The Conrad Chronicles
Over 70 Incredibly Hilarious (Yet True) Stories of Life in the Conrad Family
Dedicated to Grandma and Grandpa
they who have taught and proven, by example, that
emphasis on giving, rather than receiving, leads to a
long, successful, and happy life.
OK now, everybody was suggesting that a collection of the extraordinary events centered around Conrad clan activities be compiled and documented. I'm sure that all of you have heard the old saying "Don't ask for something, or you just might get it" . well . now you got one.
There are two major problems with this "volume" of work. First of all . It is very incomplete. Now that there is an "official" document, maybe some of you would like to contribute a few tales of hilarious misadventure yourself. Secondly . God help us all if this collection ever gets out to the public at large. Most of the general public lack the Conrad conceptual edge and would never understand that incredible incidents are required to punctuate an incredible environment. The incredible Conrad environment is and has always been exquisitely punctuated with no shortage of exclamation points, resulting in a family of varied, yet close and cohesive individuals. It appears that this environmental incubator produces an abundance of intelligent, vocal individuals and minimizes the boredom factor in each one. It is amazing that, considering the number of individuals in the extended Conrad clan, there is not a criminal, a misogynist, or even a "boring old fart" in the bunch. If this system of "family" could be patented and sold to societies at large . well . the world would be a much better place. (If I write enough of this, perhaps your Conrad sense of modesty will not allow you to show the entire contents to anyone other than relatives).
A necessary note ... There has been a bit of concern expressed at some of the "politically incorrect" references and terms that are found within Grandpa's spicy dialogues. The only way that I can respond to this is to emphasize that I much prefer truth and accuracy to "political correctness". I have attempted to present these episodes in a truthful and accurate fashion and have actually toned down some of the dialogues and left out certain incidents that some individuals might find personally offensive. Even if you are uncomfortable with some of the "spice" and references contained within Grandpa's eloquent verbal tirades, you have to admit, the quotes are accurate and, in many cases, essential to illustrate the absolute "take no prisoners" style of this amazing man. I always pitied the fool who mistook Grandpa's unique style for ignorance and felt that they could best a lawyer with a Doctorate of Juris Prudence from Harvard. They always played right into his hands. There was no way to beat the man in an arguement. If you were lucky, and diplomatic enough, to suggest taking a break to go get some of the Colonel's chicken, you may have had the good fortune of obtaining a truce. Grandpa would not apologize for one word contained within this collection and I am not about to be arrogant enough to apologize for him or to edit or censor his brilliant, hilarious and unique way of verbally punctuating his thoughts and opinions. One thing about Grandpa, whether you agreed with him or not ... you were certain to remember what he said. He was definitely a genius in that regard. I feel that, since he is providing a large part of the inspiration for this work, it is only fair that I present him exactly as he wants to be presented. If anyone else feels that they have been personally misrepresented or slighted in any way, please let me know and I will be happy to amend whatever reference or quote is of concern.
Of course, this entire work is a Conrad-style tribute to Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa, who provided so many brilliant exclamation points in the narrative ... and Grandma, who provided the conceptual anchor to keep the whole boat from capsizing in a sea of exclamation points. We owe much of what we are today to them and their active part in our upbringing. I, for one, am very grateful.
|Calamity Jane and the Cyclone||
|Give Me A Tank of That Hot Rod Gas||
|Which Dressing Do You Want, Christmas or Thanksgiving?||
|Reagan Does NOT Dye His Hair! ... I Got Up There and Smelled It!||
|T.C. vs McGovern on "Meet the Press"||
|Are You Saying That I'm a Fool ... In Front of Him?||
|Let's Go Mine Some Rubies||
|Mrs. Floyd ... Can You Hear Me With Your Good Ear?||
|Sir, We Can't Have Your Type On Our Gooney Golf Course||
|Grandpa's Presidential Heritage||
|Didn't I Always Tell You That He Was Half Woman?||
|The Gene Anderson Tirade||
|JUMP IN! JUMP IN!||
|Let's Go Pier Fishing! (February.. 32 degrees)||
|Why Don't You Jump Out ... Like Last Time?||
|Drag Racing In Kansas||
|Well, WHAT HAPPENED ? !!!||
|The Poisonous Orange Soda||
|Sodas Are the Ruination of the Damn Country!||
|Virginia Left Behind on the Family Trip||
|Ted, Stop This Car! ... The Child's Bladder Could Explode!||
|What's the Matter With the Air Conditioning?||
|Don't Go In the Shed! Don't Even Go Near It!||
|I Only Agreed to Live in This House So That You Could Catch the Bus||
|Where Do We Get Our Picture Made?||
|If You Can Smoke That Cigar, I Can Roll My Window Up and Down||
|Too Much Crap! Just Too Much Crap!||
|Yes, ... I've Got the Character (Grandpa's Press Conference)||
|Public Service Gas Orders the Evacuation of 4615 Walker Road||
|The Dead Skunk Remains In the Wheel well of Grandpa's Car||
|One Last Order ... A Bucket of Water for my Car||
|Why Does Grandma Have to Turn the Thermostat Up to 95 Degrees?||
|The Atomic Television and the Heavy Water Bath Tub||
|Grandma (aka "Ma Gilby") on the Carleton Rifle Team||
|Grandma, the Avid Rasslin' Fan||
|Grandma's Spanish Heritage||
|December 24th ... 9:00 P.M. ... Time to Go Get the Christmas Tree||
|Why Did You Buy This Damned Expensive Cheese?||
|What Did You Do With My Egg Roll?||
|Here, Eat These Cherries ... You Know You Like Cherries!||
|If God Wants Those Bugs to Live, He Better Get 'Em the Hell Off My Tomatoes!||
|Call Poison Control Again! (The Chicken Manure Incident)||
|The Mystery of the Black Foot Prints||
|Too Late Jason, Get the Mop!||
|The Poseyville Reunion||
|You're Nothing But A Jackleg!||
|He Who Works, Eats!||
|Grandma Takes Me to the X-Rated Movie||
|Mr. Conrad, Don't You Think You Ought to Put Some Pants On?||
|It's Grandma's Birthday ... Let's Go to the Ho-Toy||
|I Blew Up So Big That I Had To Take My Girdle Off !||
|Grandma Takes Up Gardening||
|Well ... Whatya Doin' In There||
|Grandpa, We Want a Cookie!||
|Dana Calls Foreign Lands||
|Ted Fixes the Car in Columbia ... Wearing Only a Trash Bag||
|The Wino Party in Grandma's Car||
Grandpa's quotes are always in red
Grandma's quotes are always in blue
External Reference Links are always in green
Calamity Jane and the Cyclone
The storm was worsening as Grandpa sped down the Kansas highway at 80 miles per hour. Grandpa did like those Kansas highways with their 90 mph speed limits and their wide shoulders that allowed him to pass in heavy traffic without killing other drivers (instead of a head on collision, the oncoming driver could spare his own life by simply taking advantage of the "extra lane" that the wide, flat shoulder provided). He was becoming more and more upset at his inability to drive faster than the posted limit because of the ferocity of the thunderstorm that engulfed us. The torrents of rain and hail that pelted the car only added to the excitement of being on one of Grandpa's open highway speed runs. Grandpa, ever the optimist, found the silver lining in the ever darkening cloud ... Because of other driver's inability to navigate the violent weather at any speed, he proudly proclaimed that, "Now we will make good time since everyone else has pulled off the road".
As we blindly hurtled down the road, Grandma was quite insistent that we use our better judgment and stop. Her argument seemed quite logical. She reasoned that it was better to take a rest until the deluge subsided enough to allow visibility of at least 10 feet in front of the car. Even though this suggestion greatly annoyed Grandpa, he could not resort to his usual response of reckless acceleration. Frustration was beginning to set in as the violent storm and Grandma conspired to reduce Grandpa's considerable daily mileage figure.
Through the pounding rain we begin to observe the strange behavior of the timid motorists that lacked Grandpa's backbone in dealing with so called "killer" storms. Not only had they surrendered to the considerable elements and pulled off the road, but also now many of them were taking refuge in ditches and depressions. We found this behavior odd and decided to turn on the radio. A special emergency broadcast exhorted all residents in our area to take immediate shelter. A killer tornado had touched down and was headed our way. This was of no concern to Grandpa who proclaimed that he had been raised in the Midwest and thus had much experience with "cyclones". I found this slightly reassuring, that is, until I looked out the car window and observed the massive funnel that was churning up everything in its path. By my observation, it appeared that we were on a dead collision course with the twister and that the point of junction would occur about 2 miles down the highway. I pleaded with Grandpa to pull off the road, but he again reminded Grandma and myself of his midwestern roots and vast experience with "cyclones". We were making good time in our appointment with destiny.
Grandma went into disaster control mode and began emergency preparations. She grabbed a small blanket, which she threw to me. She then screamed for me to "get under it" in the back seat of the car. Although I was young and inexperienced, I failed to see what kind of protection this would offer in the face of 300 mile per hour winds. Grandma's latest outburst proved too much for Grandpa's patience and he launched into a tirade that rivaled the fury of the funnel that we were charging headlong towards. "Calamity, Calamity, Calamity, All you are is a Calamity Jane!" he bellowed at Grandma. The creative nature, inherent logic, and volume of his spontaneous proclamation appeared to please him greatly. Grandma attempted to logically present the negative aspects of attempting to drive directly through a large Midwestern tornado but Grandpa now had his trump card to use in the ongoing debate, He would simply yell his "Calamity Jane" proclamation every time that Grandma dared open her mouth and each time he would increase the volume exponentially, thus completely drowning out every utterance that she attempted to make. Having effectively squelched Grandma's pleas, we rapidly neared the point of junction. I couldn't help but wonder what the other motorists thought of the incredible display of raw temerity exhibited by the driver of the Buick Electra that, by all appearances, appeared to accelerate in its obsessive mission to explore the internal structure of the massive vortex that was bearing down on a hopping collision course from the north. The funnel was now dangerously close and our demise seemed imminent. I only hoped that Grandpa was planning to stop at the immediate edge of the massive funnel. We could then have the rare experience of observing the "monster" from a safe distance of ... say ... 10 or 20 feet. I found it disconcerting that Grandpa was not slowing down and appeared to be oblivious to everything except the creation of more insulting and louder intonations of his "Calamity Jane" statement as we sped on toward certain death. I watched in terror as the massive funnel prepared to engulf the car from the passenger side. Then ... It was gone.
There was a massive gust of wind and Grandpa held the car in the lane by means of sheer driving prowess. Where had such a massive structure gone? Surely it couldn't have just disappeared. I looked out the other back seat window and, to my amazement, there it was, on the other side of the car, at a safe distance and, astoundingly, moving away from us. The cyclone had evidently leap-frogged the car. Having been proven correct, Grandpa was in full glory and at full volume. After several more "Calamity Jane" choruses, Grandpa proudly summed up the entire experience, "See, didn't I tell you I knew about Cyclones?" he loudly proclaimed in his usual, unconcerned, matter of fact manner.
