Humor

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Alvin Kelly was born in Manhattan on May 11, 1893. His story began in a tragic way, because his father died before his birth and his mother died in childbirth with him. Kelly, now a newborn orphan, was raised in orphanages and passed around to various relatives. When Kelly turned 7, he started climbing onto poles and a few years later, he scaled the outside of buildings in his neighborhood…and by the way, his name wasn’t Alvin back then. It was Aloysius Anthony Kelly. He became Alvin when he ran away to go to work on a cargo ship. He was just 13 years old, and he changed his name to Alvin…probably to remain anonymous.

It wasn’t Kelly’s life as a runaway that made him unique, however, because runaways have existed for centuries. His childhood trick of climbing on poles stuck with him for the rest of his life. In fact, during the 1920s and 1930s, Kelly earned a name for himself…and a certain degree of notoriety…by sitting atop flag poles and other odd elevated perches for extended periods of time. I can’t imagine the purpose of such an act, and it’s not the most conventional way to fame, but for Alvin ‘Shipwreck’ Kelly it worked. Shipwreck Kelly, as he became known, is credited with starting the flagpole sitting fad, which, strangely, became popular in the Roaring Twenties, and he even earned a spot in the World Record Book for his sitting ability. I suppose an actor, comedian, magician, and such, needed a gimmick or a nickname, so Kelly began to use the nickname ‘Shipwreck’ claiming that he had survived the sinking of the Titanic. The story was proved to be untrue. Even then, Kelly claimed that he had many other close calls in his life. He said he had survived five shipwrecks, two plane crashes, three car accidents and one train derailment. In reality, Kelly most likely, acquired his nickname in the boxing ring. Not the greatest boxer, critics claimed he was often “adrift and ready to sink.”

As a teen and young man, Kelly hopped from job to job. His unusual ability to climb a pole and perch at the top did earn his work that he might not have otherwise been able to get. In addition to working at sea, he was a stunt pilot, movie double, steelworker, high diver, boxer, and a steeplejack. During World War I, Kelly was an ensign in the Naval Auxiliary Reserve, serving on the USS Edgar F. Luckenbach.

You might be wondering what started his Pole Sitting career. Well, like many a young man, Kelly was not one to back away from a dare. In 1924, he was dared by a friend to climb to the top of a flagpole in Philadelphia outside a local department store. Of course, Kelly jumped at the chance to prove himself. He quickly ascended the pole and perched himself on top. The stunt attracted a large crowd, many of whom then went inside to shop in the department store. The store manager asked Kelly to stay up there a while…it was good for business! Newspapers carried pictures of Kelly’s stunt, many daredevils began copying his stunt. A fad was born! Soon pole sitting was a popular trick and copycat sitters did it for laughs, on a dare, or to protest. Even though so many others were doing it now, Kelly, the original pole sitter, continued his stunts to the delight of onlookers and journalists. Everyone knew he was the original, and the others were merely copycats.

Never content, Kelly continued to look for ways to outdo his latest tricks. In 1926 in Saint Louis, he stayed perched atop a pole for seven days and one hour. The next year, in June of 1927 in Newark, New Jersey, he extended his record to twelve days. Next, it was a 23 day sit on a flagpole in Carlin’s Park in Baltimore in 1929. His final record was set in 1930 when he stayed on a flagpole on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier for 49 days and one hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t begin to imagine such extended days sitting on a flagpole. Nevertheless, for Kelly, it seemed to be a normal part of his daily routine. Newspapers of the 1920s loved to feature photographs of Kelly “sitting high in the air, especially ones of him doing everyday things, like shaving or reading a newspaper or brushing his teeth. During his sits, Kelly rarely ate, sustaining himself on coffee and cigarettes. Although he used a leg tether as a safeguard against falling, He learned to sleep sitting upright and he explained that he slept with his thumbs stuck in holes in the pole. If he started to lean one way or the other in his sleep, the pain in his thumbs would wake him in time for him to right himself.”

Kelly toured across the country during the peak of his fame, and charged admission for people to see him sitting on a flagpole. I would find watching someone sit on a pole would be boring, but people did. He once estimated that he spent 20,613 hours sitting on flag poles in his lifetime, including about 1,400 hours in pouring down rain and 210 hours in sub-freezing temperatures. He was often hired to do publicity stunts because business owners knew he could draw a crowd. For example, on October 13, 1939, Kelly was hired to promote National Donut Dunking Week by sitting on a pole in Manhattan and eating 13 donuts dipped in coffee. I wonder how much they paid him for that stunt.

