Celebrating a half century of true love

As appearing in the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union Sun and Journal

8/11/2019

Last Friday, my wife Donna and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

A half-century ago, we were a pair of young, clueless kids. We went out into the world with everything we owned in the back of a Volkswagon “beetle” and drove 500 miles from home to establish a life of our own in Newport, Rhode Island. If it weren’t for wedding presents, we wouldn’t have had enough money for gas to get to Newport, which was my ship’s home port while I was in the Navy.

We first moved into a fleabag motel. Living there depleted our funds quickly so we scoured want ads in the local papers, looking for a cheap apartment. We didn’t have much money but we had our love to keep us going.

Then a shipboard buddy told us about some inexpensive apartments in Fall River, Massachusetts, just across the state line. We moved into this welfare development where your rent was based on your income. I was earning $64 a month back then. Our rent was $32 a month. Fortunately our rent included the heat and electricity. After I paid the rent, I had $8 a week left over for our phone bill, food, gasoline and auto insurance. Heaven forbid my car would break down. All the money we had left from our wedding went into cheap, pressed wood furniture. We still have some of that furniture today.

We were living without the benefit of family nearby so we had no safety net and we had to do whatever it took on our own to survive. We learned more about self-dependence than we had ever known. It made us reliant on each other.

I was proud of Donna the first time I went to sea. She didn’t go home to her parents. The apartment we shared was now home to her, and with the help of a few friends who were close to us, she was able to stay in our place. I am thankful to our next door neighbors, Millie and her family, for helping Donna out. Tony, Millie’s youngest, would spend more time at our house than his own keeping Donna company.

One of my friends, Cole, a bosun’s mate and mountain of a man, would check in on her to see if she was OK during my absences and if she needed anything.

The neighbors would share their food with us and showed us how to apply for a monthly allotment of surplus food that the state gave to low income people. Every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the complex. We would meet up with whatever free food we didn’t want and swap it for food we did.

It was during this time we had two of our children. How crazy were we to do this? I don’t know. We figured, “How expensive would it be to have children?” Of course, this was in the days of cloth diapers, rubber pants and diaper pails.

As I look back on those times, I have to wonder just how we made it. Foolish as we were, we managed to survive. We were from the generation that believed when you made a promise, you kept it.

I think often about how much in love we were. How our marriage was made stronger by having to make it on our own in the early years. How we couldn’t run home to our parents when we had differences of opinion. How I learned the four phrases that helped keep us together: “Yes dear,” “You are right,” “I understand,” and most importantly, “I love you.”

Now, 50 years later, I think about all the problems we overcame together, standing back to back with our guns drawn, ready to take on whatever came at us.

I now send my wife a cheesy text every morning, professing my love for her to make her smile and to let her know that I am thinking about her. I also try to keep fresh flowers in the house just because. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her with all my soul.

The first time I saw her, my heart whispered “That’s the one.” Imagining my life without her is impossible and I am so lucky to be able to spend my life with her.

Norb Rug is a writer from Lockport. His email is nrug@juno.com where he welcomes comments

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Bear Ridge Solar

Cypress Creek Renewables is proposing to construct a project called “Bear Ridge Solar” to install solar panels in Cambria and Pendleton. I have no problem with people using their property for legal reasons.

Solar energy gives us clean power from the sun and it’s use is growing in both the United States and globally. The cost to put in solar energy has decreased by over 70 percent since 2010. In the past decade, solar power has had an average annual growth rate of over 60 percent. Many businesses and households that switch to solar energy save money.

While without a doubt solar energy might be a very important solution for a lot of the world’s energy problems, it’s not a cure all without problems. Studies have shown that solar energy has a significant environmental disadvantage.

The effect that solar farms may possibly have on plants and animals be capable of sending ripples through the entire ecosystem. The environment could become less livable for plants and wildlife that thrive in local conditions.

Utility size solar panels can take up a lot of space. I understand the Bear Ridge Solar project will take up 900 acres and I think it might result in environmental degradation. Solar farms could also obstruct local vegetation growth. Think about all those farms that let their land go fallow so the naturally occurring plant life can be harvested for hay.

