Sunday, January 9, 2022

Small town life, page 2

Valley Nebraska where my dad's store was located was typical of the situation all across the US as small towns were gradually being gobbled up by the expansion of larger cities. Shopping in Omaha offered a much wider variety of goods than what my father could offer in his store. He did take a lower than normal markup on many things and gave credit to many folks who could not have been afforded credit at the time. 

Working in my dad's store put me in touch with people from all walks of life. Louis Siebenaler for example, operated an auto salvage at King Lake, Nebraska, an unincorporated town nearby. He and his son-in-law Coy would come in covered with grease from head to toe. Louis was a large man and Coy small, and it was always apparent in how Louis smiled that they had serious affection for each other. 

Ted Reser was the town blacksmith at a time when most folks would rather buy new than fix old. He was rather deaf from the sound of his hammer striking the anvil, smelled of soot and sweat and was very proud of his physique. He told me more than once that the ladies in the bar next door expressed their admiration for his shoulders and strong arms. 

There were of course, others that came in throughout the day. farmers in overalls, women hunting through the selection of greeting cards and the like. My dad had a genuine warmth for all. And so, why in the world would any of this be important now? Perhaps because we've let things grow completely out of hand, and no longer matter as much to each other as we once did.

Because of my banking in the local bank and being known there, when a Chevy dealer in Indiana called the Bank of Valley to assure themselves that the hippy with a broken down Chevy van could actually pay for their service to my truck, the dealer was shocked at the glowing credit report offered by the bank on behalf. "Yes, Mr. Stowe," they said. "We'll get right to work."And so when we live on a smaller scale and make a few friends along the way, and stay put long enough to be known and kind enough to be respected, there's a very simple formula in that, and it's one that can be repeated even without living in a small town.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 8, 2022

small town life

In 1963 my father and mother bought a small store in Valley Nebraska. My father, having worked for various corporations and as manager of a large hardware and sporting goods store in Omaha wanted a business of his own and a small inheritance from my great aunt Allene, gave my parents some funds to invest. 

Valley Home Furnishings, as the store was called featured hardware on one side and a variety of other goods on the other, and I worked in the store with my dad on weekends and summers when I was in high school and summers during my 4 years of college. My mother was teaching kindergarten in Omaha, so my parents kept their home there and my father commuted each day for the 30 mile trip to and from Valley.

Valley was sandwiched between the Union Pacific Railroad on one side and the Platte River on the other and business was gradually being shifted from the town to the larger city to the east. One poet had called Omaha the "Paris of the Pigbelt," and shopping malls being developed on the west side of the city were gradually taking business away from outlying small shops like the one my mom and dad bought in 1963.

The effects of the railroad passing through town, and Valley being a switching yard for trains going east, west and north north, meant that autos passing in and out of town often had to stop and wait for trains, not just passing by, but going slowly back and forth as freight cars were unhooked and rearranged.

My time working in my dad's store had a profound effect on my attitudes about life and about people, and it had some effect on my choosing to live in a small town dedicated to the arts. 

Shall, I tell more while we wait for a passing train? Or is it OK that we as a society are consumed and swallowed up in the pigbelt? I have this idea (shared with many others, that small is wonderful as well as beautiful and that our souls call out for less, not more).

In the wood shop I've been finishing boxes that were started as demonstration boxes for teaching. Get them finished well and get them out of here! It's part of my plan to simplify.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

the hidden spline joint

Fine Woodworking has offered a free video online taken from my Basic Box Making DVD. It shows how to make a hidden spline box joint and covers the construction of the necessary jig. It should be useful to anyone with a love of making boxes.

Make, fix and create...