Give Me A Tank of That Hot Rod Gas
Probably one of the contributing factors to our survival of the Cyclone was the fact that Grandpa had filled up the Buick Electra with gasoline that could probably have qualified as aviation fuel. We pulled into a Sunoco filling station on the road through Kansas and the pumps were of the variety that allowed one to pick a fuel grade from semi-kerosene to rocket fuel. I found these tanks fascinating and asked the attendant about the merits of the top grade which happened to be Sunoco 260 (premium grade was only about 220). The attendant replied that the Sunoco 260 grade was not for normal autos and was only used by drag racers and hot rods. Grandpa, upon hearing this, and considering the brushes with death that we were having in the Kansas passing lanes, was taking no chances. "THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I WANT", he exclaimed to the puzzled attendant, "GIVE ME A TANK OF THAT HOT ROD GAS!"
Which Dressing Do You Want, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
It was Christmas time again at 201 South Laurel. Of course, all the extended family had gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's house for the wonderful Christmas feast and festivities. Grandma and all the women were busy in the kitchen preparing the magnificent spread of food while the men argued politics and watched the football games. For such feasts, Grandma was blessed in having the luxury of a double oven for the preparation of the many courses and casseroles that comprised the Christmas dinner. Little did anyone realize the bizarre episode that this double oven arrangement would lead to on this particular occasion.
Minette was busy shifting the prepared dishes to the oven that was reserved for keeping the food warm until it was time for serving. As she shifted the prepared food to the warming oven she also tasted the various courses to insure that the food was fully cooked and properly seasoned. Evidently, on this occasion, she was quite fond of a particular batch of turkey dressing that had already been placed in the second oven before her arrival and had already eaten a bowl of the dressing. She remarked to Grandma how well this particular batch of dressing had turned out. Grandma inquired as to which batch of turkey dressing she was referring to and Minette replied that it was the batch that someone had placed in the oven earlier. Little did she know just how much earlier that particular batch had been placed there. "OH, DON'T EAT THAT!" Grandma replied in a quite alarmed tone of voice, "THAT DRESSING HAS BEEN IN THERE EVER SINCE THANKSGIVING!"
Commotions were quite a common sideline at these types of events so little note was made of Minette's mad sprint to the bathroom. Only when a long line of fidgeting unhappy toddlers began to form at the bathroom door, loudly vocalizing their need to have access to the facilities, did someone decide to get to the bottom of things in order that some semblance of peace might be restored. I asked "Little" Lou (who at the time was about 5 years old) just what the commotion was all about. He replied, "Mommy has been in the bathroom for a long time and all of us have to go!" At that point all the other toddlers in the line chimed in and shouted, "Hurry up, we have to go soon!" A reply came from the other side pleasantly responding, "Don't worry, I'll be out in just a minute". This seemed to reassure no one and, for a moment, I considered suggesting that the group use the upstairs facilities. Then I remembered that those facilities were off limits to everyone ever since the time, many years back, when Grandma had witnessed two beady eyes peering at her through the shower drain. When the exterminators were not able to identify the notorious intruder, a strict quarantine had been placed on the upstairs bathroom and it remained pristine and unused from that point on.
Just as the situation was reaching a meltdown stage, the door opened and Minette made another hurried dash to the telephone. All of us who had been in the front room now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something quite unusual (even for 201 South Laurel) was in the works. We all anxiously listened to Minette's telephone dialogue. "Hello, poison control center, my name is Minette Trosch and I just ate some Thanksgiving dressing for Christmas. Can you tell me what will happen to me?" After a short response from the poison control center, Minette placed the phone down. Her puzzled expression and the nature of her dialogue had put everyone into quite an inquisitive state and I believe that it was Grandpa who asked, "Well, what did they say?" Minette replied hysterically, "They said that I would either die in 15 minutes or that I would live forever." Obviously the poison control center had quite a sense of humor when it came to Christmas "prank telephone calls". After this initial exchange somone else (I believe it was Lou or Ted) got on the phone and convinced the person at poison control that the call was serious and not a prank. This proved to be of little help as the person at poison control immediately switched their focus to the hygenic state of the family's residence and began asking if the house had a lot of vermin and roaches running around in it. The poison control employee had deduced that if this indeed was not a prank call that the call must be coming from a family living in some unhealthy dwelling in the slums and was probably about to send a health inspector out to see if the residence needed to be condemned. At this point somebody suggested calling the family doctor since he would find nothing unusual about this type of inquiry from the Conrad household and could address the issue in a routine manner.
The family doctor was then roused from his Christmas dinner and advised of the circumstances of the situation. After it had been determined that the dressing had been "regular" as opposed to "oyster" he stated his opinion that Minette would be fine. Greatly relieved, we all filed into the dining room for the feast. Uncle Ted continually punctuated the occasion with the obvious question, "Which dressing does everybody want ... Christmas or Thanksgiving?"
Reagan Does NOT Dye His Hair! ... I Got Up There and Smelled It!
To say that Grandpa was a Ronald Reagan supporter is to put it mildly. According to Grandpa, Reagan was "even up there with Teddy Roosevelt". He saved the country and anybody who did not recognize this was obviously not playing with a full deck. If one ever dared an opinion that Reagan had ever done anything wrong in his life, one could expect a special torrent of caustic abuse only reserved for those who were hopeless idiots. This operational procedure even extended to Reagan's physical appearance, especially on the subject of hair dye.
To offer the opinion that, perhaps, Reagan may have used a bit of hair dye was unthinkable if one was in Grandpa's presence. Nothing so inflamed Grandpa's anger as the ludicrous notion that Ronald Reagan may have used a bit of coloring rinse to cover graying hair. Personally, I had never seen hair that resembled the shade and tint of Reagan's but I had to tiptoe gently on the subject while in Grandpa's presence. I finally came up with a compromise that both of us could live with ... namely, that Reagan did not dye his hair, that the color of Reagan's hair was the shade of color that one's hair turned AFTER it had turned gray. For some reason Grandpa would not think too much less of me for venturing this opinion. Others who went so far as to actually suggest that any coloring was used at all did so at their own risk.
As far as I knew, most people simply assumed that Reagan's "chocolate kiss" hair color was the result of a rinse. At the Conrad house this opinion was put forward by a few brave souls in an attempt to egg Grandpa into putting on a highly agitated display of contempt. Although some of us enjoyed these tirades, no one felt that it would ever be possible to empirically prove one position or another. Grandpa soon was to prove them wrong however as he set about to solve this important matter once and for all.
Being involved in politics himself afforded Grandpa the opportunity to attend local fund raising events for the Republican party. Soon it was announced that President Reagan would be in attendance at a local dinner in the Charlotte area. Grandpa wasted no time in securing his place at the dinner and insuring his access to the President. The dinner was held and Grandpa wasted no time in making his way over to have a word with the President but his true objective was to lay any doubts or misconceptions to rest concerning the "dyed hair issue".
At the next extended family get together somebody once again brought up the subject of Reagan's hair. This time Grandpa was prepared to lay the issue to rest once and for all. "REAGAN DOES NOT DYE HIS HAIR! ... I got up there and smelled it." When pressed on the subject, he recanted that he had made his way over to the President, stuck his nose in his hair, took a big whiff, and detected no odors of ammonia or chemicals. It turned out, according to eyewitness accounts, that this is exactly what he did.
T.C. vs McGovern on "Meet the Press"
(Remember to Click On the Green External Link to Learn More About Jim Holshouser)
Are You Saying That I'm a Fool ... In Front of Him?
Grandpa (as everyone knows) still carried his farming roots with him, even after becoming a highly successful accountant and attorney. This manifested itself primarily in his love of growing tomatoes. Now Grandpa was very proud of his prized tomatoes and spent a lot of time in his garden out back caring for his beloved plants.
One Sunday, after returning from church services, Grandpa decided to prune his plants as Grandma and myself went into the house to begin preparing Sunday lunch. Now, because of recent downpours, the tomato garden had become quite muddy but Grandpa did not seem to notice this as he worked away on his plants. Finally he finished up and came into the house and headed back into the bedroom to change out of his Sunday clothes. Before he could change though, he began an incredible, high volume tirade and demanded that Grandma and I come back to the back hall and account for the tremendous volume of mud that now appeared all over the white carpet. When we arrived, he was in the process of walking up and down the hall with a paper towel, wiping up the numerous muddy prints and swearing loudly concerning Grandma's and my carelessness in tracking mud all over the house. He then loudly demanded to see the soles of our shoes in order to prove to us that we were the culprits in this serious matter. As we presented our shoes for his inspection, we were quite relieved to see that the soles of our shoes were spotless. Grandpa simply claimed that the mud must have all already come off on the carpet and emphasized the need for more care on our part in the future. This, of course, was all done very loudly and very emphatically. As we turned to head back to the kitchen, Grandpa let out a loud expletive and demanded that we take our shoes off. At the very places that he had just wiped up, there were numerous fresh, muddy tracks. This was incredible, that in the face of his stern lecture, we still had the audacity to continue laying down fresh muddy shoe prints. At this point, Grandma and I happened to notice the copious amount of fresh, red mud that was plastered all over Grandpa's shoes, but, in the face of such an intense and emphatic tirade, we decided that it was best to remain silent.
Grandpa was now furious, leveling terrible accusations concerning our carelessness and inconsideration as he walked up and down the hall wiping up the new tracks that were appearing everywhere. He did not seem to notice that Grandma and I were standing in one spot while these new tracks mysteriously appeared all over the hallway carpet. He got progressively louder and more emphatic about our inconsideration until, at long last, Grandma could take no more of this loud verbal abuse. "Ted, I believe that you may have a bit of mud on YOUR shoes", she said diplomatically all the while noticing Grandpa's mud caked shoes. Grandpa never even glanced down at his own shoes. He simply gave Grandma an incredulous, disgusted look and began shouting at the top of his lungs. "ARE YOU SAYING THAT I AM A FOOL? ... IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY? ... IN FRONT OF HIM? ... IN FRONT OF HIM?", he demanded angrily pointing at me. "IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY? ... IS THAT JUST WHAT YOU ARE SAYING? ... IN FRONT OF HIM? ... IN FRONT OF HIM?", he demanded more loudly and angrily. There was no use for Grandma to even try to respond to this barrage. It was obvious that any opinion that she attempted to put forward would be immediately shouted down before she could even get the words out of her mouth.
Let's Go Mine Some Rubies
Once, while I was staying at Grandma and Grandpa's house, Grandma heard news of a ruby mine up in the mountains at Spruce Pine where someone had found a valuable gemstone while touring the site. Plans were immediately decided upon ... Grandma, Grandpa, and myself would drive up to this mountain mine and find ourselves some valuable rubies. We took off to the mountains one morning, eagerly anticipating finding a cache of valuable gemstones. Grandma had a map and directions and after a couple hours of exciting driving, we felt that we had to be somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the mine. We continually drove around for over an hour looking for a mine, or at least a cave, to hunt for our treasure. All we saw was a vast expansive gravel pit with no redeeming features. No matter what road we took, we kept coming back to this desolate gravel pit which must have covered several hundred acres. Finally, we decided to flag down a rare passing local and ask directions to the gemstone mine. When we inquired as to the location of the mine, the amused local stated, "Well, that's it right there", and pointed to the immense expanse of what appeared to be waste gravel. Whether this was the truth or not, I have never been able to decide. Perhaps this yokel was just having a bit of fun with some city slickers. Nevertheless, we took our bucket and shovel and began to poke around in the gravel. After several hours of this frustrating endeavor we decided to pack up our bucket and shovel and return to Charlotte with a few ordinary, but shiny pieces of mica that we had managed to find by the roadside.
