wikipedia & various online websites

 

 

 

Posted by: philipfontana | September 29, 2016

Douglas Brinkley

Douglas Brinkley

America’s Environmental Historian

by

Philip Fontana

     Excuse us for living, but some author’s works, by subject and content, immediately distinguish them from the numerous others in their field. Douglas Brinkley’s “environmental biographies” on Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are two such books that catapult him into greatness as, what I would call him, America’s environmental historian. With these books, Douglas Brinkley enters the halls of accomplished historians the likes of David McCullough, for whom I hold the highest regard.

Douglas Brinkley has authored 23 books on an array of historical topics and people, including one on Alaska and one on Katrina. He has edited 8 books, including a collection of articles on the environment. But almost as bookends to these works are his 2009 The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America and his more recent 2016 Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America. These are amazing biographies on TR and FDR, telling their stories: their contributions to America’s environmental posterity; masterly weaving in what was going on in their personal lives; and the unfolding events in our nation’s history in their respective eras.

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     Douglas Brinkley is professor of history at Rice University, Houston, Texas, since 2007 & a fellow at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. Prior, Brinkley taught at Hofstra University, the University of New Orleans, & Tulane University. His Hofstra years in the 1990’s were unique, teaching from the “Magic Bus,” a roving transcontinental classroom. At the University of New Orleans Brinkley worked closely with historian Stephen Ambrose, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies. Ambrose appointed Brinkley director of the Eisenhower Center where he served for five years.

    Douglas Brinkley lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife & three children. Brinkley is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, American Heritage, & Audubon. He also serves as Presidential Historian for CNN. His books have earned numerous awards. He received several awards for The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Douglas Brinkley is a member of the Century Association, the Society of American Historians, & the Council on Foreign Affairs. But most of all, Douglas Brinkley has earned high regard for his studies, his books, on our country’s natural history.

 

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          The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America is, no doubt, Douglas Brinkley’s more entertaining of the two books. Teddy Roosevelt’s “larger than life” personality with his energy and vitality and love for all things natural cannot be surpassed. Just consider this. We are talking about a President who said it was our patriotic duty as Americans to know the species of all the birds in our community! – – Imagine! As I started reading the book, I said to myself, “Douglas Brinkley isn’t going to attempt to write a full biography on TR while relating his conservation accomplishments.” But that’s exactly what the author does. No wonder it takes Brinkley 940 pages to accomplish that task! It’s all here: Teddy growing up in New York City and his education; his political career prior to becoming President; the summer home, Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York; the sudden death of wife Alice and his mother both in the same day; TR’s sojourns in the Dakota Badlands; TR’s Rough Rider fame; President McKinley’s assassination, 1901, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt becoming President; vowing only to run once for re-election in 1904; TR’s progressive reforms from trust busting to regulating railroads, pure food, & drugs; even the derivative story of the “Teddy Bear”; building the Panama Canal; sending the Great White Fleet around the world; winning the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace between Russia and Japan.

What the author is describing is President Theodore Roosevelt, 1901 to 1909, saving over 234 million acres of “wild America” and putting it under federal protection. Teddy sets aside more Federal land, national parks, and nature preserves than all his predecessors combined. In the telling of this achievement, the author includes the people who influence TR and with whom he works: the likes of John Burroughs, naturalist/essayist, one of the early conservationists; Frank Chapman, ornithologist/writer, originator of Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count, Curator at Museum of Natural History; George Bird Grinnell, anthropologist/historian/naturalist/writer, organizer of Boone and Crockett Club/the first Audubon Society/and New York Zoological Society; Gifford Pinchot, forester, Governor of Pennsylvania, first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service; and John Muir, naturalist/author/environmental philosopher, explorer, one of the first preservationists, founder of the Sierra Club; to name the major personalities, and there were more.

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     President Theodore Roosevelt with conservationist John Muir at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 1906.

 

     The sum total of Teddy Roosevelt’s naturalist achievements, the legacy of his years as President, are staggering. Douglas Brinkley gives order to what TR accomplished throughout the book’s narrative in his maps and appendices at the end of the book; establishing the United States Forest Service, creating five National Parks, signing the 1906 Antiquities Act, proclaiming 18 new U.S. National Monuments, establishing the first 51 Bird Preserves, establishing 4 Game Preserves, and establishing 150 National Forests. Douglas Brinkley also touches on TR’s environmental failures and TR’s struggle to balance “preservation and growth.”

 