As the Great Depression of the 1930s progressed, people became less interested in Kelly’s tricks…and less tolerant. In 1935, he attempted to break his own record again, but the Bronx police said he was creating a public nuisance. The police threatened to chop down his pole, if he didn’t come down and when he did, he was promptly arrested. His last attempt at pole sitting was in Orange, Texas, in 1952. That day, while sitting on the pole, Kelly suffered two heart attacks and was forced to come down. He announced his retirement from pole sitting and died a week later.

A number of years passed between the first time I met Uncle Butch Schulenberg, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half-brother, and the reconnecting we had to him after my father-in-law’s passing. I consider those years a great loss, but I am thankful to have him back in our lives. There was no falling out or anything, just a lack of getting together, which is why I consider it such a great loss. It didn’t have to take that long. Uncle Butch is such a wonderful person, and I enjoy his company, and that of his lovely wife, Charlys very much.

Butch is a great teller of stories, and I mean the kind I love to hear…family history. The best place to get those family history accounts, is from someone who lived them. Growing up the son of the local sheriff, I don’t know if Uncle Butch had to be good so his dad didn’t get after him for embarrassing him, or if he was one of those who got into a bit of trouble because he knew that his dad could get him out of it. I might have to guess that it was a little bit of both, because I think that Uncle Butch has a mischievous side to him. I don’t think he was ever really bad, but as we all know, boys will be boys, so at least as a kid, my guess is that he tried to find out what his limits were.

By the time he got into high school, Butch had discovered football, and that proved to be a great part of his school years. Lots of guys love to play, watch, eat, and sleep football, so to get to be part of the team is a cool thing. Uncle Butch was a good athlete, and was often talked about or written about in the local paper. He still loves all the local sports in Forsyth, Montana where he lived then, and still lives. He is probably one of their greatest boosters, and he knows the local talent personally, because it is a small town, so everyone knows everyone else. He is able to see their athletic growth, and knows the local teams’ stats. That’s what being a booster is all about. It’s one thing to cheer for a team, because they are the local kids, and another to know just how good the local kids are. The kids and the townspeople love Uncle Butch too, because he is a friendly guy who can always be counted on to lend a helping hand, or just to shoot the breeze. Uncle Butch is well liked, because he is so friendly.

While Butch did live away from Forsyth for a short time, mostly while he was in the service, he has always been a local boy. He was born in Forsyth on November 9, 1940 to Andrew and Barbara (Fadhl) Schulenberg, and Forsyth would truly always be his home. Today is Uncle Butch’s 79th birthday. He doesn’t seem a day over 60 if you ask me. I think he’s a kid at heart and always will be. I will always treasure him. Happy 79th birthday Uncle Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every year…like clockwork, parents dress their children up in costumes, and the annual tradition of children roaming the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and asking for treats…with the threat of tricks, if the “blackmail” is not paid…begins. It’s Halloween, of course. These days, not as many children really understand how the whole thing is supposed to work. They just see it as a day to gather up as much candy as possible. I read somewhere that children consume, on average, 7,000 calories worth of candy…or the equivalent of almost 11 Burger King Whoppers, without cheese, and not the new meatless version, of course. It’s a good thing that most kids are very active, or that many calories could be bad. And that isn’t even considering the sugar high that the parents will have to deal with. Try putting that child to bed after all that, and you’ll find that it’s going to be a long night. The best you can hope for is that the day falls on a Friday, so they don’t have to get up for school the next day…not the case this year, unfortunately.

So, with all the negative aside, the costumes people come up with are usually very cute. I prefer the costumes that don’t focus on the gruesome and horrific, but there are always a few of those. This year, with all my grandchildren grown up, we will only have our little great granddaughter heading out to see what she can come home with. At just 17 months, she will most likely only be going a few places, and since she is so little, she isn’t as totally addicted to candy as she will most likely become in future years. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen her turn down a treat either.

