Nick Russell

Just A Quick Update

 Posted by at 12:14 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 172019

Today is just going to be a quick update because I am still not feeling well.

Thank you to everybody who expressed concern after reading yesterday’s blog where I talked about having a weird episode of dizziness and tingling in my head. Two retired doctors and a couple of nurses who read my blog were all quick to contact me to say I needed to see a doctor ASAP.

When I woke up yesterday morning the dull headache was still there and I felt very hung over, though I never drink. I went to the doctor yesterday afternoon, and like the blog readers with medical backgrounds, she said it might have been a TIA (mini stroke) and said she was going to schedule me for an MRI. At the time, she said it was too late in the day to get it, so it would probably be done today. But half an hour later they called and said to go right to the imaging center to get it done. We did that and came home, and hopefully we will hear back from the doctor today. Overall, I feel fine right now. I just have a dull headache and I am exhausted. I feel like I could go to bed and sleep for a hundred years.

I appreciate everybody’s concern and prayers. Don’t worry, I have a lot of living left to do, so I’ll be around to get underfoot for a long time yet.

Hopefully I will feel better and will write more tomorrow

Thought For The Day – Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. – Benjamin Franklin

Jul 162019

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I really don’t have anything else to talk about today.

I don’t know what’s going on with Amazon these days, but something is really messed up there. Last week some of my books were marked “unavailable” for several hours and then they were back with no explanation as to why it happened. Then yesterday morning my newest book, Big Lake Ninja, had seven 5 star reviews. Every author appreciates reviews, the more the better. So I was disappointed when I happened to check it around 5 PM and all of its reviews had disappeared. An hour later they were back, and then they were gone again. Hopefully they will be back to stay soon, but with Amazon you never know.

In other news, it seems like the ongoing website issues I have been having with the blog seem to be fixed now. For a long time people who subscribed to it were not getting the daily blog, only the previous day’s post. Then suddenly people trying to log on were getting a message saying that the website had been hijacked. We ran all kinds of scans on it and nothing showed up, and finally I had to pay Go Daddy even more money than I already am and they did something to remedy the issue. But when I asked them how to prevent it from happening again, they really weren’t too clear on that. I guess their answer is always, “just throw more money at us.”

Something weird happened while we were having dinner Sunday afternoon. I started feeling very lightheaded and disoriented and had a tingly feeling in my head. I’m glad Terry and our friend Jim Lewis were with me, because there is no way I could have driven home. It was hard enough just standing up and walking out to the car.

I’m not sure what caused it, but it persisted into the evening. By bedtime it had pretty much gone away, but I had a headache and was very tired. Yesterday morning I woke up and felt like I had a hangover, but by the afternoon I was feeling a lot better. Not completely back to my old self, but better than I was. I put a call in to my doctor and am waiting for him to get back to me.

I spent some time working on my next John Lee Quarrels book, Dead Romeos, yesterday but my head was still kind of foggy and I was having trouble concentrating. I managed to get 3,000 words in, which fell short of the 5,000 word goal I had for the day, but it’s a start.

Since I’m still not at 100%, this is about all you’re going to get out of me today. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to do a better blog for you.

But before I go, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I’ve never been a fan of veggies in any form, but when they take the fat away, what’s left? Just lettuce?

Thought For The Day – We are sometimes taken into troubled waters not to be drowned, but to be cleansed.

Big Fish

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 152019

You never know what you’re going to find when you get off the interstate highways and start exploring America’s back roads. That is where we have found some of our most memorable experiences. An example is when we visited Spectre, Alabama.

Don’t bother looking for Spectre on any map, because you won’t find it. The town never existed, except in the movie Big Fish, a 2003 story about a son who is frustrated by the tall tales his father has spun throughout his life, which led to their estrangement. It is only when his father is on his deathbed that his son begins to understand just how much reality is interwoven with fantasy.

Edward Bloom (played by Albert Finney as an old man and Ewan McGregor in his youth), was a traveling salesman in the South with a gift for gab who loved telling stories. And oh, the stories he could tell! They were populated with a witch, circus people, a werewolf, a giant, Siamese twins, beautiful ladies, heroes, and villains. Oh, and a huge catfish.

