May 20, 2017

A Young Friend's Appalachian Trail Hike...

In the mid-1970's, I was working at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries, in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  One of my colleagues was a gentleman named Paul Julius.  Paul was a retired Navy Warrant Officer, one of only a very few who had been selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the Navy's nuclear power program.  Paul and his wife Trudy had three children.  Their daughter had married and moved out of their home, so they had two sons still living with them -- Peter, a high-school junior when we first met, and a younger son, Paul, Jr.  Working with Paul Sr., I soon learned that Peter had an interest in backpacking.

A VW Thing similar to the one we drove
That Spring, I invited Peter to accompany me on my annual trek to the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia.  He accepted, and soon we were planning our trip.  Just a few days before we were to leave, the transmission on my trusty 1952 Pontiac decided to quit working and it was going to be several days before I could get the part needed to fix it.  It looked like our trip was doomed until Paul Sr. suggested that I borrow his Volkswagen "Thing" to take to our destination.  The trip was back on.  So on about the 26th of March, 1975, Peter and I headed for Dahlonega, Georgia, in his father's bright yellow Thing.  It was noisy, not very fast, and not real comfortable, but we were grateful to be going on our long-anticipated adventure.

The old Gooch Gap shelter, in which Peter and I
stayed, was torn down and replaced in 2002
We had decided to start hiking in Georgia because it was the nearest, most easily accessible portion of the trail.  We would park the car in the area around Suches, Georgia, and spend our first night in the Gooch Gap shelter.  After an all-day drive, starting in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, we stopped briefly in a general store in Suches.  We were told we could drive about three miles on Cooper Gap Road and we'd be within a couple hundred yards of the shelter.  Arriving right at dusk, we quickly made camp.  A couple of through hikers were already in the shelter.  It was chilly, so they had built a small campfire.  We sat around the fire until we were all too tired to tell any more stories and, after ensuring our gear was hung well out of reach of scavengers, we turned in for a good night's rest.

Peter and I planned to start by hiking over Blood Mountain to Neels Gap and then to return to our car.  We would then decide what to do next.  First, we had to hike from Gooch Gap to the intersection of the AT with Georgia Highway 60 at Woody Gap, a relatively pleasant hike of about 4 1/2 miles.  Then we'd begin the haul over Blood Mountain en route to Neels Gap, another 10 or so miles of rugged terrain.  We'd make camp somewhere on the approach side of Blood Mountain and crest the summit the next day, followed by the steep descent on the mountain's east side.  We had both heard of the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, a small stone building located along US 19/129 at Neels Gapon the eastern side of Blood Mountain., where we figured we could get a ride back to our car, if necessary.

By the end of the day, we were about halfway from Woody Gap to the crest of Blood Mountain.  We found a flat area and made camp.  It was a beautiful evening where we pitched our tents and cooked our dinner.  After a great night's rest, we packed our gear, hiked to the top of Blood Mountain and enjoyed the views, and then descended to Neels Gap, arriving around lunchtime.  There, we saw the Walasi-Yi Center for the first time.

This building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps who started construction in 1934 and finished in 1937.  By the time Peter and I arrived in 1975, it was being operated by a wonderful couple named Jim and (I think) Nona, whose last name I cannot recall.  They operated the place as a service center for hikers, providing a selection of groceries and backpacker's supplies, as well as spiritual counseling (They were deeply committed Christians.) and just a place to rest and regenerate.  They also offered a taxi service for hikers needing transportation.  After we had a brief rest and tour of their facilities, Jim ferried us to our car, which was still on the Forest Service Road near the Gooch Gap shelter.  We had decided to proceed next to the Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, North Carolina, on the Nantahala River.  I had heard that they had a motel, the old Tote n' Tarry, where we could get a room and clean up and then do more hiking.

We got to the Outdoor Center before dark.  It was basically a gas station with a small eatery and a hikers supply store.  Across the road was a small motel that included a dorm-like hostel room for hikers.  We rented a regular room for the night, got a quick meal, enjoyed showers, and crashed.  The next morning, we repacked our gear and headed out for some more hiking.  After a couple more days of hiking in North Carolina and North Georgia, Peter had made up his mind -- He was going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail as soon as he finished high school!

We returned to the Gulf Coast and I returned Paul's car to him.  Within the next couple of days, the wrath of Paul descended on me.  He was convinced that I had somehow planted the Appalachian Trail seed in Peter's mind.  Paul, who had never had the opportunity to attend college, had one primary goal for his kids -- they would be given the educational opportunity that he had never had.  And now, his oldest son was talking about a walk in the woods that would probably end his desire to return to school.  Peter's mind would not be changed, however, so throughout the next year, as graduation day approached, Paul became resigned to "the hike."

Topographic maps helped us appreciate the kinds or terrain
that Peter was traversing each day.
By the Spring of 1976, we had topographic maps of the entire 2,000-mile AT posted on our office wall, replete with special markings indicating where the grocery "drops" would be shipped.  A schedule of overnight objectives was marked in pencil.  And Paul even began to brag a little about how hard Peter was training for his hike.  Peter's teachers let him take some of his final exams early so he could start his hike in early May, before the rest of his classmates would graduate.  So it wasn't too long before the entire Julius clan headed for North Georgia in Trudy's Oldsmobile station wagon to deliver their eldest son to the elements in which he would spend the next several months.

I had suggested to Peter that he might want to start slowly to allow his feet to toughen up and break in his new equipment.  He chose to start out aggressively and soon was stuck at a roadside picnic area with blistered feet and an infection.  Fortunately, a doctor was among those who stopped to see if he needed help.  He got some antibiotics and within a few days was headed north again.

Whether Peter knew it or not, he had a "Command Post" in the Wet Dock Building of Ingalls Shipbuilding.  Every day, we got the official update from Paul.  "We got a  phone call last night from a pay phone near the trail.  He was going to be spending the night at the so-and-so shelter."  We'd all witness the moving of the red push pin on the giant wall-covering map.  The scale of the composite topo map was too large to fit from floor to ceiling, so in our world, the Appalachian Trail ran from left to right for about thirty feet!  We monitored every weather report, Paul's updates, the food drops, letters describing new friends, trials and tribulations.  Peter never slowed down -- until he got to New Jersey.

