Grandma’s Kitchen Apron

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments Archives.)
As a youth I loved going to Grandma & Grandpa’s farm near Dudleytown. And I suppose my Mom & Dad appreciated the break from reining in a rambunctious rascal of a son.
Grandma always wore a big apron when around the farm. Unlike a tie around the waist apron, this sleeveless smock was somewhat like an overdress. Perhaps the female readers of this column remember making such an apron in Home Economics? But maybe it has been so long that they don’t remember Home Ec? Or maybe with the emphasis today on technical training, STEM classes, and dual diplomas, maybe knowing how to cook and sew isn’t important. Afterall, we can always get an unhealthy meal at a restaurant and go buy a new item of clothing when a button falls off.
But we all should remember those big aprons Grandma wore…even if they aren’t worn much today.
The principal use of Grandma’s big apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few and because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons required less material.
But along with that, aprons served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.
From the chicken house, the apron was used for carrying eggs. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy grandchildren. And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow bent over the hot canning stove. From the garden, it carried in all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled on the front porch, it carried out the hulls to the chicken yard. In the autumn, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the lane, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When it was mealtime, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to lunch.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.
The health department would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. But I don’t think I ever caught anything from Grandma’s apron but love.

Forgotten Unforgettable Quotes

by Curt Kovener

We have all made predictions that not only didn’t come true. Maybe they were 180° from what actually happened. Here are some of the more “Durn, I wish I hadn’t said that” looks into the future back then.
“Computers in the future may weigh more than 1.5 tons.”
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.
—The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
“But what … is it good for?”
—Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
—Ken Olson, president, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
— Western Union memo, 1876.
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
— David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
—A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express.
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
—H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.”
—Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”
“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.”
— Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
—Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey,we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.”
—Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
—Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
— Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”.
— Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”
— Bill Gates, 1981
Remember the theme of these quotes as we enter yet another election cycle.

A Redundancy Of Onyms

by Curt Kovener

Education is a lifelong process. Particularly when one must use words in his line of work.
I do have diplomas somewhere that say I completed high school and college classes, but most of my knowledge came from HKU…Hard Knocks University. Seat of the pants learning is painful but it does stick with you throughout the years.
While English and writing were a part of my Grade 1 through high school sophomore school experience, it was CHS junior and senior English classes with Mrs. Lewis that intrigued and perplexed me. Now for more than 40 years, I have gotten paid to write.
We all know that a synonym is a word that means the same as another: small or tiny or petite. Sometimes I use a synonym when I can’t spell the word I really want.
We all know antonyms are words that mean the opposite: there are happy and sad test takers, tall and short mixed drinks (depending on your level of thirst or frustration at work), and the bitter sweet memories of a first romance.
There is also the nearly alike sounding anatonym where a part of the body is used as a verb. We toe the line, foot the bill, face the music, belly up to the bar.
Completing this A-section of onyms is the aptronym: a name that is suited to the profession of its owner. Names like Dan Druff the barber, Dr. Wee the urologist, James Bugg a pest exterminator, the late astronaut Sally Ride (not to be confused with the chorus of Mustang Sally), Jim Kick the football player, and two Cross Country runners from my college days: Ralph Foote and Jim Legg (I jest you not).
Then there is the capitonym, a word that changes pronunciation and meaning when it is capitalized. For instance, long-suffering Job secured a job to polish piles of Polish brass. Or in another instance, An herb store owner, named Herb, moved to ranier Mt. Ranier. It would have been so nice in Nice and even tangier in Tangier.
Thanks to Richard Lederer for reminding me of these lessons.