I remember Halloweens past, when my grandchildren were little. They couldn’t wait to get out there, and they really preferred if their parents didn’t stand around and talk. After all, they had rounds to make, and it wasn’t getting any earlier. My grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, always had the cutest costumes. I suppose I might be a bit biased, but I don’t care. I’m sure every parent and every grandparent feels the same way about their own little ones. It’s our prerogative!! Our little ones never had any tricks up their sleeves, that I knew of, but I do recall the year when I, as a little kid, was handed a little bar of soap, by my mother, Collene Spencer. It was my “trick” and I was only asked by one person, what trick I had up my sleeve. When I showed him the soap, he let out a great big guffaw!! He had no idea that I would even know what he meant. He said that it made his whole day!! Happy Halloween everyone!! Be safe out there!!

I think most people have played with a Slinky at one point or another in their lives. The Slinky is a pre-compressed helical spring toy invented by Richard James in the early 1940s. It is able to perform a number of tricks, including travelling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum, or appear to levitate for a period of time after it has been dropped. Kids have been known to spend hours playing with the simple spring, which rather defies the imagination in itself. Most kids tire easily of toys, so the long lasting play with a slinky was surprising. Still, as with all such toys, the Slinky eventually lost its draw, and few people play with it now.

The strangest thing about the Slinky is that it wasn’t invented to be a toy at all. In 1943, a naval mechanical engineer named Richard James, who was stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas. As he worked, James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring “stepped” in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright. I’m sure the sight was funny, mostly because it was so unexpected. As his wife Betty later recalled, “He came home and said, ‘I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension; I could make it walk.'” As with any inventor, I’m sure that his inventor’s mind was already clicking. James began to experiment with different types of steel wire over the next year, and finally found a spring that would walk. I’m sure he was like “a kid in a candy store” with each fine-tuning of the toy. Betty was skeptical at first, but changed her mind after the toy was fine-tuned and neighborhood children expressed an excited interest in it. She dubbed the toy Slinky, by which she meant “sleek and graceful,” after finding the word in a dictionary, Betty decided that this word exactly described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing.

The couple formed James Spring and Wire Company, which was later renamed James Industries, using just a $500 loan. They had 400 Slinky units made by a local machine shop, hand-wrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece. Each was 2½ inches tall, and included 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel. At first, the James couple had difficulty selling Slinky to toy stores but, then in November 1945, they were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in the toy section of Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy. Finally, the Slinky was a hit, and the first 400 units were sold within ninety minutes. In 1946, Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair. The Slinky was without doubt a huge success, yet in it’s humble beginnings, it was an accident.

My little grand-niece, Mackenzie Moore is a loyal football fan…of her daddy’s teams. It doesn’t matter what team it is, as long as her daddy, Shannon Moore is one of the coaches. Currently, Mackenzie is a huge fan of the Wyoming Cowboys. As her daddy says, she loves the Pokes. Mackenzie always has her game face on at the games, and she cheers on her daddy’s team faithfully. In fact, at two years old, Mackenzie is quite likely the littlest Pokes fan. This little girl is such a loyal fan that she even makes sure she is bringing her baby up to be a fan. I guess she is getting set for the next generation of fans.

Mackenzie has an amazing personality. She always keeps her parents, Lindsay and Shannon, laughing and quite entertained. Nobody ever has to tell this little girl to smile, because its just a part of her nature. Mackenzie loves people and loves making them smile, and it comes so naturally to her. She makes the greatest faces ever. One look and you can’t help but love this little girl…or laugh along with this little cutie. She love playing with her cousins the most, and considers “cousin-time” to be the very best time of all…well, except for mommy and daddy time.

The summer was a great one for Mackenzie, who got to travel some, spend time with her grandparents, and of course hang out with her mommy by the pool. Mackenzie loves her time as a lady of leisure too. That’s a good thing, because before we know it, she will be going to school. Time goes so fast. I really can’t believe that Mackenzie is two years old already. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was born. With all the wonderful life moments this little girl packs into every day, I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Of course, I wish that we, the rest of her family, got to see her a little more, but now that her family lives in Wyoming again, we get to see her more than we did before, when they lived back east. That makes us happy. We are all happy about the move back to Wyoming. Today is Mackenzie’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Mackenzie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Shortly after my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg lost a large amount of weight, she decided that she wanted to do something that she didn’t really get to do as a kid…ride a bicycle. Because her knees wouldn’t really allow her to work the pedals at that time, she looked into various kinds of bicycles. She considered the recumbent bicycle, but that didn’t work very well, because while she could sit in a chair-like position, the pedals still needed to be brought back toward her, meaning that her knees needed to bend quite a little bit.

