Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pheasant and Jim and their DJs

Hi Bill

This morning I awakened thinking about Mom and Dad’s good friends, Peasant and Jim. I’m sure you remember them because Mom and Dad got together with them frequently to play cards (pinochle). Their sons were older than me, closer to your age, and attended Altoona HS, where you graduated. Since you are eight years older than me, you probably knew them long before I had joined the family. Anyway, our parents (Marie and Jim) were very good friends with Pleasant and Jim, and I remember that they often got together, either at our house or at Pleasant and Jim's house in Altoona.

Jim and Marie (HS Grad Photos)
Now that I think about Pleasant and Jim, I realize that I don’t remember you hangin’ with the parents and their good friends at either our house or P&J’s house. That makes sense, I guess, because you were (and are) eight years older than me. Therefore, you were probably out and about having fun with your good friends, Ernie and Eddie, or others, while I was way too young to be roving with friends during the evenings.

I usually had to accompany the parents when they visited Pleasant and Jim. During most of those visits at P&J’s house I just sat in their living room watching TV and being bored, although I did enjoy the candy, cake, ice cream and pop that the adults provided for me. I don’t know how they were able to tolerate my sugar highs during those visits. They probably just ignored me.

Anyway, I have fond memories of those get-togethers at Pleasant and Jim’s very small two-story house in Altoona. That house, which was not far from our Grandpap’s house, was seemingly situated under the grandstands for the Manson Park athletic field/stadium. That meant that it was very noisy, and it was difficult to find a parking place near their house, when there were football games or other events being played/held at the stadium. It was also very noisy during visits with Pleasant and Jim when events were taking place. It is interesting to realize now that back in those days most working-class people did not earn much money and they couldn’t have large houses in quiet neighborhoods.
Little Clark

During those pinochle visits I often had to just sit and watch TV while Mom and Dad were playing cards at Pleasant and Jim’s house. However, those visits were not always long and boring. Sometimes, their youngest son was at home when the parents were playing cards. He was a teenager while I was maybe 10 or so and he would usually entertain me when he didn’t have other things to do.

I will never forget the visit when he and I were disc jockeys. He took me upstairs to his very small bedroom, where he had a record player and lots of vinyl records (both 45 and 33&1/3) crammed into every possible space. That was very cool and I thought we were just going to play some records. However, he turned out to be much cooler than just a record collector! He told me to sit down and asked me to pick a few records to listen to. Of course I was happy to pick some 45s that I liked and handed them to him. Then he turned on the turntable and put one of the records on it. In addition, then he turned on some other equipment that had a microphone attached to it and told me we were going to be disc jockeys. Of course I can’t remember what all he said and did. However, I certainly do remember that I had a lot of fun. He had his turntable, amplifier, and microphone connected to a transmitter that covered a small area of the city of Altoona around his parent’s house. He did not have a broadcasting license, of course, but he told me that it was totally legal to broadcast (without a license) low-power AM radio signals that covered a small, but densely populated area of the city around his parents’ home. He was the disc jockey and did most of the talking and I helped by retrieving records, putting them on the turntable, setting the needle on the records, and removing and replacing the records between songs. He would introduce the records he was playing and he said a few words about them. He actually had regular listeners who even called him with requests to play certain songs. He persuaded me to do some talking to the mike, but I was too nervous (and dumb) to do very much “DJ-Speak.” However, it was one of those magical times that young boys and girls often have that remain forever in their memory. Unfortunately, I never pursued a career in broadcasting, but that was probably a lucky decision for me. I don’t know whether P&J's son became a disc jockey, but I like to think that he became a very famous one at a powerful radio station.

Clark holding Timmy with Brother Bill
As you know, Pleasant and Jim remained very good friends with Marie and Jim and I got to know them fairly well. Of course, you had already gotten to know them very well before I was old enough to do so. You also know that their friendship continued throughout both of our childhood and college years. After Dad’s death their friendship with Mom was even more important and it continued. They were good friends and good people. They took Mom along on several road trips while I was finishing college and after I graduated and became a working adult. Mom’s friendship with them was a critical factor in keeping her grounded and providing a satisfying social life for her. Even though you and I were not around, she was not alone. She still had her long-standing, reliable and trustworthy friends, Jim and Pleasant, who helped enhance her life. Unfortunately, sometime, while I believe I was working in Omaha, Jim (Pleasant’s husband) died and Pleasant (and our Mom) was devastated. Pleasant  and Mom still remained good friends but things were just never the same. I believe Pleasant also died shortly after her husband’s death.

