Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Winning" the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Kickoff Rally

Back in the day I participated in a lot of road rallies. In October 1962 the Boy Scouts of America's magazine Boys Life ran an article entitled "Car Rally", by Bob Stewart. The article described the TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) rally where cars compete against other cars to follow a (usually confusing) course on public roads in exactly the correct time. The cars are (usually) started a minute apart and are given a series of instructions such as "left at barn" and "commence average speed of 35mph". Along the way there are checkpoints where the car's arrival is timed. For each 1/100th of a minute the car is early or late the team is penalized a point. So if the car was 50/100ths of a minute early at one checkpoint and 95/100ths of a minute late at the next it will have accumulated 145 points. The object is to arrive at the rally's endpoint with the fewest points. The event takes both driving skills and navigation skills including the ability to both stay on course and on time.

A few years after reading the article, and shortly after receiving my license I noticed an advertisement for a TSD rally in the classifieds section of the Chicago Tribune. Since it was beginning a few miles from my house my friend John Earp and I decided to watch the start. There was not much to see at the start of a rally and we ended up signing up, knowing only what I had read in Boys Life two years previously. In particular we did not realize that we were signing up for a local championship rally of well over 200 miles, mostly in southern Wisconsin, with nine checkpoints. After traipsing up and down paved and unpaved roads throughout the region, frequently getting lost, we finally found our way to the finish line at a restaurant in Waukegan, Illinois some 12 hours later -- having not encountered a single one of the nine checkpoints! (They only stay open for a set amount of time after the last car is due.) We actually did not finish in last place because two other cars were marked "DNF" for "did not finish".
Something we did not see on our first road rally
We learned that one of our rookie mistakes was to not calibrate our odometer readings to that of the car used to lay out the rally course. Since odometers in each car vary and even the odometer in the same car may vary from time to time due to tire pressures, etc., it is important to know, for instance, that when the rallymaster sees 1.11 miles on his odometer, you might see 1.20 miles on your odometer. Every rally includes a odometer calibration zone to accomplish this.

Notice that I gave the miles above to the nearest 1/100th mile while cars generally have odometers that read to the nearest 1/10th mile. One can estimate an extra digit, or one can buy an add-on odometer for ones car. I took the latter course.
A Halda Tripmaster Odometer
The Halda Tripmaster could even be ordered with special gear sets so that the rallyist did not have to do calculations during the rally. (Just calculate the correction factor and put the proper gears in the odometer and it will read exactly what the layout car's odometer read.) At the time I did not have the money to purchase the gear kit and so did without. The knob in the center has three positions. In the position shown the odometer was turned off. When pointed to the "+" it would add miles (the usual mode), and when pointed to the "-" it would subtract miles (useful when backtracking after having gone off course.) By the way, you'll often see the name Halda on taxi meters. This was just an offshoot business for them. A additional very useful tool for the serious rallyist at the time was the Curta Calculator which made precise time-speed-distance calculations easier when used properly.
A Curta Calculator -- also called the "peppermill", mine was stolen out of my office when I was in grad school
We went on to participate in a fair number of rallies until we graduated high school and went off to college. I would rally sporadically when I was home for the summer but did not have a car at school until  I was a junior and don't recall doing much until after I graduated (but it sure was fun grinding away (literally) on the my digital calculator in the mid-60's when others were reading 6 significant digits off of their slide rules.) :) I know for sure that once I started graduate school I began to rally again, usually with my friends and fellow graduate students Larry Flon or Mario Barbacci as my navigator.

From 1970 to the early 1990s with a brief gap when I moved away from Pittsburgh for six years, rallying was a pretty regular activity for me. There were several local groups that offered road rallies. The one I was most active with still exists today, The misnamed (or at least mis-located) Blue Ridge Mountain Sports Car Club still runs near monthly rallies though I have not participated in years.  Also offering an occasional rally was (and is) the Steel Cities Region of the Sports Car Club of America. We used to travel to the Cleveland area to participate in rallies run by the Tuscarawas Valley Touring Club. There was also the North Hills Sports Car Club and the South Hills Sports Car Club, but the energy crisis of the late 70's and early 80's pretty much knocked them out.

Mario and I ran a few rallies ourselves over the years, one of which was for Learning Unlimited, a Pittsburgh area company that offered courses on all sorts of subjects back in the 1980s. At the time we both were working for the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon and there were some grad students in the School of Computer Science that also became interested. Two, Barb Staudt-Lerner and Rick Lerner joined with us to write a guide to rallying that you can still find lurking (in various forms) on the web.