Finally, she settled on a strider. It was an idea she got from our nephew and niece, Eric and Ashley Parmely. When their kids were too little to pedal a bicycle, they got them a strider, which is a pedal-less bicycle. The child basically sits on the seat, but runs the bicycle along using their feet for power. The seat is low enough to allow the child to have control, so they don’t fall over. It was a perfect idea for Brenda as well, because it let her be on a bicycle, but not have to pedal, which her knees would not allow at that time. These days, with her excess weight all gone, Brenda has put the pedals back on her bicycle and she can ride it normally.

Someone else apparently thought the pedal-less bicycle was a good idea too, but in my opinion, their “bicycle” idea pretty much defeats the purpose. The invention is called the Foot Powered Bike, but to me it looks like the “rider” is carrying the bike around. The bike basically wraps around the “rider” and there is no seat at all. There are handlebars, but no pedals, seat, or bicycle chain. In the matter of the chain, I guess that you couldn’t get your clothes caught in something that isn’t there, but in looking at the way the “rider” must maneuver the bike, it seems to me that the contraption would be very easy to trip the “rider” up. In running along, the “riders” legs must straddle the back wheel. That is where the dangerous part comes in…in my mind anyway. Walking, or running, with a wheel between your legs is awkward, to say the least. I think most people would find their legs tangled up in that wheel, and any thought of “riding” this contraption would be lost, but the strangest part of this is calling it a bike at all. No seat, no pedals, and no chain…yep, I call that defeating the purpose.

My nephew, Steve Spethman is a guy who can do just about any job you need him too. He has big shoulders and muscled arms, and is always willing to do the heavy lifting…something many in the family have learned to appreciate from time to time. He has helped with several building projects, including my sister, Caryl Reed and her husband, Mike’s garage/apartment/wild game room. He did an amazing job on all the projects Mike asked his help with. He also helped build the back deck for our mom, Collene Spencer’s house, and a number of projects at his own home.

Steve likes to work on cars, and he has recently been teaching his oldest son, Xander the ropes, as they worked on Xander’s girlfriend’s vehicle. Steve and his wife, Jenny, are working on getting used to having a son who is old enough to drive. That is a strange time in the life of a parent. Parents always feel like their kids will be little forever, even while they are watching the grow up before their eyes. They one day, when the aren’t looking, suddenly that child is driving on their own. It helps the family out, because their child can now help with driving the other children, but it’s hard to get used to.

Steve is a hard working man, but he is also a fun-loving guy. He like to take his family camping, and loves both the lake and the mountains. He is also a jokester. He likes to share funny memes from Facebook, and tell a good joke, something he is very good at doing. He loves to make people laugh, and is a “Tickle Torturer” from way back. I would know, because I have been his victim a time or two. I’m sure that many others have been a tickle victim of Steve’s because he just loves to pick on people…in a good way, of course. There are many sides to Steve, and our family likes them all, even the teasing ones. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-niece, Adelaide Sawdon is a cute little three year old girl who is…sassy!! I don’t mean to say that she is obnoxious, because that would be totally wrong. She just has a sassy personality. She is confident in her self, and in her place in her family. Maybe she is a little overconfident in her place in the family. You see, Adelaide thinks she is the boss of her family. She gets that attitude from her mom, Jessi Sawdon, who was sassy in her own right as a little girl. Jessi was the oldest child, and like her daughter, Adelaide, she was sure that she was not only the boss, but the mom!! She knew that she was the boss of her mom, even when she got in trouble for it. Adelaide is her mom’s mini-me on that. That’s our Addie!!

Adelaide is a very smart little girl. She knows her numbers, and she knows how many three is. She also knows that she was two until today, and that while she may have been one…once, one has nothing to do with her age now, not even in counting up to three. One is over, so figure it out!! Adelaide said that she wants to be five, so she can go to school, but I think her parents, Jessi and her husband, Jason, would rather wait just a little bit before she heads to school. For now, they want her to stay their baby girl for just a while longer.

