This chapter is dedicated to friends and heroes I've met along the way. They impacted my life enough to remember them in print. The list is not organized in any way:
Glauco Malisan – I was working in New York City for RCA in 1967 when Glauco joined us as a new computer operator. He was born in Italy of an Italian mother and an Austrian father. Glauco had worked for a company for ten years, which made medical instruments, when he decided to change careers at the age of 50. He completed an Intro to DP course and was hired as a computer operator at RCA. He spoke with a rather heavy accent, but spoke deliberately and succinctly, always choosing the correct words. He had impeccable old-European manners and was almost overly polite. He and I became close friends and in 1969 we spent two weeks in the Lake Sebago region of Maine with our respective families, an experience described in more detail elsewhere in this document. He brought his wife, Lucy, two daughters and mother along.
Once we went to his Long Island-home, where we were served Manhattans (way too strong), espresso coffee and were treated to classical music. Glauco’s favorite opera was Verdi’s La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny). For dessert Glauco served us his favorite dessert: canned sliced peaches over vanilla ice cream. Apparently peaches were not available to him while growing up. His daughters seemed embarrassed by his exuberance about this treat Americans take for granted.
Around 2005 I accidentally found his telephone number on the Internet and we made contact with him. He recognized and remembered us and still sounded the same. He told us that his beloved Lucy passed away years ago and he had a female friend, who could drive him up to our house. Then there was no interaction for months. He finally called, saying that he just came back from a visit to Italy, but then nothing since. I am afraid that he passed.
Jim & Thelma Robinson – I worked with Jim at Kresge’s five and dime store in Ithaca in 1958. He was a stock clerk, while I worked in the kitchen, busing and washing dishes. Jim had three or four kids and they were visibly poor. Jim taught me to dive in his 1955 Ford. He would offer me a ride home to Brooktondale and eventually, let me drive his car. He very calmly read a book sitting next to me. I remember one particular situation when I came up behind someone going slower than we. I stayed behind the car, not really knowing what to do. He looked up and told me to pass the car. I was very excited; for this was the first time I passed anyone.
It was this very same car that I took my driver’s test in. I did everything fine and all that was left was the parallel parking. He told me to do it in a spot that had no other cars on the street, so I did it without a hitch. He paused to make some entries in his log, then told me to go ahead and pull out. I looked in the rearview mirror, turned the left turn signal on and gently depressed the gas pedal. I had forgotten that we were still in reverse! I was sure I flunked the test but he passed me.
Owen Duffy – Owen was 26 years old at the time he interviewed me for a job as a computer operator at a newly opened computer center in the RCA building in Rockefeller Center in New York City. He had a charming smile, an easy-going manner and his hair was completely white. He offered me the job. I was 27 years old with a full head of brown hair. Oh, the good old days!
Jerry Branco – Jerry was Owen’s boss and all-in-all a nice guy, albeit a little too much like a used car salesman. Just before I left to come to Cherry Hill, he got a better position in Denver, Colorado to work for Diner’s Club. He took Owen, along with a host of operators from the center with him.
Rita Wang – Rita was of oriental descent. She was a keypunch operator when I started for RCA in NYC. She was a very nice person with a constant and honest smile on her face. In a few years she became a successful programmer.
“The Reverend” Bob Kuehne – I first met Bob at the RCA computer center in NYC. He used to be a cop. Shortly after my transfer to Cherry Hill, he, too transferred there and became a programmer. The two of us reported to Bob Greenberg. Bob was always fun to be around. The nickname was given to him because that’s what he called himself often, whenever he was accused of doing something off-color or wrong or improper. He married a very nice woman of Italian heritage named Marie, whom he could have treated better.
Bob had an uncanny "talent" of of double-talk. He could routinely string words together, all of whose meaning I completely knew but when the sentence was completed, it made no sense whatsoever.
Bob is the only person I’ve known, who was in the Merchant Marines. He was stationed in Greenland and I enjoyed his stories of how cold it was there and how brutal the storms were. There was rope connecting the different building on base. If travel was necessary to another building during these storms, the rope was used to guide you to the destination, as you couldn’t see a foot in front of you for the blowing snow. During calm periods they would board ships and try to break up the icebergs by shooting cannons at them. This was mostly futile, though, so the only thing that worked was spraying the icebergs with black paint. We truly didn’t care much for the health of the oceans and those living in them!
Bob and George Blanche had bought a fishing boat together and used it in the many bays of New Jersey. Bob enjoyed drinking while fishing. Once they were going from one favorite fishing hole to another at speed, when they noticed a large flock of seagulls in the water ahead. Bob was steering the boat and he gave it full throttle, yelling: “Let’s scare ‘em!” It wasn’t until they were almost on top of the flock, that they saw that the birds weren’t swimming, but standing on sand. They had to wait for the tide to come in before they could get off the sandbar.
At one point Bob, Steve Haynes, Frank Ross and I worked for Bob Greenberg. Bob always referred to Steve as "Marvin the Milktoast".
For a while Bob Kuehne, Frank Ross, Steve and I worked together. We each had separate offices (ahh, the good ole days). Steve’s desk always looked like a cyclone just hit it. Computer printouts, requests, letters, etc. were piled a foot high and there were always multiple piles. To his credit, though, whenever he was asked to find anything residing on top of, the bottom of, or anywhere in-between, he could lift ‘n’ number of inches of “stuff” from a pile, reach in and pull out what was asked for and hand it to the requestor.
Bob and I thought we’d do Steve a favor one time and we straightened out his desk after he left to go home. It took him weeks before he could find everything and by then his desk looked just like it did before we “helped” him.
Bob was a practical joker. His favorite – and Steve always fell for it – was to sit in Steve’s office and when Steve wasn’t looking, unplug the telephone receiver from the base. Then he would gather people to go visit Steve, then go to his own office and call Steve and let him pick up the phone, say hello and laugh at him holding the receiver with the unplugged wire dangling in the air.
Ed “Buck” Miller – Ed was (and still is!) a very bright person, full of fun, always kidding around, fun to be around. He referred to everyone as Buck, hence the nickname. He is now retired with 8 grandchildren and works in the produce department of Wegman’s in Cherry Hill and still has his sense of humor.
Bob Greenberg – Bob organized an outing for a summer weekend. Those of us reporting to him in Cherry Hill and our wives formed a caravan of two vehicles and traversed the state of Pennsylvania to a little place called Ohiopyle. We stayed in little cabins and the next day embarked on a rafting trip down the Youghiogheny River. This was but a few weeks after my disc removal operation (lamenectomy) from my lower back. We divided ourselves into four-person rafts and I ended up with Mary and Frank and Carol. Pat and Charlie went with Bob and his wife. Of all of us, only the Greenbergs and Bill had rafted before. Neither Judy, nor Steve, knew how to swim, so to give them confidence, they were put with the “experienced” Bill Miner and his wife. When Bill fell out of the raft during the very first rapids (the mildest one of the trip) his crew’s confidence went with him. Judy wanted to head for the shore, so she can walk back to the starting point. Steve told her that there were snakes in the woods and that’s the only way she relented to stay in the raft. At one point during the journey Bill’s wife fell out as well but Bill was hell-bent on saving her, so he grabbed her ankle and wouldn’t let go. She was close to drowning, before they realized that her head was underwater.
Before the end I, too fell out of the raft and was thought to be drowning by all who witnessed my head occasionally peak out from the waves. The force of the water was AWESOME! It was trying to flip me head-over-heel until I remembered the instructor telling us to draw our legs close to our chest to prevent this. I caught a few glimpses of the guides in kayaks and standing on bigger rocks trying to throw me ropes but it was not to be. I kept bobbing until finally we were out of the rapids and in calmer waters. By then my absence was realized by my boat-mates and they managed to maneuver the raft close enough to me. Frank grabbed me by the ass, an act he openly enjoyed and pulled me into the raft and I was safe. Everything happened so fast. I was in the raft paddling and a second later I was in the water.
Tony and Joan Viscusi – Tony was a GE Schenectady collegue. He and wife Joan were (and are) very heavily involved with Marriage Encounter and Mary and I participated in one of their enjoyable sessions. They were foster parents for a number of years and they ended up adopting two they cared for to patch a hole left by their four children leaving the "nest". Joan always wanted to be a tap dancer, so they both took lessons from the same dance studio our godson, Jake, learned so much from. They are both very outgoing people with gregaroious personalities and they are always fun to be around. Tony was also one of Craig Kellum's friends and is still hurting from Craig's passing.
Tom Swider – I worked with Tom in Cherry Hill when we reported to Greg Kelley, supporting CICS. He was a very bright person, conscientious and methodical in performing his duties. His inseparable best friend was Randy Crossley. Once I heard them talk about Donna, his future wife. I often referred to Tom as my adopted son. After the demise of the Cherry Hill datacenter, he ended up in an upper-management position for Computer Associates. Both he and Donna came up to help us celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. They have two beautiful children. Truly, the ideal married couple.
Steve and Judy Haynes – Steve was a high-average, left-handed bowler. His idol was Earl Anthony. Steve, Carol Rafferty, Frank Ross and I formed a bowling team for a couple of years. My average was around 130 or so at this time. I wish I could tell him that it is over 200 now and that recently I bowled a 299.
For a while Bob Kuehne, Frank Ross, Steve and I worked together. We each had separate offices (ahh, the good ole days). Steve’s desk always looked like a cyclone just hit it. Computer printouts, requests, letters, etc. were piled a foot high and there were always multiple piles. To his credit, though, whenever he was asked to find anything residing on top of, the bottom of, or anywhere in-between, he could lift the correct number of inches of “stuff” from a pile, reach in and pull out what was asked for and hand it to the requestor.
Bob and I thought we’d do Steve a favor one time and we straightened out his desk after he left to go home. It took him weeks before he could find everything and by then his desk looked just like it did before we “helped” him.
Bob was a practical joker. His favorite – and Steve always fell for it – was to sit in Steve’s office and when Steve wasn’t looking, unplug the telephone receiver from the base. Then he would gather people to go visit Steve, then go to his own office and call Steve and let him pick up the phone, say hello and laugh at him holding the receiver with the unplugged wire dangling in the air.