However, a deeper perception of the environmental effect of solar installation could educate farmers on microclimate changes and how they could make better use of the land under panels. Farmers may need to think about selecting crops that can survive in the lower ground temperatures and shade created by the solar panels.

Solar farms that blanket a large volume of land are apt to impact the local fauna and flora, particularly birds. The loss of habit for birds include nesting sites, nest building materials, food sources like bugs and places to hide due to habitat loss. Solar panels aren’t able to share the land they occupy for other uses like wind energy does.

Solar panels for domestic use usually don’t require very much land. In fact many of these installations are on roof tops and don’t use any land whatsoever. However, at the industrial level, the large amount of space required for the installation of panels needed to produce energy is a challenge.

 Also, a great many people feel that utility scale solar panels will create a visual disruption for the local communities. I believe the song goes “Oh beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain” not “the glint of solar panels.”

However, it is not just plant them and hook them up. There are emissions associated with different stages of the solar cell lifecycle. It is very important to know the solar panel production process. It begins with the mining and subsequent processing of the raw materials. Quartz, copper, silver and aluminum ores are mined from the earth utilizing trucks, tools and heavy equipment. These ores are then transported by trucks or rail to processing facilities.

All of this requires fossil fuels or electricity. Quartz for instance undergoes processing with hazardous chemicals in high-temperature furnaces to produce electronic grade silicon. Creating solar photovoltaic panels is a very water intensive process. Even though the solar cells themselves don’t use water to generate electricity, the manufacturing process requires a quite a bit of water.

Off-grid Photo Voltaic systems frequently have throwaway batteries that can store energy when the sun shines so people can use it at night. These batteries will damage the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly because they might leak toxins such as lead and sulfuric acid.

Furthermore, quite a few solar cells contain small quantities of the toxic metal cadmium. The batteries that are required to store the electricity generated by photo cells can contain a myriad of other dangerous substances like heavy metals and other dangerous substances. If the manufacturers don’t strictly adhere to the laws and regulations regarding these chemicals, they can create significant health risks, especially to the workers.

As solar technology improves, manufacturers may be able to move away from these potentially dangerous substances, but for now, they mar the otherwise impressive ecological benefits solar power offers.

Solar energy has some other problems. First, no matter how clear the skies, a solar panel won’t produce electricity at night, so a solar energy system needs to have some method of storing energy. And if there is bad weather for an extended time, a solar energy system will provide little output, which means you need to have backup energy generation alternatives available. 

Moreover, when solar panels aren’t disposed of as they should be, these chemicals can be an environmental threat. Often, panels end up in e-waste dumps in developing countries such as India, China and Ghana where these toxic chemicals might create devastating health effects for residents of nearby communities. Solar panels are said to create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants do and we all know how nuclear power works out. Just think about Chernobyl or The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

Sure Solar may be the way to go but I think we need to find this out from someone that ISN’T going to benefit from this.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport.

Lovin Spoonful: Somewhere

By Norbert Rug

The three amigos, my wife Donna, my buddy Ed, and I ventured out looking for somewhere to go for dinner. We ended up at “Somewhere” a quaint looking place at 681 Blairville road in Youngstown.

When we first pulled up, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go inside. I thought someone was pranking me when the said I should try it out but don’t let the outside appearance scare you off. The facade reminded me of an old west saloon. When we pulled up in their small, gravel parking lot, I could see four full size, sand volleyball courts.

We walked under a surf board and through a homemade screen door to enter the place, still not knowing what to expect. Wow! This tiny bar was way better than I had expected, nothing very fancy just a warm friendly, Irish, country bar.

When you first walk in, it’s kind of just a regular neighborhood bar. We sat down at a table with a Kraft paper tablecloth and started taking in the sights. The floor was painted concrete, none of that fancy hardwood or laminate here, and the walls, oh the walls. There wasn’t much room to put anything else on the walls. I can’t begin to explain the amount of Irish paraphernalia on the walls. I understand the owner is Pat Stack, a retired Niagara Falls detective.

Kenney, our server/bartender came over to take our order.  He emphasized that all the food is fresh. He said even the rolls are homemade and the meats & vegetables are locally sourced.