At some point in the 72 miles of the trail that traverses northern New Jersey, Peter got into some contaminated water.  He tried to keep hiking, but between heat and diarrhea, he got badly dehydrated.  He had to leave the trail and ended up in a hospital.  Soon he transferred to a hospital in Connecticut near some family members.  I heard from him by phone at one point and his morale was devastated.  We talked about his options.  He made a decision to do what I thought was his best choice -- He would take a bus to Maine, restart his hike at Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail, and hike south.  When he reached the point where he had left the trail, he would qualify as an end-to-ender!  The reason he couldn't simply continue the northward trek was that the Park Service closes down access to Baxter State Park's Mt. Katahdin after a certain date because of severe snow conditions.

So the next time we updated the map, the red pin was in Maine, moving south.  Several months before, I had promised Peter that if he actually did the whole trail, I'd meet him in New England and hike the last couple hundred miles northward with him.  Now that he was headed south, that plan would no longer work, but I still wanted in some way to honor his effort by hiking with him.

My brother Bill and I often went to Hershey, PA, in October to attend the giant antique car show and flea market put on by the Hershey chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America.  In 1976, we had decided to rent a Winnebago camper for our trek.  It occurred to me that Bill could drop me off near where Peter was hiking and pick me up a few days later on down the trail.  On Sunday, 26 September, 1976 (which happened to be Bill's birthday), he dropped me off near the Beaver Brook shelter near Kinsman's Notch, New Hampshire.  Peter and I had prearranged this meeting point and he was waiting where the AT crossed the highway.  As the Winnebago lumbered up to the rendezvous point, Peter was beaming, eager to see a familiar face from home.  To make our first night in the shelter even more memorable, I had packed fresh fruits, cheese, and some big steaks for the feast!  Peter looked fantastic after over 1,500 miles of hiking -- lean, muscular, and very tanned under his enormous pack.

Beaver Brook Shelter (photo courtesy
Bill exchanged a few words with Peter and soon he headed toward New York state where he planned to visit some friends.  Peter and I headed for the Beaver Brook shelter, which we reached in less than an hour.  I was finally getting to participate, even if briefly, in Peter Julius' great Appalachian Trail adventure!

Mt. Washington, in the distance, seen from
the crest of Mount Moosilauke
Over the next few days, we climbed Mt. Moosilauke at over 4,800 ft. elevation, passed through the town of Glencliff, where Peter retrieved a huge food cache from home, and stayed at Lonesome Lake Hut, one of the shelters maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

A few days later, when my brother picked me up at a trail-highway crossing, I was tired and sore, but I had experienced one of my favorite hiking memories.  I'm still immensely grateful to Peter for letting me share a part of his hike.  And only a few weeks later, he finished his through hike in New Jersey and joined an elite cadre of hikers who have completed this inspiring adventure.

May 15, 2017

A Very Special Spring Hike...

The bronze placard at the southern terminus of the
Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain, GA
In 1970, I found myself longing for the hiking that I had enjoyed while a member of the Boy Scouts of America in the 1950s.  I purchased the book "The Complete Walker" written by Colin Fletcher and originally published in 1968, at that time the Bible of backpacking lore.  Soon thereafter I joined the Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) co-op.  After consuming every page, I followed up by purchasing just about every bit of recommended equipment touted by Mr. Fletcher.  And I began hiking (with my shiny, brand-new backpacking gear) in easily accessible hiking spots in or near the Norman, Oklahoma, where I was living.  

I can still remember many of the items I acquired at that time -- my REI pack, the Svea 123 stove that burns "white gas," a Swiss Sigg nesting cooking pot set, Raichle Rotondo boots, Nalgene water bottles, Ensolite sleeping pad, long underwear, down vest, a special no-leak fuel bottle, a plastic egg holder, countless packets of freeze-dried foods (Colin Fletcher says they make you "fart like a bull."), compass, visqueen to use for a shelter (I still hadn't decided on a tent.) -- The list went on.

I had also been reading extensively the experiences of Appalachian Trail through-hikers.  I joined the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) and even toyed for a while with the idea of hiking the entire trail.  And, I acquired several of the sectional guide books and topographic maps of many segments of the trail.  Sometime during this period I got the idea of taking my nephew David for an AT hike.  He turned 9 years old in September and was learning to love the outdoors.  When I went to my Brother's house at Christmas, we began planning for a hike that would take place over the Easter holiday in 1971.  Easter was to occur on April 11th.  We could go up on the Thursday before.  I would fly to Chattanooga and meet David there.  He would be flying in from New Orleans where his father was a pilot for Delta Airlines.  I'd fly out of Oklahoma City.  I could rent a car in Chattanooga and we'd head for the mountains with all our gear.  Let the planning begin.

I needed to know how to drive to a point near the southern terminus of the trail on Springer Mountain near Dahlonega, Georgia.  I got the name of an Atlanta dentist who was the head of the Georgia AT Club.  He mailed me an instruction sheet which I wish I still had.  The on-line instructions to drive to a point near the southern trailhead haven't changed all that much in the last 44 years:  "From Dahlonega, travel west on Highway 52 for approximately 9 miles.  Turn right at an old store with a partial sign saying Store…this will be near mile marker 5.  There is also a sign for Nimblewill Baptist Church.

Travel for approximately 2 miles, then turn right (before church) onto Forest Service Road 28-1. (At this turn, there is a brown/cream sign saying Nimblewill Gap/Jones Creek/Camp Wahsega).  In approximately 2 miles (after you cross the bridge), the road forks.  Veer left onto Forest Service Road 77 and travel for approximately 5 miles to Windingstair Gap (intersection of Forest Service Road 77, Forest Service Road 42, and Forest Service Road 58).

At Windingstair Gap, turn left onto Forest Service Road 42. In approximately 1 mile, the Benton MacKaye Trail crosses this road at Big Stamp Gap.  Travel for another mile and you will see a parking area on your right.  The Appalachian Trail crosses Forest Service Road 42 at this point."

In the weeks leading up to this epic expedition, David and I talked on the phone about the maps and trail guides I had acquired from the ATC.  We tried to decide which direction we'd hike and how far.  We planned a four- or five-day journey.  Maybe a circular route using some side trails of paved roads might be better.  Maybe we'd just make up our minds when we got to a starting point.  And, of course, there was always the unknown of how far we might be able to hike with no mountain hiking practice and all new gear.

