Friday, December 1, 2023

Countdown Clock

 Several years ago Hudson's Bargain Center had a countdown clock for sale, a big digital read-out clock that counted down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. I knew it would come in handy and bought one. I've used it several times for big events and deadlines, and I've loaned it to friends for their big day countdowns: things like retirement, graduation, weddings, etc. 

In between uses I set it for a countdown a few years from now and let it run in my house. It has medium bright red digital numbers so it makes a good night light. Well, that and it makes a good conversation piece. 

"What's that?"

"Oh, that's my countdown clock."

"What's it counting down?"

"Nothing important..."

"But it's got 708 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes and 29 seconds on it..."

"Yes, it does."

"What happens in 708 days and 14 hours?"

"We'll just have to wait and see."

I'm thinking of resetting it for 345 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes and nine seconds. That means the countdown will end sooner. We won't have to wait as long to see what happens.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Remarkable Mr. DeWald

 Sometimes when I'm doing research for a blog article, I get sidetracked on a rabbit trail that leads down an entirely different path. The Tammany Family blog post about Aviation in St. Tammany was one of those projects that led to something else.

That something else was actually one of the main characters in St. Tammany Airways, the company that started in 1928 and contributed to major advances in airmail delivery across the South. The operations manager for St. Tammany Airways, beginning in 1927, was William DeWald.When I began looking into the aviation career of DeWald, both before he joined St. Tammany Airways and after he left the company, I came upon an individual who was highly-esteemed in early aviation. 

So here is an outline of events that chronicle his life and accomplishments. Although there seemed to be some confusion about what his middle initial was, a description of his life and career was easy to follow. In 1912 and 1913, he was racing cars. He began flying in 1916, but in 1918 DeWald was sent to Camp Lee, VA, after being drafted into World War I.

In 1920, after the war, we find him flying for the government airmail service,"the pilot of the first airmail plane to land at Ak-Sar-Ben field in Omaha." 

Click on the images to make them larger. 

The establishment of air mail service between Omaha and Chicago was a big accomplishment, and he was a part of it. 

He apparently was willing to take risks in making sure the airmail got to its destination in time. 

The lack of enough pilots for the fledging airmail service resulted in some pilots being overworked, in addition to the lack of enough planes to go around. 

DeWald did take enough time off, however, to get married in 1920.

Moving the mail on schedule resulted in many mishaps, downed airplanes among them, but DeWald took it upon himself to drop badly-needed spare parts by parachute to those in need. 

Articles appeared in several newspapers telling of the parts dropped by parachute.

Another high-risk innovation was flying after sunset. When the schedule fell behind, DeWald was ready to take off at dusk and land at night, a risky maneuver at that point in aviation. 

Again, newspaper articles told of his daring flight. 

He also took part in activities held by the Aero Club, a group of pilots in the newly-established government airmail service.

DeWald almost became legendary as an early airmail pilot.

In 1921, he was working for Huff-Daland Co.

He was also instrumental in providing a cross-country flight for fresh vegetables, from farms in New Jersey to restaurants on Long Island and in Masssachusetts. That was ground-breaking, air transport for farm goods.

He was even linked to the Admiral Byrd flight over the North Pole in 1926.

In August of 1927, newspapers nationwide reported that he had gone missing during a seaplane flight from Norfolk, VA, to New Orleans.  

After 24 hours of concern, he was found safe east of Pensacola. His fuel had run out, he said.

The inaugural flight of privately-contracted airmail routes for St. Tammany Airways began in 1928, with DeWald serving as operations manager.

DeWald became well-known as he flew around the Southern states promoting aviation and the building of airports. 

As St. Tammany Airways grew, he became their spokesman.

But he continued to pilot aircraft on key airmail routes.

He attended aviation conferences and gave speeches.

In 1929 he was working with the Fokker Aircraft Corporation.

In many articles and photographs, DeWald became the face of progress in aviation. 

See also:

According to an aviation memorabilia vendor on E-Bay (who was selling early Airmailed envelopes), "William N. DeWald was a test pilot for the first flight of the world's largest single engine aircraft. The envelope shown below is a "flown First Flight cover" signed by DeWald and bearing the C.A.M. 29 FIRST FLIGHT stamp, canceled in Houston, Texas Jan 13, 1929 and backstamped twice, Springfield, Ill, Jan 24, 1929.

"William DeWald was born in 1893, served as an engineer and was head of the experimental department at Stutz (an early racing car builder). He was a Reserve Military Aviator, trained at Miami, and served with the United States (1917-19).