Mrs. Floyd ... Can You Hear Me With Your Good Ear?
Once while staying in Charlotte, I was in the upstairs bedroom with Doris. We were working on some sort of picture book and pasting pictures in the book when Doris came up with a novel plan for me to earn some money. At the time there was an elderly lady living next to the Conrad house. Her name was Mrs. Floyd and besides being a bit eccentric, it was said that she was unable to hear in one ear.
Doris' plan went as follows, she would pay me a penny every time that I put my head out the side window and yelled at the top of my lungs, "MRS. FLOYD, CAN YOU HEAR ME WITH YOUR GOOD EAR?". This sounded like very easy money to me so I sat there at midnight yelling this question to Mrs. Floyd at the top of my lungs for a good while. I don't recall why this did not arouse attention in the Conrad household but I often wondered what the neighbors thought of this incredible midnight spectacle.
Sir, We Can't Have Your Type On Our Gooney Golf Course
Grandpa's Presidential Heritage
A little known fact, discovered by Grandpa on a trip to Mount Vernon in Virginia, was his direct descendancy from George Washington, albeit by adoption. My family was visiting Grandma and Grandpa shortly after their return from the trip and Grandpa just could not wait to tell us all the good news that he had researched the matter and found that he was the great great great grandson of the father of our country. The discovery was quite unexpected and came about through a very unusual chance observation in the graveyard at Mount Vernon.
While viewing the old graves in the Mount Vernon Cemetery, Grandpa happened to notice that the name of Charles Conrod was on one of the tombstones. Of course, he had to inquire further into this matter and found out that Charles Conrod had been a stowaway on a colonial ship from Germany in the 18th century. Arriving at the age of 13, Charles Conrod eventually was adopted by the Washington family. Now this set of circumstances prompted Grandpa to remember that, as a young boy, one of his ancestors had told him that one of his forefathers had come over to America as a stowaway in the middle of the 18th century. Grandpa also remembered that in the distant past some of his ancestors had spelled the family name as Conrod. Thus it was plain to see that Grandpa was, by adoption, the great, great, great grandson of George Washington. What could be more obvious? When Grandma attempted to question this conclusion, she was pointedly reminded of the low spanish gypsy stock from which Grandpa claimed that she was descended, in contrast to his own, now presidential, roots.
Didn't I Always Tell You That He Was Half Woman?
(Remember to Click On the Green External Link to Learn More About Jim Holshouser)
The Gene Anderson Tirade
One of the most notorious characters of the Holshouser administration was the Governor's "Special Assistant" and chief political hack, Gene Anderson. Now Mr. Anderson definitely held one of the top positions on Grandpa's "most despicable humans" list and the mere mention of his name would be sure to produce a tirade of abusive scorn, oftentimes lasting for hours on end. One particular Sunday afternoon I wanted to test out a new cassette tape recorder that I had recently obtained. I decided that I would record one of Grandpa's political tirades. I was sure that bringing up the subject of Gene Anderson would spark such an outburst so I ventured an opinion concerning the Governor's aide. This resulted in a ballistic outburst of such duration that I filled up two hours of tape. After several hours of constant loud abusive scorn heaped on Mr. Anderson, I ran out of tape (much to my dismay, because Grandpa was only warming up). Grandma and I sat through several more hours of machine gun insults that became more and more pointed and personal by the minute. After at least 4 hours of non-stop tirades, Grandma could keep silent no longer. She offered a pointed challenge to Grandpa. "Do you think that somewhere, deep down inside of him, there might just be ONE SPECK of good in the man?" Grandpa looked absolutely astounded that someone might even suggest such a ridiculous idea and flew into a rage of epic proportions. "WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY? ... JUST WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?", he repeatedly yelled at Grandma. "NO, THERE IS NOT A SPECK OF GOOD IN HIM! ... THERE IS NOT A SPECK OF GOOD IN THE MAN ! BUT YOU LOVE HIM !" Every time that Grandma even opened her mouth to try to reply, Grandpa simply shouted over and over, "YOU LOVE HIM ! ... YOU LOVE HIM !" This went on for a while and Grandma had to resign herself to silence considering Grandpa's incredible lung power and volume. Grandpa was now thoroughly primed and even followed Grandma around the kitchen and family room shouting, "OH, SO YOU WANT TO BE SO CUTE ABOUT IT ... I GUESS YOU THINK HE IS JUST WONDERFUL ... YOUR GRANDMA THINKS THE MAN IS WONDERFUL ! SHE LOVES HIM !". I was forced to retire to the bedroom, sore from laughing so hard, and Grandma had to endure the rest of the tirade on her own.
JUMP IN! JUMP IN!
Let's Go Pier Fishing! (February.. 32 degrees)
Another incident that occurred on the infamous "February Beach Trip" was the pier fishing episode. As soon as we arrived at the beach on Friday, Grandpa immediately took off for the pier. He soon returned and announced that he had bought 5 weekend passes for the fishing pier (for himself, Grandma, Jennifer, Joel, and myself). Needless to say, Grandma and Jennifer were not very enthusiastic. There was a very cold northeast wind, the temperature was hovering around 32 degrees, all the fish had taken refuge 30 miles offshore in the warm waters of the gulf stream and the only people on the pier would certainly be the inebriated homeless who had no where else to go. This did not deter Grandpa in the least. He had just spent $15.00 on weekend pier passes and every moment that we were not on the pier was wasting his money! He told us to throw together all the blankets that we had and to get ready to go. He was going to warm up the car and would wait for us. We needed to hurry because we were wasting money every second that we dilly-dallied around in the warm condominium. Grandma had to quickly come up with one of her famous emergency strategies. She lay back on the stairs and claimed that she was very sick. She even weakly told me that, "I know I get sick a lot, but this time I don't know if I'm going to make it." Surely the threat of death would bring a halt to the rude pier misadventure. Actually this did not deter Grandpa in the least. He simply bellowed, "COME ON, LET'S GO! ... THE FRESH AIR WILL DO YOU GOOD!".
As Grandma was fading fast on the stairwell, she implied that she might need to visit the hospital instead of the pier but this was all in vain as Grandpa would hear nothing of it. "LET'S GO! ... LET'S GO! ... LET'S GO TO THE PIER!" he insisted and eventually Grandma had no choice but to grab a few blankets and join in the excursion. After sitting out all night, huddled in blankets and shivering, the howling northeast wind and freezing ocean spray in our faces, we left the pier with no fish to show for our brave efforts. Actually no fish had been caught on the pier that night by anyone but this, in no way, discouraged Grandpa. After a brief sleep we awoke and immediately had to head out to the pier again. Grandpa was not about to waste one penny of the money that he had spent on those weekend passes!
Why Don't You Jump Out ... Like Last Time?
Drag Racing In Kansas
One of the most exciting rides of my life was experienced on a Kansas highway during my 1967 trip with Grandma and Grandpa to Denver, Colorado. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. It was one of those days that Grandpa was sure he could cover 850 miles before we stopped somewhere late that night. Traffic was light and we pulled out of the Holiday Inn and headed out on the road. The speed limit was 90 miles per hour and Grandpa was doing somewhat better than that (as was his custom). We approached a car from the rear that must have been doing 50 miles per hour ... No problem; Grandpa just pulled out in the passing lane to go around the "slowpoke". To our surprise, the "slowpoke" gunned his car and speeded up to over 100 miles per hour. Grandpa was not able to pass him and pulled in behind, all the while leveling a torrent of abuse and obscenities at this "wise ass". The "wise ass" slowed down to about 50 miles per hour and because of the oncoming cars, Grandpa had to stay behind, at 40 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit. As soon as the oncoming cars passed us, Grandpa pulled out in the passing lane and gunned the Buick Electra. The "wise ass" gunned his car as well and we were neck and neck at 120 miles per hour for about 2 miles. Then more oncoming cars forced Grandpa to pull back in behind and the "wise ass" slowed back down to about 50 mph again.
I do not ever recall seeing Grandpa as mad or Grandma as hysterical as they both were at that moment. Grandpa was screaming at the "wise ass" (actually the names he was using by then are unprintable) and Grandma was pleading for her life. After several of these passing episodes Grandpa had had enough! He pulled into the left lane and put the Electra's accelerator to the floor. The "wise ass" responded likewise and we were off. The Buick was roaring on all eight cylinders and a tank of Sunoco 260 gasoline but the race was very tight. Grandpa and the "wise ass" were neck and neck for miles, Grandma screaming all the while about death and carnage and state patrolmen. Top speed was over 120 mph when the Electra appeared to be edging slightly ahead. Grandpa was going to win the "race"! There was only one problem, the oncoming driver. Grandpa was not about to lose this hard fought battle simply because some unfortunate driver happened to be in the other lane. Grandpa never even blinked as this poor soul took to the shoulder of the road in order to avoid a head on collision with a Buick Electra doing over 120 mph. Grandpa drove on as if he never noticed running the other car off the road. He was starting to pull out ahead. As soon as the "wise ass" realized that he was about to lose the race and deduced the kind of hard core, high speed, passing demon that he was dealing with in Grandpa, he promptly took an exit ramp, all the while shaking his fist at Grandpa who was yelling obscenities back at the man. With the victory in hand, Grandpa drove triumphantly down the road toward Denver.
Well, WHAT HAPPENED ? !!!
Then there was the infamous King's Mountain picnic and hiking excursion. As recanted by Joel and "Little" Lou, Grandma and Grandpa had decided to take them on a day trip to King's Mountain, NC. A picnic had been prepared and it had been decided to go to the park and let Joel and Lou take a short hike to the top of the mountain. After their arrival at King's Mountain, Joel, and Lou started off on their "short" hike to the top of the mountain. Somehow in the middle of the hike they became disoriented and lost their way. Finding themselves lost in the woods on the mountain, they decided to hike to the highest observable ridge (a considerable distance off) and see if they could spot a familiar landmark. After hiking for about an hour they finally arrived at the ridge and climbed it to see if they could spot any sign of humanity. As they peered out over the landscape they realized that they were far from any civilization and hopelessly lost. They were also certain that there were no other humans within miles of their position and it was probable that Grandma already had the park rangers hunting for them. The summer day was very hot and finding themselves very thirsty, they set off randomly seeking some outpost of civilization.
To their utter amazement as they hiked down the ridge, they spotted Grandpa, with his shirt off, hiking determinedly toward them from the next ridge. As he walked up to them out of nowhere he loudly demanded an explanation ... the interrogation, as they recall, went something like this ... "WELL, WHAT HAPPENED? !!!" ... well, we got lost and ... "WELL, WHAT HAPPENED !!!" ... well, we were walking and then ... "WELL, WHAT HAPPENED !!!" ... well, we were just ... "WELL, WHAT HAPPENED !!!"
When it became obvious that they were not going to get a reply in edgewise, and realizing that they had a long trek back to the car, they decided to remain silent and begin the long hike back to Grandma and civilization.
