Football lessons from the ‘71 Point Boro Dust Bowl

Posted in Personal with tags , , on September 24, 2019 by multimediaman
The 1971 Point Pleasant Borough High School Varsity Football team

When I was a little kid, I learned about the game of football from my father, Loren Donley. Among my earliest memories are watching NFL games with him on a black and white TV with rabbit ears in Point Pleasant, New Jersey in the mid-1960s. We watched the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL championship game on January 1, 1967. Then, two weeks later, we watched the Packers win the AFL-NFL World Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. This was before that game became known as the Super Bowl. 

I also watched The Ohio State University Buckeyes on Saturdays with my dad. He taught me about Coach Woody Hayes and what it meant to be a Buckeye like he was. This is something that kind of gets into your veins and doesn’t ever come out. Even though I graduated from Rutgers and have lived in Detroit for almost 40 years now—and attended my share of games at the Big House in Ann Arbor—I will always be a Scarlet and Gray Buckeye.

However, there was nothing like the thrill of going with my dad to the Point Boro high school football games on Saturdays as a little kid. Although I didn’t really understand all the rules, I knew when I heard the Panther marching band play “Hail to the Varsity” the Boro had scored another touchdown. As I recall, this happened seven or eight times a game every week in the 1960s.

By the time I was eight years old I was wearing the Black and Gold in my home town. I still recall the smell of those warm autumn afternoons during football season and what it felt like to drive home with my dad after another Point Boro win.

Like all the kids in my neighborhood, I was proud to be associated with a high school football program that went three complete seasons in a row without losing a single game. And, also like them, I was disappointed when the Panthers lost to Manasquan in 1970 and ended their winning streak at 34-0. We learned that being “undefeated,” like everything else in life, must eventually come to an end. 

Naturally, when I was old enough, I wanted to play competitive tackle football. I wanted to put on shoulder pads, pants, cleats and a helmet more than anything, so I practiced as much as I could. I played touch football in the street in front of my house with the other kids from the neighborhood. My dad would throw the ball with me and the other boys in the back yard. I wanted to be a running back like Cleveland’s #32 Jim Brown or the Packer’s #23 Travis Williams. Most of all, I dreamt of one day carrying the ball for the Panthers. 

In the summer of 1971, at age eleven—between the fifth and sixth grades—I tried out for the Point Pleasant Golden Elks Pop Warner Pee Wee football team. The program had two squads: 10-12 year old Pee Wees and 12-14 year old Midgets. The Golden Elks included kids from Point Beach and Point Boro and, since the number of players trying out exceeded the number of available spaces, the coaches had to make cuts.

Playing football as a youngster teaches you many things. For one, you get to figure out how tough you are and see quickly if you really have what it takes to play the game. Sure, you need athletic skills like speed, quickness and vision. You also need ball skills like throwing and catching a spiral. If you have size and strength, these are a big plus. But more than any of these other things, if you have heart and can handle the contact, you can compete. This is a quality that you cannot fake. You don’t get to make excuses; you can either take and make the hits or you can’t, period.

Anyway, on the final day of Pee Wee tryouts, my name was not called among those who made the Golden Elks team and I was completely crushed. It was a long drive home that evening in mid-July from the Point Beach Antrim School practice field, staring out the car window with tears running down my cheeks.

My dad understood my disappointment, especially since his parents did not let him play football when he was a kid growing up in Ohio. Just like many parents today, my grandparents were worried that my dad might get hurt. They didn’t want him to end up like his older brother Dale who broke his arm so badly playing high school football that he could no longer straighten it out … for the rest of his life. 

My dad Loren Donley and Coach Al Saner in 1971-72.

‘71 Panthers manager

So, my dad—who was the vocal music teacher at Point Boro High School—had a conversation with Panther head football coach Al Saner about my situation. Somehow, between the two of them, they hatched this idea that I should be a manager (a.k.a. water boy) for the Panther varsity squad in the upcoming season.

Well, that’s how I ended up, from early August to late October 1971, with Coach Saner and his staff—Mr. Spincola, Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Vancardo, Mr. Russell, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Leibfried—and became part of another Panther championship season. For me, this turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime.

I remember those three months like they took place yesterday. I learned so many things—mostly to do with football that I can talk about and some other life stuff that I can’t really bring up because, well, they’re not PG—that have stayed with me to this day. It all took place in the team meetings, at the preseason scrimmages, in the locker room and equipment room and during the home and away games, including the bus rides to and from the other schools and especially on the practice field at Memorial School known as the Dust Bowl.

The players I remember most were the ’71 Panther seniors (front row, left to right in the team photo above): Butch Gordon (33), Ron Stone (46), Michael Swigon (32), Paul Ridge (86), Ken Stahlin (44), Jim Williams (14), Rich Leibfried (18), Tony DiVanno (95), Frank Bomenblit (61), Craig Bessinger (51), Geoff Lee (94) and Tom Chadwick (64). While there were many other players on the team that I got to know, these guys really took a liking to me.

Since nearly everyone on the team had a nickname, on the first day of summer practice they gave me one too: they started calling me “Harry.” This was because my last name was very similar to that of Harry Donnelly, the former Point Boro offensive coach who had left the district after the previous season. I’m not certain who gave me that name, but it stuck. They would say, “Hey Harry, go get me the ball bag” or “Harry, I need a mouthpiece” or “Harry, can you fix my chin strap?”

In addition to being at their side for every practice and running water bottles out to the field during game time-outs, I carried equipment kits, I fixed helmets and shoulder pads, I moved blocking and tackling dummies and other practice equipment and I made sure the water hose was running and available on the practice field (when they were allowed to drink from it).

Most of the senior backs and receivers had their own locker room up front next to coaches locker room. Although Coach Saner didn’t want me hanging around there—mainly because he thought I might hear some stuff that wasn’t meant for the ears of an eleven-year-old kid—I’d go in there anyway and listen to the conversations taking place. 

Sometimes there were rivalries like when Ron Stone and Paul Ridge debated who had more receiving TDs on the season. Other times, they talked about injuries like the time QB Rich Leibfried got knocked out with a rib injury in the dog-fight-of-a-game against Wall Township. And, of course, they also talked about their high school sweethearts.

Other times they would tell jokes. I remember a couple of these—although I can’t say who told them or how they went exactly—other than to recall that one was about a lady football player who got knocked out during a game and the other had to do with a field inspection of British Commandos. 

Anyway, when summer practice began, the first team meetings took place in the gym. The players all sat in one section of bleachers as the coaches introduced themselves. There was a chalk board where things were sketched out and gone over in detail.

When he took attendance, Coach Saner sometimes had a hard time with last names, especially those of the new JV players, and there were some laughs when he botched them up pretty good. While there were quite a few funny moments here and there, those meetings were dead serious, all about football and all about getting ready for the ‘71 season.

Three yards and a cloud of dust

There were also squad meetings in different classrooms in the high school to teach the offensive and defensive schemes and plays. Anyone familiar with those early Point Boro football teams knows that Coach Saner had a preference for the run game. My dad referred to it as “three yards and a cloud of dust.” The offense was not complicated and was based on grind-it-out strength and power strategy. Coach Saner was not a big fan of passing the ball and he was known to say, “When you throw the football, only three things can happen and two of them are bad.”

On most plays, the Panthers used the I-Formation with a wing back off the tight end and with one wide receiver on the opposite side of the power. The playbook consisted mostly of running off-tackle or between the guard and tackle with the fullback as a lead blocker. The QB would hand the ball off to the half-back who followed the fullback through the hole.

On the ’71 team, the fullback blocking responsibility was assigned to Ken Stahlin. He was probably the fiercest football player I had ever seen. I remember seeing him regularly take out linebackers left and right to clear the path for halfback Mike Swigon. Plus, when he got the chance to carry the ball, he did not try to go around would-be tacklers. Wham! 

Anyway, the Point Boro offense also had the occasional pitch to the halfback from the Wing-T. In those days, there was no shotgun, and the QB was always under center. On very rare occasions, the wing back would take an inside reverse hand-off with a pulling guard making a trap block or the wide receiver would come around on a reverse. This wide receiver reverse worked very well for the ’71 Panthers with Ron Stone taking the ball and sprinting down the sideline like lightning. Wow!

