Reminiscing

Several hundred people were employed by the Virginia Rubber and Tire Company in Saint Albans, West Virginia, on January 13, 1924. The business, located on 41 acres of land along the Kanawha River across from the present-day Ordnance Park (ca. 1941)…and before MacCorkle Avenue, was thriving in 1924. Established in 1920, it was only four years old. Unfortunately, the Virginia Rubber and Tire Company, was destined not to reach it’s fifth year. That fateful January day in 1924, brought with it a fire that destroyed the company, causing damage totaling $500,000.

While I was unable to find much information as to the time and cause of the fire, it is noted that only about 10 percent of the tire stock was saved, and the rest was burned. That isn’t really surprising, since rubber tires are highly flammable. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t appear that all of the loss was covered by the company’s insurance. As an insurance agent, I can say that a property loss that was not completely covered by insurance could only mean that the company was underinsured, leaving gaps in the coverage. What is known about the loss is that the unpaid portion was enough to ensure that the company could never open their doors again. That meant that several hundred people were out of a job, and while they didn’t know it, the Great Depression was coming up quickly. I’m sure they all had jobs before that time, but it was quite likely that they would lose their jobs when that time came.

The good news about the fire was that it took no lives. The only loss was to the property. Nevertheless, the town would never be quite the same again. Other businesses would grow up where the rubber company had once been, but mostly it would be remembered as the site of Morgan’s Plantation Kitchen, originally established in 1846. I supposed the site went back to it’s former identity. Still, the total loss of the Virginia Rubber and Tire Company, manufacturer of tires, tubes, toy balloons, balls, and rubber dolls, would not be forgotten.

After the discovery of gold in California, people went crazy…mad really for gold. For twenty years, in fact, all the West was mad for gold. People packed up their lives, and headed west, hoping to dig their fortune out of the California dirt. At first, the people heading west were mostly men, but there were families that went too. It didn’t really matter who it was, when it came to gold, people were willing to fight to the death for what was theirs, or for what they wanted. Greed was the word of the day, and it was a disease that everyone in California had.

The Gold Rush brought honest citizens and outlaws alike to California. People had to be on guard at all times. If someone struck gold, they were an immediate target for anyone willing to steal their gold, or even to kill for it. The mad rush for gold soon spread to other areas of the United States. The gold-hunters, no longer content with California, began to prospect lower Oregon, upper Idaho, and Western Montana too. They figured that if one place had gold, why wouldn’t another place have it too. And with the slightest discovery, came the craziness of Gold Dust Fever.

With Gold Fever came the sinister figure of the trained desperado, the professional bad man. The business of being an outlaw was turned into one highly organized profession that was relatively safe and extremely lucrative. There was wealth to be had for the asking or the taking, and these men, and sometimes women, were willing. Each miner had his buckskin purse filled with native gold. This dust was like all other dust. It could not be traced nor identified; and the old saying, ”’Twas mine, ’tis his,” might here of all places in the world most easily become true. There were no checks, drafts, or currency, as we know it now. The normal means by which civilized men keep a record of their property transactions, were unknown. The gold scales established the only currency, and each man was his own banker, obliged to be his own peace officer and the defender of his own property. It was a wild world. It was a world mad for gold.

My uncle, Bill Beadle spent much of his working life in the pipe yards. Later, he owned his own rathole drilling business with his sons, Forrest and Steve by his side. While Uncle Bill was a great machinist and general all around mechanic, he really loved fishing and bird hunting in the Worland area with his son, Steve. I’m sure that was also why Uncle Bill was content, in his later years to be living with Steve, his wife, Wanda, and their family. I can imagine they spent a lot pf time talking about their fishing trips, and walking the fields hunting for Pheasant and Chukars. Uncle Bill liked hunting them, because it was so exciting to walk the fields waiting for that unexpected bird to fly up out of nowhere. The hunter had just seconds to respond, and would be successful, only if he was a great hunter.

