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Threads:  Still Living at Home

Letters written by me, updated December 2001
to include the period November 1970-November 1973

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Background:  After I received my master's degree from Syracuse in August of 1970, I got a job in Marion, Ohio, just 15 miles from my home town of Richwood.  I was there for three and a half years.  I moved back into my old room and stayed at home with my parents.

For some comments about sharing living quarters, click here.  For other assorted remarks, see below.


Sunday, November 22, 1970

I have changed appearance slightly since last you saw me.  I've put on about ten pounds of weight.  All of it since leaving Syracuse, where I did a lot of outdoor walking, and coming to Richwood, where I like to eat my mother's cooking.  I'll probably stay a little heavier, too, since in my job I don't have time to get outside very much.  I can't take 20 minutes to walk from one place to another.  So my shirt collars are getting a little tighter.


Saturday, January 2, 1971

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but this year I didn't send out a single Christmas card.  Not one.  In college and grad school I had plenty of time for such things, but now that I'm out in the Real World, things are different.


Sunday, February 28, 1971

A major project for tonight is tending to my calendar watch.  You see, my watch isn't very well educated; it never learned that rhyme about "Thirty days hath September."  So every year at this time, I have to crank it ahead 72 hours.  If I don't, it will tell me that tomorrow is February 29th, and Tuesday is February 30th, and Wednesday is February 31st.  And, gullible as I am, I'd probably believe it.


Sunday, April 18, 1971 

In this part of Ohio we're in the eastern edge of the Corn Belt, so on the local radio station there are some commercials aimed at the farmer.  In one of them an American spokesman is talking to a Russian.

"Do you have corn fertilizer in your country?"

"Da, da."

"Is it specially formulated for local soil conditions, like Nourish®?"

"Nyet.  It is specially formulated by local yak.  Oh, if we only had Nourish®!"

"Oh, well, no country can have everything.  We have Nourish® fertilizer, and you have the ballet."


"No, I really mean it."

I have my doubts as to whether that spot is in completely good taste.


Sunday, July 18, 1971

Although I haven't yet completed my first year at Marion CATV, my boss did allow me to take a week's vacation this summer.  I got off work on July 2 and didn't have to go back until Monday, July 12.  My parents and I spent the week on a number of trips, starting with one to Owensboro, Kentucky, to visit my paternal grandmother and some aunts and uncles, all of whom live just south of there.  We left here on Saturday the third and returned on Tuesday the sixth.

While in Kentucky, we visited a strip mine operated by a small coal-mining company of which one of my uncles is business manager.  Very interesting, especially the mine's largest piece of equipment, a walking dragline (a power shovel used for digging up the coal) which was roughly the size of a brontosaurus.  We went inside the cab, which was about as big as a two-story house.

On the way back home on July 6, we stopped off at the Air Force Museum near Dayton.

Wednesday found us back on the road again, this time headed for Cambridge, Ohio, and a visit with some more relatives, Cecil and Sara Gibson.  Cecil's mother and my maternal grandmother were sisters.  The five of us, two Gibsons and three Thomases, spent the day driving around the area of southeastern Ohio where Cecil and my mother were born and raised.  It's hilly country, mostly second-rate farm land; most of the houses they remembered from fifty years ago are still standing, but they're all abandoned.  We prowled around the house on Curtis Ridge where my mother was born, and later we ate a picnic lunch at a roadside park where many years ago everyone from that part of the country gathered once a year for a community festival.

Thursday was a day of rest.

On Friday, we went south again, this time to Cincinnati for a night baseball game.  We returned on Saturday morning.


Wednesday, August 4, 1971

Here in Ohio, we're in the midst of a cold wave.  Today's high was only 67 degrees, and it may drop into the forties tonight.  It's been nearly two months since the thermometer's risen above 85.  Strange summer.


Sunday, November 7, 1971

Among my other activities, I'm spending Sunday evenings playing the piano as the Richwood Civic Chorus rehearses its Christmas cantata, to be presented December 12.

