Ships collide and prices rise like bread dough

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.