So why did we stop? Three main reasons. The first is that I simply ran out of time in my life to do it after I started ConJelCo and got interested in other things. The second is that Mario wasn't always available to navigate for me. I started taking my miniature schnauzer Casey along as my navigator (she became known as "Navidog") and would have continued like that except for the third reason. It stopped being as much fun for us as it once was -- but not for the reason you probably think.
Approved for Class B

When we started rallying we participated in the so-called "tourist" or "unequipped" or "seat-of-the-pants" class. In this class you were allowed a pencil and paper for calculating mileages, average speeds, etc. I can't remember if we were allowed the use of the Halda odometer or not, but if we weren't we didn't. This was a lot of fun because we could pretty much guesstimate if we were on time, etc and have a shot at winning. The problem was that we became too good and kept winning this class and were asked to move up to Class B. That was a non-starter for us because Class B allowed the use of calculators or slide rules, but nothing fancier, and was too much work. We ended up buying a rally computer (after trying to design one ourselves) and moving up to Class A. This was actually easier than Class B in terms of keeping on time, but we seldom won against the others with computers. Winning isn't the only reason to compete or course (but it's a damn good one), but we also found that we weren't enjoying rallying at this level and slowly reduced our level of participation.
Our rally computer looked something like this

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Kickoff Rally

So what does this all have to do with the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix?

In 1983 the first Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix was held in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park. The venue is nearly perfect with a golf course to house the antique and vintage car show and hospitality tents, and winding roads (see map) to host the race.
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Course
The week leading up to the PVGP is full of related events including car shows around the city, and a Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Kickoff Rally on the weekend before. On July 17, 1988, Mario and I decided, on a whim, to enter the rally. My "vintage" car was a 1984 Audi 4000 equipped with the computer pictured above. The rally began near the corner of Fifth and Craig in Pittsburgh, coincidentally around the corner from my office. Fifty-four cars entered. Some were truly vintage and in gorgeous condition. Particularly the red Ford Fairlane V8 convertible driven by soon-to-become friend Patty Calderone. Some were even less vintage than my Audi.

The course for the rally ran from Fifth and Craig through Shadyside, the Fox Chapel area, downtown, and eventually ended back where it started. The average speed was about 20 miles an hour, and instead of being timed to the nearest 1/100th of a minute, it was timed to the nearest 10 seconds. There were also questions to answer about things along the route, with 10 point penalties for a wrong answer.

Mario and I somehow managed to come in first with a score of zero. Our nearest competitor came in with 13 points, or somewhat over two minutes of error. By this time I am sure you can understand the reason why "winning" is in quotes in the article. We were running seat-of-the-pants rally in a Class A car. Somehow I have never regretted it.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article from July 18, 1988

Friday, July 25, 2014

Confessions of an Inaugural Junkie

My name is Chuck Weinstock and I’m an inaugural junkie. Let me explain. When Amtrak began in May 1971 it had a relatively small number of routes when compared to the passenger rail system that existed before. Over the years Amtrak has added to this initial system, in response to passenger demand and political exigencies.

Adding a route provides benefit to the public along the routes, the communities served, other Amtrak passengers who have additional choices, Amtrak itself, and, of course, the politicians who are always anxious to take credit for the new service – well perhaps not the Governor of Wisconsin.

To maximize the publicity value of the new service Amtrak typically runs a special inaugural train over the route. These one or two day inaugurals travel in daylight and run over the length of the route making extended stops at each of the scheduled stations along the way. At each stop they are greeted by the town fathers and mothers, the local high school marching band, local, state and federal politicians, etc. Many of these people ride the train for one or more stops. Speeches are made, music is played, interviews are given, photos are taken, and good times are had.

As a mileage collector I love to ride routes that I’ve never ridden before. I especially like to do this during the day so that I can see the route I’m traveling. As such I view the “chore” of listening to the speeches and the music on an inaugural as a small price to pay.

I first learned about inaugural trains in 1975 while riding the first run of the PATrain, the Pittsburgh commuter train that ran on the B&O from Grant St. Station to Versailles, PA until 1989. I was riding by myself and overheard a conversation across the aisle between two young men who were talking about riding the Mountaineer inaugural later that spring. (The Mountaineer was a short-lived train from Norfolk to Chicago.) I got into a conversation with them and soon learned that one of them was Henry Posner III who now runs the Iowa Interstate among other railroads, but at the time was a student at Princeton. In subsequent months I became friends with Henry and when we learned that there was going to be an inaugural of the Lakeshore Limited in October we made plans to ride it.

PATrain at the old Grant Street Station
Without getting into how one “makes plans to ride it” let me just say that before long we were in possession of tickets for the two day inaugural of the Lakeshore Limited that ran from Chicago to Boston with an overnight in Buffalo on October 28 and 29, 1975. I don’t recall now if we took the Broadway Limited or flew to Chicago but the evening of October 27 found us in Chicago, or specifically my parents’ house on the North Shore. The main thing I remember about that evening is that my Mom served an angel food cake for dessert and apologized for not being able to find strawberries at the market to go with it.
On the morning of the 28th Henry and I caught an early C&NW commuter train into Chicago and walked over the Union Station where our special train awaited us. As I wrote in the spring 1976 issue of Railfan Magazine, the train consisted of nine cars pulled by a pair of SDP40Fs. There was a diner, a pub, a sleeper, several coaches and the privately owned open-platform observation car DC-1000 owned by the late William Kratville. The passengers were Amtrak personnel, politicians, media, travel agents, and at least two railfans (depending on whether you count the late E.M. Frimbo as a railfan or a member of the media--he was an editor/author for the New Yorker and wrote regularly about trains, but we always considered him one of "us".) The diner served special Lake Shore Limited Inaugural meals and the thing I remember most about those meals is that breakfast that first morning out included fresh strawberries! 

