Saturday, February 28, 2009

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

John Stuart Mill was raised by his father James to be a genius. James believed that genius was the product of learning and training. James's theory seems to have done well with John, but I have never heard or read of much with regards to the rest of the family.
James had a good job working for the British East India Tea Company. John followed in his dad's footsteps and worked for the same monopoly for thirty-five years.
John had two problems and one may have been the cause of the other. Tuberculosis was one.
His father, grandfather, grandmother, brother, Henry, and lifetime companion Harriet Taylor all succumbed to tuberculosis. His brother George committed suicide rather than wait for the ravages of TB to kick in.
John's other problem was depression.
John Stuart met the love of his life when he was about twenty-four years old, unfortunately she was already married. But regardless they became lifelong companions, friends, and intellectual collaborators from that time forward. Their relationship became the talk of the town and most people were very skeptical of the couples’ claims that their attraction was purely platonic. Most biographers agree that even though John and Harriet lived together, during her husband's lifetime, and then married after his death, John and Harriet were not involved sexually.
After their marriage she was sick and bedridden.
When Harriet died John was heartbroken. He turned her grave into a shrine and moved to where it was nearly a part of his backyard. There is absolutely no doubt that John loved Harriet.
John wrote many books and sold a bunch. He was a famous and wealthy philosophical and political writer of his day. He was a champion of many unconventional things: the equal rights and equal status of women, the protection of the rights of the minority, the value of individualism, even to the point of eccentricity.
He had some interesting ideas in economics also. He suggested in his economic writing that even if it is accepted that the laws of supply and demand control and dominate in the world of production, distribution was another matter entirely. In other words, in earning money it may be true that one is subject to hard and fast rules, but when it comes to spending it, one can do whatever he pleases.
This may not seem to be a very big idea but it threw the economic world for a loop. Men like Malthus, Ricardo, Adam Smith and Karl Marx were making a lot of dire predictions or prophesies based on the inevitability of economic laws. The idea was that economics was a physical science. Supply and demand and other theories were like the laws of gravity and must be obeyed.
Mill's notion put the world of economics back into the hands of people. People and governments could spend their money in any manner that pleased them. There may be rules that apply to earning money but spending it was discretionary. Money could be given to the poor, used to feed the sick, spent on public education or to balance inadequacy in the society. This was replacing inevitability and determinism with choice and freedom. Men and governments were not bound by dismal rules but free to make choices.
This idea got little support at the time and the world instead followed Malthus, Recardo and Marx.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lawrence - My Hometown

Going to the RATS

By Richard E. Noble
RATS is STAR spelled backwards. The Star was a movie theater in North Lawrence. It was on the corner of Broadway and Daisy. I think Spruce St. became Daisy St. at some point but don’t hold me to that. It has been a long time away from home for me.
We called the STAR the RATS because the Spicket River snaked behind the theater and the word around the playgrounds was that the STAR was infested with giant river rats.
I never saw any rats at the STAR. I remember the cats taking up position in front of the movie projector though. This precipitated the thunder of hundreds of tiny Buster Brown shoes or All Star Canvass sneakers pounding in unison on the theater floor. This thunder occurred when anything went awry in the projection room.
Kids would bring rubber balls and “tonic” bottles to roll down the slope under the seats. When the object would hit somebody’s shoe, there would be a scream, “A rat! A rat!” This was great fun for some; not so much for others.
The floor was so caked with sticky spilled soda and greasy popcorn butter (real butter), that when you walked between the rows your sneakers would stick to the floor. There was enough bubble gum under each seat to supply the entire continent of Asia. The seats were so old and worn that for many it was necessary to hang on to the arms of the chairs or they would side to the floor. Most kids solved that problem by putting their knees or their feet up against the back of the chair in front of them.
But with all its shortcomings, it was packed every Saturday afternoon for a kids’ matinee. It was 12 cents to get in, but if you were able to scrounge up a quarter somewhere you could get the special - admission plus popcorn and a soda or candy bar.
We saw some classic movies at the Star - The Thing, The Blob, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and of course, Frankenstein. I remember ducking under my seat at some of the scary parts. I was the kind of little kid who used to like to ride “the bench” on the merry-go-round at Salisbury Beach. It took me a year or two to graduate to a wooded horse that didn’t go up and down. By the time that I was no longer afraid of the wooded horses that went up and down, I was too old to ride the merry-go-round anymore.
The afternoon matinee lasted all afternoon. The moms and dads loved it - and the kids did too. It seemed like they would show a hundred cartoons. We would see Bugs Bunny, Beep Beep the Road Runner, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam and a million others. That would be followed by a serial. The serials were old silent movies. Simon LaGree was big. He was mean. And the fair maiden was forever tied to a railroad track or hanging by a limb from a mountain top. Then we would see a newsreel - Edward R. Morrow or somebody like that.
We would see two full length features often interrupted by a sing-along where we would all “follow the bouncing ball.” The words to a famous song would appear on the screen and the animated “bouncing ball” would hop along on top of the words striking out the notes. Believe it or not the kids liked that. But if you didn’t, you could always take a trip to the snack bar and put a dime into the automatic soda machine. You had to watch what you were doing at that soda machine. A paper cup would drop down onto a tray where it was supposed to be filled with syrup and carbonated water. But the darn cup would invariably drop into position with the bottom side up. If you weren’t quick witted, your orange crush soda or RC cola would go right down the drain. And the owner would not give you another dime. That was learning personal responsibility the hard way!
But one of the biggest attractions of the Star Theater was to meet a boy or girl and hold hands - or whatever. No boy ever asked a girl to go to the Star with him. He would suggest a clandestine meeting. Sometimes the girls would even make the suggestion. Occasionally there would be an impromptu meeting precipitated by the question; Is this seat taken? Or, Can I sit with you?
One of my buddies had an impromptu meeting with just such a young lady. In the excitement of squeezing her elbow or shoulder, she was able to pick his back pocket and steal his wallet. He thought she was squeezing his butt. He felt that it was only fair to grant her the right to squeeze his butt in exchange for all of his illicit squeezing of her various body parts. He was very philosophic about the whole experience. He said that his lost wallet would be forgotten one day but the memory of little Lulu’s soft and tender “elbow” would last forever. This has proved to be correct.
There would be an usher walking around with a flashlight. He would shine his light and try to catch a couple embracing or as it was called “making out.” If he did, he would admonish them. If the couple persisted or got caught several times the usher could ask them to leave the theater. I don’t ever remember anyone getting bounced from the RATS for making out.
I always wondered if it was the usher and his persistent flashlight that precipitated the birthday parlor game called “Spotlight.”
Spotlight was played at home. The boys and girls would be randomly paired, the lights would be turned off, and the odd-man-out would try to catch a couple kissing with his flashlight so that he could change places with the boy caught in the light.
My god! Where were the parents in those days? I can hardly believe what I’m writing!

