On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the school routine was already is in place in many institutions of learning.  

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and had their frequent-eater card stamped. Just like frequent miles, there are rewards at the Your Way Cafe for having a card and getting it stamped.

Enough stamps and the bearer of the card is entitled to a free breakfast. It is a good thing some of the OFs eat at the Your Way Café during the week; otherwise, if the group showed up with cards stamped sufficiently to receive a free breakfast at the same time, poor Darcy would go broke.

The OFs were fired up Tuesday morning on the “bait and switch” ads in the paper, even with coupons. This scribe did not realize so many of the OFs encountered this practice and what they did about it.  

Two of the best tales were about a major chain that has been around a long time. It seems that one of the OFs saw a car battery advertised in the paper for a really good price and since he owned an old clunker, which he used mainly to run around and go to work with, he knew the old car was in need of a battery.

“Perfect,” he told himself. “The sale is tomorrow and I am going down early in the morning before work and get one.”

The OF showed up with the ad and asked the clerk for the battery on sale because there were none on the sales floor. The OF said the clerk asked him what kind of car he drove and the OF told him.

The clerk said that battery would not fit in his car so they couldn’t sell him one. The OF said he blew up because the clerk had no idea what the battery was being used for. The OF said he could be using the battery to operate running lights for crabbing on his boat; it was none of the clerk’s business what the battery was going to used for.

He then asked for the manager. The manager came and said he was sorry but that particular battery was all sold out.

The OF said he pointed out to the manager that he (the OF) was the first one in the store. He told the manager to look around — there was only the OF, the manager, and the clerk there.

Where is everyone who bought the battery?  He didn’t see anyone leaving the store when he came in. The OF said he threatened to sue them individually and the store, and he was coming back with a cop.

The manager finally admitted there were no batteries, and sold him a better battery at the sale price. The customer has to stand his ground.

The next is the same store chain, and this OF says it was in an ad this store used off and on. The ad says the store has a tool chest full of tools for a ridiculously low price.

The OF says twice he tried to take advantage of this ad and both times was told the store were sold out. The next time he saw the ad, he went that evening to the store and saw quite a few of the boxes ready for sale on a table.

The sale was the next day and, just as the OF above (the OFs at that time lived hundreds of miles apart and this was not the same store, but the same chain so conversing with the other OF did not take place), this OF showed up first thing in the morning.

The table was empty and a clerk said he was sorry but they were sold out and offered a similar set at a higher price. This OF raised such a fuss, and insisted they were there and said that he checked it out the night before.

He, too, threatened legal action and they brought the advertised tool set out from the back and sold it to the OF for the advertised price. The OFs stand their ground.

One OF said he likes the way Walmart does it. Whatever the sale item is, it is where it is supposed to be and all wrapped up in plastic.

When it comes time for the sale, the wrapping is removed and the sharks come to the chum. The OF said he was in the right place at the right time, and had no intention of purchasing a TV but was right there when the Walmart employee was removing the wrapping off one of these sales.

The OF said he grabbed one and paid less for that TV than a cheap clock radio cost. The OF still has it and it works great.

The wife saw him later on in the store with the TV in his cart and she asked, “What the heck is this?  We don’t need another TV.”

The OF told his wife the price and took her back to where the TVs were to show her, and they were all gone. The OF said that he was unintentionally one of the Piranhas that just happened to be the first in line.

The OFs say, when messing with seniors and saving a buck, be sure to have your ducks in line because you are messing with a formidable foe.

One OF mentioned that we can’t trust the weatherman, we can’t trust politicians, we can’t trust the news, and we can’t trust ads. He added anyone that pays full price for a mattress must be from another planet.

Another OF mentioned he thinks the real “bait and switch” going on now is the one being perpetrated by National Grid. In this OFs opinion, National Grid wants a 5-percent increase, so the company asks for 11 percent.

The people become furious and get up in arms, the legislators get behind them, and the Public Service Commission reduces the increase to 5 percent. The PSC says, “Look what we did for you.” The legislators say, “Look what we did for you.” National Grid says it listened to the populace and so it accepted the 5-percent rate increase.