Donna had water with lemon, Ed ordered a glass of wine and I had a Pepsi. When he came back, he brought a salt and pepper shaker which I thought was a bit odd. Maybe they don’t have enough to go around.

They have a small menu (7 items) plus specials. Ed had the Cha-Cha-Chicken, which is fresh chicken breast marinated and grilled in their herb infused marinade served over a classic salad ($10).  Gluten free

In a surprise to both her and me, Donna ordered the “Meatball Puff”. Donna would be a vegetarian if I let her. She said it just intrigued her. This is a meatball wrapped in pastry with homemade sauce on it. She said it was cheesy inside and out. She was wondering why she didn’t get the choice of a side but when it arrived she understood. This was a one pound meat ball, you didn’t need a side. In fact she brought half of it home.

I tried to order the Ruben that was on the specials board and Kenney told me they were out of that. He suggested the “Lola” to me. A Buffalo chicken sandwich with a side of homemade blue cheese dressing ($10). I selected potato wedges as my side. The potato wedges are seasoned with black pepper, paprika, garlic and salt. The chicken was fall apart tender. The roll was perfect, not too crusty and the potato wedges were excellent.

This small place had a neat log-cabin atmosphere, 60’s music, 4 tables, an 11-seat bar and featured a number of items from another era. Outside, there are four well-maintained volleyball courts on the west side of the building. The east side and behind the building include a patio and a stage for bands. They put on inflatable pool parties, tortoise races and a St Patrick’s party that had 532 guests according to their Facebook page.

I was completely blown away that I found this food of this caliper in a place I’ve never even heard of before. It was friendly, very low key and drama free. I will make it a point to return here again in the future. It was Delish. Thanks Michele for suggesting it. I give it 9 spoons out of 10.
Hours are:
Saturday              11:30AM–11PM
Sunday                 Closed
Monday               Closed
Tuesday               11:30AM–5PM
Wednesday         11:30AM–11PM
Thursday              11:30AM–11PM
Friday                   11:30AM–11PM

Phone: (716) 262-2337

At the local swimming hole.

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When I was growing up I was fortunate enough to have a few ponds near where I lived. One was behind a transformer station. This is the spot where I would go to catch pollywogs and leopard frogs.

The fun was in catching these elusive amphibians and I practiced catch and release. I didn’t swim there much though. It was a shallow pool, not much more than knee deep and it would pretty much dry up by the end of summer, hardly conducive for swimming.

There was a pond on the property just across the street from my house where I would catch catfish. This pond was in the middle of a 100 acre farm that had gone fallow and was a spring fed pond. As such the water was always cold and not very pleasant to swim in. When I did swim there, I could feel the catfish nibbling at my toes. Catfish will eat almost anything that they can fit into their mouths so I guess they had to see if toes were edible. All that you needed was a rod, a reel and a can of worms to catch them. Catfish are good eating but because my mother refused to cook what I caught so what I hooked was released and lived to swim another day.

 

This pond was deep enough for a small boat. I found an old Refrigerator that I used as a boat using a branch to maneuver around the pond like a Venetian gondolier. On the back of the pond, I made a small shelter from some branches and two old metal Vernor’s Ginger Ale signs that I found. I would watch the dragon flies and the birds and animals stop by for a drink. Mostly songbirds and the occasional deer would stop by. One year ducks made a nest and raised their young at the pond. It was fun to see them grow up. Eventually they tolerated sharing the pond with me. It helped that I would feed them.

These ponds were adequate but my favorite “swimming hole” was off Millersport Highway. It was at the back end of the property belonging to a construction company. It had a sandy bottom and had a shore line of sand wrapped around it like a warm, cozy scarf. This was about as close as I usually got to going to the beach during the summer. I figure the company had mined the sand for use in their business. This pond offered it all. We would fish for sunfish, chase frogs, go swimming and sunbathe on the “beach”. The pond itself was about chest deep making it ideal for swimming but it was shallow enough to heat up quite quickly only requiring a few sunny days to warm to an ideal temperature for swimming.

