Archive for April 2013


There are two essays in this package having to do with the murder of Abelino Mazariego.  The second essay is called, “I’m still as mad as hell.”  These essays were written in anger and contain a few redundancies and a few errors.  But in the second essay, I have tried to correct some of the errors in the first because the facts have changed.  I hope that you will forgive the repetition, but the murder of Abelino has stirred my passion endlessly.

The chances are that you never heard of Abelino Mazariego.  As a matter of fact, I had never heard of him either until an incident last week in which Mr. Mazariego was beaten to death.  One of the reasons that you may never have heard of Abelino Mazariego is that he was a dishwasher for a restaurant in Summit, New Jersey named Dabbawalla.  The manager and chef at Dabbawalla is Colin Crasto.  As a matter of interest, or perhaps non-interest, Abelino worked for the owner and manager, Crasto, for 11 years.  For the record, it should be stated that my interest in Indian food is nearly nil.

What happened last week is, in my estimation, a case of at least aggravated assault or murder.  It seems that Mr. Mazariego had finished his shift of washing dishes, which he regularly did.  This occurred around 9 PM.  He left Dabbawalla to sit in a park about half a block away.  On the way to the park, Mr. Mazariego bought himself a slice of pizza.  As he sat on the bench in the little park, he was accosted by three men.  One of them pulled his tee shirt up over his head, the second began to beat him around the face, while the third man took photographs of the beating.  I assume that the third man had a telephone that could take pictures of the proceedings.  Stupidly, the third man circulated those pictures around the teen-age crowd in Summit and shortly they made their way to ABC television.  They were then shown on the air and arrests soon followed.  News reports fell off after the initial impact of the killing took place.  But it is understood that the three participants are being held on manslaughter charges with a bail of $100,000.

Those are the basic facts in the case.  It turns out that Mr. Mazariego, the dishwasher, was 47 years of age and had four children.  He was a native of El Salvador, the Central American republic.  A funeral mass was held at St. Teresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Summit a day or two ago.

Two of the boys who committed the murder were students at the Summit High School while another one attended Morristown High School in a town nearby.  Very little is said about the fourth person, who is underage.  So there are the facts as we know them at this time.  At the moment, the story has caught the interest of the local newspapers.  So Mr. Mazariego has been properly blessed and a Mass was said for him.  At his family’s request, he is being returned to his native El Salvador.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on these matters, but I assume that Mr. Mazariego represented a target of opportunity for the three teen-agers and that he was killed for the fun of it.  Whether they intended to kill him or not is beside the point.  Clearly, they intended to cause harm to him.

This story caused me at least three sleepless nights because Mr. Mazariego is the kind of person with whom I identify.  When I was involved with labor union matters with the AT&T Company and with the New York Telephone Company, the fact that a man was trying to work himself up from the bottom always interested me and gained my sympathy.  In this case, Mazariego was working himself up from below the bottom, coming from El Salvador and washing dishes for 11 years at the Dabbawalla Restaurant.

I say that this was a “fun” killing by the three teen-agers because Summit, New Jersey is an affluent town where something in excess of 95% of the children graduating from high school go on to college.  It would be very difficult to argue that they targeted Mazariego because he was taking a job away from them.  Kids who attend Summit High School are not there to train as dishwashers.  I would suspect that most of them have their eye on a management job that will pay a substantial amount of salary.

Abelino Mazariego was doing the very best he could to support his family.  Apparently he was a hard worker, having worked at that restaurant for 11 years.  In the end, aged 47, he was beaten to death and eventually will be buried in his native El Salvador.  Few people know about the circumstances of his death but knowing what I know about it now, I am greatly disturbed by it.

In 1955, the AT&T Company decided that my talents were needed in New York City.  So my wife and one child moved from Chicago to the great metropolis on the East Coast.  We could not buy a house in Summit, New Jersey because houses were too expensive.  We wound up renting a farm.  The town that we located in was New Providence, which is the next town over from Summit.  It might be said that New Providence is a poor sister to Summit.  But we were very happy in New Providence.  But clearly those with more affluence settled in Summit rather than in New Providence.

And so at this juncture one man, Abelino, is dead, and the three teen-agers will in most likelihood have a conviction on their records.  An assault in New Jersey carries a sentence of ten years, while aggravated assault carries a sentence of up to 25 years.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on legal matters, but it seems to me that the three teen-agers clearly intended to beat Mr. Mazariego as a form of sport.  Stupidly, they filmed the beating and it was circulated among their cohorts.  I hope that the authorities in Summit are as disturbed about Mr. Mazariego’s death as I am.  He was my kind of guy.  He was hard-working.  He was willing to sweat out his time at the bottom of the economic ladder in order to provide for his wife and four children.  What more can you ask?

There really is no moral to this essay.  I recite it because it has been troubling to my mind for the past few days.  As I have said, nobody attending Summit High School trains to become a dishwasher at an Indian restaurant.  Mr. Mazariego was starting at the bottom of the economic pack and was killed while eating a piece of pizza.  I feel a little better for having recited the story of his death because, more than anything else, his life in New Jersey will have a very small amount of recognition.  I regret that I did not know Abelino Mazariego while he was alive.  But the very least I can do is to recognize his passing and express my profound sorrow to his family.


PS: Since this essay was dictated, there have been two or three significant developments.  St. Teresa’s Church has steep stone steps at least 15 or more in number.  When the hearse arrived at the church, the priest asked for volunteers to carry Abelino’s coffin into the church.  A Hassidic Jew stood up to volunteer, followed by a Korean who had ministerial ranking.  Soon they were followed by other men in work shirts rather than chief executives.  Abelino’s body was carried into the church and out of the church by men of his own class.  Those are my kind of guys.

It now turns out that when Abelino was still alive, he was taken to Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.  His wallet contained his pay package of something on the order of $600.  His widow noted to the authorities that his pay was missing from his clothing.  As if Abelino had not suffered enough insults, his pay was stolen by a male nurse.  That nurse has been arrested.

One more development has to do with one of the attackers, who had been held on $100,000 bond.  He was released on Monday, July 26.  But there is also the report that the whole case is going to be referred to a grand jury.  It is at that proceeding that I hope his attackers are charged with more than simple manslaughter.  My hope is that they will be charged with attempted murder or at least aggravated manslaughter.



July 28, 2010

Essay 477


Kevin’s commentary: This is incredibly sad. I’m sure this happens as a matter of regular course especially in large metropolises like New York or Chicago — dozens of people there are murdered every week — but it is much easier to hear a statistic like “there were twenty deaths this week” than it is to hear the story of what actually happened to each individual person. This story reminds me a bit of a despicable activity that some of my classmates at the esteemed Westlake high school in Austin used to take part in — it was called hobo hunting and participants would either throw change at homeless people or in some cases shoot them with paintballs or airsoft pellets. The most privileged people in the world preying on the most desperate for sport. There is a sense of entitlement here with this murder that is just heart wrenching. I have not had time to research the outcome of the case further at this time but I hope justice was served, though honestly prison sentences can never really compete with a family of four who no longer has a father.

This essay was upsetting, but I’m glad I read it.  The follow up will be published next.


Those of you who have come to know me in the past 60 years are probably aware that I harbor certain prejudices.  I see nothing to praise, for example, about the New York Yankees, particularly when they are under the direction of George Steinbrenner.  On the other side of the coin, it has always struck me that the St. Louis Cardinal organization is an entirely praiseworthy outfit from owner to the bat boy.