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          Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America is Douglas Brinkley’s effort to claim FDR’s rightful place as America’s greatest environmental president, despite the fame of his fifth cousin, “Uncle Ted,” in that regard. – -Plus, FDR’s wife, Eleanor, was Teddy Roosevelt’s niece! FDR had three terms as President and elected to a fourth term, 1933-1945, leading us out of the Great Depression and to victory in World War II, which he never saw, dying 82 days into his fourth term. But Douglas Brinkley shows us that along the way, FDR left a larger mark on the American environment than any president before or after. Brinkley’s book provides the details to more than reach this bold conclusion. As early as 1936, at The North American Wildlife Conference, held in Washington, D.C., FDR’s efforts to save land, water, and wildlife were recognized. At the Conference, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes proclaimed FDR as the “most environmentally conscious president in American history.” And here again, just as in his book on TR, Brinkley sets FDR’s environmental accomplishments in the framework of his life and the events facing the nation during his presidential years. As I read this book, I was amazed to come to the realization that FDR’s environmental efforts were part and parcel of his programs to get the nation out of the Great Depression. And it is hard to believe that Brinkley is able to describe the many facets of FDR’s indefatigable efforts in a brief 744 pages. It’s all here: FDR’s life growing up at Springwood, his family’s Hyde Park estate in New York state, and his education; his political career leading up to his presidency & overcoming his illness; his New Deal programs to work our way out of the Great Depression; FDR’s neutrality in the 1940 re-election campaign; the Lend Lease Act to aid our Allies; the Atlantic Charter with Churchill in 1941 committing the U.S. to stand with them; the war effort after Pearl Harbor, 1941; even his sojourns to Warm Springs, Georgia, the Little White House; to “deprioritizing” his conservation policies with the American war effort during World War II, while still “guarding” his conservation gains, fully intending to resume them after the war.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sets out to combat the severe unemployment of the Great Depression. In doing so, FDR used his ideas about conservation, the environment, which became synonymous with his economic policies. He used his favorite agency, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), to carry out the major thrust of his environmental projects in conjunction with other New Deal agencies such as the WPA, PWA, AAA, plus the other departments from Forestry to Parks, Wildlife, and others. The CCC’s accomplishments over a period of 9 years are hard to fathom, from 1933 until the last of the CCC boys were dismissed in 1942 due to World War II: 3.4 million young men built 13,000 miles of trails; planted 2 billion trees; upgraded 125,000 miles of dirt roads; built state park systems and scenic roadways; saved landscapes that became national parks and forests, monuments, wildlife refuges, and more. Their “Shelterbelt” tree and shrub planting to save the soil of the Great Plains “was the most ambitious afforestation program in world history.” No greater example of the gravity of the situation was “Black Sunday,” April 14, 1939, making the “Dust Bowl” an infamous part of that history, destroying over 50 million acres of topsoil across the Panhandle of Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. The accounts of the slow demise of the CCC boys were sad to read as World War II approached and progressed; first the CCC assisting on military bases to the last 82 boys enlisting in the armed services. Naturally, FDR’s efforts were supported by a cadre of talented people: most prominent among them his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt; Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior; Henry Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture and FDR’s new Vice President in 1941; Aldo Leopold, head of the Department of Wildlife Management; Jay Darling, Biological Survey director; and numerous others. Besides the billions of dollars FDR was able to get Congress to appropriate in these hard times, these able managers were skilled at getting FDR to “shift” funds from other programs to theirs!

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         President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Yellowstone, Sept. 1937. He hoped to encourage people to visit the national parks by car.

 

     And just as with TR’s conservation record, FDR’s tally of environmental achievements are looked upon with awe today. Douglas Brinkley again provides at the end of this volume maps and charts of exhaustive detail, including sites established, modifying national forest boundaries, and fascinating statistics on the CCC; creating 140 National Wildlife Refuges, establishing 29 National Forests, establishing 29 National Parks and Monuments. And again, Douglas Brinkley discusses the shortcomings of FDR’s environmentalism with the negative consequences of his building of dams; the TVA’s dams in the east and the Grand Coulee Dam and others in the west. Farm subsidies also started by FDR were subsequently called into question.

Excuse us for living in the twentieth century under the leadership of these historic giants, TR & FDR as our Presidents, though before our time. Teddy was an ornithologist and life-long bird-watcher and a big game hunter. Franklin was into ornithology as a young man too, but became a forester on his Hyde Park estate and was a lifelong fisherman. TR’s conservation was an effort to correct the excesses of the Industrial or Gilded Age. FDR’s environmentalism took the next step. In his own words, “Our new policy goes a step further. It will not only preserve the existing forests, but create new ones.” – -“Territorial set-asides…environmental regulations, farmer education…replanting and ecological research.” FDR led us into our twenty-first century environmentalism. He fought for clean air and water. And at the time of his death in 1945, in the first months of his fourth term, FDR envisioned “global environmentalism” as a core mission of the new United Nations he was putting into place.

Comments: Please!

Sources: the above two books, plus Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: philipfontana | August 4, 2016

Dewey Beach, DE

 

“Doing Dewey”

Year #19

Dewey Beach, Delaware

by

Phil & Geri Fontana

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         The “Balcony” at the #207 Sunspot condo…For wife Geri & me the view is equaled by the time spent on the balcony reading, people watching, spotting dolphin, cigar smoking (me!), & in happy hours!

 

 

     Excuse us for living two weeks a year on the beach in Dewey Beach, Delaware. We’ve been doing so now for 19 years in a condo, “Sunspot,” on McKinley Street. We started for the first 13 years in an efficiency-room timeshare hotel, the Surf Club, right next door. We were slow to catch on, making the switch to the Sunspot condos. The trade-off was giving up the Surf Club pool and gaining the amenities of a condo and considerably lower rates at Sunspot.

The question we are asked most often is why the beach in Delaware and not our own New Jersey with 120 miles of fine shoreline that served us well growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s? Our standard answer is, “Exactly! We loved the New Jersey shore when we were kids! And we’ve found it again in Delaware!” – – Less people, less traffic (Well there was less traffic! That’s getting worse!), less expensive, plenty of space on the beach, more freedom re regulations from using floatation devices to surf-fishing (mornings, evenings, or even day-time with sufficient feet from swimmers). We discovered the shore points of Delaware in the late 1990’s, picking up a brochure at a rest-stop while transporting our oldest son back to the University of Delaware.

Dewey Beach quickly became our favorite spot for what is “vacation” to us; pure and simple quiet and rest, “R & R”! We like to distinguish our relaxing vacations as opposed to other trips we fully enjoy from sightseeing (especially Europe) to fishing in upstate New York. I am sure most of you have your favorite place or places you like to return to. And we see the photos and hear all about so many wonderful places. But we happened to get to know “Dewey” and Dewey Beach became our favorite place to vacation, rest, and find 2 weeks of peace each year on the beach.

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      Cape May is our destination on the way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. It’s only 167 miles down the Garden State Parkway from our home in Montville, NJ. If we head out early or book a later ferry reservation, we can steal an hour or two in scenic Cape May, as can be seen with these colorful B&Bs along the ocean front, a worthy destination in its own right!

