On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.
This was a morning when the weather guys and gals were predicting some nasty winter weather but the OFs headed out anyway. Those who arrived had nice weather but, when it came time to leave the diner, the freezing rain and sleet had begun.
The OFs who lived below 1,400 feet had only the rain and sleet — those over 1,400 feet had large wet snowflakes thrown in for good measure, at least in the Helderbergs. The OFs are in the hills west of the Hudson so that is the geography the OF use as reference.
The OFs were wondering how National Grid comes up with the report it sends out on how your use of electricity compares to your neighbors. The OFs said they look around at their neighbors and they see the neighbors have as many lights on as they do, only according to National Grid these neighbors are using less electricity.
One OF said his neighbor across the street is a graveyard. He said those guys really don’t use much electricity. His other neighbor lives there only part of the year so he does not use much. The other neighbor is a vacant building so, of course, he is using more than that neighbor.
Another OF said three of his neighbors are on solar power and this OF wonders if his usage is based on a comparison with them. The point is the OFs don’t know what neighbors they are being compared to.
One OF suggested there should be a little map with an arrow pointing to his place and little dots or something denoting what neighbors he is being compared to. The report says it compares your home to approximately 100 homes of the same square footage as the OF’s home and uses the same type of heat.
Many OFs say that is a lot of real estate to find 100 homes close to his home. The OFs look at this notice, find it interesting in a way, but still look at it and then say “so.”
The report says this OF’s house is 1,500 square feet and has electric heat. He has never used the electric heat. In the beginning, he used a wood stove, but converted to oil quite a few years ago. The OF said the wood had become just too much work.
One OF mentioned this notice from National Grid is a good idea. The OF can use it as ammunition to show his wife that they are using too much power and she should turn off the lights when she leaves a room. The OF maintained his house is so lit up that planes use it as a beacon; it is even listed on aircraft routing maps.
I-88: Lonely street
The OFs discussed traveling to Binghamton or to Oneonta prior to the construction of Route I-88 and after. Using Route 7 before the interstate was completed was interesting but took some time to get to places. I-88 did not do as much damage to the small towns along Route 7 as the Thruway did to the towns along Route 20.
Many OFs say it is still faster to come from Syracuse to Albany on Route 20 than it is to use the Thruway. The OFs claim I-88 is only a late spring, summer, and early fall road. It is a dangerous highway in the winter.
A couple of the OFs said it is a dangerous highway any time of the year in bad weather. Some OFs said it is the wind, while another said it is the wind, but it is also the deer, and he continued with comments concerning the sun. The sun never shines on the highway through some of the cuts in the hills that were made when the highway was built.
One OF thought it was not maintained as well as the Northway or the Thruway because there is nobody on it. Another OF said that he sometimes thinks he is still in his driveway because there are stretches where he can drive for miles and be the only car on the road.
“My kind of road,” one OF added.
This scribe mentioned the optical illusion for about three or four miles where the road appears to be going downhill when actually it is necessary to apply pressure to the accelerator to maintain speed because the road is in fact going uphill. The scribe also added the driver wouldn’t notice this if the car is on cruise control.
Who are we?
At one end of the table, there was some discussion on where we come from, and are we really are who we think we are.
Included in this was some discussion on Warners Lake and Thompsons Lake. The OFs said the fishing on Warners Lake was not as good as it had been in previous years. It could be the open winters one OF thought.
Then followed a dialogue in which one OF was informing the other OFs how, after precise instructions were dictated by the manufacturer of his home, the foundation and yard grading had to be exact before they would deliver the home.
The OF related that, when the home came, the trailer was moved into position and beams were laid; then one man came and pushed the house onto the foundation with one hand.
This should have been a Kodak moment, or even a video moment. One OF said a bare house with nothing in it really doesn’t weigh that much.