To carry my prejudices a step further, the world has never known me to full of praise for the German nation.  I feel a lot better about the Germans now that Chancellor Schroeder has taken a principled stand against George W. Bush’s attempts to strong arm the United Nations Security Council on invading Iraq.  While I feel a lot better recently about the Germans, that doesn’t alter the fact that I don’t paste Weiner Schnitzel decals on my Canadian/American Chrysler nor do I do the goose step.

The reason for my less than enthusiastic thoughts about the German nation is that the descendents of the Kaiser attempted, for more than three years, to have me killed.  I, of course, resented that effort during World War II.  In the First World War, German soldiers attempted to gas and to shoot two of my mother’s brothers which made my mother very unhappy.  Perhaps it can be said that I come by my prejudices honestly. Even George Bush carried a prejudice against Saddam Hussein because as Bush said, “He tried to have my daddy killed”.  I know that killing is bad stuff, but it should be explained to the Vietnam avoider that killing is what war is all about and always has been.  Killing Bush’s “Daddy” would have been a routine event for Saddam.  So what else is new?

There is a second prejudice or bias which also applies in the current discussion, that being about religion.  On my sixth birthday, my mother announced that her youngest living child had reached the biblical “age of accountability”.  So she attempted to “save” me in the religious sense.  The “saving” backfired and for the past 75 years, I must state that my absolute faith in non-belief of any religious matters has remained completely intact and has served me well.  When death finally rears its ugly head, it will be greeted not by Bible thumping preachers, but by a drinking party at which it is hoped that Champagne will be served by the deceased host, namely me.

Near the end of World War II in Africa and Europe, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the pony edition of Time Magazine and the military publication Stars  and Stripes, became my main, or only, source of news.  Even today, at noon time, I can remember the BBC announcer saying at the start of the news of the day, “London calling”.  I might add that BBC broadcasts were for my money, the most reliable during the invasion of Iraq. To have lasted this long is a remarkable feat and I send my congratulations.

The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.  Shortly after the end of hostilities, I became aware that a German Lutheran pastor, jailed by the Nazi’s, was saying things that I ought to listen to.  The pastor was a German war hero from World War I.  His name of course, is Martin Niemöller, a former U-boat commander from the previous war.  In 1924, Niemöller was ordained as a Lutheran pastor.  Shortly after his release from Hitler’s concentration camps in 1945, Niemöller began to speak out.  Before the war started, Niemöller had vigorously opposed the Nazi Party.  It is remarkable that he was not killed instead of being sent to the concentration camps.

So here I am now saluting a preacher and a German one at that.  You may ask what gives here.  Niemöller’s biography, states that he spoke to over two hundred audiences when he came to the United States after the war.  In almost every case, Niemöller concluded with these sort of words that still ring in my ears:


“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.  Then the Nazis came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.  Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant so I did not speak up.  Then they came for me.  By that time, there was no one to speak up for anyone.”



For the better part of 60 years, Martin Niemöller’s words have stuck in my mind.  To do nothing is often a perilous course to follow.  And of course, Niemöller’s injunction against doing nothing is something every citizen of a democracy ought to keep in mind.  Never take civil liberties for granted – Never.

All of this is brought to mind by the United States Senate now unsealing 4000 pages of transcripts from secret sessions held by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin in 1953 and 1954.  Ruth Rosen who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle calls this the “most poisonous period in our nation’s past”.  She goes on to say:


“One lesson is how quickly our fragile freedoms can be eroded.  McCarthy rose to power in 1950 on a tsunami of anti-communist hysteria, brandishing a list of ‘known Communists’ in the State Department and held public trials to enhance his own political clout.  He fell from power only when his attacks against the United States Army exposed his indecent prosecution of innocent people.  The Senate censured him in December, 1956.  Discredited and disgraced, he died three years later at the age of 47 years.”

“Nevertheless, his influence lasted for more than a decade.  Loyalty oaths, indictments and black lists destroyed the careers and reputations of thousands of innocent people.  Fear of internal sabotage and infiltration of all institutions crushed dissent.  A pervasive atmosphere of fear quarantined permissible debate.”

Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle


The Bush administration including George W. and Attorney General Ashcroft, are clearly moving to curb or destroy our civil liberties.  Ashcroft has encouraged Federal agencies to reject Freedom of Information Act requests.  Bush has sealed the papers of former Presidents.  In spite of its name, the USA Patriot Act is a sinister act which has expanded government surveillance powers and trampled on the privacy rights of American citizens.  And at the Pentagon, former Admiral John Poindexter now runs his Total Information Program which wants to determine and record what you read and – think about this – how you walk.  The program has been renamed, but the goals remain the same.

Russ Feingold, the Democratic Senator from McCarthy’s home state and the only Senator who voted against the USA Patriot Act, is a fellow filled with doubt and pessimism.  Feingold says, “This is a dark hour for civil liberties in America.  What I’m hearing from Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and similar residents of this country, suggests a climate of fear toward our government that is unprecedented.”  He is quite right.

Consider these two thoughts.  The USA Patriot Act requires librarians to turn over records of those who have been reading what books.  More than 100 communities have passed resolutions against giving Ashcroft library records of who has read certain book titles.  They are shredding those records rather than to give them to Ashcroft.

Now consider that Ashcroft, supported by Bush, has decreed that anyone he names as an enemy combatant, is not entitled to bail and may not consult with a lawyer!  It now appears that if such persons are ever tried, they will be tried by a military court.  As an old soldier, I am here to warn you that “charges dismissed” or “innocent” are words seldom uttered by a military court.  Very often, it is exceedingly difficult to learn of the military court’s decision or its reasoning.

So far, several hundred men rounded up in Afghanistan are held on Guantánamo in Cuba without having the opportunity to select a lawyer.  In addition, at least one or two Americans have been designated by Ashcroft as “enemy combatants” with no testimony at all being heard.  All of these people are in legal limbo as the Bush Administration has intimidated the courts to allow them to be held in custody.  And the press has been cowed as well.

All this does violence to the American concept of justice.  It shouldn’t happen here, but under the leadership of Bush and Ashcraft, civil liberties are being withheld and denied.  The next step is for the Bush-Ashcroft-Cheney-Rumsfeld regime to attempt to punish dissent.  Already, they have stuck a lot more than toes in the water as they have accused Democrats and other dissenters of lack of patriotism when they have opposed Republican initiatives.  And to his everlasting discredit, Tom Daschle, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, folded his tent and slunk away after Bush’s people accused him of unpatriotic motives.  He simply accused the Bush administration of failure to plan for the rejection of the vote in the United Nations Security Council.  Daschle simply surrendered to the Bush bullies, in spite of the fact that he was right.

An old maxim holds that the price for liberty is eternal vigilance.  This is a dangerous period under George Bush when civil rights and liberties are being subjected to daily attacks.  Unless the Democrats can locate their courage, the future for rights and liberties now look fairly bleak.

By this time, I suspect that some of you may be wondering about my extolling the virtue of a former German man of the cloth, Martin Niemöller.  Currently, it is my thought that as long as Germany wishes to operate peacefully as they have done since 1945, they are an asset to civilized society and ought to be applauded.  On the other hand, I am not shopping for a Mercedes or a BMW nor do I plan to March in the Stueben Day Parade.  As long as the Germans are peaceful and vote against Bush’s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, I am all for them.

