Tales of My Youth:
(and some other times, too)
From time to time, my father would get a finger snagged in a power saw. It was always the same finger (the middle on his right hand). The wound always required stitches, but it was never so bad that the finger was in danger. And finally, by the time he came home in the evening he would have loosened the tubical dressing so that he could easily slide it off of his finger. This he did, showing the rather awful looking gash to whoever was nearby, saying "See what I did today?" In fact, he had so much fun doing this that I was never quite sure that he didn't endure these wounds for the pleasure he got from using them to ambush the squeamish.
Not Quite Prologue
These are recountings of things that have happened to me and stories which were told to me, which, for one reason or another, I found interesting, amusing, and/or instructive. I hope you will too. Of course, some of them I have included for no particular reason. It just seemed to me that they should be written down. As a fair warning, I must add that I have also incorporated some of my own musings and observations on various subjects. These items are in no particular order.
My aunt Mary, and her daughter Ruth Anna, my cousin, were my frequent baby sitters when I was an infant. As I grew older they were nice enough to often include me in their excursions. While, like all kids at that time, I liked going to the movies (Saturday matinees cost 9 cents, and despite what you may think, the movies were talkies), I quickly became somewhat leery of my aunt's taste in this area. As we all know, time moves at a much different rate for the young. I remember thinking that I had achieved a grasp on the concept of "eternity" while attending various movies of her selection. Action, adventure, comedy were what I was interested in seeing. She, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy those maudlin Kleenex-user-uppers called "tear jerkers." In fact, for this reason, I soon came to be very, very wary about accepting her invitations to go to the movies.
This brings us to The Blue Whale. One evening, when I was invited to go to the movies in Hershey, a neighboring town, I was careful to ask the name of the movie playing there. It was The Blue Whale, my aunt told me. "A movie about the sea," I thought. It seemed a safe choice to me. I guess it also might have occurred to me that such a movie was an unlikely selection for my aunt, but I was too glad to be going to a movie that I was sure to enjoy, to let that notion worry me. It should have. I had forgotten that my aunt's Pennsylvania Dutch background caused her to pronounce the letter "v" as "w."
I was old enough to read, so I guess that when I saw the marquee of the theater, I knew I had been had. Even today, I still occasionally see the movie The Blue Veil listed in the TV section of the newspaper, where it is invariably described as "the biggest tear jerker ever made." All those years ago, it gave me further opportunity to refine my concept of eternity.
The Smell of Money
"The Smell of Money" - It was a Broadway play wasn't it? Not to me. To me it was an adult myth.
My first encounter with this tale involved the Johnson, Smith, and Company. Years ago - 1950ish - when I was seven or eight, Johnson, Smith, and Company had a catalogue that measured about 8 inches by 5 inches and was about three-quarters of an inch thick, printed in black and white, on what was almost tissue paper. That catalogue contained everything that would appeal to young males and adolescents of any age - nickels that you nailed to the floor, whoopee cushions, ventriloquism gadgets to put in your mouth, x-ray glasses, books with the secret rites of the Masons - you name it, they had it. (For that matter, they still do. They are still in business, but in Florida. They still carry whoopee cushions, but in addition they also carry an electronic version which can be operated by remote control. Progress.)
So many items in that catalogue were irresistible, that at a very early age I assembled a major order (totaling $2.82 I seem to remember). I filled out the order form, put all the money I had assembled, mostly quarters, dimes and nickels, into the envelope they provided, stamped it and mailed it.
I well remember my dad returning from his late afternoon visit to the post office on that day. He was carrying my envelope which, of course, was way too heavy for the stamp on it. It also was bulbous and jangling from all the change I had crammed in it. How was I to know that there were weight limits on mail?
My dad's response to all this was very interesting - he got me a checking account. I was the youngest kid around with one. Just as intriguing was what someone else (Mom, Aunt Mary? I don't remember who) told me. Don't ever send paper money through the mail, they cautioned. Postal employees can smell the currency through the envelope and they will steal it.
Adults often talk about how credulous children are, but excuse me, I don't think any kid would believe that story. But, by all evidence, it was taken seriously by many adults, as I have heard it repeated over the years. As a kid, I was not prepared to believe that story until someone actually produced a money sniffing postal worker who could detect dollars. I think this story would make a good addition for the guy who collects urban myths.