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     The Cape May-Lewes Ferry turns our modest vacation trip into a little adventure each year. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry Authority is an independent, non-profit operation run by New Jersey & Delaware. Pictured here is one of the three ferry boats in operation, down from a fleet that numbered five. The ferry ride is about an hour & twenty minutes. It eliminates about 80 miles of driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, & south to the Delaware shore. We just drive the 167 miles to Cape May, catch the ferry to Lewes, Delaware, & meander maybe 3 miles down the main drag, Rt. 1, to Dewey. Just know the ferry reservation roundtrip for two is $108. – – Drive more miles or “pays your money”! – – “Different strokes for …”

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     Coming off the Ferry in Delaware brings you to the quaint town of Lewes. We like to call it a tiny touch of Nantucket. Founded by the Dutch in 1631, Lewes built a replica of the City Hall in Horn, the Netherlands. Lewes has a little of everything; shops & antiques, historic buildings, a modest number of restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, fishing party boats. Pictured here are two 1600’s sailing ships at the dock on Lewes Inlet.

3 SizeMap      

     This is a good map of Delaware for our purposes, but for the absence of a few labels. The white area is labelled New Jersey. On the southern end you can see the Cape May Peninsula jutting out. That’s where the Cape May-Lewes Ferry runs across Delaware Bay to Lewes on the yellow map. From Delaware to Virginia that stretch of land is known as the Delmarva Peninsula; Delaware, Maryland, & Virginia. Rt. 1 is the main road connecting the shore points going south; starting with Lewes, then Rehoboth with its very popular boardwalk, Dewey Beach, the upscale Bethany with many gated communities, Fenwick Island with high-rise condominiums, & finally Ocean City, Maryland, that looks like Atlantic City size hotels 10 times over in number without the casinos! Ocean City is the end of the line from where you take a bridge continuing through Maryland & beyond into Virginia.

4 SizeDeweySign

     Upon entering the town of Dewey Beach, you are greeted by this sign, “Dewey Beach, A Way of Life.” One assumes the motto is a holdover from days gone by as a community of hippies “doing their thing” in the 1960’s at the beach. Today the mood it conveys is one of a laid back place, unassuming, giving you space to “do your thing.” Dewey Beach is only .3 sq. miles with 341 permanent residents. But in season, Dewey has a juxtaposed reputation for attracting young party goers in their upper 20’s & 30’s as well as being a popular family resort. Its beaches are a nice size, varying over the years with sand reclamation due to storm erosion. – -Plenty hotels, cottage rentals, condominiums, a modest number of restaurants, & no shortage of bars & clubs. – – More about that later as we go along here. Off season, Dewey quiets down to the modest little place it is.

5 SizeAerialSurfSunspt

     Here’s a great partial aerial view of Dewey Beach. It gives you a good feel for the place. The foreground is the ocean, naturally, with the bay at the top of the photo. The water quality & the beaches of the Delaware shore have achieved award winning status over the years with the best in the nation. The center left condominium pictured on the beach is NOT ours! But our Sunspot is the condo immediately to its left!  And, to the left of Sunspot, you can see a mural outlined in pink! That’s the Surf Club, the place that started it all for us.

6 SizeMainDrag

      This is the main drag, Rt. 1, passing right through the heart of Dewey Beach, north-south. A mid-day photo shows you there is not much going on in Dewey unless you’re on the beach!

7 SizeLittleStr

     “The Little Store” is a very important place since this is the only store with the basic necessities in Dewey Beach; food staples, newspapers, & a little of everything. One must drive down Rt. 1 to Rehoboth where there are 4-5 supermarkets. Fortunately, our condo is just down the block from The Little Store.

8 SizeSharkey's

      “Sharkey’s”!!! – – Also down the block from us! – – Across from The Little Store! Everyone in Dewey knows & goes to Sharkey’s! It’s an “expanded food stand,” limited counter & table seating. Sharkey’s means coffee & breakfast & hamburgers & a little more. Are their restaurants in Dewey Beach with the same & more? Yes, but there’s Sharkey’s!

9 SizeReadStr

     A typical side street? There is nothing typical in Dewey! Every street is uniquely its own. This one is Read Street, on which the Surf Club is located, facing the ocean. It’s the street next to us on McKinley.

10 SizeSrfClbSunspt

         Here’s a nice shot of the two places we’ve stayed at over these 19 summer seasons. On the left in pink is the Surf Club where we stayed for 13 years. It’s unique in that it is a “time-share hotel.” You can name your date of arrival & departure. Owners “buy into” one, two or three weeks per month or full ownership. All units are one expanded room efficiencies that sleep four with a kitchen wall. Amenities include pool, sauna, & Jacuzzi. On the right in blue is the condominium, Sunspot, where we have stayed for the last 6 years. It took us too long to realize how much better a condo unit is at Sunspot compared to a room at the Surf Club. There are one & two bedroom condos (& a penthouse) that sleep four to six people, with full kitchen & living/dining room combo, & that balcony. Bookings are Saturday to Saturday like most places. But the rates at Sunspot are considerably more reasonable than the Surf Club.

11 SizeLifegrd

         Pictured is the McKinley Street lifeguard station, on duty 10:00 to 5:00. And the uncrowded beach scene is typical.

12 SizeGeriRd

        Here is how Geri spends most of her beach time for two weeks at Dewey. – – Reading!

 13 SizePhilRd

     Here is how Phil spends most of his beach time for two weeks at Dewey. – – Reading! – – Oh, maybe a “bikini check” break too!

14 SizeToast

     Happy Hours are held on days we cook something special together. Get used to my obnoxious Hawaiian shirt that is as old as it looks! I only wear it while we are at Dewey & only indoors! – – very special!

