Greatest Places To Visit

Situated on the northern New York State border separating Ontario, Canada from the United States only by the St. Lawrence River, is the Thousand Islands.

Actually, there are many more islands than one thousand. For an in depth tour, along with the history of past and present residents, I recommend taking the Uncle Sam Boat Tours out of Alexandria Bay, New York.

To access the boat tours go to http://www.usboattours.com. I like the 21/4 hour ride that takes you to the International Bridge which links New York to Canada. There is also a stop at Boldt Castle where you have the option of disembarking and viewing the gorgeous grounds and castle…also known as Heart Island.

Construction on the castle began in the mid 1890’s as a testament of love the owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (in New York City) had for his wife. The building of Boldt Castle involved over 600 workers who had to arrive on site by water craft. It was truly a marvel of its time, with electricity, a power generating plant, bowling alley, a separate playhouse castle, underground horse stables, and so much more. Upon the wife’s untimely death, all 600 workers were told to lay down their tools and exit the island, even though construction was not complete. Until the day he died, the owner never returned to Heart Island. The chef at the Waldorf Astoria created a salad dressing, appropriately named Thousand Islands and of course, the Waldorf salad. For further details visit http://www.boldtcastle.com.

Located across from Boldt Castle is Alexandria Bay, New York. “A Bay” as the locals call it remains the king in tourism in the Thousand Island region. Festivities, shops and restaurants abound in this tiny area during the summer season. For a list of activities go to http://www.alexbay.org. There are numerous accommodations, but the two nicest, in my opinion, are the Riveredge and Bonnie Castle. Each are conveniently located within walking distance of the downtown area.

There is a plethora of places to explore along the Seaway Trail. Drive west to Cape Vincent, New York and catch the ferry to Wolfe Island, Ontario. Drive a few miles across the island and catch another ferry that will bring you right into the city of Kingston, Ontario. Kingston is bar none a beautiful and historic city filled with the atmosphere of a bustling downtown loaded with sidewalk cafes, lovely architecture and an outdoor farmers market.

Travel east on the Seaway Trail to Massena, New York and take in the Eisenhower Locks. Observe the ocean going vessels going through the lock system as they travel up the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean and their final destinations.

Whatever you decide, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands region are a must see and definitely one of the spectacular, breathtaking and historic places to visit. I would classify the area as the eighth wonder of the world.

EXPERIENCES ON THE JOB

Several years ago I found out a certain naivete’ surrounds those new to the work force.

Following high school I began my employment as a mail boy in a large insurance company. Shortly thereafter, I was moved to the print shop running an offset printing press, hole punching and collating papers for in-house manuals, newsletters and memorandums. It didn’t take long to realize the low wage and monotony were breaking my spirit. So off I went to Personnel (there was no such thing as Human Resources back then) to explore how to move my career along.

Even though this meeting occurred more than forty years ago, I remember the day vividly. The Personnel counselor informed me of the importance of a formal education. I was told that once I committed to grow educationally, the company would take my career objectives more seriously. Plus, the company reimbursed at 50% for all courses and material as long as a passing grade of “C” was maintained. So, I immediately enrolled in two evening classes at the local community college.

The evenings I didn’t have school I worked as a security guard and weigh master at the local farmer’s regional market until midnight. Week-ends were spent working in a men’s clothing store…not so much for the salary…but more for the 35% employee discount. After all, I did need nice clothes to be in an office environment.

Successful completion of my first semester brought an immediate promotion to the claims department. I was excited, nervous, happy, dedicated and ambitious. I was proud to wear a suit and tie even though a suit jacket had to be worn anytime you left your desk. Wow…I felt so professional!

The department manager was slight in stature, bald and in his early sixties. One learned early on that his size was not to be reckoned with. He was extremely intimidating and a “no nonsense” person. There was no question who ran the show. When least expected he would stand in his office doorway and fling a file to the corner of my desk. Of course I would be startled. Feelings of anger were swallowed knowing this position was only a stepping stone before moving on to other positions.

A motivator back then was how clear grade levels and positions were delineated. The grading system went from 3 to 13. Above grade 13 was the officer level. Within each grade were salary ranges from low, medium to high. A positive merit review meant a percentage increase based on that grade’s medium rate. Not bad if you fell in the lower range of a grade level.

In a clerical post you simply had a desk and shared a phone. Another grade increase and you received a company logo desk pen. Another increase earned a side chair, one more you got a chair with arms and finally, your own cubicle. Every grade and the expectations for that grade were clearly laid out in a comprehensive employee manual.

For me having everything explained so clearly was a no brainer. Stay in school, take company sponsored courses, meet company standards, cross my “T’s” and dot my “i’s” and my career path was there waiting for me.

All of this sounds great unless you’re young, not well versed in the business world, overly self confident and impatient. I was all of them.

