My Father’s Overalls…

The more time I put between my youth and today, the more challenging it becomes to remember that youth and its many halcyon moments. But then something happens to jog my memory, filling it with vivid pictures from that time. People, places and events will flash through my mind with clarity and detail.

Summertime begets a beehive of activities in neighborhoods around town. The better weather invites folks outside to work on their grounds and homes, to beautify and repair. Recently, I saw a hired painter wearing the stock and trade white bib overalls of his profession, and I couldn’t help but recall my father, a painter himself, and how important his overalls were to him.

A businessperson wears a suit, a doctor dons scrubs, a teacher a tie, well, not as much nowadays. My father, a painter, wore bib overalls. He had several pair, and wore one proudly, every working day of his career, representing the company that bore his father’s name.

I remember him beginning the week on Monday mornings, on the job site in a clean, creased pair of the white bib overalls. Overalls are not worn as a fashion statement, mind you, they are utilitarian, functional, worn for a purpose, and comfortable. However, when my father put them on over a white, long sleeved button-down shirt, he presented a handsome, confident and professional figure.

Overalls, clean and creased? How? It was a process, a production. And it was a team effort, husband and wife. In the early days, she scrubbed them by hand over a scrub board, my sister recalls. Later, a washer with wringer and then a fully automatic washer. The smell of lye, the ‘secret’ ingredient added to the wash for whiter than white overalls, permeated the house on ‘overall wash days’.

Washing was followed by drying on an outside clothesline, even in winter. The crease was made by a taut wire frame inserted in each leg. When they dried, those overalls were almost too clean and ‘pressed’ to wear painting. but he wore them on every job.

A proper uniform, or suit, tells the world who you are and what you do. About a painter wearing anything less, he would scoff, sarcastically,

“Look at that guy! You want him painting your house?”

‘That guy’ would not work for my dad.

A former sales executive once mused to me,

“If you want to wear a sport coat, go work for someone else!” (Bob R)

Fortunately. I was wearing a suit that day. But the message is the same one my father would send by his own code: dress for success! And he did.

Do you?

Steve (July 2019)

My sister and I enjoyed recalling the scenes around our household during our youth. ‘Overall’ wash day brought back wonderful memories of our parents on such an ‘important’ event. I hope you enjoy reading it and it tickles your own memory of good family affairs.

Happy Birthday, America

Did you know that two of the US ‘Founding Fathers’, John Adams, second President of US, and Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President, political arch enemies for much of their lives, died on the same day, July 4th, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (7/4/1776).

Today the US celebrates its 243rd year of Independence and, as a proud American, I’m happy to bring you this bit of historical trivia.


July 2019


To all proud Americans

I Tried The ‘Skinny’ Pants…I Was Feeling Young!

Whatever possessed me to buy a pair of ‘skinny pants’? Make that two pair, last summer.

Skinny pants’ are the popular pants that fit evenly at the waist, slightly snug at the hips, and taper down the legs where the hem wraps narrowly around your ankle area. Not the skin tight, stretchy style, mind you, but still ‘skinny’. They can be seen on a variety of young men, everywhere ….. young, slim men.

They’re not seen on ‘old men’, anywhere ….. old and ‘filled out’ men. Define ‘old men’ as you please, but when you reach a stage in life when your hair is gone, your ears are long, your skin is saggy and your waist is baggy, you’re fittingly described as old, or older, and too ‘mature’ for skinny pants’.

Me, I exercise and eat a healthy diet. My weight is well managed. However, Mother Nature has won the body battle, albeit in a slow and deceiving, maybe even cruel, way. One day, you wake up and you’ve changed: the little roll around your waist is permanently problematic, it takes longer to get up and go, and you ache, even if you’ve done nothing, you ache.

Yet, here I was, browsing through the pant rack. And I saw them, khaki ‘skinny pants’ and I was feeling young. So, naturally, I felt even younger when the dressing room clerk complimented my selection and the cashier doubled down on it. Have you ever heard a sales clerk tell you otherwise?

I’m an easy mark for sales people, especially those who compliment me. I swiped the credit card, and walked out with a hop in my step.

Fast forward to today, a year later, a new summer. My life long critic (in a good way) finally found it in herself to bring me back to reality, “You know, those pants really aren’t meant for you”. As if I didn’t know. I knew a year ago, when I bought them. But I was feeling young.

Now, back to the drawing board for this summer’s fashion buys. Probably will be the old standby, blue jeans. One thing for certain, it won’t be the pants that hang halfway down your backside, unless of course, the sales clerk compliments me.

Incidentally, I haven’t discarded my ‘skinny pants’, yet. I’ve been doing a lot of yard work and my waist line seems to have shrunk ever so slightly, enough to make me look respectable. I’m thinking about keeping them, at least through the gardening season.


June 2019

To all men young at heart, slim or not!

The Angel On My Shoulder

There she sits, maybe she stands, I don’t know, I don’t see her. But she’s there, I’m aware of her, ‘the angel on my shoulder’. She’s not heavy, not a burden, just a presence when needed.

From holding ‘baby’ brother
To holding baby grandchild…

She’s my big sister. She’s older, but it wouldn’t be prudent to say it that way, now would it? ‘Big’ is proper.

