The Ballad of Pearly Sue

It was just four notes that did it; my mind skipped a track from Shenandoah to The Ballad of Pearly Sue!

Four notes:  a variation on the theme of Shenandoah and a repeated motif in Pearly Sue!

Though I’ve been practicing the transcription of Keith Jarrett’s Shenandoah performance for months, this four-note passage took me on a crazy incongruous path this morning. Shenandoah is a wistful and mournful piece, which I play while visualizing the cobbled streets of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and the agony that the Civil War brought there.  Pearly Sue, though, is an upbeat and  joyful expression of life and the self-determination of strong women everywhere. Those four notes triggered a neuron or two and suddenly I was singing a somewhat obscure song of joy, that I hadn’t heard in ten years!

Susannah McCorkle wrote and performed The Ballad of Pearly Sue in 1989:  six years after Sally Ride blasted off in a rocket ship.   It is an exuberant performance and a  marvelous telling of the empowerment of women.   It speaks of the strong women in my life and the hope that each of us may chart our own path.    It makes me smile, laugh and cry.

What about you?

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Just Like Downtown

Dad passed away in 2001.   He was someone who was known as a practical man.   He could get things done, and was always looking for the better way to do whatever needed to be done.   That better way generally involved Yankee ingenuity, and machines.

1960s: Harvey McGuire (Dad) in the meter shop at Pacific County PUD ( Public Utility District)

This morning I was particularly missing Dad, as he would have enjoyed my project of the morning.   I’m not much of a machinist, but my capabilities have been growing, since I acquired and rehabilitated a 1950’s Atlas metal lathe.   I bought it out of interest, and also because it could occasionally be useful in piano rebuilding.   But why an old Atlas lathe that needed some fix up instead of something  new?   Because that’s what Dad would have done.   As a matter of fact he once acquired a small fixer-upper Atlas lathe.  Unfortunately that fix-up never happened.  He just  didn’t get around to it.   So when I bought the lathe it was for the both of us!

I’m becoming more familiar with the lathe, and this morning I enjoyed a new project making adjustable pedal rods for the 1918 Knabe grand piano I’m working on.   The commercial versions weren’t quite right, and … well … I had the lathe!

A custom, adjustable pedal rod. Top post and nut are fabricated from 1/2″ hexagonal stock. 5/16″ brass rod.

If Dad had been here, it would have been fun, and I know exactly what he would have said.   He’d gently turn that rod in his massive hands, nod his head and say, “Well, that’s just like downtown.”

 

 

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A House

In about 1942, my Dad, Harvey McGuire built a house with Grandpa Henkel. That house became a home for the family that Harvey and LaRue McGuire created. It will always be remembered as a place of love and stability. It was the McGuire Family home for sixty-six years.  Here are some of the images of the place as we remember.

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At age 92, as Mom made a transition to a retirement apartment, she sold the house.  Over the past 10 years another family came to love that same home.  A few days ago, they offered the home for sale again.   We were delighted at what the house had become!

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933 Crescent St. Raymond, WA 98577
26 Photos 
Charming home situated on a large corner lot with 2048 SF of living space. Walk in to your large dining room/family room, kitchen, two bedrooms, full bath & laundry room on main floor. Upstairs offers additional bedroom, bonus room and master suite. Luscious green grass surrounds the home on four lots with fire pit, back deck and raised flower beds. Additional detached bonus room w/ wood burning stove, great for entertaining. Detached single car garage and shop with cold storage room. 4 Bedroom | 1.75 Bathroom | Bonus Room | 2048 SF | Detached Garage | Cold Storage Room | Additional Detached Room | Outdoor Living  MLS: 1413016

Next Chapter?

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A first metal lathe project

I work in wood.  But for years I’ve wanted to get into the machinist’s world too.   A few months ago I “ran across” a 1950s  Craftsman/Atlas lathe that I couldn’t resist.   Until last week it sat in the shop waiting for me.  Now after cleaning the lathe, doing minor repairs, watching hours of Youtube instructionals,  poring over old manuals, and buying doo-dads, I’ve completed my first project.  I’m pretty darned pleased.

It’s a tool gizmo, recognizable to piano technicians.

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Craftsman/Atlas 12 inch lathe (1950s)

Craftsman/Atlas 12 inch lathe (1950s)

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Non-Athletic Exercise

I am not an athlete! Never have been. Never will be. Of course at age 66 the transformation is highly unlikely anyway.

I don’t want to get whiny, but to set some background: in grade school when teams were being chosen, I was always chosen last. That’s not very encouraging. From fifth grade to tenth grade, PE was a required subject. I hated PE. All the while, though, I did like my bike and rode it for miles. I did like to swim and hike in the woods. I wasn’t totally unfit. I was just under-developed.

Duane at age 10. Not unfit. Just under-developed!