The only win would be for a 0-percent increase but that would not help National Grid with its increase in operating expenses. “Lets see how this one plays out,” the OF said.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie (and who can’t wait to get their hands on the next ad for something they need or want) were: George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Richard Frank, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Shafer, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Otis Lawyer, Duncan Bellinger, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Duane Wagonbaugh, Bob Lassome, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Josh Hundley, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

On these waning days of a continual spring (there was no real summer), it was Tuesday, Aug. 29, when the early contingent of the Old Men of the Mountain gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Country Café in Schoharie, waiting for it to open before the men piled in. On the sidewalk, the OFs began discussing many of the topics that would be carried into the Country Café.

A discussion that was typical of the OFs (in manner not in subject) was how some OGs were jawing at another OG about the type of cocoa he served them in his at-home workshop. The OFs were complaining when the OG was trying to get work done, even though the OFs who showed up there (just for someplace to go and visit), that his cocoa was weak and cheap. For goodness sake!

The cocoa was free, the entertainment was free, the parking was free, stools and rickety old chairs were free for the OFs’ use, and yet these visiting OFs have the audacity to complain.

These OGs complained so much that the fellow with the shop had to upgrade his cocoa brand. Through experimentation and the process of elimination, the OF now serves Swiss Miss to the visiting OFs, and these ingrates don’t even chip in.

The next thing you know, the OFs will be asking, “Where are the doughnuts”?

The OF with the shop says he really doesn’t mind too much; the OFs do on occasion bring in some business. They also offer free advice, lots of free advice, none of it right though, he added.

This common scenario of the OMOTM is a clue to the type of summer we in the Northeast have experienced. The OFs claim we never really exited the cocoa-doughnut phase of fall and winter, and now the OFs are right into what should be the cocoa-doughnut, pumpkin, apple pie phase of the year.

The OFs said they never really felt like having watermelon and soft ice-cream this summer.

Disasters everywhere

With all the problems that the southeast coast of Texas is having with Hurricane Harvey, Irene pops up her ugly head, flooding residents of our area with memories, and how close it was in the time of year for these two cataclysmic events. Irene was nasty but the OFs noted how many more people were affected by Harvey.

Although one OF mentioned that, if it happens to you, it is a disaster of one, so whether it is happening to seventy thousand, twenty thousand, or just a few hundred, it is still a disaster to those involved. What do you do when everything you have is swept away in a flood, or burned up in a forest fire, or buried under rubble in an earthquake

It is all mind-numbing for those going through it.

One OF said, “The west coast burns up, the South gets blown away, the center of the country gets sucked into the heavens, and the east coast becomes buried under snow.”

The OF said, “We can run but we can’t hide. Bad weather will find you, and if it is not the weather it is bugs, snakes, and alligators.”

Another OF added, “If it wasn’t for all that, there would be no challenges and life would be boring.”

And one more OF further stated, “Tell that to someone whose house has just burned to the ground.”

Pioneer’s perspective

That started another conversation on how the pioneers lived with no electricity, no air conditioners or refrigerators, and no means of expanded verbal conversation. News traveled only by word of mouth, or on the printed page.

One OF said at least the Indians were one up on us there — they had smoke signals.

It is hard for the younger group of OFs to envision this. The OFs that are 80 or beyond had to do a lot without the accepted conveniences of today and many of the OFs said, “We didn’t miss them because we didn’t have them.”  

However, one OF said, “Things weren’t too bad because we had cars and trucks and even airplanes; we had radios, crystal sets, and we even had the telephone. It is our parents that got along quite well without the conveniences of the 1930s. Look at all the advancements they had in World War I.”

The OF added, “Why, when we were young. we even had Johnny Ray, and Elvis.”

The OFs had to agree (even though some were still farming with horses) that the modern conveniences were around.  Why, we even had F.W. Woolworth's, Kresge’s, Wards, and Sears — what else did the OFs need?

The OFs who gathered at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie, with one whipping out his phone to order a part so the OF could repair his lawn tractor, were: Miner Stevens, Josh Buck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn,  Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Glenn Patterson (who showed all of  the OFs up by hiking to the restaurant, and then he had to hike home), Pete Whitbeck, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Art Frament, Ray Kennedy, Bob Benac, Herb Sawotka, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagonbaugh, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, John Rossmann, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, and me.