Those OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner ahead of the freezing rain and sleet, and whatever else was coming, were: Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, Don Wood, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey (with Denise Eardley, Ted’s private chauffeur; if you have a Hilltown Willsey gene, be prepared to have a long, productive life, so behave yourself when you are young because, if you do anything stupid and go to jail for life, it is going to be a very long time), Harold Grippen, and me.
On the last day of January 2017, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow.
Why is Kim’s Diner here, why is Preston Hollow here, why is Livingstonville where it is? It would be interesting to know why all these small towns dot the countryside.
The OFs come out of the mountain like flies attracted to decaying meat to go to breakfast on Tuesday mornings. A better analogy would be like bees to goldenrod in the fall.
The OFs maintain that the restaurants should have fans a little way from the restaurants (and on either side) that would waft the aroma of eggs and bacon towards the highway. The OFs feel this would induce passersby to whip in and order up breakfast even if they were not that hungry. Kim’s is such a place right on Route 145 at the edge of a small town.
Exodus of small businesses
The OFs discussed how many small businesses have left the area over the years. This time we discussed specifically Johnstown and Gloversville.
Both of these towns were full of small businesses. The knitting mills, glove- and leather-producing factories are now gone.
This area in Fulton County in its heyday had 300 leather factories; today there are only about a dozen and some of those just do the leather. The OFs used to take trips to that area to shop.
Johnstown Knitting mills was one where the OF said you could hear the mills running in the back. The OFs purchased gloves, wallets, and leather jackets, all right at the factory that made them. They are gone.
Now when the OFs look to purchase a pair of gloves, they all say “Made in China.” One OF added there is a reason (he thinks) for this. He opined that, if the gloves were made here, a $20 pair of gloves would cost $100.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
One OF whipped out his wallet to leave a tip and pay for his breakfast. The wallet appeared to be one he received as a graduation present when he graduated from high school.
An OF queried, “About time for a new wallet, isn’t it?”
The OF replied, “Nothing is falling out of it yet so it is still functional, and, if it functions, why get another one?”
Tough statement to argue with. A few of the OFs agreed with the OF with the old wallet.
One OF said he received a new wallet from his wife who was embarrassed by his other old one, and this OF said he could not get all the stuff from his old wallet into his new one.
Some of the OFs had to agree that change is not always good. These OFs were of the opinion that, if is not worn out, why change? And, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
This conversation went back to Gloversville and Grandoe leather where the St. Thomas wallet and bags among other name-brand, high-quality leather goods were made. (One of those leather places that is no longer there.)
This OF and his wife, like other OFs, did some of their Christmas shopping in Gloversville as mentioned above. Grandoe Corp. would have a factory sale that was so popular they would have people on the outside guarding the doors and, when some people came out, they would let the same number in. The room under the factory would be packed.
“One of the factories,” another OF said, “that made gloves, 30 years ago made the gloves for the Air Force, and they also had a small section of the factory where at Christmastime they had factory sales. The OF said people showed up at this glove plant in tour busses.
To get to this factory outlet, it was necessary to walk through part of plant where people were sizing gloves over hundreds of metal hands protruding from a table. The employee would stretch a glove over a protruding hand, push a lever with his foot, and steam would come out of holes in the hand to shape the glove. This factory is also gone.
Ten-digit phone numbers
Some of the OFs with Time Warner received a notice in their bills that said, starting in late winter or early spring ,it will now be necessary to dial 518 for every number in the 518 area code, and 838 if you are assigned a new number in the 518 area code. Now all counties in the 518 and 838 area codes will have 10-digit phone numbers.
One OF said to call his neighbor he will have to dial 518-123-4567, but if he gets a new neighbor who gets a phone this neighbor might also get a similar number like 838-123-4567. There’s a chance that business cards, letterheads, signs, truck lettering, and the like might have to be changed.
Another OF complained that life is not easy anymore. Who keeps messing things up, he wanted to know. Why can’t I just get up, have breakfast, pack a lunch, take my old boat out to the lake and go fishing, come home, have supper, watch a little TV, or read a book then go to bed. No! Now I have to think all the time; they keep changing all kinds of rules. I can’t keep up.
