Searching for a reason why someone should choose anonymity and post malicious content as a response to an existing idea, video or story, has me asking, “What is the motivation?” Could the reason be that perhaps the anonymous responder is trying to persuade the creator of the original piece to change their stand? Or is it just a miserable person posing under the cloak of anonymity?

            Anonymity does have a purpose. The local newspaper argued the idea that anonymous comments were an important part of the commenting process. Their reasoning, I believe, had more to do with sharing an idea versus being caught up in the name of the commenter. However ,the newspaper recently changed their policy as too many comments were rude and disrespectful. I was surprised that the newspaper allowed people to comment on stories of tragedy, often resulting in terrible assumptions concerning the article topic. Bad manners became the norm for many of the commentators. Anonymous was a coward.

            Now to post a comment, one has to have a Face book page and it links directly to your Face book page. No more anonymous comments allowed. I believe this allows for the commenting person to be held accountable. This is good, however, I always post my name whenever commenting. I am not too keen on having a direct link to my Face book page whenever I choose to comment, so as a result, I comment less. I post enough on Face book without each story for which I post a response, also becoming part of my page. This surely benefits the newspaper each time a link to Face book is posted.

            Anonymity did work for Thomas Paine when he authored Common Sense. He wrote it anonymously with the main purpose of sharing his ideas and reasoning behind the Colonies breaking from England. He did not want his political affiliation to interfere with spreading his ideas. It was powerful. I suppose on the other hand, he may have been marked a traitor for printing this information in the first place. That would be a good choice for the use of anonymity.

            Virginia Woolf coined the term, ‘Anonymous was a Woman’ in A Room of One’s Own [1929]. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, everything was made by hand by men and women. This refers to the handiwork often made by women from clothing to bedding, to lace, to samplers, much of which was never signed. All that is left of their handiwork are the articles they made.

            I have been thinking about anonymity since I was told by one of my sons that he has been getting a lot of hateful comments on his You tube page. Mind you, his videos are quite raucous, some funny and some just CD reviews. I have to wonder about what type of person posts a hateful despicable comment. Why would they take the time to do this? The only conclusion I have is perhaps they dislike the fact that someone has a disability, or maybe that a person is over weight, or maybe someone is not one of the beautiful people who adorn every magazine at the checkout counter. Most of all I have to consider that maybe they are just a so unhappy in their own lives that they want to spread misery. That is sad. 
            So instead of getting upset by this behavior, maybe it is just best to keep them in our good thoughts because maybe they never had anyone care about them. Perhaps they never were taught that if you cannot say something nice, then don’t say it at all. So like everything in life, it is best to control our reaction versus trying to control something for which we have no control.

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        February 14th has an emotional component which strikes the hearts of everyone at some time or another. Why is it such a painful topic for those who want some sort of affirmation that they are loved?  It is no wonder we are bombarded with advertisements for chocolates, strawberries, flowers and images of Cupid everywhere. When did it become a day of feeling that you are not worthy to receive these tokens of affection? Look at all the magazines in the grocery aisle. Cosmopolitan, a magazine for a real woman and men like it too. The titles alone will make you feel inadequate. How to be thin in 14 days;  how to organize your life; how to keep your man interested in you after the first year of marriage; how to dress like a million bucks on a ten dollar per week allowance;  how to work full time and raise your kids and attend every soccer game they will ever play. Don’t you realize you are being told how inadequate you every day? We have to watch Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Dr. Oz to realize how miserable we are until we watch the show. Then we are miraculously cured. How preposterous that we should fall into this gerbil wheel of misery. What happened to us?

         I often think we have not come that far from the forties when women were trapped at home waiting on their men. Today we do that AND we work full time. We are not trapped but with the fast pace of life, we can feel trapped. Life is better in many ways however slow down, take a breath. We are special all right, and we don’t need flowers and chocolates to prove that. Did you ever think how much pressure Cupid’s holiday is for men as well? Appreciate the beauty of just being you.

            I think we should just turn off the television, stop buying the magazines, and stop waiting for a valentine to be delivered to your doorstep. It is romantic to receive tokens of affection, but it does not mean you are less beautiful or loveable if you do not receive a valentine. I should know, because I was one of those girls who never received a valentine either. Yes, I have survived to adulthood and I have received flowers for many occasions.

            So this Valentine’s day, I prefer to think back to simpler times of a Valentine’s party in grammar school. We all made fancy paper and doily envelopes to attach to the sides of our desks. The night before our party, we would hand deliver each handwritten valentine to our schoolmate. Nobody was ever excluded. That was probably one of my very best memories of grammar school. Love you because you are worth it.


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Genuine Act of Humanity

            Panhandling is now allowed on the streets of Portland, Maine. The City Council recently voted to not enforce a person’s right to panhandle due to tough economic times. As a native of this area, I was somewhat surprised it was allowed to continue. My experience was based on a previous time when I lived in El Paso, Texas back in the early 1990’s. It was customary to see a person on every street corner. After awhile, the shock wears off, and you aren’t sure what to think of a person’s situation. In reality, does it even matter? We all are sometimes guilty of sizing up a situation and making assumptions. One thing is certain. Regardless of their situation, they are people. They are someone’s son, someone’s brother or daughter, or someone’s father.

