|Issue 66||June 2001||Volume 6 - Number 7|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
A Web page is available at: www.candoer.org
The site has the current and two previous issues of the CANDOER News available to read, or download. Two downloadable versions are available: an Adobe Acrobat format and a WordPerfect 7 format. Both are accessible to those who have donated to the news fund or memorial funds and have received their password. If you do not have a password, or have forgotten yours, send me an e-mail request and it will be furnished.
For those of you who would prefer it, I now have the capability of putting the CANDOER News in the Acrobat PDF format. It will be posted in the download area I will leave twelve issues on the Web site in the PDF format, starting with the January 2001 issue.
So far the response to my request for members to switch to getting the CANDOER News from the Web site has been excellent. At one time, I was mailing out 185 copies. With your help, that number has now been cut to 78 copies being mailed.
Both Nancy and I would like to thank those of you who have switched to the electronic versions. This has added several hours to our free time. If you were wondering why I added Nancy to those thanks, it is because Nancy spends as much time stuffing and sealing envelopes as I do, in addition to reading and editing it, before I take it out to be printed. Since I went back to work, she also takes the CANDOER News up to the Post Office and has them weighed and then puts the postage on them.
Again, We Both Thank You!
Regretfully, I inform our many friends of the death on Wednesday, May 2, of Alice Giovetti, the beloved wife of Al Giovetti.
Alice is survived by her beloved husband Alfred; daughter Patricia Marie Cookston; son Alfred Charles Giovetti; and daughter Jeannette Anne Giovetti; six grandchildren; and, one great-grandchild.
The Giovetti family received friends on Monday evening, May 8, 2001, from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at the Jefferson Funeral Chapel, 5755 Castle Wellan Drive, Alexandria, Virginia.
The funeral took place on Tuesday, May 9, at 10:00 a.m. at the St. Louis Catholic Church, 2907 Hopkins Lane, Alexandria, Virginia.
We do not know specific details of her death, except that she became ill while she and Al were in Ocean City. She had successful surgery, but died shortly thereafter because of the shock to her system. A card of condolence was sent to Al and his family from the CANDOERs, and a $50 donation was made to the Children's Cancer fund in Alice's name.
A web application for membership was received from Loris and Marilyn Sims. Welcome aboard!
A web application for membership was received from Frank and Claire Morgan. Welcome aboard!
From May 4 through 7 I had the pleasure of traveling to North Myrtle Beach and playing golf with a great group of guys, 22 to be exact. The golf outing is organized every year by Tom Paolozzi and Carmen Bevacqua.
I won't discuss my golf scores, but I will admit I have a handicap of between 65 and 70 on a good day and I rarely have a good day playing golf. I am a lousy golfer, but I enjoy the game.
You may recognize some of the guys who attended this outing. In attendance were: Carmen Bevacqua, Bill Bies, Gary Bobbitt, Ed Brawn, Del Bullis, Bob Caffrey, Bob Catlin, Leo Duncan, Dick Hoffer, Virgil Hudson, Hal Hutson, Dave Jacks, John Kennedy, Pat McHugh, Rudy McVicker, Frank Meyer, Larry Miller, Tom Paolozzi, Brad Rosendahl, Mike Russell (Ray Russell's son), Ray Russell, and last, but not least Jack Torok.
I received the below information from Swain Britt. For those of you with e-mail capability, you have had this news for several weeks and have undoubtedly contacted Bill. For those of you who are finding out about it for the first time, please, let's give Bill (and his family) ALL the moral support and prayers we can muster.
I just got off the phone with Bill Headrick, he has pancreatic cancer and has stopped all treatments. Hospice has been called in to help. He is doing his best to keep his spirits up. He would love to hear from old friends, either via phone, e-mail, or letters/cards. Maggie (his wife) said phone conversations really perk him up.
I hate to be the bearer of sad news but thought Bill's many friends would like to know the latest on his health.
In that same e-mail message, Swain furnished the following information:
I talked to Audrey Schenck on 02 May (day after her 69th birthday) and she is doing quite well. She was going back to work at the U.S. Mission Geneva the following week.
A snail-mail application to join the CANDOERs was received from Jay Paciorka. Welcome aboard Jay and Joan! We hope to see you at future luncheons!
