Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mattress Buying in 1948

 by June T. Bassemir

Buying a mattress in 1948 was a major purchase     and we chose a Beautyrest double mattress and box spring.  It was well made with wrapped inner  springs and it was heavy.  A very comfortable mattress that lasted over 25 years, and then  passed on to a daughter for another 10 yrs.  In those days we were told the mattress would last  longer if we flipped it over every six months and  this we did quite regularly.  It took two of us to do  it but no doubt that helped to lengthen the life of it.     

  There have been many beds bought since 1948  but that Beautyrest remains in my memory as the best made.  Today when you buy a mattress  you should be aware of several things.  The  sales pitch that is used today is that “You don’t have to flip” their mattresses.  And the reason is there is no padding on the underneath side, so if  you flip it you will not be doing much sleeping. It is not that you don’t have to flip them…it’s that you can’t flip them.  How clever of the industry to create a cost saving design and thus enhance their  profit.  This they do and then pitch it as if they are doing us a favor.     

   One nationally known company promises a ten year  guarantee but that only means you are tied to them  for the next purchase because you see the mattresses  they are selling will not last 10 yrs. Indeed it may not last a year and a half.  This was my experience.  Sure, they stood behind their guarantee BUT I had to pay  for an upgrade (I didn’t want the same mattress),  delivery and tax.  This second mattress has lasted four  years and again I am back at the same store. “Surprise”….as a former customer, I am entitled to a discount and yes I can go through the whole process  of having an inspector come to my house to do some  measuring of the mattress to see what my credit would  be, but do I want to go through that whole process  again?  No. 

I would like a mattress that is better than that….  I would like a mattress that it is built so well that  you don’t have to depend on a guarantee.  I would  like a mattress that you can flip to extend the life of it.  Sadly, there is no such thing.   

Actually, this subject of mattresses is one that fills  my essay file with many stories.  I suppose it’s  because my earliest recollection of sleeping was  on a straw mattress in a cold alcove... not even a bedroom.  By today’s standard we were poor but I didn’t know it, so I was happy.  When the  Beautyrest mattress came along with someone to  share it, I rested in Heaven every night.    

copyright June T. Bassemir  2013 

 June Tuthill Bassemir is the widowed mother of four and grandmother of 10.  An artist and writer, she  volunteers as a docent in a 1765 farm house.   June loves old cars and antiques, and has also enjoyed furniture stripping and rug hooking.  "I used to say I was a stripper and hooker.but with so many trips around the sun, no one raises an eyebrow anymore. They only laugh."  June has given up furniture stripping, but is still an avid rug hooker.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Father

By Robert J. O’Connell

 I suppose that it is natural to think back about earlier times in order to bring order to the jumble that makes up the fragmented memories of our family. The passage of time is like looking through either end of a telescope. The here and now we see magnified with all the bumps and bruises on our family history, but as time passes we see less of that and begin to see through the other end where it is possible to see much more of the big picture.

My father remains a shadowy figure in my remembrances. I suppose that this arose from my Mother’s persistent warning that he was always about to die. The  particular fact was that my father had Hemophilia. He was a bleeder. We were all taught to wait for the next big hemorrhage that was sure to kill him. Many had already occurred and left him a cripple. In fact, she told us that if we were not good he would have to beat us and this would cause the  next big one to happen. As a consequence I and all five of my younger siblings were very cautious around Dad. Although he started off his adult life being the prosperous proprietor of several local barber shops, the depression put him out of business. He often remarked that at that time you couldn’t give away a nickel haircut. This always made me imagine a whole crowd of bearded and shaggy men in the neighborhood. Because he was on crutches and a bleeder he was not able to get regular work to support his growing family and as a consequence we lived on welfare and largely, I guess, by his wits.

I have since come to realize that many of the traits that I blamed him for at the time were common to all those who survived the depression. He always dealt in the barter economy even latter in life when he had enough cash to buy what was wanted.  He would put together very complicated many step deals that would allow him to swap something he had with a whole chain of cronies to arrive at the item he wanted. These chains of swaps often took long periods of time. When I was ten he promised to get me a much desired two wheel bike. In the long run (~six years) , the bike was provided although it lacked one pedal and a seat. They too came to me later over another year or so. As a consequence of this type of event I came early to believe that he was a liar. Now I realize that he just had unrealistic estimates of how long one of these deals would take, he always meant to accomplish what he said he could..

During the war, when I was four or five he did get a regular job with the Remington Rand Corp., in Syracuse making trigger guards for 45 automatics. The job advertisement asked for experienced precision grinders. Instantly, my father became one. As there were no able bodied men left in town he was hired with little investigation. After he was shown to his machine and waited for the supervisor to leave he asked the man next to him to show him how to do it. He learned fast and worked there for the duration of the war. Sudden prosperity however had a down side. It turned out that dad was fond of the creature as my Aunt Kate explained, and was likely to spend most of his paycheck standing drinks for his friends in one of the many local bars. 