I practiced packing my gear to see if it would all fit.  It was a real challenge, but on the day I flew to Chattanooga, every item was safely stuffed into my large and heavy (probably 40-45 pounds) pack, which I checked as luggage.  I had even filled my egg carrier with fresh eggs so David and I could eat a really great breakfast on the trail.  When I arrived and caught up with David, we proceeded to the baggage area where, much to my dismay, eggs were oozing out of the top of my large frame pack.  We proceeded to the men's room, where for the next hour we cleaned up the mess.  The eggs had been crushed and leaked all over my clothes, sleeping bag, and other carefully-packed items.  We were not off to a good start.

I picked up our rental car, a 1970 Plymouth Valiant, got our gear safely in the trunk, and we headed for Georgia.  It was close to noon.  Within a couple of hours, we grabbed a bite of lunch in Dahlonega and headed out to find the Nimblewill Baptist Church listed on my directions.  By about 3:30 PM, after an exciting drive on Forest Service Roads 28-1, 77, and 42, we parked in a small parking area near the top of Springer Mountain and close to the Appalachian Trail.  We decided to hike to the Springer Mountain Shelter, which was only about a mile south to spend the night.  We donned our equipment and proudly took our first steps together on the trail.

Our first "home" on the AT --
the Springer Mountain Shelter
We arrived at the shelter in less than an hour, after a fairly easy hike, but both straining under our way-too-heavy backpacks.  There were already a couple of hikers in the shelter, but there was room for two more, so we unpacked our sleeping bags and pads and claimed part of the floor.  The folks we were sharing the shelter with were starting out to hike the entire trail!  We had inadvertently chosen to do our hike at the height of the season during which northbound end-to-enders would be starting out.  We encountered several during the next couple of days.

David and I lit my new stove and prepared our freeze-dried delicacies, topping the meal off with hot cocoa, drunk out of our new stainless steel Sierra cups.  We sat around a small campfire with our new hiking friends, who now numbered about a dozen including all the later arrivals, and we enjoyed the stories of how each had decided to "do the trail."  Soon, we all turned in and got a good night's rest.  We learned that the shelters are well-populated by critters.  Every time I woke up I could hear the skittering of tiny feet and chomping on crunchy something by our furry friends.  Fortunately, we had all heeded the warnings and suspended our packs from tree limbs far out of reach of these and other unwelcome scavengers.

We awoke to the reality that it can get darn cold in April in north Georgia!  We wasted no time in getting several layers of clothes on after we reluctantly exited our sleeping bags.  Soon, everyone in and around the shelter had gotten up and the hissing of our small stoves filled the air.  I had replenished our egg supply in Dahlonega, so we enjoyed some fresh eggs and other goodies we had packed in.  Our beverage of choice was Tang, "the drink of the Astronauts."  And again, we topped everything off with hot cocoa.  Soon, we had all of our gear packed up and we headed north on the Appalachian Trail!  We really had no distinct plan other than to reach our car by one route or another by Tuesday to head for Chattanooga.

The weather was perfect for hiking.  By noon, we were in our t-shirts.  The temperature was in the low 70's.  All was well with the world.  We hiked somewhat more slowly than most of the through hikers, so we got to meet quite a few during the day.  Many said they were going to spend the night at the Hawk Mountain shelter, which was about 8 miles from where we had spent the night.  Once we realized that we were making about one mile per hour, that seemed like a good objective for our first day.  We stopped along the trail near a small stream to make our lunch and I recall thinking, "This wouldn't be a bad place to pitch a tent."  We ate and drank plenty of liquids and were soon on our way again.

The Hawk Mountain shelter came into view around 4:00 PM on Friday.  There were already quite a few folks there, but many had pitched their tents nearby and didn't plan to sleep in the shelter.  David and I were able to claim enough floor space for our sleeping bags and we got introduced to our new friends, most of whom were planning to hike the entire AT.  They were all young, eager, and excited about their intended 2,000-mile adventure.  Soon, we were all sitting around a newly-built campfire, the sun was setting, and dinner was on the many stoves.   David and I sat quietly hearing the optimistic excitement of the newly-minted end-to-end aspirants.  This was in a time when only a few dozen people attempted to hike the trail in a given season.  In 1972, only 23 people completed the 2,000-mile hike; In 2015, the total was 1,000!  It may be a commentary on the improvement in lightweight backpacking equipment or on the amount of leisure time we have available.

We got a good night's sleep and soon were packed and resumed our northerly hike.  We decided we'd try to reach the shelter at Gooch Gap, a distance of about 7 miles (This shelter, which I later stayed in on many occasions, was torn down in 2001 and replaced by the present-day Gooch Mountain shelter.  The old shelter was very close to a forest service road that led to Suches, GA.  It apparently had become a favorite gathering place for party goers since it was so easily accessible.).  We had rapidly concluded that our pre-hike anticipation of covering 15-20 miles per day was really a bad assumption.  These hills were steep!  And we were not equipped physically to cope with the strenuous hiking and the 3,000-foot elevation.  We also wanted to enjoy our time and not feel like it was a marathon.  So we reached our next shelter by mid-afternoon and we were the first ones to lay claim to a space on the floor.  We hung our packs up and did a little day-hiking in the area before returning to the shelter to meet some new friends and prepare dinner.  Again, most of our shelter mates were intended end-to-enders.  The conversation during the evening tended toward physical ailments, underestimates of the trail's difficulty, and equipment issues.  Some folks were ready to shed considerable equipment to get rid of weight.  Others regretted not bringing certain items.  Lots of people already had sore knees, ankles, and feet.  And much conversation centered on the care and treatment of blisters.

David and I decided that the next day we would resume our hike by heading South in the direction from which we had come.  We would try to hike past the Hawk Mountain shelter to the site of a small stream we had seen.  We would pitch our "tent" (really a visqueen tarp suspended between trees) and sleep in the outdoors with no permanent structure around us.