George Blanche – George was also part of the Cherry Hill family and that’s where he met Donna. They eventually married and have a son named Matt. George was a programming manager and one of his charges was my mother-in-law, Mary Jackson. He and I were having our morning coffee one day, looking out the window at the parking lot, observing people driving to work. One of those was my mother-in-law, who was handicapped and whose reserved parking space was across George’s, separated by a concrete barrier of only about 7-8 inches high. I watched her circle into the parking spot but then she didn’t appear to be slowing enough and hit George’s beloved British racing green Volvo station wagon. All the blood drained from George’s face, as he quickly turned and ran downstairs to assess the damage. It wasn’t too long after that that Mary retired from RCA on disability. I think George did her a favor. Years later both he and I found ourselves in Schenectady, New York, working in a datacenter for General Electric. I am not sure he did it intentionally, but my perception was that he tried to use a new word or phrase to educate the audience. I liked that very much and tried to adopt it in my correspondences. Thanks, George.
He and Donna still love and live in the Upstate New York
Donna Pease-Blanche – Donna was our secretary in the Cherry Hill Datacenter, when it first opened. She was a strikingly nice looking girl of Italian origin with large, deep HAZEL eyes. Years later and much to my surprise, she married George Blanche.
Pat and Charlie Lauletta – Pat and Charlie were a good match. Pat loved tigers. She collapsed and died during a computer conference. I really liked them both. I remember Pat talking about having visited San Simeon in California and about the gold-lined swimming pool. I wish I could tell her that Mary and I had been there also.
Frank and Marilyn Zonis – Frank and Marilyn were a perfect match. Both very small in stature, extremely intelligent and both worked in the computer field. Frank was a mild-mannered person who basically wanted to be left alone to perform his duties. They had no children. Frank was a heavy smoker and one day died suddenly of a heart attack.
Lemuel Neumis – Lem was one of the operators, who worked for me at the Cherry Hill Datacenter. He was one of the people let go when we jumped the gun and staffed up for a contract ahead of time and the contract never materialized. I remember he went work in the Spectrum, operating the scoreboard for sporting events.
Ed Pearce – a quiet, hard-working operator in Cherry Hill. I just found out that his picture was in many of the original sales brochures of the Spectra 70 mainframe computers.
Joe Giorgi – I knew Joe as an operator reporting to me in Cherry Hill. He was a rather large man with a fiery temper, which was never excessive or uncontrolled. He tended to keep his woes inside, about which we had several talks. He later became part of the Communications team. He had invited me to his house, where I met his very nice wife. He died way too early of medical problems.
Jim Fitzgerald – Jim was a fellow Shift Leader. He was an avid Flyers fan and we attended several games together. He left RCA to become a life insurance salesman.
Al Blatt – Shift Leader transferred from Florida. Hated traffic circles. Who doesn’t? Once he went around the Airport Circle 4-5 times before he could get off at his exit. His biggest problem was that his shirts came back from the laundry folded instead of on hangers. He left to go work in a fabric mill in Georgia.
Vince Carcillo – Courier at the Cherry Hill Datacenter. He was a very naïve, nice young man who was an avid Flyers fan. He and I have attended quite a few Flyers games together.
Frank Ross – Frank was the class clown. He would do anything for a laugh. On the way to the rafting outing he was in our station wagon. He mooned many unsuspecting fellow travelers from the back seat. His specialty was the “pressed ham”. He married Carol Rafferty and fathered a daughter.
Carol Rafferty-Ross – Extremely intelligent and hard-working individual. She left RCA to work for Rohm & Haas. She loved her cat, Muffie. I recently learned that she is religous enough to have visited the Pope in the Vatican. Good for you, Carol. Take me with you next time.
Bill Feist – was one of the original operators at the Cherry Hill Datacenter. He is still the only man I’ve met, who owned and wore a velour sport jacket.
Bill Hughes – Bill was one of my operators in the Cherry Hill Datacenter. He tells everybody that I was his first boss in his life. He loved the Flyers but most of all, liked to play street hockey. When the Datacenter folded in 1989, he transferred to the Dallas, Texas area. Bill and another operator bought motorcycles. Bill’s was a Honda 350, the other a 450. At the time they seemed huge to me. We were working the third shift, so one early morning when our work was done, the two motorcyclists gave rides to the rest of the operators. Lem Newmuis was one of them and apparently his adrenalin level was quite high from the excitement and he was yelling at the top of his lungs. I guess the neighbors complained and pretty soon we had to halt the joy rides. As Bill was “coming in for a landing”, he forgot to stop in time and ran into one of the supporting poles holding up the awning at the front entrance of the 207 building. He managed to bend the handlebars a little and that morning I followed him home. The knick left by the handlebar was on that post for many years afterwards.
I sold our beloved 1963 Rambler station wagon to Bill Hughes for fifty bucks (I think). It turned a hundred thousand in his possession.
Jim Lawless – I reported to Jim, the Operations Manager in Cherry Hill. He told me the story of how he once was telling of his bowling successes of the night before to his friends at work, demonstrating his form. While going through the motion, his thumb got caught in the opening of his pocket and the follow-through caused him to rip the one side of his pants right off his body. I still laugh whenever I picture this in my mind.
You can read my account of our ride together in the Porsche elsewhere in this document.
Paul Jacques – Datacenter Manager in Cherry Hill.
Ed Kopil – Ed worked for RCA in New York with my mother-in-law. When the Cherry Hill Datacenter opened, he, along with my mother-in-law, also transferred with the application they supported (Stockholder Records).
Gerry Irwin – I worked with Gerry in Schenectady. His knowledge of CICS is extensive but he has trouble maintaining happiness for prolonged periods of time. He was always looking at the grass on the other side of the fence. He left GE twice to work elsewhere.
Bob Zieske – Bob was a tall, lanky person with a wry sense of humor. He supported IDMS at first but when he realized that he wasn’t THE IDMS support person, he transitioned over to the DB2 side. He rode a GSXR 1000 sport bike and thought that was the only type of motorcycle to ride. My ride then was the ’82 BMW R100RT (a tourer), he once told me he hoped I wouldn’t hold up people in cars by going too slowly! If he only knew! He was the first person who introduced the “team” to the Internet.
Mike Fantauzzi – Mike was my manager in Schenectady for a while. He had difficulty making a decision of his own, so he could always be convinced. Once, on his way home from work, he drove up the guy wire holding up a telephone pole.
Nagy Árpád – Árpi was my best friend in high school in Budapest. We were very close and kept in touch even after I left the country for Austria. Árpi remembers more of those times than I. We met again in the 70s to find out that he never married and that his father was his only living relative in Hungary. The next time we met he told me his father passed away, leaving him by himself. He also told me of his upcoming unconventional marriage. It seems that there was a Hungarian family living in a part of the Ukraine, which belonged to Hungary once upon a time. The parents decided that they wanted to live in Hungary. At the time, under communism, this was virtually impossible, so the following plan was devised. The father divorced his wife and married a Hungarian woman for a sum of money. Árpi was then asked to marry the woman and bring her back to Hungary, where they could all get divorced and the original couple would marry each other again. It sounded too crazy to be true. We lost contact for years, so I don’t know if the aforementioned plan actually worked or not, until Árpi surfaced again. He found and read my personal homepage I constructed as an exercise in 1996 at the birth of the Internet and haven’t updated since. He sent me a letter. I wrote him back with my e-mail address and we’ve been communicating ever since. It’s a wonderful world we are enjoying! The end of the story was related to me in one of those e-mails. Everything happened as planned but with a twist. Isn’t that how it always seems to go?
Árpi wanted to meet the woman before taking the big step, so a bus trip was planned. When they arrived at the border of another communist country, no favors were granted. The border police made all the passengers disembark and made to wait by the side of the bus, weapons at the ready, while other soldiers boarded the bus with German Shephard dogs, looking for illegal passengers. Another soldier was busy wheeling a large mirror mounted on a horizontal platform, sticking it under the bus checking for same illegal passenger. Eventually (and predictably), none were found and the bus was allowed to continue. The little destination village was such that everybody knew of Árpi’s arrival and whom he came to visit. He stayed at the local hotel, in which his steps were watched. At the elevator door on each floor there sat a man. His job was to watch the guests and to make sure they didn’t go from room to room. After freshening up, their first meeting took place. After exchanging pleasantries, the woman, whose name is Nóra, warned him that all foreigners were watched and listened to and suggested they go for a walk. It was then that they decided that to disguise their intentions, they would try to make everybody believe that they fell in love with each other and that is why they wanted to get married. This was convincingly executed on this and a few subsequent trips and eventually the marriage license was granted. It was a civil ceremony witnessed by the spirit and picture of Comrade Lenin.
Árpi and Nóra lived together for a while, during which time they went to the Opera, attended concerts, drank coffee and ate dinner together. Nóra admitted that it was the best time of her life. Then a rumor surfaced that Nóra’s husband (whose residence was far from Budapest) had divorced his temporary wife and quickly acquired a girlfriend. This scared Árpi and forced both the husband and Nóra to get reconciled. After an anxious period, they did and now live in Budapest.
Apparently, Árpi is well off financially, as he and his friend spend much time traveling. Good for them!
KÅ‘halmi Aladár – Ali was my best friend in Budapest for the first eight years of school. We lived near each other and spent much time together. He and his Hungarian wife surprised us one day when they visited us in Levittown. They were in the process of building a house in Brewster, New York. We went to visit them once. I liked his wife very much but didn’t like the way Ali treated her. We have not talked since but I saw him once in front of his house in Budapest. There was an old Ford Thunderbird parked in front with Hungarian license plates. I am guessing he moved back to Hungary and is probably not with his wife any longer.
UPDATE: Ali contacted me in early 2009. He lives in Connecticut with a new twenty-something-year-old Transylvanian wife and an infant (his own!). He sells electrical meters on the Internet and travels to Budapest multiple times a year.
Dave Hammer – Dave was another of the original operators I interviewed and hired in the Cherry Hill Datacenter. I remember ha was in the Navy, operating water-cooled computers, which I thought to be odd. Of course years later, when we switched to IBM computers, they were all water-cooled. Dave’s father had a Laundromat. Dave eventually became a Customer Rep and visited us in Schenectady for a while.