 

It is strange how, as we get older, the Old Men of the Mountain complain that the years go by so fast, yet at times, a day seems to last forever. The week seems to have only three days — Tuesdays, Mondays, and then Tuesdays again. Tuesday, Aug. 22, the OMOTM sat around the tables at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

Those who regularly read this column know that the conversations of the OFs revolve around a basic group of topics. A frequent topic is cars, trucks, tractors, and tools. A sub-group within this basic group can be antique, old, almost new, new, and anywhere in between.

Tuesday morning, the OFs were talking about the smartest way to own a vehicle for general transportation. Leasing did not come up, but trading in vehicles every couple of years was one way.

Purchasing a good new or late-model car or truck and running the thing as long as the OF could (until it started to cost a lot of money to keep it on the road) was another option. One OF said he buys a cheap  means of transportation — nothing more than a couple grand — and runs it about three or four years, or until the car or van dies and then he hunts down another cheap one and does the same thing.  To him, the make and model mean nothing. No product loyalty here.

Another OF said that, when he was first married (and that was a long time ago when Duesenbergs and Whippets were still running around), his father-in-law said the best thing to do was (if the OF could afford it) to purchase a Rolls Royce and then make it the only car the OF would ever own.

The father-in-law continued, “The Rolls will eventually be the cheapest transportation of any by not having to purchase other cars as they begin to wear out.”

One OF added that was all right back when gas was only 12 to 19 cents a gallon. The cars like that Rolls got only about eight or nine gallons per mile — if that. Now gas is $2.50 to three bucks a gallon and a vehicle like that does not look like such a good bargain. Back then, we never saw that spike in gas prices coming.

“To go along with that,” an OF added, “neither did we see the price of eggs, milk, bread, or coffee, being like it is now.”

“Yeah,” a second OG said, “a cup of coffee used to be a nickel at Woolworth’s counter; now it is almost a buck and some places charge a buck and half.”

“What the heck,” another OF chimed in, “what about paint? Look what a gallon of good paint costs, and it is a stretch to get a gallon to cover 400 square feet.”  A lively discussion.

Ships collide

The Navy guys were at it again with the latest news of two ships running into each other. This misfortune was no competition — a huge oil tanker and a naval destroyer coming together. That is like a tractor trailer hitting a Yugo.

One OF who was not a Navy man said he thinks the ships are so modernized that no one is looking out the windows. The sailors are all in some dark room, maneuvering the ship by computer, or like airplanes, they may have the ships on automatic pilot as they are headed from point A to point B no matter what.

But what does this OF know?  The only boats of any size he has been on are ferry boats.

Prices rise

This category would almost fit in the cars-and-truck conversation but it didn’t. Even though OFs are OFs (emphasis on old), some still ride motorcycles.

This scribe feels that the OFs who do are beyond the wheelie stage, but these OFs were talking about the cost of motorcycles. At the prices some of these bikes sell for, most of the OFs say they would want a windshield, roof, doors, and a trunk.

What brought up this dialogue was that one OF mentioned that at a recent vehicle auction an Indian motorcycle with a sidecar was sold for $115,000. An OF piped up that he had one of those, and with a sidecar.

Another OF said his son also had an Indian motorcycle (40 years ago) but sold it because it was always breaking down. The OF thought the thing his son had was old and tired and belonged in a museum.

As the OFs kept talking about the price of things from nickel-and-dime items to big-ticket items, one OF mentioned that, at today’s cost of living, no wonder his grandkids now make as much money when they start working as he made (after working 30 years) when he retired.

Another OF said that 20 years ago the financial guys where he worked had figures that allowed for inflation. The OF said, as he thinks back now at the table at Mrs. K’s, “We have way surpassed the figures the advisors threw out.” However, the OF is not totally sure due to foggy memory cells of 20 to 30 years ago.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who had enough memory left to make it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant on Main Street in Middleburgh were: Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Chapman, Marty Herzog, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Art Frament, Ray Kennedy, Herb Sawotka, Russ Pokorny, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Ted Leherman, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink and his grandson Ellis, Duane Wagonbaugh, Ted Willsey — the only OF with a private chauffeur — Denise, Bob Lassome, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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It was Aug. 15, and The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and for some reason the OMOTM arrived at the restaurant in dribs and drabs. Generally the OGs arrive in various groups at about the same time — last Tuesday was different. Eventually, the OGs made it.