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Eastpointer

A Carrabelle Cowboy and Evolution

By Richard E. Noble
The Franklin Chronicle had posted a detailed report on the latest F-CAT test. Mr. Hoffer, a retired college professor, was always outraged by the low and failing scores in Franklin County. He often stopped into Hobo’s to tell me all about it. I decided to ask one of the teachers who came into my shop why the kids in Franklin County never seemed to be able to get a passing grade on these tests.
“Well,” said this teacher, “let’s be honest and fair about this. We really don’t have much to work with here in Franklin County. You’ve lived here for awhile. Do you think we have a lot of geniuses running around this area? Most of these kids have no intention of ever going to college. When the boys get out of high school they can jump onto their daddy’s boat and make a living. What do they need an education for? If it wasn’t the law most of them wouldn’t attend school in the first place. I think we do darn well under the circumstances.”
I thought about that for a moment and then replied, “Well, my neighborhood up in the intellectual capital of America in Massachusetts was not really filled with budding geniuses either. My hometown was voted recently the stolen car capital of America and it wasn’t a heck of a lot better when I was growing up. In my eighth grade class we had three or four kids who were old enough to drive to school. If it was the law, me and most of my friends would have been picking up scraps of wool down at the mill just like our daddy’s had done. But accepting that the nuns and the brothers did not have much to work with either in our under-privileged neighborhood, we still learned to read and write. I could even add and subtract and do a little algebra by the time I graduated. We had comparative tests every year and none of our schools failed to meet the national average.”
At this point a man with a cowboy hat, a string tie, and an oversized rodeo belt buckle spoke up. “Do you realize that right here in Franklin Country they are teaching our children outright lies and falsehoods and that you are paying for it with your taxes?”
My teacher friend tuned and confronted the man. “What kind of lies and falsehoods are we teaching, sir?”
“Well do you really believe that your great, great, great grandfather was a monkey?”
“Oh no, I’m not going to get into that one!” the school teacher exclaimed. He picked up his dessert and walked away.
“What about you Mr. Hobo? Do you think that your great, great, great grandfather was a monkey?”
“No, I don’t. But it doesn’t really upset me that some people think that way. But if the situation was reversed I think that I could get more upset.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if I was a monkey and someone tried to tell me that my great, great, great grandfather was a human, I suppose that would ruffle my fur somewhat. I mean, you know, no monkey ever dropped an atomic bomb on another village of monkeys. It wasn’t a monkey who invented the Gatling gun or napalm. Monkeys don’t stock pile nuclear weapons or commit genocide on perceived lesser breeds of monkeys. I have yet to read about a monkey Bataan Death March. Monkeys don’t torture other monkeys. Now I have read that monkeys do not have much of a sexual morality but either does the Senate or the House of Representatives in D.C. from what I read and hear. Actually the general human public isn’t doing all that well on that account either. AIDS, syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases are ruining rampant. More little things, like divorce, child abandonment, abuse and sexual molestation also seem to be at no shortage.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you would rather be a monkey that a human being?”
“No. Are you offering me the choice?”
“I can’t offer you such a choice.”
“I didn’t think so. But now that you suggest it, I read about a scientific test a while back. They put two monkeys next to one another in separate cages. One of the monkeys was taught that he could get food by pressing a button. But whenever he pressed the button the monkey in the other cage got an electric shock. When the button-pressing monkey noticed that the other monkey was getting shocked each time he pressed the button, he stopped eating. It seems that a monkey would rather starve to death than torture another monkey. Similar test done with humans proved quite the contrary.”
“You think monkeys are better than people then?”
“I don’t know if I would say that monkeys are better than people but they certainly have less to be ashamed of than people do. And I would say that a monkey being accused of having human ancestry has a much greater right to take offense at the accusation.”

Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lawrence - My Hometown

Little Criminals

By Richard E. Noble
I was reading a book not too long ago by the infamous bank robber, Willie Sutton. Besides robbing banks and breaking out of prisons all over America, Willie had a famous quote attached to his legend. When asked why he robbed banks, his response was, “Because that’s where the money is.”
As I continued reading his autobiography, I noticed that Willie and I had a number of similar attitudes and opinions. Willie did not “rat” on his fellow riffraff. He didn’t like wealthy people very much. He justified his robbing banks by suggesting that it was only fair because, in his opinion, banks robbed regular people and on a regular basis. He was also not overly fond of policemen, politicians, or authority in general.
As I continued reading Willie Sutton, I wondered why an upstanding, righteous, asset to the community like myself was so sympathetic to the views of a professional bank robber.
One of the first books from the Lawrence Library that I read as a young man was the Great Impostor, written about the phenomenal life of Ferdinand Waldo Demara. I think the author was Robert Crichton. I picked the book because Mr. Demara was from Lawrence.
Ferdinand Waldo Demara gets drafted but goes AWOL. He then turns himself into a Harvard professor and gets a commission in the Marine Corps. He continues on a road of imaginative deception and assumes a number of other difficult and prestigious occupations.
They made a movie about him staring Tony Curtis, Karl Malden, Raymond Massey and an array of other big movie stars.
So why am I reading about criminals and enjoying it? Why do I have so many common criminal values? Could it have anything to do with being raised in poverty in the streets of Lawrence and being chased around every day, from corner to corner, by the local police?
Well whatever the sociological and psychological connections, us little guys hanging out on the street corners of Lawrence in the 50’s and 60’s did not have the healthiest attitude towards the local police. We weren’t criminals or impostors. We lived there. But wherever it is that we decided to hangout, the police would soon be there to protest our right to squat.
In the early days of our street corner lives whenever the cops would pull up we would immediately scatter. But as time went on we became immune. They would take out their pencils and pads and ask us our names. We would lie. They would ask us where we lived and we would lie.
One day this cop decides that he has taken all the guff that he is going to, he says; “If you guys don’t start answering me truthfully, you are all going to the station house.”
His next question was, “Are you the oldest in your family?”
Ray Dolan says, “No, my mother and father are both older.”
“That’s it,” the frustrated cop says. “Every one of you guys is under arrest and you are going with me down to the police station.”
“No foolin’?” says Billy Jackson.
“No! I ain’t foolin! Get over there and get into that cruiser.”
Jackson jumps off the steps at Nell’s Variety and runs towards the cruiser screaming, “Shot-gun. I got shot-gun. I yelled it first.”
He ran over to the cruiser and jumped into the front passenger seat. When the cop climbed into the driver’s seat, Jackson said, “Are you going to turn on the bubble machine and blast the siren?”
“Get the hell in the back seat, before I give you a crack.”
“Oh, come on, man? How can six of us crowd into that tiny back seat?”
Jackson reluctantly climbed into the back seat with the rest of us. We bugged the cop all the way to the police station to turn on the siren and the bubble machine but he wouldn’t do it.
They threw us into a room by ourselves. As I remember we pinched one pack of cigarettes and two brown bag lunches out of the desk in the room.
This guy came strolling in dressed in baggy pants and a holey T-shirt. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in a week and slept in a garbage can the night before. Jack Greco said, “There’s the Chief, now. Let’s ask him about all this bull.” We all laughed. Just then another officer stepped into the room, “Hey Chief, they need you downstairs.”
“Tell them I’ll be there in a minute,” the bum replied.
That hobo was the chief!
Rambo had picked us up at about six o’clock. By nine it started snowing heavy. We sat there until eleven or twelve o’clock. Finally the cop who arrested us came back into the room.
“What is it with you guys? Don’t any of you have any parents?”
“Sure we got parents. Everybody’s got parents.”
“Well, it’s midnight, and not one parent has called to find out where any of you juvenile delinquents are.”
“Did you ever figure that our parents might not have telephones? And where do you get off calling us delinquents?”
“Well then, why haven’t they showed up here at the station?”
“Why the heck would they look for us at the police station? They’re probably wandering around the corner where you picked us up.”
“Get the hell out of here and go home. I’m tired of looking at you guys.”
“Screw you. You have to take us back to where you got us. It’s been snowing for three hours. We’ll freeze,” said Jack Sheehy.
Believe it or not, the officer drove us back to the corner at Nell’s and dumped us off. And all the way back we ragged him about the siren and the bubble machine. He turned them both on as he drove away. What a bugger!

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry -parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Day on the Winter Bar

The Eastpointer

A day on the winter bar

Richard E. Noble
Carol would sit up in our bed, rub her eyes, then pull back the curtain to our Airstream camper and peek out to see if the oyster bush was blowing in the wind. We spent the winter oystering on Cat Point which was right off shore from the campground where we stayed. If the oyster bush was whipping around or even fluttering, there was no sense in crawling out of our nice cozy bed. It would be too windy. There would be white caps on the water. The combination of cold and wind out on the bay was a killer.
I was raised in New England with the snow and cold but bought my first set of long underwear when I became an oysterman on Apalachicola Bay.
Very few oystermen rushed out early on those cold winter mornings. Most of them could be found along the shoreline warming their hands over a driftwood fire or downtown in one of the eateries having breakfast. It was the same in the orange groves in central Florida in January and February.
I had chest waders to get out to the boat in the winter. I took them off once I was on the boat and put them on to get back to shore after tying the boat out at the end of the day. Carol would always prepare hot coffee and sometimes soup and put them in a thermos. If it wasn’t soup, it would be something hot in the thermoses. In the morning she would fill the thermoses with hot water and get them good and hot before she put in the hot coffee and hot lunch. This technique worked pretty well.
To help with the cold and the wind, we used the two cull board technique. We would save an old cull board just for the winter time. We would set it up, lengthwise on the bow. The wind would blow it toward the culler and we would keep it up with guywire ropes attached to the bow post. That made a big difference. Some oystermen took hibachis out with them and stuck them under their cull board. We never liked the idea of hot coals on a wooden boat, so we roughed it out with our double cull boards.
In the fall and winter Carol always brought out an old fishing pole. She would bait it up with some fiddler crabs that she would scratch up while culling and then sit on the fishing pole handle as she culled. When she got her butt tickled, she would jump up and set the hook. We caught mostly sheepshead and drum fish and on a lucky day we might catch a flounder or a spotted trout. But nearly everyday Carol caught some fish. When our oystering day was over, I would use our walk rail as a cleaning table and fillet our catch. Then wash it down with bay water.
If it stayed overcast or cloudy all day, we would be mighty cold by the time we hit the dock. But oftentimes the sun would come out in the afternoon and warm us up.
In the old days Cat Point opened in September. For the most part the oysters would be small. If there were lots of spat and small oysters, that was a good sign. It would only take a few months for a small oyster to be harvestable. And by the last few months of the season we would even be harvesting those September spats. The growth rate for oysters in Apalachicola bay is phenomenal. I’ve read that in only seven to nine months an oyster spawn in Apalachicola Bay can grow to two and a half inches or more. It takes two to three years to grow an oyster to that size on either the east or west coast. That is one reason why it makes good sense for oystermen to catch clean oysters. The more small oysters and larger spats that they knock off the harvestable oysters, the more oysters they will be harvesting at the end of the season.
We had to watch the tide in the winter. If the wind was going to be blowing from the north all night, I would have to anchor my boat far off shore and hope that there would be some water under it in the morning. If I left the boat close to shore, there might be no water under my boat in the morning. And sometimes the water would not come back in for days.
In the evening when we brought in our catch, if the water had been blown out, we would have to haul the bags in on our shoulders one at a time, or wait until there was water around the dock that evening.
When I was forced to tie my boat out off shore, I used my hook anchor and I’d throw out a couple of loose crankshaft anchors just for safe keeping. We made our biggest money in the winter, harvesting in shore on the low tide. Sometimes the water would be so clear and shallow that you could see the oysters laying right there on the bottom. That saved a lot of guessing, pushing and shoving.

Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. He has published 5 books and they are all for sale on Amazon. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business e-mail Richard at

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Eastpointer

Pay people as little as you can get away with!

By Richard E. Noble
At one point in our oyster catching career, a gallon of shucked oysters was selling for considerably more than what we could sell our bagged oysters. My wife and I decided that it would be to our advantage to hire a shucker. The dealer we sold to had a number of shucking stalls available. We went into the boss’ office and told him about our idea. He thought it was a great idea. He said he knew a number of shuckers who were looking for more work. He even offered to make inquiries on our behalf.
The oysters were fat and one bag was shucking out to one gallon. The boss would pay me considerably more for each gallon than he would for a bag. So Carol and I offered to share our new found wealth with our potential shucker. We told the boss that we were willing to pay more to have our bags shucked than the going price; our boss’ wife almost had a heart attack. His wife was his bookkeeper and she was working at another desk in the same office. "Oh don't do that," she said. "Let me give you a tip. You should always pay the shuckers as little as you possibly can. Never offer one shucker more than another shucker."
"Well," my wife Carol said, "we have never been the boss before and we don't want to make any enemies. We would rather pay the shucker a little more and keep her happy and doing a good job for us than offer her the-same-old-same-old and have her discontented."
Both of our bosses persisted with their point of view. But Carol and I insisted.
Strangely enough even though we were offering $2.00 more per gallon than the going rate, the boss couldn't seem to find us a shucker. And as it turned out we never did find a shucker. We ended up buying two shucking machines and shucking our own oysters while the price was good.
It has always seemed to me that my oyster boss' chant could actually be the American Businessman's National Anthem - Always pay the other guy as little as you can possibly get away with.
I was reading a book about the economy during the Colonial period and the same debate between the bosses and the workers was raging then.
Of course, during the Colonial period slave or indentured servant was the bosses’ preferred status for an employee. The indentured servant was not much above the chattel slave. Some thought that becoming a “wage slave” was in reality even worse than the chattel slave. Frederick Douglass, a former black slave himself, expressed this view after the Civil War when the chattel slaves from the South became wage earners after their emancipation. There was no upkeep cost to a wage slave. A chattel slave had to be housed, fed, and treated for medical problems – even if by a veterinarian. A sick slave could not tote that barge and lift that bale adequately. And a chattel slave could run up to $1500 each on the auction block – depending on condition. A wage slave could be hired by the hour or by the day and if he got sick and died another could be hired at no additional cost.
I thought this defense of higher wages by the Mechanics Trade Association very interesting:
"If the mass of people were enabled by their labor to secure for themselves and their families an abundant supply of the comforts and conveniences of life, the consumption of articles, particularly of dwellings, furniture and clothing would amount to at least twice the quantity it does at present, and of course the demand, by which alone employers are enabled to subsist or accumulate, would likewise be increased in equal proportion ... It is therefore the real interest (for instance) of the Hatter, that every man in the community should be able to clothe his own head and those of his family with an abundant supply of the best articles of that description; because the flourishing demand thereby created, and which depends altogether on the ability of the multitude to purchase, is that which alone enables him to pay his rent and support his family in comfort ..."
This is basically the argument for the establishment of the middle class and it was being argued in the American Colonies before the American Revolutionary War.
Unfortunately it is still being debated in today's America. Only once in my career did I meet an employer whose philosophy it was to pay his employees as much as he could afford and not as little as he could get away with.
If new, good paying jobs are started here in America, I wonder how long it will be before they are shipped overseas. When we get all those windmills operational how long before the motors are manufactured in Germany and the windmill blades shipped in from China. We need more than new jobs. We need a new economic philosophy.

Richard E. Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for over thirty years. All five of Richard’s books are now available on If you would like to stock his books in your store or business, e-mail him at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ulysses Simpson Grant

(President from 1869-1877, 18th)

By Richard E. Noble

Ulysses Hiram Grant was his real name but he changed it because the initials spelled HUG. Could hardly win the Civil War and go on to become Commander and Chief with a nickname like "Hug," Grant thought.
His career at West Point gets no historian's praise. He was sloppy and unkempt. He didn't like the military, or fighting, or killing. He didn't even like hunting. He couldn't or wouldn't keep in step. He didn't want to go to West Point in the first place, but once he got there, he really knew that he didn't want to be there. He wasn't a good student.
When I read what they have to say about U.S. Grant's stay at West Point, it is difficult to understand why they just didn't throw his butt out. But let me be one of the first to point out, that as bad as Ulysses was, there were a good many more in his class that were even worse than he was. What that says about West Point in those days, I don't know.
As much as Ulysses hated West Point he wanted very much to graduate. He felt that if he could just graduate, his economic future would be secure. He was wrong.
It is well known that Grant had a drinking problem. In fact, when he was stationed at Fort Humboldt, California under Colonel Robert C. Buchanan he was told to resign or be Court Martialed. He resigned. Before this event he served in the Mexican War. He was not in support of the Mexican War and felt it to be unjust and a war of aggression on the part of his country. But he fought in it nevertheless. He is quoted as saying, "Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war, in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history."
So he toughed it out at West Point, an organization that he despised or at least had no respect for, because he thought that it would guarantee economic security. He then proceeds to fight in a war which goes against his conscience and principles for what appears to be his notions of social reputation and possible career advancement. He resigns from the military rather than trying to defend himself and all that he has worked for, because of the embarrassment it would cause his wife, Julia Dent, and her socially acceptable family.
So, we have personal reputation, a lack of conscientious moral principle, economic security, a desire to be acceptable, not too bright, an uncontrollable drinking problem, and an inability to earn a living in the real world. All of which seems to spell out a lack of personal self-esteem, failure and possible imprisonment.
What was it about this sorry individual that brought him to become a victorious general and military hero; two term president of the United States, and the author of one of the best selling memoirs in history?
I really don't know enough about the man to say, but it does seem that people, in general, loved and respected him. There is also no question that he was a brave soldier, but like George Washington, I don't read too many historians bragging about his generalship. He was tough and willing to sacrifice a lot of lives.
He did manage to stay married to the same woman for thirty seven years. So we know that he was not only loyal, brave and courageous, but understanding, willing to absorb abuse, and tenacious. These qualities, I know from personal experience, are necessary to any man who can remain married to the same woman for over thirty years.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831)