The next day was another gorgeous hiking day and we had no trouble reaching our destination camping spot.   I had acquired some clever tarp tensioners that involved wrapping a small rubber ball in the part of the tarp you wanted to attach to a tensioning line.  Then you used a small keyhole-shaped ring that tightened the tarp around the ball and acted as the attachment point.  The tarp never needed to have a grommet installed but you could suspend and stretch it out to serve as a shelter.  I had a 12 ft. x 6 ft. tarp that I turned into both a ground cloth and a roof for the night, open on three sides:

Using the visqueen tarp as a lightweight shelter
We built a small campfire and cooked some more of our freeze dried food.  The trail was not more than thirty feet away where it crossed a small stream using a log flattened on its top side.  A few late hikers ambled by as we were setting up our camp, all northbound, but after dusk, David and I had the place to ourselves.  It wasn't long after the fire went out that we were sound asleep.

We woke up early on Monday to the sound of hikers walking by, got our breakfast, washed up, packed our gear, and soon were on our way to the car.  We had hatched a plan.  What if we got to our car early today, drove to Dahlonega and shopped for groceries -- hot dogs, hamburger, buns, onions, cheese, mustard, ketchup, potato salad, beverages, ice -- and drove on forest service roads to a point adjacent to the Hawk Mountain Shelter.  We could be back by mid-afternoon if we moved quickly, and we could treat a bunch of end-to-enders to an unexpected banquet!  So that's exactly what we did.  Within only a couple of hours, we had reached the car.  An hour or so later, we were buying groceries.

The Hawk Mountain Shelter (photo courtesy of AtlantaTrails)
I had figured out the layout of the fire service roads in the area, and had determined that we could drive to within about one-half mile of the Hawk Mountain shelter (This shelter is being or has been torn down due to overuse and is being replaced by a tenting site somewhere nearby.).  We drove there and started to lug our supplies to the shelter just as some hikers arrived.  In no time, with their help, we had unloaded everything at the shelter and began cooking.  As new hikers arrived, we treated them to burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings, chips, and beverages with real ice.  We had garbage bags at the ready to ensure we would leave not a trace.  And later, to top it all off, we made s'mores around a campfire.  Needless to say, the hikers all expressed their thanks and surprise at such a wilderness feast.

Everyone got a great night's sleep after we suspended all the garbage from a nearby tree.  The next day, David and I had to get back to Chattanooga to check in to a motel, clean up, do our laundry, and repack everything for our return flights on Wednesday.  We got up early and ate another trail breakfast topped off with Tang and strong coffee.  The other hikers helped load the trash into our car, which was easily accessible.  After a few grateful goodbyes, we were headed down the winding gravel forest service road to civilization.  Not long after we hit pavement, we were on our way to Chattanooga.

We spent the night at a motel unpacking, cleaning, and repacking all our gear.  The hotel had a laundromat that we made good use of.  The next morning we headed for the airport where we returned the very dirty rental car and found David's departure gate.  After I saw him off, headed for Louisiana, I went to my gate where the flight to Oklahoma would leave a couple of hours later.

David and I took other hikes on and off the Appalachian Trail over the ensuing years.  We hiked with other people -- Jim Schmidt, Bill Clancy, Peter Julius, and others -- but I think that this foray remains my favorite, and I think his as well.

Apr 10, 2017

Major Donald "Jack" Crocker...

Captain Donald "Jack" Crocker -- 1937-1967 -- RIP
I reported for duty at the Naval ROTC unit at the University of Oklahoma on August 16, 1965.  I had just driven my 1932 Plymouth from New London, Connecticut, via Schenectady, New York and Marquette University in Milwaukee ultimately to Norman, Oklahoma.  During my stay with my parents in Schenectady, my sister Ann had died in an accident on July 9th.  I was involved in her funeral and helping my parents deal with the tragedy.  The long slow trip to Norman had been a good time to grieve and prepare for a new phase in my life.  I would be done with sea duty for a while, I thought I could get much of an engineering degree completed during my shore duty, and I looked forward to this next stage in what I hoped would become a naval career.

The night of August 15th, I had stayed in a motel in Oklahoma City.  I arose early and donned my tropical khaki uniform and called Lt. Joe Montanaro, a fellow instructor whom I had just met at the Marquette training program a couple of weeks previous.  I asked Joe for directions to the campus, and in particular to the armory building in which the NROTC was housed.  Joe suggested we meet at the Holiday Inn on west Main Street just off of I-35.  We met there and proceeded to the campus for breakfast at the Student Union.  Then we went to the armory building, where I would meet Captain Marcus L. Lowe, Jr., and the rest of the staff.

The Oklahoma armory building,
where Jack Crocker and I met and worked
Within the next few days, I got to meet the staff of the Army ROTC, who shared the building with us.  They were a terrific group of dedicated Americans, many of whom had served in Viet Nam. One of those whom I met was Captain Donald "Jack" Crocker, of Monroe, LA.  Jack and I hit it off immediately.  He was the only bachelor on the army staff and I was the token bachelor for the navy staff.  Jack was 3 years older than me and had earned a civil engineering degree and earned his commission through the ROTC program at the University of Louisiana - Monroe.  He had gone to school in his home town.  Within a few weeks, we were socially active, often double dating and taking our dates to the Tinker Air Force Base Officers Club.  We became very good friends.

Jack had purchased a brand new 1965 Buick Riviera, cream colored with every possible option.  When he and I traveled, we went in style!  I rode in that car to my first OU-Texas game in Dallas, where Jack introduced me to the chaos that is the Red River rivalry.  He and I were also active in the Tinker Aero Club.  He had his private pilot's license and I was taking flight instruction.  For the next year, we saw each other every day and probably did something together on at least 20 weekends.  About halfway through that academic year, he started dating a young lady named Star Bobys, a native of Corpus Christi who lived in Oklahoma City.  Star's brother, Bruce, had also moved to Oklahoma City and was employed by a prominent jeweler.  His path and mine would cross when I purchased an engagement ring from him in 1966.

In the Spring of 1966, Jack got orders to Viet Nam.  He would be proceeding to the 919th Engineer Company (Armor), 11th Armored Cavalry in August, serving in the Phuoc Tuy Province.  Around May or June, Jack confided in me that he and Star were going to be married before he left for Viet Nam.  He said he recognized that they hadn't been dating very long, but he knew she was "the one."  He recognized that there was the real possibility that he might not come home.  If that were to happen, he wanted Star to benefit from his estate.  They were married in a private ceremony with a couple of witnesses.