Steve Danberry – Steve was our across-the-street neighbor for some 17 years in Levittown, Pennsylvania. At first we didn’t associate with him for he was a practicing alcoholic and being a long-distance tractor-trailer driver he had a number of serious wrecks. He, like all other alcoholics, abused his body and those all around him. Then in 1981 he bought himself a motorcycle, an 81 Suzuki 450 twin. When I saw this I realized that I wanted one, too, so I bought my second two-wheeled vehicle and my first real motorcycle. (The first was a 50cc Benelli I actually rode on the back roads). Steve and I became riding buddies and for most of the 24,000 miles I put on my 82 Yamaha Maxim 550, he was riding next to me. Every night after work we rode somewhere. Most weekends we rode somewhere. Not once was he under the influence, while riding with me. We discovered motorcycle camping together, when we rode to Watkins Glen one springtime. We packed our camping stuff in garbage bags, looking like a couple of gypsies. Despite the bright sunshine and deep azure skies during the day, the temperature dipped drastically during the night and we were really cold!
We drove all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina during an autumn and discovered the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. A few years later, after upgrading our motorcycles to bigger models (’82 Suzuki GS 650L pulling a cargo trailer, Black Jack, for Steve, ’82 BMW R100RT for me), we took our wives along and had a great time.
Steve has always been very helpful. He saw me working on my Yamaha from across the street, so he came over. I happened to be trying to change my fork-oil, a task I have never done before. I don’t know if he had at that time. In order to accomplish task a block of solid metal had to be removed from the top of the fork. I thought I had removed everything necessary but it still wouldn’t budge. He came over and after looking the situation over, he straddled the bike and started to bounce it up and down, putting more and more of his weight onto the front suspension. It finally let loose and when it did, the fork-spring shot the solid metal piece at his head even faster than he was pushing down. The force of this almost knocked him off the bike. Blood started to run from his mouth, so a trip to the hospital was in quick order. Luckily, no permanent damage resulted from this unfortunate accident, whose outcome could’ve been much, much worse. As a side note: there was a circlip holding the piece of metal in place. Once the circlip was removed the metal piece came out easily.
We separated in 1989, when Mary and I moved to Upstate New York, where we live now. We still keep in touch and we make it a point to go riding together. We often meet half-way and camp in central PA or in the Southern Tier of New York State. He has been sober for many years now and finally made peace with himself about his past. He has discovered reading and transformed himself into a much better person. Although he never goes to church he has become a “religious” person, one who prays every night for the many people in his life, myself included. I will always be grateful for his thoughtfulness.
A few years back we “slayed the dragon” in North Carolina, he on his first Concourse and I on the first sidecar rig (1994 BMW K1100LT with Hannigan Sport). It was my first extended trip in the sidecar. A few months later he crashed his beloved Concourse during a rally in the Carolinas and was extremely lucky to have escaped with his life. A couple he met at the rally was kind enough to transport him and his bike back home. Since he didn't have medical insurance he was saddled with a hefty bill for the ambulance and emergency room costs. He could easily have walked away from these bills but he chose to pay back every penny. I think it took him a couple of years. He decided to replace the blue Concourse with a red one, which he rode for a while, then sold it.
He prefers the older bikes. He knows these and can tinker with them, a favorite pastime of his and he’s good at it. He’s synched carburetors, adjusted valves, made trailer hitches, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera for his bikes in the past. He and I met at a campground in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago and spent a few days together. On his way home a deer jumped in front of him on Route 80. He was doing at least the speed limit and again, he escaped with his life. The bike, an eighty-something Honda 750 in excellent condition was totaled. Currently he has a 1982 Suzuki 850G with factory fairing and lowers and tons of spare parts and a 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 750 and he rides them both. Unlike for me in Upstate New York State, he can ride pretty much all-year around, for which I am often jealous.
He recently discovered the wonderful world of e-bay on the Internet. He spends much time looking for and at many motorcycles (as do I) and has, on occasion, actually bid on a few, once successfully.
We see each other a few times a year and speak on the telephone frequently. I am deeply saddened by his recent admission that he and I will not be going on any more motorcycle trips, as he no longer feels physically strong enough. A little later the reason for this was discovered: He has an aggressive for of lung cancer. Chymo treatments followed, to no avail, and since they made him feel terrible, he opted to not continue them. His spirits were wonderful and I was very proud of him for the way he handled his situation with the usual dose of humor. His daughter Tracy moved up her wedding date, so that Steve could walk her down the aisle. Mary and I were invited and we gladly attended, as it gave us a chance to visit Steve one more time. The wedding was a very nice affair and Tracy's new husband appears to be a very nice man. They make a striking couple.
Another occasion for a visit presented itself when Steve's younger son, Larry, wanted to honor his father's service in the military. He enrolled members of a local Vietnam Veterans motorcycle club and a couple of local fire companies to meet a few miles from Steve's house and form a parade to the house. We, too were invited via Facebook. Many people signed up for the event on December 19th and Mary and I decided to attend as well. We drove the sidecar rig down the day before and stayed with Donnie and Nancy and drove to the meeting place the next day. The parade was an emotional ride for me. The firetrucks and several police cars had their sirens wailing, the bikers were blowing their horns. I had so much adrenalin flowing that I didn't even realize that I wasn't wearing my heavy jacket. When we arrived at the house, Steve and family came out and Steve was totally surprised. He was presented with a medal and some coins and was welcomed home after his service. It was a thoughtful gesture on Larry's part and it was nice to see the family together, maybe for the last time. Steve was very surprised to see us there and very much appreciated our presence. Pictures of this event can be seen on http://maryandgeza.photoshop.com.
We continued to talk with each other over the phone, remembering old experiences, sharing old pictures. Using a Christmas present PC software I put together an online album of his parade as well pictures of our camping experiences.
Then the dreaded phone call came on 02/04/2011 from Tracy informing us of his passing. He died in his sleep, at home and without pain. I will miss him terribly.
Donnie DiMartino – I worked with Donnie in NYC at RCA. He was a bright, energetic, typical Brooklynite. I was fortunate enough to spend a week with him during my very first business trip to Los Angeles. It was during the month of November, when the coldness in New York can be bone-chilling, while it was in the 80s in Los Angeles. We were in the pool and Donnie was complaining about not being at home. He didn’t shut up about this until we landed back in New York and were met by his father at the airport. He was driving us on the Belt Parkway, in bumper-to-bumper traffic and suddenly I realized that Donnie finally stopped complaining and he was happy: He was home. I learned a lot from this: I have enjoyed every one of my many company trips, even the one to Findlay, Ohio, when the only form of entertainment was at a second-story bowling alley. We went bowling and kept the clear cellulose score sheets for years.
Barry Groves – Barry was a programmer I knew from the Cherry Hill Datacenter days. He was Mr. IDMS to me and was the keeper of the coffee pot and its associated dues. He lived in Bucks County in one of those protected stone homes.
Joe Silvasi – Joe was another IDMS guru. I sat catty-corner from his cube and once listened to a 25-30 minute conversation he had with several people on the phone about replacing the rusted-out blade that cut the fishing line of his weed whacker. Joe was also an avid bow-and-arrow target shooter.
Bill Potter – Bill took me up in a private plane once. We went up to Levittown to see if I could find our house but things look very differently from the air and I could only find our house on some of the many pictures I took from the plane. His wife’s name is Sue.
Don Bowker – Don is a very likable man. A devoted family, he was a volunteer fireman for the Rancocas Woods community. He carried his walkie-talkie with him to work. We worked together but in separate single offices. Once I went into his office to discover that he bought a bunch o smoke alarms for his house at lunchtime. We both smoked then, so while he wasn’t looking I took a big puff on the cigarette, opened the big bag of smoke alarms, blew the smoke in it, closed it and walked out. He almost had a heart-attack, when all the alarms went off at the same time.
I was very deeply touched when he and his wife, Pat, came to our 25th wedding anniversary celebration.
Craig Kellum – Craig’s nickname was “Killer”. He was another ex-Navy guy whose tales while in the service make interesting listening. He served on an aircraft carrier and according to him spent many scary nights on deck in the middle of a starless night fearing for his life. If anyone ever fell overboard, he would not be found missing for hours. It was real easy to walk into the propellers of taxiing aircraft, so you had to watch your step. I guess that’s why most sailors drank to excess while on leave. He and a buddy hired a rickshaw to be pulled around in once. They didn’t think he was pulling them fast enough, so they sat the rickshaw owner in his vehicle and the two of them were running around, pulling him, until eventually they dumped the driver and his rickshaw into the sea. The driver didn’t stop squawking until they gave him a handful of money, then all were happy.
We were at an office party when after a couple of drinks I was feeling pretty frisky, so in front of Jim Tereshenko, his best friend, I punched him in the stomach. Jim couldn’t believe it! It was kind of stupid on my part, I suppose, but Mr. Alcohol was at it again!
Craig took me fishing once to his favorite fishing hole by Cooper River in New Jersey. This body of water was the most polluted in the whole state. We were fishing for carp. Prior to going, he took me to a store, where he told me what kind of hooks to buy. He used his corn to bait my hook. He showed me how to cast in the water. His hook wasn’t more than ten feet from mine in the water, yet before the day was over, I caught four fish to his none. He never invited me again.
His wife is Doris and their children are Dodi and Eric. Around March of 2005 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and told me that the e-mails and phone calls and visits will stop and, essentially, he said goodbye to us. I was very upset, as we were very close over the years. Craig was one of the handful of people I’ve met over the years, who made me feel after the first five minutes of meeting him as though I had known him all my life. I still miss him very much and would like to share so many things with him.
His favorite way of spending his vacation was to go hiking in the Smokey Mountain Nation Park. He would park his car at a ranger station. The ranger was made aware of his approximate route and duration of the trek. He would then set out with a compass, a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey and a guitar. When queried about his vacation he would often say: “It was great! I didn’t see another person for days!” This was his way of recharging his batteries. His destination was always a bar near Hendersonville, North Carolina. Over the years the owners treated him like family and irrespective of the time of day or night, he was always welcomed with open arms. The owners would get on the phone and alert everybody of Craig’s arrival, which always signaled the beginning of a long party. I know of one of these drinking parties during which, with his family as his fan club, he entered a drinking contest, in which he was the runner-up, or the last person to fall of his stool.
