My father, cigarette butt in mouth, Mauser rifle in hand, poses with a nice buck at his farm in Locust Valley. Very damaged photo is labeled “Nove 1947.”
We’re having a very traditional, cold (low 30s), snow on the ground, opening day of deer season here in Pennsylvania.
It has been possible to hunt deer legally with long bow, crossbow, and muzzle-loaders for varying periods since late September, but today is Pennsylvania’s national holiday: opening day of rifle season for bucks. This morning the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania fields the sixth largest army in the world, some 750,000 rifles, coming in right behind Russia in numbers (though generally better armed).
The Opening Day of Deer Season (first Monday after Thanksgiving) and the Opening Day of Trout Season (the Saturday closest to April 15th) are sacred dates in the Keystone State’s calendar. Just as the Christian Church is traditionally full of lukewarm members who attend Mass only at Christmas and Easter, the sporting community is similarly full of participants who collect guns and tackle and who read Field & Stream, but who actually go afield only on opening day.
Opening Day of Deer Season was a de facto holiday for boys in my high school. We were not officially excused attendance, but everyone knew that at least half of the male population would be missing that Monday, and since boys were skipping school with their father’s blessing, there was nothing officialdom could do about it.
Deer were just beginning to come back to the nearby woodlands when I was a boy. Before WWII, it had been necessary to travel to the deep woods, the tall timber, of the few remaining wilderness fastnesses of the Poconos, of Sullivan or Potter County to find deer. Today, of course, deer are suburban pests, thriving everywhere in the East, and they’ve been joined recently in their return by the black bear and the wild turkey. In New England, moose have been showing up in the suburbs of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and I like to think it’s only a matter of time before we have Woodland Bison again.
Karen and I luxuriously slept in this morning, and we heard no gun shots, though our woods are undoubtedly full of hunters. Looking out at the morning fog brought the memories flowing back. I remembered tossing and turning, eyes closed, but unable really to sleep with the excitement of the upcoming hunt.
I remembered being officially awakened at the unprecedented hour of 3:30 AM; the elaborate preparations, laboriously dressing in countless layers of insulation; the unshaven men brewing the coffee and making baloney sandwiches; then the long-awaited appearance of the totemic hunting rifles, gleaming with fresh gun oil; the distribution of hunting knives, binoculars, flashlights, and aluminum hand-warmers inside which a metallic mesh soaked in lighter fluid smoldered flamelessly away for many hours.
Deer hunting always involved a drive of half an hour to an hour to a special forested location where our relationship with some farmer provided the privilege of hunting access. Deer hunting, the opening day variety, consisted of taking up ambush positions along some pole line or timber road or fire trail which the deer could be expected to cross at first light when they would be returning to the mountain after feeding in the farm fields all night.
We would stumble into the woods by flashlight in the dark, being positioned by the hunting party leader, and then we’d get to stand, shivering, hands in pockets, waiting for daylight, listening for the sound of large animals approaching, for an hour and half or so.
If you were lucky, just as it became light enough to see, you’d hear them coming, and a small group of does, accompanied by a buck lurking behind, would come slowly into view, giving you time to line up your shot. More commonly, you’d hear a tremendous racket while it was still dark and a group of deer you couldn’t really make out would charge past you.
Occasionally, after dawn, you would hear a rifle shot. If you heard a single shot, you would figure that it was 50-50 whether he’d got that deer. If you heard BOOM! followed after a short interval by one more decisive BOOM!, you knew that someone had killed his buck. If you heard BOOM—BOOM! and BOOM, you knew your idiot uncle with the pump gun had missed again.
There was a serious chance of a shot at a buck at first light on opening day. We used to joke that all the bucks then assembled at the Trailways Bus Station, and went on vacation to Florida thereafter. What really happened, of course, is that deer in general, and bucks in particular, on finding their woods invaded by armed humans, went totally nocturnal, and took care to pass through pole lines, timber roads, and fire trails while it was still pitch dark. There they snoozed away the daylight hours, deep inside the densest thickets of buck laurel they could find.
You generally had about as good a chance of getting a shot at a buck after the morning of opening day as you did of winning the lottery.
But there was an answer, I discovered a few years along in my hunting career. The answer was, after opening day, to drive deer with the gang from the Brandonville Fire House. It did bucks no good to hide deep the laurels and the greenbriars, if along came a line of hunters spaced 50 feet apart, hollering, stomping, and blowing horns.