In attendance at the May luncheon were the following people: Bob Campopiano, Chuck and Eva Chesteen, Al Debnar, Charlie Ditmeyer, Tom Forbes, Charlie and Dottie Hoffman, Mel Maples, Marcia Melnick, Will Naeher, Tom Paolozzi, Bill and Dee Parker, Jim Parker, and Bob Scheller.
Thanks to Chuck Chesteen for furnishing the above information.
Friday, March 10
Arriving at Gioia Tauro at sunset yesterday, we opted to have supper on board and do our visiting ashore right after breakfast. That was a good plan because the ship usually stops for at least 18 hours here each time. When observing the Italian stevedores start their work last evening, we had a suspicion that our stay would be considerably longer than 18 hours. Eventually, we were right.
During the voyage, the stop at Gioia Tauro was continually being given a bad report by crew members as being "too small, there's nothing there, it's expensive, no one speaks anything but Italian, etc."
If you don't speak Italian here, things could be difficult. Fortunately, we got along nicely.
Right after breakfast we were ready to leave the ship. But we had to get a shuttle bus to take us to the main gate of the container port. This took much more time than we liked, but it seems we just couldn't get the Italian shuttle bus crew started before 0900. It turned out. Our ship was the absolute furthest point in the harbor from that gate, 2.5 miles!
Finally arriving at the main gate, our luck changed. It was our original plan to get a taxi to the town six miles farther away. However, we found a young man there, Marcello by name, with a car. He said he would be at our disposal for a flat fee. We agreed upon it and it was the best decision we made all day.
A funny thing. Where the Dagmar MAERSK docked, as the crow flies, we were just about 1.5 miles from the town center. BUT, the way the container terminal and port are laid out, the ship was a five minute ride to the main gate and from the gate to the town, it was another 20 minute ride.
Hopping into Marcello's car for the ride into town, he gave us a running commentary about it. In typical Italian driving fashion, his hands weren't on the wheel very much while speaking. That's always exciting, especially when driving the wrong way up narrow one way streets! But, this is Italy.
We told him we had several banking/telephoning/shopping/mail/sightseeing stops. He did everything we wanted, saved us a lot of time and effort accomplishing our objectives, finding things, and lugging our purchases.
The trouble with our stop here was that the "end of shore leave" time was horribly estimated and never corrected. The ship originally posted 1200 as the time everyone had to be back on board. That's supposed to be two hours before sailing time.
When we saw how the Italian stevedores were working and the slow speed of the crane operators, we said to ourselves "This will be at least a 24-hour stop to process the 1,900 plus containers we have to exchange here." It turned out to be a 26-hour stop! Yet, they had us back to the ship many hours before necessary, only to then stay eight more hours before sailing when we could have been enhancing the personal fortunes of the merchants and restaurants of Gioia Tauro!
There are no fancy restaurants in Gioia Tauro, a very old town of about 20,000. But there are a lot of "Ma and Pa" type places. Take it from those of us who have lived in Italy a number of years, they are the best places to eat! You will not get a bad meal. You have to speak Italian. But, the people are so friendly they really do try to help you out. No one has ever starved in Gioia Tauro.
After another glorious Mediterranean sunset, at 1900 we set sail for our next port, Algeciras, Spain. It is contiguous to Gibraltar.
Saturday, March 11
Taking an early morning stroll around the deck on another beautiful day, we noticed the ship wasn't proceeding at the usual full speed. At breakfast, the Chief Mate told us that just after departure from Gioia Tauro, the captain received a message from the MAERSK Lines agent in Algeciras directing the ship's arrival for 1200 Monday, March 13! Our berth wouldn't be available until then. That's 21 hours later than originally planned. Well, if we have to spend an extra day at sea, there is no better place in the sunny, 70F Mediterranean with weather like this in which to do it.
This afternoon there was another of the weekly scheduled emergency fire drills. If you want to draw the captain's ire, just miss one. Jim found out the hard way. After lunch, with book in hand, he went forward to the bow, completely forgetting the 1520 muster at the lifeboat station. Up there so far away from the alarm bells of the superstructure, you hear nothing. That's why he goes there!
Sunday, March 12
It was another warm, sunny, smooth day of sailing along slowly. Even the dolphins had no trouble keeping up with our half speed while frolicking in the bow wave. Two large sea turtles observed our gliding by with a rather blase glance at this monstrous structure.
Approaching the extreme west end of the Mediterranean, we came upon a massive oil spill from a ship that had gone through sometime earlier. What a gooey mess for miles on end! It's too bad the Spanish authorities didn't observe and arrest the offender.
