Frank Blefari- Gone to a Better Place

Frank Blefari a friend of 35 years, maybe more, died this morning after a long struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. Frank owned Heritage Automotive Restorations in Pawling New York. He was a genius at his trade, the rebuilding and restoring of antique cars and building hot rods.

Everything he touched and worked on had the artist’s touch. On the walls of his shop are pictures of maybe 100 cars he restored most for customers but some for himself.

One of his customers from Quaker Hill was an artist. Frank asked him to show him how to paint pictures. Frank became a skilled artist quickly surpassing his artist customer. He came from Stamford Connecticut and his whole life was based on love of cars, everything from a 1912 Cadillac to a 1932 hot rod roadster. When I asked him how the rod had done at a show. He said it has never gotten anything less than first place.

I went to see him last Friday, a hospice nurse was with  him and he didn’t know I had come. He passed away this morning and his girl friend Karen called me. Rest in Peace Frank.

 

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Latest News of the Great Blackstone

For those who follow this blog, the big black and white cat Blackstone again disappeared after taking up temporary residence here at the farm. Our neighbor Betsy sent the following email:

Dear Peter,
I am reading The Millbrook Times, and it seems November 11th is missing, so I started scrolling down and see your your article about Blackstone.
Ken and Betty asked us to take Blackstone because, apparently, he had not eaten “since Aunt Rosy went to the Fountains, 2 1/2 months ago”.  Jeff and I went to the Andrews’ and easily put the skinny Blackstone in a crate and brought him to our barn.
He started in the barn, then started to follow us to the house. Now, he sleeps on the bed in the master bedroom all day long and in the sunporch all night. You can see from the photo that he is a little plumper than before. I feel like he came here to “retire”. How old is he anyway?
We took him to the Vet and got him some shots and de-wormer medicine, etc.  Amazing that the leader of the Death Squad came here to play shuffleboard!  We let him out all the time and he never strays far. Always back in 2 minutes.
Too funny. Let me know how you feel about him being here. We are enjoying him but certainly not trying to keep him from you!

Blackstone has become a fat cat in every sense of the word. I have no intention of taking away from his life of leisure but I can’t guarantee he won’t show up one day as he was always a traveling man.

 

1912 Model T Ford and a Strange Story

About 30 maybe 40 years ago I met a guy named Mr. Gardner, he lived in Clinton Corners. He knew I had a model A and was interested in cars. He showed me his garage. It had a beautifully restored 30 or 31 deluxe roadster and another car which I have never forgotten. It was a 1912 Model T brass roadster in perfect condition. He was not a seller and at the time I didn’t have the dough or the time to try to put together enough for a real offer. What I do remember was that the T had a brass plate on the wooden firewall that said John Van Benschoten who was a Ford dealer in Poughkeepsie on Catherine Street.
Fast forward to yesterday. Bill Shanks who tows cars called to tell me there was a guy who owns a body shop in Salt Point who had a 1940 Pontiac Woodie in great shape for sale. I went over and looked at it and the car was mostly pieces and an enormous amount of not only wood work but mechanical also. I told him I would let him know if I found someone who wanted to tackle it but it was too much for me.
We then got to talking as car guys often do, he had sold me a VW bug about 7 years ago that I restored. I told him that I was going to put an ad in Vintage Model T magazine to see if I could locate the Van Benschoten T as Gardner had sold the property years ago and the new owner who I knew, had no idea what had become of the rare Model T.
The guy that owned the body shop said “Let me show you some other cars I have.” Well you may have guessed it and the pictures below will tell you the rest of the story. I made it very simple. I know you don’t want to sell it,
but if you ever do, I’m a buyer.
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November 11, 1918

My brother is 9 years older than I am. He is retired and writes poems. He sends them out by email every Sunday morning but today he sent the below, it speaks for itself about my father who was in both the First and Second World War. Sgt. Krulewitch was in a trench in France on his 23rd birthday November 11 , 1918.

 

November 11-18, 2018

A Century’s Wars

 

I’m not good at birthdates

but have always remembered my stepfather’s,

for his was the day

the Great War ended.

We have a photo of him in France,

on a hill overlooking the Rhine,

a tall, clean-shaven, young marine

in breeches, boots and campaign hat

hands on hips, legs spread,

seeming to tower like a monument

over the river’s far bank.