It was a day of news for the OFs but unfortunately much of it was of interest only to the OMOTM. The discussions were on who was ill and all their problems; however, this is of concern mostly to the OFs’ families and the OFs.

A topic talked about for a little bit was the article in The Times Union about the Albany area being the “worst” place to retire. At least it was at the bottom of the list of 117 places used in the sample.

The OFs’ breakfast is a good place for this discussion because the OFs are all retired. The ones who stick it out summer and winter had a little problem with that commentary because they had no real comparison, but the ones who fly away in the winter months did have a few comments and they heartily agreed with the conclusion of the study.

It is the typical laments of most New Yorkers: the lack of sunshine in summer and winter; taxes being ridiculous compared to any other place; and, of course, the politics. Some said New York is so out of touch with the rest of the country it is like a little country all to itself, at least in the Albany area.

Lack of inexpensive public transportation to outlying areas is a big concern for retired people and it is virtually nonexistent in the tri-city area. Senior housing, where the seniors can walk to church,  grocery stores, and pharmacies at reasonable prices are needed.

One OF mentioned he did not think the area even considered itself as a place to retire to. It is a center of government, education, and some industry. This OF said that the tri-city area is the place to make your mark when you are young, invest wisely, then retire to the sunny, laid-back places. Here it is a hustle-bustle, push-shove atmosphere.

An OF added. “I am here because I am used to the high taxes, political shenanigans, and all my friends and family are here.” The OF said he does not want to wander off to where he doesn’t know anybody just for a few more rays of sunshine.

“As long as I am happy where I am,” the OF said, “that is where I am going to stay. When things go wrong, at least I will know the doctors and there will be people I know to take care of me. I don’t need someone else to tell me where to retire to.”

Catching up

The conversation turned to a more cheerful topic concerning an event that occurred a couple of weeks ago. At the Hilltown Café restaurant in Rensselaerville, a rare happenstance took place.

It is necessary to know the layout of the restaurant to follow this. The restaurant has only tables and a counter — no booths. The restaurant dining area is basically L-shaped.

The OFs start filling the restaurant up from the bottom of the L, then proceeding up the leg of the L, sitting at tables. At the bottom of the L, the tables are pushed together and, when filled, the OFs start sitting at individual tables that hold four people, leaving the ones in front for regular patrons.

On this particular morning, one of the regular patrons came in and sat at one of the tables in the leg of the L. As the other OFs came in and the back was full the OFs started sitting at tables going up the leg, leaving this local gentleman sitting at his table alone, surrounded by the OMOTM.

Eventually all the tables were full of OMOTM except his. (Almost filling up a restaurant is common with the OM).  

When three more OFs came in and all tables were full they went to the table where the older, regular patron was sitting and asked if was OK if they sat with him. (Rarely does this scribe use names; this is to protect the innocent but in this case it is necessary to have this little report make any sense.)

The regular patron said, “Sure, I just came in to see if Bill Bartholomew was coming. I see his name in The Enterprise quite often and would like to see him because I used to do business with him years ago.” The three OFs smiled because the man he was talking to, and who had asked him if it was OK to sit there, was Bill Bartholomew.

Age has a way of sneaking up on us OFs and, if the OFs don’t check the mirror every now and then, many would not even recognize themselves. These two did not recognize each other until names were said and hands were shook.

Condolences offered

Life goes on in somewhat of a normal pace. The pace is different for us all, including the OMOTM. As age creeps up on us, adversity slips in; the OFs adjust to the adversity that now becomes part of the routine.

When this change in the routine is accepted and the adversity eventually comes to an end, though the OFs know it is going to happen, it is still hard. With that in mind, the Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their heartfelt condolences to Harold Guest on the passing of his wife, Arlene, on Sunday, Aug. 13.  

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh with not a hint of the news of Arlene until the breakfast; those who met were all saddened and they were: Harold Guest, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Don Wood, Herb Sawotka, Ray Kennedy, Roger Chapman, Duane Wagonbaugh, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Bob Lassome, Gerry Irwin, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink and his grandson Ellis Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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The Old Men of the Mountain met at Kim’s West Winds in Preston Hollow on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

For some reason, the pickin’s of OFs was slim. It was found that only a few of the old goats had legal excuses.