Interestingly enough, one of the myths he does recount (nice segue, eh?) involves a man changing a tire by the fence of what we, in less politically correct times, called a "loony bin." Passing cars blow away the lug nuts. The man is stymied until a voice from behind the fence says "Take one from each other wheel."
The man says "Wait a minute, you're crazy."
"I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid," replies the voice.
The myth collector says that his first recorded instance of this story is from 1960. I heard it from a cab driver in Merida, Mexico in about 1957. He told it as a joke. A couple of years later, my dad started to tell the story to me as a joke, but I interrupted with the end. He asked me where I had heard it. "Mexico, from a cab driver," I said.
"Why didn't you tell it to me?"
"Because I didn't think it was funny," was my answer.
Further, it seems to me that many of the items recounted as urban legends are just that -- unfunny jokes, more like stories with an unlikely twist. They start as jokes and are retold later as true stories because they aren't really funny enough to make it as a joke.
Johnny Youngerman's Stew
Every family has a "secret" recipe and Johnny Youngerman's Stew was ours. What it was, and how we came to have it, make a kind of interesting story and if you stick with me, I'll even give you the recipe at the end of this tale. First, I should mention that the spelling of "Youngerman" is not established, it might have been "Jungerman" or "Yungerman" or any of a bunch of variants.
Whatever, Johnny Y. had a saloon in Frostburg, Maryland, before prohibition - in the years around 1890 to 1900. At that time, it was common and customary to provide what was called a "free lunch" for a bar's patrons. The concept was simple, if you could keep the customers in the saloon eating, they could and would drink more. So, even if the saying "There is no free lunch" is correct, at that time there was a sort of free lunch.
But if you're giving away food, it is best, from the giver's point of view, if the food is not too expensive. Thus, free lunches were generally reasonably savory collations of inexpensive food items. It goes without saying at this point that Johnny Y. was best known for his stew, whose recipe he kept secret, since its popularity provided him with a palpable business edge in a coal mining town with a plethora of bars.
At that time, my grandfather who had earlier worked in his father's shoe store, was a traveling salesman for a shoe manufacturer. This shoe store was considered quite an emporium, though the photograph I have shows a rather dingy spot with great piles of shoe boxes about. At any rate, due to my grandfather's success as a salesman or whatnot, he was summoned, or decided to move to Reading, Pennsylvania, where in time he would meet, marry, and impregnate (possibly in that order) my grandmother. Reading would have been attractive to him, since at that time most of the shoes in the universe were fabricated in its vicinity.
Reading was also quite a journey from Frostburg (today with the Turnpike and Interstate highways, it is hardly a half day's drive). Thus, it was considered to be more or less, a place of permanent exile from Frostburg. On this basis, my grandfather asked Johnny if he could please have the recipe for the stew which he, and everyone else, so enjoyed. Probably without the discussion of the economics of the free lunch, which I have included above, Johnny said "No," and remained adamant in his refusal to divulge the secret of his stew.
But, on the day my grandfather was to leave, as he waited on the station platform for the train, Johnny walked up to him to say good-bye. And as he turned to leave, he tucked a piece of paper in my grandfather's breast pocket. How I wish at this point I could tell you that on the paper was written "Ha, I'll bet you thought I was giving you the recipe," but no, the recipe was, in fact, carefully written out on that slip of paper.
And so my grandfather migrated to Reading, met and married my grandmother, moved, again, to Palmyra with my father who in turn met and married two women (at separate times, of course). Throughout this, Johnny Youngerman's Stew was prepared so often that it was almost a dietary staple in these many families. Of course the story didn't hurt its popularity either.
Recently, when my half-brother and his wife were going to visit Chicago, I offered to prepare Johnny Y. for them. He said "great, I haven't had that for fifty years." From this we learn two things. First, the dish didn't take as well in all of those families (though I believe that now they - my brother and his wife - occasionally prepare this dish). Second, some rocks are younger than he and I.
