Thursday, September 30, 2010


Saturday, square dance friends Mark and Nancy Meinzer join us as we tell the story of our visit to the Air Force Museum where (above) a squadron of early military aircraft are shown on display. That’s an observation balloon, dark in the lower left with its two passengers dangling below in its basket while a WW-I Fokker tri-plane “flies” acrobatically in the lower background. The museum certainly is one of life’s bargains.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Total Control by David Baldacci

A young couple has the world by the tail. She’s a young and dazzling corporate attorney with a cherished daughter and a husband who is an accomplished techno-geek with a penchant for playing a deadly game. An ailing chairman of the Federal Reserve dies in a commercial jet crash. There is an attempt at a corporate take-over of the highest magnitude and FBI agent Lee Sawyer has to sort out the entire mess. It’s 692 pages of high velocity brain candy.

The Sultan’s Shadow by Christiane Bird

This is an interesting read set in the countries of Oman and Zanzibar in the 1800s. It takes a look at the life in the Arab Muslim aristocracy of the time where the fierceness of their tussles would make some wars look like arguments among Boy Scouts. Why was I not surprised? Yet today, Oman is a country with vast desert areas so bleak the borders between it and Saudi Arabia are not defined.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

This is a piercing, first-hand account of a lady who was born into the radical, polygamist cult known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; an offshoot of the Mormon Church. At 18, she was forced to become the fourth wife of a 50 year old tyrant and had eight children in 15 years. Radical leadership of the cult turns life into a prison camp-like existence and her ultimate escape is a story ending you will want to cheer.

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson

Sometimes, when you finish a book you ponder the experience, knowing something special just happened. That was so in this, my first experience with author Patterson. It was a police story with craftsmanship and class.

But, at one point, while discussing his duty revolver, he describes it as a Glock. Glock doesn’t make a revolver. Later he describes clicking off the safety of his Glock. Glocks do not have manual safeties. These errors create serious damage to the author’s credibility and his editor's skill.. Regardless of those two flaws I am now on the prow for another of his offerings.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mac-O-Chee and Mac-A-Cheek

A spirit of foreboding rattles your consciousness as you enter the cool humidor of the castles.

Massive, structural stonework gives way to the ornate, interior woodwork but all is not well. Visible clues are the crumbling masonry of the entry stairs and weeds peeking from their lofty perches in the rain troughs.

We were visiting these Piatt castles of Logan County once the epitome of life in the grandest tradition but, now, limping through their sunset years hoping for enough tourist and non-profit foundation revenue to maintain body and soul.

In 1828, Judge Benjamin and Elizabeth Piatt moved to Logan County from Cincinnati and established their home. In the mid 1800s their two sons each built one of the castles as their family homes.  The similar names come from the Shawnee Indian phrase meaning “Smiling Valley.”

Today’s visitor is rewarded with ample freedom to roam both castles in the self-guided manner with one’s curiosity only thwarted when areas were blocked; usually because of unsafe, structural conditions.

The marvelous woodwork, grandly painted ceilings and parquet floors, while in a state of visible decay, oozed evidence of life from a genteel past.

Yet, history reminds us these grand homes thrived in the time when the state’s last Indians were being displaced from their lands in this then new state called Ohio while, at the same time, slaves sought refuge in Mac-A-Cheek as part of the Underground Railroad leading to their freedom.

In the small photo (right) the silhouette of the figure behind Sue often displayed a flag placed in its hand by the homeowner to tell fleeing slaves when it was safe to seek shelter for the night. And, when it was not.

Plaques abound in today’s castles; some telling tourists of the state’s governors being regular visitors in that century long past. We read the castles once housed the then largest library in Ohio.

During your tour you will learn how five generations of the Piatt family lived in an American castle and adapted their homes to the changing times.

Still, as you tour the castles, room-by-room, your senses often will be jarred by evidence of disintegrating plaster and paint peeling from the walls.

You will learn Margaret Piatt, the current owner of the castles, lives in a modest, frame home adjacent to Mac-O-Chee where, we noted, a Volkswagen Beetle sitting in the driveway, suggesting current means of family transportation are somewhat less grand than those enjoyed by her ancestors.

