Saturday, October 12, 2019

Acadia National Park

During our recent family visit to New Hampshire we decided to take a jaunt over to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Although we lived in northern Maine years ago while I was serving in the US Air Force, never had the opportunity to visit the coast.  It is such a great area; glad we finally got to see it.

Our primary objective for the visit was to do some hiking in Acadia National Park.  Don't get me wrong, Bar Harbor is a great place and well worth the visit alone, but for us, the hiking in Acadia was the attraction.

Size wise, Acadia (47,633 acres) is on the smaller side of national parks.  It's 'tiny' compared to Yellowstone (1,217, 403 acres) and the Grand Canyon (2,221,766 acres).  Regardless of size, we found the hiking there more challenging than expected.

We arrived at our Bed & Breakfast late afternoon, too late to go hike so we walked around Bar Harbor for a while.  Everything we had read was true, it is a quaint little town.  The thing that caught our attention quickly though, the amount of people.  It was crowded, even in mid-to-late September.  However, by 6:00 PM, the crowds seemed to have disappeared.  What we soon discovered, a lot of the people walking around Bar Harbor were from the cruise ship that was anchored near by.  Apparently there is a different cruise ship there each day bringing tourist dollars into the local economy.

Day two, after a great breakfast at the B&B, headed for Acadia.  Although they have a free trolley/shuttle that will take you to the park, if it's earlier in the day, parking is not an issue in the park.  The park ranger in the downtown Bar Harbor station suggested we drive.  We also asked the ranger for suggestions on where to hike (so many trails!).  He gave us a map and suggested the Bowl, Gorham Mountain, and/or Great Head trails.

After parking, took a picture of hikers on a nearby mountain.  Jokingly, told my wife this is where we'd be hiking :)

Click on picture to enlarge to see the hikers on the Beehive Trail
The trail in the picture is the Beehive Trail, the park ranger did not recommend this one for us.  Yes, I know, what a surprise :)  We made our way to the trailhead for the Bowl Trail and began our hike.

Boulders and rocks, a lot of boulders and rocks.  Glad I had my hiking poles.

 Looking ahead, uphill, on the Bowl Trail  
 Looking behind, downhill, on the Bowl Trail  

The Bowl was a nice hike.  It connected to the Gorham Mountain Trail on the way back so we opted to hike it.  It had a western exposure and with that came some incredible Maine coast views.

 Views coming down Gorham Mountain 

The next day we decided to drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain and hike out and back on both the southside and northside.  Great hikes and just like the day before, more challenging than we thought they'd be.

From the northside we could see all of Bar Harbor including the daily cruise ship.

Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain 

On our last night, no trip to Bar Harbor, Maine would be complete without...


It was great hiking in Acadia, we will go back again.  Maybe next time...  the Beehive Trail?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Mt. Washington, Mt. Rigi, the Cog Railway

Just back from a 3300 mile road trip to New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maine.  It was fun but exhausting.  While in New Hampshire visiting family, we had the opportunity to do something that we promised ourselves we would do someday - take the Cog Railway to the top of Mt. Washington.

A few years back while in Switzerland we went up Mt. Rigi in the Swiss Alps.  It was an excursion prior to going on a Viking River cruise.  As it turned out, we were the only ones who signed up that day and that meant we had the undivided attention of the guide.  Our guide was very good; she provided us with an incredible amount of information.  While we were waiting for the train at the Vitznau station, Prisca (our guide) told us that the cog railway that we would ride on was the first one built in Europe, built two years after the first cog railway in the world in Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, USA.

Once we heard that, knowing there would be more trips to New Hampshire to see our daughter, we decided someday we'd go on that cog railway also.

Sign on wall at the Cog Railway station in Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

So What is a Cog Railway?

A cog railway, according to the dictionary, is a steep mountain railroad that has an extra rail with cogs engaged by a cogwheel on the locomotive to ensure traction.

The cog wheel 

Bridge has a grade of 37%, steepest part of the trip up

Tundra & view top of Mt. Washington
The tundra and view from the top of Mt. Washington is very different than the view we had on Mt. Rigi!