I promised the recipe if you stuck to the end, and here it is. First, you need a well seasoned cast-iron dutch oven. The cast-iron is important because it definitely affects and contributes to the taste of the final product. On the other hand, it should be well seasoned so that it doesn’t contribute too much to the flavor. Take about three pounds of boneless chuck steak about an inch to an inch and a half thick, cut off as much of the fat as you can and slice the meat into strips about an inch wide. Fry the meat in the dutch oven until it is well browned. You might have to add some oil in this step. Turn off the heat and stir flour into the meat until all the pieces are well covered. Pepper thoroughly (real thoroughly) and add a whole bottle of catsup. Then fill the catsup bottle with water and add that. (The first time I made the recipe, my mother had forgotten to tell me about adding the water and I wound up with something that looked like crankcase oil after about 100,000 bad miles.) In fact, add enough catsup and water to pretty well cover the meat. Put the cover on the dutch oven and put it into a preheated 350' oven for about 3 hours -- until the meat is well hydrolyzed. Toward the end of this take a peek and add a bit more flour if it looks as though it needs to be thickened more. Serve over grated potato pancakes or mashed potatoes (there is a minor family dispute over which underlayment is more correct, but I listed my favorite first). I like peas with browned butter on top as an accompaniment.
As you can see, this is quite an easy recipe to prepare and it has an interesting and pleasing taste. This is probably not a recipe or meal to share with your doctor. If this recipe doesn't turn out for you, please don't feel that you have to tell me.
June and the Duck
Around Easter time one year, my daughter June was given a duckling by a male admirer. They're so darn cute waddling around quacking (ducks, not male admirers) but as they grow older, they quack louder, they eat more and thus complete the processing of more food -- and they can't be house-broken. The cute fairly rapidly became intolerable.
What to do? It really couldn't be given its freedom, as they say. It couldn't be eaten. June's initial solution was to give it to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which has a small indoor petting zoo for children. The zoo didn't want it, they had plenty of nearly full grown ducks. June's solution was to smuggle the critter into the petting zoo, and when no one was looking, dump it in with the other ducks.
I always thought that this was a pretty ingenious solution to the problem, but one other feature of it attracted me. I picture the zoo keepers or docents or whatever, closing the zoo at the end of the day. They undoubtedly count the animals on display in the petting zoo to make sure that none have disappeared. What was their response to finding one more duck in the cage than had been put out? (Assuming that no one stole a duck that day.) Where would it have come from? Could they have made an error when putting them out? What did they think?
A Rite of Passage
In their haste to grow old and assume the rights and presumed privileges of adulthood, children identify and eagerly await many particular steps in a progression that to them seems almost infinite, but ultimately leads to adulthood. To parents, the on-set of driving or perhaps, dating, is the most dreaded of these. But there are many such steps - being charged as an adult at the movies (a not unmixed blessing); finishing grade school; taking the bus alone; being left home without a baby-sitter - are a few. All are awaited with eagerness and even some trepidation by the growing, but not sufficiently aging youngster. Each is viewed as an important mile post on the road to adulthood.
Some of these steps are self-identified and unique to the person awaiting them. I remember one such of my own with particular feeling. I had observed that my barber, Barber Paul, to whose shop I was sent every two weeks for my haircut, edged the bottom of your sideburns with his electric clippers, but at a certain point, a certain age, a certain, perhaps, beard intensity? he shifted to using lather and a straight razor for this step. Now surely, here was a point, a delineating moment of my life that would demonstrate, to me at least, that I was at last maturing - a word which I am sure I never used at that time. So it was that I awaited this transition in my life. Was this to be the haircut when he finally, at long last, used the razor?
While I was this observant, it is a pity that I wasn't just a bit more so. Had I been, I would have observed that Barber Paul had, either through inability or preference, no backhand when wielding the straight razor. This means that since he was right-handed, when he trimmed your right sideburn, all was well. But when he trimmed the left, he was obliged to lay the razor across the point of flesh where your ear joined your head, achieving the trim with an abrupt and abbreviated downward stroke, which hopefully terminated before the top of your ear began. It is fortunate for both Barber Paul and his customers that at that time the style was to have the sideburn cut even with the top of the ear. (How his business fared with later hair styles, I cannot say.)
At long last my day arrived. I wish I could say I remember it clearly, because it would make a much better story, but I cannot. I do remember its aftermath as I realized what peril my ear was in at each and every haircut. Ever after, each time we reached this point in the process, I became extraordinarily still, not wanting to offer a moving target. Frequently, I prayed that the floor was not slippery, because if he fell at just that moment! Despite my prayers and helpful immobility, more than once he was obliged to reach for the styptic pencil to stop the bleeding. True, he never struck a gusher -- just enough of a nip now and then to keep me waiting for "the big one" -- as they say in California.