On every play, the QB Rich Leibfried always faked a bootleg after the handoff and, every once in a while, he would fake the handoff to the half back and bootleg around the right or left edge, usually for a long gain, since no one was expecting it. This could be tried once or twice per game because the defense always adjusted and started looking for it.

As I mentioned, football is a very hard game. The practices in those days were nothing short of agonizing, especially for the linemen. I remember how, after what seemed like hours of blocking drills in the Dust Bowl over by the trees next to Memorial School, the white practice uniforms of the linemen would be covered from top to bottom in dirt, blood and mud.

Those line drills were run by Coach Vincent Spincola. I think you could say Coach Spincola was a Jersey Shore Italian, but not the fake kind that was later made popular by reality TV. No, he was a real New Jersey Italian with a noticeable North Jersey accent and a vocabulary to go with it. He had slicked back dark hair with an M-shaped receding hairline. He smoked and his voice was really gruff and harsh.

Coach Spincola had this laugh that could be very embarrassing for a player who might be the object of his humor. He would drop his jaw wide open and a little bit to the side and release a deep and massive “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha” from his diaphragm, kind of like the way Ray Liotta laughs in the movie “Good Fellas.”

Anyway, those linemen drills were probably the most grueling and violent thing I had ever witnessed. Coach Spincola was relentless. He saw his job as making a lineman tough or making him cry. Let’s just say it probably wouldn’t be considered politically correct today the way he coached those boys back then. On the other hand, he coached some of the greatest offensive and defensive lines to ever play Jersey Shore high school football.

I found myself staying over there with the linemen quite a bit because that’s where I was needed the most in terms of busted equipment and first aid gear. Plus, I got to learn some new words hanging around Coach Spincola. For example, I found out what “gonads” were. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it turns out this is a completely legitimate biological term. Coach Spincola illustrated the concept by placing his hands in a “V” shape in front of his groin area and explaining that this is where a lineman is supposed to put his face when properly making a block or a tackle.

“Hail, hail”

During those drills, Coach Spincola had this cadence he would call out that is something I will never forget. I am sure that those players will never forget it either. Coach Spincola used it to signal the linemen that it was time to come off the ball and make contact with each other in the drills. It was a two-word, rapid-fire thing with no space in between.

You might normally think of it as “hut one, hut two,” but instead with Coach Spincola it went something like this: “hail, hail.” Come to think of it, I’m not really sure if he was saying “hail” or “hell.” Either way, it was absolutely terrifying because immediately after this verbal command, all you could hear was the crashing of helmets and shoulder pads and some grunting noises.

Coach Spincola was extremely hard on those players. I heard him say many things during those sessions that I really can’t repeat. However, I also know in my heart and believe to this day that he really loved those boys like they were his own sons. He was always the first to congratulate them when they got their job done on the field during the games. In those situations, you were “perfecto” in Coach Spincola’s eyes. That is, of course, as long as you weren’t out there crouching around on your hands and knees at the line of scrimmage like you were “picking up quarters.”

One day—after the linemen had carved a pit on their side of the Dust Bowl from the one-on-ones, two-on-ones and three-on-twos for what seemed like hours—Coach Spincola gave these guys a breather. This break consisted of being allowed to remove their hats (he always referred to helmets as “hats”) and take one knee. Then, after a whistle blow from Coach Saner on the other side of the Dust Bowl, I remember how everyone looked up and saw the offensive backs and receivers come jogging by to take a lap. Seeing not even a single grass stain on their pristine practice uniforms, Coach Spincola shook his head and said, “There go the white knights!”

Although I was eleven and the Boro players looked like men to me, they were teenage boys who were often pushed to physical and emotional extremes during those practice sessions. Back then, there was no such thing as “hydration” and the manager staff didn’t have any Gatorade. Water was a luxury and a reward. If a player even asked for a drink before the approved water breaks as a group—usually from the end of a sprinkler hose—they were considered weak or worse.

In 1971, there was also no such thing as what we know today as an athletic trainer. If a player was hurt during practice, it was the job of the manager staff to provide instant ice-packs, tape, gauze, butterfly band-aids or whatever. We also had ammonia capsules to wake players up after they had their “bell rung,” we had salt tablets for guys who were suffering from dehydration. We had Atomic Balm for bruises and contusions. Meanwhile, we prepared ice baths and hot tubs in the locker room for players to soak in, especially after the games.

I saw enough blood, black and blue wounds, cuts and gashes for a lifetime during those few months. I witnessed more broken noses, shoulder and neck injuries, gouges that required stitches, severe bruises and limb joint and finger dislocations than I care to remember. I can still hear Coach Saner hollering out “manager” in a loud Tarzan-kind-of-way when one of the players needed attention from the staff. To the best of my ability, I was always right on it.

The first scrimmage of the season was held on one of the practice fields at the high school. I think it was on a Saturday. The players from Point Boro and the other team—I can’t remember who it was—wore their practice uniforms with no numbers on them. One side always wore colored bibs so you could tell which players were on what team.

One thing that really sticks out in my mind from that hot summer day, was the first offensive series by the Panthers. I was standing on the sideline with the coaches and the play was a handoff up the middle to Mike Swigon. He made it past the linebackers and broke to the outside along the sideline where I was standing and came running past me with a defender on his tail.

I saw the look on Swigon’s face up close and the look on the defenders face too. I could hear both of them breathing heavily out of their mouths and noses. There was this cloud of dust being kicked up behind them as they ran down the sideline. Swigon beat that other guy all the way to the end zone and everyone on the Panther sideline was really thrilled.

It was in that one moment, all at once, that I understood for the first time what football was really about; I realized that the players were basically fighting—like their life depended on it—with every ounce of energy and determination in their souls. To be a football player, you had to give everything you had on every play and this is what it took to be a winner.

Pregame speeches

Once the season started, I looked forward to the pregame talks from Coach Saner. Sometimes, he wouldn’t let me in the locker room because the speech he was about to make was meant for the team only. To my memory, Coach Saner had this way of addressing and connecting with the players at the deepest level.

His talks were always genuine and straight to the point. He would start off quietly and slowly and his intensity would build. He would periodically pause to let things sink in. And, on occasion, when you thought he might be finished—sometimes he even turned away like he was getting ready to walk out of the locker room—when, all of a sudden, he’d swing around and start right back up again. 

Even though Coach Saner earned a reputation for malapropisms and mixed metaphors, he always made a connection between football and life in general. His speeches were exceptionally inspirational and he got the players—and anyone else around there who heard him—fired up to the point where they would go out on the field and give everything they had regardless of who the opponent was.

Coach Saner was genuine and did not have a pretentious bone in his body. Somehow—even though you knew how important it was to him that the team win the game—you also knew that Coach Saner always had the bigger picture of life beyond football in mind during his talks. 

I also remember several speeches given by team captains in the locker room before the games and at halftime. In one instance, I recall Craig Bessinger’s talk before a home game (I believe it was the Manasquan game). He was unable to play due to a neck injury and he talked to his teammates about how important it was to him that they fight to the last. This was a game that he had been preparing for all season and he wasn’t able to participate. This was very emotional and inspirational; I learned first-hand about what it takes to be a leader in the face of challenges and disappointments.

During the home games, one of the Point Boro ambulance squads was always on hand in the event of a major injury that required hospital attention. We also always had the presence of Dr. Duwlett who would examine players after an injury with a peculiar kind of dispassion. His evaluations would almost always end with an agreement that the injured player was OK to go back into the game. There was no “concussion protocol” in those days and players regularly returned to the field even though they more than likely shouldn’t have. 

I remember the first game of the ‘71 season. It was a home game against Keansburg and it was a very hot day. There were a couple of kids around my age who showed up in the locker room that Saturday morning expecting to jump in front of me as water boys because they had done it before. However, Coach Saner knew that I had been there since day one of summer practice and he made sure I was first in line. It was a real thrill for me to walk out behind the team onto the field and hear the band playing and crowd cheering. Point Boro won that game 60-0.

The second game of the season against Central Regional was a different story. The Class D Panthers were routed by the Class C Golden Eagles by a score of 36-0. This was a shock and the team had to bounce back. The Boro won the subsequent three games 50-0 (Keyport), 60-8 (Point Beach) and 16-15 (Marlboro).