An interesting side note on Mt. Washington, highest wind speed ever recorded:

 Wind - 231 MPH! 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Job 14 - Telephone Operator

The more I write of the 49 jobs I had (for my grandchildren and future generations), the more I wish someone in my lineage would have done something like this.  I would have loved to have read about what their work was like.

= = = = = = = =  = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

--- DRAFT ---
Job 14
Telephone Operator

1974-1975   NJ Bell Telephone, Wayne, NJ, Age: 19

During this job.
President:  Gerald Ford (was appointed Vice President in place of Spiro Agnew and then became President after Richard Nixon resigned, post-Watergate)
Gallon of gas:  $0.55
Gallon of milk:  $1.57
Minimum wage: $2.00 an hour, went up to $2.10 1/1/1975
Unemployment: 4.9%
Economy: In recession
Average Interest Rate: 9.5%
Average Inflation:  11.3%

Where I lived.
Clifton, NJ.  Lived with my parents.

Car I drove.

1971 Ford Maverick (lime green/white vinyl roof - what was I thinking!?)  Was in an accident January 1975 coming home from work, near the Route 46/Route 3 split in Clifton, NJ, Maverick was totaled.  Fortunately, no injuries to me.  Ended up buying a Ford Pinto through former neighbor, Mr. Henry (Dinah Road), from a junkyard in Stanhope, NJ.  Mr. Henry was an insurance adjuster and had many contacts in the car business - came across this Pinto that was drivable (but that was about it).  Paid $500 cash for it.

1971 Ford Pinto - from the junkyard! 

Telephone operator, a male telephone operator.

It was 1974 and the country was in recession.  Jobs were hard to come by, especially for a 19-year-old without any real-world skills.  We had just moved back to Clifton, NJ from Florida.  There was some talk prior to the move back about one of my uncles trying to get me into the plumber’s union.  However, the EEO requirements at the time made it impossible for him to get me a spot as a plumber apprentice.  I do recall though that he said he could possibly get me into the landscaper’s union.  I thought about it but decided I had no interest in doing landscaping for a living.

I do not recall how the opportunity came along, but I was made aware that the telephone company had a unique situation with those EEO requirements for telephone operators.  Apparently, they had a requirement to have a minimum of 5% male telephone operators.  At that point in time, the job as a telephone operator was pretty much exclusively a job for women, hence the EEO requirement.  Now I had no desire to be a telephone operator but considering the recession and lack of any real-world skills, I applied for the job.

During the interview they did mention the 5% male operator EEO requirement but followed up that I’d be able to apply for other telephone company jobs when they came up in the future.  I thought that was a good way to get into a job like a lineman or splicer.  So, I had no problem doing the telephone operator job for a while and then trying to transfer to something more desirable.

They hired me as a TSPS Operator and trained me at the Clifton office with the plan of assigning me to the office in Wayne when training was completed.  When I arrived at the Wayne office, they gave me to a unique schedule - I worked Monday through Friday, which was actually pretty good for a newbie.  However, on those weekdays I worked 9:00 AM - 12 noon and then 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  Call it a six-hour lunch break :) It was an odd shift and most people did not want it for obvious reasons, which is probably why I ended up with it.  With this shift I had weekends off.  This allowed me to continue to work for my Uncle George (job #13).  So basically, I was working seven days a week during this time.

TSPS Telephone Operator Workstation

Union job.

This was a union job.  Shortly after starting I was asked if I wanted to join the union.  Good, bad, or in different, I gave it no thought whatsoever and joined.  I suspect someone probably told me to join, saying the union will help with getting raises.  I remember getting my union card.  Never did anything with, it just sat in my wallet.

A very boring job.

As this was about two decades before cell phone were available, the world of phone conversation was quite different.  Pay phones and telephone booths were everywhere.  Local phone calls cost a dime, for three minutes.  If a person did not have a dime, they could call collect or they could even charge the call to another number.  It was these types of things that required an army of TSPS Operators.

So, my workdays were filled with:

“Operator, may I help you?”