Wilderness Awakens From Winter’s Slumber

by Curt Kovener

There are signs that the wilderness is returning to life after a winter slumber.
The birds at our feeder are changing into their bright warm weather plumage…all except for the cardinals that seem to have brighter red feathers against the winter snow. Gold and red finches are staring to brighter up their feathers.
The bluegill in the lake are seen as dark shadows near the warming surface of the water so I tossed them some floating fish food. Their rapid movement towards me tells me they remember the dinner bell sound of the food hitting the water. But they are slow in eating telling me the water is still winter cold.
The softwood trees are budding out their early blossoms and means we will begin the grass and pollen allergy season in the wilderness. The dogwood flower buds are swelling showing their time to bloom is later this month. The crocus and daffodils have them all beat as they are offering hues of yellow along the wilderness floor.
Paw paws are the earliest wild fruit trees to bloom, showing their bronze bell shaped blossoms, usually in mid-April. They almost always bloom early before any pollinators are flying about and that results in fewer paw paws in late summer.
The forest understory is beginning to green up. My experience is that it is the briars and invasives (green briar, wild grapes, multi-flora roses and Japanese Honeysuckle) that awaken first to get a jump on the flora I prefer to have growing.
While I have power equipment, I prefer to work quieter in the forest to hear and observe wildlife. Long handle pruners and my 12-volt sawz-all take care of the grape vines. A weedwhip does enough damage to the honeysuckle and prickly plants to delay their advances. And the bending, stooping, and swinging of man-powered equipment gives me the stretching and cardio vascular exercise my doctor says I should be doing.
But my back, knees, leg and arm muscles let me know the next morning that they are not used to the rigorous movement.
There is always plenty of cleanup from the winter storms. Sticks and branches litter the property. Particularly the front yard and porch where Emma the Great Pyrenees brings up what she considers prize-winning sticks for us. They were welcome in the winter for fireplace kindling but now are just something else to throw on the burn pile for a summer wiener roast.
We had a visit from Greg, a DNR forestry consultant, recently. He returned to the wilderness to collect data on some trees he marked and measured five years ago. His GPS led us to the approximate location and then his tablet (ain’t technology in the wilderness grand?) told him what trees he had previously marked and measured. I left him to his work and returned to the house. When he came back to his vehicle he thanked me for leaving him alone. “I appreciate property owners’ cooperation but their questions always slow me down,” said forestry guru Greg. “Looks like your trees have grown from 1.1-1.7 inches in circumference these past five years.”
Greg chuckled and agreed when I replied, “Well, that’s less that our waistlines have grown over the same time period.”
The warmer weather lets me know that it is time to get the mowing equipment tuned up for spring usage. But the warm weather is to be enjoyed in other ways on this day. I sit in a deck chair watching fish feeding slowly about the lake while basking in the welcomed sunlight and contemplating it all was an attitude adjusting adult beverage.

Celebrating Your Right To Know

by Curt Kovener

Today we are in the middle of Sunshine Week 2019.
No, dear reader, this is not a week when they sun must shine and warm us up a bit…though it would be welcome. Sunshine Week, which highlights the importance of open government, was established in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors.
The timing of this week-long observance coincides with two related celebrations: the birthday of our fourth president and “father of the Constitution,” James Madison on March 16; and National Freedom of Information Day, which is set for the same day.
In simple terms, freedom of information is your right to know what your government is doing— how it spends your tax dollars, how it creates and implements policy, how it makes decisions that affect you.
Over the past several weeks we have published the annual reports of cities & towns, townships and counties. Those reports tell you the receipts (tax revenue), spending on government services, and the financial health of those governmental entities. This week, we begin publishing Annual Performance Reports for the area school systems.
Let’s say, for example, you want a copy of the budget for Crothersville, Austin or Scottsburg (or any other governmental entity). You have the right to walk into City Hall and ask for it.
And the governmental entity has to give it to you, or it must explain why it can’t.
If you request a public record in person, the governmental entity has 24 hours to respond to your request. If you make the request by mail, it has seven days.
In considering your request, the government office can’t ask why you want the information. It can’t even legally ask who you are.
If all you want to do is examine the document, you have the right to do that right there in the office. If you want a copy, the office does have the option of charging you a reasonable fee.
The fight for open government isn’t about liberals and conservatives. Freedom of information advocates come from the right and the left.
And they keep fighting the good fight year in and year out because they truly believe in a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
James Madison was a champion of the elimination of secrecy in government, which as you may have noticed lately is an issue that’s more important to highlight than ever.
Journalism and the very concept of truth have been under attack, so it’s important not to lose sight of primacy of the First Amendment in our society. When true stories public officials don’t like are called “fake news,” and when the holder of the nation’s highest office calls the free press “the enemy of the American people,” you know it’s time to stand up for these ideals.

Words To Be Guided By

by Curt Kovener

February is Black History month, so as we approach its final day, some quotes from civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are in order. There were fitting when said; they are more fitting in 2019.
Our thanks to Professor Ron Adkins for contributing these life lessons.
•The time is always right to do what is right.
•Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
•Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
•Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
•Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
•Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
•Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
•Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
•The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
•The quality, not the length, of one’s life is what is important.
•We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
•We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
•A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.