Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Look at this video.

Take the time to watch and listen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

For The Record

I've been reminiscing lately about not just old songs, but old recordings.  I have to say old because I am now in my seventies, and the music of my youth is certainly considered to be just that.  My earliest recollections having to do with music would be listening to radio, and hearing songs performed live by artists like Bing Crosby, or Doris Day, and other musicians of that era.  It wasn't until the late 50's that I can recall hearing the incursion of Rock and Roll, via records played on the radio, in what became the Top Forty broadcasts of various local radio stations.  By the time I was in Junior High (1959-60), we were listening to "our" music on stations mostly out of Seattle, like KJR and KOL.  I do recall hearing some limited rock and roll on KTNT (I think it was), in Tacoma.  As for listening to records, I do remember we had a copy of Rockin' Robin Roberts' version of "Louie Louie" (Etiquette Label, which was the Wailers' own label, and they were the band on that record, with him as their lead singer) that I just about wore out.

                                                "KJR, Seattle, Channel 95"

                                                  KOL, 1300 on the AM dial
I got into amassing a serious record collection when I was a Junior in High School.  I had started buying 45's (two sided vinyl recordings whose name had to do with the speed at which they were played, 45 revolutions per minute), and then moved on to trading them with friends.  This would have been back in the very early 1960's, when 45's sold for 98 cents, and LPs (Long Playing record albums, played at 33⅓ rpm) sold for about $3.98 (2.98?).  I can still visualize so many different record labels every time I hear certain oldies played.  That was how I remember so many records - by their label, as much as by the artist.  Some singles were especially prized, so we often found ourselves offering one important one for three or four - or more - others, not so important.
            Of course the major record labels were RCA Victor ("His Master's Voice" featured in their ubiquitous logo), Columbia, Capitol, Decca, Atlantic, and a few others.

                A Later RCA 45, from Neil Sedaka, a Wunderkind of the late 50's

                         This RCA Victor logo was featured on many of those records

I think the most common record player for kids like me was the one made by RCA, that only played 45's, and allowed us to stack several records on the spindle, and then played them in sequence.  

                 The ubiquitous 45 player owned by most teens of the 50's into the 60's

          Just a representative few of the many labels found on records of the day.

            Within each of these major labels, there were many variations on some logo's use on different recordings.  Different colors were sometimes used on different recordings on the same label, and I think labels often used variations in color and design for different markets, especially overseas.  And, of course, there were many other record labels, beyond the ones I have mentioned, but I think most were affiliated with one of the bigger names in order to gain wider distribution.  That might explain why some major recording artists seemed to go from one label to another, especially early in their careers.  As for labels, Motown was not really known yet, but Berry Gordy had begun Tamla Records in 1959, and some early Motown artists were being released on Gordy Records.
            While the bright and varied labels may have had some small part in the records we sought, the real reason was indeed - and always - the music.  We were very much aware of and listening to a lot of stuff you no longer hear these days.  The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, The LimelitersThe Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and The New Christy Minstrels were some very big names for a time.  Of course, by this time Bob Dylan was certainly writing songs that were quickly covered by other artists, and Joan Baez was also recording, writing and singing some as well.
            My early record players were purchased at a Goodwill Store that was located, I believe, right about the corner of South Yakima and South 25th Street, in Tacoma.  I would buy very old radio/record player combinations, with beautiful wooden cabinets for only a couple of bucks.  I remember buying more than one because usually some part or another would not work properly.  The record changers would fail, or the turntable wouldn't move at all.  I would also buy more than one just to get more speakers to hang in the basement.  Eventually, however, I had a system working, and I strung wires all over that basement so that my sound was extended.
            I graduated from Stadium High School on June 1, 1964, and we moved from Tacoma to Enumclaw, Washington, the very next day.  For those who don't know what the world was like in those days, you should be aware that a new high school graduate had absolutely no value anywhere in the scheme of things, beyond ready cannon fodder for the war machine that existed at that time (yes, we were just ramping up in Vietnam).  I was pretty ignorant of the world, admittedly, and had no clue about what my real options might have been.  I knew that I could not attend college, mostly because I did not know how to even look into such a thing.  (I was largely ignored by our so-called high school counselors because I had neither the grades or the social economic position to make me obvious college material.  I was not aware that others like me were going to Canada to avoid the pending Draft (it certainly never occurred to me that anyone would evade it).  I was convinced that my only option was to seek employment, but there I quickly learned that I was not at all employable.  On the one hand was the old catchall of "You have no experience!", and on the other was, "I can't risk hiring you because you'll be snatched up in the Draft any day now."
            Finally, after looking for work all of that summer of 1964, I was able to land a place in a program that was just getting started under the "Manpower Development and Training Act of 1964," which was designed to train mostly young people to work in areas where there might be a need.  I later learned that the National Job Corps grew out of this, but that's another story.  The program that I entered that fall involved training at Rainier State School in nearby Buckley, Washington, as a Ward Attendant.  I guess that would be something akin to a Nurse Assistant today.  At any rate, I did complete this training through the winter of 1964, into the spring of 1965, only to learn that there were no jobs available.  I think one person out of the group with which I trained was actually offered a job.
            (One other memory stands out for me, from my time in Enumclaw.  I remember purchasing a double record set featuring Peter, Paul, and Mary, on the Columbia Record Label.  This was titled "In Concert," and was recorded at various locations, mostly in California.  