 

There’s another photo of him,

on Saipan,

carbine in hand,

soiled battle fatigues,

helmet with chin strap hanging open,

looking smaller than I’d ever seen him look.

That was the day his friend’s son died there,

a friend he’d carried from a battlefield in France.

 

Big Six

I sometimes worry that things I heard when I was very young will be lost because at my age those things are now in such a distant past that few will remember or care. But as 100 years have passed since my father was in a trench in France when the Armistice was signed I thought I would write about Big 6.

There is a town in Eastern Pennsylvania, Factoryville, which was the home of Christie Matheson. It is on Route 6 which was the main road East-West through Northern Pennsylvania at a time when oil was the king in the Keystone State.

Now Big Six was the nickname for the great New York Giant pitcher Christy Matheson.

Here is some information about him

Christy Mathewson
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Christy Mathewson signature.svg
Pitcher
Born: August 12, 1880
Factoryville, Pennsylvania
Died: October 7, 1925 (aged 45)
Saranac Lake, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 17, 1900, for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 4, 1916, for the Cincinnati Reds
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 373–188
Earned run average 2.13
Strikeouts 2,502
Managerial record 164–176
Winning % .482
Teams
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction 1936
Vote 90.7% (first ballot)
Christy Mathewson
Career information
Position(s) Fullback
College Bucknell
High school Keystone Academy
Career history
As player
1898 Greensburg A. A.
1902 Pittsburgh Stars
Career highlights and awards
  • Pittsburgh Stars 1902 Championship team
Military career
Allegiance United States United States
Service/branch United States Army seal U.S. Army
Years of service 1918–1919
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit Chemical Warfare Service
1st Gas Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Western Front

Christopher Mathewson (August 12, 1880 – October 7, 1925), nicknamed “Big Six“, “The Christian Gentleman“, “Matty“, and “The Gentleman’s Hurler“, was a Major League Baseball (MLB) right-handed pitcher who played 17 seasons with the New York Giants. He stood 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg). He was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, and ranks in the all-time top ten in several key pitching categories, including wins, shutouts, and ERA.[1] In fact, he is the only professional pitcher in history to rank in the top ten both in career wins and in career ERA, if taking 19th century pitchers statistics into account.[2] Otherwise, both Mathewson and Walter Johnson would hold that distinction.[3] In 1936, Mathewson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as one of its first five members.

Mathewson grew up in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, and began playing semiprofessional baseball when he was 14 years old. He played in the minor leagues in 1899, recording a record of 21 wins and two losses. He pitched for the New York Giants the next season but was sent back to the minors. He would eventually return to the Giants and go on to win 373 games in his career, a National League record. He led the Giants to victory in the 1905 World Series by pitching three shutouts. Mathewson never pitched on Sundays, owing to his Christian beliefs. Mathewson served in the United States Army‘s Chemical Warfare Service in World War I, and was accidentally exposed to chemical weapons during training. His respiratory system was weakened from the exposure, causing him to contract tuberculosis, from which he died in Saranac Lake, New York in 1925.

What isn’t mentioned in this bio was that his battery mate was Roger Bresnahan who was Irish and was known as the Rose of Tralee, a fact you can use as you wish.

So if you want to pass this story on to some youngster who loves the game you may also tell him Jacques Barzun’s famous quote Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game — and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.

Sad Day, The Great Sears Roebuck Gone

Sears and Montgomery Wards or Monkey Wards as it was known, were the two stores of choice in the Hudson Valley before malls on Route 9 changed everything, well now they’ll both be nothing but a memory. No reference will be made of the common use of the Sears Catalog.

The orders poured in from everywhere — 105,000 a day at one point — so much so that the company became an economic force. It could make or break suppliers by promoting their products. It could dictate terms on manufacturing. Its headquarters city boomed as this tech-driven retailer built huge warehouses and factories and attracted other businesses and rivals. State and local governments complained that the company was harming small-town retailers.

That was Sears, Roebuck & Company in the early 20th century in Chicago. But at various times in the history of retailing you could apply like descriptions of retail might to Walmart, Kmart, Safeway, A.&P., and F.W. Woolworth, whose Downtown Manhattan headquarters building was christened the “Cathedral of Commerce” when it opened in 1913. Today the Woolworth Building is a luxury condo whose young residents are probably unaware of the extraordinary entrepreneur who built it.