You wouldn’t think I’d want her there after all the times she harassed me as a kid, growing up in the same household, antagonizing me in the way big sisters do.

But times change. This is the sister you get after the growing up is behind you, maybe way behind, the one who eventually assumes the role and becomes your ‘angel’, helping you tack through the headwinds of Life, and doing it so naturally.

It’s a good role for her and it’s made a difference for me. Where I could have behaved recklessly, my ‘angel’ showed me a better way, a cautious, not impetuous, way. And I admit, begrudgingly, I’m better for it. Where do they get the grace to do that?

The same sister who poked and prodded me into arguments years ago is now a person I can listen to for advice. How does that happen?

Miles separate us, but she’s there, sitting on my shoulder, trying her darnedest to help me make good décisions. Not by telling me what to do, but rather by suggesting how she would do it. I’m thankful for her. Of course, I would never tell her that. Can’t let a big sister think she’s doing right.

But, something tells me, she knows. She always knew.

Happy Birthday, Big Sister!


June 2019

For my wonderful ‘big’ (and older) sister, June, and ‘big’ sisters everywhere, ‘angels’ on their brothers’ shoulders.

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #4, ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’

The ‘chorus’ joined in, the ‘maestros’ led, the ‘audience’ smiled and a good time was had by all. We’re the ‘pretenders’, middle and high school students and a crossing guard, letting our joyful, if off key voices be heard while waiting to make our way across four lanes of busy blacktop on the way to begin the last school day of the week.

“Oh, what a beautiful morning,

Oh, what a beautiful day.

I’ve got a beautiful feeling,

Everything’s going my way!”

Whatever the reason, a Friday, a beautiful daybreak for a change, or the last few weeks of school, it was a morning to sing, and we did. Well, I did. A few kids knew the words from the Broadway show, ‘Oklahoma’, and accompanied me. The more we sang, the louder we sang.

This magnificent morning, with its cloudless blue sky, was a time to break out in big smiles and we did that, too, even the ‘sophisticated’ Seniors joined. Some early rising real ‘seniors’ from the neighborhood, who were beginning their daily ‘10,000 steps’, showed some spirit by singing along as they crossed and mingled with students.

What a glorious way to end the school year. And quite a year it’s been at the ‘curbside classroom’. From quizzes to quotes, word games and jokes, anagrams and acronyms, new words and old history, inventions and inventors, we learned a lot of ‘stuff’ from each other. I hope some of it sticks.

But what I really hope is that our mornings, which began with ‘have a great day’, helped these youngsters to really have a great day.

I’ve enjoyed their company and camaraderie on sunny days, on cold snowy and rainy days. I wish the best of success and happiness to those who are graduating and look forward to seeing returning and new students next September.

I’ll be there, at the ‘curbside classroom’ with more facts, new challenges, brain teasers and general conversation. Look for the guy in bright yellow.

Steve (June ’19)

To all the students of the ‘curbside classroom’. Continued successes!

The Bar Chronicles: #24, ‘Tonight Was For The Birds’

“My turn to pay.”

“No, I’ve got it, my wallet is already out.”

How easy was that? Right up front, the bill is a nonissue. One of us steps up and picks up the tab. It’s a badge of honor to pay the bill, especially at Caverly’s Irish Pub, where the beer is cheap and the ambience suits us perfectly.

Caverly’s is our ‘home’ for ‘Bar Nights’, we set up shop in the back room, away from the din of bar talk and the hoopla of an occasional dart game. Tonight, even before we toasted, the evening conversation began with some slight complaining, bemoaning is a better word, maybe bitching is better yet, about the lack of vocational courses in the general public schools.

“What happened to auto mechanics and shop classes? It’s not part of the general curriculum today!”

“Who’s going repair the cars and do the plumbing?”

“What about home economics?”

“And they don’t teach cursive handwriting, anymore”, I added without thinking. Heads turned and silence prevailed, but only for a moment.

“Handwriting? Who the Hell writes anymore, anyway,” I was reminded.

“Well, they should!” There I was, the ‘old man’ in me rallying to the defense of ‘how things used to be’, the ‘glory days’, as Springsteen coined them.  My mother had beautiful handwriting, thanks to the strict nuns and her Catholic education, as limited as it was.  But, I digress.

Enough ‘bemoaning’, there’s beer to be drunk. We clinked our bottles and glasses, toasted to good health, wealth and happiness, and began anew.

Do you feed our feathered friends?? It’s a popular pastime with some ‘Bar Nighters’, and the Baltimore Oriole is one of the regular visitors to their feeders. A bright orange feeder and a healthy portion of jelly attracts these beautiful specimens, apparently.

(Photo by Tom Lathrop, a Bar Nighter)

I say, ‘apparently’, because I wouldn’t know. I lost interest in bird feeding years ago when my family was traumatized by a red tail hawk crashing onto our bird feeder and flying off with a mourning dove clutched in its talons. The kids were young as we watched in horror when the hawk lighted on an overhead branch and consumed the stunned bird, piece by feathered piece. Sometimes, Nature’s way is disgusting.