The Old Men of the Mountain, some of whom had to push the covers off a little earlier to get to Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow, were: Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Karl Remmers, Roger Chapman, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Don Woods, Chuck Aelesio, Frank Ray, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Jan. 24, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. At this meeting, the pickings were slim. The weather was a major factor but some brave souls made the trek.
One OF didn’t make it because he was instructed by his better half that he had better not go and leave her alone when the power went out. The power didn’t go off so the OF missed the breakfast. The OF was headed out the door on his way when the OMOTM thought the better part of valor would be to return.
From the informants who braved the weather and made it to the breakfast, it was noted that, for some reason, part of the conversation was on the Civil War. This was from knowledge gained from books, and not actual participation, although with some of the ages of these OFs, they just missed it.
President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration was the most hostile, and guarded inauguration in history. He was known to many as the “ape” from Illinois and the gossip was that he would never take the reins of the government alive.
The carriage in which he rode from the Capitol to the White House was so guarded by the military that he was barely visible, and the Army was employed to keep the crowds at bay. The sharpshooters on the rooftops were given orders to shoot anyone who approached the carriage.
Politics are still alive and causing discussion among “We, the People.”
Ice is not nice
Our weather was also a topic, of course. With the exception of the temperatures in the Hilltowns not being quite as high as the Carolinas, this much of the winter so far has been like the Carolinas with all the ice. One OF mentioned that, what they have in the Carolinas is lots of ice, but the days warm up so fast (for the most part) the ice is gone by late afternoon.
“Not always,” one OF added, “It (ice) can hang around, and get inches thick, and just like us here in upstate New York, everything will shut down.
The white pine trees in the Hilltowns are bent over from the ice buildup on the trees’ branches, and so far this year this occurrence has happened twice. One OF mentioned that the white pines shed branches in ice storms like deciduous trees shed their leaves in the fall.
Another OF said that, even though they drop branches as large as six inches in diameter, it does not seem to affect the tree; that weed of a tree just keeps on growing.
“Yes,” one OF commented, “in the fall, we have to contend with all the pine needles that fall and, in the spring, we have to haul all the branches away that fell during the winter.” To this OF it is a double whammy.
Then the yellow pollen in the spring shows up and that stuff goes where water won’t. However, his wife insists that the tree supplies cover to lots of blue jays so let the trees be.
The OF claimed he and his wife sit on the porch and watch the birds fly full tilt through the white pines and never ruffle a needle. They wonder how these fliers manage to do this because the various birds’ wing spans can be from four inches to over twelve inches.
Another OF’s wife complains when her beloved OF clears brush and tries to eliminate the wild grape vines because that is where the cardinals live. The OF says his home is full of the red of cardinal plates, cardinal wall hangings, cardinal figurines, and sundry cardinal knickknacks.
Tough eyes for tough guys
The OFs discussed the eye, and how tough an organ that is. Many of the OFs have had eye surgery.
The OFs have many of the eye problems of all OFs, and OFsess, (just like princes and princesses) like dry eye, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and a few other ailments like scratchy eyeballs, and tearing.
But the eye is tough; many of the OFs have had numerous black eyes. One OF said he had two black eyes at the same time.
Bugs, dust, thistles, and all kinds of stuff whack the OFs in their eyes and, for the most part, after a short time, the eye is back to normal. One OF said he had a battery blow up in his face and he thought he was going to be blind, but after a while his vision was back and normal.
To which another OF added, “You are one lucky s.o.b., that could have been the case and you would now be using a white cane.”
Those hardy few that made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and probably left Amanda with a few extra eggs, a couple extra pounds of bacon, and extra bowls of pancake mix, because of the short supply of OFs were: Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Rev. Jay Francis, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Marty Herzog, Ted Willsey, (Denise Eardley), and not me.
Tuesday is here again and the Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Home Front Café in Altamont.
The other restaurants the OFs visit are restaurants, but the Home Front is a restaurant with a theme. The Home Front pays tribute to the men and women of the 1940s generation.