                                         Two Disc Vinyl That I Once Owned.

I bought it at a very special place that was likely called Incorporated Sales, but the name changed to Jayhawks around 1965.  That store, in that little town, had everything you could ask for, at very fair prices.  I believe that Walmart finally forced them out of business, and that's a shame.  Oh, well.  Back to training and job hunting):
            This was just as well, as we then moved all the way across the mountains to Moses Lake, Washington, from which location my father traveled to the small town of Othello for work as a bookkeeper.  I did manage to get hired on there for that summer, driving a forklift in a frozen food processing plant.  I worked through the end of the pea harvest, into the beginning of the corn harvest, until my position was taken over by the boss' nephew, and I was relegated to sweeping up whatever fell off the processing line.  I abruptly quit, and moved to Seattle, where I moved in with my oldest brother and his wife.

            Throughout this time I continued to purchase records, and gradually, my collection had increased until I had amassed over three hundred 45's and over one hundred LP's.  When I got my Draft Notice in October of 1965, unfortunately I decided to leave all of my records with a girl I had known for some time, and I never saw her, or the records, again.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Car, Car"

As you read this, and look at the pretty pictures, I wish I could share with you a song, plus monologue from an old LP I once owned.  I still have the music, only it is now digital, of course.  The LP was "Peter, Paul, and Mary - In Concert," and it was recorded way back in 1964, in several locations, and very much live.  The track that I would like you to hear is called "Car, Car," and it begins with Mary Travers voice dominating, as they ask you to "Take me for a ride in your car, car.  Take me for a ride..."  Very quickly, this leads to various plays on words, and segues nicely into a Peter Yarrow monologue.  Here's a link to an audio version:

Sometimes, I wonder how we have gone from having so many different American car manufacturers back in the 50's, to so few today.  I have trouble reconciling something that was preached to my generation, with the reality of what it has come to mean.  We were taught that competition was the lifeblood of American business, and of just about every other aspect of American life.  And, competition was indeed fierce between manufacturers of automobiles.  The first big year of production following WWII was 1947, when there were some 19 brands of car to choose from.

                          This is my personal all time favorite car, a 1949 Mercury

                                                         1953 Packard
         1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk, one of the most beautiful cars of the 1950's

     The 1958 Chevrolet Impala; the only year of that decade when Ford outsold Chevy

Today, of the American brand names, there are only the GM line (Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC trucks), Ford (Ford cars, Lincoln, and Ford trucks), and Chrysler (Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Dodge trucks) (which really isn't Chrysler any more, since it is owned by Fiat, an Italian company).  We could also mention Tesla, which is the first new name in a long, long time.  Also, to be fair, I might mention that GM used to mean Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and, for a few brief years, even Saturn.  And, Ford also manufactured Mercury, more models of Lincolns, and even Edsel.  And, of course, back in the day, Chrysler also made Desoto and Plymouth cars.

Why so many to choose from in years past, when our population was so much smaller, and now, so few, when there are so many more people?!  I know the answer, and it is not the result of the years of competition so much as it is plain and simple greed.  Companies and corporations are never satisfied with simply making a profit, keeping up with maintenance and normal growth.  Now, after all these years of "competition,"  the mind set has become all about Growth and more and more and more profit.

