Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pavin' Paradise... with the Sun

Way back when, Joni Mitchell sang about puttin' up parking lots and pavin' paradise:
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone

Today, advances in technology have empowered us to pave over all those ugly parking lots and countless miles of roads with some sunshine:

Well, at least it's a step in the right direction... right?

Go here for more about Wattway:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Everyday Hero is Next to You

It's Friday! Time for Random Acts of Kindness.9

I will never lose my faith in ordinary people. Your neighbor, or that person in the other car, harbors the right stuff to be a hero. When circumstances required it h/she can be a superhero, too. Here's the story:

"Forget chain of fools; (see below) it was a “chain of heroes” who managed to rescue a driver in Pennsylvania last week after his tractor-trailer careened off a snowy road."

"The trucker had been driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike about 20 miles east of Bedford when he suddenly lost control of the vehicle."

"Arlyn Satanek, who witnessed the accident, told WTAE-TV that the swerving tractor-trailer cut across two lanes of traffic before smashing through a guardrail and almost falling off the side of a hill."

"'It was a mess, dangerous. The truck was smoking, couple hundred gallons of diesel fuel, debris everywhere,' said Satanek, who was also driving a truck that evening. “[But] people didn't seem to care, they jumped out to help."

"The group's efforts paid off. According to WPXI-TV, the unidentified driver of the semi was safely out of the truck and “back on his feet” within 15 minutes of the crash."

"'It helped remind us that we are all people, and it is our responsibility to help other humans,' Satanek told the station."

Please go here for a video clip: 

Now, for that Chain of Fools... Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

An Upscale Rummage Sale

St. James Episcopal Church, Grosse Ile, MI
by Gail Albin

An Autumn Leaves necktie
design by Ralph Lauren.
My late husband Leon and I enjoyed going to garage and rummage sales. We especially enjoyed the St James Episcopal Church’s spring and autumn sales. We had met several members of the church and we looked forward to seeing them and other new friends at these popular Grosse Ile events.

At the October rummage sale in 2008, my husband asked at the bag day sale on Saturday if he could buy a bundle of the hangers he noticed in the adult clothing room. The lady told him, “Yes, just take the bundle of hangers and put them in your brown paper grocery bag, fill up the bag and then you pay only $1.00 at check out.” He managed to fill that bag where it could hold no more.

When we got home, I was looking at our new ‘treasures’ and I noticed that the hangers had been bundled together and tied with a necktie. It was a pretty tie that had autumn leaves as the pattern. The tie was in excellent condition. The label stated it was designed by the well-known Ralph Lauren. I of course had to look it up on the computer to find out the value. I will just say that it became his best tie, the very best he had ever owned! We both had a laugh over finding this treasure. I carefully pressed it and put it in Leon’s neck tie drawer. (Not sure if the tie shown is the same one which Gail mentions. But it may be close. - RB)

About three weeks later, Leon died suddenly of natural causes. Then soon it came time to take his burial clothes to Martenson’s Mortuary in Trenton, MI. My daughter Jane and I looked in his tie drawer and there were no ties better suited for this sad occasion. It would be our secret.

Elizabeth Lisette Denison Forth Chapel.
A couple days later when my son Tom came from Minneapolis, we let him in on what we had done. Tom looked at his father in the casket and through tears he whispered, “Nice tie Dad.”

Sons Frank and Tom along with daughter Jane and I all knew that Dad would approve.

If you visit Grosse Ile, MI, please don’t miss historical St. James Episcopal Church and the Elizabeth Lisette Denison Forth Chapel. Born into slavery in 1786, Lisette ranks among America’s heroes.  The first person of color to own property in Detroit, she accumulated enough wealth to build the chapel on Grosse Ile. - RB

M. C. Escher "Twelve Birds" Tie.
By the way, back in the olden days when I wore ties, I liked the "Twelve Birds" which is based upon a 1948 tessellation design by M.C. Escher. I purchased it from the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum Shop. Do you have a favorite? - RB

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Memories of the Olds Estate, Grosse Ile, MI

1931 R. E. Olds parked by Chateau Elba, home of Barry Gillan and Chad Novak.

by Frank Kootsillas
Detroit River view of Chateau Elba.
After December 7, 1941. Grosse Ile was thrust into the spotlight with the expansion of the Grosse Ile Naval Air Station. This was completely covered previously (elsewhere), by Tammy Travis-Taylor of the Grosse Ile Historical Society.