I later fell in with an even crazier gang of deer drivers from Aristes who made a practice of driving straight through the roughest country in Northern Schuylkill County. We used to drive right down and straight up the sides of mountains. We’d go right through narrow, untenanted valleys solid with laurel. I was a teenage boy, and consequently always a driver. Standing posted at the end of the drive was a privilege of the old men. So I didn’t get a lot of shooting. But it certainly was a lot of fun.
Harvey Ward was known as, The Last Scoop Maker. That title came to him from the documentary that film maker, Jack Ofield made about his scoop making that was broadcast on PBS in 1974. Harvey was the last of his family line to make wooden shovels for a living. Each wooden shovel was cut with an ax and carved out by hand. He made scoops just about everyday of his life, starting when he was about 14 years old or for about 78 years. Making a Wooden Scoop requires a great deal of upper body strength. Harvey managed to perfect his craft so well that the entire process of building a scoop from start to finish was done in 51 minutes. He claims he wasn’t the fastest though. That titled belonged to his father, Joseph, who was not only renowned for making the fastest shovels but also for an extremely smooth finish which was achieved with a single ax head. Harvey used a double ax head for his craft.
Harvey’s family made “scoops” for hundreds of years which was traced back to his Delaware Indian roots. In Native American tribes families were assigned roles. Harvey’s family was assigned to make all the wood tools and other wooden utilitarian ware needed by the tribe.
In the 1700-1800s, in the northeastern United States there were plenty of wooded forests. In later years, Native American’s traded beaver skins with the English to obtain metal tools. These metal tools made making wooden shovels and handcrafted objects much easier. Often tribesmen melted down the metal and customized their own tools to suit their needs.
Harvey’s family made wooden bowls and plates to eat off of and other needed objects such as firewood boxes. The tradition was passed down from one generation to another until Harvey and his brothers were taught as teenagers to make wooden shovels.
When we get up in the morning recently we’ve been finding the first frosts of the season here on the farm in Central Pennsylvania. I looked out the window this morning and the opening lines of the old poem came into my head.
“James Whitcomb Riley,” I thought, but I wasn’t positive that I was right, and I couldn’t remember any of it after “the struttin’ turkey-cock.”
When I looked it up, I found that I had indeed remembered the name of the poet rightly. It was James Whitcomb Riley (1853–1916).
Imagine a time in America when you could become rich and famous delivering readings all over the country and at major universities of poetry written in rustic American dialect.
“When the Frost is on the Punkin”
WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me—
I’d want to ‘commodate ‘em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
In my day, 50 years ago, elementary school English instruction included memorizing lots of old chestnut poems like this from standard reader anthologies. From what I understand, the educational powers-that-be have since concluded that memorizing poetry is bad for children and they have moved in a supposedly more creative and spontaneous direction.
It seem a pity. There was a time when the likes of Longfellow, Whittier, and Riley were part of a univerally-shared American culture. What they seem to be sharing today are a collection of accusatory sob stories, all about slavery, discrimination, and just how mean everyone was to today’s privileged victim groups in the wicked American past. “The kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock” has given way to left-wing agitprop.
1997 Jeep Cherokee (XJ)
4.0 L in-line 6
4WD AUTOMATIC Transmission
Crank Windows, no cruise, no tilt, no delay wiper, no nonsense POWER MIRRORS! Woo Hoo!
Here’s the deal, kids:
This is a Jeep Cherokee. This is not a luxury SUV, or a maintenance-free disposable import. It has solid front axles, wind noise, and character.
It’s a Jeep. It rides like a Jeep. It drives like a Jeep. All of these are GOOD things.
It is not new, it is not pristine, it is used. This will be apparent in the pictures.
If you do not own a toolbox, have never changed your own oil, and are scared of firearms: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you have been posting on facebook all about how excited you are for pumpkin latte season: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you get offended easy and often, whine to your co-workers, and bitch a lot: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you feel you are owed anything in the world & have a bullshit job where you fail to produce: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you own a bieber album, white oakleys, affliction t-shirts, or those candy-assed stitched-pocket jeans: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you consider the 2nd Amendment an anachronistic relic and have never owned a firearm: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If, however, you have BALLS OF STEEL and consider adverse weather an excuse to do stupid shit: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.
Do you laugh at danger, and tempt fate?
Have you ever uttered the words, “Hold my beer and watch this …”?
While bored at work do you pick targets at random and think, “I could hit that from here with the .22 …”?
Have any of your friends quit hanging out because you were too much fun?
Do you have the number of a friend with cash memorized for bail?
When you pass an abandoned flatbed farm truck along a fenceline do you consider taking on another project?