Jimmy and Marie
Pleasant and Jim were “Good People” and I am grateful that they were longtime good friends with our parents. Their loss was difficult for Mom. Luckily, she still had two sisters, i.e., our Aunt Helen and Aunt Pauline, to keep her going.  

Bill - You, Jane, Pat and I remain, and I know you are still as determined to continue this lifelong adventure as much as I am. Please let me know what you’re up to.

Take care

Sincerely, Clark

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Remembering Marie (Newton) Hallman

Hi Bill

This morning I woke up thinking about our Mom. Like our Father, she was a remarkable person, who took care of you and me as we were growing up, and also worked a full-time job while doing so. She also took care of Dad and endured the terror and pain of his health decline and his sudden death at a time when you and I were already out of the house and living far away from them.

Marie Newton grew up in a family that included her parents, Mary and William, and siblings, i.e., our Aunt Martha, Aunt Pauline, Aunt Helen, Uncle Oscar, and some others that I can’t recall. Therefore she had a much larger extended family than Dad’s extended family. You and I benefited from fairly regular visits with Grandmother Mary and those aunts and uncles, especially when we were very young. In addition to aunts and uncles, we had lots of cousins to play with. However, since you are eight years older than me, you probably associated with more of them than I did.

Marie Newton
Anyway, Marie had a wonderful childhood in Altoona and during high school she encountered a handsome young man named Jim who was one grade ahead of her in school. They quickly became an item and remained so until he died in 1969. As you know, they were completely in love with each other during their lives together, and they both shared their love with us. They also supported each other and shared their parental responsibilities. Although, Mom was clearly the caring and nurturing parent and Dad was clearly the caring, but masculine role model for us growing boys.

I can still remember Mom holding me on her lap whenever I was a sleepy little tike. I also remember how it felt when she held me and comforted me when I was suffering from a cold or some nasty scraped/injured knee, elbow, finger, toe, face, head, ear, shin, and (you name it on my body). She wasn’t any kind of physician or medical professional, but she always seemed to know how to make me feel better just be holding me.

In addition to being a Mom, she was also a “Working Mom” during most of my boyhood and through my high school, college and into my adult years. I believe she also worked while you were growing up. Of course, our father worked in the PRR (Pennsylvania Railroad) Car shops through most of our years at home until he had to retire due to health problems while I was in high school. At that point, Mom’s employment became important because Dad’s medical retirement income was not sufficient to support even the two of them.

Marie Hallman
Anyway, I believe Mom worked somewhere during your childhood and then eventually got a job in the drapery department at Gables, a large department store in downtown Altoona. During that time she learned a lot about draperies and being a department store sales clerk. In fact, she was eventually recruited, by someone from the JC Penny store in the new Logan Valley Mall, which was fairly close to our house. They offered her a job as the “Buyer” for their drapery department. Although they offered her a nice pay increase for that job, she told them that she did not want to endure the travel responsibilities that accompanied that buyer position. Dad was struggling with serious health problems during that time and she did not want to travel and leave him at home alone. Therefore, she turned down the “Buyer” job. However, the JC Penny recruiter convinced her to, take a full-time senior sales clerk position in their store, and she was pleased to accept that position.  It provided a raise in pay above what Gables provided and the JC Penny job was also much closer to home, which resulted in a much easier drive for her to get to work and back. Anyway, Mom worked at that JC Penny store for a long time, until she reached retirement age. Then she retired even though her JC Penny coworkers and supervisors begged her to stay.

You were out of the house and living in southeastern Pennsylvania during most of those years. I was in college at Pitt and then lived and worked in Philadelphia, Omaha, Cincinnati, and eventually South Dakota. I just couldn’t get a desirable job that provided an acceptable salary in the Altoona/Hollidaysburg area.

Unfortunately, when Dad died in 1969, Mom was devastated. They had a very loving relationship, and she needed help from us boys to get through Dad’s funeral. I know you and Jane quickly drove from your home near Philadelphia to help and support Mom. I was attending college at the University of Pittsburgh and I made arrangements for my roommates to notify my professors about my father’s death and that I would return to their classrooms as soon as possible. I didn’t have a car, but I rode the railroad home the next day. Mom was heartbroken and she needed lots of support from us. I was not able to provide much help to either Mom or you during that very sad time. I was devastated by Dad’s death. Somehow, we all got through that difficult time with help from family and friends. Of course, you and your family had to return to eastern Pennsylvania to resume jobs and school. However, I believe you stayed with Mom a few more days after I returned to Pittsburgh. At the time I thought it was important to get back to classes as soon as possible. Somehow Mom pulled herself together and returned to work, but her life was never the same without Dad. She needed him and struggled emotionally without him.