            Each time I drive in town, I witness what occurs at these street corners. I have seen the “changing of the guard” at least three times at these busy intersections. They all have their cardboard signs and I wondered who might be organizing these folks. Perhaps they were organizing themselves. Once I had a five dollar bill, ready to hand out to a person standing in the frigid weather, however with traffic being backed up and in the midst of a green light procession, disappointed, I drove past the person. I have never felt guilty passing by with no donation, as sometimes I had nothing myself. However lately, I have noticed that many of them appear to be homeless or people living with an illness, or just loners, and maybe unemployed. Who would choose a life which is so difficult a journey? After all, I think we need to take care of some members in our society, whether it is the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled or the elderly. It is our moral obligation. It all begins within our own communities. I am conservative in my beliefs but that does not mean I would overlook social responsibility when it comes to caring for these groups. Sometimes, even though a person appears to be able bodied, doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with serious health concerns.

            I witnessed a genuine act of humanity and brotherhood which really touched my soul the other day. I was downtown Portland, at the intersection of St. John Street and Congress. I was driving to the hospital when I noticed two men there on the median strip, one with his back to me. The other had a worn face and appeared to be a young man, but not a man who has led an easy life. It was very cold outside. It appeared it was a “changing of the guard” taking place, but some words were exchanged, and I saw the man whose back was to me, reach into his pocket and pull out some dollar bills. He handed them to the man whose face I could see. There was gratification on the man’s face, not a great deal of expression, but gratification. They both held their cardboard signs and I never saw the face of the man who handed over the dollar bills. Then a hug was exchanged and a handshake then the man who received the dollars bills picked up his backpack and left.

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Happy New Year

        Our Christmas letter was once a tradition. Each year we would reach out to our many friends and family across the miles. We think of each of you all year long. Reflecting on this past year, I believe 24/7 news is something that none of us need. We cannot change the events which unfold in front of our eyes every minute throughout the day. It is nice to know all that is happening around the globe however that is not nearly as important as what happens within our own communities. Helping those in our communities is much more meaningful that trying to help from afar.     
        Within our own family, jobs have been lost & surgery and hardship prevails. Parents are older and struggle to maintain a home. Kids leave home and some move far away. Sometimes parents move far away also. Our family is luckier than most as we all live within close proximity. It is important to take care of your family first before you can extend yourself to others. Acceptance is something that does not always come easy. Disappointment sometimes weighs heavily upon us. Sometimes those we love can only give little of themselves and we must learn to accept that. Sometimes it is not about us at all, but about paying attention to the people who surround us.  
        Within our own community it would be simple to fill this page with sadness because for many it was a tough year.  As a community, it is our duty to look out for each other and lend an ear, or check in on members of our communities. Be kind. Some of the elderly may not even know people within the community. It must be a little scary to be isolated. The disabled encounter some of the same issues. A young person with a disability or mobility issues are often isolated from their peers. Try including some of them in your plans and events for the New Year. I can assure you, you will not be bored with their company. There are many ways to keep connected…. Email, snail mail, Face book, or a phone call. That is the best gift anyhow, to give of oneself. Remember the story of the Little Drummer Boy? 
         A gesture of kindness may mean something to someone who has had a tough day. When you are having a tough day, reach out to others, because by doing so, you may be helping the next person in some way as well as looking beyond your own problems. We all go through life and find we are so busy, that we seldom take the time to make time for someone else. Let’s try to change that. Thank you to all of you for being part of our lives.


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Caring for our Family and Community

        Today, the sky is gray with anticipation of snow. The days have passed this year with no concern if any of us are here to enjoy it. We are bombarded with news 24/7, unsolicited phone calls, emails, news headlines, which in reality, are an assault on our day to day lives. How can we take care of ourselves when we are suffocated with political agenda and news in our own neighborhoods when tragedy unfolds? 
         Thinking back to 1863, the diary written by my great grandmother, at the age of 21, tells of 30 people that year in her little town of Westbrook, Maine who died. Some who died were old and a few were children, and one by suicide. How did she take care of herself?  She relied on family and stayed connected to people. Are things different today?
         Is there disconnect? Are we so preoccupied with our busy lives not to check in and see how the people we care about are doing? I am at a place in my life where I need to step back from the 24/7 news. In my own little community, there have been countless suicides, all young people. I think perhaps drugs have been a common denominator, and maybe disconnect with people. Many are born with brain conditions not caused by anything.The troubles may not surface until later in life, similar to a brain injury. Blame is not productive because it only lays groundwork for guilt. It is a toxic cycle. Sometimes, doing nothing for someone in trouble is the worst choice. It is difficult to stand by and watch someone you love self destruct before your eyes. Maybe we don’t know what to do or how we can help. We have two choices. Do nothing or react. Reach out to others because we sometimes do not have the expertise to help those we love without professional outside support. Those who can do this are not giving up on a loved one, but fortunate if their loved one can benefit from getting the help they need. Others are not as lucky as they are left to struggle with the suicide of their child. 
        As parents, we would move mountains for our kids, and also for our adult children if they were unable to care for themselves. That is what we do. In the end, we really have no control, so we might as well let that go. We can choose to learn to be reflective listeners, which means, NO advice, NO agenda. The brain is beautiful, complex, misunderstood, and many live in our communities with mental illness. Many are functioning and many are not doing so well. The willingness to listen to a friend, without casting judgment, without fear when you may not understand their crisis speaks volumes. There is a time to step back and take care of what happens within your own four walls. This month is significant because of Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. A little kindness, maybe a visit  or a note, a phone call, or just reaching out when others need it, is the human interaction people will always need. People have not changed. The way we choose to interact with others, choosing kindness, is what matters.

