Friday, November 4, 2011

November Thoughts

There are times, I wish the month of November was ten days long.  With late autumn’s onset of darkness, changeable uncomfortable weather, and bleak sunless days, it would be better to shorten this month as incentive to encourage winter to get on with it.   With that said, there is a stark beauty about November.  Leafless deciduous trees, muted conifers and limited cloudless days have a calming effect on inhabitants who go about their daily rituals of tasks.   Wildlife adds additional urgency to complete preparation for the harshness of winter that will challenge their safety, security and survival.

Once the time change takes place, dawn will announce the beginning of the day by pushing darkness to late afternoon.   When winter firms its grasp on the calendar, daylight will be rationed with a stinginess that adversely affects all living things.  On days when sunshine is in abundance and duels with cold frigid temperatures, inhabitants scurry about buoyed by the sun rays, taunted by aggressive wind to complete routine tasks and obligations before the curtain of night.
Nights in November encourage one to be warm, cozy, and secure in their home.   With fireplace or furnace, hot cocoa or coffee, sweaters or soft-fleeced garments keeping the cold at bay we nest in a chair or couch, watch TV, visit the computer, curl up with a good book or cuddle with a special someone.

But there are also times when I want to lengthen November.   The allotted thirty days serve as transition from autumn to winter.  In ever enlarging increments, darkness overtakes daylight permitting moonlight and star shine extra minutes to fill the heavens like sparkling jewels.  November is a time to reflect, review, and remind.   This is a time of preparation, of thanksgiving for the bounty we share and to savor the seasons past.  Wearing a jacket to stave off an early November’s chill, this geriatric unit occupies the glider on the deck and watches the trees dance and sway to November’s menu of breezes.  Autumn leaves tenaciously hold to branches in defiance of accelerated winds, but eventually release their grip and take flight: blanketing the landscape, flakes of multicolored sunshine carpet lawns, decks, and search for gutters to clog.

In the early morning light, clouds take shape, shadows lighten and disappear, and resident geese begin their noisy social gathering for sustenance.   Sipping on the day’s first cup of coffee, memories and remembrance gently visit the mind.  Road traffic builds with commuters going to work and school buses following set routes pick-up students for school.  Memories of four decades in classrooms are triggered by the sight of those rubber-tired cheese wagons with flashing strobe announcing their arrival.  Remembering our children when they were school age, and the times we walked with them to school holding hands, shuffling through autumn leaves, and jabbing at winter’s snowflakes as we joyfully shared a journey to the schoolhouse door.  How quickly the eyes fill with tears.

Now retired and released from structured obligations, memories of long-ago shift-work days when a young apprentice waited on the corner for public transportation headed for the steel mill.  With a shopping bag of work clothes, brown bag lunch, and bus fare-- remembrance of sunlit, rainy, frozen and dark mornings bring melancholy feelings of less complicated times.  It was a time of beginning—initial steps of the journey to grown-up.  Day by day as life unfolded, apprehension lessened, uncertainty faded, confidence increased and future adventures were welcomed with passionate energy, enthusiasm and purpose: from classroom to factory, factory to campus, campus to classroom.

Thinking of years that have passed all too quickly, of goals accomplished and not reached, of dreams realized and not pursued, and all moments in between, brings mixed inner feelings. Most of all, there is personal thanksgiving and appreciation, knowing that items on this life’s resume are the result of hard work, dedication, faithfulness to trust, honor, respect and responsibility—and loving prayerful support far beyond the stars. November thoughts.

Sheet Metal Romance

Around this time of year back in the 1950’s and 1960’s automobile dealerships brimmed with anticipation and excitement as time neared to debut the newest models of automobiles. With considerable fanfare and drama, television, radio, and print media presented consumers with advertisements designed to bring customers into their respective showrooms. An all-American industry, automobile manufacturers included General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors and Studebaker-Packard. Since the end of World War II, Americans had escalated their fervor and demand for the latest automobile technology, design, and comfort. Competition among manufacturers was fierce; as innovations, accessories, equipment, engines and power trains and were irresistible brought together to entice buyers to open their wallets and welcome months of payments. By the mid 1950’s, automobiles were a status symbol and personal statement of means, identity, and image.

