The Good Times
An Autobiography
Chapter I

My Journey Across The Millenium
When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Click a Blue Link
The Early Years
As early as age 13 I was helping my parents in our busy corner grocery store
Charlie Life was a lot more simple when I was young. We learned from our parents, teachers and the school of hard knocks. We rode our bicycles to school and played outside. The Saturday movies had "News Reels" where we could actually see the news that had been on the radio. Sundays were for dressing up and going to church.

But then came technology. Television brought education, movies, news and games right into our homes. Jet engines revolutionized flight and drive-in movies, vinyl records, vacuum tubes, rotary phones and typewriters all become extinct. Color replaced black & white, tape replaced film, discs replaced tape and digital chips replaced them all.

Today, correspondence travels instantly over the Internet by eMail and pocket-size computers called smartphones and tablets have made everything digital. The cellphone and tablet have replaced the television, telephone, newpaper, camera, turntable and stereo, and even the dictionary, encyclopedia and every game imaginable.

The internet puts untold volumes of information at our finger tips. Social Media lets us share all of this and the events of our daily lives with family and friends instantly, wherever in the world they might be. Satellites provide an arial view of the entire world, land and sea. It lets us travel to unknown places safely guided by GPS (Global Positioning Satalite).

As a teenager growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I loved helping my parents in our busy corner grocery store, J&R Foods. We sold fresh vegetables and meats and my dad was the butcher. Even at the early age of 13 I worked in our store, marking canned goods, stocking shelves, cleaning fruit bins, vegetable bins, and refrigeration cases and, occassionaly, defrosting the ice cream freezer.


J&R Foods at the corner of Chase & Chambers Streets (c1954)

The real challenge came when my father was disgnosed with cancer. He suffered very much as a result of surgery and radiation treatments and became severly depressed. By age 16 my mother and father were divorced. Our store was open from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. so I quit school to help in the store. The meat delivery guy taught me how to hang a side of beef in our cooler so I could "break it down" right on the hook. With each delivery he made, he taught me a little bit more about the cuts of meat. Eventually, I could slice a round steak, cut and cleaver pork chops, or tie up a rump roast as good as any butcher.

My brother and sister were still in school but we all worked in the store. We often ate dinner between customers. Some meals and desserts were made from our fresh foods that might otherwise spoil and were prepared in an electric skillet that we kept in the back of the store.

My mother was a strong lady and an astute business woman. From her I learned about cash flow, markup, profit and loss and customer relations. I was managing inventories and watching delivery men so we weren't cheated on the count. We spent idle time playing Scrabble® and we would compete on who could take the biggest grocery order over the phone and fill it from memory. Of course, delivering the order was always my job, wagon and bicycle.

But, before long there was a new sheriff in town; a trend in grocery shopping called a Supermarket. These big stores ran ads that tricked our customers into believing their pre-packaged goods and self-service was a better deal than our fresh foods and personal service.

I still remember a customer complaining about our price for bologna. We sold it for 69¢ a pound and the supermarket advertised bologna for 59¢. However, the "fine print" in their ad said "11 oz pkg." That customer, like many others, didn't realize that they were actually paying a whooping 86¢ a pound for their pre-packaged bologna. Our customers were'nt being cheated but they were being out smarted by the supermarkets. The next time someone tells you you don't need to study subjects like algebra, you are just being set up to be cheated.

One day I decided two could play their game. We had an overstock of canned cherry pie filling. It was February so I decided it was a good time to employ a supermarket trick to sell out that cherry pie filling. I constructed a display with an attractive sign, "Bake A Cherry Pie For Washinton's Birthday." Then I repriced our entire stock of 29¢ cans of cherry pie filling at 3-for-a-dollar. My Mother was appalled at the 13¢ price increase but we sold every can of that cherry pie filling.

While I was still in highschool, I joined the radio club where I learned electronics. At age 14 I earned my Novice Ham Radio license, KN8ARV, by passing the written FCC exam and sending and receiving Morse Code at 5 wpm. During highschool I operated my station from the school's radio club.

Although the store had become a full-time job, I was determined to finish my highschool and even had aspirations of going to college. So I began attending classes at Hughes High School at night. I had to take a city bus to school and I did my homework while watching Jack Parr on late night television.

My black and white 1957 Chevy
As my sister and brother took on more chores in the store, with my brother even learning to cut meats, I started doing odd jobs for the neighbors to earn some money. I cut grass and washed cars. For one elderly neighbor I shoveled coal, taking it by wheelbarrow from the street where it was dumped, to her coal bin. During the winter I would go every night and "bank the fire" in the furnace so she and her sister would have heat in the morning. She even taught me how to clean and hang wallpaper, a talent I would often use in the future.