Uncle Bill always felt an obligation to try to keep the nephews on the right track, and if they had problems, or it looked like they were heading in the wrong direction, he was sit down with them and after talking to them a while, he could have them turned around and back in line. It was this aspect of Uncle Bill’s personality that endeared him to my cousin, Elmer. Uncle Bill, like many men enjoyed his pipe, for quite a few years, and his chew. That prompted Forrest and Elmer to think that chew was very cool. They got into a big block of chew when they were kids, and didn’t know not to swallow it. So when they were chewing it, they swallowed it, causing them both to turn about three shades of green. While the memory of it makes Elmer cringe, he had no desire to chew tobacco.

Uncle Bill was a great guy. He always had a way of making the kids laugh. There was always a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and plenty of mischief behind his smile. He loved to tease the kids, and all the kids loved it. Then he would laugh with his infectious laugh, and we all had a thoroughly great time. Uncle Bill was really not serious very much, at least not around most kids. That just wasn’t in his nature, at least not unless the kid was headed for trouble. Then the mood changed right away. He wasn’t mean, just matter of fact, and when all was said and done, the kid knew the right way to go. Uncle Bill was an interesting character, and we loved him. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

My niece, Toni Chase has been going through some big changes this year, and that can be hard on people. These were changes that affected Toni; her husband, Dave; and son, James; but especially Toni. James is grown up now, and really isn’t home much, so for Toni, empty nest syndrome has a very real thing…and not one that she is sure she likes very much. In addition, her dog, Bones, who was pretty old, died and that left Toni feeling even more lonely.

Dave had always had Bichon dogs, and so Toni talked him into getting one. Biscuit soon joined the family, and Toni loves her puppy baby very much, but before long she realized that Biscuit was lonely too, even when she quit her job, and started another one with more flexible hours, so she could be home more. The problem is that James isn’t a little boy anymore, and with her and Dave working, and James busy with his own life, Biscuit was still home alone half of every day.

Toni began to talk to Dave about adopting a dog, which has been something Toni had been thinking about a lot. Dave was not keen on the idea, and in reality, completely unwilling to discuss it. Nevertheless, Dave loves Toni, and wants her to be happy, so when she pursued it, he let her begin the process. And a process it really was. Toni had been looking at rescue dogs for about a month after getting Biscuit, but couldn’t find any in our local area that were young and smaller. To make matters worse, for any surrounding areas, such as Colorado Montana or South Dakota, you had to fill out an application send references and pictures of your house each and every time you saw a dog would become available that you would be interested in. Toni filled out 37 applications and only got two responses back. One response said that her application was in the top two, but they had picked another family based on the location. The same lady that turned them down, suggested that they try the iRescue website, out of Boulder Colorado, so Toni went on their site and picked several different small young dogs that she would be interested in adopting…again filling out an application for each one, sending pictures of her house, and references for each one. She was a bit stunned when she got a call on one of the dogs they had available. However, it wasn’t a dog that she had shown interest in. The dog that she suggested would be a good fit for their family was a Carne Terrier mix female named Flower. It took only one look for Toni to fall in love, but she still had to talk Dave into wanting her too. Just the night before, Dave had told her to quit looking at rescue dogs, because they weren’t getting another dog. Toni couldn’t get Flower off of her mind, so she downloaded the pathetic little pictures of Flower that were taken when she was captured and being held in a high kill shelter in New Mexico.

Toni decided to try a different strategy. She sent Dave an email, including the pictures of this poor little dog. She told Dave that she was the number one pick of 37 applicants to rescue this dog who was due to be put down in 48 hours. She explained that they would have to pick her up in Boulder that Saturday…if Dave was agreeable to adopting her, and that in order to adopt her they had to sign a commitment agreement by 5:00 that evening and send the funds within 24 hours of signing the commitment agreement before they would ship her from New Mexico to Boulder. She also explained to him they were little Flower’s last hope.

Toni had planned to give Dave some time, and talk to him at 4:30 to try to persuade him, but Dave responded back with a phone call in less than 5 minutes, saying, “Do you like her?” Toni said, “Yes, and he said okay call her back and tell her that we will come and get her.” He would wire the funds right away. Flower would become Cricket, and she would become theirs. These puppy babies brought nothing but joy to Toni, Dave, and James. And on a side note, James has been spending a bit more time at home too, easing the empty nest syndrome Toni has had.