The squirrel challenge is another reason not to bother with a feeder. These furry creatures can make a grown man look silly, as they outsmart every system we devise to stop them from intruding.  They wore me down.

Some ‘Bar Nighters’ might think they’ve put up the proper defenses against these critters: a long, thin stainless steel wire to a raised feeder; a tipping feeder that closes under the squirrel’s weight; or my favorite, cover the pole with sticky substance, honey or mollasses, but then you attract ants. What’s your remedy?

By the way, if you’re counting, the next gathering will be our 25th Bar Night, a milestone. I thought about making a calendar, ‘The Men of Bar Night’.  Maybe I should take a vote.

The beers are done and we call it a night. I need to get home to fix a dripping faucet. It’s hard to find a good plumber nowadays, y’know!


May 2019

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper

“Who invented the swim fins?” (You’ll be surprised)

“Who invented the swivel chair?”

“Who invented the first automatic flush toilet?” (7 1/2 gpf…Yikes!)

“..,the baseball mitt, the sewing machine, electric kettle and phonograph?”

Do you see a trend? These were but a few questions tossed my way during our recent ‘stump the crossing guard’ activity at our ‘curbside classroom’. The topic was ‘inventions’. Challenge me with an invention, and I’ll tell you the inventor. Really? I could do that?

“…the zipper, pink flamingo and thimble?”

The truth is, I don’t know inventors, Jefferson and Edison were my default answers, and Crapper was a ‘throw in’ for some subtle humor. But I do know how to stimulate curiosity in the preteens and teens at my school crossing post.

Ask questions, awe them with facts, dare to challenge them, mix in some fun and you’ve got a winning formula for a positive start to the school day, even before they get to their building.

The early morning light showed smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of kids genuinely interested in the ‘game’, as they peppered me with inventions, some common and others, not so common. Those who didn’t have a challenge listened with interest. Now, that’s a positive.

“Who invented Velcro? (Great question, but do you know the story behind it)

“Who invented the thunder lamp?” (Would have loved one back in the 60s)

“Who invented the umbrella?” (Useful this Spring)

The questions went on, requiring me to do some follow-up research to verify answers (below). And, to that point, the only rule was that they had to know the inventor’s name.

“Who invented the Diesel engine (there actually was a guy named Diesel), the chocolate chip cookie (my wife baked some this weekend…they’re gone), and, the traffic light (no, he wasn’t a crossing guard)?

“Bifocals?” (the same fellow who did the swim fins)

Adults crossing with the kids joined the fun. “Who invented the ‘reaper-binder’, the ‘manhole cover’ and what did BF Goodrich invent?”

The end of the school year will be here anon. It’s been a good one at our crossing post with lots of smiles, good conversation and latent learning. While the formal education occurs inside the brick buildings, the day begins earlier, on the sidewalk, with an informal ‘game of Life’ at our ‘curbside classroom’.

Who invented the ‘flying shuttle, printing press, the light bulb’?

I’ve provided a list of the inventions we discussed. As a sidebar, it was not unusual for a discussion to break out over an invention, or the inventor.

I enjoyed the ‘challenge’, as the kids seemed to do, as well, so much so that I believe they expect more. Your ideas and participation are welcomed.


To all the creators who made our lives simpler with something new every day, and to the students, who help make our mornings a fun time by both listening and participating.


Like many inventions, some were credited to the wrong person, especially in cases where someone didn’t actually invent, but improved a product This list is the best information I found using Wikipedia and other sources. If there’s a correction, please note it in the comments.

Swivel Chair: Thomas Jefferson, who purportedly signed the Declaration of Independence from said chair.

Light bulb: Joseph Swan, Sir Hiram Maxim AND Thomas Edison. (1835)

Printing press: Johannes Gutenberg (1438)

Flying shuttle (a weaving tool): John Kay (1733)

Manhole cover: Thomas Crapper (still collectibles in England).

Reaper-binder: (a farm implement, as an enhancement to the reaper) Charles Baxter Withington (1872)

Bi-focales: Ben Franklin (he used them frequently but whether or not he in invented them is subject to debate)

Traffic light: JP Knight, am English train engineer (1868)

Chocolate chip cookie: Ruth Graves Wakefield (1938)

Diesel engine: Rudolph Diesel (1893)

Umbrella: more than 4000 ago, but waterproofed by the Chinese in 11th Century BC.

Thunder lamp: Richard Clarkson (2013, do you have one)

Velcro: George deMestral (1941)

Thimble: John Lofting (subject to debate) (1693)

Pink flamingo: Don Featherstone, Designer) (1957)

Zipper: Whitcomb Jutson (1890s)

Phonograph: Thomas Edison (1877)

Electric kettle: Arthur Leslie Lang (1891)

Sewing machine: Thomas Saint (1790)

Baseball mitt: Bill Doak, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (1920), but subject to a great deal of controversy.

Flush toilet: (1596). Several names attributed. Thomas Crapper did not invent it but he significantly improved it with subsequent inventions.

Bendy straw: Joseph Friedman (1937)

Swim fins: Ben Franklin (1717)

Wheel: early man