— Photo from John R. Williams

Bob Giebitz, at 94, cuts a birthday cake that looks like his garden.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Mike Willsey celebrates his 92nd birthday.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey looks thoughtful at his 90th birthday party.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey smiles at his 90th birthday party.

The Tuesday morning of July 17 was a wet one. While the Old Men of the Mountain were in the Country Café in Schoharie having a great breakfast of one kind or another, outside it started to pour.

The irony of this is, when the early birds of the OMOTM arrived, they encountered a workman for the village with his tractor and wagon, watering all the flowers along Main Street. The OFs think that, with the amount of plants he has to maintain, the workman never made it to the end before the rains came, although looking at the tank in the wagon, the village was using fertilized water to keep the plants looking as fresh as they do so maybe he kept going.

July 14 was International Nude Day. This was the day Howe Caverns was having its Naked in the Cave party. None of the OFs had the courage to participate and most thought that they would be turned away even if the OFs applied for reservations.

Just because the cave is dark, slippery, cold, and damp, the OFs thought their rejection would be considered by the planners that to view any of the OFs naked would frighten away all the participants younger than 60.

They would look at the naked OFs and wonder to themselves: “Is that what I am going to look like in another 20 years?”

The OFs would have to reply, “Yep.”

The OFs understood that the event was a huge success, and the caverns had to turn people away. One OF commented that he wouldn’t go because he couldn’t imagine sitting in the boat to cruise the underground lake with a bare bottom on that cold, damp seat.

Naked in the Cave brought more stories about the North American Cement plant that used to be the entrance to the cave. Across the railroad tracks, and the street in Howe Cave, there was a restaurant.

The OFs are talking back in the mid-1950s at this time. The OFs’ resident historian actually could remember the name of the restaurant and it was Tillison’s Restaurant; one OF had a relative who was a waitress there. Just down from the restaurant, on the other side of the street, was the D&H railroad dispatcher’s building for the plant.

According to an OF who used to work at the cement plant, this dispatcher was the cheapest guy on two feet. The dispatcher would take the tape from the machine that recorded railroad cars in and out, and he also maintained information on demurrage (a charge for detaining a ship, freight car, or truck) for railroad cars on plant tracks.

This tape would drop into a bucket, and, instead of getting a new tape when the tape was full, this dispatcher would wind the tape back on the roll and use the back of the tape until that was full.

This same skinflint would go over to Tillison’s, order a glass of hot water, take a ketchup bottle from one of the tables, pour it into the glass of hot water, shake a little pepper on the top, order a cheap peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and have soup and a sandwich for lunch and leave. This guy was a piece of work.

Birthday boys

The month of November is a month with nothing much going on. Maybe because there’s nothing to do is what causes July — which is nine months later — to be such an active birthday month. The OMOTM are kept busy with birthday parties during July.

The weekend of the 14th there were three that affected the OFs, two of which the OFs en masse were invited to. On one day, there was one where all OFs were invited and one was a family event on the same day.

When the OFs have birthday parties, they are “bring yourself and nothing else” parties because what does an OF need or want?

One OF said, “What the OFs should do is always invite all the OFs with the proviso that they all take something when they leave.”

The OFs are trying to downsize. One OF said, if he did it that way, he would have a top-prize gift, and that would be take the wife. He would have everything packed for her, and a $50 bill pinned to a ribbon in her hair.

Birthdays for the OMOTM require large cakes just to hold the candles. The smart way would be to have one candle for each decade with the last decade the number of years. Another OF said he wouldn’t be able to blow out even that many.

One OF mentioned that, when we were in our forties and fifties, we were contemplating retirement and how so many of our friends retired and in a few years we were going to their funerals. Today, the OFs said, look up and down the table, these guys have been retired for 20 and 25 years, and some are mad because it is raining and they can’t go out and play golf.

Back in our working years, we never even would have thought of it.  “Yeah,” one OF said, “Rocking chair sales are way down.”