Craig was color-blind. He came from RCA Moorestown, where he was an application programmer. Now he was working for Corporate Staff, among the elite and time came for his very first company trip. He was scheduled to fly to St. Louis to visit an RCA subsidiary, Banquet Foods. A new wardrobe was carefully selected and purchased with the help of his wife. Somehow, none of the pants to go with the sport coats made it in the luggage, so he was faced with the daunting task of trying to buy some pants that would go with the existing jackets. Not an easy task for someone who’s color-blind, but he did his best.
Banquet Foods was one of the datacenters to be assimilated into the Cherry Hill Datacenter. Craig was their Customer Rep, and as such, got to spend quite a bit of time in St. Louis. On one of the trips he revisited the Muddy Waters, a local blues watering hole. One thing led to another and he was invited up on stage to jam with the band. After one of these jam sessions he went to go back to the hotel but he couldn’t find his car.
He took a cab, and had everybody the next day looking for his rental car but to no avail. He had to fly home the next day, so he explained to the person behind the Hertz counter that although he had the car keys, he didn’t have the car. The person looked at him wide-eyed and immediately called for the manager. The car was located later, safely parked on a side-street.
Craig was my first bowling tutor. He was the one, who told me about your arm being a pendulum. We went bowling during lunch on a few occasions but I never saw him throw a ball because of his arthritis/bursitis condition. I wish I could tell him that my average is 206 this year, for which I received a most improved bowler patch and that I have a 287, a 290 and a 299 game. Thanks, Craig!
Despite the fact that Craig had a few front teeth missing for most of the time I knew him and never finished high-school, he accomplished more than anyone I know in his business career. For quite a few semesters he even taught a data processing-related course at a college. He, I don’t think, ever
forgot whence he came and appreciated what he had. He was very proud of his family and rightfully so.
Craig went to school with a boy named Horowitz, whose nickname was “Oogie”. He later became an actor and changed his name to Michael Landon.
Craig and his father didn’t get along, so he left home before finishing high school. One of his interesting jobs during this time of his life was that of mudder. A mudder is someone who drives the oxen who pull the freight barges up and down canals. Another, possibly more pleasant, of his duties were to serve s a gopher in a brothel. The “johns” would give him money to buy them a bottle of booze. The girls all loved him but by his admission only on a platonic level.
Craig was also a minor league umpire for a while. One of the many life-lessons I learned from him came from this era, when he told me of what he told people when they complained about his calling or not calling a pitch a strike. He told them that they were going to have to learn his strike-zone and see that when a pitch comes in that zone he WILL call a strike and only then. I used this story to learn the “strike-zones” of managers I worked for over the years.
Craig tried to teach me to play the guitar but fingers and wrist didn’t want to bend. I’d like to get his thoughts on my playing Guitar Hero in my old age.
He was a terrible speller, totally frustrated with dictionaries. He had a point when he said they were useless for people like him, who didn't know what letters a word started with. He sweat bullets whenever he had to write anything official at work and he always solicited my help.
Craig passed away in May of 2008.
Jim Tereshenko – Jim was Craig Kellum’s best friend for many years. The two of them could always be found at the local watering hole on a regular basis. Jim and Craig worked for RCA in Moorestown for years.
Lou Giordano – Lou worked in Moorestown, New Jersey for RCA with Craig and Jim Tereshenko. He always talked very excitedly and drove an 850 Norton Commando in all kinds of weather.
Phil Manieri – Phil was Craig Kellum’s colleague in Moorestown. He once had an accident on the New Jersey turnpike. When asked what happened, he said: I over-corrected. He had a Formula Ford racecar.
Dick & Ida Jordan – Mary knew Ida from cub scouts. Dick was her husband, who held the reins very tight. She didn’t have a driver’s license, a car or charge accounts/cards. Dick was of a very diminutive size, worked for GE and he was the first person who talked to me of Schenectady, New York. Little did I know that I would end up there a few years later.
One day, out of the blue, she left with a man she met during a canoeing outing and never went back to Dick. Last we know, she lives in Geneva, New York.
Don Frenzel – Don is my brother-in-law. His wife, Sharon, is Mary’s younger sister. They have two children, Donna and Don Jr. or Donnie, wonderful children.
When I first met Don he was working as a car mechanic, working mostly on Volkswagens. He had an excellent reputation, so when he took a job working as a manager in RCA’s car garage, most of his clients followed him. This business venture was short-lived and when RCA closed that garage, he opened his own business. Again, his clients were in his footsteps, many of them helping open his new garage.
He had always had many friends and his house was always the site of the gathering of these friends. Many of them stopped by to complain about problems with their cars and Don never turned anyone away. His whole life has always been cars. He has always worked many more hours at his job than the normal 40 per week. Then he was happy to lay on his back in his driveway during the weekend.
Don has helped me out with many of our cars in the past. He never accepted any money for it because we were family. Once he towed my car to his shop from where it broke down, on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I had no money in those days and to have had to pay to have it towed would have been a financial hardship. He sent the transmission out to be repaired and only charged me for what he was charged.
Don was always involved in drag racing. He and his friends built a drag racer (a Chevy, of course!) which they took to many races and did well.
They very seldom went on vacation. Once Sharon wanted to visit Salem, Massachusetts, to learn more about the days of witch hunts. They drove there and checked into a motel and Don was ready to come home the next day. Another trip was to Indianapolis for a national drag racing event.
I wish there were something I could do to patch things between Don and his daughter, Donna. He has been feuding with her for way too long and has wasted many years not having a loving relationship with her. He has always been very hard-headed and now probably doesn’t know how bow out gracefully without looking and feeling defeated. Kind of like the war in Iraq.
He still looks as he did thirty years ago and still has plenty of energy. We visited them after our big sidecar trip last year. He recommended we get a new tire for the rear of the sidecar. I ordered one on the Internet and had it delivered to his garage. The tire arrived a couple of days later and he insisted he put it on for us, again at no charge. His son, Donnie, was there helping him. It’s nice to see the two of them work so well side-by-side. They have - and show – a high level of respect for each other’s abilities. I am so glad he was there for me again because I am not sure I could have accomplished this task by myself. Thanks again, Don!
Rob Goldman – Rob and I met at the BMW Finger Lakes Rally in Watkins Glen, New York in 2007. He, too, had brought a 2008 Kawasaki Concours to the rally. When he learned that I was converting mine to sidecar use, he offered to buy my wheels and tires from me. He and his wife live on Long Island.
Al Hazell – Al and I worked together in Cherry Hill. He took immaculate care of his car, a Honda Prelude. He always parked it as far away from everybody else as possible and on all dry days he used a car cover. I took him fishing once to one of my favorite fishing holes in Promised Land State Park in Pennsylvania. It was around mid-April, on a day that was a perfect spring day, temperatures in the 70s, with tulips blooming. The farther North we headed, the grayer the trees looked and by the time we got to the lake in the park, it was still frozen solid. It was a lesson learned about latitude and elevation.
Al was almost obsessively careful with his Honda. He parked it at work by the water tower, where no one else parked and always covered it with a cover. That car was spotless.
Years ago I visited him at his house in Cinnaminson and met his neighbor and best friend, Jim. He was an elderly man much respected by Al and his death many years later clearly disturbed Al. When Jim died, he left his house to Al. I met his girlfriend of many years, Edna and his white dog and admired his cymbidium orchid plant.
Al was a good and enthusiastic tennis player. He, Ginny Davis, Bob Schreiber and I played together. He also enjoyed riding his bicycle and often rode it to work. He, my boys, Jack Hartman and I went deep sea fishing once and had a great time. Al loved to barbecue blue fish.
When the Cherry Hill Datacenter disbanded in 1989 he got a DB2 support position in Pep Boys, where he remained until recently.
Al’s mother drove a school bus for over thirty (?) years WITHOUT being absent for a single day, for which she was rewarded upon her retirement.
Al came to visit us in Upstate New York once to go skiing. He eagerly offered to do the driveway with the snow blower. I let him use one of my ski pants. I should have given them to him, when he asked me because I haven’t used them since.
Al proudly showed me his Mercedes in the parking lot of Lena’s during one of the anniversary celebrations. Apparently, it was the first of many more. I am glad for him.
Ginny Davis – Ginny was our DB2 support person in Cherry Hill. Her name is Virginia but hated to be called by that. She was not really happy with her life. She wanted to be a writer. She ended up in Seattle with her sister and eventually got a chance to try writing. Id didn’t work out and she rejoined the ranks of ITers. Just before we moved up to Upstate New York she gave me one of her plants she had at the office in Cherry Hill. It is a pineapple cactus plant and we still have it. It has been very happy with us and is over five feet tall now.
Ginny showed up to an office party at the Garden State Race Track wearing a shimmy dress. She looked great!
She resented being called Virginia, saying she didn’t like being compared to a virgin.
She and I played many hours of tennis with Al Hazell. It was great fun!
Sue Ribyat Johnson – Sue’s husband loved sailboats. She was the first female I have ever heard use the word “orgasmic”, referring to extra delicious strawberries.
Ron DeRocher – Ron was my colleague in Schenectady. He and I developed a friendship very quickly and we visited each other quite often. Both he and his wife, Lynn were excellent hosts and I have some nice memories of staying with them at their camp in the Adirondacks. A few years later Lynn died of cervical cancer and Ron was devastated. It came as a surprise when he told me that he fell in love with a woman named Deb a short time later. Mary and I were invited to their wedding, a small but very nice affair. As we were leaving the church to go to the reception I scolded him because he didn't open the door for his new wife. He took my criticism to heart and continues to open the door for her to this day. I'm glad. They make a good couple and have been together for many years now. He sold his house in Knox, retired from GE and moved to Cookeville, Tennessee. They also have a trailer in Frostproof, Florida. We've been to both their homes and were always welcomed with open arms.
Bill Ramirez – Bill was one of my colleagues in Cherry Hill. He, Tom Swider, Hans Hansen and I supported CICS. Bill was always cheerful, helpful and very bright. He once practiced my three-coin trick for an afternoon, until he was finally able to do it. Come to think of it, he was the only one of all to whom I showed it. His nice-looking wife is Cindy and had a son, Scott he brought along on a fishing trip once.
I remember when he told me he bought a new house and that his mortgage payments were just over a thousand dollars a month. I thought that was an outrageous number, since mine was a little more than 400. When we moved to New York State I wished mine were only a thousand!
