LEARNING WHEN OLD – a lesson from the young for the Boy Scout in all of us!



Like many old people, I am interested in learning something new; in my case genealogy, but also hiking and perhaps something totally new like wood carving. Almost every active old person is trying for a new hobby. Painting, pottery, writing a blog, hiking, etc. I have one friend who makes pottery and is good enough that she spent time on a cruise ship teaching pottery to other  old people. An interesting and unusual experience.

Community colleges are full of courses that will teach you something. As are senior centers. The problem is that the materials that they use are frequently too complicated, too advanced or too long for old people.

While sitting in the Smithtown Public Library, I got to thinking about this; and, about some sort of handbook for old people. This naturally led me to think about how I  learned when I was young. A tremendous influence on me was the Boy Scouts. So I checked the card catalog for the Boy Scout Handbook; it was at another branch. But, I did find the Boy Scout Merit Badge Series.

This was just what I needed. There are 132 of them. I checked the ones on genealogy, hiking, and wood carving. Each provided the basics for the topic selected and a list of resources; not to mention the tools that you need and how to use and care for them. Each provided several hours of interesting reading and was thought-provoking. Thought-provoking is good for the old.

Each provided something that we didn’t have 60 years ago, such as discussing GPS receivers; but, reminding you, that if the battery died, you were back to “navigating the backcountry with traditional tools.” Tradition, I know; GPS is a bit more difficult and dead batteries haunt me all the time, from hearing aids to cell phones.

I may order some; or check out my library at home. Travel should be enlightening, even if you are only in a strange library.

For more information go to: www.scoutstuff.org. The merit badge pamphlets are $4.99 each. You can probably afford a dozen. While at the site, take a look at the packs, etc. They have a lot more stuff than they did 60 years ago when I was paying 25 cents for a Merit Badge Pamphlet.

My wife is taking painting, so I may have to get her the Painting Merit Badge Pamphlet. 

You might also try Amazon.com and get a $4.95 Merit Badge Pamphlet for your Kindle.

You are never too old to learn from the young.

I haven’t seen a Travel Merit Badge pamphlet, but ….




Gertrude Winifred Tyler

2-4-1882 to 9-29=1980 –  age 98

When I was between 5 and 10 years old, in the late 1940’s, I used to visit my grandparents in Villisca, Iowa. I would spend time with my grandfather’s two sisters, who were in their 60’s, and who were unlike any other women (housewives) that I knew. My recent interest in genealogy has proven how unique they were.

Gertrude Winifred Tyler was born in 1882 in Villisca, Iowa. She graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa in 1909 followed by a Master’s Degree in Education from Columbia University in New York.


In 1913 she opened Stevens Memorial Suining Girls Boarding School in Suining, Sichuan, China, for the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She ran the school for around 30 years.

During this time she made numerous trips back to the US and I found her name listed as one of 19 US Citizens on the passenger manifest of the Nippon Maru, which arrived in San Francisco from Yokohama, Japan on July 16, 1919.

Gertrude had a large collection of Chinese wall hangings and artifacts. I have some of the hangings, but most of her collection is now in the Villisca Public Library.

Bertha Marie Tyler

9-6-1879 to 12-7-1971 age 92

Aunt Bertha, taught school in Orient, Iowa, graduated from Simpson College in 1912 and received her Master’s in Education and Psychology from the State University of Iowa in Ames, Iowa. She was then a school principal in Orient, Iowa and the Superintendent of Schools in Orient, Iowa for 16 years.

From 1934-1938 Aunt Bertha lived in Little Rock, Arkansas where she was the Dean of Women and Professor of Education for Philander Smith College, a college established in 1877 for freed African-American Slaves and still in existence and thriving today. The school was supported by the Methodist Church.

I wrote to Philander Smith College and they sent me an electronic copy of the 1935-36 College Catalog, which lists Bertha as the Dean of Women and Professor of Education. It also shows that tuition was $27 per semester, room and board was $15 per month and laundry was $4 per year. Tuition is now $12,564 and board and room is $8,250.

In 1938, Frank P. Tyler, Gertrude and Bertha’s father was in ill health. Gertrude and Bertha, abandoned their fascinating careers and came back to Villisca to run The Tyler Ice And Coal Company and the family slaughter house, which fascinated a 9-year-old boy on summer vacation.