Those OFs who were spry enough to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and that of course is all in attendance, and they were: Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bob Benac, Ray Kennedy, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey with son Jerry Willsey from Arkansas, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Tuesday, July 10, the wives, girlfriends or whoever the housekeepers are must have been anxious to get the Old Men of the Mountain out of the house.

Tuesday morning, 40 Old Guys and not-so-Old Guys pushed their way through the doors of Mrs. K’s Family Restaurant in Middleburgh to have breakfast together. The number of OFs who crowded into Mrs. K’s generated quite a din. It was hard for this scribe to pick out conversations to eavesdrop on.

This scribe also observed regular patrons trying to talk across their tables and they appeared to need megaphones to do so. This scribe supposes the younger ones could text each other across the table; that way, the OFs’ racket wouldn’t bother them.

One OF told of needing a gardening tool and went to the box his wife keeps to do her gardening. The OF said he sorted through the tools to find something he could use. The OF said that he located a shiny tool with a plastic handle that would fill the bill.

Just before he was about to use it, he noticed the plastic was not a common plastic so he looked at the tool. The tool was brand new and still had the sticker on it.

This tool was from the Middleburgh Hardware store, and the phone number was VA xxxx (two letters and four numbers) and the price was $1.89. How long had this tool been in his wife’s box and never used?  It had to be years upon years.

The OFs wondered how many things like this are still tucked away in tool sheds, garages, and barns. One OF said, “How about junk drawers in the kitchen and behind the furnace in the cellar?”

This OF took the tool to Middleburgh Hardware and donated it. The OF found out the hardware store has started a collection for items like this and is going to make space in the store to display them.

Vintage vehicles

Some of the OFs talked about the power plant on the Schoharie Creek below the Gilboa dam and about the large pond they built on top of the mountain to run the generators. The OFs were surprised that some local OFs did not know about it. Lansing Manor is there, so is the Mine Kill state park.

One OF commented, “Can you imagine going from Lansing Manor to Albany in a horse and buggy in the winter time to go to work in either Poughkeepsie and/or Albany?”

The OFs have talked about this before — vintage vehicles — one of their favorite topics, because the OFs are vintage themselves. The OFs commented on how similar vehicles look today and how hard it is to tell one make from another and how they have no individual class.

However, back when the OFs were not so vintage and cars had style, quite often the OFs would see one of these cars broken down on the side of the road. The OFs said some of the cars even came with tool boxes so the driver was able to make repairs if necessary.

Today it is rare to see a car broken down on the side of the road, and they are mechanically so sophisticated most drivers wouldn’t even know what to look at to repair and get going, other than to fix a flat. One OF supposed many vehicles now have the ability to repair themselves when certain things go wrong, and rust seems to be a thing of the past said another OF.

A different OF said that with today’s vehicles it is almost impossible to run out of gas. When the gas becomes low there are bells, whistles and blinking lights to warn you. Even a message comes on a screen — e.g.: “This vehicle only has enough fuel for 100 miles.”

Running out of gas was common when the OFs weren’t vintage. If the OF had poor vision, the OF was unable to tell how much gas was in the vial in the fuel indicator sticking out from the hood on the front of the car.

This scribe does not think the OMOTM are that vintage but they are vintage enough to know dimmer switches on the floor, no turn signals, vacuum windshield wipers, mechanical brakes, curtains on the windows in the back, windshields that cranked out, and little side windows that flipped in.

One OF commented on keeping his old military vehicles running and on the road by going to junkyards and swap meets to get parts. One time, the OF purchased two tail gates for a vehicle that was being rebuilt.

One was rusted out on the bottom but had a good top, and on the other the top was all banged up but had a good bottom. The OF said he cut them in half, welded the two good parts together, sanded them down, and painted them and no one knows the difference. To the OFs, if they can’t make a pot, they will make a pan.