In July, Jack and Star headed for Monroe to visit his family and soon he departed for Viet Nam.  During his stay there, he and I corresponded a few times.  Mostly, I heard reports from Star, with whom I spoke every few weeks.  We can get a sense of the environment he worked in from this description on the home page of the 919th Engineer Company:
"On 5 August 1966, the first elements of the 919th Engineer Company (Armored), Regimental engineers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, departed Fort Hood, Texas, via Bergstrom Air Force Base for the Republic of Vietnam.  By 8 August, the entire company 0f 154 combat ready engineers had arrived at LONG BINH, the temporary home of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment 20 kilometers northeast of SAIGON.

With the beginning of combat operations in the first part of October 1966, the men of the 919th "Red Devils" found themselves in the unique position of being the only armored engineers fighting in Vietnam.  In essence, they had to write the textbook for the armored engineer operations in a counterinsurgency environment.  The 919th Engineers also had the distinction of being the first element of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment to inflict casualties upon the Viet Cong.

Captain Jack Crocker in theater, April, 1967
Missions tasked to the Company are numerous: Building timber trestle bridges; searching booby-trapped tunnel complexes; destroying Viet Cong tunnel and bunker fortifications; constructing ford and culvert sites; conducting river crossing operations; clearing landing zones; constructing fighting positions; detecting, removing, and destroying Viet Cong mines on road sweeping operations; procuring and delivering barrier material for the upgrading of ARVN Regional Force and Popular Force outposts; and fabricating aircraft revetments are only a few of the missions assigned to this versatile unit.  The heavy workload has not prevented the 919th Engineers from foiling Viet Cong plans.  In the night of 16 November 1966, the Viet Cong launched a mortar and recoilless rifle attack against Blackhorse Base Camp.  The first rounds had hardly struck when the alert tank crew of the First Platoon spun their 90-mm. gun in on the flashes and returned fire.  The attack abruptly halted, and further investigation revealed that the timely, accurate counter-fire delivered by the "Red Devils" had forced the enemy to flee and abandon unexpended mortar and recoil-less rifle rounds as well as personal equipment.  The Regimental Commander personally awarded the Tank Commander of the First Platoon a Bronze Star.

In another action, the Third Platoon, 919th Engineers, was securing the Command Post of the Third Squadron,11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in the early morning hours of 18 June 1967 on slope 30.  The Platoon had put in a long day and did not take its place on the perimeter until after darkness.  Apparently, the Viet Cong had surveyed the perimeter in daylight and thought that the space reserved for the Third Platoon would be unguarded that night.  Suddenly, at 0200 hours a ground attack supported by intense mortar and rocket fire was launched directly at the Engineer position.  Proving their combat effectiveness, the platoon viciously fought back and held their position; and, at daylight, over 35 enemy bodies were found strewn in front of the Third Platoon's position.  The 919th Engineer Company (Armored) has been much decorated for its valor and achievement while serving in the Republic of Vietnam.  Two Silver Stars, twenty-one Bronze Stars with 'V', thirty-seven Bronze Stars for Service, ten Army Commendation Medals with 'V', sixty-five Army Commendation Medals for Service, sixty-seven Purple Hearts, one Air Medal and ten Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with Bronze Star have been awarded to the Engineers from August 1966 to September 1968."

As his tour approached completion, we planned a big homecoming.  The staff of the Army ROTC wanted to be involved, as many of them remained from Jack's time in the unit.  Then, on July 15, 1967, we heard the tragic news.  With only two weeks left in his one-year deployment, Captain Jack Crocker had stepped on a freshly-planted land mine and had died instantly.  Gone were his dreams and those of his loved ones.  I had lost a dear friend, but his role as one of my heroes had only grown.  I still think of all that might have been.

Jack was promoted to Major posthumously.  His remains were placed in Twin Cities Memorial Garden in Monroe, LA.  His name is forever engraved on The Wall at Panel 23E - Row 074.  Rest in Peace, my brave comrade.

If I should die, and leave you here awhile
Be not like others sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!-- Mary Lee Hall

Feb 23, 2017

The Cars of 1914 in Schenectady, New York

I posted a blog entry recently that described my relationship with Frederick S. Mackintosh.  While researching that effort, I ran across a fascinating book, available through Google Books, called, "The Official Automobile Directory of the State of New York."  The specific issue that I used was dated 1914.  This little booklet, published by "J. R. Burton & Co., One Madison Avenue, New York," contained, according to its subtitle, a "list of permits issued, numerically arranged, with names and addresses of owners and make of cars."  The price of this gem was $2.00 in 1914.  This copy was property of the New York Public Library with Accession Number 558946 and was a gift of the "Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations."
In this 1914 image of downtown Schenectady, there are
very few cars to be seen.  Only about 100 autos
were registered in the city at that time.

In the front of the book is a "KEY, or EXPLANATION to ARRANGEMENT Of NUMBERS."  It explains, "
A consecutive arrangement of the license numbers has been attempted, but owing to the fact that licenses are issued from three different offices in the state it becomes necessary for the Automobile Bureau of the Secretary of State's Office to allot numbers to each office in advance of issue, in order to prevent duplication.  In the case of the Buffalo Office the allotment not being sufficient, series had to be adopted, thus we have the same number used several times, but in such cases, identification is established by a letter appearing before the number, thus, A101, B101, C101, or D101.

The Commercial cars are all grouped by themselves in the back of the book and are readily identified by the numbers from 1 to 25,000 with the letter "C" preceding.  Dealers' cars are designated by the letter "M" appearing before the number.  All privately owned or pleasure cars appear in the front of the book commencing with number one up to 65,999 being in Greater New York, beyond said number being up-State cars.  Where numbers are missing, it is due to no license having been issued to date up to date of going to press or same has been reserved
."  The listings begin on the very next page.

The first person to register a car in Greater New York, was Mr. Sylvan Levy, a resident of Brooklyn.  In fact, 9 of the first 10 cars registered in the metropolitan area were in Brooklyn, including Mr. Levy's Atlantic Automobile, a Stevens-Duryea, a Renault, a Benz, 2 Loziers, a Franklin, Hart, and Knox.  A second Renault was registered to a Mr. Oppenheimer of New York City.  Mr. Levy's car must not have been a very popular model, as I have been unable to uncover anything about an "Atlantic Automobile" until the 1920's.  His car must have been "orphaned" at a very young age.