Is your ol’ lady really sick of the random piles of parts, greasy footprints, and empty beer bottles in the garage?
-could you not care less?
Do you have Jalopnik saved on your laptop AND smartphone?
Do you own a service manual for every vehicle you ever owned?
Do you still miss your first ride?
Can you carry on a two hour conversation discussing tools, scars, and hi-lift jacks?
Remember when tool companies had the balls to put half-naked beauty queens on their calendars?
Do you consider the Prius an abominable affront to the Gods of displacement, torque, and All Mighty Internal Combustion?
If you answered in the affirmative to the preceding: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.
in 1885, the first steam-powered popcorn maker hit the streets, invented by Charles Cretor. The mobile nature of the machine made it the perfect production machine for serving patrons attending outdoor sporting events, or circuses and fairs. Not only was popcorn mobile, but it could be mass-produced without a kitchen, an advantage that another crunchy snack–the potato chip–lacked (the earliest potato chips were made in small batches in kitchens, not ideal for mass snack appeal). Another reason for its dominance over other snacks was its appealing aroma when popped, something that street vendors used to their advantage when selling popcorn. Still, movie theaters wouldn’t allow the popular street snack into their auditoriums.
“Movie theaters wanted nothing to do with popcorn,” Smith says, “because they were trying to duplicate what was done in real theaters. They had beautiful carpets and rugs and didn’t want popcorn being ground into it.” Movie theaters were trying to appeal to a highbrow clientele, and didn’t want to deal with the distracting trash of concessions–or the distracting noise that snacking during a film would create.
When films added sound in 1927, the movie theater industry opened itself up to a much wider clientele, since literacy was no longer required to attend films (the titles used early silent films restricted their audience). By 1930, attendance to movie theaters had reached 90 million per week. Such a huge patronage created larger possibilities for profits–especially since the sound pictures now muffled snacks–but movie theater owners were still hesitant to bring snacks inside of their theaters.
The Great Depression presented an excellent opportunity for both movies and popcorn. Looking for a cheap diversion, audiences flocked to the movies. And at 5 to 10 cents a bag, popcorn was a luxury that most people were able to afford. Popcorn kernels themselves were a cheap investment for purveyors, and a $10 bag could last for years. If those inside the theaters couldn’t see the financial lure of popcorn, enterprising street vendors didn’t miss a beat: they bought their own popping machines and sold popcorn outside the theaters to moviegoers before they entered the theater. As Smith explains, early movie theaters literally had signs hung outside their coatrooms, requesting that patrons check their popcorn with their coats. Popcorn, it seems, was the original clandestine movie snack.
Beyond wanting to maintain appearances, early movie theaters weren’t built to accommodate the first popcorn machines; the theaters lacked proper ventilation. But as more and more customers came to the theater with popcorn in hand, owners couldn’t ignore the financial appeal of selling the snack. So they leased “lobby privileges” to vendors, allowing them to sell their popcorn in the lobby of their theater (or more likely on a bit of street in front of the theater) for a daily fee.
Eventually, movie theater owners realized that if they cut out the middleman, their profits would skyrocket. For many theaters, the transition to selling snacks helped save them from the crippling Depression. In the mid-1930s, the movie theater business started to go under. “But those that began serving popcorn and other snacks,” Smith explains, “survived.” Take, for example, a Dallas movie theater chain that installed popcorn machines in 80 theaters, but refused to install machines in their five best theaters, which they considered too high class to sell popcorn. In two years, the theaters with popcorn saw their profits soar; the five theaters without popcorn watched their profits go into the red. Eventually, movie theater owners came to understand that concessions were their ticket to higher profits, and installed concession stands in their theaters.
World War II further solidified the marriage between popcorn and the movie theaters. Competing snacks like candy and soda suffered from sugar shortages and in turn, rationing, as traditional sugar exporters like the Philippines were cut off from the United States.
By 1945, popcorn and the movies were inextricably bound: over half of the popcorn consumed in America was eaten at the movie theaters.
Manson H. Whitlock, proprietor of the last prominent typewriter repair and sales shop in the United States, and the last of Bethany, Connecticut’s renowned Whitlock brothers passed away August 28 at the age of 96.
His elder brother, Reverdy Whitlock (Yale 1936), known to generations of Yale students as the third-generation proprietor of the used book shop on Broadway, died in April of 2011 a little more than a month shy of 98.