The Poisonous Orange Soda
(note . there are two variations on this story . both are presented here)
The Poisonous Orange Soda (version 1)
After Grandpa, Joel and Lou finally finished the long trek across King's Mountain back to civilization and Grandma, it was decided that the first order of business was to get some refreshments, since everybody was in somewhat of a dehydrated condition after the extended hike in the hot summer sun. Grandma soon sighted a service station and Grandpa pulled in and purchased four large orange sodas for everyone to quench their thirst with. As he was handing everyone their drink, Grandma observed that one of the sodas had a bit of a redder hue to it than the other three. Ever alert to the dangers of poisoning, she exclaimed, "Don't drink them ... they're poison!" Grandpa, still sweating from his long hike to find Joel and Lou, countered with a direct order to Joel and Lou to .. "DRINK 'EM ... DRINK 'EM RIGHT NOW!". Grandma was not about to yield in a case of potential poisoning. She insisted once again that nobody drink a drop of poisoned orange soda. Grandpa once again countered with an order to drink them immediately but Grandma was not about to back down. The argument went back and forth for a short while until Grandpa, now thoroughly fed up and very thirsty, snatched up all four bottles of orange soda and, turning them straight up, guzzled all four of them in succession, hardly taking a breath in between. Upon finishing all four bottles in record time, he exclaimed, "SEE ... NOTHING THE MATTER WITH 'EM!". Grandpa then demanded that everyone get back in the car and continue on ... Grandma, Joel, and Lou would just have to wait until later to quench their thirst.
The Poisonous Orange Soda (version 2)
After Grandpa, Joel and Lou finally finished the long trek across King's Mountain back to civilization and Grandma, it was decided that the first order of business was to get some refreshments, since everybody was in somewhat of a dehydrated condition after the extended hike in the hot summer sun. Grandma soon sighted a service station and Grandpa pulled in and purchased four large orange sodas for everyone to quench their thirst with. As he was handing everyone their drink, everyone noticed that one of the sodas was a sickening brown color with some sort of material floating around in it. Ever alert to the dangers of poisoning, Grandma exclaimed, "Don't drink 'em! ... they may all be poisonous!" Grandpa, still sweating from his long hike to find Joel and Lou, countered with a direct order to Joel and Lou to .. "DRINK 'EM ... DRINK 'EM RIGHT NOW!". Grandma was not about to yield in a case of potential poisoning. She insisted once again that nobody drink a drop of any of the sodas since the whole batch might be poisonous . Grandpa once again countered with an order to drink them immediately but Grandma was not about to back down. The argument went back and forth for a short while until Grandpa, now thoroughly fed up and very thirsty, grabbed the foul and tainted bottle and, turning it straight up, guzzled it in record time. He then triumphantly exclaimed, "SEE ... NOTHING'S THE MATTER WITH IT!". Grandpa then demanded that everyone get back in the car and continue on.
Sodas Are the Ruination of the Damn Country!
Although it was not widely known, Grandpa had very strong feelings about carbonated drinks. Once at 201 South Laurel while carrying in a case of sodas under each arm, he was heard, loudly expressing his sincere opinion that "SODAS ARE THE RUINATION OF THE DAMN COUNTRY!"
Virginia Left Behind on the Family Trip
One of the most unusual stories involving a Conrad family trip was the incident that I heard about often when I was young and visiting Grandma and Grandpa. It concerned Virginia being left behind while playing in the yard and not missed until the entire family was many miles down the road. Although the whole episode sounds incredible, I have heard every member of the family verify it at one time or another.
It seems that the Conrads were leaving on a trip and Virginia was out in the yard. From what I have gathered, Virginia was very young at the time. It seems that the family piled in the car and headed out on the road. After leaving the house and driving for a good distance somebody asked, "Where's Virginia?" Nobody had a clue. After turning around and driving all the way back home, they found Virginia, still out in the yard and quite bewildered.
Ted, Stop This Car! ... The Child's Bladder Could Explode!
On another occasion, Jennifer and I were riding from Raleigh to Charlotte with Grandma and Grandpa. Jennifer (about 8 years of age at the time) asked if we could stop somewhere in order for her to use the rest room. Grandpa stated that we would stop when we needed more gas and thus we would not have to waste a stop. At this point the car's tank was about half full. As time wore on Jennifer politely insisted that we really needed to stop. Grandpa would hear nothing of it. This went on for an extended period of time and Jennifer was starting to show signs of physical discomfort ... the car's gas tank was still about one quarter full. Jennifer began to become insistent but Grandpa would hear nothing of it until we needed to stop for gas. Finally Grandma screamed at the top of her lungs ... "TED, STOP THIS CAR! ... THE CHILD'S BLADDER COULD EXPLODE!". I don't remember whether we stopped or not but I do remember pondering anxiously exactly what the medical implications would be if my sister's bladder exploded. It sounded like a life or death situation and I was quite alarmed to say the least ... I assumed that Jennifer's life was flashing before her.
What's the Matter With the Air Conditioning?
It was one of those sweltering summers in Charlotte and some of the Conrad clan had gathered for an afternoon lunch at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I can't recall exactly who was in attendance but I remember that we were having a game of tag football in the backyard when Grandpa came storming out of the house in a very agitated state. Sweating profusely, he was making various obscene remarks concerning the air conditioning unit located in the crawl space under the house. It turned out that the inside temperature of the house was even hotter than the sweltering temperature outside. Grandpa was determined to do something about this but first the unit had to be accessed. We all gathered around as he opened the crawl space door, eager to see Grandpa make his way under the house. We had never witnessed anyone brave the mud and mire of that crawl space and we all definitely wanted to see how Grandpa was going to get to that unit. I believe that Grandpa set out with the intention of fixing the unit himself but the sight that greeted him upon opening the door caused him to have second thoughts about doing the job himself. In the dark recess under the house the mud was over a foot deep from recent rains. The entire space was totally dark and filled with spider webs. Creepy crawler creatures scurried too and fro, disturbed by the sunlight that suddenly invaded their dark domain. It was not possible to actually see the air conditioning unit from the crawl space door and God only knows who would have ventured into such a menacing environment. This dilemma did not stop Grandpa. It simply caused him to come up with a different plan of attack since he was not going to put up with tropical temperatures inside the house and he was also not quite up to the task of venturing into the dark abode himself.
"LOU, GET UNDER THERE AND FIND OUT WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE DAMN THING!" he ordered Little Lou (all of 5 years of age at the time). I quickly understood why he singled out Little Lou for this task. Taking into account that Little Lou was the youngest of everyone in attendance, it was obvious that he was the one who would be able to put up the least effective resistance to the plan. Familiarity with air conditioning units was obviously of no importance in this matter. Little Lou, however, managed to come up with an iron-clad excuse for not cooperating in this quest. He diplomatically reminded Grandpa that, "It's all dark and muddy under there and I'll get in trouble if I get my new pants muddy. Grandpa was not about to throw in the towel in a test of wills with a five year old and the house was not getting any cooler. He angrily stormed off into the house and reemerged with an old pair of his own pants. "Here, put these on and GET UNDER THERE!" he commanded Little Lou. Little Lou, bested by the experience of seniority, thus had no choice but to defer to Grandpa's plan and slipped into the adult pants which had to be at least 3 times larger than his proper size. Trailing about 2 feet of pants leg, he bravely crawled into the dark and menacing space under the house.
The air conditioning unit was all the way at the other end of the space and although his only source of illumination was a small penlight that someone had come up with, Little Lou's crawling pace was way too slow for Grandpa's liking. Grandpa was giving constant, loud commands as he slowly made his way into the dark unknown. "HURRY UP! HURRY UP!" Grandpa shouted into the dark recess. Little Lou's reply was not encouraging. "But Grandpa, it's all muddy and there are bugs everywhere", the faint reply came back from deep within the dark recess. "AWWW, GET UNDER THERE AND FIND OUT WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT!" Grandpa was obviously in no mood for dilly-dallying around. Little Lou soon reported back that he had located the defective unit and needed further trouble-shooting instructions. This further irritated Grandpa, who shouted back, "AHH HELL, WHAT DOES THE DAMN THING LOOK LIKE?" "Well it's made out of metal and there are a lot of big wires coming out of it." was the faint reply. Eventually the unit was replaced by a trained serviceman.
Don't Go In the Shed! Don't Even Go Near It!
One very strange thing that I recall about 201 South Laurel was the mystery of the forbidden shed. I don't recall any reason ever given for the standing order that no children were allowed to go near the old shed that sat at the back of the back yard. I remember that the old shed was where the really good toys, like bikes and sleds and carts, were kept. The only problem was that all that great stuff was strictly off limits. Somebody once told me that the ban was put into effect after Grandma once saw a green snake near the shed back in the early 50s. I have to admit that I did sneak back there, very carefully, once or twice to view all the fun toys that were kept back there.
I Only Agreed to Live in This House So That You Could Catch the Bus
I was never aware of the reasons that the Conrads decided to purchase the house on 201 South Laurel until Grandma, in the midst of a heated argument with Grandpa revealed her reason for living in the house. She stated emphatically for all to hear, that the only reason that she had ever agreed to live in the house on 201 South Laurel was so that Grandpa could catch the bus at the stop right in front of the house. The only thing that I found unusual was the fact that I had never seen, nor heard of, Grandpa ever riding the bus.
Where Do We Get Our Picture Made?
Another quite incredible episode took place during the infamous "February Beach Weekend" that Jennifer, Joel and I took with Grandma and Grandpa. After dinner on Friday night it was decided that we should stop by the Atlantic Beach Red and White grocery store in order to procure the necessary provisions for the weekend. Now Grandpa's affinity for pictures and portraits is well known, so it should come as a surprise to no one how delighted he was to see a sign in the front of the store saying "Free Family Portrait with Purchase of Over $50.00. Of course, in the early seventies, a $50.00 grocery purchase would most likely suffice a family of 10 for a week. Nevertheless, this did not discourage Grandpa one bit. He was determined to get that "free" portrait.
What followed was a "supermarket sweepstakes" of the first order. Never had such shopping been seen in Atlantic Beach at 10:00 PM on Friday night. Grandpa kept a running tally as we stuffed a large cart to the point of overflowing with every item that we could lay our hands on. It is difficult to remember all the individual items of this shopping spree but I do remember that we felt it was necessary to purchase 3 gallons of milk for the remaining one and a half days ... one regular, one chocolate, and one exotic variety.
When the tally reached $50.00 (probably to the penny), we made our way to the checkout stand. The person at the register seemed quite puzzled when we stated that we were at the beach for the weekend. Nevertheless, the purchase was tallied and the groceries were bagged. After the bill was paid, Grandpa asked the obvious question, "Where do we get our picture made?" (as if there was a photographer on 24 hour call at the store). His mood changed abruptly when the reply came back. "Well sir, the photographer is scheduled to be here sometime next month." Obviously extremely agitated, Grandpa replied in a very loud tone of voice, "WELL, WE AREN'T GOING TO BE HERE NEXT MONTH!"