I do have trouble understanding why greed has taken over so many people.  I simply do not recall such an atmosphere surrounding American business when I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's.  One of the most hated figures in the world was mean Mr. Potter, from the classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," from 1946.  Why?  Because he was depicted as greedy, mean, and terminally Scrooge-like.  So, how did we get from that, to the despicable, greedy, heartless, and ignorant thing currently in the White House?!  OK.  OK.  I'm getting a bit off topic (not to mention political) here.  Sorry.

I do not know if it was just the greed that has led us to where we are today, but something else I cannot explain, is that all the new cars today look alike.  I grew up looking forward each year to the new models, as they came out in the fall.  Somehow, I came to believe that competition was driving that re-design from year to year.  And, more important, each brand name had its own distinct look.  Sometimes, sound, as well.  We could tell at a glance what kind of car we were seeing come down the road, and often we could tell the difference between a Ford V8 and a Chevy.

Granted, the car market today is dominated by foreign names (Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and others), and maybe that has to do with competition, but consider this.  All of those really great names of the past that were driven out of business, for whatever reasons, had to have left a void that these foreign brands have filled.  And, now that the void has been filled, maybe nobody in the industry feels any need to turn out uniquely designed automobiles.

Personally, I feel that the current manufacturers have no interest in new designs, or even in making their cars look good.  I think today it is all about technology, and that is why there are no automobile mechanics any more.  These days, when your car breaks down, you need a technician who can diagnose, and then repair your car.  And, of course, the problems today are not minor, since the technology used requires that entire systems of the vehicle now need to be replaced, even when the problem is a tiny part within a given system.

I just do not know.  Personally, I still love the cars of long ago, and maybe that has as much to do with getting old, as it has to do with anything else.

A look at brands then:

1947 Car brands and sales ranking, with top sales on top, descending:


In the years that followed the Second World War, mostly through the 1950's, these brands were introduced:

Henry J
Excalibur (1965-1983)
Avanti II  (1965-1984 also 87-89)
AMC (1970 - 1987)
Shelby - 1969

And, today, they are all gone, as well.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"That's all anybody calls me."

I was still twelve years old, when we suddenly moved from the small south central town of Goldendale, Washington, to Tacoma.  I did not know it at the time, but this was actually a return trip for me, since Tacoma is where I was born.  We had moved around a lot in my short life, as I recall that we had lived in about ten different houses by that point.  First, when I was born, the family lived in Tacoma, then we moved out southeast, to an area called Elk Plain, then a little cabin on a place called Rocky Ridge, then a couple of places in Eatonville, where I started school in the First Grade, about 1951.  We then moved to a Dairy farm near Elma, Washington, then across the mountains to the Prosser area.  We moved from Prosser to a wheat farm down near the Columbia River (Roosevelt, Washington), then, from about 1955 until June of 1959, we lived in Goldendale.
               In the Spring of 1959, I finished the Seventh Grade, and acted as an usher at my brother, Dennis' Eighth Grade graduation.  My oldest brother, Mike, graduated from High School, right about the same time.  Immediately after his graduation ceremony, the entire family was rushed onto a Greyhound Bus bound for Tacoma.  I never knew why, but I'm sure it had to do with my father having worn out his welcome in that town, just as he'd done before, and he would do again.
               At any rate, I recall waking up the next morning in a tiny upstairs bedroom at my grandfather's, a place unknown to me up to that time.  My grandfather's home was located at the corner of South 25th and Wilkerson, at the top of the long hill leading south, down to Center Street.  East on 25th Street, some 20 odd short blocks, down to Yakima Avenue, was the place that kept my brother, Dennis, and I occupied that first summer in Tacoma.
               Located at 711 South 25th Street was the Tacoma Boys Club, open to all boys for a nominal membership fee (maybe a quarter?).  The Boys Club had an indoor swimming pool, way down in the basement, a gymnasium on the main floor, a small game room, with at least one pool table, a little front desk, separated from the main entry way by a glass partition, and a library upstairs, on the top floor.  The Director's office, with his secretary's desk, took up a large area on the main floor, down the short entry hall, on the right. 
               The club was reflective of a very strong Director, whose name was E. S. "Osty" Ostberg.  His personality dominated just about every aspect of what went on there, and wherever the Boys Club touched the lives of boys.  Osty lived upstairs on the top floor, with his dog, Butch, a Boxer that went everywhere with him.  I have searched the internet for any information about him, but only managed to find two mentions of him online.  One, from the University of Puget Sound's archives, was simply a photograph from 1952, some seven years before I even met the man.  That had to do with a group of local civic leaders who were gathered at a table (photo op*) while planning the annual Career Conference that was  sponsored by the Associated Women Students.