You already know this, but guys love cars! Early on, this sheet metal romance captivates their affection. Focusing on fender skirts, canted tail fins, gracefully formed hoods, trunk lids, and roof lines; guys are swept into dream land of piston-driven engines, stick shift transmissions, dual exhausts, hardtops, convertibles, sleek-looking interiors and push-button radios. For teenagers, talking about cars is one of three major conversational topics. In the fall off nineteen fifty-six, the 1957 models arrived in dealer’s showrooms. As a 15 year-old high school junior, whose family never owned a car, checking out new models was like visiting Fantasyland. Going to Ciesar’s Chrysler-Plymouth, Swarthout Chevrolet, Hansen Buick and France Ford was idyllic. The aroma of new car perfume filled the dealership. Reflected light from highly polished Blue Coral lacquer and enamel finishes dazzled the eyes. Glistening chrome buffed to its highest luster, and whitewall tires complimented hubcaps and wheel treatments. Running one’s hand over sculptured hoods and fenders of these automotive masterpieces gave one a sense of awe. Dashboards gauges, levers and controls for accessories, floor mats, and interior fabrics of cloth, vinyl and leather, took one’s breath away. Hood ornaments, vibrant colors and manufacturer logos completed the sheet metal symphony of senses. These machines were magnificent!
Maybe it was because adolescents are so impressionable, perhaps it was being close to an unattainable desire, but the automobiles of 1957 left an indelible impression. Without question, nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year for American automakers. Many became classics and are sought-after to this day. Remembering those times makes me smile. I still recall the majesty of those cars: some favorites.

 Ford’s 1957 Thunderbird: $3408. Dual tops—standard convertible or removable glass-fiber with port window. Powered by a 285hp. V-8 with either an automatic or 3-speed manual transmission. Produced to rival General Motor’s Corvette. Sweet.

 GM’s 1957 Pontiac Bonneville: the first Bonneville available only as a convertible with fuel injection. Introduced in January, 1957, this was the fastest Pontiac ever produced. The expensive sticker price of $5782 came with every available option except air conditioning and external continental kit. The 300+ horsepower fuel injected V8 engine had a top speed of 101.6 mph. Spectacular!

 Chrysler’s 300C convertible: Equipped with a 375hp Hemi V8, dual quad carburetors, solid valve lifters and full race camshaft. In 1957, this was the fastest car in America. Priced at $4,055. Its chrome split egg crate grill dominated the frontal view. Stylish vestigial fins flowed into vertical taillights. Awesome!

 Ford’s Mercury Turnpike Cruiser: 1957’s Car of The Year! Available in 2dr or 4drhardtops models, standard equipment: power everything. Under the hood, a 290hp V8 and Holley 4-barrel carburetor and Merc-O-Matic drive transmission. Its most striking feature was the electric powered vertical rear window. Sticker: $4103.

 GM’s 1957 Super 88 two-door hardtop J-2 Oldsmobile: Three, 2-barrel carburetors fed the 300hp V8 engine. Available with brocade interior, this vehicle was elegance personified for $3200.

 Chrysler’s Plymouth Fury: Available only in 2-door hardtop, off-white color with gold spear-shaped trim. Powered with a 290 horsepower, fuel-injected engine. Classy!

 General Motor’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air Hardtop: Perhaps the most recognizable classic car ever produced. This car defined the 1950’s more succinctly than any other automobile. Simply put: it was the best!

Over the years, there would be other sheet metal romances: 1960 ebony Oldsmobile 98 white-topped convertible, and a muscled ‘62 Oldsmobile Starfire coupe. But the cars of 1957 have a special place in my memory: youthful, less-complicated, friendship-filled enjoyable moments. Wasn’t that a time!


Life is a series of beginnings and goodbyes; and no matter the number of our years, we never quite get used to it. This is the story of a beginning.

If I had a dime for every time I heard the retort: “Grow Up!” I would, today, have a tidy sum. From little on, whenever things went awry, or mistakes made, someone in authority would direct their focus to me and say: Grow up! As a parochial school kid in the forties and fifties, nuns were more than willing to dispense that phrase to anyone whose immaturity caused them consternation. During the greater portion of my grade school years, I could have been the poster child for immaturity with “Grow Up” tattooed on my forehead.