Which is to say that becoming the nation’s leading retailer does not guarantee immortality, at least not beyond architecture. Sears, once America’s dominant retailer, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after 132 years in business.

Sears became the Amazon of its day because its co-founder Richard Warren Sears harnessed two great networks to serve his enterprise — the railroads and the United States Postal Service. When the Postal Service commenced rural free delivery in 1896 (the “last mile” in today’s jargon) every homestead in America became within reach.

And Richard Sears reached them. He used his genius for advertising and promotion to put a catalog in the hands of 20 million Americans in 1900, when the population was 76 million. The Wish Book or Big Book or Dream Book, as the catalog was variously called, could run a staggering 1,500 pages and offer more than 100,000 items. And when one of his pants suppliers, the manufacturing wizard Julius Rosenwald, became his partner, in 1886, Sears was on the way to becoming a vertically integrated juggernaut. Whether you needed a cream separator or a catcher’s mitt, a plow or a dress, or an entire house, Sears had it. “No matter where you go or how long you look, you’ll not find values approaching those this book presents,” the spring 1922 catalog declared.

Sears would carve up the catalog landscape with a local rival, Montgomery Ward. Remember it? Probably not. The e-sales promotion company Groupon, itself once mighty and now clinging to life, occupies part of Ward’s former headquarters in Chicago. Sears, Montgomery Ward and another Midwestern-born general merchandise retailer, J.C. Penney, dominated postwar American retailing, controlling 43 percent of department store sales by 1975. But even by then, Sears was beginning to falter under waves of new competition.

The company was not alone. A.&P., which introduced the first cut-rate grocery store in 1912, was also sliding into a long decline that would last through decades of ownership and management changes. Great A.&P. went through the final checkout lane in 2016 following its second bankruptcy. (Or was that the third?) A.&P. once operated 15,819 stores and ran the world’s largest food packaging plant, in Horseheads, N.Y. The company was so powerful that in 1949 trustbusters tried to slice it into seven independent companies. Even before that, states passed “chain laws” that included minimum markups, so small stores couldn’t be undermined by the loss leaders that A.&P. would offer to attract shoppers. A.&P., a vicious competitor, buried local retailers anyway.

By the inflation-racked 1970s, though, A.&P. was struggling against nimbler chains such as Safeway, which became the country’s top grocer, and Kroger, as well as new models of retailing such as big-box stores. Walmart’s eventual move into groceries would help seal A.&P.’s fate, and, at the same time, make the Arkansas company the nation’s top retailer, where it remains. For now.

A.&P. would later show some dubious creativity when in the early 1980smanagement scrapped and replaced the “overfunded” pension plan, plundering it for operating capital. This piece of sliminess was copied all over corporate America, signaling the end of the pension plans that so many workers depended on for retirement income.

In its earlier days, with strong leaders such as Robert E. Wood, Sears was able to negotiate huge shifts in the economic and demographic landscape. By 1925, more Americans were living in the cities than in rural areas. Sears followed them by opening retail stores. The postwar boom would give rise to the suburban shopping mall, and Sears could easily finance and grab what were then (but not necessarily now) the best locations across the country.

By the mid-1980s, after a restructuring, the company briefly blossomed anew, in part by becoming a more full-blown conglomerate that owned Allstate Insurance and the Dean Witter brokerage. Sears also tried to crack the credit card market with its Discover card. The rationale was that Americans trusted Sears on the spending side of family finance, so why wouldn’t they do the same on the savings side? The proposal was framed this way: “Would you buy stocks where you buy socks?” Answer: Not really.

High up in the Sears Tower, management couldn’t see that the retail landscape was changing. Sears couldn’t compete effectively with Walmart and the growth of big box merchandisers such as Toys “R” Us. But more important, the company could not summon the vision to anticipate the internet. By 1993, Sears had closed its national network of warehouses and exited the catalog business — which is basically e-retailing without the “e.” Amazon shipped its first book in 1995.