Payday was Saturday, and my Mother routinely sent me to accompany him to get his check with the notion that he couldn’t take me into a bar. I can still remember the nutty, beery smell of the dark room. I got to watch the bubbles in the jukebox and sit on a tall stool and drink orange soda out of a small glass and eat all the peanuts I wanted. It was fun. But when we did get home and the deficit was noted my Mother took me aside and asked where we had been. I gave an ambiguous answer since I really didn’t know where we had been. Mom then asked what Dad had to drink. I said “tea with foam on it”. That was what I thought it was as we had never had beer in the house.

Mom solved this drinking problem in a very straight forward way. The next time he came home a little tipsy and with a lean wallet, she broke his nose by throwing an empty hammered aluminum coffee pot at him. I can still remember my fascination watching him lie on the bed with trickles of blood running down into his eye sockets from the exposed cartilage of his broken nasal septum. He mumbled that he was going to get even with her but as she out weighed him by at least fifty pounds it never come up and he abstained from alcohol the rest of his life. Although there was often whisky in the house, it was reserved for the occasional guest.

We were a very popular family in the Housing Project because we owned a TV set. Dad was able to swap something for a used one from one of his friends who worked for a local electronics store. I still remember the giant Dumont console with the small screen and a giant magnifying glass on the front. At 3pm every day the local kids would line up at our back door to come in and watch the cartoon show. Mom made them all remove their shoes and to sit quietly on the living room floor. After Howdy Doody was finished at five they all went home. Dad recognized that TV was the coming thing and instantly became a TV repairman. He put a sign in our kitchen window “TV Repair” and gradually business started to pick up. Now Dad knew absolutely nothing about how TV’s worked. But he did knew how to fix them.

I would go on service calls with him, largely to carry his tube caddy. In those days of vacuum tubes most service calls were caused by failed tubes. He would take the back of the set off, use a cheater cable to power it up and I would watch the display as he banged each tube with a screw driver. If the set flickered it indicated that the tube in question might be bad. A quick trip to the tube checker in the local drugstore would confirm the diagnosis and we would sell perhaps a new 12AX7 from the caddy and fix the set. As a result of a previous elbow hemorrhage which damaged his right ulnar nerve Dad could not feel the occasional shock that would occur when he banged the wrong thing with the screw driver. Occasionally this in-house procedure would fail to find the problem. Then the chassis was taken out and put on our kitchen table where it was carefully examined for burn marks or other signs of catastrophic failure. If this too failed, Dad called his friend John, who actually knew how they worked, and the two of them would snip and solder until the thing worked again. I don’t recall them ever failing, although the chassis would sometimes stay on the kitchen table for days at a time. Long enough to disrupt our diet.

Now that my two children are raised and leading their own lives I realize what an enormous task it was for my mother and father to raise six kids and keep them fed and clothed. I don’t know how they managed, but I suspect that it had something to do with light bulbs. I once overheard my father’s two sisters, Aunt Kate and Margaret argue about Dad. Aunt Margaret complained that whenever Dad visited her he stole the light bulbs out of all her lamps. My Aunt Kate responded that Margaret could afford to buy him a sack full and then skip the anguish. I still wonder what he swapped those bulbs for.  

copyright   Robert J. O'Connell,   2007

Robert J. O'Connel
Robert  J. O’Connell grew up in Syracuse, NY, known as the Salt City,  where he graduated from LeMoyne College and gained his PhD from the Upstate Medical University Center at Syracuse.   He was a career  neurobiologist on the research faculty of Florida State University, Rockefeller University, Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology and the (University of Massachusetts)  UMass Medical School.  Semi-retired, Bob and his second wife were engaged in real estate and other endeavors, including continued academic work for the medical school.  Bob passed from this world just last week and will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Winter Wonderland My Ass!"

by Rebecca Crist

Gomez smiled behind her fleece balaclava at the muffled curse.  The teasing tone to her voice belied the harshness of her reply.

“Quit your complaining, Cohen, you volunteered for this mission.”

“Well, if I’d known it included a 10-mile trek through the freaken’ tundra I might’a reconsidered.”

A soft chuckle was barely heard above the frigid breeze.  The soothing tones of Maasi’s voice gently chided, “You do not hear me complaining and I had never seen snow before yesterday nor felt a chill below 5 degrees Celsius.  And I think we all know that, as you Americans say, “wild horses could not drag you away”.”

“Certainly,” said Zhou, “I thought Cohen was going to knock me down in her haste to offer herself up.”

The last member of their little crew was quiet through the exchange. Hlinka scanned the frozen hillside above them for signs of life.  Here and there the breeze stirred swirls of snow in a kind of frigid dance.  The pines and spruces that dominated the forest were frosted like an old-fashioned Christmas card but not a creature stirred in the cold afternoon air.  They needed to find their target in the next hour or else they would have to make camp.  Even the fleece, wool, and thermolite of their clothes would not protect them from the strong gusts predicted by 18:00 hours. The winds were expected to last at least 36-48 hours and they would have to stay in camp while they blew; getting restless and frankly bitchy. 

The winds that came through the Alaskan foothills at this time of year were the reason that a ground team had been assigned without air support.  The team was small because they knew their quarry was solitary and didn’t want to spook him by sending in a large group.  They were authorized to use force to take him but it was in everyone interest that they persuade him to return with them to civilization. 

