George L. Ball
Memories and Thoughts
Chapter 2

The Balls Second Bounce

At about age 10 we (my Mother, Dad and 3 sisters Ann, Helaine, and Sandy) moved to the farm [The George Ball Jr. Farm] Ball Hereford Farm #1 in Valencia, Pennsylvania. [The George Ball Home]George's Home at Ball Hereford Farm #1 This is where I remember most of my growing up years. The picture shows me in my early days of reading either the Wall Street Journal or the Comics- It was a time before I got into the National Enquirer [My Mom, Dad and George]My Mom, Dad and Myself relaxing in the front yard, ca. 1949. My three sisters and I went to grade school in Cooperstown (Middlesex Twp) for more info and High School in Mars [and that was in the days of Captain Video (Yes TV finally arrived, albeit black and white) - The Power Rangers would have no chance with Captain Video were he around today].

My Dad still worked in Glenshaw and commuted there every day [Map of Farm] Map of Farm & Glenshaw [Ball's Bend] View of Farm from the air taken by me. It shows what is now called Ball's Bend. My Mother also still had many ties to Glenshaw. She was very active (President at one time)in the Glenshaw Womens Club, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Women's Clubs, among other things. Uncle's Hiram and Henry stayed in Glenshaw, then. Eventually Uncle Hiram and Aunt Florence also moved to the farm.

I ran around with Willie Fritz [Willie Fritz] Willie and Paul (Gopher) Rodgers [Gopher] Gopher . Gopher (named for his talents in Going Fer Girls) was champ at marbles and buckeyes. Willie excelled in gymnastics and singing. [My Friends in Gradeschool]That's me in the middle with Friends in Grade School- That's Willie in the back. We all ended up in the Mars High School Band. For Info on Mars High.

I played the drums, Willie the Sax, and Gopher the trumpet. I still have my Mars Band letter (but finally a year ago [after 40+ years] I gave the sweater away to charity). My Mars High Band Letter from my sweater [George's Mars High Band Letter] Being one who takes care of things it, of course, was still in quite usable condition.

The three of us would walk to downtown Mars at noon each day of school. We would go to the Drugstore and have a sundae. Well close. We had a scoop of vanilla ice cream with 10 cents worth of chocolate on it (that way we saved 10 cents). This worked for years until the druggist stopped by one day and said that we had to pay full price. I'm sad to say that I have already outlived both Willie and Gopher. Not that I'm sad to still be around but I'm sad that they are both gone.

During our years in the band we played all the football games and too many concerts to remember what they all were for. I do remember that most of the towns people went to the football games to watch the band at half time since the football team was not known for winning. Some of the football players and their parents may remember differently.

During my grade school years at Cooperstown I took drum lessons (piano just wasn't my bag). I took the lessons in Pittsburgh [Pittsburgh] Pittsburgh, PA on Saturdays- My Mother took me in. As bribery (it probably had some other name then) for taking the lessons and practicing during the week I got money each Saturday to buy something in Pittsburgh. The street where I took the lessons happened to be the street that all the gadget stores were on. I found that my interest lay with buying magic tricks with the hard earned gain. In that period I could hardly wait to get to school on Monday to show my new trick. One feature of the tricks that I bought were that they required absolutely no skill or dexterity on my part. To this day I emphasize doing magic that requires a minimum of skill. My last demonstrations were on a cruise ship to Bermuda in the Spring of 1996 and at neighborhood parties in Coastal North Carolina in 1997.

While on the farm I first raised chickens. I raised them from peeps (they arrived on the train in a box about fifty at a time) to about 3 pounds then sold them for roasting or frying. I learned a lot about hard work and that taking care of them was a 7 day a week job. I even raised "wingless" chickens. Back then wings were useless (Buffalo has changed that).

I wasn't into slaughtering, plucking their feathers, or cleaning chickens. That was done by Eddie at E&E Grocery which was located along Rt. 8 just over the Butler County line. E&E stood for Eddie and Elsie. That is the grocery store where we bought most of our groceries over the years. They were like part of the family and probably knew more about what was going on in the Ball families than I did. Back in those days newspapers were unnecessary, you just had to stop by E&E.