In high school, immaturity is magnified due to adolescence’s rapid infusion of cognitive and physical growth, developmental hormones, and social responsibilities. One enters secondary school as an “old child” and four years later leave as a “young adult.” Within those forty-eight months, a person is expected to acquire appropriate academic, social and personal skills prepared to enter and function in the world of grown-ups. That’s a formidable assignment for anyone; for me, it was an embarrassing struggle that challenged self-esteem, questioned self-worth, and tested personal discipline and resolve.

The full impact of inadequacy was evident a few days after graduation as I warily pondered my future. With high school over, one prominent question demanded my full attention: “What do I do now?” There were several choices: college, military service or employment. Due to low academic achievement and class rank, college was out of the question. Enlistment in the military required a level of confidence and maturity I did not have; so finding a job was my only viable selection. Job-hunting began in earnest on a hot, sunny day in June, 1958. I decided to apply at Inland Steel. I would become the first member of our family to choose steel mill over refinery: my grandfather, uncle, father, and two brothers had careers at Standard Oil, AMOCO, and BP over the years. I chose the machinist apprenticeship at Inland Steel.

One of the major limitations with telling one to “Grow UP!” is the lack of support information. No one ever told me how to grow up. Progress was hindered by confusion, awkwardness, anxiety, insecurity, ignorance, immaturity and fearfulness. Most prominent of those fears was rejection. I realized I was now on my own. No one ever told me how to apply for a job, get to Inland’s employment office in Indiana Harbor, what materials I needed, or what to say. Full of uncertainty, I mustered my courage and put “growing up” on the fast track.

A few minutes before 9:00 am, dressed in a long sleeved white shirt, tie and dark suit, I headed for Inland Steel—four miles away. From my home on Cleveland Avenue, I walked to Front Street and followed Dickey road to Union Carbide and Standard Oil, crossing 129th Street at Markstown. Heated by hurried walking and pre-summer sun, I continued past Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Company; over the Indiana Harbor ship canal, Inland’s Plant 3 Coke Plant to the corner of Dickey Road and Watling Street; turning the corner, I headed east. The American Foundry’s giant steam hammers shook the sidewalk’s pavement under my feet. Crossing the tracks, past a parking lot and Knight’s Bar, I arrived at Inland’s employment office. It was 10:15 as I took my place in line.

Because I was not eighteen, a Work Permit was required. I had to walk back to Whiting, procure the permit at the high school, and walk back to Inland. It was 1:45 in the afternoon when I re-joined the line of job-seeking applicants. By 3:30, I had filled out the application, briefly talked with a personnel representative, and told I would be notified if hired. Walking home during rush hour added to the day’s discomfort of missing lunch and perspiration-soaked clothing. The process of becoming a “Grown Up” left much to be desired.

I was hired in late July and began my apprenticeship August 11, 1958. Crossing the threshold to adulthood was difficult. Countless life-lessons, struggles, challenges and unanswered questions would be confronted. I would be tested in ways never envisioned. Childhood was over. Without rehearsal, adult responsibilities arrived and demanded attention and problem-solving at the speed of life. Growing up, one learns to draw upon experience, emotional strength, spiritual Faith, loved ones, and all avenues of information. Cut me some slack—the process continues.

Container for Dreams

As soon as one reaches the age of awareness, dreams become part of life. Sparked by events and imagination, each of us begins a wish list. Special events during the year, birthdays and Christmas, increase the urgency, but usually, one’s dreams, wishes, hopes and wants are an outgrowth of personal and private experience. In ways not completely understood, we store our dreams in containers within ourselves. Early on, we guard these dreams in very private ways. We do not enjoy being teased or chided about our far-fetched, pie-in-the-sky desires that seem so impossible; so they are rarely shared. For the most part, we keep them to ourselves. As we gain self-confidence and self-assurance we begin to talk about hopes and dreams with trusted family members or friends. Guarded at first, we are cautious and sensitive when and where our innermost fantasies are given voice. During adolescence, this approach-avoidance conflict is tested with considerable anxiety, apprehension, and uncertainty. On occasion, trust is misplaced and we suffer embarrassment and personal distress when promises are broken, confidence violated, and our innermost feelings laid bare for all to know.