Her great, great grandfather Abraham built Mac-A-Cheek.

Today, a non-profit foundation is engaged in restoration of the castles; hopefully to their original splendor.

They face an estimated need of 10 million dollars for full restoration according to one host. With paid visits ranging from 500 to 1,000 tourists monthly—at about $15 a head—their prospects appear bleak.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saturday, Fogeyisms will take you on a tour of the Piatt Castles of Logan County.  The parlor of Mac-A-Cheek is shown above with lady friend Sue Brooks surrounded by a marvelously painted ceiling, ornate woodwork and a parquet floor.  But, all is not well there as symbolized by the bleak and spartan mood in the small photo left.  Please stop by for our tale of these once grand homes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bellville style

By now our quiet little town is back to normal after its four day, rip snorting extravaganza that brings multiple thousands of folks for what amounts to an annual homecoming, village reunion and agricultural festival all wrapped into one event.

During fair week the town is organized chaos.  Two state highways are diverted around downtown while tents for the animal displays and tents for the merchandise hawkers and amusement rides and carnival skill games and more food concessions than you can imagine blanket Main Street and side streets and alleys in every which direction.

On Friday and Saturday nights you ricochet gently while walking, often side-ways, to negotiate your zigging and zagging route through the crunch of humanity on the main drag. 

At night it looks like they squeezed a world-class circus into a 50 gallon drum.  Sounds like it too.

But by Sunday afternoon, poof!  Almost like magic, traffic has returned to normal, the streets have been given a bath by the local volunteer fire department and only a carcass or two of carnival apparatus litters the parking area down by the RFD store.

The brightly lit engine of a kiddie train ride (above) streaks its way into this time exposure photo.  In the bottom photo concession stand lights sizzle like fireworks as the lens is zoomed toward pedestrians walking near the town's bandstand.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An outing of Mid Ohio Bikers makes a brief stop at Carl's Auto Sales and Service in Bucyrus recently to investigate this replica of a 50s era Sinclair gas station.

...and his stuff

Life throws you a spiffy surprise once in awhile.

This one began with a bike ride with the local Mid Ohio Bikers one recent day enroute from rural Galion to Bucyrus for some tasty munching on their famous bratwurst sandwiches.

Heading toward downtown Bucyrus on Hopley Ave., our squadron of riders encountered a Sinclair gas station—of all things.

As we stopped and briefly prowled around that artifact from a by-gone era, those of us that paid attention discovered the relic station was a part of a 1950s era museum.

True to form however, the majority of riders took a quick sniff of this rose and were antsy to roll on down the road while I stole a peek inside and vowed to return. Soon.

It turns out the facility is the creation of Carl Massey who bought the old Sinclair Bulk Plant there about 30 years ago and established his car repair and wrecker business.

It also turns out Massey had a penchant for collecting memorabilia from the 50s, a boatload of which was included as Sinclair surplus in the sale of the property.

That ultimately led to Massey and his buddies “...tossing some 2 x 4s around” and building the replica gas station.

Inside the main bulk plant building the car repair and towing business grew nicely—as did a collection of, well, stuff. And, more stuff.

Today, sensationally restored cars from the 50s sit on a highly polished floor immediately beside other customer vehicles undergoing active repair surgery. “Stop by tomorrow and there could be a semi in here getting an engine overhaul,” one of the regulars observed.

While the work goes on and the regulars congregate, as they do, Massey presides over the gathering from his perch on a barber’s chair; a part of the eclectic display of period artifacts.

I could imagine mechanics reading manuals in the booths from a by-gone soda fountain display, complete with fizzy-drink dispensers and those clever, table-top juke box controllers that used to eat our nickels and dimes while we ate 25 cent burgers.

Lady friend Sue especially enjoyed the pink Elvis room, absolutely stuffed with trinkets memorializing that 50s rock and roll legend including a reddish-pink 1955 Ford Thunderbird sitting right behind a fairly new Harley cycle complete with $2,500 wheels that was looking for a new home.

