Thursday, October 10, 2019

1960's...remember your first image search— on a "laptop"?

(original artwork-all rights reserved)


....It's the spring of 1964 and my dad (Mr.Sawdust) decides it's time we looked for another dog. We hadn't had a dog in the family since the tragic loss of our German Shepherd, Flash. Our family had a set of Comptons encyclopedias and that is where our search began.
Webster's dictionary, 2001 defines the word laptop as follows:

lap-top (lap'top'), n. a portable,usu. battery powered microcomputer, small enough to rest on the lap.

In 1964 we defined it this way...


Laptop-encyclopedia opened on lap
Of course we had never heard of a Google search and the only image from that time that comes to mind when I hear the term Yahoo search is Roy Rogers letting out a hearty "yahoo" after successfully roping a wandering steer—but we were not strangers to the idea of an image search...that was something we did on a regular basis.

Image search —search encyclopedia— "D"-dog


There were several glossy pages filled with photos of every breed of dog you could imagine.
How we settled on a Basset Hound...well that's still a mystery.

The thought of a computer that could sit on your lap was...science fiction. Even the computers in Sci-fi movies were as big as elephants and filled entire rooms! Just so you don't think I'm exaggerating, take a look at this hard drive produced in 1956.


World's first hard drive-1956
Another interesting picture —"Visions of a home computer in the 50's"


The caption reads:
Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a home computer could look like in the year 2000. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use and only...


So the encyclopedia was where we gravitated after school for homework and school projects. With six brothers in the house I could only hope we weren't researching the same subject!

I remember another
image search that year— not long after the arrival of the Beatles in America. Enough time has passed that I will not be too embarrassed to write about it.

...but that's another story!


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Family Camping-Are We Having Fun yet?


Family Camping....what a romantic idea! Bonding—building teamwork-facing challenges together–getting close to God's creation....economical... well...

Preparations for our first camping trip as a family in 1964— destination Lake George, N.Y.— were almost as exciting as the actual trip. Very characteristic of my dad, (Mr.Sawdust) we were going to do this right! One Saturday he escorted my six brothers and me to a large Army-Navy surplus store in Manhattan, a forty minute drive from our home in Upper Montclair, NJ. These stores were equivalent in the 60's to the sports outfitters of today. Each of us was fully equipped with a comfy flannel lined sleeping bag, a denim duffel bag, a compass, a whistle and a flashlight. Every purchase was multiplied nine times-the clerk was loving it! We filed out of the store wearing matching tee shirts and white sailor caps. ...Now if that wasn't a classic scene for the makings of a great family musical!
We had collapsible canvas water buckets, even a portable toilet with a curtain for the utmost privacy. All we had to do was dig the hole.
After careful consideration, figuring how much room the nine of us (..and the dog) would need for sleeping, Dad purchased a tent that would house a circus. Tents back then were not made of lightweight nylon. They were made of heavy canvas so this tent was not only huge but weighed a ton! I remember the center pole was about nine feet tall when the two hardwood poles were assembled. But not to worry—dad and the boys had built a car top carrier that was so big it would easily transport all we had purchased that day...and much more. It extended the entire length of the top of the Dodge wagon. My dad's excitement was contagious! By the time we returned home that night I felt like I had already been on vacation.
The actual camping trip turned out to be much more exciting than that trip to the city for supplies; in fact, it was far more exciting than Dad could have possibly anticipated. That "great family musical" was about to become a hair raising drama.
Dad was always proud to have the family together, crowded into the big Dodge station wagon, along with the family dog. Our basset hound, Boots accompanied us on this trip, claiming his spot behind the driver’s seat. He’d position his stubby hind legs on the edge of the back seat and drop a paw over Dad’s shoulder. Hanging his head out the window, he’d let his long, pendulous ears flap in the breeze. He would rest his head on Dad’s shoulder when the ride became wearisome.
“How many kids have you got there?” attendants would inquire curiously as we stopped for gas. “Seven! Six boys and one girl!” he’d reply. “She must be treated like a queen,” they’d inevitably respond.
It is remarkable how many times I heard that growing up. I guess it was, in fact, true. Taking my place in the middle of six boys, with the understanding that any mistreatment of the one daughter would result in an unhappy situation, made me feel like somewhat of a princess in a strong fortress. I’m sure my “special” position was resented at times, especially on nights when Dad found an interesting movie on television. I would sit up on his lap eating popcorn, slide down from time to time and run up the stairs. “Now, you boys go to bed! We’re downstairs eating popcorn.” I’d skip eagerly back down the stairs.
They loved that, I’m sure.
Yes, we were well equipped, no doubt, but totally unprepared for the violent storm that blew up and threatened to relocate our enormous tent in the middle of the night. I can still see my Dad leaning the weight of his entire body against the massive wooden center pole, in an attempt to keep it standing. The large canvas tarp that had been attached to the pole at the peak of the tent was being hoisted by the winds. Lightning flashes revealed our frightened faces as we sat clutching pots and pans to catch the dripping water.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night, we left the soggy camp site for a site-seeing drive the following morning. The day was damp and chilly and it actually felt good to be back in the crowded station wagon—dog and all. Dad still had his sailor’s cap on, pipe in his mouth, clenched securely between his teeth. He was no doubt a bit shaken by the storm, but didn’t show it. He was still ….on vacation! We drove until lunchtime. “Well, what do you say we head back to….wait a minute—I know where we are! We’ve got to stop up ahead. We’re at the Ausable Chasm!” There was that whisper of suspense in his voice.