Now as to those of you who may think that my praise of Martin Niemöller represents a change in my religious views, kindly forget it.  My belief in non-belief has not been altered in any respect.  What I have attempted to do in this essay is to salute a very brave man.  When war came in 1914, Niemöller answered the call to duty and served as a U-boat submarine commander.  The fact that he was on the other side from the brothers of my parents does not alter my views.  He carried out his duty to his country.  He was a brave man and I salute him for it.

If Niemöller believed, as a preacher, in eternal life, salvation through being saved and the resurrection, these are propositions that I don’t accept.  In any case, they are beyond this small essay.  Niemöller was a brave man who spoke some eloquent words on the subject of speaking up.  For that, I wanted to pay him a modest tribute.


On the other hand, if my religious beliefs are cockeyed, it will be my pleasure to meet Martin Niemöller in Heaven or Paradise where I am certain that he has already read this essay.  Perhaps by the time I arrive, the Reverend may ask me for my current religious views in exchange for which, I would like to hear some stories about him being a U-boat Commander in World War I.  Niemöller may ask if wars are still being fought long after he has been sent to his heavenly reward.  I will tell him that unfortunately is the case.  But being a resident of Paradise or Heaven, I suspect that he already knows that.  I will also tell Reverend Martin that his injunction to speak up against tyranny is excellent advice, particularly here in the United States, against the excesses of the George W. Bush administration who now presents himself as a latter day patriot.  Bush ran away during the Vietnam War.  I would remind Bush that patriots do not attempt to destroy American civil liberties.



May 22, 2003

Essay 68


Kevin’s commentary: This essay is particularly topical in light of recent NSA actions to monitor and harvest data from nine of the biggest companies on the internet.  People need to realize that there is a tradeoff between liberty and security and we’re already tipping way in the favor of the latter. To get from 99.8% secure to 99.9% secure requires a hugely disproportionate sacrifice of basic privacy and freedoms.


Volume IV


There are four exclamations that will wrap up the story on He, She, They Said That?!  They come from widely varied sources.  The first one is about a preacher in New Providence, New Jersey and the owner of a filling station/garage across the street.


My recollection is that in 1956, there was an uprising in Hungary which caused many refugees.  Apparently the Presbyterian Church had volunteered to sponsor some of the refugees and brought them to this country.  The pastor at the Presbyterian Church was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  He went to Carl Fisher who owned the garage/filling station to see if he could find work for this Hungarian refugee who said that he was an auto mechanic.  Remember that Carl Fisher shared my views on life and religion.  Carl listened politely to the preacher as he made his pitch to find work for the Hungarian refugee.  At the end, Carl said, “That is very interesting.  But we don’t get many Hungarian cars in here.”  In spite of the dearth of Hungarian cars in New Providence, New Jersey, Carl Fisher hired the refugee.


Whether he was a qualified automobile mechanic is one thing.  But it is clear that the Hungarian was a lover.  On two or three occasions, he attempted to declare his love for customers at Fisher’s garage.  Carl thought that was funny and in the end told him that he should spend more time working on cars than on females.  The refugee/auto mechanic told Carl Fisher that while he was talking to the women who came into his garage, the refugee was, in polite terms, making love.  I guess in retrospect, there is nothing wrong with a mechanic who also is a maker of love.  Carl Fisher grew to like the Hungarian, as I did as well.


There is one more incident that I would be remiss in not repeating.  In the last half of the 1960s, I spent nearly four years in Washington as a lobbyist for AT&T.  During three of those years, I made arrangements to purchase season tickets to the home games of the Washington Redskins football team.  As many of you know, in Washington during the fall, Redskin fever is at a high pitch.  I am not much of a football fan but I used my expense account as a lobbyist to invite government officials to attend the games with me on Sunday afternoons.  The games were played in Griffith Stadium, which was a baseball park dating back to the 1940s.  The football team had a gridiron laid out on the baseball surface, which was not ideal but got the job done.

My tickets were close to one of the side lines near the end zone.  There was also a buxom female who probably weighed at least 175 pounds who had seats near mine.  This buxom female also had lungs made of leather.  When she shouted, the players and the spectators could hear her with no loss of fidelity.

On this one occasion, there was a dispute about whether a Redskin runner had achieved the necessary ten yards for a first down.  It was a crucial time in the game.  When the referee told the side judges that he wished to measure whether the player had really reached the ten yard mark, the so-called chain gang came onto the field.  They carried a chain that is exactly ten yards in length.  It is anchored by two posts, one at each end.  When the referee signaled to the side judge that he wanted to have a measurement, the buxom female had a fit.  In a loud stentorian voice, the leather-lunged black female shouted, “Don’t f… around with that measurin’ s..t!  He made it!”  The players and the referees heard her voice and were laughing as they measured for the first down.  As it turned out, the Redskin runner had indeed made a first down so the buxom female must have known something that the rest of us were just plainly guessing at.


There are also two other incidents that will complete the fourth volume of HE, SHE, THEY SAID THAT?  Both of these quotations came from the workers in the produce department at Whole Foods Market.  I apologize because they are self laudatory to old Ezra.

The first came from Sammy, a younger man in the produce department.  This incident happened long before anyone ever knew about Barack Obama.  Sammy said to me that “If you ever go into politics and get elected to be our president, you will be the second black president that we have had.”  He was referring, of course, to Bill Clinton whom black people called their first black president.  I was flattered by Sammy’s belief in my political future and his belief in my friendship for black people.  But I elected to stay with my day job.

The second laudatory quotation came from Paul Byfield.  He came from Kingston, Jamaica and has always identified himself as a black man.

Another worker at Whole Foods had had a major traffic accident that required a jaws of life to get him out of his car.  Whole Foods and Tariq, the man who had the accident, wanted as little publicity as possible.  Paul Byfield said that he was telling me about the accident because, “You are family.”  Again, I was flattered to be considered as a member of this black family.


So this finally completes my thoughts about “He She They Said That?”, all four volumes.  As it turns out, my life has been enlivened by the remarks that I have overheard, including those directed directly at me, such as “You don’t get paid to think.”  In retrospect, I think about those remarks and have a soft giggle to myself.  That makes it all worthwhile.



November 10, 2010

Essay 503(?) I think something is off with my numbering for this one, but this fits best with the other 3


Kevin’s commentary:  There’s not much to say on this one that haven’t been said on the other three; I just really liked this series. Cheers!


Volume III

When I set out to write this essay, I thought my recollections could be contained in an essay of maybe six or eight pages.  But as it has turned out, my recollections have now reached a total of three volumes.  I believe that I have spent as much time as I wish to spend on this project, and so this will tend to be the final volume.  Or if I can’t sleep well, by recalling other remarks, there may be a fourth volume.  We will have to see.

When I enlisted in the American Air Force, which was then under Army control, I wound up at the base in Coral Gables, Florida in 1942.  The purpose of the base was to teach me and my fellow citizens air craft maintenance with the thought that we would end up being Aerial Engineers.  This was war time and the school, called Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute, had so many students that they put a second shift on to accommodate us.  The instructor that we had knew just about all there was to know about aircraft engines and he spoke in a country fashion.  I was not turned off by his manner of speech because I suspected that he really knew what he was talking about.

Working the second shift in darkness was a bit of a problem.  The instructor warned us about walking into airplane propellers.  In this case, the propellers on the engines were called “club propellers” which would not move the engines forward.  They were simply attached to the end of the drive shaft to imitate what a real propeller would do.