I had to control my salivating.

There is a restroom full of 50s stuff. And, an office full of 50s stuff. And, old semi trailers out back full of stuff of some sort, including a few more restored cars.

The office also included a framed photo of Massey doing a squeeze with Dolly Parton some time back. “I slide down that way quite often,” he smiled. I could believe that.

There this jewel sits. Right there at 836 Hopley Ave. Stop by sometime and take a peek. Carl likely will be sitting in his barber chair and enjoying you--enjoying yourself.

The pink, Elvis room is a highlight of Carl's museum of 50's memorabilia (top) while a pair of his wreckers frame the active shop area with highly polished floors, all of which is surrounded by an exhaustive collection of things from the middle of the last century.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Permit me to introduce Carl Massey of Bucyrus. 

Carl is neither a barber (that I know of) or in apparent need of a haircut.

But, that is a barber chair and Carl uses it to preside over his combined auto repair business and 50s era museum in Bucyrus.

Please stop by Saturday and Fogeyisms will tell you more about Carl and his marvelous collection of things on display in his auto repair shop which, by the way, sports a highly waxed floor.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

That’s good friend Ken Johnson (right) and yours truly at the conclusion of our recent, celebratory, 70+ mile bike ride. The photo was taken beside the Bellville Train Depot by the male half of a Mansfield couple who, ironically, were riding bicycles exactly like mine. In the small lower photo you can see the word “Trip” and the digits 72.4 on my bicycle’s computer.

And a 70+ mile bicycle ride

As we rolled through 35 miles on our bicycles that day I really wondered if I could make our objective of a 70 mile ride.

Leg muscles would burn gently especially when the headwind acted pesky. Ken joked, “In this section between Bellville and Butler it doesn’t matter which way you are riding, you always have a head wind.”

My good friend Ken Johnson and I had been talking about doing this ride since our shared workout routine in his basement over the past winter. It was our way of celebrating our approaching 70th birthdays which will occur just weeks apart in October.

Our local B & O bike trail is 18 miles long so all we had to do was ride from Butler to Mansfield. And back. Twice.

Actually we left out the run to Butler from our launch in Bellville that early morning because riding into the rising sun would have been blinding. We planned to replace those miles by riding equivalent mileage in laps around North Lake Park. That strategy would allow us to finish our ride on a “downhill” segment from Mansfield to Bellville.

The trail, constructed on an abandoned railroad line, climbs very gently from Butler through Bellville and Lexington. Then the upgrade increases slightly until just a bit north of Marion Ave., Road where it levels off then begins a slow descent to North Lake Park.

While, to the unpracticed eye, the trail appears level, helper engines had to be used in years gone by to give northbound trains a boost in that uphill segment.

As we neared 50 miles that day I really began to question our sanity. My left knee began to complain about a riding injury from earlier this year, but the recumbent bike provided great comfort to the rest of my aging bones.

Actually, I was playing mind games with myself as our ride continued. If it turned out I couldn’t make the 70 miles, I would regard the effort as simply a tune-up.

Since it was 12 miles from Mansfield to Bellville we needed only 58 miles behind us when we left North Lake on the final stretch. Our series of loops around the lake’s 4/10th mile oval soon rewarded us with our calculated mileage and we smiled our way back onto the bike trail and headed for home--

--only to encounter very suspicious stacks of downed tree branches blocking the bike trail. We cleared the first blockage and hopped the second 8” branch then could see a gang of silhouettes far ahead of us constructing yet another barrier.

Evidently, these Neanderthals had recently been paroled for the day at Mansfield’s nearby high school and their barricades were occurring near the W. 4th St. bridge with its abutments seriously blemished with gang graffiti.

Was this just a harmless teenage prank, or, something substantially more serious?

Even with adequate means of self defense we decided discretion was, indeed, the better part of valor and did a “U” turn back to the park and headed south past the old Coliseum site and up Linden Rd., toward Millsboro where, if we survived the traffic, we could rejoin the bike trail.