Bill gave me a goodbye note that I saved because it was from the heart. I looked for it and found it today on my bulletin board of memorabilia. It is a little faded but the words still shine after all these years. It is addressed to “Dad” because I used to call him “son”. The note reads:
I will always be grateful for all of the wisdom you have shared with me (even though I had to drag it out of you, you never want to share your views). Everyone loses track of what is truly important in life, but I have been lucky to have you set me straight. I just hope I can remember half of it. Thanks and good luck, Bill R.”
Tom Swider called Bill “Boomer”, after the baseball player.
In the Spring of 2009 I found his e-mail address in Monica's invitation to the yearly RCA get-together and sent him a message inviting him to the event. He sent me a very nice reply telling me that he recently purchased a motorcycle on E-bay and about how he thought of me every time he rode it. It brought tears in my eyes and decided to meet him face-to-face. I rode the Moto Guzzi down and we met in Levittown, Pa and had an enjoyable ride together. I took him for a ride by the Delaware River, which is still among my favorite rides and we enjoyed a nice lunch in one of the quaint little cafes overlooking the river. When we parted we made plans to do it again, which unfortunately didn't come to fruition, so we'll shoot for 2011.
Mary Jackson – Mary was my mother-in-law, nicknamed by my mother as Old Mary. She had been a computer programmer for many years when I met her in 1967. Her jobs in the past took her to many different spots in the country. She was living in Trenton, New Jersey at the time of our meeting, with her daughter, son and four grandchildren. She was very possessive of her family and it took many years before she was able to let go. I was working in Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia when I met Young Mary. Shortly afterwards I visited her in Trenton with a bouquet of flowers and offered to take care of the kids while she rested with her cold. I worked on second shift, so I would drive to Trenton from Philadelphia and spent some time with her, after which I would sleep in the car. Once I had a bad cold with a fever, so Young Mary offered me the couch, much to Old Mary’s chagrin, who didn’t want me sweat on her couch. Needless to say, this made the cliché of the decade.
Old Mary had surgery performed on her spine to remove some cysts when she was just over 20 years old. This was an experimental procedure back then and it ended up badly for her, as they managed to cut some nerves. She was told that she would never walk again. As a testimony of her character, not only did she walk but gave birth to three children. She needed a cane to walk when I met her. She was commuting to New York City from Trenton every day on the train, a regiment tiring for a healthy person. I had a lot of respect for her abilities, especially after I was hired at the same facility and had to do the same tiring commute myself.
After the Cherry Hill facility opened and I transferred to it, she followed me and we worked with each other again for some years.
Bob & Jane Schreiber – I met Bob while working at the Cherry Hill Datacenter, almost immediately after transferring down from New York City in 1969. He worked at One Cherry Hill across Route 38 past the Cherry Hill Mall. He has always been a personable man and it wasn’t too long before we became friends. We went on many camping trips together, the farthest one being to the Smokey Mountain National Park at the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bob was always the kind of person, who HAD to pay his own way, so on all our camping trips they slept in their tent, while we stayed in ours. On the many trips we took our tent camper, which was certainly big enough to provide a good night’s sleep for all of us, they always separated themselves from us. These camping trips were always to places that were close to a place Jane wanted to visit and camping was cheaper than staying in motels. That is a philosophy I have long subscribed to myself, so it was a win/win situation.
One of the more memorable trips was to French Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, near Morgantown. We happened to visit a local business close-by, called the French Creek Sheep & Wool Company, where they were selling clothing made from wool. All of the items were of good quality, with a price to match but I did find a pair of knee-length woolen socks I bought for $18. When Bob found out the price, he couldn’t believe anybody would pay that kind of money for a pair of socks. That was about 25 years ago and I still have and wear those socks. A restored colonial community named Hopewell Village is just outside the park, where people can be observed practicing their crafts, wearing period attire. We also visited the little village of Saint Peter, resembling New Hope, Pennsylvania, with its many little shops and huge round boulders begging to be climbed in the creek behind the row of houses.
Another trip worth remembering was to Ashville, NC, where Jane wanted to visit the Biltmore House, still the largest privately owned house in the country. The mansion was built by and for the Vanderbilt family. The grounds were designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same man who designed Central Park in New York City. Completed in 1898 the mansion had electricity, central heating, an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley and 43 bathrooms. When Bob found out the price of admission, he balked and wanted nothing to do with it. I stupidly opted to keep him company, sitting in the car, no less. Mary and Jane disappeared and were gone for quite some time, when Bob turned to me and said in that Boston accent of his: “I bet those bastads (sic) went inside!” And he was right! When they finally emerged with a huge smile on their faces and told us of the magic they had just seen, I was very sorry to have missed it. So much so, that years later we went back and paid an even higher entrance fee for the experience. It was still worth it!
Bob and Jane were avid tennis players. We spent many hours playing together at every opportunity. Bob and I played weekly for a couple of years at George School with a couple of Bob’s friends. One was a high school principal, the other, an executive for Seafood Shanty.
Bob was always afraid of not having enough money for retirement. He didn’t want to retire and once told me he wanted to die at his desk. Of course, as soon as GE took over, he was among the first to go. Jane was always a free spirit, who loved to travel. Unfortunately, she never had his company on the few European trips she managed to take. Her sister Betty was always a willing and able travel companion. Betty used to work for RCA in Marlboro, Massachusetts at the same time Bob and I worked for RCA in Cherry Hill.
In 1982 I bought my first real motorcycle at Riff’s at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 95. Route 1 there is an undivided, very busy four-lane road. After all the paperwork was signed and I was ready to go, I sent Mary home, telling her I would not be far behind her. As I sat with my left turn signal blinking waiting to make the left onto Route 1, I had second thoughts about buying such a “large” motorcycle as a 550 cc. I flicked my right turn signal on and was able to quickly execute the right turn. I kept making right-hand turns, gaining self-confidence with each successful execution. Next thing I realized was that I was very close to Bob and Jane’s house, so I stopped by to show them the bike. They were surprised, but as always, happy to see me. I told them all about my new purchase, then I headed for home, only to be rightfully scolded for being tardy.
Bob used to accompany me to the Cherry Hill Mall for lunch. On one of these walking trips we were walking back to work, when we walked by a marquee used to advertise events at the mall. This was the kind that was all manually operated, with large plastic letters used for the words. There happened to be some letters laying on he ground, one of which was a letter “G”. He picked it up and gave it to me. I took it home with me and kept it. Today it is still mounted on the lamp-post in front of our house. In the accompanying picture I am posing in my costume for a community playhouse’s version of Annie Get Your Gun.
Bob was getting a little forgetful and one day he drove Jane to the mall. Somehow they got separated and Jane couldn't find Bob. Eventually he picked up the phone at home when Jane finally called there looking for him. Apparently he drove home, completely forgetting about Jane. It wasn't too long after that that the Schreiber family owned only a single automobile, as Jane sold Bob's car.
They got too old and tired to take care of the house, so their children moved them into a nursing home. Mary and I visited them and they seemed just fine. Then Jane passed away and we couldn't attend the life celebration. Mary and I visited him once. He instantly recognized me with a huge smile on his face but the first sentence out of his mouth was that there was something wrong with Jane. I guess he blocked out the truth. We said our goodbyes, sensing that it was to be our last visit. He died shortly after that and the family had a private celebration on Cape Cod, a place they frequented in the past as a family. I miss both of them very much. They helped us make many life-long memories and taught us a lot.
John and Dolores Graebner – John and I worked in Cherry Hill. He had a saying that he used often and made me feel good every time. He used to tell people: “If I don’t know it, then Géza does. If Géza doesn’t know it, then it isn’t worth knowing.” We shared a love of operas and for a couple of seasons we had season tickets in Philadelphia. Once we saw La Boheme, with Luciano Pavarotti in the role of Rodolpho and Renatta Scotto as Mimi. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
John and I flew to Anchorage, Alaska on a business trip in 1976. The plane was mostly empty and we walked around to pass the time away. It was a long flight. John brought his snapshot camera along, which he wore on his belt. We struck up a conversation with the stewardesses (That’s what they were called then). One of them asked John what he was wearing on his belt under his sport jacket. He said it was a bomb. He said he carried his own because the chance of having two on the same plane was much less than for one. We all laughed about it. Nowadays, he would have been jailed for it!
John wanted to go fishing. The people at the office overheard him and bought each of us a fishing rod, line and lures. I really liked those people for this and many other reasons. The guy, where we purchased our fishing licenses recommended we have at least a .357 Magnum along for protection from the bears.
Needless to say, we didn’t venture very from the road. We had a good time fishing but didn’t catch a thing. We did see salmon porpoise-ing up the Kenai River.
As a going-away gift they took us out to dinner to a nice restaurant and presented us with a book on Alaska. Most of the people signed it. I still have that book and look at it periodically and always thank back to those days spent in Alaska with great fondness.
John and I shared an office for a time. It was during that time that the Flyers enjoyed their heyday, winning the Stanley Cup. Their popularity was soaring and I was among the many who were avid fans. Having gone to many games during the previous years with people I've worked with, like Jim Fitzgerald and Vince Carcillo, the Flyers fever was at an all-time high. Gas stations were giving away Flyers drinking glasses and Canada Dry Ginger Ale sold cans with the Flyers players' pictures on them. So john and I started drinking ginger ale and, before too long, we had a collection. I don't exactly recall the circumstances that led to a little argument between us over an empty can with a player's picture on it I was missing from my collection. I asked him for it and he wouldn't give it to me. I was upset because that can would have completed my collection. I felt really bad when some days later he presented me with a wooden plaque containing the pictures of the Flyers team cut out from the cans of ginger ale. As you can see I still have it and it makes me think of John's generosity whenever I look at it. Thanks again, John!
Tim and Marge Higgins - Tim was a co-worker in Cherry Hill. He was part of the Help Desk before he left to join another division in Atlanta, Georgia. He and Marge had two very daughters. Maria and I were visiting them once to talk to the girls about Hungary. It just happened to the night of the earthquake in San Francisco.
On a business trip to California the three of us were in a comedy club enjoying ourselves until Tim had a little too much and started to laugh uncontrollably at pretty much every other word this one particular comedian had to say. It got bad enough that he started to look in our direction, so we tried desperately to get Tim under control. His laughter reminded me of those eminating from gag gifts that used to be sold in novelty shops.
