Thoreau at Walden Pond

January 28th, 2012 by John Morris

I spent a large part of my working career preparing for retirement. Now that it is here I have what I have, and my life will adjust to this fact. What’s left is to recreate myself in a way similar to Henry David Thoreau as he did in his stay at Walden Pond.

Thoreau sought to live life in as close to its simplest form. He reduced as much as he could in his physical life and in his words, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify”.

I’m lucky I don’t need to chuck it all and live in the woods. What I’m looking at doing is to find new ways to reduce expenses. I’m borrowing this ho hum idea from the business world in the hopes I’ll give it some of the luster it deserves.

Finding ways to reduce my expenses comes at a time when I’ll have more of the one important element to make it so: free time.

My abundant free time allows me  to: a. make the house more energy efficient ; b. reduce cleaning expenses; and c. find low costs ways to transport myself.

c.    Here’s my three prong system for the last item:

  1. I walk as much as I can. Getting there by foot is also part of my exercise program.
  2. Anyone – 65 years of age with Medicare – can ride Septa buses for free and their trains for $1.00.
  3. If buses and trains don’t go where I want  there is Chester County Rover. Again the cost of admission is my age and $1.00.
a.    The home Lyn & I have made is as old as I am and needs constant vigilance. Drafts are eliminated. Doors and windows are replaced or refinished. And on and on.
Perhaps the biggest challenge a small house presents is finding new living spaces. This home once housed two adults, one teenager and two smaller children and now it is not large enough for the two seniors who now live there.
One day, Lyn asked me when I was going to throw away my old clothes.  I responded, “Why”?  She shot back with, “Then you’ll have a place to put your new clothes.” Her logic didn’t just go over my head; it shot a mile higher.
I reasoned later I could bank the money saved by not buying new clothes. Problem solved.
Thoreau would applaud my last thought.


b.    Bonus.: is my blog on low cost cleaning products.


Songs to aging children:

January 19th, 2012 by John Morris

Our Vietnam Veterans of America chapter suffered a great loss this week. One of our most beloved members passed away only one week after we learned how sick she was.

Her name was Mary Lou Amole, and she was a Nurse in Vietnam. She returned home without realizing the level of service she gave her country. She did what most Vietnam Veterans did: went back to her life as a civilian and started a family.

Then the call came out for Chester County’s Vietnam Veterans to assemble as a chapter. Mary Lou and fellow Nurse, Kathy Shields wondered if they qualify. They pushed down their palpable fears and went to the assembly. Early in the meeting, the attendees each spoke about their service in Vietnam. Mary Lou spoke for the only two women in the room. She outlined their shared experiences; sat down and waited to hear the next sharing. Instead there was a thunderous round of applause from all the others. At that moment, she and Kathy understood how much their service meant to the legions of patients they nursed in very trying conditions.

Mary Lou and Kathy threw themselves into making this emerging organization a success. Kathy went right into leadership roles and held them for decades. Mary Lou’s contributions were less public. She took many assignments like mailing birthday cards. She also would volunteer for mostly every chapter project. The chapter ran smoothly in large part because of these two women.

One example of Mary Lou’s service was the chapter’s Adopt a Highway project. Only a handful of chapter members would turn up for the grunt work of picking up highway trash. Their numbers often included Mary Lou. During one outing, Mary Lou was struck by a car while crossing the road near a sharp bend. From her hospital bed, she formally announced her retirement from the Adopt A Highway project. Her humor made the subject easier for the rest to cope with.

During her recovery, Mary Lou received mail and presents from across the nation. The message were almost all the same. They were sorry to hear about her accident, get well and thank you for your service as a Nurse in Vietnam. She was overwhelmed by the outpour.

During the past few years, Mary Lou’s ongoing role was “big sister” to the chapter. She provided sage advice rooted in the history of the chapter.

Now VVA 436 will continue without Mary Lou, but the chapter will retain the memories of her and the lessons of her leadership. There will always be an empty seat when we gather now. We’ll hear her voice in our heads as we speak of chapter business. Her legacy to us will always be what she did for us all.

R.I.P., my old friend. Your time to contribute has ended, but your contributions roll on.



Color blind

January 5th, 2012 by John Morris

During my earliest days at Maxwell’s Hardware, bossman, Tommy Trego handed a truck key to me so I could make today’s lunch run. He said, “Here take the brown truck”.

After searching the parking lot for a brown truck, I returned and said, “What brown truck?”He took me outside and  pointed to his “brown truck.” He had improperly referred to a black and brushed gold truck as “brown”. I now understood his meaning and vowed to tuck this knowledge away for later translations.

This truck can be described as a rolling wreak where many operating functions like window cranks were missing or partially working. Rusted areas and dents from long past collisions pocked its every surface. I dubbed it “Trego and Son” after the junkyard truck from the TV sit-com, “Sanford and Son”. The thing ran well and responded nicely to a spiffy new seat cover.

I always selected this truck for business trips because I reasoned if I get into an accident I would incur minimal cost damages.

This past week, Tommy painted the brown truck in an olive drab satin color. It’s best be described as a new blanket on an old horse.

My question is for how long we will continue to call this truck “the brown truck”?


After reading this blog post, Tommy Trego asked me to add these salient points:

  1. This truck is used by a bunch of people who care little how it looks as long as it is available for their use. The truck goes from one person to another on a continuing basis.  Blogger note: he’s right about this.
  2. No matter how much abuse this truck gets it keeps on running.  Blogger’s note: good thing a skilled mechanic owns it. Oops: actually it is owned by Tommy’s wife, Mary
  3. His description of the truck’s new color is dark duranodic.  Blogger note: I’ll allow this.


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.