I would grab a towel and go to a friend’s house. There I would meet up with a few buddies and we would head off to our swimming hole, trekking through the brush and fields toward our goal. Along the way we would go “grocery shopping”. I love the taste of Concord grapes and fortunately, we would pass near rows of grape vines on our route. I used to carry a folding knife with a hook blade that I used for harvesting grapes and I would always grab a bunch to eat on the way, cutting them from the vine. I would puck them one at a time from the bunch and squeeze them, causing the tasty flesh to pop into my mouth. I would then discard the skin and enjoy the delightful, sweet flavor. Even today I prefer Concord grapes.

A little further along on our route, we would come across a field filled with corn where we would grab a few ears apiece for later. There is a way to tell if an ear of corn is mature enough to eat without tearing back the husks. You just feel the end and if it comes to a sharp point, like a pencil, it isn’t ready. But if it feels rounded like a well-worn crayon it is time to eat it. There were also some tomatoes in another field along the trail which we would grab and eat like apples. Nothing tastes like a tomato ripped from the plant and eaten this way.

We would then follow the path thru the scrub brush and across a grassy field until we reached the swimming hole. There we stripped down to our shorts or maybe just our skin. The pond was far enough away from the road and behind enough foliage that it couldn’t be seen from the highway so it didn’t matter what we were wearing.

After a day of swimming, we would gather up some dried grass for tinder, small sticks for kindling and some firewood and build a small campfire. We would warm ourselves by the fire and roast the corn. It was delicious. As it got late, we would head back home before it got too dark to see the trail, besides, I wanted more grapes before dinner time. I loved my pond so much. It was a place of peace and nature. That pond still has its effect on me even after all these years. Whenever I have to go to my “Happy Place”, I go to my pond.

 

 

Surviving childhood in the 50’s and 60’s

 

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If you grew up during the 50s or 60s, then you are familiar with how laissez-faire things used to be. We didn’t have very many “low calorie” foods, ate what we wanted, and we were afforded much more leeway than we should have had. There’s a pretty good reason why kids today aren’t allowed to do half the things that we did, but maybe, that’s a good thing.

Parents then were much less worried about what they gave us to play with. I’m referring to toys with choking hazards, lead paints and sharp metal pieces. I remember playing mumblypeg. This is a game kids (mostly boys) used to play on the playground where they stand with their feet shoulder width apart while throwing a pocket knife between their own feet. The boy who gets closest to his own foot wins. Getting the knife in your foot was an automatic win. It’s a surprise that we made it out of childhood intact. Why more kids weren’t injured playing Jarts or using easy bake ovens I’ll never know

We were never forced to wear seatbelts by your parents. Hell, most vehicles didn’t have more than lap belts in the front seat. The absence of seatbelts indicated that you could sit anyplace you wanted. The most coveted seat was then the middle seat in the front. This is when front seats were bench seats.

When you sat there, you could control which radio station you listened to. I always flipped it to WKBW, 1520 “The music people.”  WKBW dominated the Top 40 radio market in the Western New York area during the 1960’s. You also got the security of mom’s arm flung across your chest if your father stopped quickly. My favorite spot, riding in the car although was the “way back” as I called it. This was the cargo area behind the back seat of my parent’s station wagon.

However the very best place to ride was in the back of a pickup truck. No seat belt, no roof overhead, just sun in your face and the wind in your hair. A friend’s father even had an old school bus seat in the back of his pickup where we could sit.

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Back then, parents really didn’t grasp the need for safety. Kids raced around on their bikes or roller skates without head protection, knee or elbow pads. You learned how to fall so you didn’t land and split your head open, skin your knee or break any bones.

Probably one of the biggest of the “what the hell were we thinking” moments of the ’50s and ’60s was “skitching.”  is a combination of SKIing and hITCHING. In its basic form, skitching was as easy as finding a slippery, snow-covered road or parking lot, and a passing car bumper.

The skitcher grabs the bumper, flexes their knees, and skis on the bottom of thier shoes through the snow. The car does the work and the skitcher enjoys the ride. Skitching is believed to have originated in urban areas in northern New York, probably cities like Buffalo with a regular snowfall (http://skiernet.com).