The Cost to Transform Retailing
Sears, the Original Everything Store, Files for Bankruptcy

Which brings us to Eddie Lampert, the chief executive of ESL Investments, who bought Sears in 2005 figuring, wrongly, that he could reinvigorate it. Mr. Lampert recently blamed Sears’ retirees for some of the company’s problems, complaining that paying them the money they were owed was holding the company back. He’s spent a decade shrinking Sears (and Kmart, which is part of the parent company, Sears Holdings) and then blamed the economy, the weather, Walmart, Amazon and everything else when his plan foundered. Saddled with debt it can’t afford, Sears is filing for Chapter 11 to keep itself afloat through the Christmas holidays. No one wants to buy into Mr. Lampert’s latest restructuring plan, which would sell ESL control of some of Sears’ best remaining assets, including the Kenmore appliance brand.

Amazon, the world’s leading e-tailer, is now one of the biggest clients of the . Postal Service. As Sears did in 1925, Amazon has moved into brick-and-mortar retail, buying Whole Foods and opening its own stores as it tries to close the store gap with Walmart. And the company has gone well beyond any retailer in terms of diversification, including web and cloud hosting, original content, fashion, hardware, even an airline fleet. Amazon certainly has the government’s attention, or at least the president’s, and its recent announcement of a minimum wage of $15 an hour for all United States employees will stave off some of the withering criticism about its employment practices. Amazon’s goal is to be less disliked than Walmart, apparently.

Certainly, Amazon looks unassailable in its current form. So did every retailer that became the biggest dog on retail’s porch. They were all innovative. They all pushed the boundaries on pricing, sourcing, marketing, regulation, employment, expansion and tax breaks. They all ultimately lost their way. Sears is the latest chapter in that story. And probably not the last.

 

Respect the Office of the Presidency

The President is speaking at the Naval Academy commencement Friday. There are those who do not agree with President Trump but who will respect him because of the office he holds. The below from the Washington Post today:

washington post Trump article

Decades later, officers remember their commissioning. One Marine I know recalled whole passages he heard from the speech at his graduation in 1993, 25 years ago. That year, John McCain came to speak and, as they say, he killed it.

McCain told them, “As ensigns and second lieutenants, the character of the young sailors and Marines entrusted to your care will be formed in large part by their appreciation of your character. You are where leadership begins. You are the models who stand just past the sergeants and chiefs, and those under your command will derive from your behavior the direction of their own lives. Their firm respect for you, on which their lives and our security will depend, will be determined by how faithfully you keep, on duty and off, the code you learned here.” McCain was telling them something they had learned every day for four years. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Martin E. Dempsey tweeted a similar message just last week: “Character matters. Always. In everything. Period.”

Blackstone of the Death Squad Returns

No one around the farm can exactly remember when or how Blackstone came to the barn. He is a big black and white cat, very gentle, fixed and a traveling man. He disappeared about 3 or 4 years ago and I had found he had taken up residence down at Rosy Andrews, aged 92.  The Andrews farm used to milk 52 cows a day when her brother Jim was a young man but they stopped farming in the 1960s. Recently Rosy moved to the Fountains an assisted living facility about 5 miles away and Blackstone was left without someone to take care of him.

I went down to the farm and found him waiting on the porch for Rosy, so I picked him up and brought him home. He and Gerlinda started hissing at each other but they seem to have signed a non aggression pact and Blackstone a superb mouser is back at work, eating and prowling like he used to.

There are no guarantees he’ll stick  around but we haven’t seen the last of Blackstone, that I can assure you.

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They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To

96-Year-Old Secretary Quietly Amasses Fortune, Then Donates $8.2 Million

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Sylvia Bloom, a legal secretary from Brooklyn, worked for the same law firm for 67 years while quietly amassing a fortune. In her will, she left more than $8 million for college scholarships.

Even by the dizzying standards of New York City philanthropy, a recent $6.24 million donation to the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side was a whopper — the largest single gift from an individual to the social service group in its 125-year history.

It was not donated by some billionaire benefactor, but by a frugal legal secretary from Brooklyn who toiled for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died not long afterward in 2016.

Her name was Sylvia Bloom and even her closest friends and relatives had no idea she had amassed a fortune over the decades. She did this by shrewdly observing the investments made by the lawyers she served.

“She was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss’s lives, including their personal investments,” recalled her niece Jane Lockshin. “So when the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.”