Bloom’s son Will (played by Billy Crudup) has always been frustrated by his father’s lies, and only when it looks like his days are numbered do they reunite. It is then that Will realizes that there might be some truth behind his father’s tall tales. He travels to Spectre to find out for himself. There he meets Jenny, his father’s first love, and she tells him about the wonderful things he did for the town. Later, the people from his many stories attend his father’s funeral and tell the young man what an influence he was on so many of their lives. The movie ends with Will passing on the legacy of his father’s stories to his own son. It’s one of those feel-good movies that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

The film set for Spectre was built on Jackson Lake Island, a small private island on the Alabama River near Millbrook, Alabama and when filming was over the crew left the buildings as they were. The “town” is open to visitors for a small fee. Many of the buildings, which were shells erected for the movie, are in disrepair, but fans of the movie will easily recognize what each one is.

In the movie, the entrance to the town was between a pair of tall poles with a line strung between them where everyone threw their shoes, because everybody in Spectre was barefoot.

Even though there is nothing inside the empty walls, it’s fun to wander around the town’s single dirt street and peek into them. You almost expect Edward, Jenny, and other characters from the movie to pop out of one of the doors and said hello to you.



While we didn’t meet any actors in Spectre, we did get to know some of the many goats that live on the property. They are everywhere!

These triplet kids weren’t too sure about the two legged creatures admiring them, but they didn’t seem all that concerned. Our wonderful daughter-in-law, Geli, couldn’t resist giving this little one some love.

It looks like this would be a good place to put a kayak in the water and take a fishing pole with you. I wonder if I could catch the big fish from Will Bloom’s stories? It would sure be fun to try!

Spectre is just outside of Millbrook Alabama. Take Cobb’s Road/Alabama River Parkway 3½ miles east of Interstate 65 and turn left onto Cypress Lane. Stop at the gate and use the phone there to call and get the gate code. Entrance is $3 per person, and camping and fishing are also available on the island.

And speaking of goats, here are a couple of old goats walking hand in hand off into the sunset.

Congratulations George Rawley, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen. We had 161 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – Sometimes you have to stop thinking so much and just go where your heart takes you.


Jul 142019

While you might picture the wide open spaces out west when you think about wild horses, you really don’t have to venture any further than the Outer Banks of North Carolina to see some of these beautiful creatures living wild and free.

Shackleford Banks, an island located three miles from the mainland in Cape Lookout National Seashore, is home to about 100 wild horses that are the descendants of animals abandoned by the Spanish in the 1600s, and others that escaped shipwrecks in the treacherous waters along the coast.

Popular with tourists and beloved by the local people, the National Park Service, which administers the island, wants the horses to live as wild as possible, so no water or food is provided for them. The horses graze on natural grasses and get fresh water from small ponds and pools on the island.

The horses live in small harems, which are controlled by a mature alpha stallion, and in scattered bachelor bands of younger stallions that have not yet gathered their own harems.

As with all wild animals, interaction with human beings is harmful to the horses, and it is illegal for visitors to the island to feed or disturb them. One must keep in mind that though they may look like domesticated horses, they are still wild animals, and can be dangerous to people who get too close. The horses are capable of biting and kicking when they feel endangered. One must be careful not to get between a mare and her colt, or two stallions that are fighting.

With no natural predators on Shackleford Banks, to keep their population in balance, the National Park Service occasionally rounds up some members of the herd and offers them to the public for adoption. Because of their natural beauty and intelligence, the horses are very popular with their adoptive owners.

Access to Shackleford Banks is by private boat, or by several privately owned passenger ferries that operate from Beaufort and Harkers Island. There are no facilities on the island, but visitors can bring their own tents and provisions, and camp overnight for up to fourteen days.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Benjamin Franklin

Jul 132019

I appreciate everybody who bought a copy of my new book, Big Lake Ninja, and told their family and friends about it. It’s off to a very good start. If I could ask one more favor of you, once you finish reading the book would you please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads? It really helps other readers choose books to add to their libraries.