The roads must have been plugged with the Old Men of the Mountain headed to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh because they were: Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Bill Lichliter, Ted Willsey, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Karl Remmers, Kenny Parks, Pete Whitbeck, Ray Kennedy, Herb Bahrmann, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Wayne Gaul, Herb Sawotka, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, July 3, The Old Men of the Mountain were crazy enough to venture outside and attend breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. The OFs thought nothing of it — they do make it to the breakfast in a blizzard, and, as one OF put it, “What’s the difference?”

The weather was the basic topic of conversation throughout the breakfast. One OF said he has a brother in Austin, Texas and gave him a call to let him know that we were getting some of his weather up here and told him the temperatures were in the mid- to high-90s. The brother answered him with, “Gee, it does get that cold here too.” That is a sharp reply.

Another OF received a call from a friend who lives in the hot area belt and the friend wanted to go know how the OF liked the good old southern heat. The OF said not much; it is why he doesn’t like the anything south of Pennsylvania. The OF said that when he leaves a store or a restaurant in the daytime, New York is beginning to smell like Florida outside. One OF mentioned the heat around the country must be the news of the day all over the United States.

Most of the OFs say they have hunkered down indoors, with fans and air-conditioners. One OF said, “We are going to have whopping power bills this month, with air-conditioners and dehumidifiers really cranking up.”

A second OF said, “Those of us who are supposed to drink two to three cups of coffee a day (instead of taking Flomax) take a second look at a cup of hot coffee when it is 93 degrees out.”

A third OF said, “You know, iced coffee should be the same thing.”

Another OF mentioned that the hot coffee has worked for him for years and he still doesn’t like the stuff, but as long as he is voiding OK it’s gonna be hot coffee for him, both ways outside and inside.

This brought the OFs that farmed back to farming when they were younger and no matter what the weather, they went out to the fields. They started with loose hay, next were the square bales, and now it is round or chopped or bales as big as garages.

Some farmers hired guys that went around with big stationary balers and the farmers would haul the loose hay to them and the guys with the big balers would bale it up. The crux of the matter is that this work was done if it was 65 degrees outside or 100. Everyone was doing the farm work this way and there were no summer panics.

One OF mentioned that, back in the old days, there wasn’t TV bellowing all the dangers of sunshine and fresh air. Another added that we were tougher then.

One more OF chimed in about taking salt tablets. They were sold all over the place and people did remind others who worked in hot conditions to take their salt tablets. Those things made you thirsty so drinking plenty of fluids was not a problem.

One OF talked about having cases of “Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer” in the milk cooler, and one other OF added theirs was the “Knickerbocker” beer from Albany. Scribe note: No one mentioned having Schaefer beer in stock. At one time that was a big brewery in Albany.

So much for the heat and how to take care of it; in the forties and fifties it was just as hot but we didn’t know it was a bad thing.

My goodness, the OFs made it through many a 90-degree summer and are still at the tables in the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh.

Tuesday morning, the waitress had a helper who was just a little higher than the tables, so we will start off with little JJ (Joe) as the youngest number one of the OMOTM who made it to the breakfast, the rest are: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Don Wood (who made 83 today), Ken Parks, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Ray Kennedy, Rich Donnelly, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Ketzer, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

The drive to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow on Tuesday, June 26, made the whole day. The air was so clear the Old Men of the Mountain mentioned being able to see people across the valley on the Catskill Mountains up and about.

The view was from Route 358 outside of Rensselaerville heading south. Many OFs go over the mountain and comment on this view.

One OF mentioned having quite an experience while having a meal at the Maple on the Lake Restaurant on Warners Lake. While eating, a friend sitting at a table next to the OF pointed out the window and said, “Wow look at that!”

The OF and his wife turned and looked (along with other patrons) to the indicated area in the sky. There was a bald eagle flying in the sky about 100 feet up and cruising toward the restaurant.

Suddenly the eagle made a sharp left turn and dove toward the water. Just in front of the dock in front of the restaurant, out came his feet and the eagle snaked a fish out of the water. This happened about 40 yards from the restaurant. The eagle taking the fish in his talons flew toward the other shore not more than three to four feet above the water the whole distance.