Adelaide is very excited for her birthday party today, because her parents are taking her to the Planetarium. She is learning all about that word, and what it means. She knows that she is going to see the planets at the “Pantarium.” Listening to the cute little ways she says words is so fun. Her Aunt Kellie, whom Adelaide called “Kayee” for the longest time has been one of the ones whose name came out funny, but now, Adelaide has learned to say Kellie. Her aunt was so excited, and so she clapped her hands and cheered. Addie liked that, so now she says Kellie a lot, followed by the face of anticipation…waiting for the cheers and clapping. Awww, the joys of life as a three year old. Today is Adelaide’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Adelaide!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every family struggles to find ways to do things together…not to mention the time to do so. Kids have their own activities, such as sports, dance, and other club and school activities. Parents work, kids have school, and then there are things that need to be done around the house. By the time dinner is cooked and eaten, and the table cleared, who feels like doing more activities. Plus, there is homework to be done. It seems like there isn’t time for anything more than a television show before bed.

Most of us think this is just something that has come with modern day families, where they barely have time to eat dinner together…if that. In reality, it is a problem that has been around for a lot longer. Kids just naturally grow up and become more independent, and parents get busier too. Something had to be done, so in 1939, so Charles Steinlauf stepped up. He didn’t build his bicycle for a record, because there wasn’t such a thing then. The Guinness book of records didn’t begin until the early 1950’s. Nevertheless, he was some “inventor” to use the word lightly. His was an interesting bicycle, and apparently it held something for everyone…I guess. As odd as it was, the bicycle really did work. The top rider, namely Charles steered the bicycle with an automobile steering wheel. His wife sat below operating a sewing machine. Their son was in back and their daughter sat on handle bars in front. When they stopped, the legs of the sewing machine kept the two story Goofybike, as it was called, from falling over. I don’t know any other way to safely stop it.

It might have been one of the strangest inventions in history, but, it did get his family out and about in Chicago, Illinois, and I’m certain it also brought them quite a bit of notoriety. I’m sure that there were lots of people who that of Steinlauf as that “weird inventor,” and to be honest, it looks like he just hooked a bunch of odds and ends together. It was, however, a little more technical than that, after all, just hooking a bunch of things together, does not a bicycle make. It has to be able to be ridden in order to really qualify as a bicycle, weird or not. And the Goofybike could be and was ridden by the whole Steinlauf family.

A little over eight years ago, I wrote a story about my sister, Caryl Reed and how my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I used to attack her and give her the “tickle torture” on a fairly regular basis. Little did I know then, the impact that story would have on my readers. In the eight years the story has been up, it has received 1016 comments, which is far more than any other story I have written. I have had countless numbers of people tell me their own stories about being tortured or being the torturer. Several have suggested that I need to write another story on tickle torturing tales, and with that, Tickle Tales was conceived in my head. I thought I might highlight some of the funniness that has been born of the Tickle Torture craze.

One friend, Suzy approached me with some ideas to get her siblings, and after enlisting the help of her particularly devious brother-in-law, the tickle “chair” was born. The tickle chair really isn’t a chair at all, but is a portable set of “stocks” to lock the victim’s feet in place while the torturers tickle away. Now I’ve never had this done to me, but I can tell you that anytime you can’t kick or get away from your tickle attacker…the situation becomes a true form of “friendly” torture. While some people might think this harsh, their family loved it, and even made bets on things, like football games to decide who the next victim was. As far as I know this is now a new tradition in their family.

A couple I’m friends with, Mike and Ashley asked me for some ideas to get started on their own betting scheme. After a number of times at being Mike’s victim, Ashley and her girlfriends finally exacted her revenge. Mike had made a habit of taking a nap on the couch…an “unfortunate” mistake for him, and so the girls managed to place ropes under the couch and tied his hands and feet to the legs of the couch. Helpless to fight them off, the girls gave him the tickle torture of a lifetime. Mike is a good sport, and even being given a pedicure by his captors didn’t upset him. It did, however, make him decide that revenge was the only logical response to this. He got his revenge using feathers on Ashley’s feet, while her toes were tied together. Their current bet involves the loser on this years’ football games, and a Super Bowl Revenge that will be carried out over the course of the Super Bowl game…the whole game…when they score, or commercial breaks, half time show, and of course, the game ending finale!! Yikes!! I pity the loser in this competition!!

Tickle Torture is a great way to keep life interesting, and as long as everybody is a good sport about it, can bring a lot of laughs. The thing I find funny is that even while being tickled, very few people get upset, because tickling isn’t, after all, painful. And it does make you laugh!! I don’t think that Tickle Torture will ever be a thing of the past. It’s just too much fun!! Have you tickled someone today?

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