15 SizeCooking

     The nights we cook together with Happy Hours are the most special part of our stays at Dewey Beach. And here is the piece de resistance; cooking Zupa di Clams! Zupa is clams in their shells, a red sauce with sausage slices & spices. It can be served with pasta or just Italian bread!  (For the recipe, go to the right margin here, click on “Friday Night/Recipe Posts” & then click “4thPastaPost”)

16 SizeZupaNght

     Each year we take an “iconic” photo like this one on “Zupa Night.” It’s the high-point of our stay & it’s held usually on the third day or so of our trip. – – One Rule: Eat all the clams, red sauce, & Italian bread you want! Another Zupa meal is reprised over our two week stay!

17 SizeBeachMovie

      Once a week Dewey Beach has a family children’s movie night on the beach!

18 SizeBonFire

      And once a week Dewey Beach has a family oriented bon fire night on the beach!

19 SizeRehobothBdwk

     Just to the north of Dewey Beach, a mile plus, is the town of Rehoboth. No trip is complete unless you spend an evening on the boardwalk at Rehoboth with rides, games of chance, food, & shops. Rehoboth has a considerable choice of hotels & many restaurants.

20 SizeCapeHenlopenStPrk

     Cape Henlopen State Park is a great facility near Lewes & the Ferry. There you will find campsites, hiking trails, & an unusually long fishing pier (where we’ve spent many hours fishing over the years).

21 SizeDESeashoreStPrk

     South of Dewey Beach is Delaware Seashore State Park, a spot not to be overlooked. It offers a bucolic drive-on beach for surf-fishing, Indian River Inlet for more fishing, private charter boats & party boats for fishing (we’ve done them all over the years), & an RV campground.

22 SizeTheStarboard

     The Starboard, above, is one of five clubs in Dewey with live bands, dancing with wall-to-wall bodies, & plenty of drinking (& it ain’t soda!). It’s the 20 & 30-something set that frequents Dewey Beach. And on Friday & Saturday nights the main drag is filled with young people crawling their way to a favorite place. Oh, there are other bars too along the way between “clubs,” Movie star Kevin Bacon & his brother, Delaware boys, reprise their old band once a summer at one club, “Bottle & Cork.”

23 SizeNorthbeach

     Northbeach is one of those clubs also with picturesque dining on the bay beach in Dewey. Their specialty is lobster dinners & their famous rum drink, the Dewey Devil! – – A very good drink! There is no shortage of restaurants along Rt. 1 & a plethora in the heart of Rehoboth.

23 SizePhillipsCrbHs         

    There are six restaurants we frequent in the area, in Dewey Beach, north to Rehoboth, & south to Ocean City, Maryland. But the one we never fail to go to each summer is Phillips Crab House, almost an hour drive south, in Ocean City, Maryland. It’s really a landmark with great seafood for 60 years & counting since 1956! 

24 SizeInteriorPhillips

     Phillips features a formal dining room & a seafood buffet. Pictured above is the colorful, fun, & fabulous seafood buffet. Despite all the bad impressions people have of buffets, this one is GOOD! It features EVERYTHING under the sun from oysters to prime rib to pasta & much, much more, plus desserts, all at a reasonable price.   

25 SizeSouthHighEnd

     On the southern end of Dewey Beach are gated streets of “high-end” summer homes. Here are just a few of them as seen from the beach. As you continue to walk the beach south, you come to the beginning of Delaware Seashore State Park.

26 SizeNorthDeweytoRehoboth

     This photo gives you a good idea of what Dewey is like in terms of the typical number of people on the beach. The taller pink building, center left, with the white blank wall, is the Surf Club. And in the distance, facing north, is Rehoboth beach, an ambitious hike. – – We know!

 

     Excuse us for living out our favorite little summer place with you! Dewey Beach has been good to us both in rest and fun over the years. We wanted to tell you about “A Way of Life” named Dewey Beach, Delaware!

Comments: Please!

Sources: 19 years in Dewey Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: philipfontana | May 18, 2016

Repair & Replace, Part 3

Repair & Replace, Part 3

No, Sell!

by

Philip Fontana

1 HouseSiding

     Our 1885 Dutch Colonial as it looks today after two major changes over the years; 1981 enclosing the side porch, that had 5 beautiful columns, behind the large sugar maple tree, & 1992 covering the old cedar shake shingles with vinyl siding.

 

 

Excuse us for living, but sometimes there comes a time in every man’s life, every woman’s life, that you have to declare you have had enough! I am referring to our beloved home of 41 years, our 1885 Dutch Colonial in Montville, New Jersey. You can refer back to previous pieces I’ve written on this website about “Old House” and “Repair & Replace,” and “Repair & Replace, Part 2.”  Go to the archived articles here in the right margin, at the bottom! There, click on “Our Old House” to go to these previous stories.

And when wife Geri and I say we have “had enough,” we do so with great regret. We threw our heart and soul into everything, big and small, we’ve done to the old house and yard over the years. – – As if we would never leave here. I like to say, only half in jest, that “the funeral home can pick us up here.” It’s where our three sons were raised and where the family gathers for all the major holidays each year. But now after the past three plus years of “repair & replace,” since January 2013, we say, “No, sell!”

2 HoleForSale

      The repair that put us “over the top” & on track to sell our beloved house! It was the 7 ft. lead drain pipe from the upstairs bathroom sink leaking (only slightly!) through to the living room ceiling below. Our original plumber 40 years ago warned us that this would eventually happen in an old house such as this. – – Quite “a call” on his part!

 

 

“The straw that broke the camel’s back” happened three weeks before this Easter 2016, when we anticipate welcoming the family for Easter dinner. I had asked our first plumbing-heating man some 40 years ago what we could expect to go wrong with the plumbing in an old house such as ours. He replied, “Your upstairs bathroom sink drain pipe. It’s made of lead and goes over the beams under the floor boards. It will warp like a roller-coaster going up and over those beams. Eventually, it will leak.” – – And that’s exactly what happened THREE WEEKS BEFORE EASTER, leaking through the living room ceiling below.