Marie and James Hallman

Luckily, Mom had her job and it was even more important that she continue working, both for the income and to keep her in touch with other people. I believe I visited her more often during that year after Dad’s death and I believe you and your family also visited her more often. It was difficult for her, but she continued her life and luckily, she still had some long-time friends who she socialized with her and she even did some traveling with them. Of course, she also had her sisters, Aunt Pauline (who visited her often) and Aunt Helen (who lived next door). Unfortunately, Aunt Helen’s husband (my Uncle John), had died a few years earlier.

I never did move back to the Altoona/Hollidaysburg area, but Pat and I (and eventually with our children) tried to visit her whenever possible. She and our Aunt Pauline actually traveled by train to visit us in Omaha, Nebraska and later in Brookings, South Dakota. The train delivered them to Omaha which was great when Pat and I lived in Omaha. However, I had to drive to Minneapolis to pick them up when they visited us in Brookings and then drive them to back to the train station in Minneapolis for their trip home to Pennsylvania. Luckily, Pat and I both like Minneapolis and we didn’t mind those little trips. Mom and my Aunt Pauline really enjoyed their visits with Pat and I and our daughter (Rayna) and son (Zeb). We also made a few trips back to Pennsylvania with Rayna and Zeb. We all have good memories about those visits.

As you know, Mom’s health declined during the last decade of her life. Eventually dementia took her ability to communicate with us and really anyone else. She had always been a woman who took care of herself and liked to socialize with family and friends. However, she lost those abilities and suffered a tragic lingering death. It is difficult for me to write about that time, but it was a relief for us (and, I believe, for her) when she died.

Mom and I 
I try not to remember those difficult times and let myself remember both Mom and Dad when they were young, strong and very happy to be together with each other and with us. I especially like to remember summers and vacations with them when I was a young boy and you were my big brother. Those were the best of times for the James and Marie Hallman family.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another Fun Record Store Day (2017)

Hi Bill

Rayna and I participated in another very pleasurable Record Store Day on Saturday, April 23. It was our second or third Record Store Day and we both had a very good time seeking recorded vinyl treasures. Every time this annual event arrives I intend to make lists of the groovy vinyl that I should acquire. However, I never really get much of a list prepared and this year I didn’t even try to compile a list. There is something about forcing myself to concentrate on ferreting out specific items that just repulses me, even though I really would like to own those items and I’m not gettin’ any younger. Anyway, I had no prepared list, but I enjoyed flipping through shelves, boxes, stacks, bins and random piles of vinyl music at record stores in Sioux Falls with Rayna.

Every time I participate in one of these organized, but chaotic, vinyl hunts I am amazed by the almost tribal comradery of the roving crowd. Rayna and I visited three different record stores and we encountered many of the same fellow-record-seekers in each of them. Even more amazing were the friendly interactions that these total strangers initiate with people they don’t know from Adam. Perhaps there is some mystical force that emanates from all those strange vinyl grooved discs that just makes even timid or obnoxious humans realize that we all need pleasant affirming communication, especially when large hordes of us are squeezed together during possibly competitive circumstances.

Well, enough of these ramblings!

Marianne Faithfull -  Rich Kid Blues (2017)
I met Rayna at Ernie November at 1pm last Saturday when we began our Record Store Day hunt. Many of you may know that Ernie’s is a record store chain that sells new and many more used vinyl albums. It provides a large and diverse selection of vinyl and Rayna and I spent considerable time flipping through pretty much their entire collection. Rayna bought a few albums, and I bought the following new album that was one of the exclusive Record Store Day releases this year: 

  • Marianne Faithfull - Rich Kid Blues (2017): This album was first released in 1984 and released again with a different cover for this Record Store Day exclusive. Actually, Rayna grabbed this album first, but I snatched it out of her hands. Instead of playing tug-of-war she acquiesced because she knows I am a longtime big Faithfull fan. That purchase turned out to be the most expensive single item that I purchased on Record Store Day this year, and the only thing I bought from Ernie November.