Hlinka did not mind the cold.  Although she had been based in Avignon, France for almost five years, she had grown up on a farm in Latvia, helping her father and grandmother on the dairy farm they established after the fall of the Soviets.  She had weathered many harsh winters in sub-Arctic conditions and her time in the South had not thinned her blood.

“That is enough talking”, she barked.  “Move OUT!”

Continued CLICK HERE:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The 103rd Day of the Last Man on Earth

By Annie Fiore

As I begin to stir from a deep sleep, and before I open my eyes I pray that this time I will wake up and find that what I believed to be my life in a world without another human being is in fact a dream.  Sadly, as the many times before, the hopefulness dissipates when I open my eyes and I realize, again, that it is not a dream and I, Adam Charles Winston, am still alone in my shelter. I turn to the wall where I mark off the days.  Today is the 103rd day of my existence as the last man on earth.

The first day I awoke in my shelter from an unsettling night’s sleep, I couldn’t believe that I was still alive after the meteorite hit earth.  Afraid of what might be outside the door to my shelter I stayed in the confines of the 8x8 room, waiting and wondering what I would find when I finally got up enough nerve to venture out into what was left of the world.

After staying safely in my shelter for ten days, I decide it is time to find out what is happening outside.  Standing in front of the door that separates me from the unknown I feel my heart pounding in my chest as I reach for the latch to slide it open.  Apprehension grips my insides as I take hold of the door handle and pull the door open a crack … and then close it quickly.  Beads of perspiration form on my forehead and trickle down to my eyebrows.  I wipe them away with the back of my hand and take hold of the door handle again, this time pulling the door open all the way.  I am stunned to see the day of light, but have to shade my eyes as the sunlight is much too bright for eyes that spent ten days in a room with only the light from a battery operated lantern. 

My steps forward into the day were unsure as I looked at my surroundings and was overtaken by sadness for there was not a tree standing in what was a lush forest.  What remained of my ranch house was a pile of charcoal ashes dotted with some unidentifiable pieces of metal.  I fell to my knees and cried under a sky of blue with white clouds.

The days that followed were spent in search of life, any kind of life, an animal, an insect, something that was still breathing.  In my search, I found that devastation covered every acre of land that I walked on.  All evidence of life seemed to have disappeared. There was no sign of plant life of any kind.  What remained in some areas were the twisted skeletons of buildings, trucks and cars,  reduced to rubble. On one of my ventures I headed South on the Thruway. When I reached Newburgh, I continued on Route 303 to the airport.  There on the tarmac stood the brittle, frail outlines of aircraft sitting quietly on the tarmac of what once was the Stewart Airport. After that discovery, I decided to search no more and headed back to Saugerties.

On my trek back to my shelter I thought of how could this have happened? Is it possible that no one took the warnings of this mishap seriously?  Could it be that no one other than myself prepared for what was labeled the December Doomsday?  True, the media made jokes about what would happen if the meteor hit came to pass.  Experts around the world concurred that the earth was safe from the meteorite’s path. No one appeared to be concerned. Was this the reason the event wasn’t taken seriously?  Am I the only person who thought it was possible?

I remember when I made up my mind that I was going to be prepared.  I dug and blasted deep into the cliff behind my house.  My neighbors said that I was crazy.  They made fun of me.  I was the talk of our small town of Saugerties and probably beyond.  I blasted day and night and worked on building the door to my safe haven as the date of the expected Doomsday approached. Building my fortress deep into the side of the cliff gave me the confidence that I had a chance of surviving.  There was room enough for a sleeping bag, my bicycle, spare tires, first aid kit, and toolbox. I stored food, water, batteries and books, enough for 6 months. I moved my two laptop computers into the shelter with extra battery packs and a couple of journals. I was prepared for the worst case scenario. Today I wonder if I was crazy for saving myself.  At this point I have saved myself for nothing …for no one.

Tonight on the evening of my 103rd day as the last man on earth I sit down to eat my dinner when I hear a noise that sounds like a knock on the door.  I stop, put down my folk and hold my breath while I listen for the sound.  Again, there is the noise and it is a knock.  I jump up from my seat and rush to the door and open it.  Standing in front of me is a young woman.  I stare at her taking in her beauty.  Her long golden brown hair, her brown eyes, her flawless complexion and lips the color of the petals of a pink rose.  She smiles at me and says, “Hello, my name is Eve.”

copyright 2014 by Annie Fiore Nicoletti

 Annie Fiore-Nicoletti grew up in The Bronx.   She and her husband relocated to Saugerties in 1998.   She is retired from more than twenty-five years working in an administrative capacity in the health care sector.   Annie had a great imagination all of her life.  She started storytelling for her two granddaughters who she refers to as The Sunshine Girls.  It was Tanna and Teah who prompted her to put one of their favorite stories on paper.  Since then she has written several children’s short stories and is working on her first novel. Annie enjoys writing for pleasure and hopes to some day be published.  She is also the founder of the Saugerties Writer’s Club.