Nonetheless the instructor warned us that we were working in twilight and if we backed into an aircraft propeller, it would make “hamburger meat out of you.”  The story about hamburger meat has stuck with me for the 68 intervening years and I have yet to answer the question about whether it was a tautology or a simple redundancy.  The instructor made his point so clearly that it has remained in my mind for 68 years.  Every instructor at all levels of education should strive to achieve that level of endurance.


The next quotation came from a native of Newark, New Jersey who was accustomed to the political battles that took place in that town.  His name was Tom Eadone.  Tom ran a limousine service that I used for all of the years that I was traveling abroad.  Tom and the driver that he hired made sure that I never missed an airplane because of their failure to arrive at my house.  On one occasion, Tom said to me, “Any politician who spends more to get elected than the job will eventually pay him, is not to be trusted.”

This brought to mind the story of Meg Whitman’s campaign to become the governor of California.  Newspaper estimates at this point suggest that she has spent of her own political capital something on the order of $140 million.  The California governorship certainly is not going to be a profitable one for Meg Whitman.  If I lived in California, I would make certain to vote for Jerry Brown, the former governor, on the grounds that Eadone’s rule should not ever be violated.


Another remark that was made to me came from Donald Zoerb, who was my instructor for the four years that I took his drafting class at Clayton High School.  Mr. Zoerb was a wonderful teacher and I never missed any of his classes.  On a day when I did not have drafting, I skipped school and went to downtown St. Louis.  My recollection is that I witnessed a performance at the Garrick Theatre which was then a burlesque place.  One way or another, the school found out about my skipping school and imposed some sort of penalty.  When Mr. Zoerb found out what had happened to me, he remarked very dryly, “The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”  That remark was made to me around 1938 or 1939, which gives it a lifetime of something on the order of 70 years.  I always remember that the wheels of justice grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine. I am indebted to Don Zoerb for imparting this piece of wisdom that I have obviously taken to heart.


I would prefer now to end this essay with some remarks about glaucoma.  I hope that these remarks are not a downer, because by the time I am finished I think that you will notice a clever remark made by a 92-year-old Missourian who now resides in New York City.

The Carr clan has long suffered from the effects of glaucoma.  It made my father blind just as it made my elder brother blind.  And so for the last 50 years, I have visited a good ophthalmologist in an effort to stave off blindness.  When I was transferred from Washington back to New York, there was an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills named Richard Robbins.  Robbins treated me for a while, although it became clear that the pressure in my left eye was so great that I had to have a trabeculectomy.  This procedure involves cutting open a trap door in the eyeball to let the excessive pressure escape.

Robbins had suggested that the trabeculectomy ought to be performed by a fellow he knew named Ivan Jacobs.  Jacobs and I never were playing from the same page but nonetheless I went ahead and let Jacobs perform the trabeculectomy.  But before the operation I had inquired of Robbins whether or not he would permit such surgery to be performed on himself or his own family.  Robbins assured me that he would.  That was an incorrigible mistake, because Robbins barely knew Jacobs.

Shortly after the operation began, I could hear Jacobs saying, perhaps to a nurse, that there had been a choroidal hemorrhage.  I knew that the choroidal hemorrhage meant the end of my eyesight.

That was in the left eye and significantly the operation took place on April 1st, 1994.  Remembering that date is essential to understanding the remark made by my fellow Missourian.

The hemorrhage was followed by a series of examinations by physicians in various hospitals in New York and Philadelphia, but in the end it meant the demise of my left eye.  And when that happened, I bid goodbye to Richard Robbins and began to patronize a fellow in Summit, New Jersey named Eric Gurwin.  After I left the care of Richard Robbins, he was found to have fondled some of his female patients.  He hired the best criminal attorney in northern New Jersey.  He avoided jail time but in the process he lost his license to practice ophthalmology.  This was a heavy blow to Robbins.  As a matter of interest, in the several years that Robbins treated me, I can assure you that he never once was guilty of fondling of my precious body.

So now I am under the care, since April 1st, 1994, of Eric Gurwin of the Summit Medical Group.  Obviously I had only one eye at that time but I did all that I could to protect its sight.  In my eyes, Gurwin is a hero because he tried everything to preserve the sight in my one remaining eye.  There were good days and some bad days in his treatment but I knew that Gurwin was determined to do all he could to preserve the sight in my right eye.

In 2005, the pressure in my right eye began to mount and we tried every conceivable drug that was available on the market to control the pressure.  To give you an idea, the pressure in the right eye should be at 20 or below.  That means that the glaucoma is being controlled.  When the pressure exceeds 20, it is called uncontrolled glaucoma.  In my case, the pressure in the right eye regularly was in the 40 degree range and toward the end it was on the order of 50.  It was at this point that Gurwin said to me, “You better go see Katz.”  Katz is a surgeon who works at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.  He is widely known for his work on glaucoma.

I got along famously with Dr. Katz.  We talked sports and a little of his family history as well.  It turned out that Dr. Katz’s father was also blind from glaucoma and that he himself has the disease.  I hope that his outcome is better than mine.  Nonetheless, Gurwin’s advice that I had better go to see Katz was well founded because Dr. Katz soon concluded that the only way to save whatever sight I had would be a  trabulectomy on the right eye.  For all intents and purposes, I was largely blind at that point.  When I reported to the Wills Eye Hospital for the operation early on the morning of October 31st, 2005, I arose from the cart that was to take me to the operating room to use the men’s restroom.  Howard Davis, my old friend, has asked me what the last thing I ever saw was.  The last thing I ever saw was the commode in the restroom at Wills Eye Hospital.

Dr. Katz had just about completed his work on the trabeculectomy on the right eye.  At the end of the operation, another choroidal hemorrhage occurred.  While heroic efforts were made by all of the staff at the Wills Eye Hospital to save some sight in that eye, their efforts were largely in vain.  Now remember that this happened on October 31st, 2005, which, incidentally, is Halloween.

There were many trips to Wills after the trabeculectomy in the hope that some sight could be regained in the right eye.  But that was not to be the case.  Dr. Katz and the people at Wills did everything within their power.  I have nothing but praise for them.  However, somewhere along the line, after the second episode, I had a conversation with my long-time friend Howard Davis, who is even four years older than I am.  Howard reviewed the case and came to a conclusion.  He reasoned the left eye was lost because it had been operated on on [sic] April 1st, 1994 and the second eye was lost due to an operation on October 31st, 2005.  Reason led him to believe that the first operation took place on April Fool’s Day and the second operation took place on Halloween.  Mr. Davis’s counsel was that I should no longer permit operations on my eyes on holidays such as April Fool’s Day and Halloween.  I accepted his advice even though I knew that I had no more eyes to operate on.  Two is the number of eyes that is specified for each human being and, by submitting to operations on April Fool’s Day and on Halloween, I had put them greatly at risk.

In the final analysis I have nothing but praise for the work of Dr. Jay Katz in Philadelphia and Dr. Eric Gurwin in the Summit Medical Group.  I owe those two people thanks for preserving whatever sight I had for as long as it could possibly last.  My advice to all of you is, “Don’t submit to eye operations on either April Fool’s Day or on Halloween.”


This concludes my recollections of remarks that were said to me or about me.  I am certain that there are many more remarks that will have to remain unrecorded in this essay.  But all things considered, for 88 years I have had a fairly respectable life.  I have tried to enjoy it all and mostly I have tried to apply a sense of humor to the remarks that were made about me.  And there were some lessons that I have remembered.  I remember, “You don’t get paid for thinking,” and “If you stick your tail in an airplane propeller, it will make hamburger meat out of you.”  All that I can tell you is that it is worth the wait of 88 years to gain those vital pieces of information.