The ice plant consisted of a huge room with a saline solution where they froze water into 100 pound blocks of ice, which were then split into smaller blocks and delivered throughout Villisca, as everyone still had ice boxes after WW II. Another part of the ice plant consisted of lockers where people stored their frozen food until they were ready to use it. The predecessor to the ice plant was a pond where they cut ice in the winter, stored it in warehouses insulated with saw dust and sold the ice in the summer.

The slaughter-house was a few blocks a way and only a small building where a couple of cows and pigs were slaughtered each week. The animals were shot with a .22 rifle and hoisted up on a winch to bleed out before being cut up. Gertrude and Bertha made blood pudding out of the blood and used every part of the animals.

My genealogy research so far has been on the internet; but, the next step is to track Gertrude and Bertha on the ground; visiting actual sites in Villisca, Iowa, Indianola, Iowa, Orient, Iowa, Columbia University, Ames, Iowa and maybe even Sichuan, China. It will be my own Genealogy Road Show, but will be on-site.

Last summer, my wife and I tracked her paternal and maternal ancestors through upstate New York and had great luck with local libraries, historical societies and genealogical societies, not to mention court houses and cemeteries.

This was originally published in the Albuquerque Genealogical Society Quarterly (July 2018)


LEAVING THE GROUND IN NEW MEXICO – the sky’s the limit!

New Mexico is the place to go if you want to get off the ground. Last week-end we went to the glider field at the Moriarty Airport,  50 miles from Albuquerque. There we saw dozens of gliders and several tow planes. A 15 minute glider ride from Sundance Aviation costs $105 and you fly with an FAA approved, experienced pilot. The only downside is that you have to weigh less than 220 pounds and be under 6′ 5″.


Near by is the US Southwest Soaring Museum which unfortunately was closed on Sundays.

Naturally this got me to thinking, and I discovered over Albuquerque via Google:

Trike Flights –  This is an air tricycle. You can get a 30 minute ride for $100 with a licensed Sport Pilot. For an additional fee you can have a video made showing you in flight. I frequently see these mechanical trikes while I am walking along the Rio Grande.

Plane rides at Vertical Lift Aviation.

Helecopter Rides.

Parachute jumping. Starting at $375 with Albuquerque Sky Diving.

Hang gliding with High Desert Hang Gliding.

All near or in Albuquerque and while I have only taken a balloon ride, the others have intrigued me. I have not taken any but the hot air balloon ride, an Albuquerque must, but am intrigued at 77 and sorry that I missed them earlier in my life. I am toying with the glider ride.

More my speed is the Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway which will take you on a 2.7 mile tram ride to the top of Sandia Peak from Albuquerque. There is sking, a restaurant and great hiking. At your age, watch the altitude which is over 11,000 feet. You can always sit in the restaurant and enjoy the view with a glass of wine.

The big draw in and over Albuquerque is the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta held for a week every October, where up to a 1000 balloons participate in a mass ascension, among other events. And of course, there are hot air balloon rides then and the year around. The traffic is horrible, but if you have an RV, there is great RV parking next to the grounds. Balloon pilots and their chase crews are hard to keep up with at my age, especially in the evening.

There is also the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Foundation Museum.

Most mornings I can see hot air balloons following the Rio Grande River behind my home, which is about my speed.

It is worth soaring  above the New Mexico desert, there is no age limit, and it gives you some great stories and pictures to impress your grandkids with.


TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO – the journey, not the goal, is the goal!

Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we  explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.

Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s,  SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.

Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.

The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Spaceport America, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Fire truck at Spaceport America.

In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:

Animas Creek Pasta With Bison


Outdoor Patio – Restaurant at Sierra Grande Lodge.

The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally  hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by  Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.

We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.


Outdoor Hot Springs Spa at Sierra Grande Lodge, Truth or Consequences, NM


Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.

Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.

The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.






Old people don’t realize the power that they have. They have time, some money, contacts, and an interest in preserving what they have. They probably can’t go back to work; however, there are a number of simple things that they can do that will not only benefit them, but will benefit their way of life and that of their grandchildren.

What problems do you think Trump has created? I know that there are no hard facts yet, but you can get a pretty good idea from his own words, contained in his Executive Orders and in his Twitters. Look at them and decide how you feel about them. What do you agree/disagree with? What is the effect of his words and policies on you?  Then, take action.

There are ten simple things that old people can do to change things.