Roberta Flack - First Time (1969)
After finishing at Ernie’s, Rayna drove us to Total Drag, an independent record store in downtown Sioux Falls, where customers must endure extremely loud, and not particularly fetching, music while shopping. I usually do not frequent Total Drag very often because my hearing has already been decimated enough by various concerts and powerful home music systems. However, Total Drag is not a drag when it comes to the varied selection of vinyl albums that they offer. Like at Ernie November, we spent a long time trolling through "The Drag’s" large vinyl inventory. I purchased:

  •          Roberta Flack – First Time (1969)
  •         The Original Animals – Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted (1977)
The Original Animals - Before We Were
So Rudely Interrupted (1977)

Next we went to Crosstown Vinyl, which is my favorite record store in Sioux Falls. I frequent Crosstown Vinyl very often, and consider Steve, the owner of Crosstown, to be a friend. He is a good guy who is very knowledgeable about recorded music and provides good advice about the records he sells and collects. We also have many casual conversations about music and lots of other topics. In addition, he repairs and sells used amplifiers, turntables, speakers, etc. for reasonable prices. I bought a very powerful system from him last Christmas and I love it. Of course he also knows Rayna and it was nice to visit his establishment again on Record Store Day. Even though his prices are regularly very reasonable, he was giving his customers an extra discount that day. I crave diversity in my vinyl collection and I bought the following four albums at Crosstown Vinyl:
  •         Brenda Lee – 10 Golden Years (1966)
  •         The Spinners – The Best of The Spinners (1978)
  •         Ray Charles – I’m All Yours – Baby! (1969)
  •         Donovan - Donovan P. Leitch (1970): Rayna and I are both big Donovan fans, but she took pity on the old guy and let me have this 2-disc, 20-track album.

Clark & Rayna at Starbucks on
Record Store Day 2017
After we left Crosstown Vinyl, Rayna and I were tired and we needed a snack. Therefore, we stopped at the Starbucks an 41st Street in Sioux Falls. We each had a latte and a snack while we relaxed and talked for about an hour. Then Rayna dropped me at my car in the Ernie November parking lot, where we began our vinyl hunt. I made the drive home and Rayna went wherever.

It was another very enjoyable and satisfying Record Store Day in Sioux Falls with Rayna. However, it was very nice to see Pat when I got home. Luckily, she tolerates my vinyl obsession as well as many of my other strange behaviors.

Bill, I believe you know that I cannot produce a lick of any even remotely pleasurable music. However, you were very influential in spawning and enhancing my love for music and I am very grateful for that influence. I hope you are still enjoying, collecting, and playing beautiful music.

Take Care,



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Was A Truck Drivin’ Man, Well I Thought I Was

Hi Bill

Today I was thinking about when Pat and I moved from Volga, a small town outside of Brookings SD, to Dell Rapids, a small town about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls. At that time, Pat was working at the University Center in Sioux Falls and I was still working at South Dakota State University in Brookings. We figured that Dell Rapids is pretty much halfway between our two employment cities, although Pat’s commute to the south was a little shorter than my forty-five minute commute to the north. Anyway, that move brought many changes to our daily routines.

I had to endure getting up a lot earlier to make that drive to SDSU, but Pat was happy to give up her hour commute from Volga to Sioux Falls. Both of us quickly adapted to waking up early and making the drive each workday morning, although I was able to gradually adopt a much more flexible schedule than Pat had to endure. Anyway, after making those commutes for a couple of years they became fairly routine. However, we discovered that South Dakota weather turned out to be a bigger factor during our commutes than we anticipated.

We were very naive about being able to cope with weather conditions on the interstate between Sioux Falls and Brookings, and neither of us had a rugged vehicle that provided at least minimally safe transportation during snow events. Therefore we couldn’t always make the drives to work and back during snow/ice/blizzard conditions. Luckily, our employers were mostly sympathetic toward us during those conditions.

However, I decided that I needed a more rugged vehicle that could get me through snow, ice, wind, wild fires, and volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to buy a vehicle that could conquer all of those forces. Therefore, I leased a Ford pickup truck. Well actually I leased a 2001 XLT Super Cab 4X4 Ford Ranger for two years, which cost me $255 per month. Then, doofus that I was (and still am), I paid the dealer $705 to install a Box Cover and Bed Liner on my new expensive (leased) toy. In my defense, I figured I was going to love this new toy and would be purchasing it at the end of the lease period. 
The truck had a much higher ground clearance than any other vehicles I had owned, and it also had four-wheel drive. Therefore, I was confident that it would enable me to blast through much deeper snow than the other vehicles I had owned. It also provided a fairly spacious truck bed that could help me haul all kinds of stuff to wherever I might want to take it. I thought I was all set for my daily commutes between our little town and the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings even when heavy snow was falling.

Unfortunately, I really had no significant experience with driving any kind of truck, except U-Haul rentals when Pat and I moved from Omaha to Cincinnati, back in the day. I also rented a big-box truck when we moved from Cincinnati to Brookings, South Dakota. In addition, I rented other trucks to help move our daughter from Minneapolis back to South Dakota and move our son from Minneapolis to Fargo, ND. However, those were all U-Haul trucks that were big and heavy when loaded and I drove them on mostly dry pavement.