The problem was major in that the sink drain pipe ran 7 ft. under the floor to the sewer pipe. Our “new” plumber, for the past 25 years, said he would have to tear out a 7 ft. by 10 inch hole in the living room ceiling to remove the sink lead drain pipe and replace it with PVC pipe. – – So we agreed on a truce, to wait three weeks until after Easter to do the job.    – – Just don’t use the sink, obviously!

The plan sounded reasonable, but we did not anticipate the stress of waiting to address the repair work. And then after Easter, as is the “working style” of our plumber over the years, despite our once a week telephone call every Monday morning, he did not show up for three more weeks! – – Stress! – – Try additional “Happy Hours” to get through the anticipation. We kept telling ourselves, “We are blessed. This pales in comparison to the tragedies on the nightly news of flooding, tornadoes, destruction, lives lost.” – – Right! – – More Happy Hours!

3 RepairLadder

     Nothing like good craftsmen to complete the job!  The plumber took less than two days to do a yeoman’s task! The sheet-rock spackle man took quite a while due to the nature of the work, in small doses each day to let the spackle dry, stretching into over a week’s time. Had we known it would go so well, we could have had less Happy Hours! – -But oh, the stress release!

 

 

     The “doing” of the job was far less stressful than the six weeks of anticipation. Our plumber took all of two days to complete the job, granted that he’s a hustler when it comes down to doing the work, and should have been a three day job at the least. He even expanded the project while the ceiling was open to install a new shower/tub drain pipe, toilet sewer pipe, and even a new toilet bowl and tile work behind it. Now, the sheet-rock spackle guy and repair work to the ceiling was another story. After the initial sheet-rock patch, the spackling took short visits and many coats over 6-7 days.

And so, we prepare to address the things that need to be done to the house in order to put it up for sale. – – This will take the next year and more at the least. – -Not to leave out sorting through and clearing out 40 years of “stuff”! We thought we would share a few photos of this modest old house from 1885 and its grounds that we have truly loved living in until “repair & replace” set in. It’s been an honor to be the good stewards of the old place.

4 LvgRm

A view of the living room as seen from the stairwell.

5 StepsWllUnt

The other end of the living room.

6 Dng Rm

     The somewhat hexagonal dining room has a built in corner hutch typical of old houses of this vintage.

7 Kitchen

     The kitchen has been a fun place for us over the years, center of many a Happy Hour at the counter, followed by those “Friday Night” dinners in the “breakfast nook” seen to the rear of the kitchen.  (see “Friday Night” in the archives, right, bottom!) – –     Another corner hutch on the left.

8 PorchDesk

     A view of the enclosed porch, completed in 1981, serving as family room, study & library. Check out that stein collection on the right (another photo to come!) & 20 some family scrapbooks on the bottom shelf.

9 PorchPiano

       The other end of the porch with wood burning stove, my beloved upright piano with my collection of college mugs, & over the piano a collection of “these are a few of my favorite things”; from photos of Broadway shows to George M. Cohan, James Cagney, my namesake Grandfather painted in watercolor by my Uncle, the Rutgers Glee Club, Laurel & Hardy, & more!

10 Steins

       And my German beer stein collection in the porch, totaling 111 & counting! It started with one large stein, top left corner, in 1968, purchased in Echternach, Luxembourg, for $7.00, on tour with the Rutgers Glee Club.

11 OriginalHouse

     This is how the 1885 Dutch Colonial looked when we moved in back in 1975. It was built in the traditional farm house style being close to the original dirt road, with the front of the house only 11 ft. from the roadway. Notice the green cedar shakes on the upper level & the dormers. And here you get a good idea of what that beautiful side-porch looked like. While we loved it, the porch floor was constantly dirty from the road & we knew it could easily be made into a family room.

12 HouseSide

     Here’s a great shot to give you an idea of the lot terrain & charm. – -Plenty of pachysandra & ivy, terraced, white gravel patio, driveway wrapping around the right side of the house to the back & garage under the enclosed porch. Below the driveway retaining wall is a large grass yard.

     13 HouseRear

      This photo gives you an idea of the rear view of the house; mudroom/turned breakfast nook at the top of the steps, greenhouse below, door to the basement, flowers in bloom, garage, & retaining wall covered with ivy.

14 HouseYard       

       Here you get the full picture of house, driveway, wall & yard, guarded by that big old black walnut tree!

15 GrassYard    

      Plenty of grass yard for activities especially for family cookouts, from badminton to crochet, bocce ball, & tether-ball. A half mile of wooded terrain is beyond the hedge line for hiking along Crooked Brook.

16 RckGrdnTrl

Enter a caption

        Love this trail & rock garden leading from the patio down to the grass yard. If you look closely, you might make out 2 flights, 5 steps each, of blue stone steps leading from the patio up to the front gate & fence & front door.

17 Forsythia

Enter a caption

       Hard to pick which season photo to show you, but who could resist springtime with the forsythia in bloom! Shortly beyond the forsythia hedge our property ends. Down the embankment, below the forsythia, out of sight, is the old Morris Canal, late 1820’s to 1920’s. You might be able to see a glimmer of water through the hedge. That hill in the woods is a pile of dirt from the digging of the canal. Remnants of the mule trail along the canal bank to pull the barges is left more to your imagination than anything resembling what it looked like from old photos. The canal ran 107 miles from Phillipsburg, N.J., on the Delaware River, east to Jersey City on the Hudson River. It was outmoded by the coming of the railroad.