Those OFs were the ones who were in the hospital and the one that checked in for his senior trip. The OF in Scotland, and one other who also went to Canada, plus the other world travelers, will have to give accounts of their trips upon their return.

Those who became lost apparently never read “Acres of Diamonds,” and others must have had a tough night and did not get up. This “lack of sleep” used to be a malady of the OF’s younger years; now the same malaise sets in around 70 years old or so.

OFs prefer stores to online shopping

A topic that the OFs talked about was the closing of so many stores. The OFs mentioned Sears a few weeks ago and brought up the same store again, but now they included other major stores, and complete malls.

The OFs continued that, at our ages, most cannot get accustomed to using the phone or the computer to purchase items. The OFs think that, once they put in the information that the supplier requests in order to “fill the basket,” the supplier now knows too much about the OF (and so does anybody else who has the ability to access that information) because now it is digital and out there.

The OFs wonder what is to stop some outsider from ordering something in your name. If that situation should happen, then the OFs say they are left with the hassle of trying to straighten it out. In the meantime, their credit rating is shot because the OF surely is not going to pay for something he did not order and did not receive.

The OMOTM covered the looky, touchy, feely bit a week or so ago but still brought it up again this Tuesday. With the OFs not being too astute with this purchasing “online” they were wondering what-if.  If they do (the online order) and it does not fit, or it is not exactly what the OF thought it would be, what now?

Are you stuck with it, do you have to pay to return it, and of course the box has been opened. Sometimes (the way things are packaged today) it seems like the manufacturer does not want anyone to use the product inside because it is almost impossible to get at the product because of the packaging.

One OF said on many things it is necessary to tear the whole package apart to get at the two-dollar item inside. Then on the box it might say, “For credit, return in original box.” Yeah, right!  The original box is torn to bits and all over the floor.

One OF suggested it is probably a good idea to check on the return policy before ordering. Another OF related a story about shopping for a new blazer.

His old blazer fit but was getting a little battle worn from too many funerals. The OF knew his size and it was the size that was in the old blazer; however, he and his wife went to three stores and nothing fit.

They were all too tight across the shoulders. The OF said he and his wife wound up at Boscov’s and were in the sport blazer section and were having the same problem. A salesman came over and asked if he could help.

The OF said he told the problem to the salesman and the salesman said, “Oh sir, you won’t find that size here. You belong over in Portly.”

Say what!? The old blazer could not have been that old.

The wife said, “You OG, you had that coat when you were still working and that was 22 years ago, and it is not the shoulders that’s too tight.”

The OF continued, “The salesman was right; the portly size fit perfectly.”

Now how is anyone going to get that kind of service from the phone, or the computer, or the internet.

The OFs feel it is the same old story. They are out of the loop, as mentioned before, but the OFs feel the loop is not really a loop but it is a noose that is surrounding the necks of people to increase the profit line for big corporations.

Get rid of the employees, get rid of the property, save on transportation, save on taxes — a whole litany of cost savings for businesses and passed on to the customer.

Traveling to see castles and boats

Some of the traveling OMOTM voyaged to the Thousand Islands. The OFs who have been there all admitted it is a beautiful area.

The tourists’ areas of Boldt Castle, and its love story of how it came about made for a good discussion. It was how the love of one man for one woman was so intense that, upon her death, the husband never went back to Heart Island, or finished the castle.

There is also the Singer Castle that was built by Frederick Bourne who was the fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company (which is where the name Singer Castle came from).  This is the only remaining castle on the St. Lawrence River to have been completely restored, furnished, and resided in during the heyday of the great builders in New York.

Some of the OFs have visited both of these places.

The Thousand Islands is the place to be if anyone is interested in boats, particularly antique boats. It looks like the OFs are on a boat kick because the last column mentioned the same topic — only presented completely differently.

One OF said it is not necessary to go all the way to the Thousand Islands to check out boats. We have Cohoes and Waterford right in our own backyard and see boats there, especially when they have the steamboat and tugboat shows.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Kim’s West Winds in Preston Hollow (and they did not come by boat, although maybe they could have: From the Vlaie pond, they could get there by canoe down the Catskill creek) were: George Washburn, Josh Buck, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Dave Williams, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Ray Kennedy, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Leherman, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, and me.

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