So I leave you with the thought that I have taken from my longtime friend, Nathanial Fritz, a phrase-maker in his own right.  At this point, old Nat would have said, “On with the rat killing.”  After sober reflection, I cannot improve upon the sentiment of what Nat Fritz has said.  And so for now, I will adjourn my thoughts on “He said, she said, they said.”



October 3, 2010

Essay 502


Kevin’s commentary: along with an extremely vulgar sense of humor, I inherited Pop’s terrible eye genes via my mother who also has them. So while this advice doesn’t serve Pop so well anymore, I’ll be sure to pass it along to mom and keep it in mind myself.

On a bonus note I got to figure out where on with the rat killing comes from!! So many emails and essays make marginally more sense now. I wonder if Pop knows where Nat got it from?



This is the second volume of “They Said That?”  This essay will lean heavily on my experience in the labor relations field and on my work as an attendant in the filling station business.  In the labor relations field, there are some rich quotations.


There was a division accounting manager for AT&T in Atlanta who demanded that his clerks give unwanted overtime to the company.  One clerk, Retha B. Queen, gave birth to a child and she wanted to go home from work on time to attend to the needs of that child.  The accounting manager was Gray Madrey, who told Retha B. Queen that “We don’t have time for frivolities such as home life.”  I believe that you can understand that when it came time to arbitrate that case, we made sure that Gray Madrey was nowhere to be found.

At that point, I was the Labor Relations Manager, a job I held for seven years.  The company conceded the outcome and Mrs. Queen began to work normal hours.  My recollection is that Gray Madrey was transferred to a headquarters location and soon retired.  Good riddance!


A second arbitration case involved Augie McCoy and Floyd Evans, who worked in the St. Louis district office.  Augie McCoy had a coveted job as a line inspector, which required him to walk every mile of the pole line and the cables to insure that troubles in his district were fixed.  Each inspector had a small pickup truck given him for his work.  I believe it must be said that Augie McCoy was less than diligent in pursuit of his duties.

His boss at the time was a gentleman named Floyd Evans who had once held the inspector job himself.  I was very fond of Floyd Evans and soon became infected with the country style of his speech.  As we were preparing for the arbitration case, Floyd Evans was asked a question about Augie McCoy to which he replied, “He has set in that truck so long that his legs is growed together.”

The arbitrator in that case came from New York and aside from his legal practice, he taught law at New York University.  The company counsel was a gentleman named H.W.W. Caming.  He had graduated from Harvard Law School.

Caming was certain that the New York arbitrator could not stomach that line coming from Floyd Evans.  Caming thought that the line was too inelegant.  I was the Labor Relations Manager and I intervened as strongly as I could to overrule Caming.  I told Caming that anything artificial coming out of this Evans’s country-boy style would strike the arbitrator as contrived and artificial.

When the case was brought to trial, Floyd Evans repeated his remark about Augie McCoy “setting in his truck so long that his legs just growed together.”  The arbitrator came within half an inch of laughing out loud and made a note of Floyd’s comments.  I am absolutely certain that in his law practice and in his teaching of law at New York University, the arbitrator would cite that line on many occasions.  I believe that this is the king of country speech and is to be treasured.


Now we turn to my misspent youth as an attendant in filling stations.  I first went to work for Carl Schroth, who ran a Mobil gas station catering to a largely wealthy clientele in Clayton, Missouri.  I was a youngster at the time and not familiar with the ways of the world.  You may recall Carl as the man who used a piece of plywood in the front of his pants instead of buying a truss for his ruptured intestines.  On more than one occasion late in the day Carl would say to me, “Eddy, you are much too valuable a man to be walking the streets of St. Louis.  I want you to work tonight.”  Would you believe that I bought that line on perhaps half a dozen occasions?  I pumped the gas and fixed the tires while Carl, the owner, went home to have dinner with his wife.  But I was flattered to know that Carl thought that I was much too valuable a man to be walking the streets of St. Louis.

In later years, I moved to a Sinclair station run by Eddy Williams.  The car washer at that station was Dell van Buren Barbee.  Dell had a second-grade education in a segregated Mississippi school.  In spite of his lack of formal education, Dell was possessed of practical knowledge.

On a cold rainy afternoon, Dell van Buren Barbee and I were sitting in the office of Eddy Williams’s Sinclair filling station.  There was not much to do in view of the rain that foreclosed the washing of automobiles.  As our bull session proceeded, Dell said the famous quotation that I have used for many years.  Dell said, “If God invented something better than effing, He kept it to hisself.”  I thought that that [sic] remark contained superior wisdom.  Dell may not have been a graduate of an Ivy League college, but when it came to common sense, old Dell was right there.  That remark was made in about fall of 1940.  It has survived in my memory for more than 70 years.  It might be said that you don’t get wisdom like that every day.


And finally, we turn to the speech of my mother.  She greatly disliked, or even hated the British for what they had done in their 800 year occupation of Ireland.  This is a thrice or quadruple told tale.  On the morning that I left home to go to Jefferson Barracks to enlist in the American Army, my mother told me about trying to take care of myself in these perilous times.  I told Lillie, my mother, that we would have all kinds of help from other nations.  I mentioned the French and the Poles.  She was always fond of people from Poland.  And then, stupidly, I mentioned the British.  In a stern voice, Lillie said to me, “Do you mean the English?”  I must have shrugged my shoulders in response.  At that point, Lillie said to me, “In that case, Son, you will have to do the best you can.”   With that, she turned around and marched from the driveway back into the house and I was left to ponder once more her hatred of the English on my two hour street car trip to Jefferson Barracks to enlist in the American Army.


As you can see, my memory is long on remarks that have been addressed to me.  But nothing cut more than the stupidity of my having brought up the British Army who would be our allies.


Now we proceed to Volume III of these recollections.



October 3, 2010

Essay 501


Kevin’s commentary:

Searching for most of these phrases in quotes on Google next to the phrase “” will turn up, in some cases, entire essays devoted to the topics and phrases raised here.

Related to the post about the British,  I am somewhat confused. So far as I know, Lillie Carr was not herself an immigrant.  Her family had been in the country for at least one generation if not many more. Hopefully Pop can be of use in clarifying this point. That being the assumed case, I really don’t understand too well the utter contempt for the British. Sure they were assholes to Ireland a few hundred years ago but — again to the best of my knowledge — they never wronged Mrs. Carr personally during her lifetime.

I mean, you’re reading the words of a kid whose favorite bedtime song was “four green fields”; British douchebaggery toward the Irish has been being drilled into my head since I was a few months old, but I still just can’t bring myself to get riled up about it.


 Volume I


I regret to say that in my case I went through the age of puberty a good many years ago.  Living a long life has its pluses and minuses.  On the plus side, there are many recollections that remain in my mind and which, taking one thing with another, constitute pleasant memories.  The unpleasant ones tend to be overlooked and, I hope, forgotten.

This essay could be long and thus may be divided into parts.  It has to do with recollections of things that were said to me or about me or about some current event.  Those statements have intruded upon my memory, and in this essay I hope to recall a good many of them.  I suspect that if you have read Ezra’s Essays closely, you may recognize that, in some instances, the remarks made to or about me are familiar.  The idea in this essay is to put all those remarks into a series of essay so that they may be found by going to one place.

In this collection of thoughts or remarks made to or about me or about some current event, you might find familiar thoughts as well as four or five new thoughts that have never been recorded in my essays. With that background as a base, suppose we launch into an exploration of things that have been said to me or about me or comments made upon a special event.  I wish to point out that there is no order, chronological or otherwise, in these remarks.  They are recorded as my memory recalls them.