After hearing about this amazing display, another OF said, “Yep, they do that all the time.”

This OF told how his camp is on the other shore and the eagle’s nest is just about in front of his camp. Many times, these birds eat their catch on his front lawn and it isn’t always fish — sometimes it is birds. The OF claims it is an awful mess because quite often the eagles don’t eat the whole victim and he has to go out and clean up his yard; otherwise, it stinks up the whole place.

The friend of the OF who spotted the eagle boats on Thompsons Lake and he said there are two pairs of eagles nesting on that lake. This is really wow time.

The OFs remembered many years ago when bald eagles were on the endangered list. They’re not on the list anymore. One OF mentioned how great it would be if this worked on all endangered species and if they could have that same satisfactory rebound. Sadly, life doesn’t seem to work that way.

Another OF mentioned that we do have some big birds in our neck of the woods. Thacher Park is loaded with turkey vultures, and part5 of the park now is the Nature Center and it has eagles. These birds are just like small planes.

The wing span on the eagle can approach seven feet and on the turkey vulture, six feet. The OF who lives in the camp on Warners Lake said it is fun to watch the little birds harass the eagles just like they do crows. This OF said they are dive-bombing them all the time and driving the eagles nuts trying to get away.

The OFs continued in the bird vein and started talking about talking birds and how many of them had friends who owned one or more of these birds. One OF said that, to him, it is necessary to concentrate and listen to make out what the birds are saying.

Another OF said a friend of his has a gray parrot that talks up a storm. The OF said the parrot can bark like a dog, and meow like a cat, and repeat words basically in the accent of the person who asked it to speak. This OF said his friend’s parrot mimics the sounds it hears and is able to repeat a man’s voice with the low tones of a man and vice-versa with a female.

One OF thought this must take a lot of patience to train a bird to do this. Another OF said that he had a friend that had a parakeet that he trained to talk. The OF said this friend was a Chevrolet dealer when dealers sold only one make of car or truck and to that dealer they were the best, and the dealers were loyal to the brand. Today one dealer sells everything and, if you don’t like the Chevy, he will just as soon sell you a Toyota.

The OF said the parakeet’s cage door was open and that bird flew all over the house. This OF’s friend taught the parakeet to say “p-h-o-r-d Ford piece of junk” only the last word wasn’t junk — and the bird flew all over house squawking that statement and his name.

The bird would also fly up to you and say, “Love you.” The OF said some of it was pretty clear but some of the bird’s chatter made it necessary to concentrate to make out what he was saying.

Hornet’s nest

Now for something completely different: The conversation at this scribe’s end of the table (which included about 14 OFs) was about Spectrum. What an uproar that caused.

One or more OF called Spectrum out-and-out criminals in their opinion. One OF told about getting so mad at Spectrum that he purchased a new 40-inch TV that is like a computer.  He then dropped Spectrum and went to streaming.

The OF with the new TV tried to explain how it worked to the rest of the OFs. Some grasped how to operate the TV while others did not quite get it.

Some OFs said, in their opinion, the company out-and-out lies on what it can do and its services rot. Others said you ask for help and get nothing or are sent to India where it is almost impossible to understand them.

The cry went up: Bring back Time Warner; as much as the OFs yapped about Time Warner, at least they were customer-oriented. If you needed help, Time Warner took care of it and the OF would be talking to somebody in Utica. Boy, did the simple comment about Spectrum stir up a hornet’s nest.  

Those Old Men of the Mountain who got up and out on a beautiful morning and made it to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow, were: Pete Whitbeck, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Ted Willsey, Dave Williams, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Don Wood, Russ Pokorny, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Joe Ketzer, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Warren Willsey, Winnie Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Allen DeMis, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.

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A bit of history — now gone, but not forgotten.

This Tuesday, June 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Redundancy is a habit of the OFs, along with most people who are over 60, and so is this little weekly message.