Today was Chief Engineer Frank Bernhardt's last full day of his present work contract. He signs off the ship tomorrow and will be replaced upon landing in Algeciras. He'll be missed, for he is such a congenial person. He'll get two months vacation at his home in Rostock. Germany and then be back on another assignment at sea.
The shipping company has their regular officers work five months, then take two months leave, and repeat the procedure. They don't usually the same ship. That's an interesting work schedule. There are years with two, three or four months of vacation, or conversely years of ten, nine or eight months of work. But it's always five months on duty, two months off. The captain, who signed on in Long Beach, California on January 31, will remain with the vessel until about July 1 and then be replaced at the nearest port of call at that time.
As we neared Gibraltar, we observed an awful lot of ships, large and small, heading in both directions. And on a beautiful day like today, there were a lot of private yachts all over the area, probably going no place in particular.
At 2130 the ship glided to a stop in Gibraltar Bay. We dropped anchor and would remain out in the bay until our berth became available sometime Monday. In the meantime, we enjoyed the beautiful night view of the area.
During my years in Cape Town (1980-1984) NASA regularly put crews up to continue research in space. One such mission, during a TDY I had to make to Johannesburg, was to end about the time I was scheduled to return home.
I had left my wife and two young daughters in "the mother city" for the two-week TDY. A phone call to them every day helped to ease the separation. As the TDY was drawing to an end, my five-year-old excitedly told me about the space shuttle that would pass right over the city. My wife said the weather forecast was not favorable so they probably wouldn't be able to see it and the kids, heck the whole city, would be disappointed.
I was able to catch an early flight back to Cape Town so I actually got back a few hours before that last pass. I remember we had supper and then immediately went outside to the street, expecting to see nothing but clouds. We knew the pass was going to be from north to south and someone calculated that since our street was similarly oriented, the satellite should move parallel to our street. Deciduous trees lined our street providing a narrow opening to see through and the sky seemed very cloudy indeed. There was a kind of festive atmosphere in the street. Neighbors from up and down the street were outside, looking for holes through the clouds. We were excited, knowing that, even if it was going to be obscured by clouds, the satellite was going to pass over the city.
Within just a few minutes, someone up the street shouted, "there it is!" We looked toward the north end of the street. Amazingly, there was a clear "avenue" between the trees and through the clouds and moving along that path was a light so bright it couldn't be missed. There was a roar of excited approval and then people rushed back into their homes to the TV where the landing was going to take place, I guess, at Cape Canaveral in just a few minutes. The landing took place without incident and it was over_ I don't know who was more excited, my girls or me.
A few years later, in Virginia, my daughters were at home from school because of snow. The kids were outside playing when my wife heard on the radio that the shuttle launch was about to take place so she called to them to come see it. Only my oldest daughter took an interest so she came in to watch it while my wife continued slaving away in the kitchen. Suzy was absorbed in the launch preparations for Challenger. She watched as it launched but in a few minutes she called "Mom, something looks funny." Indeed, it had blown up.
Hit the ground running! That much-overused cliche (a favorite of many an efficiency report writer) was what greeted me at the end of the summer of 1985 when I arrived in Geneva to start what would be a 4-year assignment. Upon arrival, it was explained to me that President Reagan would be coming to town to meet with Premier Gorbachev in November and there was much to be done before they arrived. So it goes in the Foreign Service. Besides trying to locate suitable housing and getting the kids settled in school, the Reagan/Gorbachev summit would take care of any spare time, in those early days in Geneva.
Dave Jacks, who was the first of three different bosses during my four years in Geneva, met my family and me at the airport. On the way to our temporary quarters, Dave explained what the next few months held in store. As the new Communications Center Officer, I would be responsible for the communications requirements of the Secretary of State, who would accompany the President. Dave would handle the needs of the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). WHCA, as most of you know, is in charge of all communications related activities of the President. We stuck with this general plan until the Summit was complete. There was, of course, considerable overlap in our responsibilities, but this was a way for both of us to keep demands on our time in perspective. And there were demands. I've forgotten exactly how many C5A's full of communications gear the Air Force flew in to support the Summit Meeting but there were several. This did not include the separate flights for security equipment, office material and whatever else was needed to equip and house several hundred government employees coming for the visit. The average American probably envisaged President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev meeting around a table somewhere in Geneva assisted by a few key staff. Very few were aware that a cast of hundreds (maybe even thousands) accompanied the President. They surely were not aware of the number of U.S. Government vehicles, including presidential limousines as well as communications vans that roamed through Geneva and the Swiss countryside each day. There was one event in particular that made me aware of what a massive personnel undertaking this event had become. One day, during the middle of the visit, I saw a sign-up sheet for Washington visitors who wanted to travel to the mountains to see the Matterhorn the next day. There were more than one hundred names already signed up. This was during the middle of the visit! There were other trips to other places planned for other days during the Summit. I didn't really want to know how this many people were able to take time off during a busy visit to go sightseeing, but I remember marveling at the sheer numbers of people that were deemed necessary to accompany the Presidential party for this historic meeting.