Funny thing, Dave didn’t want any more dogs…not Biscuit or Cricket at first, but now he loves them just as much as Toni does, and in fact Cricket has turned out to be his sweet little dog, but Toni gets to share, I guess. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Gaby Beach spent much of her post high school years in the Navy. She worked very hard to get there, and continues to be an exercise enthusiast, and an inspiration to many people who would love to have such determination to stick to a program. She needed to get in shape to get into the Navy, and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way, especially something like a lack of determination. Now, she works out just about every day, because she doesn’t ever want to go back to a time when she was not physically fit.

While in the Navy, Gaby had the opportunity to be involved in a program that brought dogs into hospitals for the purpose of healing through comfort. Gaby loved that program, and since my mother-in-law was in a nursing home the last 5 years of her life, I can attest to the value of these dogs. So many of the residents loved the dogs that belonged to employees of the facility, and who wandered around the facility, “making their rounds” as it were. They were almost like little canine doctors. The experience was precious. The work Gaby did there was a benefit to many people.

Gaby has been a student for much of her life too, because she wants to prepare for her chosen career in nursing. Beginning January 20th, she will begin the journey through nursing school, and we are all very excited for her. During her time in the Navy, Gaby worked as a corpsman, so nursing is right up her alley. She was stationed in Japan, when she met my nephew, Allen Beach, and they have been married for four years now.

While Allen was going to school, Gaby worked, and then once Allen was hired by Wyoming Medical Center, it was Gaby’s turn. They moved to Casper, and she began the pre-requisites for the nursing program. Once those were done, she applied and was accepted into the program, and now she is waiting excitedly for the semester to begin. Gaby knows a lot about the nursing field, having come from a corpsman background, so there should be no surprises for her in the program. It is an exciting journey, and I am excited for her. Nursing school is a lot of hard work, but I know that she will do just fine, and very soon, she will be Nurse Gaby. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

One of the most elegant ships ever built, RMS Queen Elizabeth, was one of the two superliners built by John Brown and Company in Clydebank, Scotland, in the 1930s. The ship did not start out as RMS Queen Elizabeth, but rather as Hull 552. Later, it was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth, and launched, on 27 September 1938. The RMS Queen Elizabeth was 1,031 feet long and 118.5 feet wide. It was the largest passenger liner ever constructed…until then anyway.

During the late 1930s, workers at a Scottish construction site began building a sea vessel for the Cunard Line ocean liner company that would be larger and more luxurious than anything the world had ever seen. However, the outbreak of World War II in 1939 prevented the completion of the Queen Elizabeth‘s finer points. The vessel was hastily made seaworthy for wartime service and was used as a transport vessel for the Allies, carrying massive amounts of supplies and several hundred thousand troops around the world until the war’s end. Because of the concerns over German bombing, the ship was moved to New York to harbor it in a safer place.

After the war, the ship, which was equipped with a 200,000 horsepower engine, was embellished with an elegant art deco style. It made its public debut in 1946, leaving Southampton, England, on its first luxurious run across the Atlantic. The ship continued to be a luxury passenger liner until it retirement in 1968.

Then, the Queen Elizabeth was auctioned off to the highest bidder, eventually being purchased in 1970 by C.W. Tung, a Taiwanese shipping tycoon. Tung renamed the vessel Seawise University and began work on converting the ship into a learning center that would tour the world. However, in early 1972, as the mobile university neared completion, a fire destroyed the pride of the Cunard Line. The fire broke out while the ship was docked in Hong Kong Harbor, and by the next morning the famous vessel was a total loss on the bottom of the sea floor.

While looking at some historic photos, I came across one that was both intriguing, and sad. The title of the photograph was as intriguing as the photograph itself. Shoes on the Danube Banksdepicts a memorial in Budapest, Hungary that was conceived by film director Can Togay. The memorial sits on the east and of the Danube River. Togay worked with sculptor Gyula Pauer to create a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.