Since Ms. Bloom never talked about this, even to those closest to her, the fact that she had carefully cultivated more than $9 million among three brokerage houses and 11 banks, only emerged at the end of her life — “an oh my God moment,” said Ms. Lockshin, the executor of Ms. Bloom’s estate.

“I realized she had millions and she had never mentioned a word,” recalled Ms. Lockshin. “I don’t think she thought it was anybody’s business but her own.”

Ms. Bloom joins the ranks of unassuming and magnanimous millionaires next door, who have died with fortunes far larger than their lifestyles ever suggested. Like Ms. Bloom, Leonard Gigowski, a shopkeeper from New Berlin, Wis., who died in 2015, left his $13 million fortune to a scholarship fund. Grace Groner, who gave $7 million to charity upon her death, was also a child of the Great Depression who shopped at thrift stores and chose to walk not drive.

“She was certainly not a spendthrift,” Ms. Lockshin added. “She didn’t have any minks.”

Ms. Bloom’s will allowed for some money to be left to relatives and friends, but directed that the bulk of the fortune go toward scholarships of Ms. Lockshin’s choice for needy students.

Ms. Lockshin, the longstanding treasurer of the settlement’s board, called the group’s executive director, David Garza, and asked him if he was sitting down.

“We were all agape, just blown away,” recalled Mr. Garza, who said the money would endow the settlement’s Expanded Horizons College Success Program, which helps disadvantaged students prepare for and complete college. The gift, made in February, was publicly disclosed last week.

While her aunt’s wealth was a surprise, her quiet plan to help students was not, Ms. Lockshin said.

Ms. Bloom, who never had children of her own, was born to eastern European immigrants and grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. She attended public schools, including Hunter College where she completed her degree at night while working days to make ends meet.

In 1947 she joined a fledgling Wall Street law firm as one of its first employees. Over her 67 years with the firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, it grew to its current size, with more than 1,200 lawyers, as well as hundreds of staff members, of which Ms. Bloom was the longest tenured, said Paul Hyams, a human resources executive for the firm who became good friends with Ms. Bloom over his 35 years working there.

Ms. Bloom’s husband, Raymond Margolies, who died in 2002, was a city firefighter who retired and became a city schoolteacher with a pharmacist career on the side, relatives said. Even when she married, Ms. Bloom kept her given name, which was indicative of her independent nature, said a cousin, Flora Mogul Bornstein, 72.

Nearly all the money was in Ms. Bloom’s name alone, Ms. Lokshin said, adding that it was “very possible” that even Mr. Margolies did not know the size of his wife’s fortune.

The couple lived modestly in a rent-controlled apartment, though “she could have lived on Park Avenue if she wanted to,” Mr. Hyams said.

Ms. Bloom was known for always taking the subway to work, even on the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, not far from the firm’s offices.

That day, Ms. Bloom, at 84, fled north and took refuge in a building before walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and taking a city bus — not a cab — home.

Just before she retired, Mr. Hyams said he saw the 96-year-old Ms. Bloom trudging out of the subway and headed to work in the middle of a fierce snowstorm.

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Sylvia Bloom and her husband, Raymond Margolies, years ago.

“I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she said, ‘Why, where should I be?’” he recalled.

After retiring, Ms. Bloom agreed to move to a senior residence mainly because “she wanted to find a good bridge game,” said Ms. Bornstein, a retired social worker.

To scout them out, and finally to move into one on the Upper West Side, she insisted on taking the subway, Ms. Bornstein said.

Mr. Hyams said Ms. Bloom regretted never going to law school.

Still, he said, he was “completely astounded” to learn of her wealth after her death.

“She never talked money and she didn’t live the high life,” he said. “She wasn’t showy and didn’t want to call attention to herself.

A lover of chocolate but not lavish gifts, she only would accept his gifts of special chocolate in small quantities.

Get Ready Here They Come

According to the CDC this year will be the worst ever for tics and mosquitos. Its not all bad news for me as the big barn at the bottom of the road is usually populated for the summer by a little brown bat population. I forget how many mosquitos they can eat on a summer evening but 50,000 sticks in my mind.

As for tics there is little you can do about them other than taking a shower, checking yourself regularly and if what I have read is correct, you can remove the tic within 24 hours to prevent infection.

Tics soon