Two other incidents helped me to realize the grandeur of this event. The first was the size of the bill that the Embassy received from the Swiss PTT after everyone had gone home. My memory tells me that it was close to or even more than a million dollars! I don't want to be held to that figure, however, because I've learned that time has a way of changing my memory. I can attest that it was an unheard of amount for a telephone bill. These were just for telephone related charges (for running lines to all the event sites, for the equipment and manpower they provided, etc). What was the total cost of this event if that bill was just for the telephone charges? I can't even imagine. Was it worth it? That's a matter for the historians to decide. It surely was an integral part of any eventual success of the arms control process between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
I was also impressed by the President's bed. It had been flown in especially for the event and remained behind in our pouch vault at the conclusion of the Summit. It remained there for several months until we were instructed to send it to another Embassy location for use at a future presidential visit. Imagine being so important that people would fly your bed around for you to use when you traveled. That's power! Sitting here thinking about it, I'm struck with the realization that this was probably a security requirement. Rather than worry about the bad guys putting listening devices in the President's bed, it would be better to provide a fully cleared and inspected bed when the President traveled to foreign lands. I never thought of that before! - Of course, that brings up the issue of what would be happening in the President's bed that anyone would want to listen to, but I think I'll leave that alone. Those of us in Geneva, who were reminded of the President's bed each time we went in the pouch vault, usually made disparaging remarks about the President's need for his own bed, wherever he went.. President Reagan probably wasn't even aware of all the special treatment that he received in the name of security. I wish I could apologize for the jokes at his expense when we stored his bed those many years ago. Well, maybe not.
Concurrent with the Reagan/Gorbachev Summit, the Embassy Communications Center was receiving a complete make over. Geneva had been chosen as a site for a special communications project and was receiving the necessary upgrade in equipment and facilities. This is not the only time in my career that I have had to continue to do the normal work while dust and construction noise billowed all around. Never was it pleasant. For security reasons, communications, unlike other Embassy offices, usually must remain in place during construction projects. The Seabee team hammered and pounded while we kept the messages flowing. The assigned communicators did truly heroic duty working under these conditions. When it was complete, it was truly a showpiece. Sure there was the time (luckily while the Seabee's were still there) right after the construction was complete that the new air conditioning pipes burst and water streamed down the back stairs in the middle of the night. But, after the water was mopped up and the pipe reconnected, things slowly got back to normal, almost.
CPU Geneva now became a regular stop on the tour for officials involved with this project. There were other project posts they could have visited but none were as nice as Switzerland. So, they all came, some more than once, and, to lend credibility to their trip, they all had to take a tour of the facilities. As the CCO, this responsibility fell to me and, for the first time in my life, I became a tour director. Over the next four years I was to give the tour of the new facilities many times. Too many! If pressed, I could probably still recite my spiel word for word, but I won't.
Away from the office, Geneva was a great place to live. The housing was fantastic and Geneva had just about anything you could want, except cheap prices. In the summer, the lake was right there and provided endless swimming, sailing, etc. possibilities. In the winter, the Jura Mountains were practically in your back yard. The skiing was close and good. I can think of few places in the world where the living is better, if you have money. Of course, if you are an Embassy employee and are paid in U.S. dollars, then it's difficult to participate fully in the entire Geneva experience. We were given a large cost-of-living allowance but it didn't begin to cover everything. Through it all, though, it was worth it. Geneva became one of the few places that I thought I could retire too outside the U.S. and feel comfortable, if money were not an issue. I guess Australia would also fit in this category.