Something changed when I was sixteen, and I didn’t see the change coming. In those late high school years, I had the good fortune of working for The Dennis Company, where I loaded and unloaded trucks, I delivered truckloads of bricks and concrete blocks which were unloaded by hand. I unloaded rail cars full of animal feed in 100 pound bags. Sometimes with a partner. Sometimes without. I liked the work, and had no idea that I was building muscle.

Then, in the Fall following high school graduation, I found myself enrolled as a Freshman at Grays Harbor Community College, where a “basic skills” PE class was required! What!? I thought I was done with that. But there I was again in tennis shoes and gym shorts dreading the embarrassment. Wouldn’t you know it? Early in the course I found myself in a line of boys with the instruction to climb the rope! Yeah,  the 20 feet of rope from the floor of the gym to the ceiling. Just like that stupid rope at Raymond High School, where I never cleared five feet. I naturally placed myself at the end of the line, to meditate on my pending doom.     I still had no idea that my experiences at Dennis Company had changed my physique.  But when I placed my hands on that rope, one hand went over the other until I was at the ceiling!  I looked around at the gym and the boys beneath me in utter amazement, until the coach said, “OK.  That’s good.  Come on down.”

In the intervening years I’ve spent about 80,000 hours sitting behind a desk, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t climb that rope today.   I’m not unfit.  Just under-developed.   To my credit, I have probably bicycled more than 10,000  miles in the past 15 years.  So the legs are in pretty good shape.   The core and the upper body, on the other hand, have lost a lot of strength.   Ironically,  at age 66, that’s changing.

In February, I joined the VASA Fitness gym, because they sent me a pretty picture of their lap pool.   Once again, I found that sweating in the gym just doesn’t appeal to me, but the pool, well that’s different.  The more I swim, the more I like it!   And as it turns out I don’t need to take a teenager’s job to get the upper body working well again.

After summer travel I began swimming regularly, until it became a daily habit.   Then I found a swim coach at The Swim Academy, and my body started changing!  I have found muscles I had forgotten.   I’m swimming faster, stronger, and longer.  When I started I could swim 2 lengths freestyle before needing a breather with a more comfortable stroke. Then it was 4, then 10, then 16, and then 35 for a full half-mile. I went for my swim at VASA again this morning without a new goal in mind. I swam my 35 lengths in 26 minutes, and noted that was a new record for speed. But I also noticed that I wasn’t spent! So I just restarted the lap counter and went for another 23 lengths. I was astounded. Again, I’ve reached new heights without even realizing it. I swam 0.82 miles in 46 minutes, and for an old non-athlete like me, that’s astounding!

It’s kind of a sweetheart deal:  getting stronger while not realizing it.   It’s pretty much like my good work at The Dennis Company, except I don’t get the $2 per hour.

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A once in a lifetime recipe

Chocolate Custard

Ingredients: 
Left-over hot chocolate from your Christmas Piano Recital
Eggs
Vanilla
Butter

Procedure:
Crack some eggs into a bowl
Beat the eggs.
Pour some left over hot chocolate into the bowl
Stir it all together.
Think: that could probably use some vanilla
Add vanilla
Think: you probably didn’t use enough eggs
Add eggs
Butter a baking dish that’s big enough.
Pour your stuff into the baking dish.
Turn the oven on to 325.
Think: I see no reason for that to preheat
Put your stuff in the oven
Set the timer for 40 minutes
Go do some stuff and forget about it.
Realize later that you have no idea when the timer went off.
Take your stuff out of the oven
Cool.
Enjoy.

My mother taught me how to cook. Three rules apply here:

  • If you have leftovers, you can make something good out of it.
  • If you use good ingredients, it will be good.
  • Custard is good.

This does call to mind hundreds and hundreds of pounds of government surplus rice delivered to Raymond High School when Mom was the head cook there.  She said,

“I just couldn’t cook enough rice.  And those kids didn’t like it much, either. Then one day I was making mashed potatoes and I thought, ‘What difference would it make if I put a few pounds of cooked rice in that?’. You know, no one knew the difference, and they were pretty good mashed potatoes. I sure got rid of that rice.”

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Swimming Lessons, Then and Now

Swim Lessons Then!

Sometime around 1958, I was introduced to swimming lessons. I’m sure some kids complained about it. I wasn’t one of them! That’s a good thing, because swimming lessons were not optional.  In Raymond Washington, the Dr. O.R. Nevitt Memorial Pool was built as a huge volunteer effort between 1952 and 1955. I don’t know what role my parents may have had in its construction. But I know about their enthusiasm for the pool. It was great that the town had a pool, and their kids were going to learn to swim!