The biggest game of the season was, of course, against Manasquan. This was the opportunity for Point Boro to avenge the loss from the previous season that ended the Panthers 34-game winning streak. It was time for pay-back and the Panthers came out ready to play. However—due to some lousy calls on the field, in my opinion—we came up short and lost the game 14-12. The Boro finished out the season with three more wins against Wall (8-6), Tom’s River North (18-7) and Jackson (30-16) and were the undisputed Shore Class D champions with a record of 7-0 in the conference.

When the 1971 football season came to an end, as the weather got colder as fall turned to winter, I became a 12 year-old and moved on to the other things that kids in middle school do. I started spending time with my friends riding bikes, playing with HO cars and chasing after the beautiful young ladies in the sixth grade with my heart in my hand.

The next summer I tried out again for the Golden Elks Pee Wee squad. I made the team this time. I became a running back and got to wear #32 just like Jim Brown. I played one more season as a Golden Elks Midget the next year and, shortly thereafter, my football days also came to an end. Eventually, when I got to high school, I did get to wear the Black and Gold … as a member of the Panther marching band.

As I look back today on those months from August to October 1971, I realize now that my time with the Point Boro Panthers really turned out to be something of a coming of age experience for me. I have my father and Coach Al Saner to thank for making it possible.

Also, as I think back upon the experience, I realize that the summer of ’71 was something of a turning point in the world beyond high school football and the Dust Bowl in Point Pleasant. As the 1970s rolled on, somehow, it seemed like things started turning upside down everywhere and it was becoming clear that life would never go back to the way it was in the 1960s.

While football continued to be an important part of my relationship with my father over the decades, especially as my own boys played the game, I can’t help think that the lessons I learned during those few months in 1971 actually helped to prepared me for some of the harsh realities of life that I would face later on. Among these are: the necessity of hard work to achieve success, the importance of nurturing your natural gifts and talents, the life-long desire for self-improvement, the ability to always get back up when you are knocked down and the ultimate significance of being a team player. Hail, hail my friends!

Busboy lessons from Point Pleasant

Posted in About, Personal on August 11, 2019 by multimediaman

Like a lot of kids from Point Pleasant, all of my early employment experiences were with jobs in the restaurant industry. Since we lived on the Jersey Shore, there were many summer jobs available on the floor as a server or in the kitchen doing food prep, dish washing or pot washing. If you were lucky enough to work in a restaurant that was busy all-year-round and you were on the service side of the business, you could make some decent money as a teenager. 

I got my first job at age fourteen working as a busboy in the restaurant and banquet facility at Kings Grant Inn on the corner of Route 70 and River Road in Point Pleasant. It was a physically tough job since you had to stay on your feet all afternoon and evening clearing tables, doing the setups and pouring glasses of water for the guests. I started the KGI job working part-time on the weekends in the spring of 1974 and then worked full-time hours that summer during the busy season.

I still remember the distinct odor of my clothes while working there. That’s something you can’t forget. It was an awful combination stench of grease, vegetables, cigarette butts and human BO that you wouldn’t ever want to smell like if you weren’t at work. We had to wear a sort-of uniform of black pants, black shoes and white collared, button-down short sleeve shirts. These clothes had to be washed after each shift and, no matter what, you couldn’t get rid of that stink. 

Anyway, one of the first things I had to learn was all about the different kinds of drinking glasses in the restaurant, most of which had to do with booze. As a fourteen-year-old I wasn’t permitted to serve drinks to the patrons. However, I was expected to know all the kinds of glasses because I often had to help stock up the bar or go find one or another glass for a waitress or bartender.

I learned the difference between a water goblet, a rock glass, a highball, a shot glass, a cosmo or margarita glass, a martini glass, a cognac snifter and the common beer glasses: pint and Pilsner. I also learned the different wine glasses—red, white, rose and port—as well as the champagne glass and the all-important Irish coffee mug. Fortunately for me, I was never a teenage drinker. I suppose I’d seen a lifetime’s share of drunks and inebriated stoops during those restaurant years and that helped steer me clear from alcohol until much later in life. 

There was one particular experience with excessive drinking that I remember vividly. It involved the decision by restaurant management to hire a man as Captain. The captain’s job was to work with the hostess at the front of the house to make sure that the customers were seated properly and all of their needs were being met.

Well, unfortunately, this young man—who was quite the handsome gent and started off doing really well with both the staff and customers—had a serious drinking problem. After about a week, we started noticing he was gathering all of the partially empty wine bottles and cocktail glasses in the back of the restaurant and was polishing them off one by one. By the end of the night, he was staggering around the place and babbling incoherently to anyone within earshot. I certainly didn’t see it as my responsibility to report the guy and I don’t think any of the other busboys did either. As a naive teenager, I thought it was kind of funny. After a few days, we heard that he’d been fired. 

Another thing that I learned was how to properly arrange a place setting and what the different plates and silverware were called. This is another thing that you never forget. Napkin in the center, forks on the left (dinner fork on the outside, salad fork on the inside), butter plate above the forks, knife and spoons to the right (knife first with blade facing toward the center, followed by the table spoon and the tea spoon). The water goblet is placed above the knife and spoons. If there is dessert ware, the fork (on top) and spoon go above the center in opposite directions, spoon facing left and fork facing right. 

Among the more physically challenging parts of the job was carrying trays full of dirty dishes and other table stuff that had to be returned to the kitchen. There was a knack to getting one of those fully-loaded oval aluminum trays up on your shoulder and balanced with one hand twisted back flat underneath it. You always had to have the other hand free so you could make your way through the restaurant floor and push the door open into the kitchen that swung both ways.

The best busboy never, ever dropped his tray. His skill was about getting that heavy tray up and completely balanced on his shoulder so that, even if things started to slide around on there, he did not lose it all to the floor in a huge crash. Unfortunately, this did happen to me on a couple of occasions because I had been hasty in loading up the tray or was moving too fast into the kitchen. 

Losing the contents of a busboy tray typically didn’t involve actually dropping the tray itself. It’s just that everything on the tray tips over to the floor and you are standing there stuck-on-stupid with the tray dangling vertically from one hand while everyone is looking at you before you dropped your head and walked swiftly toward the broom closet. Fortunately, when this happened, the other staff would always step in quickly to help you with the cleanup.

The experience of losing a busboy tray is similar to what happens in school when a kid drops the contents of his or her lunch tray. The crash of plates and glasses is followed by a half-second of dead silence from the otherwise noisy din of voice chatter and conversation. The one important difference between the restaurant and school lunchroom mishap, however, is that the restaurant crash isn’t followed by enthusiastic applause, cheers and laughter from the assembled diners. No, everyone in the restaurant just picks up where they left off on whatever they were talking about as though nothing ever happened. 

Pretty much throughout my restaurant working years—until I left Point Pleasant in 1979—I made something like $2.20 an hour in wages paid by the employer in a weekly paycheck. The rest of the money was approximately 15% of the tips that the waitresses collected from the customers during each shift.

We usually made more than $8 an hour with the tips we pulled in. One of the obligations of the newbs on the busboy staff was that you got your tip money in the smallest denominations from the nightly take. Of course, this was long before the widespread use of credit and debit cards, so the waitresses would turn over their 15% to the head busboy in cash and he would count it all up and divvy it out evenly to the number of busboys on duty.

The head busboy would always keep the biggest bills for himself and then on down the line in seniority until he got to me. If I was lucky, I got some singles and the rest in a bunch of loose change. More often than not, I went home with only coins. So, in that first year on the job, I would leave KGI after every shift with a big sack of change that filled both my front pants pockets. But I didn’t mind it at all. I just remember the feeling of accomplishment I had when I got off at 11 or 12 at night and got on my bike to make the 2 mile ride home.

It was so quiet riding down River Road toward Pearce Street at night in the dark. But you could hear me coming from a mile away with that load of coins jingling in my pockets. By the time I hit the top of Summit Drive, I could darn near coast all the way home coming down that hill with that heavy load of change in my pockets. 