For me, the passion in winter was cross-country skiing. I went as often as I could. Sometimes my wife Pat went with me. Sometimes fellow-communicators Len Kraske and/or Ken Spaulding would go. But, when no one else was available, I went alone. Maybe it was my Finnish heritage but, whatever the reason I really enjoyed the solitude and beauty of cross-country skiing. Pat particularly liked the flat courses where she could set her own pace and enjoy the beauty of nature. Our normal course fit this criteria. One time, however, I talked her into trying a new trail that cris-crossed the Jura Mountains in France, not far from our home. The skiing that day was fabulous, at least in the beginning. The trails were fairly flat (at least I thought they were) and I kept the pace to Pat's liking. Finally, regrettably, it was time to the car. By that time, we had skied several miles and the car was still some distance away. I noticed, after a while that Pat's kick and glide were becoming shorter and shorter. More and more she asked me how far it was and, to encourage her, I kept saying the car was just over the next rise. This went on for a while and there was always another rise just beyond. Pat's pace was now slowing even more perceptibly. We were skiing at a crawl. About this time, she became convinced that we were lost. No amount of assurance on my part could convince her that we were not far from the car. My sense of direction is very good but even I was starting to question where we were, given the negatives being projected by my wife. Finally, we came to a hill in the near distance that was familiar and I was fairly certain we were close. Pat, by this time, had become disillusioned with my constant assurances that the car was just over the next hill. No amount of coaxing would get her moving again. She was exhausted and convinced we were destined to die in the woods. Finally, unable to do anything to change her mind, I skied ahead to check out the lay of the land. To my relief, there was the parking lot and our car just over the hill. Pat, however, would hear nothing of my assurances. She'd heard it all before. Convinced that I was lying, she refused to budge. I remember trying every trick I could think of before she, reluctantly, skied the final few yards to the top of that ridge. Once at the top, gazing down at our car, I've never seen a transformation like the one that came over her as she charged down that hill. I'm convinced that if a man-eating grizzly bear had come out of the woods into her path she would have run it over without pausing. Pat was "heading for the bam" and nothing and no one was going to get in her way. She's never before or after skied so fast and so well as she did coming down off that hill. Normally cautious on downhill sections, Pat came down that slope like it was completely flat and had her skis off and loaded in the car before I could move. I'm still amazed to this day how she could go from near death to a world champion skier in the blink of an eye.
Isn't it funny how we all remember things a little differently? Pat, after reading the above, has a completely different recollection of this outing. For me, the highlights of the day were the long period we spent skiing in a lovely and quiet setting and her final burst of energy when she knew we had finally arrived back at the car. For her, there was the fact that I wouldn't wait to check the trail map at the beginning of the outing and we were hopelessly and utterly lost for a great deal of the time. She remembers that it began snowing and the sky was getting darker. She remembers that after the snow began falling, we didn't see any other people on the trail - anyone with any sense knew where they were and had gone home. She remembers the high hills that she was forced to ski up, not any flat areas. But most of all, she remembers being convinced we were alone and lost in the wilderness and would ultimately die, buried in the snow. Finally, that final hill that I tried to coax her over was a mile high. The day I thought was wonderful, she remembers as one of the worst of her life. How could our memories of the same trip be so different? Was her version incorrect? No, of course not - this is exactly as she remembers it. Likewise, my rendition is precisely what I remember.
To make the dollars go farther, most Embassy employees traveled periodically to Germany to shop at the PX and Commissary. The nearest U.S. base was a half-day drive away, so this was not something one did on a whim. It took some planning and usually meant you would overnight in Germany, at the base of your choice. Most people made it a family outing. Combining the weekend of shopping with whatever else they liked to do in Germany or at the base. Finally, when it was time to return home, the real fun began. Switzerland was not a part of the European Common Market and the border crossings were fully manned. All cars were checked for goods (and "bads" I suppose) and people bringing in more than the approved amount were required to pay duty on those items. Embassy personnel, not on the Diplomatic List were, theoretically, responsible for paying this duty. Those on the Diplomatic List were entitled to bring in a reasonable amount of items, provided they submitted their shopping list to the Foreign Ministry for permission prior to their travel. As you might imagine, this was impossible. Who knew what commissary or PX items would be available let alone what would strike your fancy while shopping. So, like everyone else, those of us on the Diplomatic List took our chances at the border. I still remember my heart starting to beat faster as the border approached and trying to put a friendly smile and an innocent look on my face. Meanwhile, the back of the van "runneth-over" with the bounty of two hard days shopping. Somehow, we always made it through - except once. That was the time I chose to take the country road crossing rather than remain on the autobahn. What a mistake. Friends had told me this was the easier crossing and, even though I had never had a problem crossing on the autobahn, I decided to give it a try. The sight of our overloaded van obviously caused alarm bells to sound loudly with the under-worked customs officials on duty that day because, immediately after we told them we had nothing to declare, the inspection and interrogation began. Somehow my explanations about working at the Embassy and being on the Diplomatic List was not getting the desired results and the customs guys were having a great time looking through each one of our newly purchased treasures. I don't know what finally convinced them to let us go without making us pay duty. Maybe it was the large mound of goods they would need to record and decide upon. Maybe the fact that we were "Diplomats" helped. Whatever the reason, we were eventually allowed to resume our trip home with a stern warning never to cross their roadway again - or something like that. This incident didn't stop us from shopping in Germany but it did stop us from using the "easy" border crossing during future trips.