As we mature, we become more protective and wary to thrust ourselves into the limelight, reluctant to discuss dreams, hopes, wishes and wants. We subconsciously build protective walls around emotions and feelings, in order to prevent or reduce discomfort, pain, and negative reactions to our most sensitive thoughts; without encouragement and support, many dreams die.

Maturity also provides ability to reconsider early hopes and dreams. As a kid I dreamed of having a horse like Bobby Benson on Radio’s B Bar B Ranch. Another time, I thought it cool to have a cave like Batman. Thankfully, there are unseen monitors who prevent such dreams from becoming reality. As a youngster I wanted a bicycle—although promised, family financial problems prevented that dream from coming to fruition. To compensate, I scavenged alleys for bicycle components until I collected essential parts. I had to buy a seat and fenders, but my junkyard alley bike served me well for several years. A valuable lesson was learned: most of the time you have to make your own dreams come true.

Even so, there are numerous occasions when the dream maker takes control and guides events just enough to let dreams take hold, keep hope alive and grant wishes—unexpectedly and at opportune moments. The dream maker employs strangers, acquaintances, friends, family and a myriad of circumstance—some planned, some happenstance—in order to set in motion actions necessary for dream elements to blossom. The dream may involve relationships, employment, workplace, life lessons, vocation, recognition, success, or acquisition of personal property. Some call such opportune moments luck, good fortune, blessings, or fate. Most of us accept life’s benevolence without much reflective thought. But analysis would reveal one’s personal contributions of hard work, preparation; Faith, dedication, and resolve were in partnership with the dream maker. Without personal involvement, dreams wither. Dreams do not come true because they are supposed to; they bear fruit because of commitment, investment of time, energy and effort.

Over a lifetime, one accumulates dreams, hopes and wishes, which never come to be. Some are discarded as ill conceived, unrealistic, and impractical and are tossed away. Others have been set aside due to unforeseen circumstance: unplanned obligations, health issues, financial limitations or waiting for the “right” time. A number, on the verge of accomplishment, are consciously ended because the “price is too high.” These fill our container for dreams.

How many dreams have been set aside and left unrealized? How often have hopes been dashed, wishes silenced due to personal feelings of guilt, fear of criticism, ridicule and rejection because of what others may think? How many times has the dream maker been shunned because of timidity? How many opportunities were bypassed due to insufficient emotional strength? How many occasions have dreams, hopes and wishes not been voiced because of apprehension, suspicion, or doubt?

Now is the time to open the container for dreams—give them a fresh look and consider how richer life would be if these most personal desires came to be. Dreams, hopes and wishes do not have an expiration date. Like honey, they never spoil and are always ready to nourish the heart, energize the spirit and bring a special peace of mind. What treasures are in your container for dreams?

Obsolescence: Lifetime’s Badge of Honor

From early on, we are set upon to learn skills, perform tasks, pursue jobs and a sundry of ancillary applications which are designed increase the quality of life, accelerate economic worth, promote self reliance, refine personal independence, encourage the willing acceptance and adoption of emerging technology, solidify personal and social values to our lifestyle and add to the overall daily enjoyment of living.

The problem is that everything moves so fast, as one master’s new technology it is already obsolete and has to be set aside for emerging knowledge demanding attention.

I have a whole list of skills that most likely will not be called be called upon: ironing clothes. Before permanent press everything was ironed. By fourth grade, I was skilled at towels, bedclothes, shirts, jeans, and household linens. I also know how to sew and cook. But with today’s microwave and fast-fix methods, who needs to know how to make something from scratch. From entrees to baked goods, it is simply out of the box in the microwave and ZAP! Sewing skills are another matter. To this day I can reattach a button, mend a hem, or replace a few well-worn stitches.