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Letter from Chantilly to Westbrook, Maine

 ***William Roberts 1843-1923 and his brother John Roberts 1837-1917 both served a nine month voluntary enlistment in the Civil War- 25th Regiment, Co E. from Sept 1862- June 1963. This letter was written by William to his mother. The family lived on Saco Street.***

Chantilly, VA Tuesday Afternoon April 28th, 1863

Dear Mother, 
      I received your letter last Wednesday and meant to have answered it before. I suppose that now will do just as well. We were reviewed, and inspected by Gen. Abercrombie this forenoon. He is quite an old man with hair and beard almost white and I heard that he was older than Gen. Casey but he does not look as old. I should think he was somewhere between fifty and sixty. He is a pleasant looking man and looks as if he would not be very hard on the men; on the whole I rather like the appearance of him. Sunday night I was out on picket. It was an uncomfortably cold night and we are not allowed to have any fire. But yesterday was a very warm day so we had quite a pleasant time of it in the day time, we came in last night. It is raining now; it commenced about eleven O’clock just before we started to come in for the review. It has rained about half of the time for the past week but we like it on one account as we don’t have to drill when it rains. It begins to look some like spring here, the grass begins to look green, and the trees are beginning to leave out, and the peach trees are blossomed out, and we have quite warm days, in fair weather. We haven’t found out whether we are going home the 10th or the 29th of June but they say that the officers seem to talk more like going home the 10th lately. It don’t make but nineteen days difference anyhow whether we go home the 10th or the 29th. You ask what I do for darning yarn, I have had enough so far and have got a little left of that, that Ann put in my needle book, or work bag, as it ought to be called. Our fare is fresh beef, salt pork, hard bread, soft bread, beans, or tea or coffee for them that wants it, besides applesauce which we have plenty often, and yesterday they had some bacon and I believe they think we shall have it pretty often now. Our soft bread has not been very good since we have been here until last night we got some as good as ever we had at Camp Casey, and a great deal better than we had at Camp Lincoln. We have got a good log tent all but the top which leaks a little when it rains hard but we can stop this by putting a rubber blanket over the top of it and so we get along very well for shelter, without we out on picket and then we don’t have much shelter. John is quite sick, has been sick about a week, so as to be off duty. I don’t know hardly what is the matter with him, the doctor says he is a little better today and he says himself that he is, he lays down most of the time, and don’t have hardly any appetite; he has not written any for over a week so Martha need not think it strange that she don’t get any letters. My health is pretty good, considerable better than it was week or two ago I hear that General Banks has been giving the rebels fits down in Louisiana, but I suppose you heard of it before we did. There was a force of three or four thousand cavalry  and a battery or so went by here yesterday while we was on picket so that I did not see them as I was most a mile from the road. I don’t know where they were going to but suppose that they are going to make a raid over into the Shenandoah Valley or somewhere in that direction. I heard that they were going to be gone four or five days. 
     Wednesday April 29th
It is morning now and John says that he feels a little better this morning but he is pretty weak, he says that he feels pretty comfortable most of the time when he is laying down, but he can’t set up long at a time, he does not have much appetite and does not eat much. It has stopped raining but it has not cleared off yet and don’t look much like it. I wrote a letter to Ann Sunday and I don’t know whether the mail has been since or not so perhaps you may get this letter by the time she does hers. This is about all I can think of now so I shall have to close for want of anything to write. We shall be on the road for home in two months from today at least if we are no before. Tell Father that I guess we shall get home enough to help him in haying if nothing happens. This is all I can think of so I must close. With much love for the whole family. 
    From your son, William Roberts