After I earned enough money from the chickens I bought a Hereford steer. That I raised as a 4H project. Unfortunately it got pneumonia and didn't do too well. I showed it at the Pittsburgh Show and sold it. I nearly covered the expenses. I stayed overnight at the show which was at the Pittsburgh Stockyards and got chiggers (that still makes me scratch). [George in his Stetson Hat]George in His Stetson Hat

I then raised Polled (no horns) Hereford beef cattle breeding stock[George's Bull G. Woodford Russell] [George's Bull G. Woodford Russell] George with G. Woodford Russel [I colorized the picture in 2001 as I got into the digital graphics. Click and see the difference] .

Through that I earned about half my college education. I spent many hours feeding the cattle, teaching them to walk and stand properly for showing, and washing and grooming them (curling their hair with a Marcelle comb). I raised mainly bulls. Ones that had especially good beef qualities (back when fat was in) and also had the right genes such that their offspring had no horns (even though the mother cow did). You learn a lot about those X's, x's, Y's and y's. Sister Ann also raised cattle. She usually had the Champion cow (female) and I had the Champion Bull when we showed at the fairs (Butler and Allegheny Counties).

I well remember the fairs. I usually would spend the week there sleeping in a stall at night. It was a lot of hard work, but fun. The fairs had entertainment special to their carnivals. At an early age I learned a lot in the side show tents and bought a few boxes of popcorn which never had the anticipated prize in them.

Memories of the farm would never be complete without thoughts about the Jeeps [Jeep] Military Surplus Farm Jeep . These were (I guess) WW-II surplus Jeeps which we used to farm with (I know that is a preposition but with this phrase it is not the end of the sentence). That's what I learned to drive in. I must have been about 12 when I got the chance to drive a neighbors International Harvester tractor (at about 1 mph) and then graduated to the Jeep. I got so that I could do 360's with it when we had lots of rain and the farm roads were slippery. Almost every night when my Dad came home from work I drove him around the farm in the Jeep. On this ride he reviewed what had been done that day and kept up with which cows were going to have a calf, etc.

When I got older and could drive on the roads I would drive my Dad around the farm and also around the neighborhood. At one point we had a 8 seat DeSoto Suburban and a 7 seat Jeep Station Wagon. In the DeSoto everyone (the six of us) got a window seat. In the Jeep I sat in the back in the seat that sat sideways. [9 passenger DeSoto] DeSoto Suburban in 1948 . [Jeep Station Wagon] Our Jeep Station Wagon . My Dad manufactured waxes for cars. I got to do the testing. Each panel on the Jeep Station Wagon got treated with a different wax. It was the test car. I got to do all the rubbing (that was before power buffers).

Our neighborhood consisted of many miles of farms. One evening we were on one of the drives and went by the Butler-Graham Airport, which is about 10 miles from the farm. That evening my Dad asked me to pull into the airport. I did and he ask if I wanted to learn how to fly. After the shock went away, I went to the airports office and the next afternoon I had my first lesson in a Piper Cub. It also was my first time up in a small plane. To this day I don't know why my dad wanted me to fly. But I did and the next January when I reached my 17th birthday I got my pilots license. Most of my time was spent in Piper Cubs and TriPacers. That was a lot of fun. Many a time we flew to Erie for breakfast. Ask me some time about the Butler-Graham Pilots Club. I never missed a meeting.[Butler Graham Pilots Club ca. 1954] George As A Private Pilot ca. 1954

[According to Sister Ann my Dad wanted to fly and had planned on buying a small airplane. However his doctor had banned him from unpressurized airplanes because of his heart trouble. I was his projection of getting in to the air.]

Another memory of the farm is the bad bend in the road (RT. 10010) which was at the bottom of our hill. My bedroom window faced that side. At night I would listen as the tires squealed on cars going around that bend. I would lay silently waiting to hear the car accelerate up the hill- knowing that it had made it past the bend.