By Richard E. Noble

Trying to get an understanding of the German Philosophers, their lives and thought, was the basis for the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There ain't a one of these guys who could get a psychological clearance to work on the assembly line at G.E.

Hegel was a depressive hypochondriac and had a number of bad moments dealing with suicide. He had a theory that the truest and greatest relationship that can exist between man and woman was that of brother and sister. Before we go into any great depth analyzing this theory let it be suffice to say that Hegel's sister, after a lifetime of studying and reviewing her brother's thoughts and ideas, at first went totally out of her mind, but then reconsidered and took a long walk off a short pier and drowned herself. His good friend, and poet Holderlin, described his friend Hegel as "a calm person of the intellect." Holderlin, very shortly thereafter, went totally and completely mad. Hegel had a positive propensity towards mad people. He thought basically that they expressed a point of view that, in light of the state of mankind, was not without merit. None of the biographers who I have read thus far suggest that Hegel eventually went mad himself. But I think that this may have been overlooked since he was born and raised in Germany.

In such an atmosphere who the hell would have noticed.

Heine (whoever the hell he was) says that Hegel was deliberately confusing, and that deep down inside Hegel never really wanted to be understood. In this respect, I think that Mr. Hegel was a complete success. My good buddy Bertrand Russell says that in his opinion Hegel was basically incorrect on everything. And that's good enough for me.

His big proposition was that all of human civilization was a kind of fist fight.

A big nose states a proposition, a disagreeing fist hits the big nose, a bleeding big nose then agrees to compromise.

This is about as deep as a German can get, it seems. He calls this Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. Bertrand says that he sees no historical reality in this analysis. And neither do I. If anything, I see Thesis, followed by Antithesis then a reaffirmation of the original thesis but in different words, then followed by a reaffirmation of the original antithesis but in different words, an on and on and on.

For example: I am The Greatest – thesis.

No you are not – antithesis.

I am so - restatement of original thesis.

You have poop for brains - restatement of antithesis.

My father can beat up your father - restatement of original thesis.

Your mother wears paratrooper boots - more confusing restatement of original antithesis.

And so on. If there is any evidence of the evolution of an advancing Civilization, it is going to take someone a lot better than Hegel to prove it to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bea's Sandwich Shop

Bea’s Sandwich Shop

Lawrence, Mass - My Hometown

By Richard E. Noble
Bea’s sandwich shop was a big memory for those of us who were growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in good old Lawrence, Massachusetts.
There was a whole legend that went along with the success of Bea’s sandwich shop. My older brother, who was a classmate of one of the sons of the locally famous family, told me that the fable was true. I think their family name was Consoli.
Supposedly the founders of the shop began their operation in their tenement kitchen. They would prepare their famous cutlet sandwich and then sell it from a mobile cart that they pushed down onto Broadway - so claimed the legend. They started out selling their sandwiches at lunch time to the kids from Central Catholic and Lawrence High.
Within time they rented or bought a building on Broadway and opened their first shop.
The shop itself was rather revolutionary. It had no place to sit. The walls were covered with mirrors. A counter ran below the mirrors on both walls. The entrance and building front was large glass windows. You could drive by on Broadway and see if they were busy or not. McDonald’s and Burger King and most of the fast food shops are all like that today. But Bea’s was before any McDonald’s.
The kitchen was also quite revolutionary. The ordering area was also glass and the whole kitchen could be observed by the customers. If anybody dropped a cutlet on the floor it had to go into the garbage or everyone would know. The help had to look clean and presentable also. And they always did. A few daubs of spaghetti sauce on the apron did not warrant any comment or customer disapproval.
Eventually, they had a whole wall full of cutlet sandwich varieties and several stores - cutlet with plain sauce, cutlet with meat sauce, cutlet with meat sauce and mushrooms, cutlet with green peppers and onions and on and on. But once they had their shop opened they presented other sandwich favorites. Their chicken bar-b-que was a big one. I think they used to call it chicken a la king which was more appropriate. The sandwich had nothing to do with bar-b-que sauce or smoked meat. It was chicken with a mayonnaise or cream sauce of some kind. It was great.
They also had hotdogs boiled in beer. Of course they had sausage and meatball sandwiches and several other Italian favorites.
When I was a little guy my uncle used to take me down to Bea’s. I always got a cutlet. It was only thirty-five cents and the cutlet was always too big to fit in the bun. You would have to eat the cutlet down around the edges before you got to the bun. In my childhood memories it was a giant sandwich. There was nothing else like it.
There was another fellow down the street, King-size sandwich shop, who always bragged that he used real veal in his veal cutlets and not cheap pork butt like they used at Bea’s. He would point up to his sign and make note that he used the word “veal” while Bea’s only used the word “cutlet.” His cutlet was good too. But it didn’t flop out over the edge of the bun by three inches like Bea’s had. It was certainly softer (more tender) than Bea’s. But, it was no contest. Everybody liked the Bea’s pounded pork butt cutlet better than anybody else’s.
When we were early teenagers we would head down to Bea’s and buy sauce sandwiches. They were ten cents. They would slop a big ladle of their homemade meat sauce into one of their delicious buns. Sometimes we would get two or three sauce sandwiches each.
One day a mob of us walked down there. We pooled all our money. We had enough money to buy 37 sauce sandwiches. It was a little embarrassing to be ordering sauce sandwiches, so we drew straws to see who would get the honor of going inside and ordering 37 sauce sandwiches.
Jack Sheehy, who now owns the Pizza Pub on Lawrence St., got the honor. Jack was a little shy in those days. So when he went up to the window he whispered to the girl taking his order. “Thirty-seven sauce sandwiches, please.”
When they called his number and he went to the window, the girl said, “That will be fifty-four dollars,” or some such phenomenal amount. Jack protested quietly but vigorously. “It can’t be. It is only supposed to be $3.70 for 37 sauce sandwiches.
The girl said, “You ordered sausage sandwiches.”
“God no,” Jack squealed. “I ordered sauce sandwiches. I only have $3.70.”
The girl frowned and then brought all the sandwiches back to the cook. He had a very bad look on his face as he pealed all the sausages out of our 37 sauce sandwiches.
When the girl returned with the sauce sandwiches she didn’t call out our number. She used the loud speaker and said, “Would the young man who ordered 37 sauce sandwiches please come to the pick up window.” As I remember Jack attempted to walk out the front door but we would not let him do it. We wanted our sauce sandwiches.
We have been laughing over that story now for over 50 years. And every time someone tells it, it gets more hilarious. Amazingly enough I can still see Jack’s beet-red face when the lady challenged his order and then again when she called our order on the loud speaker.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wooden Boats