By 1914, the Model T Ford was making substantial
inroads into the new car market, "putting America
on wheels!"
Right away you realize that one important piece of information is missing -- the model year of the car.  That would certainly make the information more insightful.  For example, we could determine when an individual (or company) replaced a vehicle by comparing data with previous year's listings.  You could also gain some insight into the longevity of various makes.

Of course, as soon as I became aware of this book, I wanted to learn more about the cars that existed in my home town, Schenectady, in 1914.  Here's some of the interesting information I uncovered:
  • The lowest-numbered registration in town (66020) was assigned to the Cadillac belonging to Dr. Henry A. Kurth, who lived about three blocks away on the same street I grew up on.
  • Of the roughly 100 automobiles registered in Schenectady in 1914, nearly 1/4 were on the street I grew up on -- Union Street.  This makes sense, since it was the primary residential axis of the growing city.
  • A neighbor who lived on the same block on which I was raised, Mr. Edwin W. Rice, Jr., had 4 cars registered in 1914 -- a Baker Electric, two Packards, and a Cadillac.  Times must have been good for Mr. Rice.  I cut grass for his widow when I was growing up.  They lived in a magnificent home that I recall as having an elevator.  He had died a few years before I was born, but was a president and considered one of the three fathers of General Electric (along with Elihu Thomson and Charles A. Coffin).
  • The City Fire Department registered an ALCO automobile, produced in Providence, but named for and manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady.
  • Mary Ellis, wife of the President of the American Locomotive Company, had her Packard registered (68683)
  • Irving Langmuir, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932, drove an Overland (71386)
  • At least one car, a Ford, was owned by two individuals, George Kelder and Jacob Hicks, of 740 State Street.
  • Some of the owners names are familiar to me because of businesses or locations that their names were associated with: 
    • Henry A. Kerste -- Kerste's Drug Store -- owned a Haynes
    • James W. Yelverton -- Veeder & Yelverton Insurance -- drove a Packard
    • Alvin J. Quackenbush -- Quackenbush Road -- had a Columbia
    • Willis T. Hanson -- President of my father's bank -- owned a Cadillac
    • Louis Nicholaus -- Nicholaus' Restaurant -- drove a Pierce
    • Charles W. Carl -- The Carl Co. (Department store) -- drove an Abbott
    • Andrew W. Mynderse -- Mynderse Beverages -- owned a Knox
    • Joseph Rindfleisch -- Rindfleisch Cleaners -- had a Cadillac
    • Frank Vander Bogert -- Vander Bogert Insurance -- owned a Cadillac
    • Bernard Franken, who owned a Chalmers in 1914, went on to become our Studebaker dealer
    • And Harry Potter, who lived on VanVranken Avenue, drove a Packard!
By 1914, cars had passed the stage of being rich men's toys.  They had advanced to a level of reliability and utility that made them a desirable device that could be counted on to do a job.  The Model T Ford had been introduced in late 1908 and was having a dramatic effect on the affordability of a car.  There were dozens and dozens of brands but by the mid 1920s, that trend would reverse.

A 1918 Dodge identical to my father's first car
To put these facts in context, my father was born in 1894 and saw his first motorcar around 1900.  He had not yet bought his first car in 1914, since he was only 20 years old and was struggling through the University of Michigan.  He would buy his first car in 1920, after he returned from World War I service in France.  He purchased a used 1918 Dodge Brothers touring car.  He would go on to own a Cole, a very used Rolls Royce, several Fords and Chevrolets, and the 1953 Mercury that I learned to drive in.

This little booklet can undoubtedly tell a lot more stories than I have uncovered here...

Feb 15, 2017

Carroll Ishee

Shortly after I moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1972, I became aware of a local architect and builder named Carroll Ishee.  I had a co-worker at Ingalls Shipbuilding who lived in an Ishee-built home.  After serving in World War II and receiving the Silver Star for bravery while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Europe, Mr. Ishee had become an attorney.  After building a home for his wife and himself, he found that he had a real knack for design and construction.  That first house sold before the newlywed Ishees could move in, as did his second attempt, so he underwent a career change.  In a career that spanned only 26 years, he designed and built over 150 structures in the three coastal counties of Mississippi (Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson).  I was fortunate enough to have visited a half-dozen of his homes and met Mr. Ishee on more than one occasion.

I think the first Ishee-built house I saw belonged to Clayton "Clay" Coffey, my co-worker.  The house was characterized by several features:

  • The wallboard was segmented by raw, exposed wood structural elements so that the individual wall panels appeared as if they were "floating"
  • There were very few interior walls.  The bathrooms were enclosed, but not much else.
  • Interior ceilings were angular and vaulted
  • The house was built on a piece of property so steep that no contractor in his right mind would have attempted to build on it
  • All the finishes in the house were natural -- almost rustic
  • There were lots of quirky homemade items evident throughout -- custom made coat hooks, light fixtures, built-in furnishings, and door handles, for example
  • There was an abundance of indirect lighting
  • The exterior walls were dominated by glass; The house felt like it was outdoors.

There is a Web site called MS Mod that deals with all things modern in the state of Mississippi.  They did an article entitled "Call Me Ishee" that presented some details about Mr. Ishee's life that I was unaware of. "Carroll B. Ishee was born on July 23, 1921 in Hattiesburg, MS.  He was a lawyer, general contractor, and realtor who designed and built unabashedly modern homes and small commercial buildings on seemingly unapproachable sites along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  He had a love for nature and believed people needed to coexist with it not merely experience it from afar.

A typical Ishee interior, here shown in the Kris Byrd house
The motivation behind Ishee’s desire to build homes was the need he saw for improving the lack of quality in the houses he was trying to sell to his real estate clients.  He began his pursuit to build high quality homes in 1956 with the purchase of a lot in the Gulf Hills neighborhood in Ocean Springs, MS.  Ishee went on to build approximately 150 custom homes along the Gulf Coast in what can only be described as a remarkable pace of construction considering he started building in 1956 at the age of 35 and died in 1982 at the age of 61 — 26 years.