Kings Grant Inn had a marina behind it on the Manasquan River. There were lots of people who loved yachting and boating and docked their watercraft there. Some of these folks were regulars at the restaurant and one of them, a shoulder-length blond-haired dude by the name of Clay, lived on his sailboat in the marina and worked at the restaurant as a busboy too. Clay was a late 20s-something beach bum with a fantastic golden tan. He had this sort of hippy way of talking that I had never heard before. I got to know him pretty well and he talked a lot about his sail boat and his girlfriend who lived on the boat with him. 

And speaking of being fourteen and girls, there was this young lady who was hired as the hostess during that summer that literally stands out for me. I remember hearing the other busboys talking about her and how she was, let’s say, front loaded. She would come to work with these tight tops on and I would find myself drifting over that way and standing there, staring at her without a word coming out of my mouth. 

Like on any job, there was certainly a pecking order among the busboys at KGI and, if you weren’t tough and ready to stand your ground, you might get hazed right off the job in your first week. The guys I worked with were all older than me, some by more than a couple of years. Some were local guys who I knew from school and others were some really worldly types that came down from north Jersey for the summer. There were definitely some pretty rough and lonely nights for me during my first few weeks there (I won’t go into the details).

I’ll just say that these guys were all really hard workers and they taught me how to do my job the right way. They were both testing me to see what I was made of and, most of all, they wanted me to know right out of the shoot that they weren’t going to put up with someone who wasn’t pulling their weight during those busy summer nights. It took me a little while, but I eventually made some really good friendships with my co-busboys at KGI and I learned many, many things from them both on and off the job. 

I also met some really great working people from the other departments at KGI. Since I was just a pimply-faced kid, there were many people—and some of them quite hardened by their experiences—who wanted to teach me all about the ways of the world. Back in those days, practically everyone was a smoker and you could smoke just about anywhere in the restaurant. I remember how some of the waitresses would light up a cigarette in the kitchen, put it down on an ash tray, run a customer order on a tray out to their table and then come back into the kitchen for another puff.

Anytime the staff had a break, they would light up and start talking to me in a very friendly manner while they blew smoke off to the side and made this face with one eye closed and their mouth only partially opened. The waitresses were some really tough ladies who went out of their way to keep me out of trouble. There were a few of them who took a liking to me and wanted to make sure I was on task and where I was supposed to be. They did not want me to have any run-ins with the KGI maitre d‘ named Fritz, who actually was the person who hired me. 

Fritz was an immigrant from Germany or Austria and he had a very thick accent. He would get explosively angry and give you an expletive-laden tongue lashing if you weren’t taking care of things. He was very tall, had a long hooked nose, slightly balding dark hair that was combed straight back, and a paunch that protruded from his cummerbund. Fritz was a task master and rightly so to keep the dining experience up to par for the customers.

He would swear at you in broken English with the F-word if you didn’t do precisely what he told you to do, even if you did not understand a word of what he asked you to do in the first place. There were a couple of busboys who could do a dead-nuts impersonation of Fritz that would make you laugh so hard you couldn’t stand up straight. 

Anyway, the others on the restaurant staff who were great people were the dishwashers, pot washers, the maintenance people and, of course, the chefs and other cooks in the kitchen. These folks all worked very hard all the time to keep things moving along for the customers even though it was always super hot in the kitchen.

Despite the fact that everyone who worked in there was completely drenched in perspiration, they had the most pleasant way of talking to a young kid like me. They would always ask me if I needed anything or if I was hungry. Because of them, I probably ate some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life during those few years at KGI like steak, lobster and, of course, chocolate mousse.

When we got a few minutes to talk about things other than work, especially on smoke breaks, the kitchen staff would always ask me about school and if I planned on going to college after high school graduation. They wanted more than anything to pass along the message that a life working in the restaurant business was very hard and that I needed to try and make something of myself.

I finished my career at KGI after two years and I have to say I was ready to move on to some other summer restaurant jobs at the Steak Shanty on Routes 35 and 88 in Point Beach and as a short order cook in the snack bar and later, again as a busboy, in the restaurant at the Bay Head Yacht Club. I even worked my senior year of high school at McDonald’s on Route 88 in Point. 

I truly believe that my first summer working experience at KGI taught me many important lessons: do your job and work hard and people will respect you, count your money and make sure you get your fair share, don’t smoke and don’t drink to excess, stay in school and go to college if you are able to and, for God’s sake, wash your clothes after every shift and never stare at anyone with your mouth open. 

Bicycle lessons from the Jersey Shore

Posted in About, Personal on March 23, 2019 by multimediaman

I remember every bicycle I ever had as a kid growing up in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Not that I had that many. My parents were frugal and, with four children, they didn’t often spend money on things like bicycles. When they did, it was usually for something special like a birthday or Christmas gift. So, from my childhood to my early teen years, I had a total of three bikes.

The first one was a hand-me-down from my older brother. It was a very plain, red boys bike with chrome fenders, white wall tires and a coaster break. As with most people, the day I learned to ride that two-wheeler stands out in my memory. With the help of my dad and some neighborhood kids, I peddled away miraculously on my own in front of our house at 1526 Treeneedle Road. It was the summer of 1967.

Having your own bicycle—especially one you were proud of—was one of the first things in life that got a kid going on being independent from their parents. Initially, maybe you were allowed to ride to the end of the block and back. Later maybe you were allowed to stay out past dark on your bike with the other kids from the neighborhood.

Then, once all of the rules had been explained, you were allowed to ride your bike all the way around the block. Back then, the rules did not involve wearing a helmet, elbow and knee pads, using hand signals to make turns or stops or even riding with the car traffic on the right side of the road. If those things even existed, we didn’t know about them.

No, the main thing was this: you were to only ride around the block and go nowhere else; you were to do this once and the next time you wanted to do it, you needed to ask again. Permission to ride around the block was a one-time arrangement.

For me, my first time around the block was a big deal. I road south on Treeneedle, east on Little Hill, north on Northstream, west on Apple Place and back south onto Treeneedle. I saw some kids I did not know; I saw other kids that I had heard about but never met before; I saw some kids I knew from school who lived in the next neighborhood over.

The feeling I had that day was like I was on top of the world. Even though the ride was just a half-mile and took around five minutes, it seemed to me to be a long trip. I was so proud that my parents trusted me enough to let me do what I really wanted to do. In that moment, as a seven-year-old, it seemed like all things were possible.

A short time thereafter, one of the older neighborhood boys showed me how to ride my bike with no hands. This was a skill that many boys (and some girls, too) learned and showed off. Normally, when riding a two-wheeler, your upper body is hunched over while holding on to the handlebars. When you ride with no hands, your body is upright and you can see everything quite nicely; there is no need to worry about anything. Also, when you rode in this position, the other kids could see you coming and knew immediately that you were peddling with no-hands.

Then one day, after ignoring repeated warnings that I was in for disaster, I took a major spill on Little Hill Road. I struck a driveway curb and toppled head-over-heels and landed square on my face. Worse than running home crying with my bike in tow, was the nasty scrape down the center of my forehead, nose, lips and chin. I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, “you really did it now.” That scrape took weeks to heal and was a constant reminder of the risks involved in dangerous bike behavior.

Anyway, by the time I got my first brand new bike as a Christmas gift, the style everyone wanted was inspired by the Schwinn Sting-Ray. These bikes had a banana seat, “ape hanger” handlebars and the all-important sissy bar. By the late 1960s, the Schwinn Sting-Ray was everywhere and all the other bicycle manufacturers were trying copy the low-rider, wheelie style. So, the kids who had a Sting-Ray with a high-loop sissy bar were the envy of the entire neighborhood.

My parents were concerned about the behaviors they feared would come along with these bikes. Being that they looked like motorcycles, they thought that Sting-Rays would bring a kind of “biker” culture to the neighborhood. Secondly, my parents knew that we were completely fearless and would try various dangerous tricks on these bikes like popping wheelies, brake skidding, ramp jumping and other stunts.

In the end, my Christmas bike was a three-speed, Sting-Ray knock-off with front and rear hand breaks. I’m not sure, but I think it may have come from K-Mart. Although I was disappointed, I was glad to have a brand new bike that had good colors and chrome and looked pretty cool.