To those who asked how my back pain is doing, thank you for your concern. I’ve seen a little bit of relief and was able to sleep through the night on Thursday. Well, except for the usual trips to the bathroom. Getting older is so much fun. But it does beat the heck out of the alternative!

In yesterday’s blog I said I would probably goof off for a day or two before starting my next book, Dead Romeos. Well, that idea didn’t last. As I have shared with you before, I have been mulling over the idea of writing a family saga, and when Miss Terry had a dream about a story like that a while back, it lit a fire in my brain and the series has been unfolding in my head ever since. So yesterday I wrote the first chapter, just to see what I thought about it. I liked it, but I’m prejudiced, so I showed it to Terry. And she liked it, too! I’m not sure when I’ll go forward with it because I have enough on my plate already, once a story gets to working in my head, I have to let it out sooner or later.

While I was doing that, Terry spent some time working on a project she’s weaving on one of her looms. She tells me it’s an intricate pattern that takes a lot of concentration, which is Terry-speak for “go away and leave me alone, I’m busy.” I think it’s going to look great once it’s done.

Later she stopped working on the weaving project and launched into something else she loves and is outstanding at, which is making dinner. In this case, it was shrimp and grits with peppered bacon bits, which were beyond delicious. Yes, I know, I’m a very lucky man.

Besides writing the first chapter of the family saga I mentioned above, I also finished formatting my authors newsletter and sent it out to my 1200 or so subscribers. This time around, I included a list of blogs by some of my author friends that I thought some of you might find interesting. If you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter yet, you can send me an email at and I’ll get you added to the mailing list. I only send the newsletter out a few times a year, to introduce new books and talk about the writing life, and I never share your information with anyone else.

In other news, the lady with the “Cherokee” husband has unfriended me on Facebook and canceled her subscription to the blog, not because of what I wrote about her quest to prove her husband’s Native American heritage, even though there’s nothing to support it, but rather because I doubted her word. I’m sorry, but if your grandparents immigrated from Germany and Ireland, you’re not a full-blooded Indian. I don’t make those rules, I just report them.

We are on the east coast of Florida and away from the bad weather in the Gulf, but we are still seeing a lot of rain, which is the typical pattern for Florida in the summertime. No problem, we’ve got plenty to keep us busy here at home. I imagine today will be more of the same, weaving and writing.

And in closing, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Thank you for this one, Jim Harper.

So far over 125 people have entered our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s Alive!

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 122019

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. Just as promised, Wednesday evening the final proofreader finished Big Lake Ninja and sent the manuscript back to me so I could start working on it yesterday morning.

Unfortunately, lately my back has been giving me a lot of problems again, so Wednesday night I could hardly sleep. No matter what position I got into, the pain just seemed to get worse. I had used my Tens unit and taken my nighttime medical marijuana oil, which usually helps a lot, but it didn’t make a dent in it. Before I went to bed Terry also rubbed some Volteran cream on my back, and I took a couple of pain reliever p.m. tablets. None of them did any good. It was so bad that I was tempted to get up and take one of the hydrocodone pills from the VA, but I really don’t like them and have not used them in a long time. And with everything else I had taken, I didn’t think it was a good idea.

By the time the alarm went off yesterday morning, I think I may have gotten somewhere around two hours sleep, most of it broken up into 15 minute intervals. Our insurance company required a new inspection of our roof, since our home is over 20 years old. Even the agent said that’s kind of stupid, since it’s a metal roof, but you have to keep the bean counters happy. The inspector was supposed to be here at 11 AM, but my back was hurting so bad that I needed to go to the chiropractor’s, so Terry stayed home to wait for him. It was a good thing she did, because he actually arrived at 10:30. He jumped through the hoops the insurance company requires and said we’re good for another five years or so before they will want us to do it all over again.