Appreciate the fact you're in the Snow Belt.  Two years ago I spent the winter in upstate New York; then last year I spent the winter in midstate Ohio, and I missed the snow.  It snew only a few times.  Yet the temperatures were just as cold and the winds just as biting.  In short, we had the bad part of winter (the cold) without the beautiful part (the snow).  I had to spend all winter on a barren, windy tundra.  So, the next time you look out your window and see a blizzard, shed a tear for me in bleak Ohio.

Sunday, December 19, 1971

Here's another puzzle for you.  See if you can figure out what these assorted letters stand for.

Holl amrantau'r ser ddywedant,
  Ar hyd y nos,
Dyma'r ffordd i fro gogoniant,
  Ar hyd y nos.
Golen aral yw tywyllwch,
I arddaug os gwir brydferthwch,
Teulu'r nef oedd mewn tawelwch,
  Ar hyd y nos.

O mor siriol gwena seren,
  Ar hyd y hos,
I oleno'i chwaerddaearen,
  Ar hyd y nos.
Nos yw henaint pan ddaw cystudd,
Ond i harddu dyn a'i hwyrddydd,
Rho'wn ein golen gwan i'n gilydd,
  Ar hyd y nos.


Sunday, January 16, 1972

I feel a bit guilty.  I knew that poem-puzzle would befuddle you, but I didn't think you would actually spend several hours trying to "decode" it.  I owe you a hint.  Look up hymn number 497 in The Methodist Hymnal.  The words of the hymn have very little to do with the words of the poem,  but something else on that page should give you a clue.

[Explanation:  The hymn-tune, AR HYD Y NOS, is here identified as a Welsh traditional melody.  That means that the "puzzle" isn't a cipher, as one might think; it's merely a poem written in Welsh, which English speakers see as a jumble of random letters.

As part of the BBC's "Last Night at the Proms" in 2004, a chorus from Wales performed this song.  It turns out that the title rhymes with "Star need a dose."]


Sunday, March 12, 1972

Here's the translation of that old Welsh song, "Ar Hyd Y Nos."

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee,
   All through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee,
   All through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
   All through the night.

While the morn her watch is keeping
   All through the night,
While the weary world is sleeping,
   All through the night,
O'er thy spirit gently stealing,
Visions of delight revealing,
Breathes a pure and holy feeling,
   All through the night.


Sunday, April 30, 1972

This desk job I have was making me a bit overweight, so I decided to see if I could correct the situation by simulating the walking I had to do while I was in Syracuse.


Saturday, May 20, 1972

I've been walking 2½  miles each morning before breakfast, and I think it's working.  I've been losing almost exactly one pound per week.  I started at 175, which is a little heavy for a fellow my size — I'm about 5'10" — and I decided I wanted to get down to about 155.

When I walk out the driveway onto the highway and towards town at 6:30 in the morning, I am a little bleary-eyed.  It's like it's foggy every time I start out.  But I wake up by the time I get back to the house, and I don't think the fact I'm getting up half an hour earlier is making me any more tired.  It might, in fact, be improving my general physical well-being.

Well, moving on to your letter of ten days ago:  You've moved to South Avenue, and you're very happy to be living alone.  You say, "Since you have never had a roommate, you don't know how wearing it can be to share a room and/or apartment with someone else."

Actually, I did have a roommate once, my freshman year in college.  I roomed with Dave Wilkinson, a flute major.  We got along, although we weren't at all like each other.  We did it by mutual avoidance.  I would come home early, about eight or nine o'clock at night, and go to bed.  Dave would come in around midnight; I'd be asleep.  Then the next morning about five o'clock, I would get up to study.  Of course, I couldn't study in the room with him still sleeping there, so I went down to the basement of Burton Hall (which was my freshman dorm).  Then I went on to my eight o'clock German class, and from there.  When I'd come back in the afternoon, Dave would be over at the Conservatory practicing.  At dinnertime, sometimes he'd come back to change clothes.  So we got along fairly well, because we never saw much of each other.