The Home Front is as well known for that theme as for its food. The theme suits many of the OFs because they are veterans. However, the talk Tuesday morning was not on anything veteran-related. The OFs may be old but at least they are current.
The big argument of the day is what a lynx is, and what a bobcat is. Really!
In a good side shot, there should be no discussion. One OF brought in a clear picture on his cell phone of a bobcat in a backyard. It was a bobcat; it was large and apparently a male; however, one OF insisted it was a lynx.
A quick perusal on Google revealed the following: The most common wildcat in North America, the bobcat, is named for its short, bobbed tail. They are medium-sized cats and are slightly smaller but similar in appearance to their cousin, the lynx. Their coats vary in color from shades of beige to brown fur with spotted or lined markings in dark brown or black.
So, it was one against 30 and among the 30 were outdoorsmen, trappers (one professional), hunters and fishermen, and a few who have the cats visit them on occasion. But (like many of the OFs) once an OF’s mind is set, it is virtually cast in stone; hence the well-earned phrase “you blockhead”!
Anyway, it was just a big bobcat out for a stroll. Or maybe it was his cousin.
Another OF brought in some photographs of the winter of 1957/58 on the Hill with snow banks twice as high as a vehicle and in many areas the plows could not get through and the snow was shoveled by hand to reach the road.
Helicopters were used to bring in supplies to stranded farmers, and they even brought in hay. But one OF muttered under his breath that this winter isn’t over yet; we still have to get through March.
Two OFs who sat across from each other were discussing the Silver King tractor; both OFs have one, and these tractors are in different stages of restoration. Listening to the two yak back and forth was like a history lesson on the Silver King tractor.
The tractor was developed in the early 1900s to augment a company in Plymouth, Ohio that made locomotives and other equipment for moving clay to make bricks. The company (Plymouth Locomotives) had a serious decline in sales because of the Great Depression of 1929 to 1939.
They needed something cheap that people could afford, and they needed to keep their employees working. Aha! the Silver King tractor so named because the silver paint used on the locomotives was good stuff.
The original tractor was designed by the locomotive engineers and was big and cumbersome like a locomotive. This was not what the owners wanted. The company heard of a farmer that made his own tractor from various parts like the Model T and other parts he had laying around his farm.
The owners hired this farmer, and voilà, a small inexpensive tractor was born and painted silver with blue wheels. The tractors were intended for farms less than 60 acres and caught on well. But larger farms found they were a good utility tractor and purchased the tractor to save them from having to crank up the big, heavy ones to do Mickey Mouse chores.
Farmers once again came to the rescue and with forward thinking by the owners developed this type of tractor, which saved the company and the employees. The Silver King was made well into the late 1940s.
When did accidents become crashes?
The OFs were wondering when accidents became crashes. One OF said he hears a crash and he looks for some deliberate act.
The OFs said a crash is when someone goes out and drives headlong into a bridge abutment to kill himself — otherwise it is just an accident. No one goes out to deliberately have an accident, no matter how plastered they are.
More drunks make it home than don’t and the ones that do slam into a tree did not do it deliberately because they were drunk. This was an accident the drunk did not count on.
One OF added, “Yeah, if you are peeling potatoes and cut your hand, it is an accident, and, if you are drunk and cut your hand, it is still an accident because it was not planned. Now the same guy may always be drunk when he peels potatoes and he has been doing it that way for years, but one time he cut his hand. This is an accident.”
Recalling the lure of Green Stamps
The OFs continued to muse about old times and talked about Green Stamps. One OF mentioned he still has an unfilled book with Green Stamps.
Some of the OFs mentioned what they picked up at the redemption center. An OF said he still uses one of the items today that he purchased many years ago with Green Stamps.
Another OF wondered if the point system used by airlines, and certain stores and credit cards are a version of the old-fashioned Green Stamps. The OFs said there is so much rigmarole needed to redeem these points and what they offer is nothing the OFs want or can use.