A final note about living in Geneva. Sunday was a quiet day! That meant you weren't supposed to do heavy labor on Sunday. In particular, local ordinances prohibited the running of lawn mowers and other noisy items. Because the stores were also closed on Sunday, Saturday became a busy time. The lawn needed to be mowed. The groceries needed to be purchased. The car had to be washed. The hedge needed trimming. The list went on and on. Saturdays were tough. Sundays were great. When we first moved to Switzerland, this was a real annoyance. Later I learned to like it. No matter how big the list of chores became, I always had a built-in excuse on Sunday. Sorry, the law prevents me from pulling those weeds. Sure, we had a ten-foot fence around our property but you never knew when a nosy neighbor might be lurking, waiting to turn in a transgressor for committing the ultimate sin, working on Sunday. This excuse didn't always prevent me from having to do indoor chores but not because I didn't try to milk the ordinance for all it was worth. I'm convinced the law was created by Swiss men, and I'm equally convinced I know why. Wow, what a country.
I was born in Waterford, Pennsylvania and spent the best years of my life growing up there in the 1940s and 1950s.
When a person is young, he is so busy being a kid that he takes things for granted. I never dreamed how my town would change. Heck, I never even thought about it. But change it did, and sometimes it's hard to remember how things were back in the good old days.
I do, however, recall a few things of interest.
Until World War II ended, none of Waterford's streets were paved, except for East and West 3rd Streets, which are State roads. In the summer, things got very dusty between rains. But before the season was too far along, the streets would be scraped with one of those big Galion road graders. You know the kind - rear engine, tilting front wheels, a center-mounted blade, sort of skeletal-looking.
It was a good time for me. I loved big machinery. Still do. One of my fantasies was to drive a road grader. Still is.
Sometimes after the grading was done, oil was sprayed on the streets. At other times, dry calcium chloride was sprinkled on them. The chloride absorbed water from the air and soon became wet. In either case, the dust was kept in check for a while.
The most lasting dust control came from a big tank truck with tar gushing from a row of "faucets" at the rear which would slowly spread a coat of glistening blackness on the road. Lots of folks hurried to close their windows because the tar was rather odoriferous. It didn't bother me. I kind of liked the smell of it. The tar hardened up after awhile, and it was almost like a paved street. (CAUTION: If the urge ever seizes you to walk barefoot in fresh tar, don't!)
There was a man who used to walk very rapidly along the sidewalks bordering these streets. He bought rags from anyone who had rags to sell. As he was striding along, he would holler, "Rags, rags, rags!" Actually, it sounded more like, "Regs, regs, regs." His voice had a peculiar duck-like quality and was really loud. I could hear him a block away, and it used to scare the daylights out of me when I was five or six years old.
I don't know who he was, or where he came from, or where he went, or what he did with the "regs."
Waterford's old Town Hall stood on High Street just a little south of East 2nd Street, The bank is there now. The Town Hall was a white, frame building with a belfry complete with a bell. I only heard the bell twice: once in the middle of the night when the Allies invaded France, and another time when the fire siren was being repaired. It probably sounded on V-J Day, too, but so did every other bell, siren, whistle, and horn, so it was hard to tell. The bell was kind of clanky-sounding, not like the pleasant tones of the church bells.