Warren “Woody” & Barb Wood – Woody was another one of only a handful of people I’ve met in my lifetime who made me feel as though I’ve known him for forever. He had and still has an infectious laugh. Our two families had enjoyed many camping trips together over the years. He realized the necessity of hiking for weight-reduction but was known to plan a trek or two with a doughnut shop at the end.
One of the more memorable camping trips took place in October of 1977. The two families decided to trek down to Virginia for some leaf-peeping. We had a pop-up tent camper that slept seven, so we hitched it behind our large Plymouth station wagon and with the Woods following us set out on a Friday night. We were somewhere on Route 81 in Virginia. It was way past midnight and probably everybody save the two drivers ere asleep. It was nice and warm in the car and I was relaxed when all of a sudden there was a big cardboard box right in my path. It was too big to hit, so a sudden maneuver was executed to steer around it. Only when I whipped the wheel back to the right did I remember the trailer behind me. Woody was following me from a safe distance and he said that the trailer was up on two wheels. Needless to say everybody woke up and didn’t sleep for the rest of the trip.
We arrived at the Big Meadows campground and set up the trailer, moved in and tried to get some sleep. The next day was a gorgeous day and we went hiking and had a great time. We built a campfire and communed with nature. We watched in silence as a mother skunk walked right by us with her two young ones. It was so warm that May and I slept outside on the ground. Then in the middle of the night it started to precipitate, so we moved inside. We woke up the next morning to what’s depicted in this picture. It was snowing. Once we filled ourselves with the wonder of it all and looked around, we discovered that we were the only remaining campers as far as the eye could see. And it kept snowing and snowing. We were starting to get concerned and tried to find a ranger or a store in which to buy some food. Woody wanted to make sure his family wasn’t going to do without, so he bought all the chips he could lay his hands on. We walked all over but never did find a ranger.
Then the wind picked up. We were parked along an edge overlooking a valley. The wind was coming up the side of the mountain at a pretty good clip. You could hear it and we were able to predict when it was going to reach the trailer, at which point it rattled and shook making an eerie sound. It was getting darker and darker and colder. I was concerned about the wind toppling over the top of the trailer, as it was only supported by four aluminum poles. I moved the car next to the trailer’s upwind side and tied the trailer to the car. As if we didn’t have enough problems, I wasn’t sure how much propane was in the single tank we carried, so to conserve heat we pushed in the ends of the trailer. This worked fine, except it reduced the size inside and it was difficult for the adults to sleep.
The next morning was beautiful again, so after cleaning off the cars and trailer we headed toward the valley. We ran into a stupid motorcyclist wearing sneakers who kept dropping his bike in the snow and ice. We helped him a couple of times but then left him behind. We missed a day’s work due to this inclement weather but we had an adventure which will remain in our consciousness for the rest of our lives.
Woody and I went to California on a business trip. He had a friend who lived in the Topanga Canyon not too far from LA. We visited him and I took a picture of the occasion. On the way back we planned for a lay-over in Denver, Colorado to see some of the Rocky Mountains. We had a rental car, so we headed out of the city toward the visible high peaks. Estes Park was still closed but we did manage to see some of the ski resort towns. The elevation was quite high and I remember Woody constantly asking me if I felt the elevation yet. We stopped at as place where there was a sign declaring the presence of the Continental Devide and there I could feel the altitude in the form of belabored breathing. We spent the night in a hotel where for dinner I had beef stew served in a hollowed-out round loaf of rye bread, my first ever. It was delicious! As we dropped off the rental car I left my Nikon binoculars Mary had bought for me. I really felt bad.
Woody is the one person who keeps in touch with all the old RCA people.
Don Ende – Don was a communications guy in Cherry Hill. We practiced bowling on many a lunch hour. He and his wife retired to Upstate New York to manufacture pottery. Before he left, he drew a detailed map of where his new home is. That map recently surfaced and as it turns out, it is but a two-hour ride from here. I will try to contact him.
Kuhajda Margit – We knew Margit néni through the Padars. She lived in Ithaca in “Collegetown” in a very nice house. She owned five or six other houses in the city which she rented out to students. Even though she was born in the US, she spoke broken Hungarian and was able to converse with my mother effortlessly. Her English, on the other hand, was impeccable and she had had perfect diction. She called everyone “darling” and I think she meant it. She told my mother on multiple occasions that if she could stay in the US, she too would have many houses. I believe she was correct.
She was on a car trip with her “boyfriend” when she leaned down to smell some flowers at a rest stop. She broke her hip and never recovered. She spent the rest of her days in a nursing home in Ithaca, losing all her property to the cause.
Krizsa Lajos – Lajos bácsi and his wife Boriska néni lived in Dömsöd, Hungary. He had served under my father and had invited our family to visit them once for a pig slaughter and subsequent pig roast. We went and became lifelong friends after that. The trip to this little village was a “big deal”. As I’ve said somewhere else already, we always traveled together as a family. We would board a small ship in Budapest and enjoyed the trip down the Danube. We always had time to look at the ship’s engines, to enjoy the scenery, and have a picnic on board. Of course the food was brought from home. After docking we walked the 2-3 mile trek to the Krizsa house. On the way we always stopped at the PetÅ‘fi tree, a tree with an immensely huge trunk. The four of us couldn't hold hands and reach completely around it.
I spent two of my best summer vacations of my life with them. I had made friends with their dogs, I went to the movie house next door, I drank raspberry juice with soda water (málnaszörp) in the bar they owned, I crawled under a huge raspberry bush and ate raspberries until I couldn’t anymore, I ate poppy seeds from their garden and I thought I was going to die from constipation, it was like passing a fist-sized rock. We also visited them for grape harvest which was also great fun, being able to eat my fill of all different kinds of grapes was a treat I haven’t enjoyed since. Of course eating all those grapes gave me diarrhea, so to counter that I at some quince, which has the opposite effect and the two offered a nice balance. Extra people were hired for the harvest, most of whom would cut the bunches of grape off the vine with scissors, collecting them in small containers. There were men, who would carry a wooden cask-like container strapped to their backs, like backpacks. They walked the rows collecting the grapes from the cutters. Once their backpacks were full, they would head for the horse-drawn wagon, on which were two very large open casks. The grapes would be dumped and the procedure repeated. Once the open casks were full, it was time to head for home. Much like in that famous I Love Lucy episode, people with bare feet would get inside the casks and stomp the grapes. I had also done that and it was fun. The released juices were eventually put in casks in the cellar, to be turned into delicious wine. The grape harvest in general but the grape-stomping experience in particular, will always remain fresh in my mind. I can almost see the hundreds of bees and wasps gathering to partake in the sweetness.
Lajos bácsi also operated a gas station, which consisted of two manually operated gas pumps. It was probably identical to the early pumps in this country: It had two glass containers which were filled by operating the pump handle in between them. Once one was full, it emptied through a rubber hose and, if you kept pumping, the second glass container would fill up. Most of the cars driven in Hungary during this time had two-cycle engines, whose fuel had to have oil mixed with it. This was accomplished by mixing the two in a five-gallon (or so) container, which operated much like a butter-churner. Oftentimes I would help wait on customers and thought I was a big deal.
Lajos’ brother, Bálint, had a horse which was at least “middle-aged”, named Tündér (Princess). On several of the trips back from the orchards and vineyards pulling a loaded cart, she would often pause. I asked him why doesn’t he use the whip to get her to move. He said that she was just a little tired and after she rested a little, she would start again by herself. And it was always so. This was a life-lesson for me. Thank you, Tündér! Now as I am getting older, I know exactly how she felt!
Across the street was a movie house in which my brother and I had privileges that we thoroughly took advantage of. We could climb a long outside stairway to the projection booth and observe all the magical things that took place there. Once while my brother was climbing down, he lost his balance and took a tumble down the last 4-5 steps. Only his pride was hurt but he did manage to crush almost all of the cherries he was packing in his pockets. The red juice leaked through his pants and when our mother saw us, she thought it was blood. Once the truth was learned, much to my sick delight, I was happy that he was scolded.
Krizsa Lali – Lali was Lajos’s son. We met in Dömsöd, Hungary. Lali had an old Zündapp motorcycle with “tickler” carburetors. He took me for my first ride on the gas tank and I was the coolest kid around. His attractive daughter became an ophthalmologist in Budapest.
Krizsa Tibor - Tibor was Lali's younger brother. I think he had polio when he was young and wlaked with a bad limp.His upper body was extremely strong and he was a very strong swimmer. He once confided in me that he had a gun he was going to use, should a revolution break out. I think he died before 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution.
Roseanne Ricci – Roseanne had a charismatic and constant smile on her face. One couldn’t help but like her and I eagerly returned the smile every time I saw her. Her mother, a very nice person herself, worked in the RCA Cherry Hill cafeteria and I think she died of cancer.
Edna Carcillo – Edna was one of my secretaries over the years in Cherry Hill. She was always cheerful and helpful and from the old school. I’ve known her for years before I found out that she was in an abusive relationship. It came as a great surprise to me.
Betsy Hollander – Betsy was our secretary in Schenectady. She was very efficient, knowledgeable and always showed her allegiance to Bill Young. She and her husband went to Switzerland on a skiing trip and when they reluctantly came back, she asked me why I don’t live in Europe. She heroically gave up her job, when the headcount had to be cut, to save her co-Administrative Assistant’s position.
Bob Dean – Bob was one of my drinking buddies in Brooktondale when I first arrived on these shores. He is a year younger than I and I still have the yearbook he signed for me all those years ago.
Pat Caveney – Pat was the “older” guy in Brooktondale. He was quite a drinker, along with the rest of us. I remember he and his girlfriend would go out on a date with a case of Genesee QUARTS. He drove a gorgeous 57 Mercury black convertible, white interior and top.
Pete Wells – Pete was another of the Brooktondale clan. I didn’t know him very much but his love of bluegrass music is still fresh in my mind. I think he sold insurance for a living.
Judd Roe – Judd was our designated driver in Brooktondale. He could drink as much as the rest of us but I never saw him drunk. He worked as a grave-digger in Brooktondale.
Joyce Van De Mark – Joyce lived in Brooktondale when I first came to this country. I have pleasant memories of a skating outing on the creek in Brooktondale one winter.
Hans Hansen – Hans used to work in Somerville for RCA and his reputation as a near-genius preceded him. He used to keep dumps under his bed at home, in case he got bored, he’d have something to read. He oftentimes took sleeping pills with vodka. He transferred to Cherry Hill and he and I became friends. He drove a little pickup truck. Then he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Shortly after he showed up in a big Cadillac, saying he wasn’t going to die driving a pickup truck. They tried to cut out the tumor but the cancer came back and he died in 1989. I have many nice memories of going to lunch with him to the Cherry Hill Mall.
His wife was Ardiath, an intelligent executive for an insurance company, dearly loved her husband. They clearly weren’t in need of anything, yet, depending on the current tax laws they were either married or divorced but still living together. Mary and I attended one of their wedding celebrations.
Hans was a little quirky at times. Once he had a tree cut down next to their driveway because he kept backing into it with his car.
Hans had a motorcycle when he lived in Florida. One day he was on it in front of house, showing off to the neighbors, revving up the engine. It was a hot day ad his glasses started to slip off his nose, so he went to push it up with his left hand. This action, of course, let the clutch out, which propelled the motorcycle forward unexpectedly, landing him in the middle of his neighbor’s bushes. Nothing but the pride was hurt.
Greg Kelley – Greg and I worked in the same Cherry Hill facility since 1969. He worked in Data Control at first but quickly gained knowledge and started writing program on his own. He had a filthy mouth and the tags in his programs reflected his vulgar vocabulary. Years later he became a born-again Christian and completely turned around. His wife, Trish, is a devoted mother and wife. I always enjoy the yearly account of the family’s activities she sends in her Christmas cards. Greg has been involved in drag racing for most of his life.
The only negative experience with him was the way he handled a vendor. This over-sixty person was selling a product that would convert COBOL programs from RCA to IBM. Greg kind of strung the man along for a while, asking him to make several modifications to his software and then very cold-heartedly told him that we won’t need his product. The man was crushed and I didn’t say a word in his defense. The poor man was clearly crushed I still feel bad about it.
When he saw how much money I was spending on the repairs of my Porsche, he suggested we build a car that would rival that car but would be much cheaper to own. That car turned out to be a Ford Pinto. The suspension was lowered by installing different springs. Koni shocks were used all the way around with American Racing mag wheels and 50-series BF Goodrich tires. A turbocharger was installed and the car turned out to be a fun car to own and drive.
Reds the Janitor – I worked with “Reds”, whose real name I forgot, in the Cherry Hill Datacenter. He was our first janitor. On that first day I walked into the building through an open hole which was missing a window yet, over the awning for the front entrance. Reds greeted me and when I introduced myself, he told me to make sure to tell him anything I needed and he’d get it for me. He had a metal plate in his head, he told me with an ever-smiling expression. He also said that he wouldn’t be happier if someone would lock him in a dirty building and told him to clean it. And he meant it!
Babus & Ivan Kudlajev – Babus is the cousin who got me the interview for my first job in Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia. She is the person, whom I have thanked for giving me the third biggest break of my life: A career in data processing. (Coming to America and meeting Mary are one and two.) Ivan was her timid son, who, along with his mother and grandparents, lived on Spruce Street in Philadelphia. The neighborhood was, years ago, a very nice neighborhood but the blacks were moving in. He attended a high school in his junior year in which he was one of two white kids. During his senior year he was the only one.
Babus came to visit us in Levittown, while I gave her some lessons in Data Processing. Her car broke down around Trenton, so she called me for help. I was driving a 1963 Austin Healy Mark 3000 at the time, which was really not suited for the task of towing anything, let alone a mid-sized American car, like a Mercury Comet. I did tow her all the way home, down Route 130, full of traffic and traffic lights, using a snow chain between the two cars. I told her to be the brake for us when we had to slow down and she was flawless. You have to be young and daring and poor enough not to be able to afford a tow truck to do these kinds of stunts.
Andrew Ginzery – Bandi bácsi, as I called him, was Babus’ father. He was a very timid and quiet-speaking person. In a few ways he reminded me of my father, except he was totally dominated by the women of the household. When I thanked him for allowing me to live with them for the year and a half I did but that I was changing jobs and working for RCA in New York City, he couldn’t understand how I could leave the bank, since they were so nice to give me a job. How far our values have come in such a short time.
Barbara Slizewski – Barb was my drinking buddy in Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia. I wish I had a fraction of the money I spent during the year and a half I worked there! She is also responsible for the meeting between Mary and I, for which I will always be grateful to her.
Mike Alvarez – Mike and I worked together in Cherry Hill. He was my cube-neighbor and we got to be good friends. His wife, Muriel, graduated from Wharton. He was very proud of himself when he drove his Volvo, wearing his hair-net. He taught me the meaning of the term “profilin’”.
Kathy Keith – Kathy was one our secretaries in Cherry Hill. I took her on a nice long motorcycle ride once. It was her first and I realized its importance. Despite my throttled-back driving, she didn’t enjoy leaning or corners.
Bernie, the Pharmacist – Bernie was a typical ex-Navy guy. He used colorful language and drank like a fish. His favorite beer was Molson’s. We always stopped for a while at the bar just before I drove him home. I don’t want to think about all the money I’ve wasted during this time of my life. He had a very nice looking woman in her thirties to “service” him.
Joe King – Joe was a good guy. He was the King of Clichés. Several people actually kept a list of all of them, for he used them freely at meetings. “Let’s get all our ducks in a row”, “Right church, wrong pew” were just two examples.
Bob Smith – I worked with “Howdy Doody” in the Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia. He was the second-shift leader. Easy-going, intelligent with an apparent bright future he was always eager to help me. He, unfortunately, was a gambler. He loved the horses and tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to re-enact a winning day of many years ago, when he won 1,500 dollars. Once, he had to hitchhike back from Pimlico because he didn’t have enough money for gas.
Pete Gurney – I first worked with Pete in Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia. He was older by a few years than I and much experienced in the business world. When, after a year and a half working there I told him of the upcoming interview for a job in New York City, he was the first to introduce me to the word resume and helped me compose it. I think he commuted from Chester by train every day. Pete had polio when he was a kid, so kiddingly, I called him “Gimpy”. To reciprocate, he always made fun of my shoes, calling them PFCs, or Puerto Rican Fence Climbers.
Fast-forward a few years to the Cherry Hill Datacenter and Pete and I are destined to meet again: He got a job as a computer operator, so we were together again. Last I heard he retired and moved to Florida, where Mary and I visited him in 2009. He hasn't changed a bit.
Joe Piekarski – Joe was assistant shift leader at Fidelity. He was always the best dressed.
Jack Hamasaki – Jack was also an assistant Shift Leader at Fidelity. He was extremely helpful and always smiling and was always dressed impeccably.
Tony Vanella – Tony and I worked at Fidelity. He tried very hard to talk me into buying one of the then current muscle cars, a Plymouth Satellite. I always preferred better handling over horsepower and liked sportcars. I did buy a reel-to-reel tape recorder from him, which I used for many years. Tony was to be Mary’s date on the very first night Mary and I met. I liked her and immediately switched him out.
Ken & Marge Liziewski – Ken and Marge met in the Bank, fell in love and married shortly afterwards. To the best of my knowledge, they are still married. Ken offered to drive me home one night after work, since it was snowing and I was riding the bus those days. We quickly came upon a snowplow, which was spreading salt. He opted to pass, since he didn’t want the salt on his car and promptly lost control of the car. We managed to hit the only parked car for two blocks. The bumper caved in, the radiator was punctured and I felt really bad for him when he told me that tonight was the first time he had driven in snow.
Leo Johnson – Leo and I were best of friends when I attended high school with him in Ithaca, New York. The two of us were going to join the Navy. Leo was my first black friend.
Leon Faibisoff – Leon was one of the pharmacists at Doan’s Drugs on State Street in Ithaca, New York. He lived with his wife, Sylvia and two boys (Jan) on Cascadilla Street, a street kind of like Lombard Street in San Francisco. He had a Criss Craft boat and took me for a ride to the end of Cayuga Lake, past the lock at the northern end. It was my first boat ride. During one summer vacation he took his family out West in a 61 Chevy and came back with a very deep brown tan. I was envious.
Harold Estes – Harold is a member of the Hallmark team I have the pleasure of working with. His wife, Shirley, was one of my wife, Mary’s bosses years ago. Harold is a retired state employee with an interesting childhood. He had 10 siblings, while Shirley had 11. Harold grew up in very poor surroundings and lives in a house he and Shirley lived in when they were married. It is rather small with one bathroom, so with three girls in the family he quickly discovered that most of the bathroom time was spent by the girls, grooming themselves. So he mounted a three-person mirror on the wall just outside of the bathroom with a couple of lights and a long shelf for toiletries and everybody was happy. I enjoy his company and his many stories are both amusing as well as thought-provoking. He has a picture taken when he was around four or five with his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He tends to be rather thrifty, so when he bought a $1,200 GPS, I was very surprised. He liked mine and his nephews’ so much that he had to have one of his own. He describes this device with his favorite word: unbelievable.
He and Shirley planned a trip to follow one made by Harold’s parents many years ago. They used a journal kept during the trip by Harold’s parents and completed the cross-country trip in 2007.
Harold is a devoted family man and loves not just his own family but that of his wife’s. The closeness of Shirley and her sisters, Sally and Betty should serve as example for all to follow.
Bill Ewer – Bill was my Operations Manager while I was a Shift Leader in Cherry Hill. He was a happy bachelor, who seemed to draw women, as though he were a magnet. He had a hair transplant done. When I shared with him the news of my brother’s death, he cried with me in his office. I will never forget that or him.
Andy Gattuso – I met Andy when I was transferred to Cherry Hill from New York. The 207 building was not finished yet, so for the first week or so we worked in Camden, documenting production jobs we were to run in the new surroundings. I truly appreciated the Cherry Hill facilities after that week. The birthplace of RCA, the Camden complex was made up of dingy, old, musty-smelling red brick buildings, in which each room had its own air conditioner hanging out the window. Andy impressed me with his mild manners and fastidious nature. A few years later he became the Operations Manager and continued to impress me with his total professionalism. His brother was an ace wrestler for Penn State, I think. Andy moved to California after retirement.
Charlie and Peggy Nassau -
In 2007 we were on our second sidecar rig, a 1987 BMW K75 with a Hannigan Astro Sport sidecar. The first one was a 1994 BMW K1100LT with leading link front suspension and car tires. After an all-too-short relationship I wrecked it on my way home from the bodyshop where they painted in to match the color of the bike.
That summer Mary and I attended a motorcycle event called Americade in Lake George, New York, about 30 miles from our house. We naturally visited the Hannigan display all the way in a back corner. As we were walking toward the site a sidecar rig came into focus. It was a new Kawasaki Ninja with a sidecar, an all-black rig. As we walked closer, an invisible force was pulling us closer. That rig looked like it was going a hundred miles an hour. It was instant love. After a short talk with David Hannigan Mary and I agreed that we will have one of these built for us. Instead of the Ninja however we wanted the Concours model (chain vs shaft drive) and instead of the small, low sidecar we wanted the much larger 2+2 model with a much larger trunk as well. We planned to make this sidecar rig our present to each other, our fortieth wedding anniversary and my fiftieth of being in the country.
A man from Texas picked up the K75 rig for his wife. The Kawasaki was ordered and was in hand soon after that. It made a wonderful solo bike, powerful, comfortable and I almost didn’t want it converted to a rig but soon I looked forward to being the first in the universe to own and drive this unique rig. In setting a date for the conversion with Hannigan Motorsports I found out that I was not number one, that there was another guy from Vermont who butted in front of me. I instantly disliked that person and never wanted to meet him.
A trip to Kentucky, the home of Hannigan Motorsports was scheduled and Mary and I set off on the trip, she in her Honda S2000 and I on the Concours. During half of the trip it rained cats and dogs, then after it cleared up, while Mary was trying to keep up with me, she was pulled over and given a subsequent speeding ticket. We finally got to our destination, dropped off the Concours and set off on a week-long vacation, at the end of which we picked up the finished rig.
On the way home Mary’s nose was more than a little out of joint: here she was in a yellow convertible with the top down and everybody was waving at me!
Mary and I were in the vicinity of the Tail of the Dragon some time in 2008 looking forward to attend the national COG (Concours Owners Group) rally. The weather was awful as we neared our destination for the night, the headquarters of the rally in Fontana Village Resort in North Carolina. It was raining very hard as we pulled into the resort seeking refuge under the awning of the front entrance. There were quite a few bikers milling around and as soon as they saw us they all converged around the rig. Instead of the usual sidecar questions they wanted to know if I was Charlie. It didn’t take too long before I became quite annoyed with Charlie and I didn’t even know him yet! Apparently he was the before and had already made a few friends.
I got wind of a sidecar meeting during the Americade in 2008. When we pulled into the parking lot there were already about 20 rigs there. I was driving toward the back when I saw this guy running toward me. It was Charlie Nassau, the “bahstuhd”, who butted ahead of me in the cue and became HP sidecar owner NUMBER ONE! As I was driving toward a parking space I kept yelling: “Mine’s nicer! Mine’s nicer!” I parked the rig and he caught up to me and introduced himself and I immediately knew that he wasn’t a “bahstuhd”. We looked at each other’s rigs, pointing out differences, liking them or not. A bond developed between us in minutes.
That afternoon went be all too fast and I don’t remember when we met again. Suffice to say that since then we have been constant companions. He persuaded me to join the BMWMOV motorcycle club. He invited us to stay at their house for each and every monthly Sunday morning breakfasts held by the club. I always enjoyed following him during those brisk mornings on the way to Tozier’s. He was an excellent pilot and I quickly found out that our riding styles were very similar. For those uninitiated to group riding (a group of two is still a group), to find someone like that is to be cherished because I venture to say that there are many motorcycle rides who are never happy riding with someone else leading or following. I have been extremely lucky to have found two of these in my lifetime.
Charlie has many stories. He has led an interesting life and is very rich in motorcycling experiences. He has much more riding time in the saddle of sidecars owned in the past. The one he favored the most (I think) is a K100 with a EML rig. He and wife Peggy shared many trip on and in it and managed to rack up over two hundred thousand miles on it. He proudly displays a picture of his rig in his study, which, by the way, is filled with other pictures of motorcycles, along with awards from his career, as a motel owner and operator. He was on the board of directors for Travel Lodge, which further added to Charlie and Peggy’s list of places visited. That list is richer than anyone else I now or have known. This comes in very handy when planning a trip, another of Charlie’s strong suits.
Since our meeting we have attended every national rally held by the USCA (United Sidecar Club). Charlie always planned our trips, taking great care to have the proper mix of interesting sights and good back roads. I would offer to put my two cents in, which he always willingly accepted. He would pore over maps with his favorite lighted magnifier glass and after a few days an itinerary would emerge. It was a printed document occupying multiple pages, containing data spelled out for each day, with starting and ending points total mileage, hotel name at the end with price, address, telephone number and confirmation number. The route number for the day were spelled out, complete with mileage. These documents were a work of art and I saved most of them.
It is impossible to talk about Charlie and not do the same about his wife of forever, Peggy. Together they make a perfect example of what marriage should be like for every married couple. Charlie drives to the local McDonald’s every morning to buy Peggy a cup of coffee because she prefers it to the coffee he makes and drinks when he comes home. This tradition is observed even when it’s during one of our trips. Peggy is short, so she sits on a special comfortable pillow in the sidecar. She will sit, hour after hour, reading or solving crossword puzzles. The answer is always “Fine” to the question “How are you doing?” There is only one thing that she asks, that we go to church on Sunday. Or Saturday, if Sunday is not possible. We always comply without question.
A few more words about riding with Charlie. His eyes are not as strong as they used to be, so I was elected to be the leader from the beginning. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I like to go at least five miles over the speed limit on four-lane highways with an occasional burst to hyperspace to get by those hogging the left lane. I must lead okay most of the time, as Charlie never complained to me. He is a very good follower.
While on a trip I would take his legendary itinerary and turn the page to the current day’s riding instructions and put it under the clear window of my tankbag. Charlie has these routes in his head, while I don’t and have to look and look and look for the next turn and I must admit that sometimes I miss the turn. I like to experience the terrain while traveling. When I look in the mirror and I don’t see Charlie, beads of sweat appear under the helmet and I feverishly look for a place to turn around. Our rigs are wonderful and superior to most other sidecars, except the turning radius is close to that of a tractor trailer. Once I turn around I see Charlie and I feel the disappointment in his eyes and see his foot tapping impatiently on the footpeg. All this is, of course, only in my imagination.
The Three-wheeler Rally
A few years back we made plans to attend a rally in Massachusetts, a three-wheeler and Moto Guzzi rally. We met in the parking lot of McDermott’s Harley Davidson. The route took us over mostly two-lane roads. The weather was perfect and we were having fun with some of the curves. I slowed down as we were coming into a little town. I spied a Stewart’s and pulled in. I jumped off the bike and went into the store to use the restroom. When I came out I saw a man looking at my rig. We experience this on a regular basis, so I was prepped to answer the usual sidecar questions. The man pointed to a puddle of antifreeze under the engine. It must be from another vehicle, I protested but looking closer I saw a stream coming out of the radiator. After summoning a tow-truck we asked to be driven to a Kawasaki dealer in Bennington, Vermont. The service manager came out and as soon as he saw the sidecar, he announced that he couldn’t help us. We ended up taking the rig back to where we bought it, where it was repaired in a few days.
Granddaughter came to pick us up and with Charlie and Peggy in tow, without a word, we drove to my house. They stayed over and in the morning the four of us took off in three vehicles: Charlie on his rig, Mary and Peggy in Mary’s yellow Honda S2000 and I took my Moto Guzzi Norge. All was fine until we encountered some meandering traffic on the Mass Turnpike. I decided to turn up the wick trying to get by an older Maserati, who didn’t see things my way. The red mist was palpable so I decided to curtail my speed of over a hundred. When I raised my head I saw Charlie close behind me but no yellow Honda. I slowed down, allowing the Maserati to go by, waiting for Mary to catch up. We arrived at the exit for the rally, pulled over and waited. They finally showed up, telling us that they were pulled over by a policeman by the side of the road and was given a speeding ticket. Neither Charlie nor I saw the police block.
At the rally Mary and I got two awards. One was for the Norge: first place among Moto Guzzis. The other was an award for a hard-luck story I related to those present about our trip to the rally. It turned out to be a rather expensive weekend. The radiator was over 600 bucks, the ticket another 265 (clocked at 93), plus higher insurance costs for the next three years. Are these young kids EVER gonna learn?
It seems to me that I’ve known Charlie all my life, even though it’s been less than eight years. I am actually jealous of those who have had the pleasure of being around him for longer. I feel very comfortable around Charlie and I always know that he has my back, as I have his. He has been my idol ever since we met and when/if I ever grow up, I want to be just like him.
Donna Frenzel – The most endearing feature of my favorite niece, Donna is her heart. She is kind, thoughtful and willing to help others. Everybody likes her, as the number of Facebook friends attest. No matter what she's feeling inside, she always wears a smile and when you look into her eyes you can clerarly see her soul. She gives the best hugs and I always enjoy visiting her just to get them. When she asks "How are you?", she really expects an answer.
One of the nicest memory comes from the time I worked in Cherry Hill and Pete Leland and I walked over to the mall for lunch. Pete always enjoyed looking at nice-looking young ladies but what healthy man doesn't? We were about to enter the mall when I noticed Donna running toward us with open arms and she gave me a big hug and kiss. Pete's eyes had difficulty staying in their socket. She really made me feel special that day!
Attached is a picture of her recently surfaced after a clean-up of a bedroom. It was taken in 1983. Its dedication speaks volumes of Donna's personality.
She and second husband, David, have come for visits a few times and we enjoyed their company. David even trailered his Harley up, so they could accompany us on a ride in the Adirondacks. They were as unprepared for the cool evenings in this part of the country as Mary and I were on our first trip years back.
The Frenzels and Ginzerys have been visiting the Gilberts in West Virginia for many years. Donna's been there as a child, riding horses and generally enjoying herself. Then she and David visited Mark and Becky and fell in love with the people and the land and was making serious plans to move there after retirement. David is no more but Donna still feels strongly about moving there. She even has a horse, Anika, kept by Mike Gilbert on his property.