The Eastpointer

A Commercial Fisherman and His Wooden Boat

By Richard E. Noble

After a year or two of oystering I began to think of myself as a Commercial Fisherman and my oyster boat as a classic wooden work skiff. I would go over to Wefing's in Apalachicola and pick up a copy of the National Fisherman magazine and Wooden Boats. My oyster skiff was nothing like the Chris Craft, teak and mahogany, wooden cabin cruisers being displayed in Wooden Boats magazine. Nor was my oystering profession much like catching King Crabs off the coast of Alaska. But there were a number of similarities and a kindred spirit. We were all people who made a living off the water and we were all being oppressed by Federal and State governments and many types of environmentalists and environmental disasters of one type or another. It seemed like fisherman from the west coast to the shores of New England were all on the brink of extinction. But for the moment our life was good here in Eastpoint and our 23 foot oyster skiff was fine.
Carol and I decided to build our own oyster skiff and fishing boat. We sent away for some plans that we discovered in one of our magazines. We priced everything locally for our boat and found for a comparable sum we could have a local professional build us one - stainless steel screws, marine plywood and all. We had Mr. Hatfield in Eastpoint build our boat. I think it cost us $1500. We chose a flat bottomed boat as opposed to the V type hull. We wanted stability while sitting in the water since my wife was already on a regular diet of Dramamine.
That boat lasted us our entire oystering career. We painted the bottom with anti-fouling paint every year and Coppertoxed the inside floors and framing (Copertox is a wood preservative.) We painted the sides black to keep them dry and the decks white to keep our feet cool. We trimmed it in red. We also had a trailer built for it in Panama City so we could get it out of the water when bad weather was coming and in order to travel to other oystering spots. We oystered in Apalachicola, Panacea and Horse Shoe Beach.
Before we got our Hatfield boat we had several older boats. They needed many repairs but we didn't find instructions in any magazine. Black-mammy tar, plywood patches and stripping were the cures for most problems.
One of our boats got infested with sea worms. The worms got into the bottom because our boat sat on the mud at low tide most winters. We got all kinds of advice on what to do. But we decided to listen to the man we sold most of our oysters to. He told us to pull it out onto the hill, flip it over, coat the whole bottom with black-mammy tar and cover the bottom with a sheet of grade A 1/4in. plywood.
We couldn't figure out how that would kill the worms that had infested the bottom. We figured that they would probably just eat through in the opposite direction - but we did it anyway.
The boat was a little heavier than it used to be. We had a little trouble getting it up on top (planning out), but it made it. We had some old boats that had as many as three additional bottoms.
We sold that particular boat when we got our new Hatfield boat but years later we saw our old, worm-infested boat still out working the bay. I presume that the worms were slow eaters or that they only ate in one direction.
Our wooden boats were fun to own. They required maintenance but nothing that the two of us could not do. I was going to convert my oyster boat to a bass boat after we gave up oystering, but we never did. After so many years on the water we were more inclined to fish off a bank or a fishing pier. We do a lot of fishing off the old Eastpoint Bridge these days and we almost always catch fish.
It was fun being called “captain” and owning a wooded oyster skiff. I hope someone is still building oyster skiffs around this town. I think that a little smaller version of our flat-bottomed, Hatfield oyster skiff would make a neat bass boat. I bet it would attract a lot of attention out on a lake in Atlanta or North Carolina.

Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. He has published 5 books that are all for sale on If you would like to stock his books in your store or business email Richard at

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Medicare Advantage

The Hobo Philosopher

Medicare “Advantage” Plans

I’ve been seeing a good many doctors lately. If you are approaching 65 years of age and looking into your options you had best be aware of what is going on. Announcements similar to the following are already in many Doctor’s offices in our area, the Florida Panhandle. We found this bulletin pinned to the wall of the doctor I visited yesterday.