"DeWald was appointed a U. S. Air Mail Service pilot on April 9, 1920, and assigned at College Park MD, followed by appointments to Cleveland OH and Omaha NE. He resigned in August of 1920, and flew official air mail on the Omaha-Chicago route before actual service began.

"He flew air mail for St. Tammany & Gulf Coast Airways, Inc. in 1928, followed by a job for Southern Air Transport in 1929. He was on the first flight of the Fairchild Model 95 XC-31 USAAC cargo aircraft, the first purpose-designed military cargo aircraft and then the world’s largest single engine aircraft, at Hagerstown Airport MD, in 11934.

Flying Early Airmail Routes Was Dangerous Work

"The U. S. Air Mail Service was formed as a branch of the Post Office Department under the Second Assistant Postmaster General in 1918 and flew air mail until it was disbanded in 1927. There weren't very many pilots involved and the lives of many of them were cut short! 

"In the later twenties, the movement of air mail was placed in the hands of contractors. There were two distinct groups of airmail aviators and flew under distinctly different circumstances."

The seller, AviationBookseller.Com, then asks "What makes the pilots of the U.S. Air Mail Service so interesting, more than ninety years after the service was disbanded?"

"The answer lies in the kind of men they were, in their acceptance of significant risk in every undertaking, and their single-minded focus on a career in aviation. These men were to the children of the twenties what astronauts were to us in the sixties, railroad engineers were to the children of the nineteenth century and explorers were to still earlier generations. Their lives simply reeked of adventure! 

"When pilots signed up for the Air Mail Service they were required to agree to fly fixed routes in literally any kind of weather. And to do it in antiquated open-cockpit planes with only the most basic of instrumentation, which most knew from their Great War flying to be dangerous under the best of circumstances.  Yet applications far, far outnumbered the available jobs and the pilots, day after day, accepted their flight schedules and did everything in their power to deliver the mail to the next air mail field on a fixed schedule. 

"By the time air mail flying was placed in the hands of contractors and Contract Air Mail pilots were licensed by the Post Office Department, things had changed dramatically for pilots. Aircraft were purpose-built for air mail, radio had been introduced, weather was much better understood, pilots were carefully selected and trained and the risks of flying were better understood by the executives managing the air mail routes."

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Edgar Cayce Groups

 In the early 1970's, back when various groups were exploring various new ways to explore spirituality, there were a lot of new ways to do so. Remember Transcendental Meditation? One of the movements that I found out about was the Edgar Cayce Study Groups which were taking place in the area. 

Edgar Cayce was a quite a sensation in his time, known for his ability to go into a deep trance and come up with all sorts of information about all sorts of mystical mysteries, as well as make medical suggestions on how specific individuals could get well and feel better. He was "the sleeping prophet," and he talked a lot about re-incarnation.

Here's an article I wrote in 1972.

Click on the image to make it larger. 

So did people take the teachings of Edgar Cayce seriously? Yep, and his Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) is still in operation, archiving his many hundreds of hours and hundreds of notebooks on what he said while he was "sleeping." 

See also:

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father's Day

 There are, within my brain, several memories permanently etched regarding my father and stepfather. This is their day, so I am going to re-visit some of those memories.

There is the memory of the go-kart my father built for me. It was made of two-by-fours, had four wheels, a seat, and a rope tied to the front axle with which to steer it. We would take to it to the Mississippi River levee and ride down the slope of the levee.

He eventually decided it needed a motor, so he mounted a five horsepower motor to the rear deck and installed a V-belt to drive one of the rear wheels. It actually worked, and we spent many a fun hours driving it back and forth, up and down the levee. 

A few years later he bought me a go-kart that was more professionally made (from Sears, I think) with a welded metal tube frame (painted orange) and powered by another five horsepower engine. This one came with real brakes. That was a plus, not that I actually used the brakes that often. 

My dad was a sign painter, so there were always cans of paint around, as well as his collection of paint brushes of every size, and sign boards waiting to be sketched out and lettered. He also worked for a chemical plant as a piping draftsman for a while, in addition to his nighttime and weekend occupation of selling hot tamales. Come to think of it, he was always working, doing something.

Other memories I have with my dad is the Saturdays we would go visit my grandfather. His name was Joe and he lived in the lower ninth ward. His house was flooded during Hurricane Betsy. I don't remember much about my grandfather, other than his wife would always give me a Coke float when I visited.

My stepfather Tex was quite a character. He ran a service station when my mother met him, but he eventually ran a landscape nursery. He loved dogs, got along great with people, and almost ran for the city council of Waveland one time. My mother talked him out of it. I learned a lot from Tex, and I appreciate his efforts to make our lives better.