Council meetings were held on the second floor of the Town Hall, and the fire truck was kept on the ground floor. The 1930s vintage fire truck had an open cab and a hand-cranked siren. It looked like a fire truck ought to look.
Floyd Irwin usually drove the fire truck. Floyd had a grocery store and had been friends with my folks forever. Because he drove the fire truck, he was a celebrity in my eyes. I always wanted to ride in it with him, but not to a fire, that was too scary! I just wanted to ride in a parade or something, but it never happened. I had to wait 40 years for a ride in a fire truck. It was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it! But, gee, I wish I could have gone with Floyd.
I don't remember exactly when the Town Hall was torn down, but afterwards, the fire truck was kept in a garage on West South Park Row. After the war, the Stancliff Hose Company purchased two new trucks: a Ford pumper and a Chevy tanker. I remember watching the firemen practice with the new equipment on the baseball diamond.
Around that same time, a new firehouse was built on the southeast corner of the Diamond. Today, that building is the borough building/library.
Of course, these were the days before 9-1-1. If you had a fire, you called Eddie Briggs, and he sounded the siren. Eddie was crippled in an auto accident before my time. I knew him only as the guy on crutches who blew the siren. The strange thing is that when the siren went off, everybody in town called Eddie to find out where the fire was. I assumed that's the way the fireman found out since emergency radios weren't around yet.
Along the south edge of the Diamond, a large concrete grandstand was built in the late 40s to accommodate spectators of the athletic events, which were mostly high school football and baseball. However, Waterford did have an adult baseball team, as did many other small towns back in those days. Dad and I went to those games quite often. Little League was yet to come.
But the most important function of the grandstand (in my view, anyway) came each September when the Waterford Fair set up on the Diamond. It was from the grandstand that we viewed the "free acts" each night of the fair, hosted by the perennial emcee, Sheriff Paul Babbitt. At least two or three times each year, Sheriff Babbitt would introduce an act by saying he or she came from a place, "where the wind blows hard and the ducks fly backwards." We must have heard that line a million times over the years, and yet it was funny each time.
During most of the 40s, we lived on East 2nd Street, so the Diamond was just a short walk down the alley that ran behind our house. We just about took up residence at the fair for those four days in September. So did everyone else in town.
Across High Street from the Diamond is The Park. I don't remember any organized activities being held in The Park except for the Memorial Day services (we called it "Decoration Day" back then). Among other things, Mr. Thomas Shallenberger always recited Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Mr. Shallenberger was a retired high school teacher. I didn't know him well, but I was in awe of him nonetheless. When he gave the Gettysburg Address, I thought he was Abraham Lincoln!
Both my mother and father were in Mr. Shallenberger's classes when they were in school. I was told many times that he could write on the blackboard with either hand! I used to try, but to no avail. One hand is trouble enough for me.
The speeches in The Park were given from the Pavilion. The younger generation doesn't use the word "pavilion" nowadays. They call it a "gazebo." Gazebo is a perfectly legitimate word, but to me, it sounded like some kind of antelope. I do not like the word "gazebo." The structure in The Park will always be the Pavilion as far as I'm concerned!
The old Pavilion was torn down several years ago, and a new one was built in its place. It looks about the same as the old one except that it's only half as tall. But it's nice, and I'm glad the old one wasn't torn down and just forgotten.
During World War II, the American Legion erected a "Roll of Honor' at the edge of The Park facing High Street. It was a billboard-sized sign that listed all the Waterford area men who were in the service. I think most small communities had one. It's gone now, but I do have a photograph of it.
Speaking of photographs, here's some advice for younger readers: No matter where you live, the place is going to change. And chances are that someday, in your old age, you're going to try to remember how things were and you may not be able to. So, get a camera and take a few thousand pictures of your town. You'll be glad you did! I wish I'd have done that, but I couldn't. I didn't have time. I was too busy trying to get the tar off my feet.
From the Editor: For you newer CANDOERs, you will not recognize Herb's name. He was not a member of DC/OC/LM/IM/IRM or any other bureau or office in the Department of State. Herb was a classmate of mine. He is a retired school teacher and has a fantastic memory for things that happened when we were kids. I include an article now and then from him, because he has a great sense of humor, and to give you all an idea of what life was like growing up in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania. I hope you enjoy Herb's writing as much as I do. For me, his writing invokes a lot of memories. If you also grew up in small town USA, maybe some of these events he writes about may sound just like your small town and invoke those same pleasant memories.