No memory of mine can be complete without a statement made to me which was really a demand which took place on a dusty afternoon in the summer of 1942 on a hot and dusty day in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

With the country being at war, I had enlisted in the American Army.   On that occasion, I was undergoing basic training.  The training consisted of marching perhaps eight or nine hours a day with the instructors urging us to keep the lines straight and also not to be confused between the left foot and the right foot.  I thought that this was a grossly goofy way to prepare to meet the German army, the Japanese army and navy, and all of the other forces that were to be deployed against us in World War II.  But on we marched, with the corporal in my case urging us to keep the lines straight in the hope that we would be noticed by a colonel who would then pronounce us fit for battle.

My low regard for the American Army started at that moment.  We had mastered forward march and by the left flank and by the right flank successfully.  The turns in these cases were 90 degree turns.  At that point the regular army corporal who was our instructor decided to teach us some fancy marching.  It was called an “oblique march,” which amounted to nothing more than turning at an angle of 45 degrees rather than 90 degrees.  The corporal became hopelessly confused and I tried to be helpful.  In this confusion, I said to the corporal, “Corporal, I think I can —-.”  What I intended to say was, “I think I can help you.”  The corporal cut me off and said, in a loud stentorian voice, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.  You get paid to do what you are told.”  That incident happened more than 68 years ago.  It remains fresh in my memory.  I think that it qualifies for this essay which has to do with “He said that…”

While we are on Army stories, there is this one from two or three years later than the “You don’t get paid for thinking” remark.  It took place at a major air base in Accra in the country that is now called Ghana.  In the beginning, this was a British base which had been taken over by the American Air Force.  I can remember that I was assigned to the barracks called G-17.  There may have been 40 or 50 soldiers in our wing of the barracks who for a time were regularly regaled by an aircraft electrician who liked to show pictures of his wife.  The main attraction was that his wife was quite buxom.  The buxomness did nothing for this aircraft electrician who was located in a barracks several thousand miles away from home.  When he bragged about how this buxom woman turned him on, there was an elder statesman in that barracks.  His name was Werner Friedli.  Werner had been drafted into the army to fill out a quota by his local Chicago draft board that had been determined by Army Headquarters in Washington.  Werner was 37 or 38.  The rest of us in that barracks were probably aged 22 to 23, so Werner was the elder statesman.

As time went on, Werner had had enough of the electrician’s bragging.  Finally he said to the electrician, “Tell me, what can you do with a large breast that you cannot do with a small breast?”  This was a put down to end all put downs.  From that time forward, we did not receive reports about the buxom wife.  I can only hope that when the electrician got home, he and his buxom wife lived happily ever after.  In the meantime, I thought that Werner Friedli was a worldly man who enunciated the remark about the buxom wife in grand fashion.  I thoroughly liked Werner Friedli.  I liked him even more after his remark to the electrician.

I told you at the beginning that there is no chronological order to these memories.  If you jump light years ahead, there is an attendant at the Whole Foods Market in Millburn, New Jersey, who had become a special favorite of my wife and myself.  Jackie tends to be a bit loud and she is quite willing to share her opinions with everyone in the vicinity.  I am very fond of Jackie.  We kibitz back and forth about my desire to have liquorice.  Recently I was told by Paul Byfield, another attendant at the store, that a customer had searched at great length for a product that he wanted to buy.  The search was in vain and Jackie told the potential customer, “If you don’t see it, we ain’t got it!”  This clearly comes under the heading of “She really said that?”  Jackie, a tough black woman, is among my good friends and her philosophy of life inspires me.

I believe that these samples of “They really said that?”  are enough of a start that they will provide three or four more essays.  And so at this point I believe I will adjourn the first essay on “They really said that?” and try to prepare for future editions.




October 3, 2010

Essay 500


Kevin’s commentary: Parts 2 and 3 coming soon! This is a great little series.

Now, I misread the very end of this essay at first and got the impression that Jackie told Pop that if he didn’t see it, they didn’t have it. Of course this would be about as problematic as me offering to show Pop pictures of my 2010 trip to China. Thankfully for everyone he has a very good sense of humor about these things.


Under ordinary circumstances, the day at this house begins with a loud thud made by the storm door on the front porch. The loud thud has to do with the delivery of two newspapers rolled up and inserted into a plastic bag. If I am lucky, the newspapers will be placed to the side of the door against the railing. But I am not always lucky and so it is that the newspaper delivery man stands a few feet away and pitches the paper up toward the front porch. Sometimes the paper does not reach the front porch and falls on the steps. In that case I have to summon Judy, my wife, to go searching for it.

The question might be asked, what I am doing reading two newspapers, The New York Times and The Star Ledger of New Jersey, when I am blind. The answer is that I read the newspapers out of habit and while I can no longer see, my wife reads selected articles to me. Because we have passed the age of puberty, my wife reads the obituary columns on the ground that old folks die and we might know some of them. Last week there was an obituary for Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff. Here is what was said.

Sister Mary Anthony graduated high school and went on to complete one year of college before entering the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, on July 2, 1943. She made her first vows on Feb. 13, 1945 and final vows on Feb.13, 1948. In the monastery, she held the offices of novice mistress, bursar, councilor, librarian, sacristan, infirmarian, chantress, cook, kitchen supervisor, supervisor of maintenance staff, gardener, and bee keeper.

When Miss Chicka read the obituary for Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff and mentioned the dates in 1943, my interest was aroused. A few months earlier in 1943, I had my first taste of combat in the North African theater during World War II. Beyond that, I was interested in all of the jobs she held, including cook and bee keeper. Apparently the Dominican Order of Nuns who inhabit this monastery are self sufficient and seem to provide for themselves.

When I first came to New York, I rented a farm in New Providence, which is the immediate town west of Summit, New Jersey. Summit at that time was much more sophisticated than New Providence and so a good part of our time was spent in the confines of Summit, New Jersey.

As soon as I moved here in 1955, which is now 55 years ago, I became aware of the monastery on a large piece of property on the south end of the business district in Summit. Being of curious mind, I inquired as to what was going on at the monastery. It was explained to me that the Dominican Order of Nuns prayed the Rosary 24 hours per day. That is not to say that all of them prayed the Rosary; it is to say that at least one person was in the sanctuary or at the altar praying the Rosary at all hours of the day. I assume that Sister Tickerhoff took her turns at praying the Rosary and then went on to perform all of the other duties mentioned in her obituary.

I do not understand the significance of the Rosary, but I gather that it is of great importance to the people of the Catholic faith. While I may not understand the prayers of the Rosary, I do understand devotion to duty. Sister Tickerhoff apparently never left the premises of the monastery in Summit until, late in life, she entered a nursing home. She served at the monastery in Summit from 1943 until her death recently in the nursing home. Those with religious feelings will say that Sister Tickerhoff was a servant of God. I am not qualified to judge anyone on that score, but I will say that Sister Tickerhoff spent 67 years praying and serving her God. I applaud that as a full-fledged devotion to duty. And on top of that, she served as a cook and a beekeeper.

The monastery still stands on the corner of Springfield Avenue and Morris Avenue where it has stood for the 55 years that I have been in New Jersey. We frequently drive by that location. In the future I am going to make certain that the windows of the car are clearly rolled up to avoid attracting some of the monastery’s bees. I think that that is the least thing I can do to celebrate the life of Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff. Perhaps we should all to say to Sister Mary Anthony, “Well done, Sister Mary Anthony, well done!”