On a visit back to the farm a couple of years ago, I was most interested to hear that that bend (which has been increased in radius considerably since) is known as Ball's Bend. I guess our family left its mark. Speaking of leaving a mark. Every now and then cars didn't quite make it around the bend and ended up going through our fence into the field which still had remnants of the dam from the old grist mill. The mill goes back to when the Hays family owned the farm. Way before my time. The big maple tree in the front yard, which is no longer there, was special to everyone. [The Farm in early days]Early picture of farm showing the large maple tree in the front yard

We had party after party on the farm. This included ones with relatives, with friends, with business associates of my Dad and Uncles, with other cattle farmers, and with anyone who just stopped by. There was always music, food and fun. The music came from my Mother playing the piano, Solovox (an early electronic organ) and accordian; my Dad playing the Xylophone; Sister Helaine playing the piano; sister Ann playing the accordian [She says not very well}; and sister Sandy playing the Saxophone. Of course, I played the drums. I had a set with a snare, bass, and crash and high hat cymbals. There was not a quiet way to play the drums. The music went on in the Music Room {wonder where it got its name). It took little encouragement from a visitor to get us started. We sang a lot too, but I recall we needed baskets to carry the tunes.

FOOD- FOOD and MORE FOOD. My Mother [Helen Ball]Helen Ball preparing for Christmas Party was a great cook. There were a bunch of specialties. Beef Barbecue (brisket torn apart with a fork in a secret sauce), fried chicken in a basket, roasted suckling pig (at Christmas with an apple in its mouth and cranberries around its neck) [Helen & George Ball] Helen & George preparing suckling pig , Joyce McClemmons(sp) ice cream (bisque with raspberry sherbet), hamburger, steaks, roast beef (all Hereford beef of course- Angus was a 4 letter word to us); shepherds pie (following leg of lamb at Easter).

Salads had lettuce only for decoration to support the main item. Salads were Jello with fruit, pears with cream cheese, asparagus with French dressing and stuff like that. I forget what we drank. Must have been milk and Iced Tea. Deserts. We all loved Ice Cream and Cookies.

Every now and then my Dad baked cookies- lemon cookies. I think he made triple batches. One batch never made it to the oven, one never cooled off, and the third probably never survived the day. Every now and then there were diets [see salads above]. But I like to recall the happy times so lets forget about them, except for the low carbohydrate one. You only eat hamburger, steak, sausage, etc. It was great and before the low fat phase.

[From Sister Ann "I don't ever remember Daddy making them (the lemon cookies), but they were in the Doctor book, and once when I was in High School , home with measles and he had his swollen ankles, he insisted I make them. Recipe was old fashioned and talked about a pound of butter, pounds of sugar, lemons, etc., but never mentioned flour. I put the first batch in and told him they weren't right, but he insisted. They of course flowed over the oven and mother smelled and ran. She found the line that said stir in flour until like cookie dough. Dr. Morris came by and was quite taken with the tables full of stacked lemon drops."]

[In more recent years I've eaten salads consisting mostly of lettuce and a few other things thrown in. I've come to the conclusion that these salads are like "Hail Mary's". They are the penance for eating all the other "good" food. We say the salads are good, but in fact, they are mainly psychologically good. They make us think that we are eating healthy- low fat and all that stuff. In fact we usually add a bunch of salad dressing that makes it as "bad" as the proverbial "Big Mac".]

The kitchen was the main room of our home. It is where everyone congregated- whether it was time for a meal or not. It was finished in knotty pine and had a large wood burning fire place in the one end which we all sat around. [George's Family in the Kitchen]The Family in the Kitchen I had the dubious honor of supplying wood to it and carrying out the ashes (today I'm in to gas logs- they produce little ash). In todays housing terms this would probably be the great room. It was entered through the Mud Room from the side door. If you came to the front door we knew you were a stranger and probably selling something (back in those days fire extinguishers and the Watchtower). But everyone was welcome and usually ended up at the table in the kitchen. The kitchen table expanded to fit as many places as needed. Since my Dad was in the paint business the table must have been varnished at least once a year.