I was the oldest but my sister, brother and I were just one year apart in age. By now they had both graduated from highschool. My sister became a secretary and my brother went to work cutting meat for a supermarket. There was no salary working in the store and I wanted a car and my own Ham radio equipment so I could operate my General Class station, K8ARV. I was not quite 18 when I set out to find a "paying job" and, fortunately, was hired in the Shelving Department of the downtown branch of the Cincinnati Public Library.

The store continued to demand more and more time and profits were slim. My grandfather, who aparently had some money in the store, convinced my mother that we should "remodel" the store to be more like a supermarket. The move disrupted our business and ended as a disaster with us loosing even more customers and more money. My mother was working too hard trying to keep the store profitable so we decided it was time to sell the business and move on.

After we sold the store, my mother took a job in the Catalog Department at the library where I was working. But selling the store meant we had to give up our apartment above it. We moved to a lovely two floor apartment in the same neighborhood but, sadly, we couldn't keep our dog, Teddy. I cried for weeks when I found out my mother had put him down. He was only about six years old so I truly hope there is a rainbow bridge so I can tell Teddy how sorry I am for his short life.

I was working and going to highschool at night and eventually I earned enough money to buy my Ham radio equipment. I bought a used Hallicrafters receiver, built a 35 watt transmitter from a kit and found a "bow-tie" TV antenna at an electronics salvage store that I converted into a 10-meter ham band antenna. I was working strictly in Morse code but I now had my General Class license and hoped to buy a voice transmitter in the near future. I worked hard and smart and was soon promoted at work.


My Ham Radio Station K8ARV (c1959)

I was almost 19 years of age before I could afford to buy that voice transmitter and I bought a new 75-watt Viking Valiant transmitter. I graduated highschool in 1960 and was determined I was not going to my graduation on the bus. I bought a used 1957 Chevrolet, drove it with a friend who had a license, practiced parallel parking at a nearby cul-de-sac and got my driver's license all within a week.

My radio station and my car were my pride and joy. I even installed a mobile unit, a Gonset G76 transceiver in the car so I could operate my ham radio station while on the go. With everyone in the family working we finally rented a cute little house on Chambers Street. All of our money went into a family fund.

Mom, who hadn't driven since before WWII, bought a Nash Metropolitan convertable and then a Chevy II. My brother bought a 1950's Ford and I enrolled in Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. For awhile life was normal. My brother and I double dated. It was the days of drive-in movies, minature golf, Rock & Roll, and car hops on roller skates.

My pay at the library was low compared to the Union wages my brother earned at the suprmarket and my mother convinced me the library was no place for a career. I left the library and went to work for the supermarket. They put me in charge of their "Deli." It was like having our store back again but within the year I was "laid off."

With no job and the Army draft closing in, I decided my best move was to enlist in the Air Force. It would be a great opportunity for me to get the advanced electronics training I wanted and would also help me to pay for the college education I hoped to get. My training began at Lackland Air Force Base where I celebrated my 21st birthday.

However, on my first leave home after basic training, I found everything of mine gone. No more car. My brother had totaled it (not injured thankfully). No more ham equipment. My Mother had sold it. And no more Hi-Fi and 45 RPM records. My sister had taken possession. No more girlfriends. No more "buddies." My Mother was dating. My sister was engaged and my brother was married. When I left Cincinnati for my next assignment in Plattsburgh, NY, it was many years before I returned.

My First Paying Job
The library was truly a wonderland of information and artifacts but the stories of the people I hired during my years as Shelving Dept. Supervisor are unforgettable

Cincinnati Public Library Main Branch (Circa 1959)
In August 1957, a month before my 18th birthday, I took a job at the main branch of the Cincinnati Public Library. The job only paid 90 cents per hour but the library was a wonderland of information and artifacts, ideal for a young inquisitive mind like mine.

The library had three main floors and four stack levels. With millions of volumns of books, it used both the Dewey Decimal System and the Cutter Number Classifications. Most libraries use the Dewey Decimal System so a patron can find a desired book using a label on the spine of a book but only a few have adopted adding the the Cutter Classification to the label.

The Dewey Decimal System provides a structure so that books of the same or similar topics are all located together. The longer the Dewey number, the more specific the subject. If you were interested in all kinds of sports you would look in 790, but if you were interested in ball games you'd look in 796.3 and if you were interested in golf you'd look in 796.352.