August 30, 2010

Essay 492


Postscript: It should be pointed out that the Monastery where Sister Mary Anthony served is only two blocks away from the park where Abelino Mazariego, the Salvadoran dishwasher, was murdered by an assault by five youngsters. Hers was a life well lived. By the time the law gets finished with the young men who did the beating, their lives may be worthless.

September 9, 2010

Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary
543 Springfield Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901-4498

Sisters of the Monastery:

In 1997, I had a stroke that spared my limbs but left me with a case of aphasia. The speech therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation advised me that writing essays might exercise that part of my brain that had been injured by the stroke. Now, after thirteen years and some 500 essays, I found myself writing about the obituary of your Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff.

The essay pleased me and I hope that it pleases the residents of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary as well. I send it with admiration for the work that you are doing.

(orig. sgnd.) E. E. Carr

Enclosure (1)

Following is the response which I received from the nuns at the Monastery when they received the essay about Sister Mary Anthony. I am humbled by their response.

response 1


Kevin’s commentary:

And now my life is in some small way connected to a beekeeping, cake-baking nun from New Jersey who was born during WWI and died three years ago. Maybe I’ll run into a relative of hers sometime, and he or she will have no idea that this kid from Texas knows that his or her aunt, or godmother, or whatever made a killer fruit preserve. We live in a funny world; between the internet and airplanes, it seems like .

Nevertheless she seemed like a wonderful woman, and I’m glad that Pop took the time to write to her Monastery and have that exchange.

There are a few more pictures here.


As everyone knows, I hope, I am a student of politics, particularly at the national level. For a time of about four years, I had the opportunity to be a lobbyist for AT&T in Washington. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to meet Senator Claude Pepper from Florida during that time. But as age has descended upon my shoulders, I have come to appreciate a remark that Senator Pepper made as his life was drawing to a close.

Claude Pepper was a lively person with a good deal of wit. He was born in 1900 and died in 1989, which will tell that he enjoyed or endured a long life span. As his life drew to a close, the witty Senator Pepper once observed that he no longer bought green bananas, because he did not necessarily expect to live long enough to eat them when they were ripe. I suppose that old codgers such as myself have come to appreciate the remark about green bananas as enunciated by Claude Pepper.

Pepper was born in Alabama and soon found himself living in the state of Florida. As you may know, Florida is an elongated state with a great variety of inhabitants. Miami on the southern end is a bustling, reasonably sophisticated city. Orlando, one of the main cities of the middle of the state, is a hub of right-wing philosophy. Further to the north in the panhandle, the inhabitants generally reflect the point of view that makes them allegedly similar to the inhabitants of Alabama. Politicking down in Florida is a tricky business in that one must need to know what would play well in Homosassa in the north and then to Miami in the south.

In any event, Claude Pepper was elected to the United States Senate in 1936. He served there until 1950 when he was opposed by George Smathers and was defeated. During the campaign for Senator Pepper’s seat in the Senate, it is alleged that Smathers made the remarks below in a series of meetings in the backwoods sections of Florida. Smathers and Pepper have over the years neither conceded that the remarks were made nor that the story is a hoax. I have no way of knowing whether Smathers made the remarks. In any event, it is a pretty good story which I will relate in a minute. I hope that you will remember that these remarks were made to backwoods types in northern Florida, not to the sophisticates of Orlando or Miami. If Smathers made the remarks, and I suspect that he did, he was perfectly attuned to the political tastes of his constituents in the panhandle.

Here is what Smathers is alleged to have said about Senator Pepper.

“Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law. He has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage practiced celibacy and are you aware that Claude Pepper vacillated one night on the Senate floor?”

I guess the appeal to the yahoos of the northern Florida precincts was successful because George Smathers defeated Claude Pepper. Pepper’s career did not end there in that later on he became a member of the House of Representatives in Washington. I simply thought that the Smathers denunciation of Claude Pepper is classic and should serve as an inspiration to politicians of the current era.

Later on, when Claude Pepper was reaching the end of his life, he made the remark about the green bananas. I have known that remark for many years and I find myself in the final years of my life tending to live for the day or for the hour rather than making long-range plans. In former days I would find myself figuring out which suits I was going to wear in the following week with what shirts. I don’t wear suits and shirts much anymore and I do not plan that far ahead. And so it is that in these latter stages in my life, I take comfort from what Claude Pepper said a good many years ago about green bananas. And I also take a good bit of comfort from the remarks of George Smathers who accused Claude Pepper of some atrocious acts.

Perhaps if Barack Obama runs against Sarah Palin in 2012, he may well use some of the alleged speech that George Smathers made in 1950. Or perhaps Sarah Palin will use the Smathers speech to further defame Mr. Obama. I suspect we will have to wait and see.


August 29, 2010

Essay 491


Kevin’s commentary: Pop is always such a cheery fellow, don’t you think? His essays about aging just make it so difficult to have to wait to get old the, er, old-fashioned way.

My advice would be to keep buying the green bananas, both because optimism is good and because Judy might enjoy them.



When I entered the high school in Clayton, Missouri in January of 1936, I was asked a question about my course preparation.  The basic premise was that if you were going on to college, Clayton High School would equip you to handle college work.  If you were not going to college, you were assigned to courses that had a general appeal.  I had no hope whatsoever of going to college, so I wound up in the general category.

Among the courses offered in the general category were shop and mechanical drawing.  This was no real drawback to me because I liked working with my hands, and for the first time I had access to a lathe.  I stayed with the mechanical drawing for four years and it eventually was the underpinning for my getting a job with AT&T, where I stayed for 43 years.

The teacher in the shop work was named Sam Hall.  He was a tall lanky fellow who liked absolutely no nonsense from his students.  Sam Hall simply would not put up with horseplay.  This was fine with me because I was intent upon learning something.  Early in the course with Mr. Hall, we were obliged to make a hall tree.  A hall tree is a simple device that rests upon a platform and at the top has either arms or hooks on which a garment or a hat may be placed.

Each day we only spent one hour with Mr. Hall.  It was an enjoyable hour even if the teacher was strict and brooked no nonsense.  As I said, early in our adventures in the ways of shop, there was a project to make hall trees.

At that time in 1936, it was assumed that everybody wore a hat and in the wintertime an overcoat.  Current houses ordinarily have a closet near the front door in which the coats of visitors may be placed.  But in 1936 prior to the popularity of closets, there was a “hall tree” placed in the hall outside of the living room.  That tree was used to store the outer clothing of the visitors to the home.

Building a hall tree is not a magnificent engineering achievement.  First is the use of a lathe to construct the tree part of the hall tree.  Then lumber is assembled in a rough form and is turned into the base.  I can still remember the instructions about using a plane on what would become the base.  It went something like, “Plane a flat surface smooth and true, and mark it one.”  Then the wood was to be turned over and the same procedure followed.  It was, “Plane an edge, smooth and true and mark it two.”  Over a period of time, the parts, such as a trunk and a base, were assembled and put together.  Then came the staining process, and my first project in shop was then completed.

I took the hall tree home to my parents and they used it for many years.  My mother went out of her way to point out to visitors that the hall tree had been constructed by her youngest son.

One way or another the years passed, and the hall tree disappeared and no one seemed to know where it had gone.  And so if we fast forward from the 1936 time period to a period some sixty years later, we can make an astonishing discovery.