Once he left, I got to work on making the last changes to the manuscript, and worked pretty steadily on it until somewhere around 5:30 or 6 PM, when Miss Terry had dinner ready. After I ate, I uploaded the file and went over the online preview that Amazon shows, and at 7:30 I hit publish. It can take anywhere from three hours to three days for a book to go live, although in my experience it’s only taken more than 24 hours once, and usually it’s a lot less.

In this case it took 90 minutes and Big Lake Ninja is now available on Amazon. It is my sixteenth Big Lake book and my 36th book in all. I would appreciate any shares or plugs any of you would care to do. It will be a few weeks before the print edition comes out, but I will let you know when it does.

I’ll probably goof off for a day or two, catching up on email and things like that, and maybe piddling around with my family tree on Ancestry. But then I’ll be back to work again, starting on my next John Lee Quarrels book, Dead Romeos.

So far over 90 people have entered our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes late at night I dig a hole in the backyard just to keep the nosy neighbors guessing.

Jul 112019

I love hearing from blog readers, and in an average week I will get well over 100 personal emails. Many of those emails have questions about RVing or other things I’ve written about, and I’m always happy to answer to the best of my ability. If I don’t know the answer, I try to refer them to somebody who can help them. But occasionally I get an email and I have to ask myself, “Really? They had to ask me that?” I’m no rocket scientist by any means, and most days I’m just striving for mediocrity, but sometimes I do have to worry about my fellow man. Here are some examples of recent emails or text messages I have received.


The other day, a woman contacted me wanting to know how they could get their money back from their Thousand Trails membership. She said they bought it a year ago and have not used it yet and probably won’t because they decided RVing really isn’t their thing. She contacted Thousand Trails, wanting a refund on their purchase price plus the year’s dues that they paid, and they refused. She can’t understand that because if you buy something at a store and never use it, you can return it for a full refund. Sorry, dear, it doesn’t work that way. And it’s not just with campground memberships. Buy a new car, park it in your driveway and don’t use it for a year and see if the dealership you purchased it from will give you a full refund.

Another email was from somebody who is into genealogy and wants to prove her husband is a full-blooded Cherokee Indian so he can be put on the tribal roles. But she said they couldn’t find any documentation to support the claim. She said a DNA test did not reveal any Native American connection. I asked if his parents or grandparents had anything that showed their Cherokee bloodline, and she responded that no, the paternal grandparents had immigrated from Germany and that her husband’s father had married an Irish girl from Philadelphia. I replied that given that information, he’s not a Cherokee. She was quick to shoot back a response that said yes, he is. He’s full-blooded Cherokee. He’s got black hair, high cheekbones,  and an “Indian nose.” She said she didn’t need me to argue with her, she was getting enough of that already. She just needed me to tell her how to go about proving it. How do you answer a question like that? I chose silence.

The same day, someone texted me saying he was going down the highway when his motorhome seemed to lose power and a dashboard light came on that said Stop Engine, along with a loud buzzer or alarm. He said he pulled off the road and shut the engine off, then walked to the back to see if he could find a problem. Nothing seemed wrong, so he had his wife start the RV up again, and after a few seconds they got the same alarm sound and the same warning light. He said he was standing at the back of the rig with the engine compartment doors open and something didn’t sound quite right, but admitted he’s no mechanic. He had his wife shut the engine off again, buckled everything up, waited a few minutes and started the engine and it took about two minutes for the alarm and light to come on again. He said the last time he had to call road service it took them three hours to get there, so he decided since they are only 50 miles from home he would continue on and deal with it when he got there. About three miles later there was a loud sound from the rear of the coach and the engine seized up. He said he managed to get it off onto the shoulder and went to the back where there was oil sprayed everywhere. He asked me what I thought he should do. Well, gee. My immediate thought was that I would have called a mechanic or a tow truck the first time I got the message.


And finally, a while back someone contacted me about a travel trailer he was looking at and he said there were big bubbles in the gelcoat on the sides that you could push in several inches. According to him, the salesman said that what he thought were bubbles in the gelcoat were actually put there intentionally at the factory to allow it to expand and contract in different temperature extremes. My advice then was to run away and don’t look back. He didn’t take that advice because the salesman goes to the same church and is a “good guy” and purchased the trailer because the salesman assured him it was a “great deal.” When he showed it to a friend who has been an RVer for years, he told him it was delaminating badly.  Now he wants to know what he can do to get his money back. As the old TV commercials used to say, “Sorry, Charlie.” You got burned.