 

 

     Excuse us for living here for so long! It would be easier to stay than all the work involved in getting the house ready to sell, discarding things, packing and moving. But as the popular verses of Ecclesiastes remind us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” …A TIME TO SELL!!!

Comments: Please!

Sources: 41 years at 203 Main Road, Montville, New Jersey

Posted by: philipfontana | March 31, 2016

70

70001

The First Baby Boomers Turn 70: 1946-2016

by

Philip Fontana

Dedicated to My Two Classes turning 70

The Class of 1964, Paramus High School, Paramus, New Jersey

A Sammy

Paramus High School mascot, “Sammy the Spartan”

 &

 The Class of 1968, Rutgers College, New Brunswick, New Jersey

B RU Scarlet Kngts

Rutgers University mascot, “The Scarlet Knight”

 

 

     Excuse us for living, but 2.1 million of us Baby Boomers are turning 70 this year! – -The largest 70th Birthday Party in American history! We the Baby Boomers admit right out of the paddock that there are, obviously, people much older! There are over 44.7 million senior citizens 65 and older than we are! We know we did not invent “old age”! But, there are 76.4 million people dubbed the so called “Baby Boomers,” born between 1946 and 1964! And, while there were 3.4 million of us first Baby Boomers born in the year 1946, only 2.1 million of us are still alive and kicking, turning 70 this year in 2016. It seems fitting during this momentous year for so many of us, leading a generation into our dotage, often credited and blamed for influencing and “changing the world,” to take stock and do a little reflecting.

As I started to write about these years, I found myself writing the history of the United States for the last half of the 20th century and into this 21st. – – Wrong approach, Phil! – -Try again! First, I had to narrow the scope of my topic and limit myself to our school years of the 1950’s and 1960’s, our “coming of age” years. Then I had to try to separate what I’ve come to learn and read about our times in contrast to what I recall growing up. What in reality was I aware of during those formative and naive school years as we came into adulthood?

        However, having researched our seventy years, enabled me to paint an overview, the broad impressions attributed to us, the impact of our generation. There is certainly agreement that we as Baby Boomers are associated with rejecting or, at least, redefining traditional values and questioning authority. To what extent has been disputed since the Baby Boomers are also credited with a widespread continuity of the values of our elders. But it is safe to say that while many of us were growing up in traditional ways, the impact of our generation as a whole changed the nation culturally, socially, politically, and economically. Attitudes were being rewritten from dress to music, art, drugs, gays, race, sex, and more, changing just about everything.

C Hippie Fashion

      Hippie fashion of the 1960’s went from the modest to the extreme. Pictured here is a “middle of the road” leaning toward the extreme hippie look. It’s difficult to find a truly representative photo between the original “flower child” look & the cast of “Hair,” the Broadway hit show of the late 1960’s.

 

      Most profound, perhaps, were the causes our generation brought to college campuses in the 1960’s; civil rights, protesting the Vietnam War, and women’s rights. The “hippie” came to epitomize the threatening and scary changes in society to the older generations. Guys were decked out with long hair, maybe a beard, head bandana, tie-dye T-shirt, and worn out jeans. Gals often had long flowing hair, went barefoot, with long dresses sporting flower patterns. These hippies, also referred to as “the flower children” at their origin, were emblematic of those times. (Yes, it started with them wearing and handing out flowers symbolizing “peace and love.”) Yet, we were not all hippies! Most of us were just the average, usual young people growing up into adulthood, going to school, dressed in regular “nerdy” clothing in contrast! While a hippie might be walking down College Ave at Rutgers, New Brunswick, going to a “Teach-In” protesting the Vietnam War with all-night speeches, you, the average college student, were at your desk in your dormitory studying for an upcoming exam. – -With Bob Dylan’s recordings blasting down the hallway from someone’s dorm room! The music revolution went its full course culminating in the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York in 1969 that lasted three days! – – Talk about culture shock! – -But that was a whole year after we graduated from college.

D Woodstock

     Woodstock Music Festival, upstate New York on a dairy farm near Bethel, August 15 to August 17, 1969; 400,000 people camped out in all sorts of attire & those without! – – Culture shock of drugs & nudity & “more.” – – Oh, & great music too, both rock & folk with 32 acts!

 

So what do I remember growing up in the late 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s? The irony of the tumult attributed to we the first Baby Boomers was that, in my opinion, we were born into relatively “charmed lives” compared to that of our parents’ generation. We stood on the shoulders of giants, the “Greatest Generation.” Thank you, Tom Brokaw. Our parents came into adulthood during the Great Depression and then went on to win World War II for the nation, the world, themselves and us too! We, the bountiful numbers of post-World War II babies were born into a growing middle class life of prosperity in the white suburbs, thanks, in part, to the GI Bill.

DDTimes Sqr

     The iconic 1945 photo taken in Times Square, New York City, on V-J Day, Victory over Japan Day, August 14, 1945, ending World War II. The photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt was published in Life magazine with the caption, “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.” The euphoria of love & marriage resulted in 3.4 million Baby Boomers born the next year, 1946, & 76.4 million in total born between 1946 & 1964!

 

“Those were good times,” we like to say, remembering growing up in the 1950’s, our elementary school years. Prior to that our first years in the late 1940’s with President Truman weren’t even a memory with the outbreak of war in a place called “Korea” in 1950. We were just finishing kindergarten in 1952 when we chanted, “We like Ike,” like the older kids, and didn’t even know who “Ike” was! “Ike” turned out to be the first President we remember, President Eisenhower. Little did I know that my youngest uncle I welcomed home from the Korean War was thanks to President Eisenhower bringing an end to hostilities with an Armistice Agreement in 1953. – – But not before 36,568 American soldiers gave their lives and another 103,284 more were wounded.