I am grateful for the enthusiasm of my parents and the program the small city of Raymond offered during my youth. Every June I was enrolled in the first (chilly) session of swim lessons. I loved the water, and learned more than anything that I was made to be pretty much drown-proof. I know that was the objective of Mom and Dad. Mission accomplished. I progressed through all the levels until the Junior Life Saving class. That was my first failure and my last class. It was a failure in that I didn’t pass the class; I just didn’t have the athletic strength to save Chris Halpin and get him to the other end of the pool, unless he kicked too! It was a success in that I still know   I have all the skills to save a drowning swimmer in calm waters.

Nevitt Memorial Pool, Raymond Washington 1962

Click on the photo for a high-res version

The picture above is Mom’s photo from 1962 at the Nevitt Pool in Raymond.   The action shot shows my sister Nadine jumping into the deep end for the first time.  It was a momentous occasion for her.  Standing in the background, in the red trunks is the 10 year old me!  As the big brother, I really should have appeared to be more supportive.  Also in the background in the blue trunks is my friend Randy Briggs, striking the Atlas pose.  Caught in the foreground would have to be his mom,  Marie Briggs.

So that’s where it  all started.   The place was vital, kid centered, and committed to making the youth of Raymond drown-proof.  But reflecting on my early training,  I never developed a classic, refined free-style crawl.  I preferred backstroke, sidestroke, and breaststroke for getting around the pool and lakes.

Fifty-six years later, I’m swimming again, and I’m grateful for all those lessons which which gave me confidence in the water.   But today, swimming is for well-rounded exercise, and I want to develop that classic, refined free-style crawl.

I’m making progress in the lanes at VASA fitness.  I was excited when they opened nearby,  and even more enthused today,  as my swimming improves each day.

Swim Lessons Now!

On my own, despite watching hours of Youtube videos, I have not developed that classic, refined freestyle crawl. Fancy that! A couple weeks ago I called The Swim Academy asking about swim lessons.  I asked my instructor, Keith Hubbard,  for help in developing a more relaxed freestyle stroke, and in week one he coached some better form out of me!   Before meeting with Keith, I’d been working up to a half mile swim in the mornings.   After my first session, that half mile became easier, and I’m happy that I’m  reporting 3.5 miles in 7 days!  I can feel the results in the upper body, and I’m just about addicted to it (hopefully).  In this case a habit forming addiction would be a good thing.

Keith has been the best for me.   Of course, he was easy for me to listen to because he complimented me after the first lap, telling me I already had good form!  Kudos to those guys and gals at the Nevitt Pool in the 50s and 60s.    But after the fine compliments, we got to work on the refinements, and they are a blessing.

Today was the second lesson, and another leap forward.   I’m thrilled to have good instruction and also to see that my 66 year old body will adapt to that good instruction.   I can’t wait to get in the pool tomorrow morning where I can get to work on it.   In the pool I’ll  be thanking a few people:  Mom, Dad, the people of Raymond who built the pool in 1955, and my new instructor, who fearlessly took on a 66-year old student.

 

 

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A piano shop workbench

My bargain shopping wife found a large “workbench” — a collection of solid cabinets mounted on an ugly 2×8 base and with a beat-up top. We repurposed all into a remarkably functional bench for the piano shop. Thank you Terri! Yet to come are some new drawers where there are now cubbies and a slideout for a printer.

A major bit of sweetness for the shop are two storage bays below the new top which will accept a grand action. That’s a real convenience and a new efficiency in the shop.Workbench for the piano shop

Here’s a view of the bench with it put to use:
Piano Shop Workbench
The old bench was acquired from the old Ephrata, Washington High School when it was demolished in the 1980s. I sold it to a happy buyer.  It was nice to see it go the a “good garage”, after serving me for so many years.

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Electrified Thoughts

Recently, my friend Terry Greene posted this evocative photo work on Facebook.   This piece grabbed hold of my very core,  and brought memories flooding forth.   For me,  this  is a completely natural response. The raw power of electricity is as  much a part of my upbringing as huckleberry pancakes and bread rising in a sunny window.

Photo work of Terry L Greene

My dad, Harvey McGuire, began his work at Pacific County Public Utility District  in 1938, and retired from his work there in 1978.  For the most of those 40 years he was the “meterman”, responsible for testing, repair, and calibration of the thousands of meters of the PUD.    But Pacific County PUD was a small operation, and Dad was also a radio technician and a transformer rebuilder.  During storm emergencies, he  worked along side the line crew for whom he had the deepest respect.   I came to know at an early age that linemen were brave,  robust, and knowledgeable workers.  I also knew that they were among the friendliest people on earth, because any day could be “bring your kid to work day” at the PUD of that era. The photo below is from Pacific County PUD of the 1960s.  I  believe that pictured here among the 13 kilo-volt lines are Wayne Patrick and Shorty Remington.  There were no overweight linemen!