The government is attempting to basically privatize Medicare by offering a Medicare Advantage Program. On the surface currently marketed Medicare Advantage plans appear to offer large cost savings but fail to inform the consumer about hidden reductions in payable benefits. This is nothing more than a managed care program. Medicare pays the insurance company a set amount of money to care for you for the year. Any money left over is their profit. The incentive is for them to not recognize or not pay for services you may need or receive. The insurance company will be telling you what you may or may not do, NOT Medicare. Humana, an insurance company, has already begun marketing in this area. Others will follow as this will be very profitable for the companies. They are urging patients to change from Medicare to their company. On the surface, as currently marketed, the plans will appear to offer large cost savings to you. What they fail to tell you is that this is a managed care program, and any dealings you have will be with the insurance company and NOT Medicare. Initially, they appear to not limit your using the doctor of your choice. As a managed care program they will eventually, if other areas of the country are an example, most likely limit your choice of physicians to their participating physicians, or charge you a much higher co-pay (a penalty) if you go outside their list of physicians. The companies will make their money by decreasing what they approve for your care and increasing your cost. They will have the final say as to what tests are allowed for your care. Any appeals or complaints must be directed to and handled by the insurance company! If past history is any indicator, they rarely if ever reverse their decisions on appeal. The result is a much higher hassle factor and higher cost to you. Since 1984 Medicare has told physicians what they can charge the patients. This office, mandated by Medicare rules, MUST deal ONLY with the insurance company. There is no appeal process to Medicare!!! With traditional Medicare Part B you have federally guaranteed appeal rights
Please compare carefully any insurance proposals with your traditional Medicare Part B before making a change. Be sure that you make clear to the agent that your physician does not participate with their company. This does make a difference.
REMEMBER, the insurance company and insurance agent selling you this policy are making money. See it in clear and concise writing. Do not accept promises. If it sounds too good to be true, BEWARE.

The Following is a humor column I published in the Franklin Chronicle several months ago when my wife and I were trying to wade through our health care options. Although my column was meant to be funny and entertaining, I think I nailed the Advantage Plans pretty well.

The Eastpointer

Medicare – Free Health Insurance!

By Richard E. Noble

I will be turning 65 years old in a few months. For the first time in my life I will be eligible for some kind of health insurance. I guess I have always been eligible, I just couldn't afford it. But now because I am 65 I am a candidate for Medicare - "free" health care. Wow, isn't that great? I can't believe it.
But for all you Baby Boomers behind me, I will review what I have found out so far.
First of all Medicare comes in several parts. It is kind of like an alphabet puzzle. There's Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D and possibly some other parts that I am not aware of yet. It seems that part A of the Medicare is the "Free" part. I haven't really read what Part A actually covers but who cares - it's free.
Part B is going to cost me $100 dollars a month. It is also going to cost my wife $100. That's $100 per month ... each. Okay, so that's $200 per month. But what if I don't have $200 per month? Don't worry they will deduct it from my Social Security check. So now our already meager Social Security income will be reduced by $200 per month.
But the $200 per month doesn't cover all my potential medical bills. It only covers 80%. So I need to buy another policy to cover what the Medicare isn't going to pay. This is called a Medigap policy. Medigap policies are varied alphabetically also and they run from A through L.
“A” is the no-frills not much better than nothing category. B is slightly better than A and C is the slightly better than B. B costs more than A and C is a little too much for anybody. After C it is Disney World and Never Never Land.
Any Medicap policy will cost me between $100 and $300 per month. That is $100 to $300 each. My wife will need her own policy. And that is in addition to the $100 each that we are already paying for Part B. But even if you can afford F or J you still won’t be covered for everything. And no matter what you pay this year it can all go up next year. You must also watch out for the way your Medigap policy is rated. It can be community rated, issue rated, or attained age rated. It could cost you big bucks if you don’t find out what these ratings mean. And once you start paying your Medigap insurance company don’t stop. If you stop for more than 63 days you will have to be “reborn”.
But unfortunately a person is still not covered for any drugs that he might need. And drugs involve co-payments and "donut holes." The co-payment means that I still have to pay some of the costs even if I have the insurance. Let's just skip the donut holes for now - it's too complicated. But basically a donut hole means more money that I have to pay even if I have all this insurance.
For me to be insured against drug co-payments and expensive drugs will cost me another $40 to $100 per month. You can’t buy donut hole insurance even if you work at Dunkin’ Donuts.
So, that's another $40 to $100 each.
So where are we here? I need $200 for me and my wife for Part B. I need $200 to $600 for what part B doesn't cover. I need $100 to $200 for co-pays and phenomenal drugs with no donut holes. We need $500 to $1000 per month in order to be covered by Medicare.
Unfortunately I can not afford this "free" insurance any more than I could afford the "free-enterprise" insurance. In fact I don't see much difference between the free insurance and the pay insurance. I can't afford either of them.
But we do have other options. We can pay the $200 per month for Part B and get a special insurance by some insurance company (probably with a main office in China or India) that has teamed up with the U.S. Government and Medicare. They will take over the management of my Medicare Insurance. This is some form of “privatization” thought up by the Bushomanics, I presume. With this special policy I will be covered for some things and not covered for a bunch of other things that I will have to pay "out-of-pocket". If I have any problems I will have to fight this Hong Kong insurance company rather than call my Congressman. This ploy lets my Congressman off the hook. And if I get hospitalized for any length of time I owe somebody $3500 minimum. If my wife and I both get sick at the same time we will owe this person or group $7000 each year.
I have another option though. I could skip the "free" Medicare insurance entirely and keep all of my Social Security check. If I get sick I can die - just like they used to do in the good old days; or I can go to the hospital and tell them to send me a bill. If I don't die from the MRSA infection or Septicemia infection that I catch at the hospital (195,000 people die every year from things they picked up while in the hospital or from medical mistakes), I can get a job – if anyone will hire or pay me in my sick and advanced age - or send them payments from my Social Security check.
In the meantime, we can take the $200 per month that we didn't send to the Government for Part B and go to Biloxi once a year and see if I can win a jackpot. Maybe if I win a jackpot in Biloxi I will have enough money to buy some "free" Medicare insurance. Of course maybe with the fines and penalties for joining late, I won't be able to afford it then either - even with the jackpot money.

Richard E. Noble is a Freelance Writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for around thirty years. He has authored two books: "A Summer with Charlie" which is currently listed on and "Hobo-ing America" which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" which will be published soon.

This is another "gem" from my dealing with "Advantage Plan" salesmen.