The other two brothers, who managed the famous Whitlock Book Barn on the grounds of the former family dairy farm in Bethany, Everett and Gilbert, left us only slightly earlier: Everett in September 2003, aet. 91, and Gilbert in March of 2004, aet. 88.
The four Whitlock brothers represented, on the essential commercial fringe of University life, a kind of charming survival of indigenous local Yankeedom, preserving in their personalities, manners, and accents an otherwise long-vanished rural Connecticut.
All the Whitlock brothers were stubborn and opinionated, but formal in manner, and taciturn and restrained in speech. All of them were also careful and precise in business and notoriously thrifty. I can still remember Reverdy reaching into his pocket and taking out an old-fashioned farmer’s change purse when the store register came up short as he was making change for a book purchase. When he opened the clips on top, a moth flew out, and I’ve always suspected that all the buffaloes on the nickels inside blinked.
All the Whitlock brothers clearly experienced a characteristic kind of quiet glee in personally approximating so perfectly all the classic New England Yankee stereotypes.
At one time, Manson Whitlock probably owned the most lucrative, if not the most prestigious, of the Whitlock businesses. Before the personal computer came along, every Yale student had to own a typewriter and every typewriter, sooner or later, needed new ribbons, and occasional cleanings and repairs.
The Whitlocks were competitive, and I suspect the other brothers quietly gloated when technology rendered Manson’s formerly vibrant typewriter shop obsolescent. But Manson didn’t care. He had put away his competence decades earlier, and he stubbornly continued to open his shop every day and contently passed away his time repairing and maintaining individual specimens of his extensive store collection. Once in a blue moon, some superannuated fossil who had declined to change over to computers would show up for a typewriter servicing or repair. Even more occasionally, a collector would descend to conduct fierce negotiations with Manson over a particularly desirable early example. One thing never changed, Manson Whitlock’s typewriters, despite the changing times, did not get any cheaper.
And Yale and New Haven will never be the same without the Whitlock Brothers. Their passing from the local scene leaves the kind of painful gap that the vanishing of Yale fence along Chapel Street and the perishing of the stately elms overlooking the Old Campus and the Green once did. Some crucial and beloved landmarks have been lost.
Per the 1940 Federal census, the Gladsky family (Joseph and Sophia, their three children, and Joe’s father, born in what became Poland but was then the Russian Empire) occupied 422 West Lloyd Street in said town, Shenandoah Borough, Schuylkill Co, PA. Sophia is about 31 in this photo. ... Joe died in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1961, age about 57. His son, Joe Jr., died at 73 in New Jersey. Sophia herself died in New Jersey in 1996, aged 89 years.
Some interesting touches in this shot are the rather worn armchair with faint shadow of an antimacassar on the back and the apparently new widow casings and baseboard.
I was born ten years later on a farm my father bought after the war in Locust Valley, but around 1953 my mother forced him to give up the farm and move back into town. In those days, working class families were lucky to own a single automobile, and most women (including my mother) never learned to drive. Living out in the country without transportation was naturally unpleasant for her.
We wound up living across the street and one block west from Mr. & Mrs. Gladski (with whom we were not acquainted as far as I know), at 515-517 West Lloyd. My father also worked as a coal miner at Maple Hill (the last of the collieries to shut down). Maple Hill ended mining operations in 1954. While working there, my father was once (briefly) buried by a cave-in of coal. He was able to dig himself out, but the fall had knocked his miner’s helmet off and one rock split open his scalp. He had to go to the hospital to have the wound stitched up. When he was an old man, you could see blue particles of coal embedded in the skin on top of his head.
Needless to say, I am old enough to remember this style of domestic furnishings. Mrs. Gladski was a good looking woman with the kind of aquiline nose which has always seemed to me to be a distinctly Polish feature.
Whole Foods produce section, Reno, Nevada
Venkatesh Rao (as is becoming ever more frequent these days, we Americans get our explanations about ourselves from Indians) describes a longstanding American cultural pattern of concealing out Hamiltonian realities behind more pleasing Jeffersonian facades.
Every time you set foot in a Whole Foods store, you are stepping into one of the most carefully designed consumer experiences on the planet. Produce is stacked into black bins in order to accentuate its colour and freshness. Sale items peek out from custom-made crates, distressed to look as though they’ve just fallen off a farmer’s truck. Every detail in the store, from the font on a sign to a countertop’s wood finish, is designed to make you feel like you’re in a country market. Most of us take these faux-bucolic flourishes for granted, but shopping wasn’t always this way.