Linemen of Pacific County PUD 1960s

The meter room of  the PUD, was a natural gathering place for the friendly folks who worked there, and I enjoyed being a part of the place.   Arriving there at 4:15 was a good thing, and I could score a ride home with Dad at the 4:30 quitting time.   At that time of day the line crew was coming in, and I could  listen in to the events of their day, and enjoy the status of visiting kid.

This photo may not evoke a smell memory for you, so use your imagination.  It is a rich mixture  of tobacco, solder rosin, transformer oil,  and ozone.  Enjoy it.

Harvey McGuire tells a joke to an unidentified friend in the meter room of Pacific County PUD

Given all this exposure to electro-magnetic radiation I was drawn to it like an iron spike is drawn to a magnet. It’s little wonder that I’d become a ham radio operator in my late high school years. This photo of 1971 shows Dad and me in the bucket truck of the PUD. As the photo was snapped, we had just completed installing a cubical quad antenna for the 20 meter ham band on a small tower atop the garage at home. It was another electrifying experience. Obviously, at the time, Pacific County PUD wasn’t just a “bring your kid to work” company. Sometimes it was a “bring a truck home to install an antenna” kind of company.

Duane and Harvey McGuire installing an antenna – 1971

Nine years later would find me employed as an “energy conservation specialist” at Grant County PUD, as I began a 10 year career there. As it worked out, Harvey Guy McGuire and Duane Harvey McGuire spent 50 years fully charged in the electric utility industry.

I left Grant County PUD in 1990, but when electricity flows in your veins, it doesn’t seem to leave. It’s only natural that when photo-electric generation became cost effective, I’d have my own generating station. This is the 8.3 kilo-watt installation on my shop building at home in Clinton, Utah.

Solar array on the shop in Clinton Utah 2018

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Daffodils

It is spring. Daffodils should be here.  But I am waiting and watching, as my daffodils are moving slowly (like me).   It’s not every spring that I wait and watch as I do this year, but … well … I must admit … I planted some daffodils last fall in a wildly optimistic moment.  And I love daffodils.

The act of planting daffodils is uncharacteristic for me.  That is perhaps mostly attributable to the good and reasonably predictable patterns of a long marriage.   Terri loves her hours in the garden, and I have an easy out.  But out front, there was this ugly bush bordering our neighbor’s place.  I thought I could do some good in the earth, and while Terri takes care of a third-acre, I could take care of ten square feet.   Plus, I didn’t like that bush, Terri didn’t like that bush, and the new neighbors didn’t like that bush.

That last part was inferred from a conversation:

“Is this bush on your property or on ours?”
“Oh, I think it’s kind of on both, but looking at the fence line, I’d say it’s mostly on our side.”
“Oh.  I was thinking maybe I should pull it out. ”
“Oh.”

I’m pretty good at inferences, aren’t I?  So last fall, armed with pruners, shovels, and picks I went to work on that bush.  I sweat a lot, cussed a little, and generally lived in the moment.   But the last of that bush was not budging.   Fortunately my neighbor, Ben, came over with all of his wonderful, youthful, brute strength. While I was in the shop looking for a longer lever, he whispered to that bush and yanked out the last of it.

I had a plan, and desperately wanted to act before time, weeds, or thoughts of landscaping cloth intervened.   I turned the plan into action, and returned from Lowes with pounds of bulbs:  daffodils, tulips, and crocuses.  Within a few days all were planted to their prescribed depth and the new bed was covered with a thick mulch of grass clippings.   And so I wait.  But not much longer.  Today, gratification is arriving:

I come by this love of daffodils honestly.  During my youth in Western Washington, daffodils were everywhere.  In lawns until the first mowing, along roadsides, and even in flowerbeds!  Among my favorites were those that popped up at the base of the family tree (that is to say the phenomenal cherry tree in the east yard of 933 Crescent Street).   This picture from 1963 is a little late for daffodils,  but if you squint, you may see the leaves.

Daffodils are my quintessential image of Spring. Of rebirth, and of Easter. I lay claim to a rich Christian heritage whose foundation was centered at Raymond Washington’s First Methodist Church. For one who was (and is) a Doubting Thomas, my richest experience of Easter  is of daffodils.  In the 1960s Raymond’s MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), with major support from Bill Morgan and parents, gathered thousands of daffodils in the week before Easter, so that on Easter morning we could display our symbol of the Resurrection outside the church. It was an amazing symbol, and an equally amazing  experience.

Easter 1964: Raymond First Methodist cross of thousands of daffodils

 

I do love daffodils!  Easter was early this year, and that would have been good for the traditional Easter cross of daffodils.   There would have been lots of daffodils for harvesting in yards, along roadsides, and under cherry trees.   Though the tradition of this cross is past, I’m certain that the daffodils brought joy wherever they popped up.

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Occasional observations of Duane McGuire