One of the unique features of this bike was the way the handle bars were constructed. Instead of a continuous bar that slid through a clamp on the stem, the two bars were welded to a flat piece of metal that was bolted to the stem. While this design gave my bike a very distinctive look, it also created a problem.

As mentioned, one of the things we preteens did was build ramps out of scraps of wood and cinder blocks for jumping. This was around 1970 before BMX stunt riding and free-styling existed. I guess the kind of thing we were doing back then (along with other kids around country) eventually led to the creation of off-road sport bicycling and competition.

Well, a group of us put together a ramp made of a sheet of plywood laid on an angle to a stack of cinder blocks. We put the entrance to the ramp on the edge of our driveway and the lift-off point—which was about a foot and a half above ground—was in the front lawn. Since we knew there would be wipeouts, these would happen in the grass and not the pavement.

The object was to get your bike up to full speed and hit the ramp just right. At lift off, you’d yank the front end of your bike up just enough so that, when you came down, the rear tire touched first followed by the front wheel. We had a great time doing these jumps even though there were quite a few crashes.

After multiple jumps with my new bike, I started to notice a crack in the handle bar welding. I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening so I kept at it. On one jump, the bars snapped clean off the clamp and I went flying akimbo through the air onto the grass. You would have thought that my friends would have rushed to my aid or been concerned for the condition of my new bike. But no; we all burst out into uncontrollable laughter. This proved to be one of the funniest things that ever happened to me.

By the time I was in middle school, my parents began letting me ride my bike just about anywhere in Point Pleasant. For my thirteenth birthday, they bought me a black, 5-speed Raleigh Chopper Mark 2. This was a bike that I wanted more than anything. I remember the day my dad took me to pick it out at Point Pleasant Bicycle Shop on Arnold Avenue just this side of the border with Point Beach.

That Chopper was the envy of every kid because, even though it was not a fast bike, it was a wheelie bike that had a chunky, low-rider look: high-rise handle bars, a ribbed banana seat with sissy-bar, a T-bar gear shifter and redline sidewall tires. It was the signature smaller 16” diameter front wheel that really made the Chopper look different. I loved that bicycle more than anything I ever had in my life up to that point.

When I road it around town I was proud and told everyone that my parents bought it for me. I really took good care of it, too. We had a shed in the backyard where I kept it. I also had a bike lock to make sure it didn’t get stolen when I rode to school or other places around town.

I rode my Chopper everywhere: to the waterfront at Dorset Dock, over the Beaver Dam bridge onto the Princeton Avenue waterfront. There were many trips to the Manasquan River: out to the marina at Kings Grant Inn at Route 70 and to the beaches at Maxson and River Avenue. Clark’s Landing off of Arnold Avenue was also a regular meet up point.

Sometimes I would ride the full length of Bridge Avenue, from the end of the four lane extension all the way over the Lovelandtown Bridge and down through Bay Head to the ocean. I also made many trips in both directions across the old bascule lift bridge on Route 88. All the kids on bikes would line up at the stop barrier and wait for the gate to open after the bridge closed. We would get a running start and be more than halfway across before the cars could pass us.

And, since I had friends all over town, those Chopper wheels probably covered just about every road and street in Point Boro. Aside from the highways, I knew all of the main roads like Dorset Dock, Beaver Dam, Herbertsville, River Road and River Avenue, Bay Avenue and Arnold Avenue like the back of my hand.

Those were indeed some fantastic days in the summer of 1973. It seemed at the time like it would go on forever. But that kind of carefree biking would soon come to an end. I outgrew my Chopper when I started working summer jobs at age 14 and needed a more practical mode of transportation. By the mid 1970s, the Schwinn Continental 10-speed with ram’s horn handlebars, auxiliary break levers and two sets of derailleurs had become a popular bike among teens.

Nevertheless, the things I learned about biking during those early years will always remain with me: Be thankful to have a bike at all and be proud to ride it; Take care of your bike and don’t take dangerous risks when riding it; Get out and explore the world around you—you never know who you might meet or run into on your first ride around the block.

On Benjamin Franklin’s 313th birthday: The continuing public importance of printed books

Posted in Books, People in Media History, Print Media on January 16, 2019 by multimediaman

The following introductory remarks were delivered to the 36th Annual Michigan Printing Week Association Ben Franklin Awards Dinner on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

A portrait of Benjamin Franklin at his study in London in 1767

Good Evening,

On behalf of the Printing Industries of Michigan and the Michigan Printing Week Committee, I would like to welcome you to the Annual Ben Franklin Awards Dinner.

My name is Kevin Donley and it is once again my privilege to serve as your Master of Ceremonies this evening.

We are meeting tonight for the 36th year to acknowledge the contributions of our industry colleagues and to raise money for the education of a new generation of printing professionals.

Tonight, we will be recognizing Admore as Company of the Year and William Kessler as Individual of the Year recipients of the Ben Franklin Award. We will also be recognizing two graphic arts students who are deserving recipients of the Ben Franklin college scholarships.

This year we mark Benjamin Franklin’s 313thbirthday. As always, it is appropriate to take a few moments to look back on Franklin’s life for the benefit of both inspiration and, by connecting our own time to his, for insight.

As many of you know, one of Ben Franklin’s enduring contributions was the establishment of the first public library. At the age of just twenty-five, Franklin and a group of his tradesmen friends—who were members of a debating club called the Junto—established what would become The Library Company of Philadelphia, an institution that exists to this day.

Among other things, Franklin believed that the only way to settle debates during the Friday night Junto meetings was to consult authoritative printed texts. In this way, the Junto library became something of a colonial version of what we know today as fact checking.

Franklin drafted the Articles of Association for the The Library Company of Philadelphia and they were signed by 40 subscribers and dated July 1, 1731

However, at that time, standard English reference works were very expensive and hard to find in colonial America. At Franklin’s suggestion the group decided to pool their resources and signed up fifty subscribers who invested 40 shillings and then agreed to pay ten shillings per year for fifty years thereafter. They bought books and rented the facilities needed to establish and maintain the first American lending library.

If you were a subscriber, you could borrow the books in the library. If you were a member of the public, you were able to come into the library and read the books available in the collection.

For Ben Franklin, who never took credit for the idea, there was much more to the library than settling matters of opinion and debate. From the time he was a teenager and throughout his entire life, Franklin was in pursuit of his own intellectual development and education. He also consistently shared and encouraged the same among his fellow citizens.

As Franklin wrote in his autobiography, “these libraries have improved the general conversation of Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies.”

In other words, writing these lines toward the end of his life, Franklin saw a connection between the public lending of books to the average citizens, the level of discourse within the colonies and the movement for American independence.

Books. Ben Franklin was talking about the importance of books. We always have to remember that—even though many of us are involved in marketing and promotional printing today—our industry is connected with this history; that our industry is rooted in great traditions associated with literacy and public awareness and the sharing and spreading of great ideas.

Here in Michigan, we know something about books. Despite some challenges we have faced recently in our local book manufacturing capacity, we remain a major producer of printed books for publishers across the country and around the world.

Now, after more than a decade of speculation about the imminent death of print brought on by electronic technologies, trade book sales have increased for five years in a row. Meanwhile, the number of independent book stores has grown by 40% over the past ten years.

What’s more, while the number of printed books has been growing again, sales of eBooks—and especially children’s eBooks—have been declining by double digits every year since 2015.

What does this mean? Are we going back to the days prior to the personal computer and the Internet when going to the library or the encyclopedia was the only way to consult authoritative texts? Of course not. It should be pointed out, for example, that the growth of printed book sales can be traced entirely to one retail company: Amazon.

In any case, there is an ongoing public thirst for printed books. Part of this attraction is reading for entertainment and reading as part of a social experience. It has been reported, for instance, that Instagram is partially responsible for the growth of indie bookstores. Using the hashtag #bookstagram, 25 million photos of bookstores have been shared on Instagram. People are being drawn to these boutique bookshops to find the perfect match for their reading style and subject interests.

Another part of this loyalty to printed books is that people are increasingly today—as in Ben Franklin’s time—looking to settle arguments and answer the big questions of our time.

As for the preference for printed books over eBooks, it turns out that we all have something called “spatial orientation memory” that is hard-wired into our brains. This particular type of memory is the part of human psychophysiology that helps us locate where we are in the broader immediate context.