He drove an old white pickup truck, stored his building supplies which he would often buy out of old buildings on their way to renovation or demolition in a large warehouse near the railroad tracks in Ocean Springs, MS, and was a just a “lanky dude with some kind of persuasive manner”.  He would use his manner of persuasion to attract building clients, often at some public place like a grocery store, to go with him on a journey to build his view of what the client’s home should become.  We state “his view” because he very rarely took design advice from clients.  He was driven to create his opinion of what a great home should be and all he asked for from a client was a building program that listed the number and types of rooms a client wanted in their home."

The interior of the Kris Byrd house
I have written previously about a former roommate, Chip Squire, who lived with me around 1973.  Chip decided that he wanted to live in a Carroll Ishee house, so I got to see the process first-hand.  Chip and Carroll met a couple times to discuss what Chip hoped to get in a new home.  They visited several pieces of real estate that Carroll had selected to talk about how a home might be sited on the property.  They also visited several existing Ishee homes so that Chip's expectations were based on Carroll's construction and design philosophies.  (I accompanied them on one of these visits and saw a house with a meandering trench cast in the concrete floor, containing a small stream that actually flowed through the house.  It flowed through screens at each exterior wall to keep "critters" out!).  Chip and Mr. Ishee signed a contract, but it was mostly a deal built on trust and confidence.

A wall of glass in Brian Milling's home, typical of Ishee design
Chip selected a piece of property on which a house could be built that would have its back deck suspended over an alligator infested swamp.  I think he referred to it as a natural marsh.  Carroll built the house in about four months.  The longitudinal axis of the house paralleled the road.  It sat about 50-75 feet from the edge of the pavement.  The front of the house looked quite conventional, covered with cedar-faced texture 1-11 plywood siding, punctuated by vertical wood battens, all of which was stained a dark brown.  But when you entered through a central door, it became clear that the other three walls were glass, supported by sturdy wooden stiles.  A sliding glass door directly across from the entry door opened onto a rear catwalk that ran the length of the building with a wide center stairway descending three or four steps to a 30- or 40-ft. square deck with railings.  The deck was probably no more than 4-5 feet above the water in the marsh.  It was all very dramatic.  There were two delineated bedrooms and a single bath, but the rest of the house, including the contemporary open-design kitchen, were in a single open space with indirect lighting on a vaulted ceiling.  The house felt very unrestricted.  The marsh was an immediate presence that drew you outside.  Chip and his newly-acquired great dane lived in comfort and seclusion.  Carroll had worked his magic.

For the last several years that I worked at Ingalls, I worked for a manager by the name of Jerry Smith.  Jerry and his wife Eleanor decided to have Carroll Ishee build them a home.  They acquired a lot that Carroll recommended on Lover's Lane in Ocean Springs.  The property sloped steeply into a swamp not very far from the road's edge.  It then extended far into the swamp, and near the rear of the property, on a small rise of land, stood a giant magnolia tree.  Carroll designed a house that aligned with the road, but was only set back enough to permit cars to park facing the exterior wall, which I believe had small windows near the roof line.  When you stepped through the front door, you were confronted with an unbroken wall of glass facing the swamp (marsh?).  Beyond the glass wall was a catwalk-like porch with a center wooden walkway extending straight back to that magnificent magnolia.  The walkway broadened into a circular deck that surrounded the tree with built-in benches at its outer perimeter.  The entire structure had rope handrails that lent it a nautical flavor.  And that deck, bridge, and half the house were perched on giant pilings that Ishee's crew had driven deep into the swamp bed.  It was a breathtaking sight!

One of Carroll Ishee's more energetic proposals had to do with the remnants of the old highway 90 bridge that had at one time carried traffic between Biloxi and Ocean Springs, the so-called War Memorial bridge.  In 1962, a new bridge had been opened, replacing the earlier bridge dating to 1930.  According to the "Ocean Springs Archives" Web site, "After the 1962 Biloxi Bay Bridge was opened, the draw of the 1930 War Memorial Bridge was removed and the old span became a fishing pier for residents of Harrison and Jackson Counties.  The structure was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina on the morning of August 29, 2005.  At its City Council meeting in early December 2005, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor of Ocean Springs voted in unison to draft a later requesting Jackson County officials to permit FEMA to remove the derelict span and fund the construction of a surrogate structure to serve as a community, fishing pier.(The Sun Herald).

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy
When I first moved to the Gulf Coast in 1972, I lived in Biloxi and commuted to the shipyard in Pascagoula.  Each day, I drove over the "new" bridge and looked down at the two concrete "piers" that extended from the Biloxi and Ocean Springs sides of the channel.  They were usually crawling with fishermen vying for the "best" spots.  But Carroll Ishee had a bigger vision.  In the mid 1970s, he presented his proposal, along with extensive drawings and artist's renderings of a kind of "mall" to be built on the bridge remnants.  Carroll Ishee had visited and studied the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy.  This is described in Wikipedia as "a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common.  Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers."  Ishee envisioned a similar development on each portion of the "old bridge" in Biloxi and Ocean Springs.  As he described it to the City Council members, "We already have the underlying structures.  All we need to do is build the 'wings' on either side to support buildings and lease the structure to restaurants, gift shops, and other merchants."  These would be foot-traffic only "neighborhoods."  There would be large parking lots adjacent to the piers.  They would attract tourists and become destinations unto themselves.  Neither community acted on his recommendation.

Ishee, according to my friends who knew him well, suffered from a long-standing heart condition.  He tragically died at the age of 61, in 1982.  He left a rich legacy.

Feb 13, 2017

The Steinmetz Connection...

Steinmetz, in his Detroit Electric, talks to adopted son,
Joseph Leroy Hayden, and his three grandchildren.  My
sister, Ann, married the son of the child on the right of the
running board, Joseph Steinmetz Hayden.
The other morning, Mary Ann and I were watching Mo Rocca's TV show, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, when a segment came on describing the Henry Ford Museum's holdings related to the German-born electrical genius Charles Proteus Steinmetz.  I had forgotten that Steinmetz' summer home had been purchased by Henry Ford and is carefully preserved as an exhibit at Greenfield Village, adjacent to the Henry Ford.  I have mentioned Steinmetz before in my blog, here, but there's a family connection to him that I'd like to explain.