Soon we cycled across the bike trail’s divide—near the lake behind Alta Greenhouse—and shared a quiet cheer as we began the downhill ride toward Bellville.

While we joked about continuing our effort to the century (100 mile) level, Ken, the far stronger rider in our duo, was standing on his pedals to get some relief from his tender seat.

So, we simply left those final miles slide by on our glorious afternoon of fair skies and moderate temperatures and shared expressions of appreciation for the fellowship of our adventure.

I verbally counted down the final tenths of the 69th mile and whooped a hefty Cha CHING!, as mile number 70 went into my personal record book.

Thank you Ken for being my friend—and, for first encouraging then sharing this very special day.

Average speed:  11.6 mph
Max speed: 28.6 mph
Riding time:  6:12
Total miles on bike:  550

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nearly 100 camping and walk-in round and square dancers enjoyed the annual Labor Day weekend event at Baylor Beach Park recently and are shown above dancing during an early morning workshop.

Square dancer style...

We square danced...and danced...and danced some more; three consecutive nights that weekend with a few dance workshops tossed in during the day for good measure.

There were 37 RVs at Baylor Beach Park over near Wilmot, more or less clustered around their very nice pavilion with a dandy campfire ring smack dab in the middle of that assembly.

We rolled backward into our campsite to the good natured advice of neighbor camper/dancers who directed our arrival technique with enthusiasm. It turns out Mary Kay and Dennis Carey of Grove City were in that crowd of friendly rowdies, were our immediate neighbors to the north—and became super-friends before the first do-se-do.

Sue Powell, the official round-dance cuer for the weekend served as “Wagon master” and smiled her approval for our boisterous arrival ceremony.

She and another co-host Loren Brosie joined us for supper at the just-across-the-road custard stand where I also enjoyed a spontaneous conversation with the young waiter on the topic of local Glock shops.

It was immediately apparent this was shaping up to be a special weekend, indeed!

Callers Homer Magnet and Sam Phillips double-teamed the square dances and the floor was vibrant tip after tip after tip. I felt like my sneakers were nuclear powered.

After Saturday morning’s workshop Sue and I hosted the Careys, and Homer’s wife Sue on a romp through the nearby Amish countryside. That featured a blitz of the Berlin Flea Market, a visit to the outstanding Wendell August Forge and finally, a hilarious wine tasting at a local vintner’s shop.

That’s Sue Magnet (right) giving me a visual scolding for recording the result of her ambitious wine shopping.

All this wrapped around a drive-by visit of an occupied, Lilliputian-like house perched atop a huge bolder deep inside Amish country just outside Trail, OH. –One of my favorite attractions you will not find on any tourist maps.

Then there was a campfire wiener roast and more dancing and a lunch with Homer and Sue and another workshop and more dancing and another campfire and another flea market.

Then, alas, good-byes...

...and hugs were exchanged; lots of them.

I also was pleasantly amused to note my non-camping lady friend Sue had signed us up for a return to next year’s event.

And, the beat goes on....

Camping styles ran the gamut from the little “A” frame pop-up shown behind my white pick-up truck. That’s our fifth-wheel and behind us—a behemoth motor home. Our new friends Mary Kay and Dennis Carey are shown enjoying a hot-dog roast at the campfire above.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This attraction is one of my favorites in Holmes County Amish country. The structure is a massive post and beam and stone barn high on a hill just south of Winesburg on US 62 and features a marvelous collection of mostly pewter gift ware.

That’s lady friend Sue Brooks (top left) and Sue Magnet hand-creating a hammered relief souvenir in the display forge as Mary Kay Carey watches. In the small photo they are joined by square dance friends Mary Kay and Dennis Carey of Grove City while we visited the forge as part of a weekend of square dancing near Wilmot, OH.

Please stop by Saturday for the rest of that story!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fogeyisms is

Actually, we are resting today after a three-day weekend of camping and square dancing at an annual event at Baylor Beach Park near Wilmot, OH.  No doubt we will tell you more about that adventure when our recovery is complete.