Anyway, I really liked my spiffy little gold, four-wheel-drive, Ford pickup truck and I enjoyed my daily commutes between Dell Rapids and Brookings with it. I was convinced that the truck’s road clearance and its four-wheel-drive would get me safely through ice and snow during my winter commutes. I was all set!

I sailed through the summer and fall and was actually confident about driving through some snow during the coming winter storms. The first time we got a couple of inches of snow I just sailed right through it without even hardly slowing down. I had four-wheel-drive! However, when the snow became heavier and deeper I continued to blast right through it, until the first time I found myself spinning off the highway. I did not completely leave the berm of the road, and luckily I did not collide with any other vehicles. Somehow, my enthusiasm for donuts in the snow had waned! I was annoyed, until I realized that I had forgotten to Turn On The Four-Wheel-Drive. I pushed that button and got right back on the road and finished my commute with no problems.

Well that snow melted and my commutes were once again without trauma. I also remembered to turn on the four-wheel-drive when I encountered snow. Therefore, I still thought I could just blast through the snow without slowing down very much. That stubborn belief caused me several more frightening uncontrollable spinning episodes on the interstate. Someone, eventually suggested that adding some weight in the truck bed should help foster a more stable and controllable drive through snow and ice. So, I put some large bags of salt back there to help stabilize my commutes. However, surely I did not need to slow down much in my rugged, weighted-down, truck during those commutes. Well, unfortunately I endured a few more close calls and even got the truck stuck in the snow a few times. Clark’s ego took quite a beating during that first winter with my “not so beloved” truck. It is amazing that I did not have any collisions or rollovers during my first winter with that truck. Stubborn person that I am, it took me a while to admit that I must slow down when there is snow and/or ice on the road.

Clark and His Truck 2001
I was much wiser during my second winter in that truck, but my romance with the truck had diminished. I did not purchase it at the end of the second lease year. Instead, I returned it to the dealer. In addition to Pat’s car, we also had another car that I used for my commutes to work and back. In 2005, I bought and new large Mitsubishi Endeavor, with all-time four-wheel-drive. That vehicle was, and still is, wonderful, and luckily I have treated it much more kindly than I did that pickup truck. However, I often wish I still had a small truck for hauling stuff, but I can usually get most things that I need to haul into my Mitsubishi. Then there is always U-Haul for other stuff. I am a very careful driver in those rental trucks.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this recollection of our move to the south and my commutes to the north. For some reason, neither of us could work in the same town that we lived in. We each made daily commutes in opposite directions. Anyway, we don't work anywhere now so who cares!

Take care. 



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Remembering James Hallman

Hi Bill

I have been thinking about our father this morning for some reason. As you know, he was a remarkable man who struggled through his younger years, and worked hard to provide a good life for Mom and us boys. Below are some of my thoughts about him. If you want to add your thoughts about him please do so.

Me and Dad - Our property is on the left
Our father, James Hallman has been gone now for about 48 years. However, I still think of him often and I am grateful that he was part of my life. He was an incredible person (and father) who had a big influence on me during those seemingly fleeting years while I was a young boy and then while growing through my teenage and college years. He died suddenly one day in 1969. He had walked back from our mailbox at the end of our long driveway after retrieving our mail and my Aunt Helen’s mail (she lived next door to us). He walked into Aunt Helen’s house and handed her mail to her and then just fell dead on the floor. He was 54 years old when he died. Needless to say, that was a tragic day for our family and friends.

Dad building an addition to our house
However, we have a long legacy of memories of him that our family cherishes and embellishes. I still think about him frequently and miss him very much. He was quite a man, who lived through many difficult times during his 54 years on the planet. His father (Emerson Hallman) died when Dad was very young and his mother, Lila Brantner Hallman, had her own problems to deal with and was not able to take care of him. Therefore, he lived in an orphanage at a very tender age, when orphanages were not very nurturing institutions. I’m not sure where the orphanage was located, but I believe it was somewhere around Saxton PA. Luckily, his uncle, William S. Hallman (WS) and WS’s wife, Mable, who lived in Altoona PA, eventually took him into their home and raised him through his junior high and high school years. They treated him with caring affection and provided a safe and secure home for him to grow up in. During his time growing up with WS and Mable, he experienced what it was like to be part of a loving family with a mother and father figure to depend upon. He flourished in junior high and high school, both as a student and as an athlete. He was an awarding-winning pole vaulter and a very proficient boxer while in high school. He was not very tall, maybe 5’7’’ or so, but he was very muscular and very smart. (BTW: WS was my great uncle, but I always knew him as my grandfather, and he was a wonderful grandfather, indeed. Unfortunately, Mable died when I was only one year old so I never got to know her.)