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Occupy Google


Today, the day of big Internet Blackout, and you guessed it, I am using the internet. I turned on my computer and saw Google’s homepage, a big blacked out space with only the lower portion of the “g” exposed. Also I tend to think this is the big experiment because Google had underneath the big blacked out area, highlighted, “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” This is a fantastic marketing ploy! Thinking of the far reaching capabilities of the search engines, I imagine all the Googlers at Google’s home office key wording “Google” in the search bar, just to see how many Google hits were received on 1/18/2012.
What exactly is to be learned today? I suppose they will find out which of “We the People” are the defiant ones. I believe our Government has always been afraid of “We the People” and I believe they are afraid of how quickly we can organize and that is a threat to them. Of course they would like to censor the internet! Regardless of how you perceive yourself politically, we are all the same, the Commoners.
This morning it was mentioned to me by a family member that when you have all the money, you have all the power. Well, that is the American way. Seems to me there is a lot of class warfare going on between those who do not have against those who do have. Well think about this. Why do you play the lottery? Perhaps you dream of being one who has something instead of living pay day to pay day. Yes, when you have money, you can buy anything you want. Big Deal!  To get mad at this concept is to squash you very own dreams of someday not having to worry about every nickel and dime you make and spend. Class warfare is lame. It is the abuse of power that bothers me. The abuse of power should concern all of us. Google wants control and power over the internet and to own all of our data. We are wise to you, the Almighty Google. Google..Google..Google


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Social Media Application

        The internet is the fastest moving train since the Industrial Revolution changed the world forever. Ten years ago, before I had my own computer, not unusual at that time, that I found a use for email {before this I did not understand the concept} Only a few possessed personal computers, which evolved into laptops which is now outdated since the smart phone is now in the hands of everyone you meet on the street. Recently, while visiting my mother, she asked if I wanted to use her laptop to check my Face Book. I replied “No thanks. I have been checking it on my smart phone during the day as I receive updates.”  We are all connected to the big cloud in the sky, owned by Google. Well, let me just suggest that this is my PO (Personal Opinion) The day I sent my first email ten years ago,  it was extremely beneficial. I figured out a way to use it as an application. My son was in an extreme medical situation and rather than phone all the relatives, I wrote one email and sent to everyone on my mother’s address list. I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders as I found a way to apply it. 
         Today, I have found many ways Face Book has been beneficial to network, to share knowledge, to share photos and stories and information. It is a way to keep close to friends who live afar. It has been a way for me to offer emotional support to friends who need that and it has been my answer in the middle of the night when I worried I may need to go to hospital but instead was given useful information by others who had a shared knowledge. It has been a way to share the craft fairs where I would be working. The possibilities are limitless. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FB, has learned more from users than he could have possibly imagined. We have made him a multi-millionaire because we found many applications without limits. 
         They say folks who have blogs are actually writing less, because they share so much through social media, and write shorter pieces, not necessarily on their blogs. Unfortunately, I have found no useful applications for Twitter or Linked In. I am unsure they would be beneficial to me, however, I once thought the same way about email and Face Book.  At the risk of sounding like an old lady, some may have felt the same way about using a telephone back at the turn of the century. Perhaps they felt the same about using an automobile. I suppose the affordability of these luxuries was half of the excitement of purchasing these gadgets.
         Tonight, I was excited to think I learned how to add widgets to my blog and for the first time in four years, I added a new feature. On each story, it is now possible to click on SHARE and a group of social media sites pops up onto the screen. This allows the reader to share the link with any of those sites. Yes, this old dog is still trying to learn a few tricks.

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Remembering the Day the Twin Towers Collapsed- A Telephone Operator’s Account