Early on, I learned by trial and error how to repair a Bendix bicycle brake, repair punctured inner tubes and patch tires so my mobility would not be adversely limited. I was very good at shoveling coal into the bin, leveling it out, installing the next gate board and climbing out with a minimum of coal dust affixed to my clothes. I also knew how to remove clinkers from the family’s furnace on cold frozen winter mornings. I learned how to thread a movie projector—both silent and sound—and used that skill as a “chick magnet” in school. To be an “AV” kid was high celebrity! School was also where I learned to run a Ditto machine. Benefits? The perfume of the activating fluid was incentive enough to run “extra” copies for teachers.

Another skills was putting up and taking down storm and screen windows. Each sash was numbered and had to be matched in order for the unit to fit properly. Unfortunately, a side bar of that endeavor was washing windows. Ammonia, vinegar, and elbow grease galore—was a way to destroy an early fall Saturday morning.

As a student at Whiting High, I learned how to typewrite, take shorthand, and set type by hand in the print shop for the school’s newspaper: THE TATTLER. And, perhaps, the skill I was most proud and leaned the greatest lessons from—setting pins at the Whiting Community Center. Each of these manipulative and cognitive tasked served me well; each skill had ancillary branches that could be adapted, modified, used innovatively for a future task. The Machine Shop at Whiting High School was the place where I discovered metalworking skills, talents, and employment possibilities. Coupled with my college-prep courses, when I graduated from Whiting I had a solid foundation upon which future education would be grounded.

Not too long ago, I was musing about some to the “stuff” that has come and gone—technology, lifestyles, gadgets—that made growing up such a joy. In no particular order, here is a random list of good obsolescence—lifetime’s badges of honor:

Pay phone, rotary telephones and cozy phone booths; full service gas stations—the customer was treated with celebrity; telephone operators, party lines, push-button Trimline phones, TV roof antennas—the ultimate social status symbol of the fifties! Parochial grade school nuns dressed like nuns! Home delivery and repair services: milkman, bakery, farmer, TV repairman, and groceries. Milk that came in glass bottles, beer openers-- “church keys” for canned beer and pop; soda fountains where phosphates and sodas, and milk shakes reigned! The soundtrack of boyhood summers featured reel-to-reel lawnmowers as they went about trimming and cutting neighborhood lawns.

Music transformed almost daily: vacuum tubes to transistors, heavy, unwieldy portable battery packs to a single nine-volt battery. Shellac replaced vinyl for records and turntables modified speed from 78 to 45 rpm. When the long-playing album debuted a full fifteen minutes of music could be played on a single side at 33-1/3 rpm. There were music stores where we could audition the newest hits. Other hometown establishments had Jukeboxes that featured the most popular song of the moment, and stereo systems that encouraged higher amplification, range, quality of sound and quantity of speakers. Car radios boomed with Top 40 hits as street sleds visited their favorite Drive-In hangout to check out the competition’s wheels, menu, and all things adolescent. Drive-In Movies were the place to be seen. Today, almost extinct, how does one explain the summer’s delight of an outdoor movie under the stars with buddies, sweethearts, romantics and families all enjoying Hollywood’s latest film in the total independence of one’s automobile? I made specially fitted window screens in order to defeat pesky mosquitoes.

How quickly flash bulbs and movie cameras passed into time! Polaroid came, dazzled, and evolved into other more electronic devices. I miss the Shoreline Buses. White wall tires—once the rage are now nowhere to be found. Vinyl tops, black and white TV’s automobile hubcaps, spinners, and a whole catalog of gadgets for the car. I once installed a 45rpm record player so I could listen to my favorite 45 on demand. Wasn’t that ahead of its time!

From the sophisticated to the sublime—fine fountain pens, to pin ball machines, gadgets that filled and enrich youthful times. Today, everything is different. For instance: High school class rings were once purchased by the whole class. Each ring was the same color, design and material. We chose the ring to reflect our friendship, bond, allegiance and appreciation to our high school and classmates. Today, that’s obsolescence. For me: it is one of lifetime’s badges of honor.