I can't recall how this situation was resolved. I only remember that we left the store with a car full of groceries, no picture, and Grandma expounding on the foolish wastefulness of Grandpa buying $50.00 worth of groceries for a day and a half beach trip. Grandpa, not to be cast in such an unflattering light, quickly resolved this by stopping at the fishing pier on the way back and buying a large styrofoam cooler for another $20.00. He stated that he could then pack up the leftover groceries in the cooler and that he would take them back to Charlotte. In the meantime we could use the massive cooler to keep our 1 cup of shrimp cool on the pier (it should be noted that the outside temperature was about 32 degrees in the first place). This infallible logic was rendered inconsequential the following day when the lid to the cooler blew off the end of the pier and drifted out to sea. If I recall correctly, the vast majority of the groceries ended up being thrown in the trash before the trip home.
If You Can Smoke That Cigar, I Can Roll My Window Up and Down
Another mechanical problem with the Buick Centurion was discovered during the famous "February Beach Trip". The passenger side window, when rolled up or down, made the most horrid sounding glass grinding noise that has ever been heard. The effect of this loud noise was much akin to the effect of 10 sets of fingernails scratching on a dirty blackboard. Grandma had discovered this horrid sounding problem in the following way.
For some reason, on this trip Grandpa was smoking very obnoxiously smelling cigars continually. After a while Grandma politely requested that Grandpa refrain from smoking the cigars while we were all in a closed car. This "unreasonable" request sent Grandpa into an absolute tirade of the first magnitude. Instead of refraining from smoking, he began to puff as hard as he was able, thus filling the car with smoke until it was impossible to see one's hand in front of one's face. At this point Grandma decided to roll down her window and discovered the incredibly awful noise that could be produced. This annoyance caused Grandpa to puff even harder and Grandma responded by continually rolling the glass up and down. This abstract battle went on for about 20 seconds until Grandpa went into ballistic mode. "STOP IT! STOP IT! ... YOU'RE GONNA BREAK THE DAMN THING! ... DO YOU WANT TO BREAK IT? ... IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO?" He then wheeled the car off into a parking place and launched an absolutely incredible torrent of expletives at Grandma, who continued to roll the window up and down. She replied politely, "If you can smoke your cigar, then I can roll my window up and down." I can not recall if or how the situation was ultimately resolved.
Too Much Crap! Just Too Much Crap!
On the infamous "February Beach Trip" Grandpa finally hooked a small pinfish on Saturday. The only problem was that he did not know that he had a fish on the line and was oblivious to the fact that his line was moving up and down most of the length of the pier. As usually happens during such incidents, all of a sudden, everybody in the vicinity thought that they had finally hooked a fish and furiously set their hooks and reeled in their lines. When the lines finally came in, there was an incredible mass of spaghetti tangle with one little pinfish hanging from the bottom of the entire mess. Everybody's line on that side of the pier was involved but it was obvious that the cause for the massive tangle had been Grandpa's careless attitude about reeling in a small fish within 10 minutes of hooking it. Nevertheless, one brave soul, seeing Grandpa's fishing inexperience, offered to try to untangle the web of lines and begin to diligently work at the awesome task. When the problem had not been resolved and the lines not untangled within a time period of about 20 seconds, Grandpa, becoming ever more annoyed at his perceived lack of progress in the matter, could take no more. He slammed his (actually my) rod and reel down on the pier and stormed off down to the coffee house all the while yelling, "TOO MUCH CRAP! ... JUST TOO MUCH CRAP!!!"
Yes, ... I've Got the Character (Grandpa's Press Conference)
The year was 1968 and Grandpa had decided to run as a Republican candidate for State Auditor. He was quite annoyed at the fact that the sitting State Auditor was not even a Certified Public Accountant and he embarked on a personal campaign to rectify the situation. In order to run for any statewide office there was the small formality of registration and the payment of a filing fee at the Board of Elections in Raleigh. In order to comply with this requirement, Grandpa came to Raleigh, accompanied by Minette, and met my mother, who joined them for the trip downtown. I was allowed to accompany them on the excursion to the offices of the Board of Elections. At first I was very disappointed. There was no ceremony and the whole process took a total of only 5 minutes. Nobody could have predicted the incredible series of events that were to follow.
After the brief, uneventful filing, Grandpa, Minette, my mother and myself were on our way out of the Election Board offices when a member of the press jokingly asked Grandpa if he would like to have a press conference. In his typical, shoot from the hip, fashion, Grandpa replied that he certainly would. We were led into a conference room where members of the media from around the state had gathered with pens, pads, and television cameras. My disappointment quickly turned to excitement as the television lights were turned on and the cameras and tape recorders began to roll. Grandpa was seated at the main podium and I couldn't help but wonder why my mother and Minette were standing at the back of the room looking so unobtrusive. As the cameras rolled, Grandpa seized on the moment to deliver a series of blistering attacks on whatever individuals and institutions that came to mind.
The first target to catch his wrath was the sitting State Auditor, Edwin Gill. Grandpa stated that in contrast to his opponent, Mr. Gill, that he was an auditor for an auditor's job. Grandpa began to list his qualifications. Firstly, Grandpa was a Certified Public Accountant, secondly, he had the experience for the job. Most importantly, he had the character. For some unknown reason, at this point, Grandpa seemed to have second thoughts about whether he actually did have the character for the job. There was a long pause as he appeared to tally up his past experiences. As the cameras and tapes rolled on, Grandpa sat silently, pondering the character issue. Mother and Minette appeared horrified as the suspense continued to build. I was certain that I actually heard two sighs of relief from the very back of the room, when after much consideration and reconsideration, Grandpa finally concluded publicly that "Yes, I do have the character".
The next target of Grandpa's wrath was State Treasurer, Thad Eure. I found this quite puzzling at the time because I knew that Grandpa was running for State Auditor and Mr. Eure was not his opponent. As he proceeded though, he explained why Mr. Eure deserved his scorn. Grandpa stated that Mr. Eure had not filed his teachers reports on time. Then in a surprise move, he revealed the true target of his disgust as he stated that it was probably not Mr. Eure's fault because the state's teachers were so "damn careless". One of the reporters stated his opinion that Grandpa had just lost the teacher's vote but Grandpa countered the flawed logic of the reporter with the deduction that he didn't see why he had necessarily lost the teacher's vote because, as he put it, the teachers, themselves, knew how careless they were, thus implying that they couldn't hold it against him simply because he stated the obvious. Speculation existed for years afterwards, that this charge was a symbolic attack on Grandma since she was a member of the teaching profession. Grandma herself originally proposed this theory.
After a few more sharp, well directed attacks Grandpa concluded the news conference and we went back to the house. I was very disappointed when the news conference was not aired on the local television news but Mother and Minette seemed very pleased and relieved that media coverage of the event had been minimal.
Public Service Gas Orders the Evacuation of 4615 Walker Road
It was a very cold winter and the family had gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's house for one of Grandma's delicious lamb dinners. At some point Grandma noticed a noise coming from under the house that she felt certain was coming from the furnace. Although no one else could hear this noise, Grandma's keen sense of hearing alerted her to the prospect of a furnace malfunction and she immediately called Public Service Gas to inquire as to the proper course of action to take. The Gas Company asked if there was an odor of rotten cabbages in the house. Although none of the rest of us could detect any odor at all, Grandma's keen nose picked up the rotten cabbage odor immediately and she informed the Gas Company that she was sure that she smelled rotten cabbages. Upon hearing this, the gas company informed Grandma that the house needed to be evacuated immediately because there was an imminent danger of a natural gas explosion that would kill all the occupants and destroy the house in the process. Grandma stated in no uncertain terms, "Everyone Out Now! ... The House is about to Explode!". Although there was much grumbling and skepticism about everyone having to leave the warmth of the house and trudge out into the freezing cold, everyone complied and the gathering shifted down the street to the Trosch's' house. Everyone else emphatically stated that they could detect no odor at all but Grandma was certain, stating, "I am sure that I smell rotten cabbages". The results of the gas companies investigation pinpointed the source of the telltale noise. There had been a bit of air in the water line leading to the toilet. The furnace and gas lines were just fine.
The Dead Skunk Remains In the Wheelwell of Grandpa's Car
Once when Joel and I were taking a trip to the mountains with Grandma and Grandpa we happened to run over the remains of a dead skunk in the middle of a mountain highway. This resulted in a terrible noxious odor in the car that was quite unpleasant. Of course running over a skunk always produces such an unpleasant result that can last for up to five minutes. This episode was different, however, and 50 miles down the road the smell was still getting worse. Grandpa appeared to be immune to the terrible odor but Grandma was almost at the point of choking. Seizing upon the situation to engage in a round of fanning the flames, Joel and I were constantly bantering about the terrible odor within the car to which Grandpa emphatically replied that he didn't smell anything at all. Joel strategically stated that he did not know whether he could "take it anymore", which set Grandpa off on a tirade. He angrily asked Joel, "Well, What are you gonna do ... DIE or something? ... There is no smell at all!" Grandma also stated that she was not sure whether she could take anymore but Grandpa was unmoved and sped down the highway without any concern at all. Finally, after a good while on the road and the horrible smell as strong as ever, Grandpa decided that we needed to stop and fill up with gas. As the service station attendant gassed up the car he noticed the terrible odor emanating from the vehicle as well. Upon checking out the vehicle, he discovered that the remains of the dead skunk had been slung up into the front wheel well and were also splattered all over the bottom of the car. He proceeded to hose off the bottom of the car as best as he could and after he had finished we went on our way.
One Last Order ... A Bucket of Water for my Car
Grandma and Grandpa had come up from Charlotte to visit us while our parents were out of town on a trip. We decided to go to the country club for the great formal Sunday buffet that North Ridge Country was known for. On the way, after church, Grandpa's car was overheating and steam was coming out from under the hood. Nevertheless, we made it to the club and enjoyed a wonderful Sunday buffet. At the conclusion of the meal the tuxedo clad waiter asked if there was anything else that he could get us. Grandpa matter of factly replied that there was one other thing that he desired ... A bucket of water for his car. The well dressed waiter tried to politely decline this final request but Grandpa's mind was made up. He demanded that the waiter get a bucket of water and fill up his radiator. Amazingly enough the waiter agreed to this request and soon we were standing outside the club, in the parking lot, while a tuxedo clad waiter poured a bucket of water that he had acquired from somewhere. The incredible thing about the entire episode was that, in all the confusion, Grandpa neglected to leave a tip!
Why Does Grandma Have to Turn the Thermostat Up to 95 Degrees?
I suppose it is safe now to reveal a dark secret of the Conrad household, the secret of the rogue thermostat. When Joel and I used to stay at Grandma and Grandpa's we were always looking for creative ways to fan the flames of an already volatile situation. One of our favorite stunts was to wait until Grandma and Grandpa went to bed, sneak out in the hall and turn the thermostat down (in the case of it being summertime) to its lowest setting (if I remember correctly, about 40 degrees). This action usually took about 20 minutes to produce the appropriate response, namely icicles beginning to form on the toilet and Grandma walking out into the hall, shivering with cold, complaining about Grandpa having to keep the house at a walk-in refrigerator temperature level in the dead of the hot summertime. She would look at the thermostat and exclaim, "Look, he doesn't even know how to set it ... he's turned the thing down to 40 degrees!".