At the time I was too concerned with my ear's well being to reflect on what had happened. In retrospect, some things are apparent. First, as a transition, the whole thing was far more benign then, say, ritual circumcision and scarification, as practiced in some cultures, or the placement of large and conspicuous "Harley-Davidson" tattoos as practiced in others. Second, as many such situations are, this silver lining came with its cloud, which is a lesson best learned young.
Barber Paul and the "Bumps"
Barber Paul, who figured prominently in the paragraphs above, was a long-time friend of my father. I have a photograph of them together in their teens attired in the then current style of bathing suits lolling about some swimming hole or other.
It became the custom that my dad and I would walk to Paul's shop every other Sunday to get our hair cuts. Paul's shop was normally closed on Sunday, but he went in to clean up. These occasions were rather less formal than usual visits to a barber shop were, and they continued until Paul's wife found out about them. At that point they ceased since she was adamant that he not "work" on the Sabbath.
My father had a rather prominent widow's peak, since his hair was departing with disconcerting speed. On this occasion, when asked how I would like my hair cut, I said "With the bumps like dad." It took me some years to figure out why they both found this request so wildly amusing.
Even very young children soon learn what all statesmen, politicians, and diplomats have known forever -- lying can make things an awful lot easier. Why should a child not lie when lying can be so effective in making one's young life so much more pleasant and less stressful? From this point of view it is remarkable that there is so little of it going around. Of course, even children (well, most children) recognize the danger associated with the practice -- that if you're frequently caught lying, people will come to not believe anything you say. On the other hand, this does not seem to have substantially hindered the careers of some of our Presidents and Senators, nor deterred them from the practice.
The problem is that "I cannot tell a lie" stuff that they always try to sell us about George Washington (yet another apocryphal story about the F. of our C.). When a government does it, it's called "disinformation," when an adult does it, it's "exaggeration," when a kid does it, it's "lying." Hardly seems fair does it?
"Lying," "prevarication," whatever it's called, it would seem that anthropologists could do everyone a favor by studying it on a cross cultural basis. I am certain that I have met individuals whose cultural background did not include any stories similar to the one about "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf." It would be interesting to know how the practice is viewed and employed in cultures other than our own.
My personal recollection is that I didn't lie much as a kid, in part because somewhere I got the idea that it was a bad thing to do, and, also, because I had discovered that many times the truth can be told in such a way that it is not believed. Thus, I could occupy the moral high ground of telling the truth, and yet achieve the same result as telling an outright lie. (I should probably be careful about letting people who know me read this.)
Nevertheless, I vividly recall a time when my Aunt Mary took me aside to tell me a story. It was this:
One time a little boy told a lie and his grandmother found out. She took a knitting needle and heated to a white heat in the fireplace and showed it to him. She told him that the next time he lied she would heat the same needle and stick it through his hand. (Here my aunt gestured with a stabbing motion toward the center of her palm.) Sometime thereafter, the grandmother detected another lie. She took the boy to the fireplace and heated the needle once more to a white heat. She reminded him of what she had warned him would happen if he lied again. Then she plunged the needle through her hand. (Again, at this point my aunt mimed putting a needle through her hand.)
I seem to remember that we were sitting by a large fire in my parent's living room fireplace when she told me the story. This memory is almost certainly wrong. I think that I, in my memory, must have moved us there because that is where I pictured the grandmother heating the needle as the story was being told to me.
But mostly, I remember being very confused. The story clearly had a moral or was intended to. What was it? Lying is bad. OK, I got that part. But why did the grandmother stick the needle through her hand? And isn't this approach, no matter who gets the needle, a little extreme as punishment for a lie? I'm pretty sure that Dr. Spock never recommended it.
Even more confusing to me was that the story was told to me because my aunt must have thought she had caught me in some sort of egregious lie. But what was it? I couldn't think of any sort of major outrage that I had committed recently, let alone a lie which would merit such a story.
All these years later, the story still doesn't make sense to me and I cannot remember the lie which would have caused it to be told. Aesop, I ain't.
Russell and the Wrench
Russ was a fix-it or handyman before microchips and fuel injection - a time when one man really could fix, mend, or repair about any thing mechanical or electric. He had a shop at the north end of town that was filled with a vast array of unlikely things. This was his "Fix-it-Shop." It was to here he repaired, as it were, for his relaxation, which consisted principally of watching TV and sipping beer - and light on the TV. His pleasure in beer led to problems with his spouse as she had found Christianity, as if it were ever lost, and didn't like his beer drinking one little bit. I, on the other hand, kind of liked it because he would always treat the underage me to a draft when I stopped by. Yes, among the other paraphernalia he had about the Fix-it Shop was his own beer tap system.