If one personifies the various months of the year, May has to be the All-American Girl Idol for the remaining eleven with which compete. May is like an attractive young lady dressed for the prom. Like a debutante, May blossoms into the beauty that becomes summer. Amid warm spring rains and sun splashed days, May accepts extra April showers and apprentice sun beams preparing for June. In the early days of the month, May teases with a roller coaster of diverse weather. One day sun-drenched balmy days tantalize residents to display tank tops and shorts; the next day, chilled rain driven by rambunctious wind gusts convince inhabitants to reacquaint themselves with wool slacks and windbreaker jackets. Garden centers display trays of annuals and perennials in order to lure customers to purchase a flat or two for the yard. With lengthening daylight hours, birds begin their choral practice before the sun peeks above the horizon. As a treat, May arranges a few mornings to look like a down-filled, cozy comforter as fog blankets the landscape. Shortly after daylight, dawn takes control like a mom waking up her kids for school, tugs at the blanket of fog and uncovers the terrain so earth-dwellers can be on their way.

By the second week of May, the birds have the notes to their songs down pat; garden flowers face east for their morning shower of sunshine and display the richness of color, texture, size and shape. As if on cue, the season of spring presents all living things in perfect harmony enticing the birds and bees, animals and human beings of similar persuasion to celebrate new life and add to the bounty and diversity of life on Earth. Youngsters are filled with boundless energy. Adolescents start each day groggy from sleep but quickly react to hormones coursing through their body. Adults find renewed vigor to tackle household tasks and recreational activities after a full day’s work at the office or factory. And senior citizens, tempered by years of experience savor each minute with inward satisfaction of having accomplished so much during life’s journey. Drawing upon the wisdom of their years, they fully appreciate the gift of each day, and are comfortable and at peace with whom and what they are.

May is home base for Mother’s Day. A time to recognize, celebrate, and pamper the women who do so much for so many. Without question, mothers know how to deliver! . It’s the month when the status of motherhood accelerates the purchase of flowers, sweets and gifts from grateful spouses and children. May is permission month. Thirty-one days of “May, I?” People, plants, creatures and all things in nature voice a similar question: “May I prepare for summer?” “Yes, you May! The fifth month of the year gives official sanction and welcome to blue skies, warm temperatures, extended daylight and starry, moonlight nights. Single-handedly, May produces the symphony of sounds that perform throughout the daylight and nighttime hours. This annual springtime soundtrack makes music for both the ears and eyes, and sets the cadence for mind, body and spirit. In concert with these events, May arranges landscapes, terrain, and opportunity for all living things to accomplished assigned tasks, fulfill responsibilities and enjoy quiet moments of solitude or togetherness. May is the sweet elixir for the senses. Like exotic perfume, May exudes alluring scents that enrich the enjoyment of spring. Romantics of every age, stroll casually together holding hands and sharing moments to remember. May is joyful, carefree, raucous and rowdy. May is also reserved, somber, pensive and grateful. May is the month we remember those who serve in the military; and prayerfully give thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country. May is time for birthdays, anniversaries, and all celebrations in between. Taurus and Gemini guide those who read the heaven’s placement and pattern of stars.

For school kids, May is the last full month of classes before summer vacation. May is the month of proms and parties, picnics and yearbooks, locker clean out, and year-end exams. For parents, May is the quiet before households are filled with late-sleeping, vacation-minded youngsters. For cherished colleagues, May is another opportunity to share breakfast and fellowship. May mornings are delicious. Arranged like choice menu selections, the beginning hours of May days refresh, energize, soothe, coddle, and prepare all who tend the stewardship of our earthly home. May is simply the best! I love May.

Hometown: Yesterday and Today

I’ve said many times, growing up in my “Industrial Mayberry” home town of Whiting, Indiana was the best thing that could happen to a kid. Coupled with the Robertsdale neighborhoods, it was a marvelous full-service community that allowed for youthful hopes, wishes and dreams to come true. Equipped with quality churches, public and parish schools, businesses, theaters, parks and social gathering places, townspeople thrived and families enjoyed amenities that enriched and enhanced each day. This is about those places of the heart.