However;  in 1942 an important addition to the to the Navy Base was the R.E. Olds estate. It was transformed into the U.S.O. It was built in 1916 by R.E. Olds, he was the automotive pioneer who built the REO and the Oldsmobile of which later was brought into the General Motors camp in the early 1900's. This estate was used as a “summer home” by Mr. Olds until 1929, the year of the depression.  It has changed ownership several times but it is still known (by many) as the Olds Estate.

Aerial view of Chateau Elba.
The estate covered the extreme southern tip of  Elba Island-a stones throw from the Naval Air station. The mansion, a massive three story structure contained thirty rooms and a grand ballroom on the (third) floor. The palatial grounds included, Koi-ponds, gardens and featured a marble veranda overlooking the river,  making this the largest and most luxurious U.S.O. in the country. (Today, the ponds and gardens have been restored and expanded.)

The U.S.O.  was staffed by the local Red Cross chapter. Navy buses transported service personnel to and from the Navy base to the mansion.

A friend of my father was the caretaker of the Olds Estate. My father went there several times to help him during the transformation in 1942. One day my dad took me with him-which proved to be an error in judgment on his part.

Restored Chateau Elba Grand Ballroom
On the property of the estate there resided a large blue Peacock, his name was “Pete”. He strutted around the grounds with a regal flair. On that day, I slipped away from my father's watchful eye. I wanted to befriend this beautiful creature. Unknown to me at my young age-Peacocks are a “solo act” and do not need “friends”. This became apparent to me when Pete avoided my friendly gestures. It turned into a dance of sorts-keeping a distance of ten feed apart. It turned into a trot-and then a slow run, zig-zagging across the expansive lawn. It even turned into a marathon with Pete leading by an even larger margin. The chase led to a small parking area paved with “cinders”! It had the same consistency of broken glass! Of course I fell-ending the chase.. When I saw my bloodied hands I screamed for my father. He and the caretaker came to my rescue-took me inside and cleaned up my hands.  It appeared that “Old Pete” had his own defense strategy....................!   I never chased “Pete” again!

Today, Chateau Elba, home of Barry Gillan and Chad Novak, is one of the most beautiful estates on Grosse Ile, MI. Barry took ownership of the estate in 1984. Since then, Barry and Chad have continuously maintained, extensively restored and renovated the estate, both inside and out. Video above - a charity fundraiser recently held at Chateau Elba. - RB

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kudos to Jessica

By David L. Dyer

It was one year ago that twelve year old Jessica Schutt (rhymes with Putt as in golf) wrote an essay titled “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.)  Jessica was a seventh grade student at Grosse Ile Middle School. This was entered into a VFW annual contest.  This contest has become an annual class project for Mrs Susan Dusute, 7th and 8th Grade English Teacher at Grosse Ile Middle School.  Susan puts her heart into this project and is determined to produce a winner.

Jessica Schuttt was also determined to produce a winner and she did just that.  Her entry at the VFW Post level took first place.  She was awarded $100 and a certificate and advancement to the District four level which includes the entire downriver area.  She did not win at that level.

Fast forward one year, Jessica now an eighth grader was determined to advance further then she did last year.  The VFW is now allowed to choose one winner per each fifteen entries.  This year with 92 entries, six winners were chosen locally.  Yes, Jessica was one of them.  She made several changes on this years theme “What Does Freedom Mean to Me.”  When she finally decided it was the best she could do she turned it in at the last moment.

It turned out to be not only the best she could do but the best anyone else in the entire District four area could do.  Jessica Schutt’s essay was awarded first place in the entire District.  She now advances to the State level competition in Lansing later this month.  That winner will go on to Washington, DC for the national award of $5000.

At the District She was awarded $250, another certificate and a beautiful plaque.  So now I ask not only Grosse Ile but all of Downriver to support Jessica and we’ll see how far her best effort will take her at the State level.

Now I would like to share Jessica’s Essay:

“WHAT FREEDOM MEANS TO ME.”  By Jessica Schutt
Americans are privileged.  Freedom enriches our lives in unexpected ways.   It empowers us to speak out against those who have wronged us, to use our words and actions to inspire others.  Every generation recognizes and appreciates the opportunities of our nation differently.  I would like to believe I understand the full value of freedom, but I haven’t experienced the loss of my right before.  The battle to protect freedom has been ongoing.  From the birth of our nation until now, millions of brave soldiers have sacrificed something significant to protect our country’s interests and progress.