It started out as an ordinary work day with my daily half hour commute from Standish to Portland, Maine en-route to fulfill my duties as a 411 operator. I knew that even though I may only speak to a caller for fifteen seconds, that I had to be very alert when handling the call volume.  On the way, I always listened to a radio station to receive the news of the day. This particular day, I listened as the news unfolded and hurried along faster to see if there might be something on the television at work. I arrived to find our break room full of people, I had never seen, mostly managers whom worked upstairs. The room was silent as we all watched the story unfold. Looking back, it may have been Katie Couric who narrated exactly what was happening in Lower Manhattan. What I did notice was a lack of display of emotion from those giving us the news. No dramatic display of hysteria, like Hebert Morrison’s radio broadcast witnessing the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937.  It was all ‘matter of fact’ and as I recollect, which seemed sterile and detached from the event. Regardless, nothing could have prepared any of us for what we witnessed happening via live satellite from NYC. As we viewed the television screen in horror, we saw ordinary people like us plunging from windows towards their deaths. Then the first tower slammed from the top floor into the next, subsequently, like a giant domino line, until the giant skyscraper was leveled into what surmounted into an “atomic” dust cloud chasing thousands of New Yorkers through the streets and across bridges running for their lives. We were in complete shock and denial, and acutely horrified. And then, the second tower collapsed. I abruptly shouted an expletive… and then I looked around the room and saw other operators scrambling to enter the directory assistance office to handle our day to day information calls. Having been a 411 operator for three years, this was a day I was unsure that I could perform my job with full concentration. I had the entire morning’s events weighing heavily of my mind, and so did my co-workers. In fact, one of my co-workers ended up unplugging and telling a manager he needed to leave. His daughter was in Lower Manhattan. He managed to reach her and instructed her to go quickly to his friend’s office at Newsweek magazine and stay there until he arrived. Managers rushed around the office with papers outlining information the callers would be looking for such as emergency info for the airlines, listings for government agencies and any other information which would be pertinent to the callers’ requests. It was complete chaos in the office for an hour or so when one of some of the managers ran around the office with clipboards asking for volunteers to go to Dover, NH to field phones calls from only NYC and surrounding boroughs. I did not hesitate and raised my hand along with six or seven others. My mind was on this disaster and doing whatever I could do to help. We grabbed our things and car pooled to Dover which was over an hour south of Portland. I called home before I left and told my family I would be home very late. I was unaware my sons had witnessed it on televisions at their school. They were twelve and fourteen and old enough to see this. Later, reflecting how I felt that my sons’ witnessed the WTC collapse on television, my reasoning was that it was historically significant.
Once in Dover, we saw many whom we used to work with in Directory Assistance. This was the Zero Operator office. The break room was full of pizzas for us and they welcomed us to help them field calls from NYC. We all sat in a room and did emergency training for about 3 hours. A Zero operator’s responsibilities were far different from a 411 operator. The keyboards had different functions which we needed to learn. None of us could have been prepared for what we were to hear when we plugged into our switchboards. In Directory, we could hand off a call to a service assistant if the customer needed more help. As a Zero Operator, the call belonged to you from beginning to end. Handing off a call was not an option.
We all went to our stations with our manuals and notes in hand. It was a day I will never forget.The phone company waived all coin phone fees that day as the urgency prevailed all day in Lower Manhattan. Hysteria met our ears all day and we had to remain calm and professional throughout our tour of duty. I recall becoming emotional a few times, when people were yelling that they just escaped from the 84th floor, the 79th floor, and after a while, I felt relieved that some people had escaped. They were in a panic, trying to reach family members. I tried to connect a few however with the steady stream of the flow of communication; often times calls were met with ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY. It was not like cell phones were carried by everyone as they are today, ten years later.
I remember we were taught how to break into a line to connect a person to a person. One man calling from Brooklyn to Staten Island, asked me to intercept the call. I broke into the line and informed the woman I had so & so who needed to speak with her. She agreed and I heard a short piece of the conversation. He was yelling, “The towers are gone!! Can you believe those people are all dancing in the streets in Pakistan?? ” I continued with my next call. It was a suicidal man from Queens. He was saying the world was ending and he wanted to hurt himself. I quickly tried to reassure him to hold a moment because I was going to get him some help (Samaritans). With this call, I needed assistance from a trainer. It was very stressful and this person believed this was the end of the world… he was exasperated. We connected him to an operator for Samaritans and then onto my next call. I received many calls from people who were looking for their friends and family and wanted me to dial the name of the business at the World Trade Center. They were in complete disbelief. I told them the towers were gone and I wished them well and said a prayer for them. I did not know how I was going to get through the day talking to New Yorkers all day. I felt like I had been through battle after only one day on the job. That night, I went home and cried. The following day, we did the same thing again. The second night, I went home again and I cried. The third day, we resumed our regular jobs as 411 operators, as Dover did not need us anymore.
Life changed drastically after that day. For the next year or so, I would get up in the middle of the night to check Headline News for any little bit of details related to the terrorist attack. I was consumed with news 24/7, a dramatic change from the early days of my youth when we had a B&W TV and saw the news once a day. I recalled my father waking us to watch the moon landing. It seemed such and innocent time and a time when news didn’t rule our lives. We are addicted to news and information in the moment and we are all on a fast train heading for somewhere.
For at least a year after the attack, every call into Directory Assistance was noticably different. The callers were all on high alert. They listened when the operators asked them for more information. They were kinder and polite for a long time, perhaps prioritizing the important things in life. I think it forced all of us to reevaluate our lives. Maybe we all needed a wake- up call.  I remember thinking that the effort to look for survivors and to clear the area of debris needed to be photographed. I hoped someone was brave enough to take on the task. Joel Meyerowitz, photographer was from the New York area. He started carrying his camera everyday and was questioned and sent away. He was persistent and finally received clearance to document the area. He then heard many stories as he spoke with rescue personnel nearly every day. Then the calls began coming into 411 for young men and some women looking for recruiter’s listings. This went on for a long time, as young men and women joined the armed forces to fight against those who dared attack us.
I recall seeing the haze in NYC after the collapse of the twin Towers, a haze which lasted days upon days. I saw a silhouette of a large twisted steel form similar to cathedral windows cast against a backdrop of soot and ashe whiteout. That piece of twisted steel, I later wrote to the editor of the New York Times was something which needed to be salvaged for a Memorial. Apparently, I was not the only one to think so, because I was in good company with the head of Metropolitan Museum of Art also mentioning this piece of twisted steel needed to be considered for a Memorial. I have a copy of my email sent and also the letter from the New York Times. In fact I saved many different newspapers from that day. In 1983, before my visit to the Twin Towers, I would visit the Empire State Building and photograph looking down towards Wall Street earlier that day. I also saved some artifacts from the World Trade Center and went to the Observation Deck to photograph. I took photos from all the four sides looking out over the New York skyline including a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge lit up at night. I took photos looking down towards the street, which I now realize was the view people witnessed just before their plunge from the building that day. My artifacts include a green ticket to the Observation Deck which has an outline of the WTC and also a brochure which unfolds to show the NYC skyline. On the front of the color brochure is written in bold letters, “The Closest Some Will Ever Get to Heaven”