As soon as Grandma would drag herself back to bed, we would sneak out again and immediately turn the heat on and crank the thermostat wide open to the top of the dial setting (about 95 degrees). After about 20 more minutes Grandpa would come out of the bedroom in a absolute sizzling rage, yelling back at the Grandma in the bedroom, demanding an explanation for turning on the "damned heat" and setting the thermostat to 95 degrees when it was already sweltering outside. The next morning Grandma would usually explain that Grandpa, when he was sleepy, had some sort of thermostat compulsion. She said that when he was tired that he didn't know what he was doing and for some strange reason went out and turned the thermostat to its lowest possible setting. We, of course, would ask Grandpa about this strange condition that he was afflicted with. His reply was that Grandma was "full of beans" and that she was just trying to cover for the fact that she always had to turn the heat wide open in the dead of summer.
In the cold winter we always worked the inverse approach. First, we would turn the heat wide open and set the thermostat to 95 degrees which would cause one of Grandpa's tirades concerning Grandma's wastefulness and how asinine it was to try to keep the house at "body temperature" during the cold winter. After he returned to bed we would, of course, turn on the air conditioning and set the thermostat to the walk-in freezer range.
As far as I know, nobody ever caught on to these shenanigans so now, for the first time, the entire dark secret of the rogue thermostat can be revealed.
The Atomic Television and the Heavy Water Bath Tub
Another unusual condition in the Conrad household involved the infamous "atomic television" and the heavy water bathtub. Grandpa decided that it was time to invest in a state-of-the-art, 25 inch color television. He proudly placed this massive set in the den so that everyone could enjoy it. Everyone was thrilled with the large, clear screen. There was only one mysterious circumstance surrounding the acquisition of this wonderful set. Grandma never took baths anymore, opting, instead for showers in the back bathroom. Finally someone asked Grandma why she no longer took hot baths. She then recalled how a friend had explained the terrible problem of gamma ray emission from the rear of color television sets. Of course Grandpa had decided to place the new television on the opposite side of the wall from where Grandma enjoyed her hot baths. This resulted in an atomic radiation health hazard of immense proportions for Grandma, being totally vulnerable and immersed in water less than 3 feet away from the television "reactor" on the other side of the wall. Everyone knew that gamma rays could pass through walls and thus Grandma was being radiated every time she took a bath. This posed no problem for Grandpa, who never took baths anyway. He was safely showering in the back bathroom and, thus, was in no danger from the effects of the sub-atomic particle radiation of the dreaded "atomic television".
Grandma (aka "Ma Gilby") on the Carleton Rifle Team
It is also a little known Conrad family secret that Grandma once was a dead eyed sharpshooter and the anchor of her college rifle team. Perhaps her skill with firearms came from her Chicago upbringing during the heydays of the Capone mob and era of the gangland wars. Grandma has always been rather modest about her prowess with firearms but it is all documented in her college yearbook and I have personally seen the credits to her remarkable marksmanship in that annual.
Grandma, the Avid Rasslin' Fan
Amazingly enough, Grandpa always avowed that Grandma had been a big fan of Championship "Rasslin" in her younger days. He recalled that she had especially followed the career of "The Gorgeous Swede", a noted Minnesota grappler, during the 1920s.
Grandma's Spanish Heritage
Another little known secret is the one concerning Grandma's elegant Spanish heritage. As it turns out, according to Grandpa, Grandma's great-great uncle was a well known Spanish guitarist and Flamenco dancer. Grandma's modesty does not permit her to discuss this fact very often but, evidently, it is documented somewhere in the Gilby annals. I am not aware of the name of our gypsy forefather but perhaps sometime Grandma will share all the details of our Spanish ancestry with us.
December 24th ... 9:00 P.M. ... Time to Go Get the Christmas Tree
Grandpa formulated quite a novel (and effective) strategy for procuring a Christmas Tree at a 90% discount rate. He would wait until 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve and set off in search of some poor soul who had not been able to sell all of his trees and was stuck out in the cold on this normally joyous occasion. Such an unfortunate salesman obviously would be quite flexible in negotiations concerning the price of one of his remaining trees.
Why Did You Buy This Damned Expensive Cheese?
Another example of Grandpa's thrifty nature occurred while I was staying with with Grandma and Grandpa after our 1967 trip to Denver Colorado and Chicago. Late one night while Grandpa and I were sharing a bedtime snack, Grandpa discovered, to his horror, that Grandma had bought a small round of Edam cheese instead of the customary Velveeta or Ann Page Mel-O-Bit. This wasteful infraction launched Grandpa into a particularly spiteful verbal tirade. Grandma was back in the bedroom, so Grandpa was forced to yell his disgust back toward the back bedroom. He carried on and on about Grandma's wasteful spending and shopping habits. What made this episode especially entertaining was his garbled diatribe, caused by his attempts to yell while, at the same time, stuffing his mouth with the offensive product of Grandma's shopping debacle. After he had finished about half of the round of Edam his grip on the round slipped and the object of disgust fell into the sink and went down the garbage disposal. His inability to extract the remaining portion and consume what was left threw him into a state of severe agitation and he stormed back into the bedroom to give Grandma a piece of his mind directly. One can imagine the state of mind he was in while returning from the bedroom after finding Grandma fast asleep. She had not heard a single word of the entire tirade.
What Did You Do With My Egg Roll?
Another example of Grandpa's thrifty side occurred while my family was staying in Charlotte a number of years back. We had all gone out to eat at the local Chinese restaurant and Grandpa had requested a "doggy bag" to take home a portion of an egg roll that he had not been able to finish. Somehow this egg roll had not been placed in the refrigerator and had stayed at room temperature for a couple of days. Grandma, ever mindful of the hazards of food poisoning, had thrown the egg roll away. Shortly afterwards Grandpa was in a terrible state, storming around the kitchen and demanding to know what Grandma had done with his egg roll. Grandma soon appeared and asked what all the fuss was about. Grandpa angrily demanded to know what had become of his egg roll. Grandma replied that it had set out for several days, had gone bad, and because of this she had thrown the thing away. This wastefulness was too much for Grandpa. He stormed over to the garbage, extracted the egg roll from the garbage can and sat down at the table to enjoy the rest of it. After he finished, he made a general proclamation ... "Not a thing wrong with it. It tasted just fine!"
Here, Eat These Cherries ... You Know You Like Cherries!
Once, Greg Noble and myself had to go to Charlotte to work on a computer network at the Charlotte Associated Brokers office. After we had finished the job, I told him that he ought to go to visit Grandma and Grandpa with me. We arrived at the Conrad house and, of course, Grandpa demanded that we immediately head down to "The Colonels" and get a load of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I vainly attempted to explain to him that we had just finished eating a huge lunch an hour earlier but he would not hear of such incidentals. He wanted our guest to have some chicken, so that was what we were going to do. We went down to KFC and Grandpa bought a huge load of chicken with all the fixings. Although Greg and I were fully stuffed from our large luncheon buffet, Grandpa was determined that the chicken was not going to go to waste. Although we ate chicken until we were sick, there were still several large pieces left in the bucket. As we sat there trying to cope with our queasiness from overeating, Grandpa rose from the table, grabbed a large leg and thigh quarter remaining in the bucket, and thrust it in Greg's face. "Here, Eat This", he demanded of Greg. Greg politely declined, explaining that he had already eaten so much that he was a bit queasy. Grandpa was having no such foolishness. "HERE, TAKE IT! I WANT YOU TO EAT IT!", he bellowed at Greg. This took Greg completely by surprise and he reluctantly took the chicken and made a gallant attempt to eat the entire piece, much to Grandpa's satisfaction. We thought we were thus out of the woods but Grandpa was not finished yet. He strolled over to the cabinet and began rummaging about. He produced a jar of maraschino cherries that, judging from the label and dark brown color, appeared to have been of a 1940s vintage. "HERE, EAT THESE CHERRIES ... YOU KNOW YOU LIKE CHERRIES!" he demanded. Now, neither Greg nor myself particularly cared for maraschino cherries, especially ones that had set in the cabinet for 20-30 years. Just the sight of the cherries was making me feel sick and I knew that Greg felt the same way. I don't remember how we managed to do it but, somehow, we avoided eating the cherries.
If God Wants Those Bugs to Live, He Better Get 'Em the Hell Off My Tomatoes!
Call Poison Control Again! (The Chicken Manure Incident)
Another secret of Grandpa's prized tomatoes was his insistence on liberally using chicken manure to fertilize the plants. Grandpa always kept a large bucket of the manure in the garage. One Sunday after a family lunch we were all seated in the den, the younger cousins running all over the house in general chaos. Someone inquired as to two year old Heather's whereabouts. Heather could not be located and a massive search effort ensued with all of the children and adults frantically searching for her. In the midst of the furious search Dana was heard, screaming with laughter, in the garage. We all rushed into the garage and there stood Dana, laughing uncontrollably and pointing at two year old Heather, who was seated in the corner of the garage, contentedly eating the contents of Grandpa's fertilizer bucket. For some reason, I can't recall what happened as a result of this incident, but my guess would be another one of those frequent and frantic calls to poison control.
The Mystery of the Black Foot Prints
On another occasion (I believe that it was either Thanksgiving or Christmas) all of the family was gathered for dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house on Walker Road. Grandma was preparing a turkey in the kitchen when a small grease fire broke out in the oven. The kitchen and dining room quickly filled with smoke. The fire was extinguished quickly and Grandpa, who was now agitated by the whole series of events, stormed back to the hall and cut on the exhaust fan in order to vent the smoke out of the house. The house was cleared of smoke rather quickly, the fan was cut back off without further ado, and all of the young cousins went back to running to and fro about the house, everything was back to normal. After a fairly good while someone pointed at the kitchen floor and exclaimed, "Look!". To everyone's amazement, every square inch of the floor in the entire house was covered with thousands of small, black footprints. The mystery was soon solved when it was discovered that the flue from the chimney had been left open and that the exhaust fan had drawn soot down onto the fireplace footing during a game of tag in which all the kids had used the fireplace for "home base". The soot was not noticeable on the fireplace itself but had accumulated on the bottom of all the kid's bare feet and was thus spread all over the house, much to Grandma's dismay.
Too Late Jason, Get the Mop!
Grandma and Grandpa's 40th wedding anniversary was quite an occasion. Because of its significance, notice was given in the Charlotte observer of the date and time of the event. Also posted in the paper were the details of the formal party that was being held at Minette and Lou's house along with the Troschs' address on Halesworth Drive. This public notification resulted in the unforeseen and uninvited attendance of two mystery guests of dubious reputation.
The receiving line and most of the activities were being held in the front room of the Trosch residence. Ted and I, along with several others, had made our way back to the kitchen where the stock of champagne and food was being prepared to be served in the front room. As we were standing around sampling the champagne and food, two guests who, unlike the others, had entered the party through the back door of the residence thus avoiding the receiving line joined us. At the time we did not take note of these unique circumstances and, since there were many guests and visitors, we thought that these two "guests" had simply avoided the crowd at the front entrance. One of these guests was low key but the other visitor was quite the life of the party. Loud and boisterous with a somewhat unusual and crass sense of humor, this particular guest immediately joined Ted and myself for champagne and strawberries in the kitchen and made himself right at home. His loud and somewhat obnoxious manner had soon drawn the attention of others that wondered what his connection was to the Conrad family. Everyone suspected that these two visitors, whose dress was a bit out of place for a formal occasion, were members of Grandpa's Kiwanis club or perhaps the Red Fez Club. One thing was certain though, these two characters could certainly consume copious amounts of Champagne and had a definite affinity for strawberries (strawberries were the only food item on display in the kitchen). Ted and I soon noticed that these two visitors had consumed about 5 bottles of champagne between them and were finishing off what had originally been about a peck of strawberries. At the same time, the extroverted visitor was now providing loud commentary about every incident taking place in the house. By this time, everyone figured that the visitors were probably acquaintances of Ted or myself although we were socializing with them only because of their hilarious and unusual manner. By this time the effects of the champagne were beginning to take hold and the kitchen was becoming quite a boisterous party in its own right although most of the "proper" guests appeared to be avoiding us for some unknown reason.