HS Pole Vaulter
Dad met our mother, Marie Newton, while in high school and they were an item from the get go. They were married shortly after high school and they rented an inexpensive row house in Altoona, PA. Our father worked at several different jobs that did not provide a living wage after high school. However, he eventually landed a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad shops in Altoona, which did provide a living wage. Working for the railroad also deferred him from serving in the military, during World War Two and the Korean War. Meanwhile, you were born in 1941 and then I arrived in 1949.

I don’t remember the circumstances, but somehow our parents moved in with our grandfather (WS) 1950 or so, shortly after Mable died. Grandpap had a beautiful large brick home with plenty of bedrooms, and a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, sun room, and a full basement, and large attic that I loved to play in with my friends as I grew older. We lived with our Grandfather until the summer before I began second grade, and I remember that it was a wonderful time for both me and you, Bill. I also attended kindergarten and first grade near that neighborhood.

Jimmy and Marie
Our parents were certainly not wealthy, but living with Grandpap helped them save a little money. Dad landed a slightly better-paying job at the Hollidaysburg Pennsylvania Railroad Reclamation Plant (or something like that), where he used a cutting torch to cut apart scrapped railroad cars in an outside scrapyard. It was a very difficult and dangerous job, and he suffered from several serious injuries over the years. He also endured breathing toxic fumes and chemicals in addition to many burns from the cutting torches. However, he did what he had to do to support our family.

He didn’t make big money, but it was enough for him to eventually buy a few acres of land on route 220 between Altoona and Duncansville near the Alto Reste Cemetery. That property had been part of a large apple orchard and the apple trees were still there on the neglected, wildly over grown, weed infested property. Our Uncle John and Aunt Helen purchased an identical acreage next door between our land and the Alto Reste Cemetery.

James, Brother Bill, Marie, and Dopey Little Clarkie
Our father somehow cleared our acreage pretty much by himself although he and Uncle John helped each other sometimes. However it was a horrendous job that Dad gladly endured during weekends, after work, and on holidays and vacations when he did not have to work his job. I remember playing on that wilderness property while he was working there. It was a lot of fun for me, but he and Mom had to keep me under control while he worked on clearing that land. He pretty much tamed that land all by himself, but it took some time. That property also had a dilapidated small cabin on it, which he slowly renovated and our family eventually began living in it. Over the course of many years he added two additions to that structure and transformed it into a beautiful large home for our family.

It was amazing how many different kinds of skills Dad had (or developed) over the years. He did electrical wiring, roofing, plumbing, carpentry, cabinet making, landscaping, tree trimming and removal, concrete laying, mechanical car and tractor repairs, etc. I watched him do much of that work, but I was mostly too young to help him or even to learn much about those skills for many years.

In addition to the skills I mentioned, he had lots of other skills and interests. He was a very talented artist. He grew up drawing all kinds of comical caricatures and also painted landscapes and even portraits in water color and oil. He and Mom also played pinnacle regularly with some of their long-time friends. He was also an active member of a Masonic Lodge in Altoona.

Unfortunately, Dad also coped with numerous health conditions over the years. He suffered from a long-time heart condition, and endured a few serious heart attacks. He also suffering severe headaches and eventually discovered that he had a cerebral hemorrhage and underwent major brain surgery at a hospital somewhere in Ohio. However, even while suffering major health problems, he would not stop working. Eventually, he was forced to retire on disability from his job. However, he just couldn’t sit around resting. He had to be doing something and he endured his health problems for many years while continuing to work on enhancing our house and property.

James Hallman 1915 - 1969
He was a remarkable man of many talents, which included being a wonderful husband and father. I spent many hours watching him work on many different tasks, and he made and effort to explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. As I got older I realized how much I learned from him and how wonderful those times with him were. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. As you know, our Mom was never the same after Dad died. She, you and I (and our Grandfather) were devastated, and I can still feel that pain after all those years. I miss him and I think of him often. However, I know that he is still alive in our memories. He will always be with us.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

“Well, I’ve Got Two Lovers and I Ain’t Ashamed” – Actually I Am Ashamed!

Hi Bill

You may remember that back in high school I had a long-time “steady” girlfriend. She (let’s call her Bachelorette #1 or B#1) and I were steady for a couple of years in HS and then on and off during most of my college years. I thought we were in love and she would be my partner for life.

In the fall after high school graduation, I moved to Pittsburgh and began my freshman year in college at Pitt. B#1 attended nursing school, I believe somewhere near our home town after HS. It was a difficult separation at first, but I traveled back home to see her as often as I could. I lived in a dormitory with a roommate so it was difficult for her to visit me in Pittsburgh. Even so, the relationship continued to be fulfilling.