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Henry Ford

Perhaps one of the most interesting self- made American men was Mr. Henry Ford. It started with an article I read in an old magazine, The American Magazine, dated July 1928.  The title was “Wages Will Go Up and Prices Come Down says Henry Ford”, an interview by William S. Dutton. [ pg 15-17,111-113]
         Ford was sixty-five when he was interviewed by Dutton. Ford believed that a man is in training until age forty. If he quits then or retires, he is a failure. Ford did not believe he was successful, as his only success was an assembler of tools. His philosophy of money was interesting.
         Money is but only a tool and Ford believed when it becomes other than a tool in its use, then it becomes a menace. Ford’s statement, “Non productive private fortunes do not exist anymore. Once they cease to produce, they disappear.” Raw tools of the industry would include a pile of coal. A pile of money is also a raw tool of the industry.
         He was asked about charity workers. What were Ford’s thoughts about giving away large amounts of money to charity? He went on to explain how his factory, which he referred to as his “machine”, worked. Ford owned everything to make his machine work. To produce cars, he converted ore to steel, then sand to glass, then hemp to burlap, then cloth into artificial leather, then waste paper and rags into binder board and slag into cement, and he even owned the rubber plants to produce his automobile tires. Ford Motor Company was a vertical industry. Henry Ford explained that nobody could possibly know how high men’s wages eventually would climb and likewise nobody could predict just how cheaply goods could be produced. He spoke of equations and that it may be possible to double wages and to half costs or to quadruple wages and to quarter costs. We can not predict what the possibilities will be. Ford went on to say that costs are no nearer to the bottom than wages are to the top. Ford knew that the two movements, wages upward and costs downward will do more to abolish poverty than all the professional charity agencies combined. 
         On the subject of charity once again, Ford believed that Prosperity is not the product of charity, but of industry, not of receiving but of producing. Money has little to do with prosperity because it in itself does not produce. “Money represents an earned right to participate in the general production. If everyone partook and nobody produced, what good is money?”(pg 17) Ford said many people confuse money with wealth. You can use real wealth but you cannot use money because you can only accept it in exchange of uses. Real wealth gives values to money: money gives no value to wealth. Let every man produce one useful thing, or reclaim one idle acre more and wealth increases.
         Ford asked if it was efficient for business to pay high land taxes in a congested city and have people that cannot afford their rent. It was better for business to move into the country where land costs were lower with better living conditions. Ford said that money to buy his vehicles came from people, not Wall St, not the Banks and not Capitalists. 
         Until interest is earned, no profit can be made. Ford’s belief that once a person invested in one of his autos, they should be paying less for their second car they buy from Ford and it should be a better car also. He felt that the money customers invested with Ford Motor Co. also paid men’s wages and to keep his “machine” running. He did not want the customer to carry the extra expense of added interest on their own hard earned money. He felt the customer paid once so they should not be charged again. 
         Henry Ford lived rather simply. His payroll to keep his machine working was one million dollars per day. If anyone ate up his money, it would be the machine, Ford explained. Upon a recent visit to his winter home in Fort Myers , FL, I was surprised he only went there two weeks each year, a testament to hard work ethics. 
         Ford was the master of efficiency, as you will read later in this piece. I recall a story in Studs Terkel’s book, Hard Times, about an assembly worker in the Ford plant. The worker arrived to work a very long first day. He was not told to bring a lunch or a pair of gloves. Once inside the factory, the gates locked behind him, and if one arrived 5 minutes late, they were docked one hour’s pay. The worker thought there might be a lunch wagon, but instead went hungry on his first day at work which was longer than today’s eight hour day. His job was to sand fenders all day, which he did bare- handed with no gloves. 
         Ford refused to think of himself as a success. His statement, “Any man who thinks he has done something, hasn’t many more things to do. More men are failures on account of success than on account of failures” [Ford]
        Having researched the design and cost breakdown which Ford had spent much time considering, I read with great interest the manual Ford Model A/AA Truck Owner by A.G.McMillan. The manual was originally written during the years of the Great Depression, late 1920’s. Ford was intrigued with making sure his truck was versatile and he marketed it well. He designed Baker’s delivery trucks, garbage trucks ,ice trucks, taxi’s ,ambulances , police patrol vehicles ,heavy duty express road service trucks (tow trucks), Coal trucks, Hydraulic trucks, stock trucks for moving livestock, stake trucks (with wooden stakes on the sides), Long bed trucks, Panel body trucks , and Funeral coaches. He had two basic types of AA trucks which were All American (all metal) and Line Construction Bodies (telephone & telegraph trucks, light & power trucks)