               The only other mention I can find of Osty is from the Ames, Iowa, Daily Tribune, in February of 1973.  That article indicates that he retired from the Tacoma Boys Club in 1968, when he reached mandatory retirement age.  As best I can determine, he held that position from sometime in the 1940's, until he retired at 65, in 1968.  He did not take well to retired life, so asked the National Boys Club to find him something to do.  He then moved to Ames, Iowa, where he ran another Boys Club, even after losing a leg at some point.**
               Osty drove a big Mercury Station Wagon (1957), and in my recollection was usually wearing a loose pair of slacks, as he bustled around the club, or the grounds of the Summer Camp.  He was a true godsend to many young lads in that time and place.  We only knew him as Osty (but I have to say that - in my mind - I always spelled it as Ostie).  He must have seen something in the two of us (my brother and I), because that first summer he offered us the chance to spend a week at the Boys Club's summer camp on Lake Tanwax, up near Kapowsin.  We spent a good part of our summer in and around that Boys Club, and we both ended up working there part time, after school, for a couple years after our arrival in Tacoma.
               I can still picture Ostie now, with his rolling gait, rushing out of his office, in a hurry to get from one thing, to another.  I don't recall him wearing suits or ties, but rather, slacks, with perhaps a dress shirt.  His voice was kind of like Wilford Brimley's, without the down home accent, and with a lot more energy.  His secretary, whose name I have long forgotten, was sort of a cross between Mrs. Grundy (from the old "Archie" comics) and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Not skinny, like Mrs. Grundy, but with that kind of hair, always up in a bun, and sort of dowdy.  She was very efficient, and very nice, but I think she scared a lot of the kids.
               I recall working at my first Boys Club job, down in the basement, behind a cage, handing out heavy metal baskets to members to put their clothes in while they were in the pool.  The process involved me giving them a basket, and then, they'd get a pin, or a token with which to later reclaim their basket.  I had to run the gym shorts/swim trunks we also issued to members through a commercial size dryer, periodically.  I also learned about how important it was to maintain the pool's Ph balance, and the lifeguard taught me how to do the daily checks of that chemical balance.
                              Later on, I worked upstairs at the front desk, where I issued passes to the gym, checked out the balls for the pool table, and learned to replace the tips on the cue sticks.  I also signed up new members, and basically did whatever Ostie and his secretary taught me to do.
               We moved out of my grandfather's sometime during the first summer, so that by the time school started, I knew I'd be going to Jason Lee Junior High School, and we now lived a good distance from the Boys Club.  Since this distance was around two miles, on city streets, at some point, Ostie gave me a bike.  I think this was partly the result of me snooping around the place until I knew a lot of secrets, and that there was a lot of old stuff just laying around on the grounds of the Boys Club.  I likely mentioned to Ostie that I had found this old bike, and he gave it to me so that I wouldn't have to walk so far to and from work.  I took it home, cleaned it up, and put it into use for my commute.  This was a deluxe old Schwinn, with a spring over the front wheel.  I recall that I simply removed the front fender, because the original was so bent out of shape, bought inner tubes for the tires, and also removed the metal decoration that went in the middle of things.  That old thing served me very well for a few years until someone stole it.
               I'm sorry that I never bothered to go back at any time in my life to say thanks to Ostie, and I'm sorry to think that perhaps he never knew what an important influence he had on my life.  I am also a bit sad that he never seemed to receive the recognition that he surely deserved from the community at large.  I hope that he did at least end his days happily, and I hate the thought that he may well have ended it alone, since he had no family that we ever knew of.  Sometimes we need to stop and think about the Ostie's of this world, and maybe that's a part of what is missing from today's America - an appreciation for those who came before us, who set good examples for us, and who set us on our paths to adult life.