Thursday, April 30, 2020
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
August 17, 1993, 7:00 P.M.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Right around 2:15 P.M. this afternoon, Tuesday, August 17, 1993, there was a knock on the door of my study. You see, I am working at my parents’ house since they have moved to Judson Manor, a retirement community in the University Circle area of Cleveland. They wanted me to prepare the house for sale, so I just brought my computer and work files to the Cleveland Heights home while the work to empty the house went on.
Three years ago, I started a small consulting company, Value Concepts, Inc., to help small-to-medium-sized banks improve their productivity and profitability and was working, this afternoon, on a report for the Savings Bank of Utica, a client in upper New York state. My career to this point had consisted of five years with a small firm, Educational Dimensions, Inc., which had two large contracts for a social science textbook series for Grades 7 through 12. And, then, after taking my M.B.A. in Finance at Case Western Reserve University, I accepted a position in the Finance Division of Union Commerce Bank which was merged into Huntington Bancshares five years later. It was time I found a “real job” my father had lectured, so it was a perfect fit.
After the merger into the Huntington, which I managed by the way, I took an offer from Society Corporation to develop and implement strategies for acquiring and merging in other banks which we did quite well, buying banks in Dayton, Canton, Toledo, and two in Cleveland. That ended in 1990 – 1991 when Society became part of Key Corp, and I was out of a job again. It has always struck me as interesting that I put myself out of work twice, once at Union Commerce and the other at Society. But then, it was time to become an entrepreneur, and I formed Value Concepts, Inc. The Savings Bank of Utica was my first client and, obviously, a very important one.
So, there I was this afternoon, diligently typing away on my Commodore PC, and there’s a knock on the door. I invited whoever it was to come in, and in walks Pete Zanetti, one of the men who was helping discard things that we didn’t want or need as we were getting ready to sell the house. He told me that there were two crates down in the basement and asked what I wanted to do with them. Beats me, I said. So, we went down the stairs and through the kitchen to the basement stairs. When I got down there, Pete’s associate, Norm Fassbender, was looking at the crates, each one 18 inches long, 9 inches wide, and 12 inches in height. Oddly, on the side of one, in large, faded black, cursive lettering were the words “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too.” Now, I kind of remembered from history classes that this was the slogan of some president back in the mid-19th century but really didn’t pay too much attention to it. But, it was a sign.
Norm asked me what I want to do with them. My response was to open them up and see what’s inside. So, he took out a claw hammer and screwdriver and broke into one of them, breaking the cover in two. The crate had been nailed shut with 3-inch square heads. He handed a couple of them to me. They sure were old. Looking inside the crate, it was full of paper, old paper I could tell by picking one document up.
Being a history buff as well as a finance guy, I was curious to find out what the documents were and noticed that they were mostly letters in their envelopes. One postmark said “Libby Prison, Richmond, Va.,” and the envelope was addressed to a “Miss Francis P. Porter.” Well, I had no idea who that was and asked Pete and Norm to seal the crate up and then take both of them out to the garage. I wanted to take them to our summer cottage on a lake in Ashtabula County, Ohio, to look at later. Right now, the Savings Bank of Utica was first and foremost on my mind. It was paying the bills.
But, before they sealed the crates and carried them to the garage, I opened the envelope to Miss Porter and unfolded the letter inside. It was handwritten, friendly enough, dated July 28, 1863, and was from a Thomas S. Armstrong. Now, I am really curious for my father’s middle name was Armstrong and am wondering what else was in those crates. I would have to wait until the work with the Savings Bank of Utica was complete to find out.
Monday, April 27, 2020
On Monday, August 24, 1998, reporter Chris Vance of The Athens News, posted an article: Amesville vet has high-tech facility, low-tech manner. Dr. Smith interviewed that Monday about his state-of-the-art clinic equipment, including EKG machines, ultrasound equipment, and other specific equipment that other local clinics did not have...
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War
My publisher and mentor, Gina McKnight of Monday Creek Publishing in Buchtel, Ohio, suggested to me the other day that I blog about the process that I undertook to write Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War. At the outset, I will admit that the title should have been “One Man’s Triumphs over the Horrors of the Civil War” because the main character, Lieutenant Thomas S. Armstrong survived this conflict that changed the United States forever. Incidentally, Armstrong was my great-grandfather, so I am very grateful that he did, indeed, survive. I’ve never done a blog before, but here goes!
I am not going to relate the details of the book, which was published by Monday Creek in December 2018, rather to offer the events that resulted in its creation and the thoughts and feelings of those who were involved with it. As I develop this blog, you will meet people, and you may wonder who they are and why I have included them, but I will ask you to trust me since each one played a significant role in the “Elephant.”
Of course, the first question you will ask is what does seeing the elephant mean. Fair enough. It is a term, only used in the military of the United States, to indicate that a soldier has been in battle and has seen exactly what that means. War is cruel, and we must give our thanks and praise to the men and women who have fought for our freedom in America. I had not thought about it for a good number of years until I started learning about Tom Armstrong and the sacrifices he and millions like him have made in the service of our country. The respect that I have for them is immeasurable.
As we proceed, you will get to know me as an author. Prior to the “Elephant,” I had two books on banking and finance published, Quality Value Banking in 1992 and The Banking Revolution in 1996. I know, pretty dry, but what would expect from and MBA in finance, soon to be Ph.D. But, you see, I have always loved to write. Actually, my first publication was a play that was selected by my 4th grade teacher at Fairfax Elementary School here in Cleveland Heights was performed at an assembly in front of all of the students, teachers, and staff.
Some years later, at Hillsdale College in Michigan, I was taught to write well by Professors James King and Charles Wesley of the English Department. They emphasized things like proper grammar, correct punctuation, appropriate sentence structure, and the importance of making whatever it was interesting to the reader. And, then, upon graduation, I went to work for a small firm that had a contract with John Wiley& Sons to develop a series of social science textbooks for high schools all over the country. Talk about pressure to make your work good. Those books were a long way from a 4th grade play and papers written at Hillsdale. They did very well, I might add.
You will also meet my wife, Paula, who proofread the “Elephant” at least two times, maybe three, not for the history but for the writing itself. One of my goals in the book was to have the reader feel like he or she “was there,” actually bring part of the story. I never mentioned that to her and was quite pleased when she would say “You know, I felt like I was there.” I also wanted to have people say, “I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to find out what happened.”
Others who you will hear about are Kathryn Vossler, Ph.D. in History; Stephen Shay, M.D. and Ret. Colonel, United States Army; and David “Mitch” Taylor, Curator of Muskingum County (OH.) History. Also, Penny and John Scarpucci, and Betty and Richard Smith, Ph.D. in History. And, as we go, I am sure there will be others.
Enough of this introduction. Let’s get on with it. In the next post, I will tell you about the wooden crates. Wooden crates, you ask? What’s so important about wooden crates? I will just say now that without them, there would be no story.
To see the Paula B. And Thomas W. Collection of Civil War Letters at Ohio Wesleyan Unversity's online archive, click here!
Saturday, April 25, 2020
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Friday, April 24, 2020
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
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