My favorite compliment is . . .

May 28th, 2009 by John Morris

… to tell me I remind you of my Dad.

Emerson wrote, “Do nothing ordinary.” It’s a simple as that. He waxed on about how ordinary men did ordinary things. Blah, blah, blah. Dad & I just knew he meant to find a different way not seen by others because they’re busy doing it without thought.

My Dad had a rough life. His hopes to become an educated man were first stalled by family responsibilities at a tender age; then service in World War II; and finally by marriage and six children. He was not crushed by these developments. They made him stronger. They also made him not an ordinary man.

He took his salesman’s job and became a local icon in his field of photography. He joined and led civic organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Exchange Club.

Back to Emerson, my Dad and me. I didn’t follow my Dad’s path. He taught me to find my own. After five decades filled with false starts; blind alleys and incompleted ventures, I’m satisfied with my efforts that did work. I feel like a complete man and in league with my Dad and Emerson.

Supersized bags

May 28th, 2009 by John Morris

The major airlines are finding much needed revenue in the time honored fashion of nickel and diming their customers. One way is to charge for checked baggage at $15 for the first and $25 for the second. Delta Air Lines is going to $50 for the second one. This cuts down on the number of checked luggage and of course, forces travelers to carry everything on to the plane. What some people won’t do to not pay extra fees.

Most travelers are usually limited to one carry-on, one handbag and all the check-in they wish to pay for.

I will try to describe the new state of the baggage art.

  • Luggage now being checked in approximates an oak dresser in size and weight.
  • Carry-ons are now so large many don’t fit in designated overhead compartments.
  • Handheld bags are not women’s or men’s purses. Oh no. Backpacks are more the standard. Even with this, passengers still board planes carrying their real purses as a third bag.

On my last trip, we flew in jets so small these new sized “carry-ons” are checked at the gate and waiting for us when we land. This helps travelers to deplane faster.

How can I blame airlines for trying to make profits in this economy? My last two purchases for round trip tickets from Philly to KC were the same as 20 years ago. Deregulation and cut-throat competition drove the airfares into the tarmac. Everything got more expensive for the airlines, and they were harvesting less revenue.

Is it any wonder peanuts and soft drinks are all coach dwellers get for a four hour flight?

Downingtown is the big one five oh!

May 17th, 2009 by John Morris

The year was 1959. I was in St. Joseph School’s eighth grade and the Boy Scouts. This convergence paid dividends recently.

My hometown, Downingtown, PA was celebrating its centennial year. Men grew beards or paid fines not to. Women wore dresses from earlier times. Everything everywhere was about the week long event.

The high school was the epicenter of all activities including a massive Civil War reenactment. My Scout Master answered their casting call and sent the older Scouts to act as Soldiers for the North and South. The little drama had us all saying good bye to our make believe parents in a stage the size of the football field.

At the same time, my school class was on the committee to select items for a time capsule to be buried now and opened in fifty years. We offer what we thought were significant things such as the recent newspaper, rock & roll records and the newly popular ball point pen. After reviewing our childlike selection, Mother Agnes Cieta added a Baltimore cathecism. I would need to wait fifty years to learn which items made it to the capsule.

That time is now. My little borough has grown fourfold in the past fifty years. This time around the celebration was more subdued but equally memorable. The committee put a parade together as good as can be done. The local park was packed with celebrating townies from all past years.

What made it to the time capsule? I’ll learn soon enough, but I don’t ache to know. I enjoyed my time in the sun even if I was the only one noticing.

Life lesson from candy

May 5th, 2009 by John Morris

Remember when Doctors gave children a lollipop for behaving? Usually, they were Dum Dum Lollipops from the Spangler Candy Company

Wedged inside candy bowls between familiar favors are ones with ??? printed on their labels. They were lollipops with no one discernible flavor. Is this why they’re unknowns? What’s up with these unknown flavors? Why would Spangler have them as part of their product line?

The cable show, “How it’s made” had a segment on these lollipops.  Modern machines whirled and spun at  blinding speed changing the raw ingredients into sugary bribes for kids from Doctors. Each flavor was sent to holding areas for later collection in bags.

When changing flavors, a buffer batch is made. Example: the machine just made a zillion cherry lollipops. Next up, are the grapes. Rather than cleaning the machine, a mini-batch of grape is made that is blended with the residue of the cherry. The resulting mix is declared the famous ??? flavor.

Spangler Candy turned a costly processing step into a positive and made their product more distinctive.

Here’s the life lesson:

These mystery lollipops are few in number but serve a real bottom line role. They allow for the machines to keep running, and the results are bankable.

Try to think creatively the next time life hands you lemons and you look to make lemonade. It’s what the good folks at the Spangler Candy Company did quite well.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.