However, when the time came to obtain housing for my sophomore year, I very definitely put in for a single room.  And I got one, and I held onto it for the next three years (actually moving down to the first floor of Noah for my senior year, whereas I had been on the third floor my sophomore and junior years).

I am pretty much of a loner, I guess.  I wouldn't say you were; but for both of us, it frequently does seem to be an advantage to be able to be independent in respect to living conditions.

I don't know how that applies to the idea of marriage.  I would suppose that a husband and wife would probably be better friends and more in agreement on activities than would three students.  It might be easier to get along sharing the same apartment.  I hope it would be, because that's the way it's done.

You mention that your new car is a 1969 Chevy II Nova, forest green.  That sounds similar to a car which I was driving a couple of years back.  I just like the idea of the smaller car, easier to maneuver into small places.


Thursday, June 8, 1972

I'm still doing my morning exercising, of course.  When I wrote you last, I had lost four pounds in four weeks.  Since then, I haven't lost anything.  I have a feeling that under my former habits of exercise and eating, the equilibrium weight was 175 pounds.  Then I switched to some new habits, which included more exercise and less eating, and I then began losing a pound a week until I reached my new equilibrium weight, which seems to be 171 pounds.  That means that I'm going to have to either exercise even more or eat even less before I can lose any more weight.

I'm taking my vacation the week of July 10th, including a visit to a new recreation center north of Cincinnati.  It's called Kings Island.  It replaces an amusement park called Coney Island, which Cincinnati had for many years but which was finally torn down at the end of the last season.  My mother's cousin and his wife, my parents and I and are all planning to go down there, stay overnight, see the fireworks.

Checking out a Kings Island roller coaster:
Ann Thomas, Cecil and Sara Gibson, Vernon Thomas


Thursday, July 27, 1972

I'm not the type who wants to ride all the rides at amusement parks.  But of course, Kings Island has some aspects which are intended for the adults, one of which they call "International Street."  I'd say it's about half a mile long, a very broad avenue.  Down the center is a huge reflecting pool with fountains in it.  Those fountains change patterns regularly, and at night, they're lit in changing illumination under the water.  It makes a very interesting display.  You can watch it for an hour and never see the same thing twice.

This long pool is flanked by hedges in a sort of formal-gardens pattern.  Then there's a broad asphalt walkway, which is actually International Street proper.  Then on either side is a sidewalk in what passes for cobblestones.  Beyond that, on each side is a row of buildings, all in some sort of old-world architecture, mostly half-timbered.  And at the end of the street is a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, which of course also is lit at night.  This International Street is quite a beautiful place right there to greet you as you enter the park.

International Street from a lower level of the Eiffel Tower


Saturday, October 20, 1973

In hearing about what everybody else [from Oberlin] is doing, I'm beginning to feel undereducated.  Here I am with a three-year-old master's degree, while people younger than I are getting doctorates.

I haven't really progressed in the past three years, as least not as much as in the 1960s.  My job [at Marion CATV] has changed and evolved but not really advanced.  I have the feeling I ought to move on to a new world and conquer it.

But if I'm honest about it, I have to admit I'm happy.  I'm an important and respected member of the team where I work, getting to do pretty much what I want, in the way I want.  We have some new equipment since last I wrote, some decent video tape recorders.  I'm living comfortably at home with my parents.  I have outside interests, including the choir at church and the Scioto Sports Car Club at Columbus.  The overall situation could be a lot worse.

A week from this afternoon, I'll be playing the organ for the 14th wedding of my career.  A high-school classmate is getting married at our church [Barbara Bugg, to Mike Brake].

So you can see, there's a lot going on.  Lately I haven't had much time to be dissatisfied with my work. 


Tuesday, November 13, 1973

[Despite the energy crisis,] there was sufficient gas for our family's October trip to Florida, which might be the last long trip we take for a while, at least in a gas-eating Oldsmobile 98.  It was an enjoyable week; we had many things we wanted to do.  We visited some relatives in Fort Lauderdale, and some business acquaintances of my father outside a small town in Georgia. 