Note: See the USA the Easy Way put out by Reader’s Digest describes the Ausable Chasm as follows:

“Here sheer walls of rock rise some 200 feet above the rushing waters of the Ausable River. A tour of the chasm includes a 3/4 mile hike on dangling suspension bridges and winding walkways, past plunging waterfalls and raging rapids, culminating in a boat ride through the swirling waters.


We received a few instructions. I was to keep the dog on his leash, Mom had my youngest brother Chris close by her side. Bruce, Jeff, little Wally and Carl were to follow Dad. We climbed carefully down some boulders, wet and slick with moss, not an easy feat for a basset hound. We could hear the deafening roar of the mighty rapids, rushing furiously due to last nights storm. Soon we could see for ourselves why Dad had made the stop.
It was breathtaking!

This great photo of the Ausable Chasm
by Bryce Koechlin, (AddVision Studios) is as I remember it!

As we stood together looking warily down into the chasm, I recall my Dad’s words, “I seriously doubt a man could fall in there and come out alive. Let’s head back.” With that, he turned to leave. Seconds later, my brother Bruce, who had been mesmerized by the water, was falling headlong down into the rapids. It was one of those moments in time when you are awakened with a jolt from a terrible dream, so relieved—but this was not a dream.
“BRUCE FELL IN!!” I screamed, straining to be heard above the water.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Dad made his way to the edge and jumped in. I could see Bruce’s arms flailing out of the water as he was tossed around and pulled under by the rapids. Within seconds, my mother made her way to the edge, jumped in and was pulled down the river as well. I grabbed as many little hands as I could and walked along the chasm, hoping to see all three, remembering all too well my Dad’s ominous words. Would they come out alive?
What a wonderful sight it was to see my Dad, sailor cap still on his head, and—I kid you not—pipe in his mouth, standing beyond the rapids in an alcove of rocks, embracing Bruce and Mom.
It was a very tearful, thankful, crowded ride back in the station wagon. Bruce cried the loudest however. Thankful, yes, he had not lost his life, but a comparable tragedy to him — he had lost his harmonica.
We sat quietly at the picnic table in the stillness of evening, humbled by the day. “Do you see this frail little mantle in this lantern?” Dad asked. We gazed in to see the delicate mantle providing the only light in the campsite. “That is how frail our life is. In one second, it can be taken away!”
We were dirty. We were tired. We were sick of being on vacation. But the following morning we filed into the nearest church we could find, just to say, “thank you” that we would all be heading home.



This picture of Boots and me was taken while swimming
in lake George-the day before the incident at the Ausable chasm.
*No wonder my teacher thought I was telling tales when I returned in the fall and turned in my “What I Did on My summer Vacation” essay....and hard to believe there would be a second family camping adventure.



Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The 50's—When Dogs Were Our Heroes...



Just as kids ran free in the 50's, I remember dogs running free as well—maybe it was because most of my early growing up years took place in a country setting, several miles outside of Morristown, New Jersey. We knew all the neighborhood dogs by name. There was Tinker the Shepherd mix and Shea the Springer Spaniel who hid in the closet at the first rumble of thunder—and Drifter the hunting dog. He was the only dog I remember that did not run free. He spent his days in a kennel outside the house.

This was our neighbor's dog "Boxer" and as you can see we were good buddies. The thought of a dog not being friendly never entered my little mind.

That familiar Lassie theme beckoned us home at dinner time and we fell asleep at night dreaming we could own a dog just like Lassie!
Imagine a dog that would go get help when you fell into a hole—a dog that could understand you better than another person—and could communicate that understanding!
Our family was blessed to have a dog every bit as wonderful as Lassie. Perhaps he is the reason I have had such a great love for dogs all of my life. His name was Flash—a long haired German Shepherd police dog who came to live with our family in the early 50's. We had taken him in when a friend on Long Island realized a neighbor was intent on poisoning dogs, and they loved him too much to risk that happening to him. We were asked if we would like to have him.

Flash with my oldest brother Marc
Flash was very protective of me and my six brothers. He waited for the school bus with us each morning at the end of the driveway and greeted us there in the afternoon. He positioned himself each night in front of the front door, and that is where he stayed keeping watch, protecting his family. No one entered or exited without his express approval. Often a little one could be found nestled up beside him, resting on his beautiful long coat of fur.
When the ice froze on the neighbor's pond he loved to go ice skating with the neighborhood kids. We would toss a snowball across the ice, grab onto his tail and go for a ride from one end of the pond to the other. No matter where we ventured, Flash was at our heals.


On November 3, 1957, the year I was in kindergarten, a Russian mission blasted off, sending the first dog into orbit around the earth. Laika, a female mutt who was part Siberian Husky, rode on Sputnik 2. (Sputnik 2 was a metal sphere that weighed about 250 pounds = 113 kg).My older brothers brought their Weekly Reader magazines home from school and if the cold war with Russia wasn't already underway, I'm sure this event would have triggered it in the minds of baby boomers across the country! A dog.... in space?Laika was originally thought to have survived in Earth orbit for four days, dying in space when the batteries to the cabin over-heated. In 2002, it was revealed that Laika died roughly 5 to 7 hours into the flight, from overheating and stress.
After orbiting the Earth 2,570 times, Sputnik 2 fell back to Earth on April 14, 1958, burning up during re-entry.

1957 was also the year that Old Yeller stole our hearts—and baby boomers learned that all stories don't have happy endings.

That story prepared me for an event a few years later that would impact my life in ways I would not fully realize until years later—and that event will be the subject of my next post....so "stay tuned"!
(Original artwork-all rights reserved)