Speaking of painting. We had all white barns, a white house with green trim, white wood fences around the barns and white steel post fences around the perimeter of the farms. We painted and painted and painted and painted some more. It was sort of like in the Navy. If it didn't move- Paint It. Of course we used Ball paint. A side line for myself and sisters (and others who came along) was to clean (wire brush) and paint the steel fence posts around the farm. There had to be thousands. We got a nickel a piece to paint them. If you worked hard and fast you might make a buck and a half a day.

Ralph and Dolly Blanford lived on the farm. Actually we had three farms all which adjoined each other. We lived on one, Uncle Hiram and his family[Hiram & Florence] Hiram & Florence Ball (wife Florence and son Hiram, Jr., and daughters Vickie and Susan) [Hiram Ball Children] Hiram Ball Children on the second and Ralph and Dolly and their kids, Butch and Linda, on the third. Ralph worked the farm and we tried to stay out of his way. Since we raised beef cattle our main crop was grass (that was when grass was grass-eaten by cattle and rabbits- not smoked).

A lot of people thought we were crazy. We did feed the cattle corn and other grains, but except for some barley, we bought all that from the feed company. My first Research and Development project- probably what started me on my career in later years- was working on making grass insilage. Up to that point insilage was made mainly from corn. The corn was fermented in a silo. One of those tall cylinders you see around farms. They were a lot of work first filling the silo and then emptying it out to feed the cattle. We never had one.

Historically we made hay. We grew alphalfa and timothy grass, cut it, let it dry, raked it in to furrows, let it dry more, then baled it (in to rectangular bales tied with string- not wire). The bales had to be picked up and carried in to the barn- a lot of work.

Making the grass insilage reduced a lot of the physical work (To which the Balls had an allergy). To make grass insilage we went through the field with a mower which cut the grass first then moved it in to a chopper where it shredded the grass. The chopper blew the grass into a dump truck. We drove the dump truck to a spot prepared on the field to have good drainage and dumped the grass. We kept dumping until we had a pile about 10 feet high, 20 feet wide and 100 feet long (dimensions from memory- and are not critical). As we dumped we kept running over it to pack it down. Now we let nature do its thing and let the grass ferment. When the winter came we opened the end and let the cattle eat their way through the pile. A lot less work.

A MOST IMPORTANT item I left out until now. For all this to work, i.e. so that the grass just doesn't rot, we added sodium bisulfite as a powder metered in at the chopper. To work this out we worked with Penn State and the equipment manufacturer (New Holland). Key was working out how much to add. The bisulfite, when in the grass in the pile, reacts and releases sulfur dioxide gas. The gas keeps out oxygen and preserves the grass- prevents it from oxidizing. This was back in the mid 1940's. The techniques have been refined greatly.

We only had one problem. After a few weeks of the cattle eating the insilage their white noses started to turn yellow. Needless to said that caused some concern. It turns out they were breathing the SO2 gas which collected in the trough created by them eating into the pile. The solution was to break away the trough periodically and let out the gas. If we just had the hindsight then.

Before I get off the subject of the farm I can't help but recall the day when we first tried artificial insemination. Uncle Hiram was going to collect it in an artificial vagina made from a flexible rubber tubing inside a rigid rubber tube. In the space between the soft and the hard rubber you were supposed to put in warm water- to give it a natural? feel. Well Hiram did that. We got the bull excited and when Hiram tried to make the collection by substituting the rubber device for the cow the rubber device blew up spreading water and who knows what else all over the place. The second time we put in less water.

From the days in the barn I can't let pass the day that we found the steer with tape worms and managed to have it pass them. Their name is correct, they look like a flexible cloth tape measure. Then that evening my Mother had flat noodles for dinner. The Balls always eat, but it caused a stutter in the process.

During the years on the farm, one of the big deals for us kids (myself and sisters) was to go roller skating on Friday nights at the Twin Willows Roller Rink on Rt. 8. For many years we probably missed few Friday nights. We had our own skates and even had lights on them. Of course our friends went making this a great night out.