So to both my fathers, Happy Fathers Day. The world is a better place because of you, and I think I became a better person as well. 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

An Array of Abacuses

 My dad collected manually-operated adding machines. His drafting work often called upon him to add up numbers, so he had at hand a hand-cranked adding machine with dozens of buttons, also one of those plastic turn wheel adding machines that you had to use a stylus to turn the wheels, and he also had three (or more)  abacuses (the plural of abacus), those featuring sliding beads that a skilled manipulator could use to add up totals very quickly. 

In fact, that is what my dad used when adding up orders and sales tax for his hot tamale sales business. Here is a picture of three of his abacuses. 

Click on the image to make it larger.

He also had a selection of slide rules of various sizes, even a circular one. Those came in handy for multiplication and other more complex mathematical calculations. His day job was a piping run draftsman for a chemical plant in Ama, La., so he did a lot of measuring and computations comparing plans for piping runs to actual as-built piping runs between processing units in the plant. 

All these were prior to the coming of electronic calculators, both the desk models and handheld kinds. I remember the first handheld calculators, they cost several hundred dollars. The "scientific calculators" cost even more. Now they give them away as souvenirs at trade conventions. 

Slide rules

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Cuckoo Clock Conundrum

 In 1971 I acquired a cuckoo clock. It actually worked and kept pretty good time, so I put in on the wall and every hour it would announce the time with a little bird coming out of the swinging door and going cuckoo. 

It was powered by a falling weight on a chain, so every so often you had to run the weight (that looked like a long pine cone) up to the top so gravity could pull it downward again and keep the gears turning.

After a while I just forgot about winding it, but left it on the wall anyway. Here is a picture of it:

The clock and the cuckoo

I didn't realize it at the time, but not winding a cuckoo clock on a continuing basis tends to make it malfunction in unusual ways. 

Not long afterwards, I was listening to a New Orleans radio station, one that used the sound of a cuckoo clock as a sound effect to introduce various segments or to punch up a particular joke being told. The radio station announced that it needed to record a new cuckoo clock sound effect, and it was now taking "auditions" from area cuckoo clock owners. 

I called the station, got on the air, and told them I had a slightly-malfunctioning cuckoo clock I would like to audition. The disc jockey asked me what was wrong with it, and I told him that when it strikes the hour, it doesn't sound the first part of the cuckoo, the "kook," but it did sound the second sound, the "oou." In other words, instead of going "cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo" at the top of the hour, it just went "oou, oou  oou."

The disc jockey declined to make a recording of my clock. He said he thought he knew where the kook was. 

I soon took the clock down off the wall, since it was getting embarrassing to have friends over and all of a sudden the cuckoo clock going "oou, oou, oou."

Monday, April 24, 2023

Moving A Tool Shed

Recently, when I got the opportunity to move all my work tools from the old tool shed to a brand new tool shed, I vastly underestimated the work involved in doing so.

I have three groups of tools: the stuff I inherited from my dad, the sign painter; the stuff he inherited from his dad, the Greyhound bus mechanic; and the stuff I have purchased over the years, either new or at garage sales.

My grandfather's tools are big wrenches, sockets, and really heavy-duty things that I have no idea what they are, but obviously they came in handy when fixing passenger buses. I remember visiting my grandfather in his tool shed one time, and he had dozens of jars filled with large marble-sized ball bearings. That was interesting to look at. 

My father's tools were the usual assortment of hammers, pliers, wrenches, and yardsticks, plus a few extension ladders and scaffolding. After he died, I gave away the scaffolding, but kept a couple of the ladders. He had a fine array of measuring tapes, paint brushes and drafting instruments (those being useful in sketching out and designing signage.)

The tools I have personally acquired are also the usual assortment of hammers, pliers, and wrenches as well, along with electrical tools, plumbing tools, jacks and fencing tools. I owned two rental houses at one time so I needed a selection of maintenance and repair items.

So when came the opportunity to move the entire collection of tools from the old tool shed, I must have been out of my mind to think I had to move everything. Many of those tools could be retired, especially the rusty hammers, rusty wood plane, and rusty pliers. Basically anything with rust on it could be given away. 

But even that leaves me with too many tools. 

I'm thinking about the saws, the crow bars, the chisels, the wood punches. How many of those does a person really need?  One wood punch is actually enough. A couple of different sizes of chisels might be handy, but more than one crow bar is not necessary especially when the big crow bar is actually too big to use since it weighs a ton. 

And speaking of tons, there's two hydraulic jacks, one of which still works. 