So we continued, seemingly uninterrupted, to live the “good life” that we remember so well growing up. Our youth was all about elementary school and play and Little League and picnics, barbecues, and vacations. We knew nothing about a “Cold War.” But we did hear about something called “Sputnik” in 1957 that turned out to be the first satellite put into space by the Soviet Union, launching the “Space Race.” Who knew? But all of a sudden there was lots of talk about science and math being more important. Who knew? And then there were those drills to guard against nuclear attacks. Who knew? If hiding under our desks and sitting on the floor along the hallway walls were not safe enough, we knew we were all “dead ducks”! And we certainly knew about something called “Television” coming of age in the early 50’s with the slapstick and comedy variety shows and children’s programs.

E Hide Under Desks

       This was the best deterrent the schools, at least in the New York-metropolitan area, could devise to protect us from nuclear fallout should there be a nuclear attack upon the USA by the Soviet Union in the late 1950’s; hiding under our desks! In New Jersey, where I grew up, our schools had us drill both under desks & also sitting on the floor along the walls in the hallways.

 

     But the important developments of the 50’s did not make enough of an impression on little young me to remember; whether it was the momentous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision declaring “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional, to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement with “sit-ins” in the South and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But I do recall the violence on TV and President Eisenhower sending in the federal troops to integrate the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. The beginning of the Interstate Highway System and Act of 1956? – -Not a clue at the time. Maybe I remember vaguely Fidel Castro coming to power with a coup in Cuba against Batista. And as kids, while we paid no attention to Senator Joe McCarthy’s hearings to hunt down Communists in the USA, we sure could sing along with Elvis Presley, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog”!

Then came those tumultuous 60’s that Generation X-ers and Millennials hear so much about. There was a presidential election going on in 1960 between Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Republican, and Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy from the state of Massachusetts. That did catch our attention with 60-66+ million Americans tuning in their TVs to watch the first presidential debates in history, the highest viewership even on today’s standards. There were four debates in all, one in September and three in October. (Total US population in 1960; 180 million) We witnessed the closest election in American history with Kennedy winning over Nixon by a slim 120,000 votes despite Kennedy’s “questionable” returns from Illinois and Texas.

F Kennedy-Nixon Debtaes

        The four Kennedy-Nixon debates held in September & October 1960 were the first presidential debates in history. And they were televised with a record 66+ million viewers at the highest & never dropping lower than 60 million! The U.S. population at the time was only 180 million people.  Pictured in the above debate, the first I believe in September, John Kennedy on the left, moderator Howard K. Smith center, & Richard Nixon right.

 

 

By the November election those high school years of 1960-1964 we’ve come to idolize were well on their way. They were filled with “rah-rah” sports with “letter sweaters” and school activities. These were heady times. We were caught up with the idealism of our newly elected President, John F. Kennedy, and identified with the “vigor” that came to characterize his charisma. Our high school years took on an inadvertent mystique that mirrored  JFK in a spirit of civic participation in high school activities as if we were fulfilling JFK’s admonition in his inaugural address, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – – ask what you can do for your country.” Oh, we remember something about the young President screwing up the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba against Fidel Castro early on in his administration. But his Peace Corps impressed us and captured our imagination. And it was not every day that the President of the United States said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

How much awareness/attention each of us had and gave to the momentous events of these high school years varied, I am sure, with each person’s experiences. We did not comprehend the gravity of the Berlin Wall raised in East Germany at that time in 1961. But the Presidential address on TV about Soviet missiles in Cuba, coupled with TV coverage of our U.S. Ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, showing the exact location of the missiles using photographs, indelibly marked our awareness of what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. And no, we did not know we were sitting on the edge of nuclear annihilation when Kennedy ordered the blockade of Soviet ships off Cuba.  And yet, in those years, we sure listened intently to the radio broadcast live over the school public address system of Alan Shepard’s brief 15 minute flight as the first American in space, 1961.  And then there was John Glenn’s historic flight in 1962 as the first American to orbit the earth! But we did not comprehend at the time the gravity of the situation and how challenged our young President was by the Civil Rights Movement to pass some sort of civil rights legislation.  It started with the “Freedom Rides” into the South. Then came the violence with the Birmingham, Alabama, march. But the peaceful “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” in 1963 got the attention of the President and ours as well! We knew this was serious from the TV news footage of the Mall in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters listening to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his stirring speech that has come down to us as his “I Have A Dream” speech. – – The beginning of the Women’s Rights Movement? The game changer we were too young to appreciate came in 1960 with the Food and Drug Administration approval of the birth control pill. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique? – – Didn’t register with us yet!

G MLK DC

     There were 250,000 people that participated in the peaceful “March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom” in 1963 on the Mall. It was there that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his address that would become famous as his, “I Have A Dream” speech.

Then came the most devastating blow of our lifetime up to then, coming early-on in our senior year of high school, shattering our young innocence. – – November 22, 1963. It was the day our idealism was shaken to the core when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It felt to us as if our world came crashing to a halt, a feeling from which the first Baby Boomers, to some extent, have never recovered. – – How about two days later watching JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, shot to death on live TV while exiting the jail to be transported to another jail! These were not fairy tales we were living through. We moved on through that senior year with various tributes to our late President, a clothing drive for the poor in the Appalachia area about which JFK taught us, and visiting his makeshift grave-site and placing a wreath during our senior trip to Washington, D.C., the March of 1964. – – While we sang Beatles’ songs on the bus at the top of our lungs…. “I want to hold your hand”!!!

H JFK DC

      One of my own photos of JFK’s makeshift grave-site at Arlington National Cemetery taken during our March 1964 senior trip to Washington, D.C. As student council president, I placed a wreath on President Kennedy’s grave, assisted by a soldier, on behalf of our Class of ’64. I vividly remember my knees shaking.