  1. Call political representatives. House and  Senate.
  2. Join the Gray Panthers.
  3. Actively participate in local elections. Run for office – vote – volunteer.
  4. Attend local precinct meetings/school board meetings.
  5. List and understand problems that are peculiar to old people, and what is proposed for them; then “trump” them.
  6. Prepare, sign and circulate petitions.
  7. Offer to take people to polls and help fellow seniors with absentee ballots.
  8. Attend town hall, picnics, rallies and other political meetings.
  9. Blog – with facts. Anyone can do WordPress. Get computer help at your local senior center.
  10. Join an Indivisible group.

It may take a couple of years, but politicians will get the idea; especially at the grass-roots level. That is how the Tea Party did it and that is how Obama did it.

Think of all the things that may be at risk at your age.

We have the numbers, the talent, the money,  and the ideas to confront and defeat our enemies; especially our internal enemies.

Besides, it is fun, you will meet new people, and you will at last have a worthwhile purpose in life.



HERITAGE ARTS – a learning vacation at Southwestern Community College in the land of the Cherokee!

I recently attended the local Quarterly Chapter Meeting of the Trail of Tears Association, which was held at Swain Center Southwestern Community College, Almond, North Carolina. The speaker was Jeff Marley, a professor at Southwestern Community College, who will teach you how to print in Cherokee.

Jeff gave us a tour of the arts program which includes pottery making using three different kilns for firing: gas, electric and wood-fired. The clay is local and the techniques for making the pottery are both traditional and contemporary.

The school is located about 75 miles from Asheville, NC, on the edge of the Eastern Band Cherokee Indian Reservation. It has a  Casino and Museum in Cherokee.

The school has a summer art program that features ceramics, pottery, photography, drawing, printing and “Cherokee Language Printing.” The classes cost around $25; and $50 for a 5 week independent study course. Jeff will help you design your own course if you want. Beats a lot of things you could be doing and it is interesting.

Printing in the Cherokee language struck me. You use Cherokee fonts and print on an old-fashioned press.

Cherokee language fonts.

You set the type by hand in boxes, you place it in the press, you run the press by hand, make a proof and then do as many copies as you want.

A very old press.

If pottery is your thing, there is a large class room;

Pottery Classroom

resulting in as much pottery as you can make:



The Swain Center  offers hands on instruction in techniques that you would not get elsewhere. How many wood-fired kilns are there? Where else can you learn to set type in the Cherokee Language and then print posters, books and stationary in Cherokee. You may need a translator.

The Cherokee property, not a reservation, is the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokees; the ones who were left and who bought their property, after some of their ancestors were forced to move to Oklahoma where they became  the Western Band. There are museums to see; and of course Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, NC.  and the art community of Waynesville, NC. Don’t forget the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

You can fish, hunt, sail, hike, etc.

The real point of this blog is to encourage people to check out community colleges wherever they happen to be; or happen to be going. You can frequently gain access to college facilities and can learn something new.



THE GEEZER’S OWN GENEALOGY ROAD SHOW – a trip to find his ancestors.

Watching the Genealogy Road Show on Public Television got me to thinking. The show has genealogists researching people’s pasts looking for interesting stories; illustrated with census reports, photos and newspaper clippings. In each segment they try to discover something specific about a person’s ancestors. They are looking for a story. Last night it dealt with orphan trains. You can read the book: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline; or watch the PBS American Experience show about the trains.

I have had enough of most museums and natural wonders. I don’t like to drive on the freeways and I am interested in small towns. Like many old people I am interested in what my ancestors were up to. I am looking for stories. No one has ever wanted to hear about the museums I have been to or the tours I have taken.

I belong to the local genealogy society and have discovered a whole new world with amazing resources.

My wife and I have decided to take two trips to trace some of our respective ancestors. We already have stories we want to track down and, as an entre , we have donated family “treasures” to local historical societies.

We will make two trips; first, to several small hamlets in upstate New York; then, to small towns in Kansas and Nebraska.

Prior to leaving we will chart our last 150 years so we know the names and relationships of those we are seeking out.

We will contact and visit local Historical and Genealogy Societies. We will check with libraries –  remember inter-library loans. We will practice our hand-eye coordination spending more time on our laptops than even our grandchildren.

We will get maps showing roads before the interstates and research census and newspaper records.

Our guide will be a chart with names, dates and places. Our goal is to add stories to the chart. We hope to discover 100 stories about our ancestors along with pictures of their homes, businesses, families, and of course scandals.