In the course of working with and talking to Russ over the summers that I worked with him, I learned and did many things. At one point I had to crawl inside a furnace that we were working on in order to reset some fire brick. A task which Russell's roly-polyness -- a result of his fondness for beer -- precluded him from attempting.
One of the stories he told me concerned his experience with a 60 inch "Proto" pipe wrench, which he owned. "Proto" then made and still makes (I think) a line of hand tools for the professional mechanic which is well known for its quality. A pipe wrench of this size and manufacture is prodigiously strong, being designed and intended for extremely heavy use. At the time of the story, Russ was in charge of repair in a brewery in a near-by small city. His job required him to loosen a very large, very stuck nut. He tried his wrench. He slathered the nut with a preparation of penetrating oil designed to loosen the threads and left it to soak in over night. He slid a length of pipe over the wrench handle, thus increasing, what I believe is called, the moment arm, which no matter what it is called, substantially increases the torque which can be exerted on the nut. (This trick is so common that the piece of pipe used as an extension has a name. It is usually called a "Samson.")
In this instance, all of these efforts were to no avail. The nut would not budge. At this point, Russ rolled over a chain hoist which was on an overhead trolley. A chain hoist is a device which has so much mechanical advantage, that using one, one person can easily lift a truck engine out of its compartment. He attached the hoist's hook to the end of the wrench handle and began, using the hoist, to pull. Slowly, he increased the pull, and gradually, the pipe handle flexed from the tons of force being exerted until it was quite bowed. At this point, the nut broke loose. The wrench jumped off with a "sproing." Its handle straightened and over straightened itself causing it to snap in two. The nut was loose, but he had a large broken wrench as a result.
Fortunately for Russ, since such wrenches are quite expensive, it carried a life-time guarantee against breakage in normal use. He returned the wrench to the dealer, who said the replacement would take a while as the wrench had to be returned to the factory for its approval of the transaction. Some time later, Russ received a letter from Proto inquiring as to how, exactly, he had managed to break their wrench. He wrote back and told them that he would be glad to tell them how it came to break after they gave him his replacement. As he said "I wasn't telling them how I broke it until I had the new wrench." Ultimately, they did and he did.
The point of the story, beyond the fact that Russ had probably managed to exert more force on that wrench then had ever been done before, is I guess that there is a natural sequence to events and it is wise to find and follow it if possible. Years later, I met Russ's son. I told him that I had always liked and admired his father. It turned out that he really disliked his father, thoroughly indoctrinated by his mother's militant anti-beer drinking Christianity. I must admit that it may be that Russ was not a nice man at home, but I always found him gently humorous.
"Under the board walk down by the sea," begins a semi-popular song from my adolescence. This song has always amused me, because I remember actually going under the boardwalk in Atlantic City when I was a mere sprout.
My mother always told me not to. In this instance she immediately yelled at me to come out. You know what? She was right! It's a nasty place. It's even hotter then out on the beach and, guess what, all the sand from the boardwalk overhead continually filters down and floats in the air - a sort of continuous sand fall - a miasma of sand that gets in your hair and eyes and lungs. Very unpleasant.
The Palmyra Lebanon County Auto Club
Federal aid for the construction and maintenance of a nation-wide system of highways began in the early 1920s. Over the next quarter century or so, highway signage was standardized and the designated route system expanded. This process was really only completed at about the time the Interstate Highway program began in the mid fifties.
In this early period, travel could be difficult and confusing (not to mention mechanically difficult). I have an automobile atlas from 1923. It is 800 pages long, but contains only one large map along with a number of quite small maps, and it covers only nine mid-western states. Routes in it are specific and detailed in ways which are inconceivable today. As an example, the following is a verbatim reproduction of a portion of one route:
Route 456 - Cincinnati, Ohio to Maysville Ky. - 71.4 m.
Reverse Route 442
Via Kentucky side. Stone pike; thru winding hilly country.
A preferable option may be had via the Ohio side of the river.
Cincinnati City Map, Route 176
Business District Map, Route 176
0.0 CINCINNATI, OHIO, Main & 5th Sts., at Fountain square. South with trolley on Main St.
0.1 4th St.; at cross-trolley, left.
0.3 Broadway; at cross-trolley, right.
0.5 5-cor.; left with trolley across bridge over Ohio river (toll, 15c).
