Times change and sometimes not for the better
On Dec. 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. On such a cold day, the restaurant was inviting.
The OFs agreed that the ride to Rensselaerville was like driving through a Christmas card or a winter photo on a calendar; then they were all rewarded by a warm start-to-the-day breakfast.
The riders in one car reported that on the trip up to Rensselaerville — and Rensselaerville is up — the temperature changes in just the few miles to get there. The outside temperature gauge showed one degree when starting out, the OF said, and, as they approached the dip between Thompson’s Lake, and Cole Hill Road, the temperature dropped to 13 below zero.
As they made the turn on Cole Hill, the temperature was up to seven below, and, by the time they were on the top of the hill, the temperature had risen to 2 degrees above zero. That change is in the mere distance of approximately four or five miles and an elevation change of about 400-plus feet (that is only a guess).
Many years ago, there was a ski area on Cole Hill with a rope tow to the top. The OFs thought it was a Farmall H, jacked up a tad and it had a rope around the rear tire that was the drive for the rope tow.
Old wooden skis, rubber boots (i.e., barn boots for many of the OFs, with felt liners) and leather buckled bindings on the skis buckled around the boot. Then the OFs tightened them up and down the hill the OFs went.
The OFs did not have ski outfits; the only cost was a pair of wooden skis, and the rest is what the OFs had in their closets. Today, to be fashionable on the slopes costs as much as a good used car, and, as one OF said, he bets we had more fun.
The OFs wondered if there were any vestiges of that little ski trail left. Those who travel the hill say they don't think so because they are pretty sure where the trail used to be is overgrown into trees now. Times change and sometimes, time change is not for the better.
“Unteaching” the old dog
The OFs are having as much trouble keeping up with the technology advances as everybody else.
One OF said he has the newest gadget going and says it is great. It is some kind of tablet that takes pictures, answers the phone, makes apple pies, and scrubs your back all at the same time.
One OF said, “Yeah, that is for today; tomorrow, it will be something else.”
The OFs thought that the end of the telephone party line was the ultimate in technological advancement.
The familiar ding of the typewriter as it reached the end of a line alerting the typist he had to slide the lever over to go to the next line, then along came IBM’s Selectric typewriter and the lines changed by themselves. The world was going crazy, the OFs thought.
The OFs thought for years there were just 72 elements in the periodic table and that was it; now look, they (whoever they are) say there are 118 elements. The OFs say, if you change the 72 to 118, why not change it to 218.
One OF said it is not the teaching the old dog, it is the “unteaching” that is so hard.
The OFs were contemplating outer space and getting there and the OFs had a hard time comprehending that latitude and longitude, as the OFs once learned, is not right for space travel, and NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, uses something else.
One OF said he has enough trouble heading to Aunt Tillie’s house and arriving there and she is only one hundred miles away. It is amazing to him that the astronauts can go to the moon and land right back where they started from.
“Yeah,” one OF mentioned, “and, if they can't make the initial starting point, they just recalculate and proceed to site number two.”
Those OFs who did not study navigation are envious of those that know how to navigate by the stars, or how to navigate with maps using the latitude and longitude that the OFs know. The OFs who can't read music are in the same mode, envious of those that can.
down Memory Lane
Most of the OFs have new or newer models cars, trucks, and vans. A conversation started on how the newer cars drive themselves, and this scribe noted we have been down this road before. (No pun intended.)
The OFs have driven cars and trucks in their early years where it was necessary to place your feet in the right place when the OF entered the vehicle because the road was visible through the rotted out floor board. Fumes from the engine wafted in underneath the vehicle, but not to worry — there were so many other holes in the older vehicles that the fumes did not cause any harm. The fumes just found another hole to go out of the car or truck.
In these vehicles, the engine sounds were right in the car with you. The OFs could tell how ole Betsy was running just by these sounds.
Today, the cars run as quiet as the morgue. The engine runs effortlessly and the next thing the OF knows he is going 70 miles an hour when, in his youth, 50 miles per hour was exciting. Today, 70 is like having coffee in the living room.
One OF asked the question that is quite often asked when the OFs travel back in time: “So, do you want to go back to these old vehicles, with heaters that didn't work well, no air-conditioning, mechanical brakes that could freeze, no power steering, having to carry a spare tire or two, and rides that were like wooden wagon wheels going over farm roads?”
“Not really,” one OF said, “but back then at least I was able to fix the car on the side of the road. Cars came with tool kits, remember.”
One OF remembered his brother and he going someplace, and they had the family vehicle, which happened to be a Ford sedan. Back then, Fords had only one spring in back that went side to side.
“This is an important point,” the OF said.
The OFs picked up their girlfriends and started out. On Route 443, between Gallupville and Schoharie, the rear spring broke. Not far from where it broke was a small junkyard-type repair shop. The OFs pulled in there and explained their problem to the proprietor.
“Yep,” he said, “I have a spring.”
The OFs said, “Great, we can fix it right here.”
The proprietor said, if they could do that, he would give them the spring. The OF had a rather strong brother, who actually was able to lift the car. The OF said they had the old spring out and the new one in less than half an hour.
The proprietor was true to his word and gave them the spring, and he said, “If I didn't see that I wouldn't believe it!”
“Try doing that with one of these new cars,” the OF said.
The OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who found that Amanda was the only one there (she waited tables, prepared the food, bussed the tables, and kept the coffee cups filled) were: Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Gilbert Zabel (Elwood's grandson), and me, happy.