These “points” don’t even come close to the ease of using Green Stamps, and at the redemption center there were many items that people needed and could use.
Elderberries in wine and pies
The OFs talked about eating, again, and this will not be the last time. This time, the chatter was about elderberries — making elderberry wine — and a couple of OFs have just begun making theirs.
One OF garnered 30 pounds of elderberries and the other OF picked 26 pounds and, if anyone knows elderberries, that is a lot of elderberries. One OF is going to combine some blueberries in his wine.
Then the OFs began talking about elderberry pie, and that led to mincemeat pies and how our mothers (now you know we are going back a ways) made their own mincemeat. The OFs know how to eat.
The OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, but none ordered elderberr or mincemeat pie, were: John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Ray Frank, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Rev. Jay Francis, Wayne Gaul, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Giebitz, Gerry Irwin, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Jan. 10, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, and this scribe does not have a clue as to what went on because this scribe was not there.
This will give the scribe a chance to expand on or use some of the notes from previous breakfast conversations. Some of what the OFs talk about is a very short, and generally quick, banter back and forth that may only be one or two sentences long and then a nippy retort.
Many of these are not newsworthy or fit for a paper but are very commonplace — locker-room talk of the senior-citizen type.
Last week, one of the topics not covered in the Enterprise report was water. On the Hill, many, if not most, of the wells have sulfur water. This is great stuff.
There are many kinds of water softeners that take care of the sulfur in the home if owner does not want it. Many on the Hill prefer it and, when going off the Hill and drinking the water in Delmar, or Guilderland or any community that has a water plant, the Hill people can smell the chlorine almost immediately.
Some of the OFs say it is almost like drinking Clorox. Some of the OFs who have softeners have a bypass line that goes to a faucet on the sink that takes the untreated water directly to that faucet. This water they use for drinking and cooking.
Some direct the sulfur water directly to a holding jug and let the water aerate. That is good water and spoils the OFs (and most people who drink it) from drinking other water. Thi is one of the many advantages of living on the Hill, but not all the wells are sulfur. Some wells tap into a good stream of water before it travels through the limestone and that, too, is great water.
OFs ate health food down on the farm
The OFs, say they are OFs because well, duh, they are old and most of the OFs became old by eating the right stuff and the OFs did this naturally. The OFs keep getting reports on how people should be eating and, as the OFs look at these suggestions, many say: What is this stuff? The OFs say that they did not eat the good stuff all the time but, when they got off track, it was only occasionally.
When many of the OFs were growing up, their meals came from items grown in the garden, and butchered on the farm. One OF said, you can’t get any fresher than that, and it was chemical-free: Eggs, meat, and potatoes with veggies and fruit, although some OFs said their fruit came in the form of pies and jams.
A couple of the OFs said their fruit came in the form of wine. Home canning, and curing your own meat, was a food process more than one OF mentioned. “We used plain stuff like salt, or stuff you could pronounce,” said one.
Another OF said his family was poor, to which another OF quickly added, “We were all poor.” Anyway, this particular OF said he didn’t start to eat well until he went into the service.
“We still eat the same way,” an OF said, “only we get it from the store, and we consume all the chemicals they use and don’t see any difference.”
However, another spoke up and said, “Most of us had a good start before the agriculturists started using all these growth hormones.”
Food and drink is essential
But is it interesting?
Looks like this scribe did not consider eating and drinking interesting because, for any of us to be here, we have to eat and drink. To this, this scribe says, it must be more interesting than he thinks because of all the cooking shows on TV and all the cookbooks in the bookstores.
The question becomes, as one OF put it, “Suppose we ate like they tell us to eat now. Would we be older OFs, and function better at 90 or 100, than we are now at 80 and 90?”
“Only time will tell,” another OF thought. “But who wants to be on this planet that long?”
This is the same OF who wanted to get off this planet awhile back.
Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and are still adding weight to this sphere were: Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Pastor Jay Francis, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and not me.