        Ford claimed there were four reasons why a Ford Truck meant Efficiency and Economy. #1 Complete Line of Equipment (With a large number of Fords in operation meant a greater number of manufacturers) #2 Lower prices on Equipment (Greater production meant lower cost of Ford equipment) #3 Better repair service ( With a large amount of Fords on the road meant for more repair centers everywhere) #4 More rapid delivery ( National distributing eliminated delays)
                    The manual was full of diagrams showing weight distribution of freight as well as comparison charts showing cost efficiency of his trucks versus the use of horse teams. Comparisons included time breakdowns and cost breakdowns. It took 4 teams (8 horses) and 4 men to keep pace with a Ford truck with a total cost of $1200.00 for equipment per year however the Ford truck cost $675.00 per year. A Ford truck would work 24 hours per day with only 15 minutes of care whereas horses will not stand more than eight hours per day. It takes forty acres to feed eight horses but a Ford truck only uses gas and oil. Stormy weather does not impact a Ford however in stormy weather, men and horses stand idle. 
        There was also a diagram which showed the costs per mile. The price of eight horses and four wagons was $1200.00 per year less $675.00 for the Ford Truck. The initial savings there was $525.00 In addition to those savings, cost of operating eight horses and four wagons per year $1292.64 and the cost of operating a Ford Truck was $270.21. Those savings were $1022.43 with a total savings comparison of $1547.43 for the first year.
        The next comparison was between a Ford six-wheel 2 ½ ton unit and an existing 2½ ton truck ( name of truck was not mentioned). The Ford truck appeared more solid, less bulky and streamlined in comparison to the competitor’s truck. Maybe one of the differences in appearance was Ford’s use of load distribution. 60/40 load distribution meant that 60 % of the weight was over the front axle while 40% was over the rear axle.
        The cost of Ford’s six wheel 2 ½ ton truck was $982.00 and the truck in comparison cost $3478.00.  The running cost of gas, oil and lubrication was broken down for each vehicle. The Ford truck got 10 miles to the gallon where the comparison truck got 7 miles to the gallon. So the average truck cost per mile was calculated for the comparison truck to 0.165 and the Ford truck was 0.086 per mile. Depreciation, Maintenance and Fixed costs were all figured into calculations. Comparing costs of those two trucks, a savings of $3720.00 was what the consumer could expect the first year if they purchased a Ford Truck.
         The design of Ford’s trucks was also broken down into diagrams and lists. Each truck had 66 drop forgings for maximum strength and minimum weight. Each truck came equipped with shatterproof glass on the front windshield. The only vehicle Ford manufactured that also included a shatterproof rear windshield was the ambulance. Also to reduce rivets, there were over 611 electric welds for safety and strength. Ford trucks were designed for easy adjustment. Ford owned the world’s largest Industrial unit. His plant in Dearborn, Michigan had a casting foundry, a glass plant, pressed steel and spring buildings, rolling mill, open hearth cement plant, and also had investments in the rubber industry to produce his tires. A diagram depicted 500 Ford coal cars bringing coal to the rouge plant. The rouge glass plant had an annual capacity of 10,000,000 square feet. 500 gallons of old paint were reclaimed daily. Power plant consumed 2200 tons of coal daily. Rouge plant covered 1,096 acres.
        Coke ovens produced an average of 3,300 tons of coke, 50, 000,000 cubic feet of gas, and 40,000 gallons of refined light oil every 24 hours. 2,500 barrels of Portland cement produced daily. Approximately 95 miles of railroad sidetracks were in the Rouge plant. James Newton, author of Uncommon Friends  relayed a story told by Edison’s son about The Rouge plant losing power once. Hoping to restore power quickly, Ford was reluctant to wait for the electric company to set poles, and instructed his own men to run power lines along the telephone poles. He told his men that he would deal with the telephone company later. Newton was a close friend of Edison, Ford and Firestone. In 1932, Newton and a newspaper reporter met Ford for an interview concerning his business philosophy. Newton mentioned there were two Ford model A’s in the driveway. Ford told Newton he had driven one from Detroit while his assistant drove the other. After the reporter left, Ford mentioned to his assistant, “Should we show Newton what we have here?” They proceeded to open the hood so Jimmie Newton took a look at the first V-8 engine. It was two months later when the world would see the V-8. Ford wanted to test drive the V-8 himself and if one of the vehicles broke down, they could just tow it using the other Ford Model A, rather than have it towed to a garage and spill the beans about the V-8.
         Ford Motor Company’s assets were one billion dollars during the late 1920’s.Ford employed 269 thousand men including factory workers and dealers. Plants and equipment worth 293 million dollars with a production of 18 million cars and trucks (3 million model A’s) Ford also made sure that he had schools for mechanics to become certified to work on his vehicles. There were 22,800 trained mechanics that graduated from these schools and became employed in Ford service stations. In addition, Ford employed 17, 734 salesmen, 5,877 dealers and 1,334 fleet –owner mechanics. There were 35 branches which were Ford headquarters for that territory