However, as time went by I became more connected to my college life (and friends) and didn’t make the journey home as often. B#1 and I remained a “couple” but I believe we were both growing apart from each other. I had many college friends and it was more fun to stay in the big city with them instead of traveling to the home town.  However, B#1 and I maintained a rather tenuous “on again, off again” thing during most of my college years. I thought the relationship would improve some after B#1 finished nursing school because she got a job in Pittsburgh. However, I wasn’t smart enough to realize how complicated our relationship was going to become.

You see, I had a group of very good friends to hang with in Pittsburgh and I had casually met, and dated, other women there. One of those women (Bachelorette #2, B#2) lived in my apartment building just down the hall from me. The other tenants on that floor were very sociable and we all got to know each other very well and hung out together quite often. Duffus that I was, I didn’t foresee any problems with B#2 becoming an important part of my ongoing social life. I totally didn’t understand that there was a very big complication. B#2 was very attractive and we became very good friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to realize how strong that friendship was and I thought I could continue dating both B#1 and B#2. 

I mean, how often does a dork like me get to date two beautiful women at the same time? I thought I had hit the jackpot and I enjoyed every minute of the experience for a while. Even though I knew it couldn’t last forever, I couldn’t seem to walk away from either of these incredible women. I knew I was playing with fire, but … Hey I could handle it! I must admit that I enjoyed the logistical challenges and the status of dating two beautiful women, although keeping each of them from knowing about the other woman was sometimes challenging and stressful. It was like Heaven on Earth for a while. However, I couldn’t ignore the dark warning that floated in my brain telling me that I was going to get burned big time for this, and I would end up broken and alone. 

Well unwisely, I managed to cope with my two romances until I finished my last year at Pitt and graduated. Then I moved to Philadelphia where I landed a decent job as a welfare caseworker, and B#1 and B#2 remained in Pittsburgh. However, they both decided to visit me in Philadelphia and I didn’t see any problem with that. So, B#1 visited me first and I was happy to see her. It was a nice visit, but it was short because she had to get back to her job in Pittsburgh. Soon after B#1 left I was happy to welcome B#2 to my extremely humble Philadelphia domicile. I thought … This is working out very well! 

B#2 and Clark - Philadelphia 1973/74
I was really very happy to see B#2 and we were having a wonderful visit, UNTIL SHE FOUND SOME THINGS THAT B#1 HAD “ACCIDENTALLY” LEFT IN MY APARTMENT! She demanded to know who they belonged to and what that woman was doing in my apartment. I thought about “Pleading the 5th“, but I knew she wouldn’t buy it. I also was panicked because I knew that B#2 was “My True Love” and I did not want to lose her. Therefore, I thought honesty was required and I confessed that I had another woman friend who had visited me. 

Well B#2 was not the kind of woman who was going to tolerate a “Dumb Ass” like me who had tried to enjoy two relationships at the same time. She reamed me out and told me that I needed to decide just who I wanted to spend time with. Basically, B#2 gave me an ultimatum ... Pick B#1 or B#2 and let each of them know my decision. She packed her things, walked out the door, and returned to Pittsburgh. 

I knew what I had done was wrong and was amazed at how devastated I was by the likelihood that I had lost B#2 for good. I had already realized that she was the special one for me, but I had probably ruined any chance of a continuing relationship with her. Indeed, I experienced my prophecy of ending up “Alone and Broken”.

I dragged myself through life for a while (a few weeks turned into a couple of months or so) without communicating with either of my “Two Lovers”. Finally, I ended my relationship with B#1, although not very diplomatically. Then I made the trip to Pittsburgh and begged forgiveness from B#2. I was not confident that she would forgive me and certainly doubted whether we could renew our damaged relationship. 

Clark, Pat, Jessie - Near Philly 1973/74
Well, Pat (aka B#2) eventually took another chance with me and we have been happily married for 44+ years. Believe me, there has never even been a thought in my feeble brain about being with another woman since that little dustup way back in the early 1970s. I am grateful for the wonderful life I have with Pat and I hope we can last for many more years. 

Bill - I you have probably heard at least some of this story from previous conversations with Pat and I, but I thought it might be somewhat entertaining for you to experience it again. 

Please take care and keep in touch. 



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don’t Go Near That Quarry!

Hi Bill

Once again, I have been thinking about the acreage on West Plank Road (Route 220) that our family moved to during the summer after I finished 1st grade. Uncle John and Aunt Helen lived next door with their little dog (Tippy) on an identical acreage between us and the Alto-Reste Cemetery (now known as Alto-Reste Park). We had been living in Altoona with our grandfather, but we had moved to the “Country” into a very small, and crude, house that was on the acreage, which Dad eventually rebuilt into a wonderful home for us.