Steinmetz, who lived from 1865 until 1923, is described in Wikipedia as, "a German-born American mathematician and electrical engineer and professor at Union College. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers. He made ground-breaking discoveries in the understanding of hysteresis that enabled engineers to design better electromagnetic apparatus equipment including especially electric motors for use in industry." 

He arrived in the United States in 1889, changing his first name to "Charles" in order to sound more American, and selecting "Proteus" as a middle name since he had been nicknamed that as a child.  Proteus was a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey who knew many secrets.

Einstein comes to Schenectady
to meet Steinmetz in 1921,
the same year Einstein won the
Nobel Prize in physics.
Shortly after his arrival, he went to work for a firm in Yonkers, New York, that produced electrical transformers.  According to Wikipedia, he "published in the field of magnetic hysteresis, which gave him worldwide professional recognition."  They go on to describe, "Steinmetz's work revolutionized AC circuit theory and analysis, which had been carried out using complicated, time-consuming calculus-based methods.  In the groundbreaking paper, "Complex Quantities and Their Use in Electrical Engineering", presented at a July 1893 meeting published in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), Steinmetz simplified these complicated methods to "a simple problem of algebra".  He systematized the use of complex number phasor representation in electrical engineering education texts, whereby the lower-case letter "j" is used to designate the 90-degree rotation operator in AC system analysis.  His seminal books and many other AIEE papers "taught a whole generation of engineers how to deal with AC phenomena".  In Schenectady, and throughout the engineering world, he became known as an engineering wizard.  One of the highest technical awards given by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for major contributions to standardization within the field of electrical and electronics engineering, is named in his honor as the IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award.

Steinmetz and Thomas Edison examine an insulator after
subjecting it to artificial lightning in Steinmetz' lab in 1922.
He became a professor of electrical engineering and later department head at Union College, only a short block from where I grew up.

My family connection relates to Steinmetz' personal life.  According to an article that appeared in Smithsonian Magazine in 2011, "Despite his professional successes, there was emptiness in Steinmetz’s life, which he rectified with a maneuver that helped secure his reputation as the “Bohemian scientist.” He spent his first few years in Schenectady in a “bachelor circle” of GE engineers, hiking, canoeing and experimenting with photography. Steinmetz became close friends with one of lab assistants, a thin, young blond man named Joseph LeRoy Hayden, as they developed the first magnetic arc lamp, later used to light street corners. Hayden began to cook for Steinmetz, and soon had a cot placed in his boss’s laboratory so he could nap during their marathon working hours.  When Hayden announced that he intended to marry and find an apartment nearby, Steinmetz had an idea.

A 1908 postcard showing Steinmetz's home on Wendell Ave.
When I was a child, only the garage on the right remained.  It
still housed his 1914 Detroit Electric automobile.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Steinmetz had started construction on a large house on Wendell Avenue, in the area where GE executives lived.  A collector of rare plants, he had it designed with a greenhouse, as well as a laboratory, where he planned to work as much as possible to avoid going into the office.  Once the mansion was finished, Steinmetz filled the greenhouse with orchids, ferns and cacti (he delighted in their strange shapes) and focused on the menagerie of animals he had always wanted.  Like a mischievous boy, he was fascinated with anything that was lethal, and he gathered alligators, rattlesnakes and black widow spiders.  The inventor Guglielmo Marconi once asked about Steinmetz about his Gila monster.  “He’s dead,” Steinmetz replied.  “He was too lazy to eat.”

Soon, Steinmetz was dining each night in his home with Hayden and his wife, Corrine, a stout, round-faced French-Canadian.  The house was too large for Steinmetz, and the Haydens suspected what might be coming.  Finally, Steinmetz turned to Corinne.

“Why don’t you come and live with me?” he asked.

Joseph Hayden was all for it. It would make their long working hours more convenient, and the house offered space he and Corrine could never afford on their own. Hayden had come to cherish Steinmetz’s eccentricities, and he understood that the Bohemian scientist really yearned for a family of his own. Corrine was reluctant, but Steinmetz gently wore her down.

“If we move in with you,” she eventually told him, “I must run the house as I see fit.”

“Of course, my dear,” Steinmetz replied, stifling a huge grin. Corrine Hayden then outlined the terms of their cohabitation—Steinmetz would pay only for his share of expenditures.   She would prepare and served meals on a regular schedule, no matter how important his and her husband’s work was. The men would simply have to drop everything and sit down to the table. Steinmetz agreed to all of Corrine’s terms.

The living arrangement, despite some awkward starts, soon flourished, especially after the Haydens began to have children—Joe, Midge and Billy—and Steinmetz legally adopted Joseph Hayden as his son.  The Hayden children had a grandfather, “Daddy” Steinmetz, who ensured that they grew up in a household filled with wonder.  Birthday parties included liquids and gasses exploding in Bunsen burners scattered decoratively around the house.  Not much taller than the children who ran about his laboratory and greenhouse, Steinmetz entertained them with stories of dragons and goblins, which he illustrated with fireworks he summoned from various mixtures of sodium and hydrogen in pails of water."

Steinmetz' car, now on display
in the Schenectady Museum
The youngster named Midge was mentioned in my blog post about my Model A station wagon.  The child named Joe in this article was in fact Joseph Steinmetz Hayden, who grew up to establish a successful architectural graphics and copying business in Schenectady, "Hayden Photocopy".  His son, Joseph Steinmetz Hayden, Jr., married my sister, Ann, who passed away in 1965.  So does that make me Steinmetz's step-great-great-grandson(nephew?)-in-law???

As a young child, I knew well the place where Steinmetz had lived.  His old barn was still standing, and when we would venture up to Wendell Avenue on our bicycles, we'd sometimes look into the windows of the barn where his 1914 "Duplex Drive Brougham" Detroit Electric Automobile still resided.  That property eventually became the site of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady which is now the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady.  The society's home, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Modernist Edward Durrell Stone designed building in the GE Realty Plot district of Schenectady.  Although Dr. Steinmetz was a legendary figure in Schenectady as I was growing up, I have found through the years that most people outside of the engineering community have no acquaintance with him or his remarkable accomplishments.
The church that now resides on the site of Steinmetz' residence
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