Soon the party came to a climax with someone dropping a champagne glass on the floor that shattered loudly. Our "friend" immediately seized on the situation and began to loudly and repeatedly exclaim for all the guests to hear ... "JASON, JASON, GET THE BROOM, TOO LATE, JASON ... GET THE MOP!" This went on for a period of several minutes during which Ted and I enthusiastically joined in the chorus. Ted actually seemed to have a grasp on the cryptic meaning of this phrase (perhaps a Masonic code phrase for something) but to the rest of the guests and myself the meaning of this now constantly repeated command remained a mystery.
After the party was over and the function was being discussed, the conversation turned to the identity of these two mystery guests who had become such a topic of discussion at the party. Eventually the mystery was solved and it was determined that these two vagabonds had been bums that lived near the corner of Trade and Tryon Street. After reading about the event in the Charlotte Observer they had decided to attend.
At Grandma and Grandpa's fiftieth anniversary party Ted actually conducted a manhunt in downtown Charlotte in order to locate the vagabond whom we all now referred to as "Jason" in order to extend an invitation to attend the festivities for the fiftieth anniversary but, sadly, he was nowhere to be found.
The Poseyville Reunion
(Remember to Click On the Green External Link to Learn More About Poseyville)
You're Nothing But A Jackleg ! (Contributed by Eric Trosch)
As you know, Grandpa never really wanted to be a farmer. That's why he jumped at the
chance to get educated and away from the farm. But Grandpa loved to keep his roots,
which meant planting tomatoes and flowers and such. Being the lucky family down
the street, we had years of learning to shut up and employ whatever early 20th
century agricultural technique he remembered from his days on the Conrad family
Indiana. That's why Grandpa insisted on using real manure. Man, that stuff stunk and
he wouldn't let you use gloves because, "You gotta get your hands in the earth and
feel it to be a good gardener." Well personally, at 11 years old, I wasn't about
to question his superior farm knowledge because I didn't know any better and if
I did (as I said before) it's never wise to show up Grandpa. Well on one of his
many visits to my house Grant was unfortunate enough to get roped into one of
Grandpa's gardening adventures.
Grandpa did as he normally did and stormed down the street in his "work clothes" which consisted of nothing more then his old red seventies suit pants, a light blue shirt (of course you couldn't ever get him totally out of his suit), and his hushpuppies. He barged into my house to see what type of workers he had that day. He grabbed up Grant and myself and said, "We've gotta fix my damn pea bushes!" He dragged us up to his backyard and directed us to a sorry looking tangled mess of overgrown vegetation. He brought out some old political campaign stakes and what appeared to be some tornup t-shirts. Frankly, I had no idea peas grew in such a mess. After about an hour of unsuccessfully trying to hang bushes over long stretches of tied together t-shirt scraps between wooden stakes, Grant decide to pipe in his opinion. You see, Grant's mom Virginia had a prize garden with squash, watermelon, and corn and probably half the produce you could find at Harris Teeter. Grant also wasn't privy to the "shut up and let Grandpa do all the decision making" method of operation. Grant also had a mechanically sound idea to fix the problem and was a year older and braver than me so he chimed in, "Grandpa, wouldn't it make more sense to tie the bush directly to the stake ?" Grandpa turned with the most incredulous look and said, "Oh, you think your soooo Cute, don't you? I was raised on a farm ... don't you think I know what I'm doin???!!!"
Grant - "But Grandpa it makes more sense to ..."
Grandpa - "You're nothing but a jackleg!"
Grant - "But Grandpa I think .,."
Grandpa - "JACKLEG!"
Grant - "But it doesn't make any ..."
Grandpa - "JACKLEG!"
Grant - "BUT, BUT..."
Grandpa - "JACKLEG! ... JACKLEG!"
Grant - (silence)
Grandpa - "JACKLEG!"
Grant - (still trying to figure out what the hell a jackleg was) "I was just trying to help"
Grandpa - "NOTHING BUT A JACKLEG! ... you just think you know everything! WELL WELL WELL OHH HELL!!!"
Well, at this point Grant knew he was whipped and he bowed his head in defeat and said, "What do you want us to do?"
Grandpa - "Come over here and hang this PEA PLANT over the wire (really a t-shirt)!"
So we did what any preteens would do in our shoes facing another barage of "JACKLEG!" proclamations ... we sat around for the next two hours trying to do it Grandpa's way. That is, until Grandpa couldn't take it any more and said, "To hell with those damn plants!!!" ... and left us sitting out there with manure all over our hands.
He Who Works, Eats !
(Remember to Click On the Green External
Link to Learn More About The Red Fez Club)
I recall an outing with Grandpa during one of my summertime visits to Charlotte in which we went to some sort of function at the Red Fez Club, a local masonic lodge that Grandpa belonged to. I was quite excited about this excursion, especially when I learned that the club was located at a local reservoir and I would be able to go fishing off the dock while the meeting was taking place. Grandpa was also quite excited about the prospect of being able to bring some fresh fish home for dinner that evening. When we got to the lodge I immediately set off for the dock and had fair luck, catching about 5 or 6 small bluegills while the masons were conducting their meeting in the lodge building. After the conclusion of the meeting Grandpa came out to the dock and was quite pleased that I had procured the main course for dinner that evening. All the way back to Charlotte in the car he kept loudly proclaiming, "HE WHO WORKS, EATS!" We got back to the house at 201 South Laurel and I began watching the bullfights on television, thinking that I would clean and dress the fish after the bullfights went off the air. Well, the next thing that I know, I began smelling the delicious aroma of fresh fish frying, punctuated by continual loud exclamations of "HE WHO WORKS, EATS!" coming from the kitchen. As I walked into the kitchen I saw Grandpa proudly frying up the catch of the day in Grandma's black iron skillet. I figured that he did not care to leave the important job of cleaning and scaling the fish to an inexperienced 9 year old and had already taken care of that important task. The wonderful aroma of the frying fish really began to whet my appetite and Grandpa served up our dinner, which consisted of fried fish, french fries, and coleslaw. I couldn't wait to dig in. I took a big bite of the fish and immediately realized that they were totally inedible (at least for my tastes) ... Grandpa's method of cleaning them had simply been to cut the heads off, pull some of the guts out (leaving many in), roll them in flour and throw them in the pan without a thought of scaling them. My first bite consisted of a bit of fish, some internal organs, and a mouthfull of fish scales. When I informed Grandpa that I could not eat them he seemed quite perplexed and annoyed at my finicky eating habits. He exclaimed, "THERE'S NOTHING THE MATTER WITH THEM ... YOU DON'T SCALE FRESHWATER FISH!" This was news to me ... I thought that you scaled any fish that was covered with scales. It amazed me that Grandpa had no problem with the scales at all as he enthusiastically ate the remaining fish ... internal organs, scales and all, loudly proclaiming all the time, "HE WHO WORKS, EATS!"
One of the most unusual trips to the theater that I have
ever been on was the time that Grandma took me to a seedy, x-rated picture show
in Charlotte when I was 9 or 10 years old. Now I know this sounds incredible
but the story is true. The amazing misadventure unfolded in the following manner.
On one of my summer trips to Charlotte in the 60s Grandma decided that it would
be a nice outing for her and myself to go to the movies. She asked me if there
was any particular movie that I wanted to see and I asked her which movies were
playing in Charlotte. She procurred a copy of the newspaper to see which shows
were playing and while she was looking at the listings she said, "Oh,
here's one that some of my friends were talking about. They said that it was
a really good picture." I looked at the listing and somehow realized
that Grandma had gotten mixed up and that the production that she was talking
about was one of those infamous B Grade, X-rated movies that I had heard about
but had never been allowed to see. Of course I immediately chimed in that I
thought that I had heard about that show as well and considered it an excellent
choice. When the time came for the next showing we got in the car and headed
for the theater. When we got to the theater, Grandma seemed a bit perplexed
that the theater had really become run down since the last time that she had
been there many years before. Also there was the fact that people were staring
at us and we seemed very out of place owing to the fact that every other patron
that was purchasing tickets appeared to be some sort of disrespectable type
of male and there were no other children or Grandmother types in line. Nevertheless,
she purchased our tickets and we took our seats near the front of the theater.
The show started up and it seemed odd that a high budget movie would be shot
with a 16 millimeter camera. Also the musical score left a lot to be desired.
I remember the plot (if one could call it that) had something to do with a motorcycle
gang and a troupe of girl scouts. Grandma already seemed to be a bit on edge
when the first shocking scene unfolded about 5 minutes into the film. Grandma
immediately stood up and exclaimed to me in a loud voice that every other patron
in the theater could hear, "GET UP, WE'RE LEAVING!"
I, of course, argued that she had already paid for the tickets and that
we ought to stay. There was a chorus of laughter coming from all the other patrons
in the theater. Grandma would hear of nothing of the sort and exclaimed even
more loudly than before, "WE'RE LEAVING RIGHT NOW !"
Waisting no more time, she grabbed me by the arm and led me out of the
theater to a chorus of laughter coming from the other movie goers. The whole
rude misadventure had evidently been so traumatic to Grandma that I never remember
her mentioning the incident again.
Grandpa was not a person who was known for strict punctuality
but there was an incident when I was 9 or 10 years old and visiting him and
Grandma that really stands out in this regard. We had just gotten back
from an extended trip to Denver and Chicago and arrangements had been made for
me to fly back home to Raleigh. Of course we were running late to catch the
plane and Grandpa was furiously pacing the floor in the front room of 201 South
Laurel on a first rate tirade about the possibility of my missing my flight
because of Grandma's delay in getting ready to go to the airport. Grandma was
back in the bedroom getting ready and Grandpa was continually yelling back to
her that if she didn't hurry that we were just going to leave her. There was
nothing that was particularly unusual about this ... except for the fact
that Grandpa was attired only in a t-shirt, boxer shorts, socks, and shoes.
I guess that he was so consumed in his tirade about Grandma's tardiness that
he had not noticed that he was only clad in his underwear and shoes. Finally
he could stand it no longer and yelled back to Grandma, "ALL
RIGHT, WE'RE JUST GOING TO LEAVE YOU HERE THEN !" He then grabbed
his hat and put it on, grabbed my hang bag of clothing, threw it over his shoulder,
and stormed out the front door in his underwear and hat with my bag over his
shoulder. At that point I believe that it was Uncle Lou who made the reasonable
suggestion of, "Mr. Conrad, Don't you think you ought to put some pants
on?" I am sorry to say that I do not remember what happened after that.