Some of the stories we know about now, but which need to be documented and fleshed out, are:

The sheriff who, as a boy, stole a train at lunchtime in upstate New York.

The Nebraska doctor and the first Woman, Indian Doctor who covered for each other.

The white, great-aunt from Iowa who taught at a “Negro” college in Arkansas in the 1920’s.

The great-aunt from small-town Iowa who established a Methodist girls boarding school in Szechuan, China in about 1912 and who ran it until 1938, when she returned to Iowa to take over the family slaughter-house and ice plant.

The grandmother who patented a children’s car seat in 1922.

The grandmother who arrived in Iowa with her single mom in a horse-drawn wagon.

If this  trip works, and is as much fun as we expect, the next stop is Ellis Island and an international trip.

Old people, like children, love stories. If they are true and if you  can document them, so much the better. That is what we are up to. And, it  beats watching TV, except for the Genealogy Road Show, and talking about who has what illness.

Watch this space.

We will keep you informed.






Indian Rocks Beach, FL Trolly

Indian Rocks Beach, FL Trolley

Old People have a love/hate relationship with cars. They want the freedom to drive, but are also afraid when they do. They don’t like to drive after dark, on freeways, in busy traffic and in strange places. They live in fear that their kids are going to ride with them; and, then want to take away their licenses.

Old People should plan ahead and learn to move about without cars and without fear.

We were recently vacationing for two weeks in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Our Airbnb home was a block and a half from the beach in a quiet neighborhood. It was perfect for four of us. Of course, each couple rented  a car. How else would we get around? But at 75, I started thinking down the road. (No pun intended.)

We could walk to the beach, walk to restaurants and walk to small shops for essential supplies. UBER was available for longer journeys; like the grocery store. The Indian Rocks Beach Library was only a block and a half away, complete with computers, wi-fi and a small bookstore with 25 cent paperbacks.

On Gulf Blvd. the Suncoast  Beach Trolley runs every half-hour  from St. Petersburg Beach to the bus terminal in downtown Clearwater. It is easy and cheap.

The  PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) senior fare is $2.50 per day or $35.00 for a month of unlimited travel. Each Trolley has free wi-fi, so if the place you are staying doesn’t have free wi-fi, you can just ride the bus with your  computer all day for $1.

It is a good deal, takes more time than a car, but…. I may soon be old. Parking is another problem, but that is for another blog.

My Indian Rocks Beach experience can be applied anywhere.

Any city that has a bus, trolley or cable car line, probably has a senior fare and a pass good for one-day to a year. In San Francisco, a pass good for bus, cable car and street cars within San Francisco is $15 per month.

In Albuquerque. New Mexico the  senior pass is $12 per month if you are over 62.

You can check out any city you are going to by doing a Google search:

bus+name of city+schedule

This will lead you to the appropriate web page.

One work of caution, at least in Indian Rocks Beach, the bus stop sign that gives you search message sites doesn’t work. I sent a message and scanned in a code. Didn’t work. So, I waited on a bench, and pretty soon the trolley came.



TRIPTIKING TO TUCSON – a journey, not a goal.

I am still driving; however, I am more and more uncomfortable driving on freeways, especially through unfamiliar cities. And, at my age, the journey is more important than the destination; I am aware of the ultimate destination, and am not quite ready to arrive.  I am curious and have exhausted my interest in freeways. I don’t need  70 miles an hour, irritable drivers and large trucks.

I drive frequently to Tucson; grandchildren, you know. I am a member of AAA.  Last Saturday I  asked for a “TripTik” from Albuquerque to Tucson without driving  on  freeways. AAA and their skilled staff provided a “TripTik” route with  only  14 miles of I-25 or I-10. It tracks the Mexican-US border and takes  me to new places. My journey will take 10.3 hours instead of 7.5 and will be 126.9 miles longer. It may require an overnight stay; however, AAA provides a list of motels and restaurants. I also got an electronic version of the “TripTik” which is on my i-Phone.

I can afford the extra time. I can use the stimulation. I need a topic of conversation other than aging.

It’s the journey, not the ultimate goal, even though, I am statistically 20 years away from my “ultimate goal.” I will let you know how the trip turns out.

Another simple way to plan your trip is to go to Google Maps, click on “show options,” check “avoid highways,” and print out a map that avoids freeways.