It’s Thursday and time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The bonds of matrimony are only a good investment when the interest is kept up.


Jul 102019

And some days you’re the bug. I definitely knew which one I was yesterday. It was just one of those days.

It started out on a good note. After Miss Terry made a delicious breakfast of made from scratch blueberry pancakes (that’s the only way Terry cooks; from scratch), I answered a bunch of email, scratched my head a few times and wondered why somebody would even ask a question like that, and then put the finishing touches on my newest authors newsletter, which I will be sending out as soon as Big Lake Ninja goes live. So far, so good, right? Well stay tuned, because it went downhill from there.

I spent over an hour trying to figure out why Malwarebytes keeps popping up with a message saying that the blog has been hijacked when people try to go to it. I have run all kinds of scans on it and nothing shows up, but people still get the message now and then. It doesn’t happen consistently, it can happen in different browsers, and sometimes someone will get the message, and the next time they go to the blog it won’t happen, but when they go again a third time they get the message again. That was an hour of my life I’ll never get back, and it accomplished absolutely nothing. Even the folks at Malwarebytes don’t know why it’s happening.

With that bit of frustration out of the way, I spent some time on the phone with Greg White trying to solve a problem on Terry’s computer. She keeps getting a pop-up message saying that Microsoft Edge has been corrupted or hijacked, basically the same message people are getting from my blog. Greg had me run several virus scans for malware and spyware and things like that, but we didn’t find anything.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, the next thing I did was try to call Microsoft. Terry and I both have Office 365 subscriptions and hers is coming up for renewal. I know that since mine is a business subscription, I am supposed to be able to have five computers on the account. There’s no use paying for two subscriptions, so I wanted to cancel the subscription on Terry’s laptop, reinstall the software if necessary, and add it onto my account.

After going through half a dozen people who couldn’t speak English, or least any kind of English that I could understand, it was determined that since I had the Office 365 subscription installed when I ordered the computer from Dell, I had to go through them to add Terry’s laptop. So I spent another hour or so on the phone with someone from Dell, who also couldn’t speak English, and eventually I was told that no problem, they could add Terry’s computer to the account for just a $149.99 handling fee. What? The subscription she has now is only $99 a year, so why in the world would I want to pay that much money? In his broken English, the man I was talking to told me he didn’t know, but that’s the way it’s done. I thanked him and hung up.

My subscription runs until July of next year, and if Terry renews hers now, it will also expire in July of next year. At that time I will cancel both subscriptions and start all over again, rolling them into one. Or, I just might buy the darn software be done with it. Like I said, it was one of those days.

But today’s a new day and things will be better, right? No seriously, tell me it will be better. I need some positive affirmation here, folks.

After reading yesterday’s blog, Gunk’s Boys, several people told me that I haven’t changed much at all since the days when the picture of me as a newsboy that was on the blog was taken. I don’t see the resemblance, but that’s probably because it wasn’t me. I don’t know who that kid is, but the picture was taken back in about the 1930s, and I wasn’t born until 1952.

And finally, readers are asking me when Big Lake Ninja will be available. It is with the final proofreader now, and when I talked to her yesterday evening she told me she hoped to have it to me by the end of the day today. If that happens, I will make the final corrections, format the e-book version, and upload it to Amazon, and it should be available sometime late Thursday or on Friday. I’m looking forward to it. And as soon as it’s live, I will start working on my next John Lee Quarrels mystery.

Thought For The Day – Waffles are just pancakes with great abs.

Gunk’s Boys

 Posted by at 1:30 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 092019

Some of you are probably aware that I collect badges. My main interests are police badges, like these.

Or this display that focuses on my father’s career.

But I also collect other badges, including chauffeur badges, taxicab driver badges, company employee badges, and whatever happens to catch my fancy. Several blog readers have been kind enough to send me badges from their working lives or that they acquired somewhere along the way. Besides what you see here, I have enough to fill another display case as soon as I get around to ordering it.