 

I’ll never forget that summer of ’64, after high school and before going off to college. That was the summer the Republicans nominated arch-conservative Barry Goldwater, Senator from Arizona, for president. The Republican National Convention was held at the Cow Palace, Daly City, California. The Democratic National Convention was conveniently located for us in New Jersey at Atlantic City’s Convention Hall on the famous Boardwalk. Three of us guys wrangled tickets to attend one of the evening sessions of the Convention. We even got to meet Robert F. Kennedy who in person with his golden tan looked more like a movie star celebrity than a politician. The Democrats dutifully nominated the President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, LBJ for short. But the aura of Robert Kennedy, his presence, his speech at the Convention was beyond words.

I RFK

     I took this photo of Robert F. Kennedy, photo left, as he entered a modest memorial pavilion dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. It was right on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the 1964 Democratic Convention.  We wisely ran ahead of the cumbersome TV camera, in those days, & ahead of the hysterically adoring RFK crowd, & went into the JFK pavilion. RFK entered the pavilion & they locked the doors behind him. So there we were locked in the JFK pavilion with Robert Kennedy & the few of us & able to snap this hurried photo.

 

While not everyone in those days went off to college, already the majority of us did. And it was those college years for we the first of the Baby Boomers, 1964 to 1968, that have become synonymous with upheaval. And yet again, the typical student experience of these years was as a by-stander of these monumental events as we plodded through our classes, our course of study, towards graduation in 1968.

As I review the major events of the ‘60’s, what I see is the simultaneous collision of events from the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and protests, and the Women’s Rights Movement. And again, what caught our attention varied from person to person, depending on where you lived, at home or in a college dormitory or fraternity house, and access to TV news coverage and newspapers, periodicals.

What would have major importance, devastating to some, for male Baby Boomers was watching President Johnson on TV call for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, summer of ’64, providing the opening for the buildup of troops in Vietnam. But surely, we thought, this thing called “Vietnam” would be long over before we graduated! Well, we were wrong about that. By sophomore year of college all males with draft deferments had to take a test and score high enough to maintain those deferments. Everyone passed, but this was the Johnson administration’s answer to the criticism that the non-college minorities were fighting the war while we got “a pass.” We remember the largest buildup in the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam came as a result of the 1968 Tet Offensive by North Vietnam into South Vietnam. And who could forget President Johnson announcing, as we huddled in front of TVs on campus, in March 1968 that he would not seek re-election as a result of Senator Eugene McCarthy’s primary challenge, starting in New Hampshire with 42% of the vote, followed by that of Robert F. Kennedy. We were keenly aware of the tragedy of President Johnson’s downfall as a result of his commitment to ground troops in Vietnam in contrast to the successes of his Great Society programs from Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start, and virtually, dozens of anti-poverty programs. And yes, these accomplishments were drowned out by anti-Vietnam protests on campus and the takeover of our college president’s office.

J NYC Protest

      As President Lyndon Johnson’s war efforts escalated in Vietnam with increased numbers of troops in the late 1960’s, so did the demonstrations by anti-Vietnam War protesters. This photo is New York City, 1968. Many anti-Vietnam protests were not as peaceful as this one as the war dragged on, pitting protestors against police & National Guard troops. The Vietnam War finally ended through a negotiated gradual U.S. withdrawal of troops in 1973 under the next President, Richard Nixon. The toll was tragic with 58,300 American soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice & another 153,303 left wounded.

 

Over these years we witnessed President Johnson’s fulfillment of President Kennedy’s civil rights efforts with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And we watched the violence of the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, marches culminating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the memory burned greatest into our consciousness was the race riots that resulted in the cities burning in 1967 as that National Guard troops moved in to try to restore order.

K Detroit

     Detroit, 1967, pictured above, was just one example of the cities that burned in 1967 as a result of racial unrest & race riots in over 100 U.S. cities across the nation.

 

I saved the Women’s Rights Movement for last because of the subtleties of the causes that would be decades long struggles. As a social movement there was a wide range of issues from reproductive rights to family, the workplace, inequalities, domestic violence, rape, and more. The Equal Rights Amendment was long in coming, not until 1972, and was rejected in the end. As for our Baby Boomer experience on the campuses in all male colleges, the women’s movement manifested itself with the introduction of “female guests” being signed “in and out” of dorms for set hours on weekends!

R19025.indd

      A good choice of photo to represent all the Women’s Rights Movement during the 1960’s which encompassed many issues from reproductive rights, to workplace inequality, rape, violence, & more.

 

      Finally, it was as if our tumultuous experiences growing into adulthood saved more of our worst experience (the assassination of John F. Kennedy) for last. As we were about to graduate from college in 1968, in April Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and in June Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The Chicago Democratic National Convention that summer mirrored the national unrest with violence outside the Convention and even on the Convention floor. The Convention nominated President Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, to run as the Democratic candidate. The albatross of Vietnam that he inherited from President Johnson hung around Humphrey’s neck. The Republican National Convention meeting in Miami nominated the resurrected former Vice President Richard M. Nixon to face-off with Humphrey in the upcoming election. And with that tragic scenario of events by the summer of 1968, we the first of the Baby Boomers, born in 1946, were off to our careers if we were lucky enough to find jobs, or off to graduate school, or drafted and off to Vietnam.

M Chicago

     The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was terribly marred & maligned by violence both outside the Convention on the streets as well as on the Convention floor itself inside.

 

     Excuse us for living, but we Baby Boomers turning 70 this year, naturally, ask ourselves the question, “Good or bad?” regarding our “growing up years.” All I can say with certainty is that our parents gave us a great start in life, but the ride growing up was a wild one! And now, when I turn 70 this October, what’s important to me is that in my state of New Jersey by law I no longer need to buy a fishing license!!!

Comments: Please! – – So much to add! – – So much left out!

Sources: Don’t even ask!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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