Jun 21, 2015

The Cardboard Fort...

H.S.Barney Co. in 1937
In my home town of Schenectady, New York, there were three substantial department stores -- The Carl Company, Wallace's Department Store, and the H.S. Barney Company.  This was in the 1940's.  There was full employment because of war production at both ALCO and General Electric.  All three stores had thriving toy departments, but the best of the three was Barney's.  Toys were on the fourth floor.  And Miss Mayer, the department manager, always ordered the right stuff.  We, the Mead children, loved to go visit Miss Mayer.

A similar cardboard fort
My brother Bill was about 6 years old when he saw the CARDBOARD FORT at the Barney's toy department.  It was close to Christmas.  He hinted to my parents about how much he needed that fort, but he couldn't be positive that they understood its importance.  Then he had his stroke of genius.  He'd buy the fort and give it to my mother for Christmas.  She wouldn't have the time to play with a fort.  She'd most certainly give it back to Bill with her thanks for such a lovely gift.  And thus was born the Mead Family Tradition of the CARDBOARD FORT.

Whenever someone in the family wanted something special for some occasion, we'd simply buy it for another family member.  They would express delight over their "cardboard fort!"

I had shared this story with Mary Ann not long ago.  Today, Lo and Behold, I received a cardboard fort from Goldie, my Golden Retriever, as a Father's Day gift!  I opened a large bag and retrieved a gun that launches tennis balls, then a bag of tennis balls, then a chew toy, then another, and then some smoked chew bones, and a large ball with a rope strung through it, and then some Greenie teeth cleaning snacks!  Just what I had hoped for -- my very own cardboard fort!

One really cool gift I received is a "Selfie Stick."  Here's a picture of my cardboard fort loot taken with the stick...

Jun 7, 2015

The Lukes

703 Union St. in Schenectady -- The last residence of the Luke family
One of the questions that I find myself asking over the years is how my parents and some of their friends initially met.  One couple with whom they were quite close were Alan and Corinne Luke, and I have never known how the Lukes and Meads became acquainted.  Alan in particular had a significant influence on my brother, as he had attended and played football at the Naval Academy, had served in the navy during World War II, and introduced both my brother Bill and me to the Naval ROTC scholarship program.  We both applied for and were awarded Navy scholarships due to "Uncle" Alan's influence.

My recollection is that the Lukes had two children, a daughter, Helen, who passed away at a rather young age, and a son, whose name I believe was Richard.  Alan had left the Naval Academy because he had become convinced that the Washington Arms Conference had pretty much eliminated the possibility of future naval wars.  He had somehow associated with the Reporter Press, a legal printing firm located in Walton, New York, and was a very successful sales representative.  He was extremely personable and never met a stranger.

Both Alan and Corinne were active in animal protective organizations.  For several years, they both served as honorary directors of Animal Protective Services of Schenectady, Inc.  All the time I remember visiting them, they had standard poodles -- first a black male named "Java," and later one of Java's offspring, another male named "Javert." (Named for the police inspector in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, who becomes, over the course of the novel, obsessively concerned with the pursuit and punishment of the escaped convict Jean Valjean.)

Uncle Alan was an individual whom I would describe as a "binge student."  He would develop an interest in some narrow subject and obsessively study it for months.  Some of these topics included the British Royal Family and the Civil War.  I recall him and my sister Ann discussing the finer points of the Royal Family for hours.  His interest in the Civil War led to a months-long trek during which he toured dozens of historic sites and battlefields with Aunt Corinne during the Civil War centennial years 1961-65.  When I was in college at Rochester, I always looked forward to visiting the Lukes when I would return home.  I could always count on a scintillating conversation, tips on good books to read, insight into current events, and a few stout beverages.

Uncle Alan had a superb sense of humor and loved practical jokes.  He and my mother incessantly played jokes on each other.  He even trained the dogs (He called them "the boys.") to participate in some of his antics.  On one occasion, during a cocktail party with some of Corinne's most distinguished friends, Javert descended the stairs with a bra in his muzzle.  We all knew who trained him in this "retrieval."  Once, when I was visiting, Uncle Alan dropped a bottle of gin, which smashed on the tile floor.  Without hesitation, he said, "Quick, Corinne, bring the vermouth!"

There is an ultimate cosmic connection with regard to the Lukes.  Corinne passed away in 1972.  Many times in this blog, I have mentioned the Gardners, "Pink" and Eleanor, who were another couple in my parents' social circle.   Uncle Pink had passed away in 1969.  As fate would have it, Alan Luke eventually started dating Eleanor Gardner.  They married a couple of years later.  Alan died of cancer in 1976.  I visited Eleanor in about 1984.  She shared a lovely thought.  She said, "I'm a very lucky woman, Bob.  I had the privilege of being married to two of the most wonderful men who ever lived."