When we read a book, we are subconsciously relying on the tactile experience of our location on a page and within the chapters of a book. This is one of the key aspects of how we remember what we have read; spatial orientation memory is an enabler of reading comprehension and retention.

What all of this shows is that ink-on-paper print still holds tremendous authority and value with the public. While people are excited about the latest gadgetry, they are also understanding more and more clearly that learning and education, especially the teaching of children, depends upon a full sensory engagement with books. This is an experience that cannot today be, as of yet, duplicated by electronic devices and digital displays.

This dependent relationship of the public upon print also extends into the realm of information, marketing and communications. After a decade of enthusiasm and hype about the benefits of digital and social media, the ongoing problems associated with the credibility of these formats is driving renewed interest in print.

Study after study has proven that response rates for direct mail are magnitudes greater than email and social advertising. The public, including old-timers like me as well as millennials, go to the mail box each day with anticipation. We remember what we see there because we engage physically with it, even if it goes within seconds from our hands to the wastebasket.

So, it is on this note of optimism about our great printing industry that we will begin our award presentations this evening. Thank you very much for allowing me to introduce the 2019 Ben Franklin Awards Dinner!

Crabbing & molting lessons from Barnegat Bay

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2018 by multimediaman

Growing up on the Jersey Shore and the Barnegat Bay, my brothers and I learned to go crabbing. We picked up different crabbing techniques from our friends and family members. Sometimes we just used a crab net and scooped up the creatures as they sidled in the water below us. Other times, when we wanted a more substantial catch, we’d use a cage.

The cage had a mechanism that allowed you to lower it into the water with a string and, when it touched bottom, all four sides would open up and allow the hungry bottom feeders to come after your bait.

Crabs are kind of like underwater rats. They will climb on top of each other and scramble around trying to get the last piece of food before the next crab can get it. They have very small brains (about the size of a pencil point) and are not involved in any kind of complex social cooperation. Usually the biggest crab, gets its way.

Anyway, our crab cage freshly bated with a piece of chicken (usually a neck or a leg), we’d lower it to the bottom of the creek or lagoon that fed into the bay. Our favorite spots were Beaver Dam Creek and Sunshine Harbor in Point Pleasant. Sometimes we would crab from a boat and sometimes from a bulkhead. Either way, we’d wait a little while and then pull up the cage. Collecting our catch, we would carefully toss the best crabs into a bucket of water one by a one.

It wasn’t that hard to learn how to avoid being pinched. You just had to grab hold of the crab at the back with your thumb on the top and bent forefinger on bottom and you could easily drop each one into your catch pail. This did not always work, however, especially with the biggest crabs. They had a knack for reaching around with their claws and catching you by surprise. It usually didn’t hurt that bad since you could flick them off of you pretty fast. But sometimes the bigger male crabs could latch on to you pretty good and help you have quite an episode of cursing.

If we were going by the book, we’d throw anything smaller than about four inches (across the body) and all the females back and keep only the larger males (the sex of a crab is easily determined by looking at the pattern of the apron on the underside of the crab; a long thin apron shape is a male and a round pointed apron is a female).

Anyway, on rare occasions, if you left the cage in the water long enough you’d pull up a soft-shell crab. We knew they were special. First of all because of their color; they were white on the underside and lacked the bright blue and red colors on their Jersey Blue legs and claws. They looked sick and were kind of floppy since they had no hardened shell. Since we crabbed for the eating of the creatures, we knew soft-shell crabs were, of course, very good to eat. You never wanted to throw a soft shell crab back no matter what.

Some Jersey Shore folks would just crack those crabs wide open while they were alive and slurp away the crab juice and meat right then and there. Others would take them home and put a big pot on the stove and prepare a tasty boiled meal.

Later on, we learned that soft-shell crabs were actually regular crabs that had recently molted; that is, they had shed their hard exoskeleton as part of the growth process. It was a real lesson to learn that when crabs molt, they are very vulnerable. During a process that takes about 72 hours, a crab must extract itself including eyes, mouth and the lining of its digestive tract from the old shell. If the crab gets stuck in this process, it will die. If a crab is successful in removing itself from the exuvia, a new shell begins forming almost immediately allowing the crab to grow. A crab will molt more than twenty times in its lifetime.

The moral of the story is this: If you catch a soft shell crab, boil it and eat it. If you throw it back and allow it to finish molting, it will grow bigger and surely pinch you when you least expect it.

Loren D. Donley: Family, Music & Life

Posted in About, Personal on October 1, 2017 by multimediaman

The following remarks were made on behalf of the Donley family at “A Musical Celebration of Life” memorial for my late father Loren D. Donley on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at Point Pleasant Borough High School, in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

My name is Kevin Donley and I am the second son of Loren Donley. I am truly proud to stand before you today and give remarks on behalf of the Donley family at this, “Musical Celebration of Life‚“ for my late father, Mr. Loren D. Donley. This is indeed a fitting celebration and I want to thank each and every one of you for being here this afternoon to remember and honor with music an extraordinary man that we loved and who deeply touched all of our lives. I want to express special thanks to all of those who prepared this celebration and are making it available on social media. In particular, I want thank Mrs. Muraglia, who put so much effort and time into making this event possible.

I would like to begin by introducing to you my family members who have in many cases traveled long distances to be here today:

First of all, we have my dad’s loving wife Lynn, from Jupiter, Florida Lynn’s two daughters Shalon with her husband Ray Weinel from Carmi, Illinois and Jacque Young with her fiancé Charlie Ingram from Westminster, Colorado. We also have Lynn’s brother Steve Appel from Encindas, California and Lynn’s sister Kim with her husband, Dave Hanrahan from Point Pleasant. We have my older brother Mark, with his wife Cheryl and their three sons Eric, Scott and David from Toms River, New Jersey;My younger brother Dana, his wife Margaretta and their son Aidan from Novi, Michigan; My sister Cheryl, her husband Don Warren and their son Zachary and daughter Rebecca from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Don and Cheryl’s middle child Matthew cannot be here today because he is serving in the US Army and stationed in the United Arab Emirates. My wife Denise and my youngest son Brian are here with me from Southfield, Michigan. My two older sons Brandon who lives in Pontiac, Michigan and Brent who lives in Dallas, Texas are not able to be here today.

I also want to recognize our first cousins from the Fisher family, Debbie, Barry and Melanie, who are here with their families and they have traveled from Coshocton, Ohio and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Their mother is my father’s sister Glenna who many of you know as Mrs. Fisher the music teacher for many years at Ocean Road School. Glenna is 90 years old and could not make the trip today. She lives in Coshocton, Ohio near Debbie and Barry. Lastly, we have my cousins Bob Blake and his family from Linwood, New Jersey and Ben Reinke from Washington, DC.

* * * * *

I am the first of the Donley children to be born in Point Pleasant and I am old enough to remember the early days of the high school before there were any choral facilities to speak of. I have many fond memories of my father both at the old Ocean Road School and here at the high school before the performing arts wing was built. This auditorium and stage bring back many memories for me as I was in chorus, band and theater and performed here with my dad many times in the 1970s. My first appearance on this stage was as a middle schooler and part of the cast of “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1973, the first high school play to be performed in this auditorium.

I remember in the mid-1960s when I was in elementary school across the street—at that time Memorial School was Kindergarten through 3rd grade—I would come with my dad to the high school early in the morning. I helped him push the piano down the hall to one of the classrooms across from the cafeteria. He would let me sit at the piano with him and listen to the students as they practiced their choral music. It was truly the most uplifting experience for me and I was the proudest little 5 or 6 year old you could imagine since everyone knew that I was Mr. Donley’s son. After those morning rehearsals he would take my hand and walk me across the street to school.

* * * * *

In celebrating and remembering the life of my father, it is natural for us to do so through the prism of our own experience. However, I think it is necessary to take a step back and view his life in a broader context. When I think of my father today and consider his entire 83 years, three things stand out for me: Family, Music and Life. I would like to take a few moments to explain these things and I hope to shed some light on both why and how my father was the man that we loved so much.