My father with Larry Joe Dooley, a used-car dealer from Georgia who had often come up to Richwood, Ohio, to buy used cars at wholesale

We also spent some time at Stone Mountain outside Atlanta, at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and at Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains.

My parents (at far left above) explore Main Street at Florida's Walt Disney World in October 1973.  Click the left picture below for a larger version among "Mother's Flowers."

Click for a larger version

My 1973 letter continued:

At Disney World, we had a $48-a-night room in the Contemporary Resort Hotel, through which monorail trains pass beneath the hundred-foot-high ceiling of the Grand Canyon Concourse.

A $48 room was expensive then, but we were duly impressed with the "futuristic" furnishings.  Nowadays they'd be nothing special, but in 1973 they were a lot more attractive than your average motel, where most bathrooms had a single sink and a single mirror, each bolted to the wall with no counter space to speak of.  So I even snapped a picture of our hotel's clean modern bathroom. 

One of the most impressive things at Disney World was the animation of lifelike mannequins.  A group of bears performed a country-music jamboree in a small theater.  Even the moose head on the wall joined in, trading comments with two other mounted heads, a bear and a buffalo.

An equally complex animation was in the Hall of Presidents.  After a movie-type presentation on a wraparound screen, a stage was revealed on which were standing or sitting mannequins of all 36 Presidents of the United States.  The announcer introduced each man, who nodded to the audience.  Then Washington, standing at a desk in the center of the group, yielded the floor to Lincoln, who stood and made a short speech.  Lincoln said that this country need not fear invasion by a foreign power; if we were to fail, the failure would be of our own doing.  (I believe that the talking Lincoln was part of the Illinois pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.)

2007 update:  Here is the speech, assembled by James Algar from parts of other addresses.  According to Wikipedia, the tone was intentionally that of a man who was tired from "the pressures of the office and the troubles of war."

The world has never had a good definition of the word "liberty".  The American people, just now, are much in want of one.  We all declare for liberty.  But in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence?  It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts.  These are not our reliance against tyranny.  Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms.  Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere.  Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?  By what means shall we fortify against it?  Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us in a blow?  Never.  All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected?

I answer that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us.  It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers.  As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.

Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap.  Let it be taught in the schools, in the seminaries, and in the colleges.  Let it be written in primers, in spelling books and almanacs.  Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.  And in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.  And let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes, and tongues, and colors, and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly at its altar.

And let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, or frightened from it by menaces of the destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves.  Let us have faith that right makes might.  And in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

During the speech, the other men didn't merely stand like statues; one might shift his weight from one foot to the other, another might turn to whisper a comment to his neighbor, and all occasionally blinked their eyes.  Nixon, hands clasped behind his back, at one point turned his head to look out over the audience, apparently counting the house.  (It was a well-behaved audience, incidentally.  Nixon was not booed when he was introduced.)

It was at dinner a couple of nights later that my father remarked how amazing it was that Disney World had been able to find enough actors to staff the Hall of Presidents.  Not only did they have to bear a physical resemblance to one of the Presidents, but they had to do show after show, standing there for hour after hour.  Mother and I had to explain to him that the men on stage hadn't been real.

While in Florida, we also took the tour at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral (they changed the name back from Cape Kennedy the day before we arrived).  This tour included all the historical launch sites from Explorer 1 through Skylab, including brief visits to the mission control center for Mercury and early Gemini flights and to the Vertical Assembly Building where Saturn missiles are put together.  The VAB lives up to its publicity; it's truly huge.

In fact, everything about the Complex 39 area, including the Saturn itself, distorts one's judgment of size and distance.  We were standing outside the tour bus looking at the vehicle [not a full Saturn V, but a smaller Saturn I-B], which is to be launched later this week to carry the Skylab 3 astronauts into orbit.  The pad was on the other side of a small pond and appeared maybe a thousand feet away.  But our tour guide informed us that the distance was actually more than a mile.



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