Recently I acquired two badges that have a connection to my own youth. From the time I was about 13 years old through my first two years of high school I delivered newspapers for the Toledo Blade, in Toledo, Ohio. I had over 200 customers, and in those days parents didn’t take you around to deliver your papers, you walked or rode your bicycle. And it didn’t matter whether it was a blistering hot summer day, the middle of a snowstorm, or raining cats and dogs. The circulation managers pounded it into our heads that just like the mail, the newspaper had to be delivered, too. And occasionally some thug or group of thugs would rob one of us when we were collecting from our customers on Friday.

And while we might grumble about the weather or deadbeat customers among ourselves, we had it easy compared to the boys that delivered newspapers before us. Back in the 1890s through the 1930s, life for newsboys in any big city was difficult at best. Many were orphans trying to make enough money to survive, others came from poor families and the pennies and nickels they brought home helped to feed the family, and many newsboys’ families were so dysfunctional that they preferred to live on the streets and avoid the problems in the rundown tenements their parents called home.

Enter John E. Gunckel, a passenger agent with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, who had an office at the railroad depot in Toledo. He made friends with several of the boys who hung around the station hawking newspapers and believed that somebody had to do something to make their lives easier. So, on December 25, 1892, Gunckel held a Christmas dinner for over 100 newsboys at the Marine Building in downtown Toledo.

It was at that dinner that he proposed organizing a club for the boys, which would be called the Toledo Newsboys Association. Gunckel’s goal was to give the boys a sense of community and to instill a moral code in them that emphasized the values of hard work and good citizenship. A set of rules was drawn up for the boys to follow, including: no cursing, no drinking, no smoking, and no gambling. The Association was open to any boy between the ages of 9 and 17 and there were no initiation fees or dues. Each boy received a membership card and a badge like this to wear on their lapel to let customers and the business community know that these were not your typical ruffians who might be pickpockets or shoplift whatever they could get their hands on in addition to selling newspapers. The badges were shaped like a lucky acorn that Gunckel always carried in his pocket.

To raise funds for the new organization, Gunckel called on leading business people in Toledo and asked them to help sponsor “his boys.” In seeing the changes he had made in their young lives, many of the people he solicited were willing to reach into their pockets to help make the group a success.

Gunckel organized some of the newsboys into a marching band, which participated in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. Over time the organization acquired land in downtown Toledo and built the Newsboys Association Building. It was a massive affair that included a 1200 seat auditorium, a 350 seat lecture hall, gymnasium, library, swimming pool, and kitchen. Weekly lectures and special events focused on good citizenship, personal hygiene, setting goals for their life, and education.

The club was so successful that before long newsboys associations were organized in many large cities in the United States. In 1904, with the support of newspaper circulation managers nationwide, the National Newsboys Association was organized and John Gunckel was chosen as its first president.

Just as John Gunckel had hoped, the group he formed did indeed have a positive impact on the young boys of Toledo. Many of them went on to become business leaders in the community, or made names for themselves far from the cold, sometimes hostile streets they grew up on. Among them were military leaders, politicians, bankers, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. Two Hollywood stars, Danny Thomas and Joe E. Brown, both of whom had roots in Toledo, proudly told people throughout their lives that they had been among “Gunk’s boys.”

John Gunckel became a father figure and role model to hundreds, if not thousands of boys over the years, many of whom had no father at home. He died in 1915, but his legacy lives on today. Over time the Toledo Newsboys Association was renamed the Toledo Boys Club. The club expanded to include girls in 1982 and was later renamed the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo. Today the club has over 6,000 members who take part in its programs for disadvantaged youth.

Two years after Gunckel died, the newsboys honored him by erecting a 26 foot tall pyramid in Toledo’s Woodlawn Cemetery. Over 10,000 stones from around the world were collected to go into its construction. A copperplate on the pyramid bears this inscription: THE NEWSBOYS FRIEND JOHN ELSTNER GUNCKEL 1846 – 1915 “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” TOLEDO HONORS A Citizen without reproach A Friend without pretense A Philanthropist without display A Christian without hypocrisy.