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In the playground in the summer I remember swinging with my buddies so vigorously that the legs of the swing set would come off the ground. We would jump off the moving swing and would be flying through the air. You had to learn how to “tuck and roll” so when you landed, you would not break any bones. We also had the burns that we got going down the blazing hot metal slides during the summer. We would steal our mother’s wax paper and slide on it. Waxing the slide would make it that much faster.

There wasn’t a nice soft rubber landing area in the playgrounds back then, either it was dirt or asphalt. And of course we had the Playground merry go round. That steel disk that went in a circle powered by your legs and could whip you around and around. Hang on tight!

If you had a younger sibling, then you would be given the task of watching them after school. You didn’t require any special training to be able to babysit. As long as you were 13 and could dial the operator, then you could babysit the neighbor’s kids when they went out. It was an acceptable practice during that era.

There weren’t health foods either things like quinoa, tofu or kale weren’t readily available back then. The less time it took your mother to pack your school lunch, the better. A whole generation grew up on Skippy PB&J sandwiches on Wonder Bread, a small bag of Wise potato chips and a pack of Hostess Twinkies,

There was no escape the pervasive cloud of cigarette smoke in the 50’s and the 60’s. From airplanes to restaurants to automobiles. There weren’t any limitations on where you were able to smoke. We most likely breathed in much more secondhand smoke when we were young than most people do today in thier lifetime.

We played stickball in the streets and went swimming in the quarry on East Amherst Street. There were no structured play dates and no cell phones. Yeah, being a kid in the ’50s and ’60s wasn’t without it’s hazards but we managed to survive.

 

The Wall :) /s

brown wall stone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is a satirical piece. Be sure to read it to the end before you blow a gasket. We need a wall! I know this is might prove to be a very unpopular article but it is just the way I feel. I have never steered away from controversial topics and I am not going to start avoiding them now.
We need to keep the unwanted types from entering our great country. I am not referring to the very controversial boundary wall along the Mexican border but a wall between the United States and Canada. I know it might be hard to build a wall up the middle of Lake Ontario, Erie, Huron and Superior but maybe we can come to some kind of compromise between the Canadians and us.
Maybe they can help us build the wall. This could be a retractable wall so it could come down in the summer to allow us all to enjoy our great lakes. We put up an ice dam every winter to protect the power plant, maybe we could just make it a floating wall like that is. But the wall between us in the lakes will have to be very high to stop this foreign invasion.
Every year, during the winter the border crossings increase and I am sick of this. It has to stop! Canada should keep their problems on their side of the border. INS seems to be helpless in stemming this problem and I don’t know if they can. I don’t think they have the ability, the finances or the manpower.
We don’t seem to have this problem in the summer but as soon as the weather starts to change and the temperatures start to drop, the trouble starts all over again. Some years are better than others but we just can’t always predict how bad it will be. Many have tried but few have succeeded.
This invasion is so bad that you can watch it’s progress every night on the local news. Sometimes it has even made the national news. Our neighbors to the north don’t seem to care or even do very much about these border crossings. This invasion is even worse than the one caused by the “Mexican Caravan” as it effects every person living in Western New York. If we know it is coming then why, oh why, can’t we prevent it?
Sure we have customs and border patrol at all the main ports of entry but much of this blows right past them or even crosses the border in unprotected places. When this incursion reaches my home, I try to stay inside with the doors closed and latched, hoping that they will hold well enough to prevent the infiltration that could cause me to become another statistic.
Sometimes I stay in my bed, trying to ignore what is going on bet it seems like every television station had a person dedicated to telling us how bad it is going to be.
The problem I am talking about of course is the Arctic blasts that we get here every winter in Western New York. That Canadian import that comes across the lakes and dumps snow on all of us. We have to put up with school closings, shoveling, sub-freezing temperatures and icy roads because of them.
Just so you know, I have nothing against Canadians in fact I love our neighbors to the north. Both my grandfather and my wife’s grandfather are from Canada. I just don’t care for their weather. Be safe, stay warm and drive carefully.
Norb is a writer from Lockport, New York.

Rocketship 7

A long, long time ago, in a place that seems far, far away, many Buffalo area children, myself included, would turn on their TV sets in the morning and were greeted by a trusted friend.