As a school kid in the forties and fifties, I was amazed that a city the size and population of Whiting had such variety and diversity of establishments: Seven major supermarkets: A&P, National, Kroger, IGA, Park View, Jewel and Wieners. In addition, several dozen corner grocery stores served residents in both Whiting and Robertsdale. Various civic organizations and neighborhood taverns offered places to meet and enjoy libations. Banquet facilities provided venues for weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Long-time residents remember St. Mary’s Hall and Slovak Dome. Countless activities were held at the Panel Room, Rose Room, Knights of Columbus, Whiting Moose Lodge, Elk’s Lodge, Eagles, Sokol Club, V.F.W. and American Legion. The Community Center had facilities for a variety of social and athletic activities. Six Catholic Churches each had a parish school except Sts. Peter and Paul: Sacred Heart, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Adalberts, Immaculate Conception, and Saint Mary’s. Whiting also had various denominations of Protestant Churches: Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist. There was also a Jewish Synagogue, The Masonic Temple and places of worship for ethnic nationalities. Each helped fill the spiritual needs of community residents. To serve families in time of bereavement, Whiting had five funeral homes: Owens, Baran, Schlater, Kosier, and Spanburg.

There were a number of banks and dry-cleaning/laundry businesses. Several jewelry stores, shoe repair, men’s and women’s clothiers, furniture and dime stores ,newspaper and stationery store, shoe stores, barber shops and beauty salons, restaurants, poultry and dairy stores, bowling alleys, diners , doctor’s and dentist offices, flower shops, drugstores, pharmacy’s, taverns, automobile dealers: Schlatter/France Ford, Hansen Buick, Ciesar’s Chrysler/Plymouth, Swarthout Chevrolet, and Lake County Motors. Two movie theaters: Hoosier and Capital. Standard Oil brand service stations dominated Indianapolis Boulevard and Calumet Avenue. Others like Sunoco, Sinclair and Shell made sure resident’s automobile fuel tanks were topped off. Lumber yards, general merchandise, utility company, insurance agencies, and a sundry of specialized entrepreneurs provided goods and services: everything from A to Z.

Municipal buildings placed throughout Whiting and Robertsdale like gems in a custom setting served community, consumers, residents, and visitors alike: The Whiting Fire Department, Police Department, The Whiting Community Center, Standard Hotel, Central States Bank , Whiting City Schools, Post Office, Whiting Park’s lakefront and beach, Standard Diamonds, Whiting’s Carnegie Library, City Hall, Robertsdale’s Forsythe Park and Bobby Beach. Safety and security were Hallmarks of Whiting-Robertsdale neighborhoods and families thrived in an environment knowing playgrounds, parks, neighborhoods, and recreation areas enhanced well-being. Complimenting these locations were numerous empty lots that served as playing fields, neighborhood gardens, and places where kids could dig up a supply of worms on their way to fish at Wolf Lake.

It is understandable why this Little City by The Lake engenders such heartfelt emotions and allegiance in residents. This mile and a half square municipality has it all. This Industrial “Mayberry” is the complete package. Its geography combines Currier & Ives with Norman Rockwell’s paintings into a living portrait. Throughout the community, residents and business people showcase municipal quality and character through well-kept neighborhoods and business district that reflects pride of stewardship. Whiting was (and still is) the Capital of the Calumet Region.

Today, Whiting is in the midst of a Renaissance. Thanks to the City’s elected officials, astute organization, effective management, financial intelligence, insightful planning and high standards of performance by those in position of responsibility, coupled with the support of residents, Whiting is moving forward. Along with Pierogi Fest, an internationally famous food extravaganza, new Infrastructure, architecturally sensitive renovation, environment friendly landscape, well-planned remodeling, and new construction reflect commitment to families, businesspeople, visitors, and community neighbors that the core values upon which Whiting was founded are being reaffirmed. Each generation captures and keeps personal memories of experiences derived from growing up and living in their Hometown. Those times fill countless pages of one’s life scrapbook with delicious images and recollections. I’ve always been grateful to the people who helped me along the way, for family and friends who shared these times, and, for the home town that made a positive, constructive difference in my life.