But the story of the Toledo Newsboys Association does not end there. In 1929 a group of former Toledo newsboys organized into the Old Newsboys Goodfellows Association to provide help for children in need. All it takes is a phone call from a school administrator, police officer, fire official, or neighbor to report a child who needs help and the group responds immediately without the delays of red tape that can slow things down through “official channels.” Every year the group raises money to cover the cost of new clothing and shoes for needy children, to deliver food baskets to families who are going through difficult times, and to provide college scholarships for local high school seniors who otherwise would not have the opportunity to continue their education.

While John Gunckel may not have lived long enough to see the impact he had on so many lives, I think even today he is looking down and is very proud of what “his boys” have accomplished.

Thought For The Day – Well done is better than well said. – Benjamin Franklin

Jul 082019

Born into slavery sometime in the early to mid-1860s in Missouri, George Washington Carver recognized the value of an education at a very young age. In that time and place in America it wasn’t an easy goal to achieve, but we can all be grateful he never gave up on his quest for knowledge. It led to many inventions that have made life easier for millions of people.

Moses Carver, a German American immigrant who owned young George, along with his parents and siblings, was by all accounts a good man. A week after George was born, he, his sister, and his mother were kidnapped by raiders who made a living rustling slaves, just like others might steal cattle or horses. Moses Carver hired someone to recover the missing slaves, but only George was saved, his mother and sister being sold to plantations in another state. When slavery was abolished, Carver and his wife Susan raised George and his older brother James as if they were their own children. Recognizing his thirst for knowledge, Susan Carver taught him to read and write.

Even with the end of slavery, life for black people in America was difficult. Many schools would not accept black students, and more than once young George was turned away when he tried to attend classes at various schools. But he persevered stubbornly and eventually earned a Masters degree from Iowa State Agricultural College, which is now Iowa State University. From his first lessons in his ABCs through college and graduate school, teachers recognized how brilliant their young student was.

Someone else who recognized his talents was Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He encouraged George to come there to teach and to carry on his agricultural research, and for the next 47 years George Washington Carver achieved one accomplishment after another. He dedicated his life to education and to helping poor farmers in the South, teaching them the importance of crop rotation and developing other crops that would do well in the soil that had been depleted by generations of cotton farming. He even developed a mobile classroom that went from farm community to farm community, spreading the word about new ways to make a living from the land.

One of the crops that Carver took an interest in was peanuts, developing hundreds of ways to use the plant, from food to medicines to livestock feed, cosmetics, pigments for painting, and industrial applications. His work and research have been credited with helping Southern farmers pull out of the dark days of slavery and Reconstruction.

George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943, following a fall at his home. Though no one is certain of his exact birth date, most accounts say he was 78 years old at the time of his death. He is buried at Tuskegee Institute next to Booker T. Washington, his longtime friend and mentor. The inscription on his gravestone says “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

Today his legacy lives on at the George Washington Carver Museum, located on the campus of Tuskegee University. The museum is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, and visitors can see short videos on the lives of both George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, take a self-guided tour to see many of Carver’s inventions, products made from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, and to learn more about his life.

Included in the museum’s displays are photographs of Carver and his many students, along with some of the many awards and accolades he received from colleges, universities, agricultural organizations, industry, and the government over the years.

There is also an example of one of the wagons he used to take to various rural communities to show the products that could be made from simple crops, and a truck that was used as one of his mobile classrooms.

Carver was also an artist and a rock hound, and displays at the museum include some of his rock collection, along with exhibits of his paintings, embroidery, and needlework.

The George Washington Carver Museum is open year-round Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission to the museum is free, and there is a free parking garage adjacent to the museum building that will accommodate cars and SUVs. Finding a place to park an RV on campus would be difficult at best. For more information, call (334) 727-3200. The museum and the nearby Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, which I will be telling you about another blog post, were both fascinating and well worth taking the time to visit.

Thought For The Day – An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin