I Should Have Stopped…***

“I’d whip that ‘cannonball’ down the lane and watch the pins explode like they were thunderstruck. It was noisy and it was fast”

Candlepin-bowling

Unless you lived in or visited the New England region, then you probably haven’t experienced ‘candlepin bowling’. It was game for all ages to enjoy, even a young, skinny kid like me could have fun with bowling down candlepins, and I did, lots of it.

The game was unique to the northeast region and into Canada.  A bowler had three chances to knock down ten tall, tapered wooden ‘pins’ with a four or five inch ball that you cradled in the palm of your hand, then rocketed it down the oiled hardwood. The knocked down pins, deadwood they were called, were left where they lay to be used to deflect and knock down other standing pins on the second and third roll, before a new group of pins was reset.

New England ingenuity has given much to the world that improved the quality of life. or just made it more fun. From earmuffs* to snow shovels*, ballpoint pens* to disposable razors*, basketball* to wooden golf tees*, and the indispensable microwave oven*, to name a few. Yankee know-how also brought us this game of ‘candlepin bowling’.  While other inventions spread worldwide, candlepin bowling’s popularity was never too far beyond the border of these six northeast states.

The balls were solid, no holes. Youngsters didn’t need big muscles to lift them but strength certainly helped propel them down the lane. The pins were fifteen inches tall, or so, and symmetrical. The good bowlers could whip that sphere down the lane with a ferocity that would make your head spin, and the pins would scatter every which way. Strikes were rare and the recreational bowler generally scored under a hundred for a game, ten frames, but the better bowlers were above a hundred.

There may be a few candlepin ‘houses’ left, but as Ten Pin’ bowling took hold in New England, the ‘small’ game began to fade. It was a bigger thrill to get more strikes, more spares and more scoring with the bigger ball and fatter pins and more bowlers flocked to the new game.

While driving through a Massachusetts town a few years ago, I passed a candlepin bowling house. Instantly, it was the late fifties, early sixties and I could hear the balls whizzing and the candlepins ‘flying’ . I should have stopped to roll a game, but I had a schedule to meet. Nevertheless, the moment recalled for me wonderful memories of bowling the small ball and tall pins in my home town of Worcester, the birthplace of candlepin bowling**.

Like the giant brick mills that lined the New England waterways, candlepin bowling faded into obscurity except for a few die-hard centers. Nowadays, it’s part of a New Englander’s nostalgia.

The circus is gone. Baseball, arguably, is no longer the National Pastime and fewer folks attend church on Sunday. Change happens…

I should have stopped…

Steve
srbottch.com
Feb 2018

* New England Today, Living – Yankee Magazine Jan 22, 2018
** Wikepedia

*** revised 2/8/18

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee

Jennie nails it with her practice of reading aloud and advice to others to do the same.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Delighted to share another wonderful post from pre-school teacher Jennie Fitzkee. This week the joys and benefits of reading aloud for both child and teacher…or parent.

How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared, and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo…

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The Bar Chronicles: #15, “Was It Something We Said”?

Bar Night 2

As we slip-slide our way into winter, the fluctuations are remarkable.  The thermometer toggles between mild and frigid, then back to mild, then frigid, while the only constant is the early darkness.  

By evening, the streetlights guide us to ‘The Back Nine’, a sports bar in Pittsford, NY.  The fare is a bit high but the atmosphere is classy, and we fit the bill with our khakis, pullover sweaters and ‘Curious George’ sweatshirt (2 of 3 isn’t bad).  We opted for the quiet air of the backroom where our own conversation was audible… and our fashions were not a distraction.

Unbeknownst to us, as we clinked our glasses and huddled in conversation, The Back Nine would be closing within days of this evening’s beer fest, if one beer qualifies as a ‘fest’. It’s a disappointment, we enjoyed our two visits here, on ‘Bar Night’, and looked forward to returning, upscaling our outings a bit.

There are many reasons why an establishment shutters its doors, but a watering hole in a classy town, closing?  A bit of a surprise and made me think, ‘was it something we said’?

The closing certainly wasn’t due to rowdiness, we’re a docile group and any swaying or tippiness was a result of our age and equilibrium, not too many drinks.  Was it our overheard conversations that intimidated patrons and discouraged them from returning?  The mention of the world’s ant population outweighing humans, or insects dying at alarming rates or mollusks having eyes, may have been inappropriate for a crowd looking for something less cerebral on their ‘bar night’?

Soaring property assessments and declining school performances maybe was too staid for the ears of the common bar fly. Did we discuss the genius of Churchill and Aristotle too loudly for a drinking crowd?

The problem for bars that accept small bands of Seniors is that we don’t drink much, we talk too loud and our topics are extrapolated from editorial pages of the NYT or WSJ, instead of the Sporting News or NASCAR weekly. We may be haughty and tend to bloviate.  We are polite to a fault but can be pompous…and we wear curious clothing. We are Seniors, you know.

It’s about time for another gathering. We’ll go back to our favorite ‘dive’, where every spot is loud and the patrons don’t care what we say, the crappy music is too loud to hear anything, and a dog walks among us. The cheap beer will guarantee the doors will always swing wide…

…a Curious George sweatshirt will be a welcome attraction!

“Education is the best provision for old age” Aristotle

Steve
Srbottch.com
Jan 2018

Let’s Face It…You Can’t Fight Gravity

My audiologist laughed, maybe scoffed is a better term, when I boasted that I was writing a story titled, ‘My Ears Are Getting Bigger, But My Hearing Is Getting Worse’.

“You may get a few chuckles, but you’d be technically incorrect. Our ears actually stop growing at age six.” Six? Well, that explains the teasing by an older sister, whom, I suspect, had already ‘grown into her ears’.

“It’s probably gravity that’s making your ears look bigger, unless you wear heavy ear fashions”, he snickered. “I suggest you change the one word to ‘longer’.”

Gravity, huh? It started me thinking, is it the same gravity that caused my six pack abs to drop and cover my belt? Truth be told, I never had six pack abs. Have the bags under my eyes settled there because of gravity? What about the sides of my mouth turning down in a constant frown? Gravity? I used to blame my mother who, strangely enough, had the same look. It’s become a workout of constant smiling to keep them turned upward.

So many other areas of the human body change over time and gravity must be the catalyst there, as well. How else can we explain drooping shoulders, double chins and sagging fannies? The inch of height I lost must have gone into my feet because they’re wider and flatter. Gravity, again!

Given enough time, I’ll be measured as one foot high x three feet wide. And it’s happening fast. One day you can stretch like a rubber band, and the next you’re locked up tighter than a rusty nut.

You add Move Free to your daily supplements to help your joints, and suppositories to actually help you ‘move free’.

When did it all change? When did we cross that imaginary line of tight skin, standing tall, get up and go, to drooping, stooping and pooping? It’s time to fight back.

Tug on those loose fitting sweats (yes, mine were form fitting once, too, but that train left the station years ago), tie up your laces (if you can still reach them), and kick the mp3 into high volume (don’t worry about damaging your hearing, it’s probably shot, anyway) and move to the rhythm of an upbeat tempo (personally, I’m stuck on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’).

You may not draw that loose skin back to place, a doctor can do that if it’s important. But I bet you’ll feel better and look better, at least in your own eyes, if they’re any good.

Let’s face it, this body, longer ears and all, has served us well. Take care of it and have fun moving.

Steve
srbottch.com
January 2018

To Sir Issac Newton who gave us an ‘understanding’ of gravity

“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

PAVAROTTI

“Who was Pavarotti?”

I thought I had them stumped. But stumping wasn’t the end game. The objective was twofold: strengthen our daily dialogue, the fun part; and stimulate their thinking skills, the learning part of our relationship. .

As for Pavarotti, the surprise answer came from a confident high schooler on a unicycle who steadied himself, as best one can on a unicycle, and delivered it with certainty. “Not only was Pavarotti a famous Italian opera singer”, he opined, “but he was a tenor”.  I was impressed.

Crossing Guard PatchI’m a crossing guard for a suburban school district in western New York State. Every school morning and afternoon, I have a minute or so to interact with groups of kids ages twelve to eighteen years, while waiting for their signal lights to change. I try to make the wait meaningful.

“What is the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius?”

Recent mornings been have been cold, bitter cold, the perfect environment to challenge them with this question. And the answer came fast. “(F-32) /1.8”. These kids are good.

It’s become apparent that they almost expect something each day, a quiz, a fact, a general question. An approaching airplane provokes a simple discussion. An unusual sunrise or an odd cloud formation gets us talking and imagining. It’s all about the dialogue.

“Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?”

“What direction are we facing while waiting to cross? Forward doesn’t count!”

“January is named after the 2 headed Roman god Janus.”

“Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

“How many centimeters in an inch, millimeters?”

For the most part, kids haven’t changed over the years. The younger boys are still immature, they run, yell and ask nonsensical questions.  And boys and girls still hold hands. But there are some noticeable changes. Pink, purple or blue hair is common with today’s girls, and even with some boys. The huge backpacks have replaced gym bags for carrying books. And, nearly everyone is connected via cell phones.

However, kids are still kids. If I can make them smile or laugh as they start their school day, then ‘mission accomplished’. And it all starts with a greeting…and, maybe a new question…

“Good morning, kids. Have a great day!”

woodchuck

“Oh, By the way, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

To my surprise, they had answers. We’re learning from each other.

Steve
srbottch.com
Jan 2018

Dedicated to a wonderful teacher I’ve been fortunate to know, Jennie, and her cadre of lucky students.

Hidden Treasures

Treasures 4 score card

There it was, buried in a cardboard box from a house move several years ago, an old scorecard. But not just any scorecard, here was the scorecard that told a hole by hole story of the best nine holes of my golfing adventures, a poignant reminder of a ‘special moment’.

Life is that way, isn’t it? Along the way, you acquire reminders of the ‘road’ you’ve traveled: a trophy, a plaque, token or charm of some sort, maybe a photograph or special book, hidden treasures among our bric-a-brac, often of little or no value, except to you.

Over time, these treasures found their way to drawers, closets, or boxes, out of sight and mind, seemingly disappearing within the fabric of your house, until, quite unexpectedly, you come across one that makes you pause and reflect on a certain ‘special moment’ in your life.

Army hat

My old army hat rests ‘at ease’ on a filing cabinet.  An occasional glimpse stirs memories of a brief period (it seemed forever) as a young man when I had ‘nothin to say about nothin’, just do as ordered. Challenges were met, obstacles were overcome, I did things I didn’t think I could do. It all comes back.

Treasures 2 Ring

A ring with a few sparkly chips ‘hides’ in my stocking drawer and I feel it when rummaging for a matching pair. It reminds me of some career successes, wins and losses, and the camaraderie with associates who supported my efforts. And while it will never be worn again, it moves me to look back at my career with contentment and satisfaction.

Lure

The wooden fishing lure that hangs by its treble hook near my workbench opens a floodgate of images of time spent with my dad, fishing at ‘the Cape’, and learning about life.  He was always teaching, often by example. It’s difficult to let go of ‘treasures’ he gave me.

Old photos are some of the best ‘treasure’ finds. We hold them and vividly recall details of where we were, who we were and what we did.  If we close our eyes for a moment, we’re there.   Photos help tie our life segments together, connecting us to our past. We mustn’t lose that bridge.

Someday, our children will chance upon their copy of our Christmas holiday songs, recorded when they were youngsters. I know they’ll laugh aloud when they hear the singing, arguing, the joy and the love. Briefly, they’ll return to a special family time, remember us fondly and be joyful. What a treasured moment, never to be lost.

What’s in your ‘treasure chest’?

Steve
December 2017
srbottch.com

To ‘treasure hunters’, one and all…

The Bar Chronicles: #14, A ‘One Beer’ Night

Rock ‘n roll, ants and war…we covered all the bases…except baseball.

Bar Night 2

Another evening of beer and brotherhood convened at Caverly’s Irish Pub on South Avenue in Rochester. Here, the beer is reasonable, the people friendly and the ‘bar dog’ can sniff only as high as your knees.

Caverly’s is cozy and casual with a few round tables scattered about a high bar rising over a well-worn hardwood floor, a common man’s pub. The bar area, itself, is a colorful array of tap handles and an oversized chalkboard menu featuring an ample variety of brews.

Bar TAps

With beer in hands, we raised our glasses and cheered each other in genuine fashion. These nights of friendship give us Seniors a chance to get caught up with each other. Sometimes, we learn something new, sometimes we’re surprised and sometimes it’s both.

Tonight was just such a night when one of us offered that ‘ants weigh more than humans’. The rest certainly were surprised and showed it, as the ‘huh?’ look spread across our collective brows. But when the source* was cited…well, we learned something new, and ‘ant weight’ aside, we were bemused that someone in our group actually read, ‘Journey To The Ants’.

Does the adjective, ‘eclectic’ apply to a group that can drink beer and discuss ants in the same evening?

And would you be surprised to learn that another traveled 75 miles to see a former Beatle, Paul McCartney, in concert? Remember, we’re products of the 60s, give or take a decade.

As teens, we borrowed the family car and drove around with other music lovers, slapping out rhythms on the dashboard ‘drums’, our mops flopping side to side while head bobbin’ to rock ‘n roll. We still move to the beat when we hear the oldies, but ‘head banging’ today with scarce a wisp, leaves much to be desired.

Detailing an event or destination as vividly as the concert was allows me to feel there’s no need to go there, myself. I often say, facetiously of course, that ‘the listening is the same as the going’. I’ve ‘been to many places that I’ve never been’ with this philosophy.

Unlike war…

One among us went there**, and we deferred to him briefly when the topic surfaced. A cacophony of silence spoke volumes to our lack of personal knowledge of the real horror of war, except for the one. There is no substitute for being there, a loud exception to my ‘philosophy’

We paused with our own thoughts, finished our one beer and called it a night, a rather solemn ending. The summer-like evening air on this fall night was comforting as we took our time to the car. Another enjoyable evening was behind us…

Friendship is a wonderful thing!

Steve

stephen.bottcher@gmail.com

*‘Journey To The Ants’ written by Harvard professor E.O. Wilson
** Viêt Nam