America is the land of opportunities.  Nobody understands this quite like my mom.  She grew up in Hong Kong, an only child, born with a heart condition.  I grew up with the stories of how her parents were faced with a choice.  Go into China where they face the unfortunate reality of never leaving, or come to the United States, a place with a constantly developing medical field and the chance to pursue an education.  Even then her parents understood the chances their growing child would have in the U. S.

Personal freedom for every citizen has been what our nation has strived to achieve since its birth in 1776.  Individuality has been one of our greatest ambitions and most valuable asset.  We each seek to define our own identity, express ourselves through ideas, pursue educations, or simply be spontaneous.  Every choice makes us unique, whether it is the tiniest decision or a life altering one.  Each determination identifies our character; it makes us who we are.

Not only is freedom underappreciated but it is often abused.  Throughout the world, on the internet, freedom of speech is mistreated.  Social media sites are constantly being confronted on the subject of inappropriate content.  The internet is a pronounced tool, frequently being used to cyber bully and attack anonymously.  These moral degraders use freedom of speech to insult other people.  To be allowed to speak your mind is a privilege.  These offenders use that freedom to slander fellow human beings.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and discourse is encouraged to understand different perspectives, however these constant rude remarks from individuals all over the world are intolerable and an abusive use of freedom of speech.
The United States signifies freedom; we have what others desire.  With the entire country’s contribution we can honorably represent that title.    

Friday, January 8, 2016


Reading too much about the current crop of “presidential” candidates?

I have.

In fact, this morning my mind began to drift away from the latest mind-numbing Ted Cruz comments to…

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger… and Tonto…”

Those guys were two of my childhood heroes. I’d vote for them.

But, what exactly did they really believe?

Here’s some stuff you may remember (or not) about the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

They often called each other "Kemosabe".

O.K. I know many people believe that word translates from rough Spanish, “quien no sabe” to “he who doesn’t understand” in English. But I prefer another perspective. Since the original radio version of the Lone Ranger was broadcast from Detroit, I accept the translation of the Potawatomi Indian* word which means  "faithful friend" in English.

As, for “Tonto”, I know most Americans are biased toward American English and mess-up other languages on a regular basis. So, I suspect that all along the Lone Ranger was misspeaking his friend’s name. He really meant to refer to him as Toro (“Bull” in Spanish), which is the name used in the Spanish language versions of the series.**

In those episodes, the Lone Ranger and Tonto lived by a strict set of moral guidelines which really did govern their actions. One quote: "all things must change but truth, and truth alone lives on forever.”*

The Lone Ranger only used silver bullets because they represented life and life is precious. Life, like bullets, shouldn't be wasted.

Silver became the Lone Ranger’s trusty horse after he fought off an enraged buffalo and saved Silver’s life.

Why was he called the Lone Ranger? Because he alone survived an ambush in which the Cavendish gang killed five other rangers, including his brother.

Now, if one of those people who want to be President were to have Tonto for his Kemosabe... well, then, I might consider voting for him (or her). Still, my guess is that those days of yesteryear are not going to come to pass for us this time.


Monday, January 4, 2016


Funny how memory works.

Once I had a couple of friends who could seemingly remember every detail of their childhood: toys they had… every relative… teachers… classmates… even what they wrote in kindergarten.

Me? Nothing.

Oh, there are a few scraps here and there… but nothing to make a story.

One memory does poke out every once in a while. It’s more of a photo than a real memory… you know one with dialogue and people attached to it.

No, this one is only a snapshot memory.

In it I see my mother waving at us as we drive away… me in the backseat, looking out the rear window. She was standing on a balcony, a screened-in porch, waving goodbye.

Today I know that my mom was a nurse. That she somehow contacted Tuberculosis (TB) and was confined to the Springfield Lake Sanitarium, near Akron, OH, when I was a little boy. I don’t know for how long.

I do know that attached to that snapshot is a feeling of sadness and loss. Fear, actually… that I’ll never see her again.

Like other repressed memories, perhaps one day, I’ll remember more.

But, today, my mind will only let me recall that young woman, waving as we drove from the grounds.