For many years, Judy and I have kept a metal hall tree in our gymnasium in the basement to hang sweatshirts and that sort of thing on.  The hall tree was old when I found it and over time it became unstable and it was decided that it should be replaced.  I did not think that hall trees would be easy to find.  But Judy, my wife, who is an inveterate on line shopper, located a hall tree at the Target store.  When it was delivered and we assembled it, there was a note permanently attached which said that it was a “product of Vietnam.”  I suppose that there are some who would say that Vietnam was our enemy and that the hall tree should be destroyed.  I take an opposite view.  The way to make friends is to converse with people and to trade with them.

The hall tree has been here for perhaps four years, and performs admirably well.  At the end of each arm at the top of the hall tree, the Vietnamese have placed a bit of a cup that tends to prevent the garment or cane from slipping off.  The hall trees that Mr. Hall instructed us to build had no such device.  And so it is that I am pleased to report that the Vietnamese hall tree is in daily use and I find many reasons to praise it.   It is clearly superior to the one I built under the direction of Sam Hall.

And as for Sam Hall, the shop teacher, I would be pleased for Mr. Hall to see the Vietnamese hall tree.  I am reasonably certain that Mr. Hall would praise the workmanship of a hall tree that was constructed so many miles from our home.  Mr. Hall also would find reason to praise the sturdiness of the hall tree and to admire the fact that it is in daily use.

As this essay has proceeded, it is clear that it is nothing more than another exercise in nostalgia.  I like hall trees and, as it turns out, I liked Sam Hall as well.  When I feel or touch the Vietnamese hall tree, I think back to the days of January 1936 when Mr. Hall instructed us to build a hall tree that we could take home at the end of that year.  I again submit that this is truly an exercise in nostalgia.  If anyone wishes to use the Vietnamese hall tree, I will be delighted to explain its function and its care.  I believe that everyone should have a hall tree, either in the living room or in a hall adjacent thereto.

As for this essay, it gave me a chance to remember Sam Hall and the project of constructing a hall tree which occurred in January of 1936.

You can’t do better than that!



August 15, 2010

Essay 485


Kevin’s commentary: Stories like this tend to make me feel pretty useless. My generation had shop classes, I guess, but they were in middle and high school and I sincerely doubt that many if any of my friends could assemble something like a hall tree today and have it turn out well. We’re great at Googling things, though… we would no doubt have a great set of instructions to botch in no time flat.


During this last week in March, the elder Carr daughter left her abode in Manhattan and came to see Judy and myself.  She was accompanied by the afore-said Will-Yam who is her son.  I know a good bit about Will-Yam in that I watched Maureen, better known as Blondie, progressing through all of the stages of pregnancy, which I also did for her elder son.   When Maureen would come to visit us in Short Hills, they would ride the Lackawanna train and I would pick them up at the Millburn station.  Well, the net effect is that I have known Will-Yam even before he was born.

The visit this week evoked a few memories of Will-yam that should be recorded.  One of my earlier recollections has to do with Will-Yam riding a tricycle in our basement.  He was slim enough to peddle the tricycle behind the furnace.  No one had ever gone there before.  He emerged intact.  He thought that was great sport.  There were occasions when I had a big board that I used to show Will-Yam and his brother Andrew how to bore a hole.  Andrew was greatly interested in the drill; Will-Yam was diffident except when it came to be his turn.  On those occasions it was hard to retrieve the drill from Will-Yam in that he was drilling holes all over that little board.

Then there was the occasion of Thanksgiving.  As most people know, I am a vegetarian who eats only vegetables and fish, no meats and no fowl.  Will-Yam had demanded to know why I did not eat a turkey like his mother and father ate.  He seemed to regard it as an un-American act.  So a story was necessary to allay his fears.  I explained to Will-Yam that when this country was discovered in 1492, the cranberry trees grew very close to the ocean.  When the cranberries ripened, lobsters would emerge from the water and climb the trees.  The lobsters would gorge themselves on the ripe cranberries and in so doing they would lose their balance and fall off the cranberry trees and hit their heads, thus killing themselves.  The American Indians would gather the dead lobsters as a means of preserving sanitation.  They also ate them.  So, I explained to Will-Yam that all I was doing was honoring a custom that went back to 1492.

Will-Yam did not seem to embrace my account of history.

There was another time when Will-Yam attended the Day School in Manhattan.  On one occasion when I was in New York, I picked up Will-Yam at school and started to walk the several blocks in New York to his apartment.  He had a purpose in mind.  He took me by a furniture store that had a magnificent chess table on display.  Somehow or another, old Will-Yam, aged five or six, knew about that table and he wanted me to see it.  He took me into the store and showed it to me.  I admired it and I thought it was a lovely piece of work.

I believe that on the occasion when we viewed the chess table, I  also tried to confuse Will-Yam about where he lived.  But even at that young age, Will-Yam would not be confused about where his apartment was.  As we stood on the street corner, I explained to a New York City cop that Will-Yam was abducting me.  The New York City cop said something like, “That’s all right.  Write me a note when you get to the place where you are going to be held.”  The policeman, Will-Yam, and I all enjoyed the big joke.

Will-Yam’s parents are good cooks.  In Will-Yam’s room he had a set of utensils and dishes that mimicked his parents’ set.  They were play dishes of course, but nonetheless old Will-Yam was learning to cook at an early age. So on one occasion, Will-Yam invited me to his restaurant and stirred the imaginary dish that he was serving and I ate it in an imaginary way.  When I finished the imaginary dish, I turned the bowl  over and put it on the top of my head.  I thought that was the proper thing to do.  However, Will-Yam thought that that was atrocious.  When his father came home from work, he could not wait to tell his father, Walter, what Pop had done.  In other words, old Will-Yam ratted on me.  That’s all right in that I forgave him for his transgression.

I will try to save you from the futile expression, “How time flies!”  It was my privilege to observe Maureen’s pregnancy and then to be there shortly after Will-Yam appeared in this world.  That was approximately 17 years ago.  In the meantime, old Will-Yam has grown into what I am told is a strapping six-footer who loves to play lacrosse.  My guess is that Will-Yam, in spite of his being my grandson, has turned out to be a good kid.

It is trite to say that time flies, but that is pretty much the case.  But when the results are a good-looking fellow who is well-educated and has attained the age of 17 years, I can only say that it was well worth while.  I know that my memories of Will-Yam may not be interesting to all of you. But they are to me and I am the writer of these essays, so that is pretty much all that counts.

I hope that this recounting of Will-Yam’s growth brings back memories of your own.  All I can tell you is that children don’t remain children very long.  That should come as no surprise to any of you.  All of my five grandsons are good fellows.  Will-Yam is no exception but he has been tainted by my story of the lobsters climbing the trees when this country was discovered.  My guess is that he may well have repeated this story to his teachers, which should have earned him an A+.

Now, about the pronunciation of Will-Yam’s name.  As he was starting to talk, old Will-Yam insisted on putting the accent in his maiden name on the second syllable.  He has outgrown this now, and goes by the name of Will.  But my memories are long, and I very much liked the name of Will-Yam, with the accent on the second syllable.  I hope that this straightens out the message, “Fond memories of Will-Yam.”



April 2, 2010

Essay 447


Kevin’s commentary:  Growing up so far away from New Jersey meant that Pop had significantly less opportunities to attempt to sabotage my developing brain as a child. This is something I regret somewhat, because he seems to have been pretty good at it.

Now as for the pronunciation, I am curious whether it was more of a “Yam or