Then there are the consumables: the screws, bolts, washers, nuts, and lock nuts. Even a dozen or so cable clamps. U-bolts of every size and description, stove bolts, hose clamps. There are also C-clamps and pipe clamps. There are post hole diggers, a pole saw, circular saw, jig saw, hack saw(s), power drills, hand drills, squares, levels...

Oh, and the rope, and the chain, and driveway reflectors. Velcro strips (why are they in the tool shed?) Glass jars full of this, that and the other. Plastic bins with plastic  drawers, tool boxes (both metal and plastic), carts and furniture moving wheeled platforms. 

Why do I have four screw-in-the-ground dog leash anchors?

Why do I have any of this stuff? I'm not a handyman, and I don't run a contracting business. One day soon I will gather up most of it and go donate it to Habitat for Humanity. That's a really good idea. Now all I need is a wheel barrow to haul it in. I had a wheelbarrow at one time, but I loaned it to someone and have forgotten who. 

There are many items that I won't be giving away or donating. Those are the plastic parts bins that are so old and brittle they are cracking open when I pick them up (and spilling fasteners all over the floor as a result). There are the tools with the black plastic coating that was originally an "easy grip" coating but is now a sticky horrible mess to handle. Into the garbage with that mess.

And speaking of black plastic easy-grip coating, the plastic sheath around my battery-powered hand drill has completely shredded. I mean, it has come apart into dozens of stringy pieces. I can still use the drill, but my hand is surrounded by dangling shreds of easy-grip plastic. Weird. 

Well, enough about my tool shed. Fortunately, sometime in the past, I bought a giant mega-sized super pack of pegboard hooks so I'm good to go in that department. Hundreds of pegboard hooks of every size and description. They should go well with my oversized collection of cup hooks, wall hooks, hinges, mending plates, angle brackets, and shelf brackets.

Why do I keep all this stuff? I'll tell you why. I went to the building materials store the other day (to buy pegboard) and was amazed to find out what they were charging for hammers, screwdrivers and a small box of screws. Tools and hardware have quadrupled in price. So that's as good a reason as any to keep the tool shed fully stocked and ready to bequeath to the grandchildren for when they have their own tool sheds. Let them figure out what to do with all the giant bus repair tools. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Pictorial Map Book

 I just beefed up and republished my book of cartoon bird's eye view maps. These are the maps that I have been drawing over the past 36 years, starting in 1983 with downtown Covington. 

I had published a smaller version of the book a few years ago. This one is 8 1/2 by 11 inches, so the maps have been reduced to fit. The original maps were 11 x17" and in many cases two feet by three feet, so the reduced-to-fit versions in the book will not contain the level of detail of the original maps. But the overall map is interesting to look at, and many of those maps have been posted to this website and over at Tammany Family blog at full size so you can zoom in to see the detail. Links to those at the bottom of this post. 

Since the mid-1980's I've been drawing maps in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and even South Carolina. They are fun to look at, and I would think a valuable historical reference. Already I get emails from people saying that they have a copy of one of my maps from 30 years ago, and it helps jog their memories of what was where,especially the businesses that are no longer with us. I made many great friends travelling across the South visiting the cities and towns, and working with the local chambers of commerce and newspapers to use the maps for promotional purposes. 

To order a copy of the book, click on this link.

Links to cartoon maps on the internet:

Folsom Pictorial Maps

Madisonville Map 2017  

Pictorial Maps Presented   

Shop Local USA

Cartoon Map Presentation

Saturday, April 8, 2023


 Some friends have asked me to put my short stories and poems into a book. Here it is. This collection features a number of my gallery blog articles, selections from my "sixty second science fiction" book, and several humorous off-the-wall stories.

As a bonus I have included the three "Tibert the Cajun" adventures - sort of as a tribue to Justin Wilson. The poems are generally upbeat, except the one about New Year's Eve. So if you like fiction, lines that rhyme, or an offbeat look at time travel fiction, this book has a smattering of each. Now available on Amazon.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Houston Hotel Lobby

 One Christmas vacation I decided to go to Houston for the holidays. After visiting with some relatives, I headed downtown with my camera and just wandered around, taking pictures of the urban landscape, the fountains, the sidewalks surrounded by tall buildings and the underground shopping center. 

The photo below shows the lobby of the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel from one of the interior atrium balconies. The bank of elevators are at the top of the frame. 

This view became important later on because when I wrote my science fiction novel "The Gafferty Perspective" a few years after my visit, the final moments of the novel took place in the atrium lobby of the hotel. 

The last chapter of the novel was revised during a subsequent visit to the Houston area, where I used a typewriter in the offices of the The Woodlands community newspaper to put the finishing touches on it.