So early one morning I held my head high and walked into my boss’ office. I quietly shut the door and humbly asked if I could speak with him. I was greeted with a grumble to make it quick. So I went over my brief accomplishments and abruptly dropped, “the bomb”…”may I have a raise?” Calmly my boss rose from his corner desk, came around to meet me face to face. My palms were sweating and my body was trembling. In a fatherly move he stood to my left, took his right arm across my back to my right shoulder and walked me to the office window. He then told me his story back in the 1930’s when he made the same request of his boss. He related how his manager walked him to the window in New York City and asked if he noticed the man with the apple cart on the street below and how would he like to have a cart next to his? In a boyish way I asked what that meant. His response was abrupt and to the point. No raise and if I wasn’t satisfied Then perhaps I should sell apples. I slumped and with tail between my legs went back to work.

Within a couple of months I did receive a two grade promotion and merit increase. This manager, in time, gave me several grade increases and I never had to ask for a raise again.

I started my career two floors below street level within the confines of a nineteen story office building and it ended with my own office on the nineteenth floor. Not bad for a kid who didn’t know where he was going or how to get there.

I will always be grateful to the wonderful mentors I had. I was too naive to realize how to accomplish goals on my own, but I learned there are rules and play books. Stick to the rules and follow the play book and the rest is history.

Is canning and preserving foods worth it

Well, it’s canning season again and the question arises…should I or shouldn’t I?

On cold snowy days in February I love to venture down to the pantry and pick out a canned jar of stewed tomatoes, pickles or sauce. However, I grumble on an annual basis during the sweltering month of August while standing for hours over a hot stove making my winter concoctions.

Does the work equal the reward? Is it cost effective? Is it safe? Well, I would say it’s like going out shopping at 3:00 A.M. on “Black Friday” for that special Christmas present. You’re tired and sluggish from the feast yesterday. Chances are you will be pushed and shoved, but alas…the goal. The brass ring. You made the personal sacrifice. You saved a few dollars and you made yourself and someone else happy too.

There is no government agency in my kitchen telling me what I can and can’t put into my recipes. That in and of itself is a free feeling.

When I buy half bushels of tomatoes, baskets of pickles and bushels of apples I’m supporting our local farmers. When I bring in vegetables from my own garden, I’m reaping what I sowed. I fell like a homesteader except I have all the modern conveniences and air conditioning. It’s a feeling of nostalgia. No products from China are in my canned goods, although you have to be careful with the garlic. China is trying to sneak this in wherever they can.

To me canning is an art form. Like a sculptor molding clay, you’re creating something to be enjoyed and shared with those most special to you. What an accomplishment.

So next year when I begin my rantings and the use of a few expletives, I’ll remember those wintry days of tasting the past summer’s crops and the smile on my loved ones’ and friends’ faces when handing them a quart of home goodness.

Is canning a pain? You bet it is…but, it is priceless when it comes to the rewards it offers.

RACISM IN AMERICA

Imagine the fear. Seven years old and being shaken off the ground by the collar of your shirt. Then the tall menacing figure of an adult security guard asks, “are you stupid boy”? That’s exactly what happened to me in 1958.

My parents and I were visiting my Great Aunt LaLa in Georgia. We had gone to a national department store to shop. I was thirsty and went to get a drink out of the fountain. A “coloreds only” sign didn’t register with me. Shoot, I didn’t even know what “colored” meant, but soon I would find out.

My great aunt lived in a small town. She owned the land around her home, owned the general store and she even read palms. She, like a lot of white people in the south at the time, had an Afro-American woman who cooked and cleaned for her.

My uncle had just cut the head off of a chicken for dinner. I was awestruck! The bird was running around with no head. The dogs were barking and rolling on the ground as if they too couldn’t believe what just happened. Yikes…I had never witnessed such a sight. Naturally, I was curious how this chicken, full of feathers, and no head was eventually going to be our evening meal.

So, I pulled the kitchen chair over to the counter as the young lady was busy soaking the bird and plucking its’ feathers. I remember how nice she was. She looked kind and certainly showed a lot of patience with me.

My lips must have really been flapping with a bunch of inquisitve questions when suddenly my aunt barked, “Denny…ya’all want to come in here”?

I climbed offf the chair and went to the front room. I could see the young lady from where I sat. My aunt then said, “boy, you see that girl in there? Well, that’s my colored help. You don’t talk to them, eat with them or sleep with them. You understand me boy?” “Yes Aunt LaLa”, I sheepishly replied.

The fact of the matter is, I didn’t understand then and I don’t understand now. That moment in time is forever burned in my brain. It’s as if someone had put a branding iron there.

Years later, as an adult I had a business acquantance who was from the same small Georgia town as my aunt. We became fast friends. He was Afro-American. I called my then 94 year old aunt to ask if she knew this man’s family name. She thought for a moment and did recall that his grandfather was the colored doctor who was only allowed to treat the colored people in the area.

My aunt must have also remembered her talk with me so many years before because she ended our conversation with, “you know Denny I’ve changed with the times. I realize you can talk to colored people and even eat with them, but please son don’t sleep with them”.

I guess in my old southern Aunt LaLa’s mind that was progress.