At 70

When I was a kid, I often volunteered my age or grade in school. A particular age or grade was a badge of honor or position of celebrity. Grade school gave way to high school and each one of those four years increased prominence. Age became a marker along the way to measure independence and self-reliance. One learned early that a particular age signaled privilege: later bedtimes, watching particular television shows, or going to the movies at night. We became aware that as one accumulated years, gratuity increased on birthdays, holidays and special occasions. During adolescence, coins were replaced with denominations of folding money. As one's personal list of wants and needs increased, items were prioritized according to available funds and social pressure. Spending conflicted with saving: immediate versus deferred gratification.

Various milestones validated one's accomplishments or achievements: work permit, Social Security Card, driver's license, bank account, part-time job, tax return, and a sundry of associated responsibilities. Shopping for clothes transitioned from going with Mon to shopping with friends or by oneself. Decisions went from parental mandate to personal choice. Constant adult supervision eased into relaxed overseer and ebbed until individual sovereignty was bestowed.

Growing up, we knew that someone would always be there to set boundaries and borders; someone available to keep us safe, guide, counsel, advice and support. Mostly family at first, but with each orbit around the sun, others would assume roles to help with life's journey: teachers, clergy, classmates, peers, co-workers, friends, acquaintances and, occasionally strangers. Bits and pieces of human interaction, tidbits and parcels of wisdom about life-learned lessons were dispensed at random for acceptance or rejection.

We crossed thresholds, met challenges, succeeded, failed, stumbled, struggled, achieved, and continually added to the depth and expansion of our intelligence and intellect. Teen years gave way to "becoming legal," the magic age of twenty-one. Stark evidence for males included the Selective Service Draft Card, proof of auto insurance, and an Operator's License kept in one's wallet. Somehow we survived the hurdle of turning sixteen, arguing for grown-up privileges. By nineteen. there was a car to drive and pay for with your name on the title. With graduation came post-high school choices: military service, college, factory or office work; stay home or live on your own. Relationships began to solidify and lifelong friends and new acquaintances join your journey and share adventures. A number of childhood friends disconnect and move on with their life. Re-connection will be limited to reunions, correspondence and occasional random meeting here and there. Affairs of the heart capture and consume your emotions causing pronouns "I" "mine" "me" to be replaced with "us" "ours" and "we." At the speed of life, the twenties fly by. The thirties seem to rocket along and that once solitary traveler now has a family and responsibilities that grow exponentially.

In the midst of the "prime of life," hours and days are consumed with work, family, obligations, duties, commitments, and promises that must be kept. There is struggle to enjoy Heaven's sunshine, stars, moonlight and rainbows. Even though we are in the "driver's seat," many things are out of our hands. Countless hours are spent worrying about things we cannot control. The accompanying anxiety, stress and emotional turmoil take a toll on mind, body, and spirit. Health and well-being are added to primary concerns.

Unexpectedly, medical abbreviations, maladies and terms assume significance shortly after one turns forty. Blood Pressure, cholesterol, Lipid profile and all enzymes in between are now topics for discussion during scheduled health checkups. Favorite foods are diet restricted. Salt, sugar, carbohydrates and calories are viewed as adversaries. Fats and grams are closely scrutinized as precaution against obesity, and diabetes. Bifocals are recommended after an annual eye exam. We become aware of limitations and changes that affect one's lifestyle. During youthful years, the candle burns at both ends; after forty, night-lights illuminate the way.

At fifty we are accustomed to yearly diagnostic tests; while at home, we become more comfortable watching others do what we used to do. Couches, recliners, TV remotes, and an ample supply of comfort food become favorite companions. We enjoy more completely, simple pleasures heretofore discounted as unimportant or wimpy. At sixty, we gear down obligation and gear up relaxation. Occasional naps and early bedtime are welcomed like dear friends. When retirement is offered, it's accepted with a smile bright enough to ripen bananas. At seventy we're content with ourselves. Competition takes a back seat to enjoyment, reverie, remembrance, and a do-as-you-please mind set of easy peaceful feelings. Flexible scheduling is readily adopted. Every day is a welcomed gift. The challenge is to stay well and enjoy Heaven's blessing: so many moments, so many memories; treasure the moments, savor the memories. The adventure continues. The best is yet to come!

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!