“Yes, I want to make a collect call”

So, we call the number and say, “This is the operator, will you accept a collect call from…”.  If they agreed, we’d connect the person from the pay phone and released the call to the system.  It was all about billing, e.g. being sure someone was paying for the call.

Another one was:

“I want to charge this call to another number”

We’d call the number and say, “this is the operator, [so and so] is at a pay phone and wants to make a call and bill your number, is that okay?”

Another one was:

A person would be very close to the end of their three-minute call (for a dime) and the call would just pop up on our TSPS board and we’d say, “please deposit (whatever the amount the board said) for the next three minutes please”.  We would then have to verify the amount the deposited.  It was sound based.  A nickel made one ping, a dime made two pings, and a quarter made five pings.  Once the money was deposited, we released the call back to the system.

The Missing Dime Department.

The one that really started to drive me nuts was when a call came in and the person would say something like “operator, I lost my dime” basically implying that they deposited their dime but did not get a call.  I was told by the more experienced operators that the phone company seemed to switch between either sending the person a check for 10 cents (which probably cost more than 10 cents) or simply putting their call through without the dime.  During my time the policy was to just put the call through.  So, for the people that figured this out, they basically would be scamming the phone company for free calls.  It really did seem at times that it was getting out of control.  But, as company workers, had to follow current policy. However, being young, not really caring, and being really bored, I do recall having some fun with the people who did this by doing the following, the calls would go something like this:

“Operator, may I help you?”

“Yeah, yeah, I lost my dime”

“No problem, we’ll put your call through, let me connect you to the Missing Dime Department”

Now there was no Missing Dime Department, so I would make few noises on the line and then come back on the line and say, “Missing Dime Department, may I help you?”.

“Yeah, yeah, operator, I lost my dime”

“No problem, we’ll put your call through but first we need to get a little information from you, what year was the dime?”

The reactions I got from this really varied, but typically if they were scamming, they’d say “f%&@ you!” and hang up.  As I recall, the overwhelmingly majority of these calls were people scamming. 

If someone answered the question and gave me a year, I really knew they were scamming as who would have known the year on a coin that they deposited?  So, I followed up with:

“Did you put it in face forward or face backwards?”


Connecting two numbers at random.

As time went on, this job got more boring, same old thing every day.  And sometimes, no calls came in at all.  When I was really bored and no calls were coming in, I did something that I’m sure would gotten in trouble for, maybe even fired - what I would do is connect two numbers at random and sit back and listen.



“Um hello”

“Who is this?”

“Why did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you, you called me”

“I did not”

I’m sure the phone company would not appreciate (and surely not approve) me doing this and if I would have gotten caught doing it would have been disciplined or fired.  Luckily that did not happen.

Bomb threat.

The most significant call I received was from a guy making a threat to blow up a middle school.  This was scary.  However, part of our training covered this, and we did have a procedure to follow including a script of what to say and things to do to inform the authorities and to keep the person on the line for as long as possible.  They caught the guy.  I’m not sure if there was ever a bomb placed at the school though.  All in all, that was one crazy day at the office.

Layoff rumors.

A few months into this job the rumors started floating around of a layoff and they would probably use the LIFO (last in first out) method when determining who would be let go.  Well, I was pretty much one of the last ones hired in.

So, between the boredom of the job and the pending layoffs I started thinking about what to do next.  Call it fate, call it serendipity, call it whatever but I just happen to pass a military recruiting center on my way to work each day.  The thought process of enlisting started in my mind.

So, there I was, 19 years old, freshly flunked out of college (this is what happens when you try to get through college the same way you got through high school - by just showing up for class and doing as little as possible), fall of 1974, and the country was in recession, I was in a boring job, with layoffs pending, still living at home.  The thoughts of I must do something were quite strong so enlisting seemed like a good thing to do.

I quit and went to Hawaii.

I ended up enlisting in the US Air Force under the delayed enlistment program.  So, I had a few more months of phone company work.  However, I did quit about two months before my enlistment started and went to Hawaii for six weeks!  My girlfriend from Florida (I was in New Jersey) was out there taking care of her newly divorced brother’s kids.