As I looked at the picture of many pairs of shoes, the magnitude of what had happened there, and exactly what I was looking at hit me. These shoes were not just shoes, they were people…innocent people, who lined up and shot for no other reason than that they were Jewish. These people were told to remove their shoes, and then they were shot. Their lifeless bodies fell into the river and were swept downstream. There was no funeral, no burial…despite the traditions that are set up for Jewish burial. Of course, I know that not every Jewish death can be handles in the Jewish traditions, but these people were murdered in such a way as to humiliate them, including the lack of a traditional burial.

The monument along the Danube River represents the lives of the people who were murdered, there is no way to really represent the people, because no one knows who they were, what they looked like, or even how many there were for sure, but rather the monument depicts their shoes left behind on the bank. It is the only real connection we can have to these victims of such horrible hatred. The brutal treatment of the approximately 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, and the rest accused of Jewish activities, is beyond horrid. These people were forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river. Then, a firing squad shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away.

The monument is located on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade in line with where Zoltan Street would meet the Danube if it continued that far, about 980 feet south of the Hungarian Parliament and near the Hungarian Academy of Sciences…between Roosevelt Square and Kossuth square. The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 131 foot long, 27 inch high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”

Most of the murders along the edge of the River Danube took place around December 1944 and January 1945, when the members of the Arrow Cross Party police (“Nyilas”) took as many as 20,000 Jews from the newly established Budapest ghetto and executed them along the river bank. There were, of course, some survivors who managed to make it out, and lived to tell their stories. On of those Was Tommy Dick, who wrote the book, “Getting Out Alive.” I have not read the book yet, but after seeing this memorial, I will be reading it very soon.

There were heroes in Budapest too. Valdemar Langlet, head of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest, with his wife Nina, and later the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and 250 coworkers were working around the clock to save the Jewish population from being sent to Nazi concentration camps. This group later grew in number to approximately 400. Lars and Edith Ernster, Jacob Steiner, and many others were housed at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest and 32 other buildings throughout the city which Wallenberg had rented and declared as extraterritorially Swedish to try to safeguard the residents. Italian Giorgio Perlasca did the same, sheltering Jews in the Spanish Embassy.

On the night of January 8, 1945, an Arrow Cross execution brigade forced all the inhabitants of the building on Vadasz Street to the banks of the Danube. At midnight, Karoly Szabo and 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone. Among those saved were Lars Ernster, who fled to Sweden and became a member of the board of the Nobel Foundation from 1977 to 1988, and Jacob Steiner, who fled to Israel and became a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steiner’s father had been shot dead by Arrow Cross militiamen 25 December 1944, and fell into the Danube. His father had been an officer in World War I and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Russia. These were horrific murders, and after looking at the pictures of this memorial and reading about the horrible murders, my mind cannot unsee the images it has conjured up of this atrocity.

My grandniece, Siara Olsen got married this past summer, on June 16, 2018, to the love of her life, Nick Olsen. According to her mom, Chantel Balcerzak, Siara totally enjoys being married to someone who is as “random” as she is. Being spontaneous is a trait that not everyone can master, but if you can, you will find that life is pretty fun filled. Still, I think that there is a bit of a difference between being spontaneous, and being random. When someone is random, they tend to do “off the wall” things that the average person wouldn’t even think of. When my niece, Chantel told me a bit about Siara and Nick…well, random is about all you can call it. The kids like to go camping, but that isn’t always something that you can do all the time, so they like to camp out on their balcony…in a tent. Who would have thought of that, and yet, it sounds like fun.

Siara and Nick are very community oriented, and they like to attend all the Casper events or auctions. Siara works at Platte Valley Bank, and was involved in the booth to welcome the students back to Casper College this year. Because Siara was a cheerleader in high school and college, she is very student oriented, and likes to get the incoming students involved in the college community.

