Sunday, March 31, 2013

Family of Spies

Family of SpiesFamily of Spies by Pete Earley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a well written book that chronicled the John Walker, Jr., spy ring.  There were some technical inaccuracies about the US Navy, but the author personally interviewed many of the key players of this conspiracy.  His interviews with John Walker, Jr. were particularly interesting.  I knew that John Walker was an egoist, but he really came across as a megalomaniac.

I served as one of the Communications Material System Custodians aboard USS NIAGARA FALLS (AFS 3) from 1986-1988, and I had to page check some of the same cryptographic manuals that had been previously page checked by CWO2 Walker and RMCS Whitworth.  It was chilling to hold the same manuals that these two traitors had held in their hands.

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Requiem for a friend...

Late last week, I saw the following Facebook post from Paddletown Hardware:

Friends and Family,
As of April 1, 2013 and after 76 years in business, Eymer & Duchane Inc.dba” Paddletown Hardware “will be going out of business." As a valued customer, we wanted to inform you that we will be holding a going out of business sale Saturday, March 30-for “FACEBOOK Faithful” favorite customers.
Then on April 3rd we will offer to the general public access to the closing sale. It will be a “Dutch Auction” type of sale with the discount taken off higher each day until merchandise is gone. We will sell fixtures and equipment also, so keep that in mind too. We will accept cash or checks only. Credit decisions will be up to Tom or Karen before the sale with those whose current balances are caught up having preference.
In an effort to clear out our inventory we will be offering unprecedented discounts on all of our popular items for only those who mention seeing this on FACEBOOK. It is an event not to be missed!

I was stunned.  This is a corner hardware store in Oscoda, Michigan.  

As readers of the blog know, we own a cottage on Lake Huron just south of Oscoda.  We purchased the cottage in January, 2010.  When you buy a new place, what do you likely need?  A new shovel, a new rake, stain, paint, sandpaper... you know, hardware.  We started going to what was Ace Hardware, which morphed into Paddletown Hardware a few years later.  The staff at Paddletown was always helpful, very knowledgeable and always able to find that one thing you needed.  If they did not have it, they would order it for you or refer you to a competitor's store to get what you needed.

Look closely at text at the bottom of the top sign:

Est. 1937 Downtown Oscoda.  When this store opened, FDR was President.  

We went to our cottage this weekend to open it up for the season, and I had to stop by Paddletown Hardware for what might be my last time.  I walked into the store and I was immediately greeted by one of the staff and the conversation went like this:

Paddletown Staff:  Hello.  How are you?  What do you need?
Me:  I am extremely sad to hear that you are going out of business.  
Paddletown Staff:  Yeah, it is a bummer.  Can I help you find something?
Me:  Yes, I need...

This Paddletown staff member did not miss a beat.  He focused on me, the customer, not himself, the soon to be unemployed person.

From there the staff member helped me locate a few things, and I got a 30% discount on my purchases because I told them that I heard about the store closing on Facebook.

While I was checking out and paying for my things, I overheard a conversation between a customer who was likely in his eighties (and wearing a hat that said "USAF Retired) and one of the managers:

Elderly gentleman:  So you are going out of business?  That's too bad.  You must have had a rough winter.
Paddletown Manager:  Yes, we had a bad winter and a bad summer last year.  We just could not make it.

In 2012, US-23, which is the main road through Oscoda, was resurfaced.  It caused all kinds of traffic back ups and delays.  It really disrupted the flow of goods and services into and out of Oscoda.  It has been a rough couple years in Michigan with the Great Recession, and it has hit Oscoda hard.  A couple of other businesses went under the past two years in Oscoda.  The economy was likely to blame, but resurfacing the only real business street in Oscoda did not help.  Now, a store with the best staff that has been in business since the FDR's second term will be no more as of 20 April, 2013.

I won't be up there for much, if any, of the so called "Dutch Sale."  We might make it up there once in the next few weekends.  If I do, I will definitely stop by and once again pay my respects.  This store will be missed by everyone who ever shopped or worked there.

I hope that Oscoda can recover as much of the state of Michigan has.  Losing the Paddletown Hardware Store is not a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From the archives:

Those of you who know my heritage know that I am half Irish and half German. My mother's family came over from County Mayo in the 1800s and settled in eastern Pennsylvania. The Irish did not stray far away from other Irish when it came to marriage, so I come from a long line of Hastings and Clancys. My father, however, is a first generation German. His mother and father emigrated to the United States in 1921. My parents met when they were

both stationed at Parks Air Force Base in California. They married and moved back to Michigan where I was born and raised.  Well, my mother is quite proud of her Irish heritage and when I was growing up, St. Patrick's Day was always a cause for celebration. We would go to the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Detroit, we would wear green clothing and sometimes put on silly hats and pretend to be leprechauns. One part of the celebration was the evening meal, which invariably was Corned Beef and Cabbage. For the life of me, I think that the reason why so many Irish left the Emerald Isle is because like me, they could not stand this vile cut of seasoned meat.

Back to my story. Each St. Patrick's Day my family would look forward to eating what was essentially boiled shoe leather. My mother would fill a cauldron with water, throw in a hunk of corned beef, some potatoes, cabbage, maybe some salt and 
pepper, perhaps some celery for flavor. How one could ever flavor shoe leather is beyond me, but she would try nevertheless. The aroma of this dank cut of meat would fill the house, so I would try to spend as much time as possible outdoors whenever this "dish" was being prepared. After my father came home from work, the table would be set and the carcass of beef would be removed from the pot, along with the soggy vegetables and potatoes. My siblings would rejoice at the thought of the meat, while I could barely keep myself from retching at the stench of it.

So, we would then take our places at the table, grace would be said and then my parents and siblings would relish in the consumption of this thoroughly proletarian dish. I was forced to eat this wretched excuse for a meal, so I would slather as much mustard as possible between two pieces of bread, then put a slice of this offensive meat there as well. I would then try to gulp this down, chewing as little as possible so that I would not have to taste it, much.

So, while I applaud the celebration of the birth of the patron saint of Ireland, to this day I cannot 
stomach the smell, taste or appearance of corned beef. So today I will probably have a beer or two, maybe even a green one. I will leave the consumption of corned beef to the peasants.