In 1961 the space race was on! Before a special joint session of Congress, President Kennedy announced his goal to put a “man on the moon” before the end of the decade. If you were a preteen, rockets and robots ruled. It was in this environment that one of the most popular television programs in the history of Buffalo broadcasting was created.

During the span of a few months, the USSR’s Yuri Gagarin made history as the first human in space and Alan B. Shepard made America’s first ride into the stratosphere. From toys to television programs, it seem that everyone was looking towards the future including Buffalo’s WKBW. Channel 7 management looked to add an additional children’s show to its morning line-up which already consisted of a local version of Romper Room. Looking to attract kids 5 to 12 years old, a space-themed program was a natural.

The station’s creative minds developed a program that would have an academic focus with a foundation deeply rooted in scientific facts rather than fanciful fiction. To host the program, Channel 7’s station manager Doug McLarty called upon a fresh-faced broadcaster named Dave Boreanaz. He was calling himself Dave Thomas then and it was thought he would be the perfect choice to host the program. He had adopted the stage name “Dave Thomas” when he joined WKBW-TV in 1961 first as a booth announcer and weatherman. His boyish good looks, calming manner of tone, and slight hint of mischievousness in his eyes appealed to children and adults alike.

In the autumn of 1962 WKBW-TV’s new children’s program was ready for its television debut. September 10 was chosen as the “launch date” of the newly christened Rocketship 7 with Dave Thomas. Featuring educational segments interwoven between Warner Brother’s cartoons and the animated shorts like the stop-motion curiosities “Gumby” and “Davey and Goliath”. The show was quickly adopted by its young audience. Rocketship 7 aired on WKBW-TV for 16 years. Thomas, in what passed for an astronaut jumpsuit, stood next to a stack of cardboard boxes with epaulets known as Promo the Robot. They were joined by Mr. Beeper, their puppet pal.

A Buffalo native, Thomas began his broadcasting career in 1954 at WAER-FM, Syracuse, New York and later worked at WOLF-AM, Syracuse, New York. In 1956, he started in television at the NBC owned and operated WBUF-TV in Buffalo, later joining WGR-TV (now WGRZ-TV) before joining Channel 7. For months prior to the show’s launch, Thomas traveled to the Bell Testing Laboratory in Wheatfield, New York to learn about aeronautics and space flight. At the time, the Niagara County facility hosted some of the nation’s brightest engineers and test pilots. As the show’s future space cadet, Thomas would practice in a Mercury era program training capsule and helicopter simulator.

The name of the program, “Rocketship 7,” referred to Channel 7 and lent itself to NASA’s Mercury space program. From 1961 to 1963, seven of America’s first astronauts made pioneering ventures into space. National audiences would follow the likes of Freedom 7, Liberty Bell 7, Friendship 7, and Aurora 7 as spacecraft reached towards the heavens. Rocketship 7 would join the local lexicon and would prove to have the right stuff for television success.

With the calming influence of Dave Thomas at the helm, the show ran weekday mornings from 1962 thru 1978. Rocketship 7 was cancelled because Thomas left his native Buffalo for another job. After the show went dark, the original Promo sat in a prop room for a while. When WKBW moved to a new building, the robot costume was thrown in the trash but it was rescued by a guy from the crew who put it in his garage. Eventually it was fixed up and, for a while, put on display at a toy museum.

The fate of the shows themselves, thousands of hours of children’s programming, is even sadder. Very little exists today. Most of those early, local children’s shows were shot live and if they were on tape, they were erased or thrown out. Back then, few saw the need to archive copies for future use like DVD collections or specialty channels. Forgotten Buffalo has compiled an excellent photo montage for a Youtube video:

Rocketship 7 has been reincarnated twice. The first time was The Commander Tom Show hosted by Tom Jolls. This was cancelled in 1991 but WKBW chose to resume the “Commander Tom” character bringing back Rocketship 7 as a Saturday morning show. “Captain” Mike Randall took over hosting for this edition of the show. Rocketship 7 was cancelled for the last time in 1993. It blasted off for good as infomercials, public affairs, and educational/informational programming began to dominate the Saturday morning lineup.