By John R. Williams
It is getting close to the end of 2012, and the Old Men of the Mountain met on Dec. 18 at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for the final breakfast of this year.
Tuesdays fall on Christmas and New Year’s this year so the OFs have decided to meet on Jan. 8 at the Home Front Café in Altamont. This will be our first breakfast of the New Year, 2013.
This is the first time this has happened in the existence of the Old Men of the Mountain, and this group of guys has been gathering for many, many years.
Twenty-thirteen does not have the pleasant ring to it as did twenty twelve. If the Mayans are right, we won’t have to worry about 2013 anyway.
With the coming of the New Year so close, the OFs were wondering what happened to the give-aways that used to appear at this time each year. The OFs remembered getting calendars (really nice ones), rulers with a company name on them, cigarette lighters, pencils, jackknives, and all types of items bearing the name of a particular company.
The Fuller Brush man or the Watkins man did this and one OF remembered that even his doctor gave out pens. The oil company, the local grocery store, and Freihofer’s — they all had something to offer to thank you for your business.
Some companies still do this giveaway, but it is very rare; however, one business still doing it is the Agway store in Altamont — good for them.
The OFs said the gifts were appreciated, and most were put to good use. Calendars were hung on the kitchen door; matches were placed on the mantle of the cook stove; the pens and pencils put in a cup on the writing stand, or on top of the Governor Clinton desk. Most of this homey practice has all gone by the wayside.
“It is strictly business,” one OF said.
Another OF said he thought businesses could not afford it now because it has probably gotten very expensive, especially for the smaller mom-and-pop businesses.
E-cards seem cold
This section of the conversation seemed to be a continuation of the discussion on the end of the year and on sending out Christmas cards.
The OFs are of the old school and think that getting a card in the mail is much warmer than getting something on the computer. Reading a card on a screen and then clicking it out just seems so cold.
Sometimes a card means a lot and a personal note from some people on your list warms the heart, so the OFs say they hang on to this card for awhile and may even file it away only to be found after the OF is gone.
One OF said that they used to send out lots of cards with notes and even letters in them to people far away and not seen, but they have cut way back because, if you send 100 cards today it costs $45.
Another OF mentioned that, with computers and texting, people are in contact all over the world (sometimes every day) with friends and relatives, and with Skype they can even see them.
“We are old school,” this OF said, “but cards are still nice; it is good to hear the mailman stop at your mailbox.”
Another OF said, “Yeah, but to me that only means another bill or catalog for stuff I don’t need.”
Tragedy in Newtown
Now the conversation turned to the tragedy of Newtown, Conn. Like most talking heads, there were many differences of opinion among the OFs; however, there was mutual agreement on a couple of things.
The first was that guns were not the problem. As one OF said, it was no more the gun, than it is the piece of pipe in a pipe bomb thrown into a classroom full of kids, or the bottle and the gasoline in it as a Molotov cocktail tossed into a principal’s office, or the car in a crash that was driven by a drunk and hit a school bus killing a bunch of kids.
It is not the pipe, nor the gun, it is not the gas nor the car; it goes way beyond the method used — that has nothing to do with it. This is where the difference of opinions cropped up.
One OF blamed the perpetual violence on TV, in the movies, and in video games.
Then an OF said, “Well, we had Tom Mix, Buck Rogers, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and all those guys.”
“But somehow,” another OF believed, “it was not the same.”
“Because we grew up with them,” an OF replied.
Some OFs blamed drugs, and people on drugs who are so stoned out of their minds that they have no idea what they are doing.
The OFs began to come together when it came to the lack of mental institutions, and parents with mentally disturbed children wanting them mainstreamed. These parents do not want to admit that there was something wrong.
The OFs were talking firsthand on this one. The state, particularly New York, turning all the “nut cases” out on the streets is the way one OF put it.
Many OFs blamed the media feeding on events like this and turning them into circuses. Leave those people alone; let them grieve without a camera stuck in their face — they have enough to deal with without being harassed.
One OF said it is almost like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox saying in their press rooms “Oh boy, we have something juicy here; this will keep us busy for a few weeks.”
The attention does point up one thing an OF said: “If anything, it gets a conversation going, and, in major catastrophes like Katrina, or Irene and Lee, or Sandy, and even this one, people will talk about it and help will come from all over.”
So this OF feels it is good to hear about it.
One OF thought it was just numbers, meaning that there are so many more people around now that, just by numbers, there will be more weirdoes on the street and we can’t watch all of them.
Another OF said he thinks tragedies like this have been going on for a long time but today we live in the time of instant, worldwide communication so these tragedies just seem worse. Looking back at the Johnstown Flood, yellow fever, and the Panama Canal, today we would see these events in real time.
Now in real time we see the crises — in Haiti from the earthquake, the gunman that shot 78 kids on a church outing on an island with no means of escape in Norway, and the man in China who killed 33 kids with a machete about the same time as Newtown.
This OF said, “Satan is running wild.”
Phew, heavy discussion and the scribe had a lot of condensing to do on that last conversation and the OFs that made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh were: George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Carl Slater, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Roger Chapman, Henry Witt, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Harold Grippen, Harold Guest, Don Wood, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Henry Whipple, Don Moser, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Willard Osterhout, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Van Der Pelt, Warren Willsey, and me.