George Gilman’s early A&P stores are the spiritual ancestors of the Whole Foods experience. If you were a native of small-town America in the 1860s, walking into one of Gilman’s A&P stores was a serious culture shock. You would have stared agog at gaslit signage, advertising, tea in branded packages, and a cashier’s station shaped like a Chinese pagoda. You would have been forced to wrap your head around the idea of mail-order purchases.
Before Gilman, pre-industrial consumption was largely the unscripted consequence of localised, small-scale patterns of production. With the advent of A&P stores, consumerism began its 150-year journey from real farmers’ markets in small towns to fake farmers’ markets inside metropolitan grocery stores. Through the course of that journey, retailing would discover its natural psychological purpose: transforming the output of industrial-scale production into the human-scale experience we call shopping.
Gilman anticipated, by some 30 years, the fundamental contours of industrial-age selling. Both the high-end faux-naturalism of Whole Foods and the budget industrial starkness of Costco have their origins in the original A&P retail experience. The modern system of retail pioneered by Gilman — distant large-scale production facilities coupled with local human-scale consumption environments — was the first piece of what I’ve come to think of as the ‘American cloud’: the vast industrial back end of our lives that we access via a theatre of manufactured experiences. If distant tea and coffee plantations were the first modern clouds, A&P stores and mail-order catalogues were the first browsers and apps. ...
The American cloud is the product of a national makeover that started in 1791 with Alexander Hamilton’s American School of economics — a developmental vision of strong national institutions and protectionist policies designed to shelter a young, industrialising nation from British dominance. Hamilton’s vision was diametrically opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s competing vision based on small-town, small-scale agrarian economics. Indeed, the story of America is, in many ways, the story of how Hamilton’s vision came to prevail over Jefferson’s.
By the early 19th century, Hamilton’s ideas had crystallised into two complementary doctrines, both known as the ‘American system’. The first was senator Henry Clay’s economic doctrine, based on protectionist tariffs, a national bank, and ongoing internal infrastructure improvements. The second was the technological doctrine of precision manufacturing based on interchangeable parts, which emerged around Springfield and Harpers Ferry national armouries. Together, the two systems would catalyse the emergence of an industrial back end in the country’s heartland, and the establishment of a consumer middle class on the urbanising coasts. But it would take another century, and the development of the internet, for the American cloud to retreat almost entirely from view.
By the 1880s, the two American systems had given rise to a virtuous cycle of accelerating development, with emerging corporations and developing national infrastructure feeding off each other. The result was the first large-scale industrial base: a world of ambitious infrastructure projects, giant corporations and arcane political structures. Small farms gave way to transcontinental railroads, giant dams, Standard Oil and US Steel. The most consequential political activity retreated into complex new governance institutions that few ordinary citizens understood, such as the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Reserve, and the War Industries Board. Politics began to acquire its surreal modern focus on broadly comprehensible sideshows.
Over the course of two centuries, the Hamiltonian makeover turned the isolationist, small-farmer America of Jefferson’s dreams into the epicentre of the technology-driven, planet-hacking project that we call globalisation. The visible signs of the makeover — I call them Hamiltonian cathedrals — are unprepossessing. Viewed from planes or interstate highways, grain silos, power plants, mines, landfills and railroad yards cannot compete visually with big sky and vast prairie. Nevertheless, the Hamiltonian makeover emptied out and transformed the interior of America into a technology-dominated space that still deserves the name heartland. Except that now the heart is an artificial one.
The makeover has been so psychologically disruptive that during the past century, the bulk of America’s cultural resources have been devoted to obscuring the realities of the cloud with simpler, more emotionally satisfying illusions. These constitute a theatre of pre-industrial community life primarily inspired, ironically enough, by Jefferson’s small-town visions. This theatre, which forms the backdrop of consumer lifestyles, can be found today inside every Whole Foods, Starbucks and mall in America. I call it the Jeffersonian bazaar.
August 1940. “Old house in Upper Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. In the background is East Mauch Chunk.” Photo by Jack Delano.
Mauch Chunk, renamed as Jim Thorpe in 1953 in an outrageous feat of Babbitry, is the county seat of Carbon County. Described as “the Switzerland of Pennsylvania,” the town lies at the eastern edge of the Anthracite Mining region. Four Molly Maguire terrorists were hanged there in 1876.
Upper Mauch Chunk is distinguished by its proximity to a mountain ridge where rock hounds can find carnotite, a radioactive mineral containing uranium. Guess how I know that.
I’ve always had a personal weakness for old, decayed houses, and for the gingerbread Victorian ornamentation found on small town Pennsylvania houses.