Please stay tuned!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Coppersmiths Steve Schifer (left) and Keith Moore (background) work on the handcrafting of copper kettles in the ageless shop of the D. Picking & Co., of Bucyrus.

Helen Neff Picking, 95

When you walk into the D. Picking & Company, the copper kettle works in Bucyrus, it is easy to imagine the loss of a century.

It is a modern time machine there on Walnut St., where the year 2010 instantly morphs into the late 1800s as you pass through the front door.

That recent day when Sue and I stopped to make an appointment for a visit, a charming lady of advancing years was sitting at a colossal roll top desk with the company checkbook—of the three ring variety.

We apologized for our intrusion and she gently insisted we come in and enjoy a tour of their shop at that very moment . “It certainly is not an intrusion,” she said as her smile sparkled in her eyes.

She could arrange that quite handily, you see. She was the owner, Mrs. Helen Neff Picking, whose great grandfather founded the company in 1874. Her dad who preceded her at the helm of the company died in 1982 at the age of 103.

Helen, who opined paying the bills tomorrow was just as likely to be acceptable as doing it at that moment, continued her cheery welcome, a prerogative of being a mere 95 years young and working every day.

After chatting awhile with us, she summoned Keith Moore from a back room, a coppersmith who welcomed his assigned role of being our tour guide.

As we walked into the shop area Keith showed us samples of the original wiring and almost pre-historic carbon tetrachloride fire extinguishers still hanging here and there.

While bare light bulbs provided today’s illumination, soot blackened gas light fixtures still hung from the ceiling.

We looked at dished out logs from century old trees still being used as forms where wooden mallets pounded the concave bottom shapes of apple butter kettles to this day.

From here and there came the sound of thudding pings as ball peen hammers smacked the shiny patina of hardening into the copper kettles.

The hardware store from which the kettle works was founded originally bought the copper kettles from a firm in Lancaster, PA and resold them in Bucyrus for the fall production of apple butter.

Soon, the hardware store was making its own kettles—in 1874; and that continues to this day in the form of the D. Picking & Company.

1880 was a poor year for apples which prompted the then new company to expand to other copper products including Swiss Cheese kettles and bowls for Tympanis. Some of the latter were in production—by hand, of course, on the day of our visit—for a Scandinavian firm.

As we continued our leisurely stroll through these pages of history Keith smiled as he challenged us to name the use of another ageless apparatus. Turns out it was a device of pranksters from Grandpa Picking’s era.

When then newlyweds headed off to their amorous privacy, this device was leaned against the outside wall of their abode and spinning a spring-pressured ratchet raised a monstrous ruckus, much to the delight of the miscreants—and the chagrin of the celebrants.

Humor of those days gone by took a more genteel form; as did life itself...

...and we eased through the rest of our tour as the rhythms of this timeless shop continued their third century of hand-crafting yet another day’s output of these soon to be priceless copper products.

That's coppersmith John Butt in the red shirt (above left) while Schifer continues his torch work on the ageless shop floor (below).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coppersmith Keith Moore helps lady friend Sue Brooks understand the production of copper kettle products at the D. Picking Co., in Bucyrus during a recent visit.

THE D. PICKING Co., est 1874--

A century-old slice of a well worn tree log helps form the concave shape of copper kettles used in Apple Butter production as they are pounded into uniform smoothness with a large wooden mallet (left).
In the lower photo John Butt uses one of very few mechanical tools used in kettle production in the Bucyrus shop.  Please stop by Saturday and enjoy our tour of this ageless facility.  We certainly did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I thought of daughter TJ and her college years at Denison U as lady friend Sue Brooks, her friend Sandy Davis (pointing above) and I stopped for a frosty refreshment at Whit's on Main St., in Granville last Sunday.

We were homeward bound after celebrating Sue's Medicare birthday at a lunch with her sister Patsy in Newark.

It was fun to watch the tower of Swasey Chapel come into view, then trundle our way in the charm of Granville's quaint version of small town, USA.

Some of life's nicest pleasures are the plain vanilla ones.