Family

Everyone who knew Loren Donley, knows that family was at the center of his life. He learned about the importance of family from his own parents Daisy and Millard Donley during his upbringing in Belmont County, Ohio. Some of you may know that my dad occasionally referred to himself as a “hillbilly.” This was not a derogatory term, but his way of recognizing the connection he had to the folks that lived in the hills across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Actually, the strength of the Donley family ties go back many generations and are rooted in deep traditions. Our family comes from an area of Appalachia in eastern Ohio that was settled at the beginning of the 19th century by immigrants from the Scottish Highlands. They came to America seeking prosperity and a place to practice their Protestant doctrine without persecution. They established their farms and communities around Presbyterian and Methodist churches. This area became known as Scotch Ridge due to the concentration of Scottish and Irish immigrants that made this place their home.

It was here that the ancestors of Loren Donley instilled in their children and grandchildren the principles of faith, family, love, respect for the ideas others and a very pronounced egalitarianism. It should be mentioned that many of the Scotch-Irish families that settled in this region of Ohio were supporters of the Underground Railroad and opponents of slavery. In fact, the Donley family counts among its ancestors Henry H. Mason of Hog Run, West Virginia who at age 19 joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was later captured by Confederate troops and imprisoned at Andersonville, Georgia. A decade after the war, Henry died at age 34 from the ailments he suffered during his imprisonment.

All of these traditions were present when my dad was born in 1934 in the small town of Shadyside, Ohio during the Great Depression. He was the youngest of the four children of Millard and Daisy. Times were very difficult for the Donley family as they were for everyone during those years. My Grandpap Donley had worked as a coal miner and a railroad caboose-man and eventually became a steel worker at the Wheeling Steel mill in Yorkville, Ohio. The Donleys survived these rough times by relying upon the support of their extended family.

Throughout the years of the Depression and World War II, my dad was a model of good behavior. When I was young, I recall asking my Grandma Donley what kind of child my dad had been when he was growing up. She would always tell me, “Your dad was the perfect lad and he never once got into any kind of trouble at all.” Well, since I had accumulated a lengthy resumé of trips to the woodshed already, I thought to myself‚ “Gee Willickers Kevin, you are really off to a bad start.”

Music

My dad’s love of music and education stems from these same family traditions and it is no accident that he became a music teacher along with his two sisters Carol and Glenna. My grandmother was a school teacher and a public school principal. My grandfather, like my dad after him, had the gift of a golden baritone singing voice and loved to sing forthrightly in church. As my dad became active in the vocal and instrumental music in high school, his interest in choral music and conducting was born.

After high school graduation, he decided to pursue his love of music first at Kent State University and then as a graduate student at The Ohio State University. While other young people of his generation were listening to Elvis Presley, Loren Donley was in the university library studying liturgical choral music and preparing to become a schoolteacher.

His path to Point Pleasant came through his enlistment in the US Army following college. He was stationed at Fort Dix, NJ for basic training and upon completion of his obligation got the opportunity from district superintendent Dr. Lawrence DeBellis to become the music teacher at Ocean Road School in 1959.

I will leave it to the other speakers today to talk more about my father’s role here at the high school as a teacher. I would only say, as one of his students, that we learned to appreciate some of the greatest choral music ever written, we learned about folk music, we learned gospel music, we frequently sang in Latin and we even learned the right way to sing pop music on occasion. These are things that made all of our lives culturally more rich and, I believe, demonstrate the value of music in the public schools.

Life

I would like to close with something that I truly admired about my dad and it is something that I think we should all remember. My father was a man of very strong moral convictions and principles of faith that he learned while growing up. I would ask you to picture in your mind this young man from Ohio who at the age of 25 arrived at the Jersey Shore in the late 1950s. There is no question that he experienced what we might refer to today as “culture shock.”

Yet, as was in some ways inevitable, my dad changed over the years. But he changed without ever compromising his core values. He remained the same approachable, kind, helpful, reserved and hard working man who loved his family, loved music and loved his students all the way through to the end. He was able to find his way and in the process had a lasting impact and left a legacy in this community. This event today is proof of that fact.

I want everyone here and everyone watching this event online to know that my father was very proud of his students, that he cherished the relationships he had with the teachers, administrators and staff here at the high school, that he loved directing and singing in the choir at Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church and he always enjoyed hearing from you over the years. I want you to know that as much as he influenced your lives, you also influenced his.

Thank you very much.

Robert Howard (1923–2014): Dot matrix printer & direct imaging press

Posted in Color Printing, Digital Printing, People in Media History, Prepress, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2016 by multimediaman
Robert Howard: May 19, 1923–December 19, 2014

Robert Howard:
May 19, 1923–December 19, 2014

Apple recently removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Owners of the new model are required to use wireless Bluetooth audio or the Lightning port—the only connector on the phone that also charges the battery—for wired headphones. If the headphone jack is a must, owners can purchase the Lighting-to-3.5mm audio adapter separately for $9.

The missing headphone jack has upset some Apple customers. At the iPhone 7 launch, marketing chief Phil Schiller drove home the company’s reasoning, “Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analog, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium.” As some tech journalists have pointed out, Apple’s decision comes down to one word: progress.

Analog 3.5mm and ¼” audio connectors

Analog 3.5mm and ¼” audio connectors

Actually, the 3.5mm headphone jack is based on technology that is more than one hundred twenty-five years old. It is a miniaturized version of the phone connector originally developed in the late 1870s for operators to manually connect telephone calls by plugging cords into a switchboard.

The 3.5mm format was created in the 1950s for the transistor radio earpiece and was modified in the 1960s for the Sony portable FM radio and again in 1979 for the Sony Walkman. The fact is that the analog headphone jack has been an anachronism since compact disks and other digital technologies like optical audio became available more than thirty years ago.

As with many earlier decisions by Apple—like eliminating floppy disk and CD-DVD drives, replacing parallel ports with USB ports and adopting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless—the abandonment of the headphone jack, although disruptive, will allow the next generation of technology to develop and flourish.

Centronics interface

The Centronics connectors (25-pin and 36-pin) were dominant in computer peripheral technology for nearly thirty years beginning in 1970

The Centronics connectors (25-pin and 36-pin) were dominant in computer peripheral technology for nearly thirty years beginning in 1970

Interfaces and standards for connecting things together is an important part of electronics and computer history. The adoption of a new format, design or methodology over earlier ones—like USB for SCSI or Thunderbolt for FireWire—is complex and involves a mix of science, engineering, economics and a bit of good luck. In some cases, innovation can fill a void and be embraced rapidly if the cost of adoption is affordable. In other instances, persistent obsolescence can override innovation due to design weaknesses or ease-of-use considerations.

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Dr. An Wang of Wang Laboratories

Robert Howard—a prolific inventor for seven decades beginning in the 1940s—was among the first engineers to understand that open technology standards were needed to connect computer equipment together. In the late 1960s, along with Dr. An Wang and Prentice Robinson at Wang Laboratories, Howard developed the 36-pin Centronics parallel interface to connect the Centronics Model 101 dot matrix printer to computers.

Although the Wang Labs team could not have predicted it, the Centronics connector took off and became one of the most successful computer connection technologies ever made. One reason for its success was the performance advantages over previous serial interfaces: parallel could carry multiple data streams between devices and could also simultaneously transmit status information.

More fundamentally, however, was the fact that the computer industry in the 1960s was going through a transition. Prior to the Centronics interface, each computer manufacturer used proprietary solutions designed to block customers from buying equipment from competitors. As the computer peripheral business expanded rapidly, however, the lack of standardized connection methods had become a barrier to progress.

As described by Robert Howard in his autobiography Connecting the Dots, the Centronics parallel port was the beginning of a shift in business philosophy among computer companies: “We came to the conclusion that if we developed a very easy, simple interface and gave it free to the world, it might be accepted and used by everyone. Apparently, the practice of creating unique interfaces was so resented by everyone in the computer industry that once IBM accepted our interface, seven other major companies immediately followed suit.” This was not the first or last major technical accomplishment associated with Robert Howard.

Robert Howard’s youth

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Young Robert with his father Samuel Horowitz (Howard) in 1931

Robert Howard was born Robert Emanuel Horowitz in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York to Samuel and Gertrude (Greenspoon) Horowitz on May 19, 1923. Robert’s father worked the midnight shift at the Main US Post Office in New York City. Although he was born three months premature and was afflicted with dyslexia, Robert grew into a very likeable and stout youngster with athletic talent in several sports.