1.0 Newport, Ky., end of street; left with trolley onto 3rd St. and next right onto York St.
1.8 11th St.; at trolley, left
4.7 End of road; at trolley, right.
After 26 more mile points, the fortunate motorist arrives in Maysville.
This example illustrates how different and difficult motoring was in the early years of that century. Route information and mechanical assistance were of monumentally greater importance at that time. Clubs to assist motorists flourished in this environment.
The Palmyra Lebanon Auto Club was one of the largest such clubs in the state, and perhaps, the nation, and it was built mainly through the efforts of one man - George U. Ferry. He was the president of this club for over forty years until his death in 1956. So much of his life was involved in it, that a common joke in the town of Palmyra, where he lived, was that he would have this accomplishment noted on his tomb stone.
The large mausoleum in the Gravel Hill Cemetery is locked and keys are given only to crypt owners for their heirs, so not too many people from Palmyra have been in it. George Ferry is interred there and on his head stone is carved:
COUNTY AUTO CLUB
1912 - 1956
So you see, the joke was really on the town, after all.
"Hantsch" is a relatively rare surname in the United States. I found only three in the 1994 Chicago Phone Directory. This is appropriate because Pop Hantsch, my father's maternal grandfather, seems to have been a rare person -- a very rare person. While he died only a few months after I was born, I have heard many stories about him. I will retell a few of them here. I guess I should begin by giving my overall impression of him. He seems to have been a curmudgeon and a pig (of the MPC variety). See if you agree with me.
The Tobacco Shop
"Pop" or Sam Hantsch was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in the late 1850s. He became a tobacconist and cigar manufacturer as were his father and brother. He had a shop until about 1908 when he retired. The store had a wooden Indian in front. While his son-in-law, my grandfather, worked as a traveling salesman, my father stayed with Pop for some periods of time. When my father spoke of these times, I seem to remember detecting both distaste and fascination in his voice, as if he both disliked and yet, found interesting these stays with Pop. My dad told me that Pop had a toilet in the back of his shop which he allowed more favored customers to occasionally use. It seems that his customers, or perhaps it was a more general practice at that time, frequently failed to flush the toilet. On one such occasion, Pop turned to my father and said something along the line of "you know, Howard, I wish they'd invent a machine that when some one stood up without flushing, would grab them and shove it back up their ass" - an invention which might find some application even today
Dining with Pop
After his second wife died, Pop moved in with, or possibly near to, his daughter, my grandmother, and my father and his first wife. These were apparently the only people who would take him. While at the turn of the century he had five children living (of nine), most of the males moved out of his house and, indeed, out of Pennsylvania as soon as they reasonably could. Years later when my father wrote to two of them, they had no interest in establishing any sort of contact with Pop. For this reason, Pop lived with his daughter, who seems to have held him in higher esteem than his sons.
My half-brother Fritz remembers that he intensely disliked the old man (then about 80). He recalls that at the end of each meal Pop would wipe his plate clean with a piece of bread and say to Fritz, "There, now your mother won't have to wash my plate." Fritz hated this because he was certain that at the next meal, he would get Pop's used, unwashed plate.
Pop and little girls
My cousin Ruth Anna, you know, Aunt Mary's daughter, remembers Pop, because he made her dread coming home from school. Her route took her past where Pop was living and she quickly came to hope that he wasn't outside when she had to pass. She doesn't remember what he said or did, beyond shaking his cane at the passing children, but she does remember that she prayed that he wouldn't be there when she passed. It is interesting that Pop wasn't singling her out for this treatment, it was just the way he saluted all children.
Pop and other people
I have heard no stories of other people's response to Pop, but the story of one interesting interaction remains. It seems at this time there was a character about Palmyra, the town where this all took place, who would greet people by chucking them under the chin. That is, he would, with outstretched hand tease them under the chin with his fingers, while uttering something like "cootchy cootchy." One day Pop's response to this was to spit his thoroughly masticated chew of tobacco onto the available palm and walk away. If this story is true, I for one would vote that Pop had done the world a service.
Pop and the evil wind
In his late seventies and early eighties, back in the thirties, Pop had adopted a practice now much enjoyed by males of high school and college age (well, at least by those not trying to impress with their savoir faire) He would extend his hand with little finger hooked and invite the unwary passer-by to pull it. If the victim foolishly obliged, Pop, with great glee, would fart - loudly.