Shakespeare is so important that he is the only author to have his own Dewey Decimal number! The works of Shakespeare and their criticism all live under call number 822.33.

The Cutter Classification allows names or titles to be arranged in an alphanumeric sequence even when the name or title does not contain a word by which the book should be arranged. Adding a Cutter Code to the book makes it quick to show in what order the book should be shelved.

The main branch of the library was unique in another way. It classified books by dividing the ten Dewey Decimal Classifications into "departments." On the first floor there was a department for Philosophy (100s) & Religion (200s) topics and another department for Literature (800s) and History (900s) topics. The first floor also had a Browsing Department that was sort of a library within a library. Here you could find the most popular books on every subject.

The second floor had the Business and Industry Department and the Language and Science Department (300s - 600s). The Art (700s) and Music (790) Department was located on the third floor. This arrangement made it very easy for a patron to simply go to the department and the shelf to get the book one wants without having to consult a catalog first. I would later borrow this idea and put it in place at the Biloxi Air Force Base library.


Searching for a book using the library catalog

Art and Music shared the third floor with a full size movie theater, the catalog department and the Rare Books Room, a limited access area that had its own curator.

Millions of books, including reference books, oversize books such as quartro, folio and elephant folio, past copies of magazines, periodicals and newspapers were kept in the stack levels. There were two stack levels below the first floor that served its departments and two stack levels between the second floor and third floors that served the departments on those loors.

I began work as a "Page." Pages were responsible for reshelving books after they were returned to the library. And, when a patron requested a book or perodical that was located in a stack level, a Page working on that stack level would find it and send it to the main floor via a dumbwaiter.

I loved working at the library and it wasn't long before I was promoted to Shelving Department Supervisor. On paydays I always spent a dollar to buy a new 45 RPM record for my collection and sometimes I bought new clothes or an interesting belt. This increase in salary, however, gave me enough money to buy my 1957 Chevy.

Most interesting, though, are the many stories of the people I hired and fired during my three years as department supervisor. One day I interviewed a young man from Kentucky who asked if I would fill out the application for him because he was "not good at reading and writing." He appeared to be a sincere and honest young man so I obliged to be polite. When I got to the question of "Hobbies and Interests" on the application, he seriously answered "cars and women."

One gentleman I worked with had been a tax collector in Burma (now Myanmar). He traveled from village to village by canoe to collect the government's taxes. He lived in a tent and hunted and fished for his food because he was not popular or welcome in the villages. As a government worker, though, he had to flee Burma when the Japanese invaded the island during WWII.

Another gentleman, who went by the name "Fred" had been a fighter pilot in the Luftwaffen. Before WWII, he was a movie producer and director in Germany. After the war he defected to Hungary but during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 he was among 200,000 Hungarian refugees that fled the country. He later immigrated to the U.S.A. taking up residence at the Cincinnati Friars Club, a free Catholic refuge for immigrants.

One day Fred told us he spoke seven languages fluently and explained that he bought a tape recorder so he could listen to himself in English and correct his accent. On another day he told us he bought a movie projector explaining that it was "The kind of projector used in movie theaters." What on earth?

Within a couple years, though, we understood. Fred had become a millionaire and was living in a penthouse at one of Cincinnati's poshest hotels. The story of his success is so interesting it is worth my time here.

While working as a Page at the library, Fred opened a machine shop where he invented and began manufacturing a film splicing device. He applied for and received a U.S. patent on his device. As an artist, he earned money to start the machine shop by painting record album covers. Now surprise, but Fred also had a degree in electronic engineering and was hired by the local clear-channel radio station WLW to get their state-of-the-art broadcast equipment on the air.

The library rented films that were often returned broken or damaged and had to be repaired or spliced before being rented again. With Fred's background in movies he applied for and was assigned to the Films and Recodings Department. His job involved operating a machine that was used to review, splice and fix damaged films. One day I noticed Fred shelving films while the "machine" seemed to be rewinding, splicing and reeling the films all by itself. I had no idea how it was working, but it was doing just that!

Fred had worked at the library less than two years when he announced that he was leaving. By now he held four U.S. patents and was giving the library two of them; one patent for the machine that "fixed" the broken films and another patent for a device that controlled its movie projectors so they automatically switched from one projector to another at the end of a reel. Remember his purchase of a "movie theater projector?"

But that's not all. Fred had sold his fourth patent to Bell & Howell. The patent was never revealed but when the new film format Super 8 Movie Film became popular in the early 60's, I immediately thought about Fred.
©Copyright 2019  Charles Tyrrell - Anthem, Arizona. All rights reserved.
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