After the family moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, Robert spent much of his spare time at the Brooklyn Ice Palace where he learned to skate. He played youth hockey and his skills on the ice were noticed by the hockey coach at Brooklyn Technical High School, an elite all-boys public school. Despite his marginal grades, Robert was recruited to attend Brooklyn Tech as along as that he promised to improve his studies.

While at Brooklyn Tech, Robert excelled at machine shop and woodworking. He built a model airplane out of balsa wood and tissue paper and a refurbished gas engine as a school project. His 1937 delta-wing design was ahead of its time and he received an award for it.

Robert was very close to his maternal grandfather, Isaac Greenspoon, who immigrated to the US from Odessa, Russia in 1910. Isaac started a window-shade business on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that became very successful. Robert worked at his grandfather’s company as a teenager and acquired business skills and decision making that would later prove to be a critical part of his own success.

Although no one, including family members, expected Robert to graduate, he not only received his high school diploma but was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend the college of engineering at Columbia University. By the time of his graduation from Brooklyn Tech, World War II was well underway and the Horowitz’s changed their name to “Howard” to avoid the anti-Semitism that was on the rise during that period.

Before attending Columbia, Robert took a summer job working the night shift for the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn. He was hired to operate the milling and cutting machines used to produce parts for US military searchlights. He kept the job when college classes started so he could cover his living expenses.

In a stroke of good fortune, Robert was hired as an engineer for a new vacuum tube project at Sperry. Although he was still a student and did not have an engineering degree, the new position required the machine-shop skills that he did have. Robert switched to night school and threw himself into the vacuum tube development program. This was his first experience with electronics and, like so many other innovators of his generation, the field soon became a focus of his work and he stick with it until the end of his career.

Howard’s early inventions

Robert Howard’s sons Larry and Richard with a Howard Television set in 1959

Robert Howard’s sons Larry and Richard with a Howard Television set in 1959

After a brief stint in the army, Robert was hired as an engineer at Sylvania Electric Company in Queens, New York. Starting at the age of twenty, he became involved in a seemingly endless series of projects in a wide variety of pursuits that would establish him as a pioneer of post-war electronics innovation. His accomplishments would include the founding of at least twenty-four different companies and the development of dozens of state-of-the-art inventions.

Robert Howard’s inventions are so numerous and varied that it is only possible to review a few of them here:

  • 1947: Rectangular TV tube
    All early television sets had round picture tubes. This meant that the rectangular broadcast image was either clipped the top and bottom or was reduced in size to fit in the 7, 10, 11 or 14-inch standard diameters of the first TV tubes. While working for Sylvania, Robert Howard proposed a rectangular tube design and convinced the company to manufacture one hundred of these 16-inch television CRTs.
  • 1950: Cable television
    After founding Howard Television, Inc. to build and sell his own design for black and white TVs, Robert secured a contract to create the first cable TV system that was designed as part of the newly constructed Windsor Park apartment complex in the Bayside section of Queens, New York. Later known as the master antenna television system (MATS), the project connected 18 buildings with a total 320 apartments via coaxial cable to a single television antenna with a signal booster and splitter that enhanced the reception for seven TV channels from the New York area.
  • 1961: Improvements in vinyl record production
    Right around the time that the recording industry was transitioning from 78s to LPs, Robert was collaborating with a company that made the machines that pressed vinyl records. He helped to improve the quality of the mass-produced records by introducing zinc plates into the process. He also invented a pressurized steam-based system for controlling the temperature of the molten vinyl as it was extruded into the record press. Known as the “The Boomer,” Robert Howard’s invention significantly increased the volume of phonograph record production while maintaining the highest stereo quality.
  • 1968: Casino computer system
    As a division of Wang Laboratories, Robert Howard founded Centronics to build the first computerized system to prevent skimming at casino gaming tables. Robert’s system tracked the relationship between the amount of cash coming in versus the value of chips going out. The computerized register centrally tracked the amount of each transaction, each table number and each dealer at any time during the day.

Contributions to printing

Robert Howard’s work with the casino industry led to plans for a printing device that could produce multiple hard copy records of gaming transactions. The available technologies of that time were either too expensive and large or too small and slow for this purpose. Working with Dr. Wang at Centronics on a new computer printing device, Robert’s curiosity and sense of entrepreneurship put him on a path toward innovations that helped bring the printing industry into the digital age.

Model 101 Centronics Dot Matrix Printer

Model 101 Centronics Dot Matrix Printer

  • 1970: Dot matrix printer
    Electronic impact printers with ink-soaked cloth ribbons like typewriters had been developed by IBM in the 1950s for printing from mainframe computers. These machines used a chain with a complete set of characters passing horizontally across the paper at high speed. As the paper moved vertically line-by-line, type hammers struck from behind and drove the accordion folded, tractor-fed paper against the ribbon and type characters on the chain. The IBM line printers had the speed that Robert needed but they cost about $25,000 and were the size of a large piece of office furniture.

    While at Wang Labs, Robert developed a self-contained impact print-head could be made to produce type characters on paper from a matrix of one hundred dots. His invention used wires or “pins” that could print up to 185 characters per second and hit the ribbon and paper hard enough to print all four copies of a multi-part form. The core technology of his invention was an electromagnetic switch that could make each pin strike the printing surface one thousand times per second, more than enough to satisfy the performance required for the gaming reports, and at a cost that was affordable.

    Following the formation of an independent partnership with the Japan-based Brother Industries, Robert Howard’s dot matrix technology was deployed in the Model 101 Centronics printer. Although there were competing dot matrix devices on the market, Centronics became the most successful mass production printer of the early computer industry. By the mid-1970s, sales grew exponentially and reached tens of thousands of units internationally. It was the popularity of the printer that made the above-mentioned Centronics interface into an industry standard for connecting peripherals to computers that lasted for decades until it was replaced by the Universal Serial Bus (USB) in the 1990s.

  • 1991: Direct imaging press

    Prototype of the Heidelberg Quickmaster DI press that was designed with integrated Presstek direct imaging technology

    Prototype of the Heidelberg Quickmaster DI press that was designed with integrated Presstek direct imaging technology

    Robert Howard made what is certainly his most enduring contribution to the printing industry toward the end of his career. In 1986, he founded Presstek to develop the first ever direct imaging offset printing technology. As he explained in his autobiography, “The problem at that time was that offset color was a slow, costly process. It took at least ten days to two weeks of what was called ‘prepress’ preparation before a color print job could even be put on a printing press, and because of this expense, it was both impractical and costly to print less than 10,000 copies of anything. I wanted to apply our knowledge of computers and imaging to the color printing business.”

    Robert’s breakthrough concept was to image the printing plates on the press itself and eliminate the darkrooms, film and chemistry associated with prepress processes. By 1991, a Presstek laser imaging system was added to a Heidelberg offset printing press and sold as the Heidelberg GTO DI (for direct imaging). At the center of the Presstek system was a set of four-color thermal laser heads that imaged plates on press. Aside from the novelty of the on-press plate imaging, the Presstek technology was waterless and was easily retrofitted onto the existing Heidelberg GTO design because it took the place of the unneeded dampening system.

    Beginning in 1993, Presstek and Heidelberg developed the Quickmaster DI press, a printing system that was designed from scratch with the on-press laser imaging technology. Launched at DRUPA in 1995, the Quickmaster DI became one of the most popular Heidelberg offset presses ever with 5,000 machines sold within the decade. The press included design innovations that made it easier to operate than previous offset systems. With this innovation, Robert Howard invented a technology that was both disruptive to the prepress industry and also enabled former prepress companies to enter the short-run color printing market.

Robert Howard died on December 19, 2014 at the age of 91. Although he is not a well-known figure in the history of printing—perhaps because of the variety of businesses and disciplines where he left his mark—Robert made critical contributions to the industry, especially in the final decades of the twentieth century. His exceptional talents as an engineer and entrepreneur were essential to the transition of offset printing from an exclusively analog process to one that uses a host of integrated digital technologies.