Because Siara was a cheerleader, she completely understands the game of football, making her the perfect wife for a football fan. Her dad, Dave Balcerzak and her husband, Nick both love football, so every Sunday night, Siara and Nick are over at her parents’ house, watching the game. That works out quite well, because Dave and Siara are both Steelers fans. Unfortunately, Nick is a Seahawks fan, so when the two go up against each other, all bets are off. He is supportive of her Steelers, so she is supportive of the Seahawks, sometimes. Siara and Nick are best friends, and he does his very best to spoil her…in a good way, of course. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Ethan Hadlock is such a loving boy. The older he gets, the more his sweet personality is showing. Not every boy willingly hug his aunts, and especially great aunts, who can seem…ancient to them, but Ethan doesn’t care what people think. That is a rare quality, and one that Ethan shares with a couple of his cousins, Caalab Royce and Zack Spethman. All of these boys are confident enough in who they are, that they feel no pressure to put on a “cool act” for their friends. A “cool act” involves doing whatever your friends think is cool…even if it isn’t how you feel about things. Ethan doesn’t care about that. He is his own man, and that makes me very proud of him. Ethan is a great big brother to his sister, Aurora, and really loves being and older cousin to Adelaide Sawdon and Makenzie Moore. Ethan’s quick wit, keeps the girls laughing, and the adults too. He gets much of his wit from his dad, Ryan Hadlock, but don’t be fooled, because, his mom, Chelsea Hadlock can be pretty funny too.

Ethan is in 4th grade this year, and he is very smart. He really enjoys Math, which many children find to be a difficult subject to master. This year, Ethan is able to participate in a Lego Robotics Club after school. He loves building the different robots, and making them work. There are a number of events that he can participate in too, and he really enjoys them. This year for Christmas, he received several set of Lego robotics, and he had the put together in short order, so his Aunt Jessi Sawdon was able to get pictures right away. I know Ethan will have lots of fun with those Lego Robotics, because you can tweak them to do different things, and to have more power. In my opinion, Lego Robotics is a great way for kids to learn how electronics work.

Ethan had long been a Star Wars fan, and that doesn’t appear to be changing. He and his friends love to dress up as the different characters, and play Star Wars games. Like most Star Wars fans, I don’t suppose that Ethan will ever stop being a fan. Once a Star Wars fan, always a Star Wars fan…right!! I find it hard to believe that Ethan is 10 years old. It just doesn’t seem possible. He is getting so tall, and he is really coming into his own as a person. I look forward to watching him grow into the young man he will be. Today is Ethan’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Ethan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As long has there have been road trips with children, there have been bored children, asking, “When do we get there?” They don’t understand that one of the best parts of a road trip is the time spent on the road. The destination is the end of the adventure, not necessarily the adventure itself. Invariably, after the ten time that those precious little ones ask that dreaded question, tempers begin to flare. These days, cars come with built in DVD players to occupy the kids on the road trip, but back when I was a kid, those things didn’t exist.

Somewhere along the way, someone…probably a frustrated parent…came up with the idea of allowing the kids to participate in the trip by giving them a steering wheel of their own, so they could help their parents drive. I do know that in January of 1955, a man named Jack Fletcher of West Covina, California installed a plastic windshield and three miniature steering wheels in the back seat of his car to entertain his children, Janie, Johnny and Ricky, who were 3 years, 21 months, and 21 months respectively. Apparently, it was a good idea, at least for those children, because, the idea has hung around ever since. In fact, for Christmas, we got our great granddaughter a version that can sit on the floor in front of her, or even on her highchair tray. Now she can “help” her daddy drive too. As children get older, I’m sure that the novelty of a steering wheel wore off, but if you got a year or so of peace in the car, it’s worth the effort.

Of course, when I was a kid, there were mo car seats, and it wasn’t illegal to drive with your child on your lap. Many a child, me and my sisters included, learned to steer the car while seated on our daddy’s lap. It was great fun, and a memory we will always have. I suppose that today’s drivers, police officers, and child safety advocates would cringe at the thought of a child on the lap of the driver, and maybe it wasn’t the safest way to do things, but I don’t recall hearing about dozens of children dying in that manner either, so maybe the parents of yesteryear weren’t so careless after all. All I know, is that we had a great time on those road trips.

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