Anyway, moving from Altoona to the acreage was a traumatic move for both of us. However, the parents let you finish high school (10th, 11th and 12th grades) by commuting to Altoona HS, but I had to attend a different school.  I wasn’t the most outgoing kid and it took some time for me to adjust, although you helped me meet other kids in that rural neighborhood and you hung out with us sometimes.

Eventually I adjusted to the new environment and made friends with the local country-bumpkin kids. In fact that neighborhood turned out to be a wonderful place to grow up. I quickly gained an array of both younger and older friends who welcomed me into their midst.

Clark: 1959
 Today I remembered a very interesting area in the mountain woods behind the cemetery hill. I believe you and some of the older kids, possibly Mike H or Michael O, took some of us younger kids into that woods sometimes to play or just to walk through the dense foliage and over the steep hills that were there. It was always very exciting for us younger guys to accompany the older guys into the wilderness. Surprisingly, I don’t remember any of us younger guys getting lost during those treks in the wilderness. I guess you older guys were responsible and good people.

One of the big attractions in that mountain forest (at least for us little explorers) was the old abandoned rock quarry. The walls of that old quarry revealed a longstanding and relentless struggle with the elements and we always wondered who had worked that quarry in the distant past. Huge portions of the rock had dislodged from the steep and very high quarry walls and piled up at the bottom. I and the other kids close to my age were always excited to hike to the quarry, but we were strictly warned to not visit it without older chaperones. We were also warned not to attempt climbing the walls of the quarry or climbing over the big rock piles on the ground of the quarry canyon. It would have been very easy to slip and fall among those huge rocks and sustain serious injuries.

Clark: 1961 with the forest on the mountain
behind the cemetery in the background 
Well, us younger kids adhered to those admonitions for a short time. However, once we had learned our way through the forest to the quarry, we visited it whenever we wanted. We also discovered a path that provided an easier, and much safer, access to the bottom of the quarry instead of climbing down the quarry walls. However, it was fun (even though it was also frightening) to climb down (and up) the quarry walls. Parental warnings were forgotten and we often climbed on the quarry walls and over the huge rock piles at the bottom of the quarry. It was an extravagant-fantasy wonderland for us youngsters. We played monster attacks, hunting safaris, lost-in-the-woods scenarios, and any other adventures that we dreamed up while we were in the quarry. We mostly didn’t worry about following our parents’ orders to stay away from dangerous places. Why worry about the dangers of the quarry cliffs, e.g., falling while we were hanging on the rocks, or getting pulverized by a huge piece of rock falling on us from above, or twisting our ankles trying to walk in the rough terrain among the rocks, or getting bitten by huge (possibly prehistoric) poisonous snakes, rats, and ponderous nasty bugs, or getting poison ivy or poison oak, or getting kidnapped by some demented criminal who might be hiding in the quarry, etc. Why worry! None of that would happen to us strong, and invincible men of the forest! 

Clark: 1959/60 5th or 6th grade
Believe it or not, I don’t remember any of us sustaining any serious injuries while playing in that quarry.  However, I do remember that we encountered plenty of toxic plants and animals that didn’t hesitate to sting, bite or irritate us in that quarry area. I remember crawling over a nest of nasty yellow jackets on the quarry cliffs and they left me with several very painful stings. I screamed bloody murder for a while until my friends got me under control. It was a long trek home that day and my parents were not pleased that I had wandered into a nest “in the open field behind our neighbor’s property” (of course). It was only one of many injuries that I sustained while trying to grow up in the wild and magical environment that surrounded our property. I often suffered injuries and pain, but they taught me to be vigilant, to be tough, and eventually (after much pain and frustration) to be smart.

I wonder if that old quarry is still entertaining inquisitive and imaginative children! I doubt that those exciting quarry walls and rocks are providing adventures for current children. I believe at least some of the woods still remains on that mountain above the cemetery, but I doubt that many children are exploring it. That neighborhood area has been overtaken by big-box chain stores and other retail establishments, which provide much more appealing stimulation to young children these days.

Bill, I am grateful that you helped me and my friends to find that quarry in the mountain forest. It has obviously left fairly vivid (and wonderful) memories for me. I would be pleased to hear your recollections about that quarry and any other magical memories from back in those days.

Well, it was fun to revisit some of those long-past exploits near west plank road today and I hope memories of other adventures from the past will surface in my brain, or yours, sometime in the future. Also, what’s happening in your neck-of-the-woods these days?

Take good care of yourself and your family.