Therefore, to be redundant, this scribe is always amazed how one waitress can handle all the OFs, and the regular patrons, all alone (duh, if there is only one, she have to be alone). Tuesday morning, there were 29 OFs plus 16 regular patrons and one waitress. The young lady never lost her composure. What goes on in the kitchen, the OFs have no idea.

One OF brought in a note someone gave him in an envelope with a 3-cent stamp on it. This stamp was issued by the United Post Office, June 21, 1955, and commemorated the Old Man of the Mountain rock formation in Franconia, New Hampshire. This rock formation tumbled to the bottom of the mountain on Saturday, May 3, 2003. That must have made quite a noise, and sadly, it is no more.

The OF who brought in the stamp is the same OF who, when the Old Man in the Mountain quarter was made to represent the state of New Hampshire, purchased a slew of them. He then proceeded to solder clasp pins to the back of the quarters and handed these quarters out to the OMOTM when he finished them. Many of the OFs then pinned the quarters on their OMOTM hats and wear them to this day.

This scribe, after looking at this 3-cent stamp and the envelope, wanted to make a record of these items for the OMOTM’s folder. That is when today’s technology entered into the conversation.

Technology nowadays, which is so commonplace to many, yet is only fascinating to others (particularly this scribe) along with really older folks. Because the envelope had so much character with the stamp attached, this scribe asked the OF if he could take it home and scan it into his computer.

Sitting at the table were three other OMOTM and they all had these super-duper phones. One OMOTM said he wanted to take a picture of the stamp, and he did. When they heard what this scribe wanted to do, the same OMOTM said he would take pictures of the stamp and envelope and send these pictures to the scribe’s computer.

He took the pictures, asked for this scribe’s email address, typed the first three letters into his phone, and up popped this scribe’s email address. The OMOTM hit “send” and, in seconds, the phone recorded “sent.”

This scribe trusted the electronic transfer so much he gave the envelope back to the OF who brought it in.  The whole transaction took just seconds. Amazing.

When this scribe returned home, he went immediately to his computer to check it out. There it was, in all its glory — tattered envelope, Old Man of the Mountain, 3-cent, green stamp, glory.

Some of the OMOTM know Franconia and the face of the mountain well because they have been there. When that face in the mountain was protruding out of the mountainside, quite a tourist community developed around the area.

There were puzzles, paintings, photographs, and all kinds of touristy items for sale. Pick up a mug with the image on it, turn it over, and it says “Made in China.” There is a stream that runs below the mountain and one OF said he brought his pole and actually caught fish in that stream.

No one has mentioned going back to Franconia since the figure has collapsed to the base of the mountain and become just a pile of rubble.

Hot times

As most OFs could attest, June 18 was a tad on the warm side; actually, it was really hot. The OFs talked about how they managed to stay cool. Basically it was by doing nothing, except one OF mentioned he mowed his lawn.

This conversation occurred only at one corner of the table. Some of the other OFs may have been busy doing something but what it was, was unknown. The smartest thing for those of the senior set is to take it easy when it is hot and humid.

Collision course

One never knows what is going to jump out in front of your vehicle when cruising down the highway. One OF reported that the grill on his truck is all smashed.

The OF claimed to have hit a coyote while driving on Carman Road just by Hannaford on Route 20.This is the first report of an OMOTM having his vehicle and coyote come in contact with one another and not on a country road to do it.

The animals are moving to suburbia. Generally, the OFs hit rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, the occasional woodchuck, and sometimes a bird, which does not manage to make it to the slip stream and gets whopped, but this is our first coyote. Oh!

It was remembered that, a while back, two OFs clipped a peacock in flight. The two OFs thought it was an airplane coming down the road and they ducked under the dash. They stopped and the peacock was at the side of the road. Just as they approached it, this bird got up, shook out its feathers, and gave the OFs a dirty look and took off.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who greeted the workers at the Home Front Café in Altamont with a cheery “Good Morning and where is the coffee?” were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Henry Whipple, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Karl Remmers, John DeMis, Ted Willsey, Herb Sawotka, Joe Ketzer, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

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