The Hobo Philosopher

Used Car Salesman - and Medicare

By Richard E. Noble

"Hello Richard, I noticed that you hit on my web page the other day..."
"I did?"
"Yeah, you were looking for information on Medicare gap coverage and Advantage Programs."
"Yes, that's true. I have been."
"Well, my name is, Elmer Gantry and I am an insurance broker. I think I can help you."
"Well, I certainly need help. I was thinking of the Medicare gap coverage policy. What's the cheapest gap coverage policy that I can get?"
"Are you wealthy?"
"Then I would advise you to skip the gap coverage and get an Advantage Program."
"Well, I have been studying these Advantage Programs for some time now and they are too confusing - one covers this and one covers that and another doesn't cover anything."
"Well, to tell you the truth they are all pretty much the same. I would just pick one and get it."
"They don't look all the same to me. My wife and I have put several side by side and studied them."
"Well, that's true they differ marginally on this point or that point but they are all cheaper and in my opinion better than any of the expensive gap coverages and provide more benefits than conventional Medicare."
"Well, I asked my Doctor and was told that he will not accept any Advantage Program. I've read that doctors and hospitals all over the country are refusing to accept these Advantage deals."
"That's not true. But of course, your Doctor won't like Advantage. He wants to make a bunch of money that's why. You know what the problem with our health care system here in the U.S. is?"
"Well, not entirely."
"It's millionaire Doctors. These Doctors want to get a check from everybody. Of course they don't like the Advantage Programs. Do you know why?"
"It's because under the Advantage System their outrageous charges are going to be cut. The insurance companies ain't going to pay them anything they want. The Doctors are going to have to tighten up and start living like the rest of us - no more free ride for millionaire Doctors."
"To be honest with you, I find your analysis a little difficult to believe."
"You don't think Doctors make too much money?"
"Well, I know some Doctors make a lot of money - like brain surgeons and heart specialist but my little family Doctor isn't getting all that rich from what I can tell. And Doctors have to go to college. That costs a lot of money. And then they have these ridiculous internships and on top of that they have expensive mal-practice insurance that they have to buy. I read something recently that said that the average Doctor leaves college with over 130 thousand dollars of debt. And as far as I know it is not yet against the law for people to make money at what they do. If I were going to single out one group to blame for our current problems in health care, I think that I would blame insurance companies. For example how many years of college did you have to put in to become an insurance salesman and what is your mal-practice monthly premium?"
"Well, I'm no millionaire and I work hard for my money."
"I'll bet that there are as many millionaire insurance brokers as there are millionaire doctors. And do you really call it "hard work" to be sitting on your butt in a big old easy chair trying to sell some confused old people insurance? If we are going to start cutting people's paychecks, I'd start with yours. What did you do before you became an insurance broker - sell used cars and mobile homes? How many lives did you save last year?"
"My friend, health insurance saves lives. Last year when me and my wife were vacationing in Mexico, I got and attack of appendicitis and ..."
"Wait a minute ... an ex-used-car salesman and you and your wife are vacationing in Mexico?"
"I'm not an ex-used-car salesman. And, you know, you don't sound like you need any insurance."
"Oh I need it. Now that I'm 65, I sure need it. And you guys know it. That why you guys in the insurance business have agreed to turn all the old folks over to Medicare. You know the odds. The vast majority of people have no problems until they reach 65 and that's when you guys drop everybody's coverage and turn us all over to the government. And now that you got the government paying the premiums you want a piece of that action too. More corporate welfare or corporate socialism or whatever you want to call it. You guys sop up all the gravy and the taxpayers get to pick up the bill when you’re done slopping at the troth. You win and the American people lose - again!"
"You know, I don't think that you need my help."
"You know what pal, I have had a hundred phone calls before you. For the first time my life seems to be valuable to somebody. I have been bought two free dinners by insurance salesmen. Not one Doctor has offered to take me out - even to lunch. I have had three insurance salesmen come to my house. I may need someone to help me figure out this new scam but I sure don't need you in particular - any ex-mobile home salesman will do."

A little Something is Mr. Noble’s latest creative output. It is now on sale at Amazon and locally at Downtown Books along with Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie. Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

She Came to See Me

The Eastpointer

She Came to See Me

By Richard E. Noble

I once owned a little ice cream parlor on the outskirts of Carrabelle. Many of my customers were older people who lived in a retirement village up the road. It was hard to build a business in this atmosphere - as fast as I gained new customers, I lost an old one to … time.
The old folks always came in couples, until one day, one of the two would stumble in, awkwardly ... alone. It was difficult to know the right thing to say. You didn’t want to say; Hey, where’s Rita or Bob? - because if you did, out would come the handkerchief and down the wrinkled cheeks would flow the tears. So if the remaining party didn’t say anything, you didn’t say anything.
Often times nothing would be said. Sometimes there would be a brief announcement that there was no more Herb, or Ethel. Then with others there would be a long involved explanation of the last weeks or months or year.
When I was a young person, I didn’t want to hear such stories. As an older person I no longer have that problem. These were all beautiful stories, filled with love. These were all stories about people who cared about one another. They were sad, but …
On one occasion this very sad, and very alone, old man came into the shop. He had been in a few times now, without his chum. He had gotten his hot fudge, caramel brownie sundae and had left without saying anything. On this particular occasion, though, he was smiling and seemed relieved. He told me a story that I converted into a small poem and I entitled it:

She Came to See Me

I saw you in my dream last night.
You seemed to be so happy where you were.
You were laughing once again.

You were frightened when you left.
You wept,
and clasped my hand.

You didn’t know where you were going.
I saw the fear in your eyes.
I saw the tears.

But last night in my dream
you were laughing again.
You were, once again, yourself.

Last night you were telling your jokes.
You smiled.
You were happy and relieved.

Thank-you for coming to see me.
You looked so pretty, my dear.
You were so rosy, my lovely friend.

I feel so much better knowing that you’re safe.
Now I won’t worry anymore.

Thank-you my darling,
I feel so much better.
My troubled heart is now at peace.

A Little Something is Richard E. Noble’s first book of poetry. It is for sale on and locally at Downtown Books. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for over 30 years.