         In the early 20’s, there was a recession and Ford was producing many cars. He was smart with finance and managed to keep his company from being taken over by big bank creditors. Demand was low at this time. One way he managed to save his company was to ship his cars to the dealerships with a bill of lading and sight draft attached. The dealership had to pay for the vehicles when they were delivered. Either they paid for the vehicles or they lost their dealerships. The author, Newton, explained that in those days, having a Ford dealership afforded one considerable status in a small town.   
         Model AA panel delivery trucks could be special ordered with the name of the business information lettered onto the vehicle. Ford calculated costs of carrying freight and broke the figures down into pounds weight per 100 gallons. He used milk, oil, gasoline, eggs, and calculated what the weight would be with empty racks versus full racks. Ford calculated what it would cost to carry weights per bushel of apples, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, barley and also showed how to distribute loads when carrying the freight. Weights per bushel of apples (50 lbs), tomatoes (55 lbs), clover (25 lbs), limes (80 lbs) charcoal (20 lbs), as this information would be important to a delivery man. 
         Ford also considered the most efficient method of frequent delivery vehicles. He called it a Step-n-Drive Drop Frame Truck.  A driver would sit when driving using pedals. Near the 1st stop, the driver would fold his seat up instantly and stand while using a single combination clutch and brake pedal. When checking his work load, he only needed to turn around to enter from behind the seat, rather than go to the back of the vehicle, to retrieve the goods/parcel. This provides the convenience of wagons with the motorized speed, covering greater territory.
         Ford also had a three way dump body vehicle. These would work from side to side & out the back (cost 250 dollars) Coal bodies included a high lift -1 ton for 750 dollars) and a 2 ton (1000 dollars) The coal body truck’s side and bottom were made from 10 gauge steel with no seams, rivets or bolts.
         Ford had a vertical hoist on some trucks that was mounted to frame on back of cab, He also had two hydraulic hoists, on the Model A (hand operated) and Model AP (Operated by truck motor) Of interest was the Hackney CO2 refrigerated bodies. One was used strictly for non frozen, such as fish, dairy and meat deliveries. The other Hackney CO2  delivery vehicle was strictly for frozen goods such as ice cream. Having read about Ford’s reasoning behind dry ice versus ice for deliveries, it all made perfect sense. The argument was about cost. Dry ice weighed half the weight of ice. Therefore an important characteristic of dry ice would be, no moisture to soak, no repainting or replacing metal parts due to corrosion. Dry ice turns from a solid to a gas with no drip. The cost of using Dry Ice would save a delivery truck for one year approximated between 900 and 2500 dollars. 
         Ford trucks had two important efficiency accessories. One was a Governor, which once installed, was used on a vehicle to prevent strain from excessive speed. A governor cost 17.50 to install and it took 20 minutes to do so. It prevented racing in lower gears. It limited speed & expense but not power. It worked because power from gas velocity transmitted to rod and spring through gear sector and rack. The 2nd forces manifold vacuum on same rod & spring from pressure from a piston. It stops speeding and leads to longer engine life. The other was a recorder, which kept accurate records of a trucks activity per hour. Perhaps this was the beginning of the idea behind the GPS.
         Ford’s trucks had a variety of uses, including elevated towers for public utility vehicles which included ladders( primitive early crane), post hole diggers, hoist and winches(for telephone companies and contractors), engines with greater power (to pull boats , heavy cruisers or flatbed), adapted with advertising(giant milk bottle mounted on back, or giant camera-specifically for advertising purposes), demonstrating type vehicles (may show an oil burner inside, so a salesman could demonstrate door to door), folding seats( for delivery of passengers),  window bars (armored vehicles), clothes racks ( for laundry and dry cleaners), centrifugal pumps ( could be easily mounted for painters, contractors- and they also came with ladder carriers)
         Taxicabs came equipped with silk curtains. Ambulances came equipped a medicine chest, heater, fan, thermos bottles, wash basin, and a stretcher. Funeral hearses came equipped with green mohair casket stops.
         Each vehicle was listed with Operating Cost Analysis charts, which included based on an average of 85 miles per day, Cost Per Mile, Cost Per day, Cost Per Year. Ford even figured in depreciation. He listed Ford Fleet Owners of many national companies owning 200 or more of his Ford trucks. American Telegraph and Telephone Company & subs owned by far most at 8207 units. Swift company & subsidiaries came in second owning 2957 units.  
         I visited Ford’s summer home in Fort Myers and was told a great story about the man. One day a delivery driver came on the Edison/Ford property, and was stopped at the gate by none other than Henry Ford, although the delivery driver was unaware it was Mr Ford. Ford then proceeded to ask the driver all about his truck, what he liked and what he did not like. The driver shared his experiences about the vehicle with Ford and finally drove off to make the delivery. Asked what held the delivery man up, he explained a man had interrogated him at the gate. It was then he learned it was none other than Henry Ford himself.

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