At one point we stopped going skating on Friday nights. For a long time I didn't admit to my friends why we didn't show up. It turned out that my sisters and I all went to Butler for dance lessons. How gross. Next to not performing the bicycle stunt on the Village hill in Glenshaw- this was an affront to my manlyhood. In hindsight it was one of the best things I ever did for it has been the basis for many thousands of hours of enjoyment in the later years.

While on the farm we continued to spend much time with our cousins, especially on the Ball Family side. Hiram Jr., Vickie and Suzie lived on the next farm so we saw them quit a bit. Cousins Henry Jr. (Punch) and Judy [Punch & Judy Ball] Henry Ball Children came to visit now and then and we went back to the Village to see them, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas times. Cousins David, Ricky and Bobby (Blanche & Sid Landau's sons) came to visit now and then and we visited them in Squirrel Hill, where they lived, or at their "place in the country" [Landau Family] Landau Children & spouses . Aunt Blanche always had sweets which we loved. One of her specialties was brownies. To this day brownies made from Blanche's recipe are present at Ball Family get-togethers. You can learn more about cousin Ricky at his Home Page for more info on Rick .

Visits to the farm usually included rides on our horses. Actually they were the Polo ponies which came from my Grandfathers farm. Since I usually had to take care of the horses I was less enamoured with riding them, but that was one of the adventures of visiting the farm. Since they were well trained Polo ponies it was important that you be ready to stop or turn if you were going to indicate to the pony that that is what was to happen. Otherwise the pony did it's thing and you continued on a different path. This other path usually included the ground. In later years, when I could drive, I gave everyone "thrill" rides in the jeep running around and up and down the hills on the farm. Somehow taking care of the jeep seemed like more fun.

Masonic activities were an every present force in our family. These were driven to a great extent by Uncle Hirams intense activity in the Masonic bodies. During this period in my life Uncle Hiram was the Potentate of Syria Temple Shrine Organization. Both my Dad and Uncle Henry supported him in many roles. In later years Uncle Hiram became The Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania for which we were all proud. One strong memory I have of the Shrine activities was a National Convention held in Atlantic City (I'm not sure which year but I had a drivers license at the time). The Shriners had a trailer with sound and all kinds of stuff on it which we pulled with one of our jeeps to Atlantic City. It was a four wheel trailer which I took pride in being able to back with precision.

My assignment that year was as a photographer. I had Uncle Hiram's Leica camera and was to take pictures of all the activities. I ended up shooting at least 10 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film. I was proud that I had taken pictures of just about everything that went on. When we got home we had the film developed. Not a single shot came out. It turns out that when I put the film in it didn't catch and therefore never advanced in the camera. The counter, however, kept on counting. To this day I double check to see that the film is engaged on my camera by rewinding after I put it in. Needless to say I was embarrassed over this event. I don't remember being asked to take photographs ever again.

Rainy Sundays were always a special treat. We drove into Pittsburgh and saw a matinee movie, then had Chinese food for dinner. I almost always had my favorite, Chicken Egg Foo Young. Every now and then the Sunday included a visit to Joyce McClemmons for ice cream. A hot fudge Sunday with peppermint stick ice cream. The hot fudge came in a little green creamer that kept it hot and the ice cream from melting until we were ready to eat it.

At special times we had dinner at the University Club in Pittsburgh. It is there that I cultivated a taste for Blue Point oysters on the half shell. The cocktail sauce was good, but became great when I added about an equal portion of horse radish and many drops of Tabasco sauce. The oysters usually ran out so I finished off the sauce with oyster crackers. I usually had tears in my eyes from the horse radish and it cleared my normally allergy plugged head, which is probably one big reason I liked them. A number of Thanksgiving dinners of the Ball Family were held at the University Club.

Again speaking of meal time, I would be remiss if not mentioning it and my Mother would be proud to know that I have remembered that you NEVER, NEVER stack dishes when taking them away from the table. Something about being uncouth and also having to wash both the tops AND the bottoms (which I doubt bothered the dishwashing machine in the least). I'm sure that my sisters have never forgotten this requirement, but I'm not sure that they have adhered to it in recent years. When I suggest it to my wife she says it's ridiculous- stack all you want. [I don't have to worry about her ever reading this as long as it is on a computer, since she isn't into the "geek" stuff.]