I do remember that I was laughing so hard that I was having trouble catching
my breath as Grandpa stormed back in and back to the bedroom to get dressed.
I was down in Charlotte with my mother and father and
we happened to be there on Grandma's birthday. I also remember that Grandpa,
Minette, and Lou were there and we were sitting around trying to decide where
to take Grandma for a nice birthday dinner. All of a sudden Grandpa had a great
idea and announced, "Well, since it's Grandma's birthday,
we'll all go to the Ho-Toy." The Ho-Toy happened to be Grandpa's
favorite Chinese restaurant at that time. I don't remember whether there
was a discussion or not but we all got in our cars and headed to the Ho-Toy.
I remember that I was riding with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma was not saying
very much and did not appear to be particularly pleased. This seemed odd to
me but I soon found out what the problem was. When we got out of the car and
walked across the parking lot to enter the restaurant Grandma leaned over and
whispered to me, "You know why he's taking us to the
Ho-Toy for my birthday, don't you?" I said that I had no idea why
he picked the Ho-Toy. She then revealed, "It's because
he knows that I hate Chinese food." Things really went from bad
to worse when our waitress, in the middle of serving us our food, all of a sudden
covered her mouth with her hand and ran to the bathroom, to the distress of
Minette and my mother. She then reappeared and continued to serve us our food.
This happened more than once and we began speculating on what intestinal virus
we would be catching from her. As we finished our meal Grandma said to Grandpa,
"You know what I'm going to fix you for your birthday?" Grandpa inquired
as to what she would be fixing for his special day. Grandma replied, "I'm
going to fix you a big plate of spanish rice." Grandpa, with a somewhat
puzzled look on his face, responded, "WHY WOULD YOU DO
THAT? YOU KNOW THAT I DON'T LIKE SPANISH RICE !"
Once I was riding from Laurinburg to Charlotte with Grandma,
Grandpa, and Doris and we were all quite hungry. Grandpa decided that we would
stop at a seafood restaurant and have ourselves a big meal of tasty seafood.
All of us ordered our different seafood dinners and ate a hearty meal. With
full stomachs of seafood we got back in the car and continued on our journey.
All of a sudden Grandma exclaimed in a loud frantic voice, "TED,
STOP THE CAR AT THIS McDONALDS !!!" Grandpa started to argue but
this was one time that Grandma sounded so frantic that he deferred and pulled
into the McDonalds parking lot and stopped the car. Grandma then threw open
her door and made a mad dash for the McDonalds bathroom, leaving us to wonder
what in the world could be the matter. After a while she re-emerged and came
back to the car looking none the worse for wear. As we rode down the road I
asked her what the matter had been. She calmly replied, "Well,
you know that I am allergic to seafood and a short while after I ate that plate
at the seafood restaurant I started swelling up. You know I blew up so big that
I couldn't hardly breathe and a I had to run into the bathroom at McDonalds
and take my girdle off."
Grandma Takes Up Gardening
Grandpa has always been known as the avid gardener in the Conrad household but Grandma once revealed to me that she had dabbled a bit in gardening herself. The story is quite amazing and I was not a witness to the series of events that led to her taking up gardening but I am certain of her accuracy as she recounted the saga to me. Grandma told me that Grandpa had encouraged her to take up gardening and had gone to the trouble to buy her a shovel for her birthday. She said that she had tilled long and hard but had found that tilling the ground and loosening the soil for her new garden was just too much work. She also revealed that perhaps the main problem in her endeavor was the fact that the shovel that Grandpa had given her for her birthday ... was a large snow shovel.
Grandpa, We Want a Cookie!
Dana and the Cousins Call Foreign Lands
The Conrad Christmas get togethers were always events to remember. With Grandma and Grandpa and all the aunts and uncles engaged in furious political debate while gangs of grandchildren charged around in chaotic bliss waiting for the wonderful dinner and the opening of the presents.
On one such occasion I happened to notice that a number of the grandchildren were absent. I assumed that they were off somewhere engaged in some sort of game ... and they were. As I was walking down the hall past Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom I heard loud boisterous laughter and screaming coming from behind the closed bedroom door. I opened the door to see what was causing such a hilarious melee and saw 7 or 8 of the youngest cousins gathered around the bedroom telephone. Dana (who was about 5 years old at the time) was enthusiastically talking on the phone to somebody. I asked the cousins who Dana was talking to and they all replied that they had no idea ... they were just "playing telephone".
I asked them how long they had been "playing telephone" and it turned out that this particular round of the game had gone on for hours with different cousins taking turns being the caller. They then explained what a popular game this had become for the preschool gang of the Conrad grandchildren. They told me, "Oh, we play it all the time when we're at Grandma and Grandpa's house".
Ted Fixes the Car In Columbia ... Wearing Only a Trash Bag
The Wino Party in Grandma's Car
Once Jennifer and I were in Charlotte visiting Grandma and Grandpa. I don't remember the occasion of the visit but I do remember the following. The minimum drinking age in North Carolina had just been raised from 18 to 21 years of age. The result of this being that Jennifer and her friend from Charlotte were not able to procure a bottle of wine for the evening as they were now underaged according to the new law. Being over 21 myself, I decided to come to their rescue. I borrowed Grandma's car and drove them down to the convenience store to purchase each of them a bottle of wine. While I was there (and having nothing planned for the evening) I decided to purchase of bottle for myself. Since we didn't care to drink the wine in Grandma and Grandpa's house and it was a warm evening and rather late, we decided to drink the wine and eat some snacks in the car. After we finished Jennifer and her friend went to her friend's house and I went into Grandma and Grandpa's house. There was one slight problem. We forgot to take the wine bottles and snack wrappers out of the car and throw them in the trash.
Doris took off down 201 South Laurel like a professional quarter mile drag racer. Grandma was yelling and screaming for her to stop but she just kept barrelling down the road at an ever increasing rate of speed. I am sure that Grandma's life was flashing before her as she gripped the dash and arm rest with white knuckles. We were coming up to a red light and just short of the red light Doris slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a stop. Then the light turned green and we peeled off again with screeching tires. Grandma was screaming at Doris to stop but Doris kept insisting that everything was fine. She just wasn't used to the power brakes because they did not have power brakes in the driver's education cars. She also said that she couldn't quite get the hang of Grandma's accelerator. We continued on this incredible wild ride for about 15 minutes, tires squealing, the engine screaming, Grandma screaming even louder, and me (scared out of my wits) in the back seat. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, we arrived safely back home with Grandma in shock and Doris giggling and winking at me while pointing to the shell shocked Grandma.
Uncle Lou Takes Me to the X Rated Movie
(Remember to Click On the Green External Links to Read Actual Reviews of the Movie)
BANNED ... From the Conrad House FOREVER!
(Remember to Click On the Green External Links to See Actual Pictures of the Exhibits Discussed)
We ended up waiting in line for an hour and a half to go into the Ford Exhibit ... all the time watching the happy people going round and round on the giant tire. When we finally reached the exhibit and walked into the entrance gallery there were what appeared to be cheap painted plywood figures that had one motorized arm apiece that went up and down in the same monotonous motion, simulating an auto worker with a hammer in his hand, swinging the hammer against some sort of anvil. For the line that we had just been in and the length of time that we had waited, this cheap initial exhibit was far from impressive. Doris immediately piped up and declared, "See ... this is what Grandma had us wait for hours in line to see ... a bunch of cheap little plywood men with one arm that goes up and down!" I (being all of 7 years of age) immediately parroted Doris and exclaimed, "Yeah ... this is what Grandma had us wait for hours in line to see ... a bunch of cheap little plywood men with one arm that goes up and down!" Grandma then whirled around and gave me a look that could have turned any living being to stone. She exclaimed to me, "YOU WILL NEVER COME TO MY HOUSE AGAIN!!!"
Now this REALLY shook me up as I really enjoyed visiting Grandma and Grandpa and all the relatives in Charlotte. I mumbled something to Grandpa about how sorry I was that I couldn't come to their house any more. He just laughed and told me not to listen to Grandma ... that she was "full of beans".
Now actually the exhibit was quite good as we all piled into the newest models of Ford cars and were transported on rails through tunnels and forests from the age of dinosaurs to the future. The best part of the ride was not exactly planned by Ford though. For some strange reason the horn in our car was still functional and Doris was in the driver's seat. Upon discovering this amazing bit of good fortune she immediately came up with a routine in which she would act like she was leaning out the window of the car to look at something in the exhibit. She would make sure that as she leaned out her elbow would hit the horn and a 130 decible horn blast would go off and cause everyone in all the cars in our part of the tunnel to go into heart palpatations. Grandma and Grandpa kept yelling at her to stop before someone had a heart attack but she kept insisting that she was not doing it on purpose. She must have blown the horn about 20 times while we were in the exhibit and many of the riders in our part of the building appeared to come out of the ride in the throes of shell shock with early signs of post traumatic stress disorder. For me, Doris and the horn in the Ford exhibit may have actually been the best part of the entire 1964 New York World's Fair.
Cussing Out the Highway Patrolman ... (coming soon)
(as recanted by Joel Cresimore)
Joel recalls the time that, while on a trip ... with Uncle Lou driving ...
Cussing Out Another Highway Patrolman
I don't remember exactly how he managed to do it but Lou was able to somehow keep matters under control, get Grandpa out of the patroman's face and back into the car and we headed off to the house without further incident.
The Golf Match
"Little" Lou - Terror Of Overweight Women in the Club Swimming Pool
I volunteered to go first and picked my target carefully ... a rather overweight woman surrounded by screaming kids. I knew that I could hold my breath, swim underwater, sneak up, reach through all the kids and administer the pinch, then quickly get away undetected in the confusion. My strategy worked like clockwork as the overweight mother wheeled around and shrieked "SOMEBODY IS PINCHING !!!" and then tried to figure out which one of the gang of kids had administered the whelp to her posterior. In the confusion I was able to swim back underwater to Joel and Lou. They were both hysterically laughing at the scene that had resulted from my "turn" at our new game. Lou was chomping at the bit to go next. Although enthusiastic, Lou (being all of 5 years old) had notable deficiencies in the use of "stealth" while on his missions. Lou had not learned to swim underwater yet and his topwater freestyle approach had all the stealth of a wide open Mississippi Steamboat. This was no deterrence to Lou who had already decided that this was going to be one competition that he was going to best his older cousins at. He would visually select the fattest women in the pool, swim right up to them in a torrent of splashing, pinch the daylights out of their rear end, and then furiously swim away from them. The incredulous women would have no idea what to do with the 5 year old "terror of the pool". In fact, none of them even called Lou to task on his rude and shocking behavior. Of course Joel and I immediately threw in the towel in the face of lack of breath from laughing so hard ... and the prospect of competition with such a "pool pinching prodigy" as Lou had turned out to be. Thus all the overweight women in the pool were subjected to an extended reign of terror by the 5 year old pool pinching, whelp raising maniac with nerves of steel. This hilarious scene continued unabated until the three of us had to leave to go back to the Trosch's house for dinner.
This Ice Cream is JUST FINE !!!
The Field Goal Contests
Grandma ... The Yogi
Yummy ... Yummy ... YUMMY !!!
Grandpa's "Drinking Problem"
The Sand Box