My sisters usually did the dish washing stuff and as the only boy I handled taking out the trash. In those days I carried it out to a large barrel and eventually burned it (something you can't do these days). I also brought in the logs and took out the ashes from the fire place (something that has endeared me to fireplaces ever since- up until gas logs came into practical availability). In one house I had built I had a brick wall put in without the fireplace. It gave the warmth with no ashes.

I'd mentioned earlier the chickens, cattle and ponies we had on the farm. We also had dogs and cats. The first dog was a collie named Bouncer [Bouncer] . [Bouncer] Bouncer (colorized by me in 2001) who had come from my Grandfathers farm in Zelionople. Unfortunately, every now and then it appeared that he wanted to get back there. I remember riding in the back seat of our Jeep station wagon with him after we found him some 20 miles away. He was soaking wet and smelled to high heaven. He was a beauty prancing around the farm.

The second dog was Kay, a Border Collie. Her colors were off for the breed. She was mainly white with black spots. She was great when it came time to heard the cattle. In the summer we kept the cows in the barnyard at night, but during the day they went out into the pastures to eat grass and do all the other things cows like to do. When it came time for them to come in at night Kay and I would go get them. I would drive the Jeep and she would run along side. When we found the cows Kay would nip at their heals and I would drive along behind yelling at strays (who just couldn't get off the grass). In this way we got them back to the barn.

Kay and Bouncer and eventually Kay's puppies all lived in the barn. As well did the cats. Other than the old stud Tom, I don't remember any specific cat. Over the years there were many around who stayed plump on the mice population. I'm sure they also got supplements from us humans. Although we loved our dogs (I'm not sure we had the same affection for the cats) they never resided, or even visited, in the house.

One luxury we had as kids was to go swimming at Bob Dixons pool near Glenshaw. Bob was my Dads best friend and a fraternity brother at Penn State. Bob had this beautiful pool which we were allowed to visit. We often brought steaks and cooked out there making a day of it. Bob had this big pavilion in which he showed movies that he had taken of his travels. It was just like going to the theatre except there were no cartoons or plots.

Bob played the Organ and had one in his house (at least one) so we usually got a concert. If I'm not mistaken my Mother played along on the piano. Bob always had the latest electronic stuff (he would be in his glory with todays technologies, that is for sure). One thing he had was a machine that made phonograph records. This was before tape recorders. He started with smooth plastic disks and cut the groves that play music into them.

I remember he was big on the Cities Service (What Citgo Oil used to be) Band of America. The Cities Service Band of America played a concert on radio, I believe, once a week. He recorded every one. In those days that was quite a feat. Bob's wife was Petie, who was from West Virginia. She taught us how to make real fried egg sandwiches which was a late Sunday night special at our house.

Often when visiting Bob Dixon we would go to Pat McBrides for dinner. That restaurant no longer exists. It was a night club, but we always went early before any shows. I probably went there the first time in a basket and I remember seeing that basket there with maybe one of my cousins in it. I'll never forget going back there when I was around 33 years old. I had not been there for at least 10 years. The waitress remembered me, much to my surprise.

After graduating from Mars High School in the Spring of 1954 I went on to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA for more info on F&M .

Chapter 3... Somewhere Between High and Low Ball ....Preview

In going away to college I had selected to major in pre-veterinary. This I did because you had to pick something- It wasn't acceptable to just say you were going to college and you didn't know what you wanted to do- even though in most cases that was true (and probably still is). Since I knew I was interested in science and had been working with animals- veterinary medicine seemed logical. That is until my sophomore year when I was simultaneously taking Biology and Physics. I was in the middle of cutting up a frog one day and trying to draw pictures of cells under a microscope and at the same time working on electronics in a Physics class. It was then that I decided that the electronics (and Physics) turned me on more than the bloody frog. So I switched. I ended up being a Physics major, which I have never regretted.

© 1996, 1997, 1998 George L. Ball

============== 02/15/97 - 01/06/98========================

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