Examples of the kinds of celebrations that awaited us along the route included a fife and drum corps in South Bend, Indiana, and a very large crowd and four bands in Elyria, Ohio where Senator Robert Taft spoke to the crowd about how ridiculous it was that over 80% of intercity travel was by private automobile. In between stops the passengers feasted in the diner, snacked in the pub, and had a generally wonderful time. At one point a bunch of us were singing a somewhat bawdy tune in the pub car with an unnamed famous rail historian accompanying us on the piano. All of a sudden the door to the car opened and a TV crew came in with cameras rolling. Without missing a beat, as one, we started singing “I’ve been working on the railroad.”
The Legs Shore Limited in Elyria, Ohio
That first day the train tied up in Buffalo late that evening and Henry and I went to our hotel, The Hotel Lafayette, for a too short night. The hotel had seen (a lot of) better days, so I did not mind that the night was so short. 

The train departed Buffalo at 7am the next morning and headed on to Boston. During one of the meals in the diner I found myself seated with a representative of EMD (the manufacturer of the diesels pulling the train) who was on board to ensure trouble free operation of the locomotives. One thing led to another and I found myself with an invitation to ride in the cab from Pittsfield to Springfield, MA, a first for me in a diesel locomotive. The train arrived at Boston’s South Station well after dark and we wearily walked across to our hotel, the Hotel Essex. We soon discovered that it was part of the same chain as our Buffalo hotel and that it lived up to that standard. But again it was a short night as we had to get up early the next morning to catch the UA turbo train to New York. There I said goodbye to Henry who was heading on to Princeton, while I caught the National Limited to Pittsburgh.

At this point my thirst for inaugurals was whetted, so when I read about a Pan Am publicity flight around the world inaugurating the Boeing 747SP in April 1976 I tried to get an invitation. I did not succeed and, while I am sure that an inaugural publicity flight then would be much more comfortable than most any flight today, after many hundreds of thousands miles of air travel I am, in retrospect, glad I didn’t.

The Detroit Amfleet Inaugural
May and June of 1976 was a great time for an inaugural junkie. First there was a special inaugural of Amfleet (I) equipment on May 18 on the Chicago to Detroit route. This was a round trip in a day inaugural and it wasn’t nearly as fancy as the Lake Shore’s. Then came the Colonial inaugural from Washington to Newport News on June 13. For this one I drove to Washington from Pittsburgh via Front Royal, VA to meet and chase a Southern 4501 excursion back to Alexandria. After a nice night with friends in the Washington area, I parked my car at a meter outside of Washington Union Station (it was a Sunday), and boarded the special train. This was to be the first Newport News to Washington train scheduled to run the next day so it was essentially a standard consist. We made the usual stops where the usual speeches were given and the usual bands played (how quickly I became jaded) until we reached Williamsburg, VA. Here I had a decision to make. Those riders who wanted to go on to Newport News were welcome to do so. Those who got off at Williamsburg had some time to walk around, were treated to a picnic dinner, and were given a bus ride back to Washington that evening. In the interest of getting back to Pittsburgh in time for Monday morning I elected to take the bus. The bus arrived at about 9pm and I drove four (long) hours to Pittsburgh.

Cake from the Colonial Inaugural
Of course this left me with a mileage gap. I still needed to ride from Williamsburg to Newport News. I managed this in 1978 when, during a business trip to NASA at Langley AFB I took an early evening bus from the Hampton, VA area to Williamsburg, had dinner (Brunswick Stew), caught the Colonial to Newport News, and taxied back to my car in Hampton.

The month the Colonial began service I finished up my Ph.D. in Pittsburgh and moved back to Chicago to begin a new job. On October 29, 30, 1976 Amtrak inaugurated the Shenandoah from Washington to Cincinnati with an overnight at Parkersburg, WV. Needless to say I did not let my new job get in the way of a good inaugural.
The Shenandoah Inaugural
In late 1977 I got married and a few days later, in early 1978, drove west to take a new job in the San Francisco Bay area. It took me a while to get connected to the local railfan and Amtrak community so my next chance to ride an inaugural didn’t come until October 26, 27, 1979 when the Desert Wind began service between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Amtrak was nice enough to invite my wife along as well but with the proviso that we were responsible for our own overnight accommodations in Las Vegas. We had a grand time en-route and somewhere along the way an Amtrak representative told me that they had a room for us after all, at a Holiday Inn (now Main Street Station) just down from the Amtrak station at the Union Plaza (now Plaza). This was my second visit to Las Vegas and we enjoyed the seafood buffet that the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce provided at a welcome celebration at the Top of the Mint hotel (now Binion’s). And the whole thing only cost me a few nickels in a slot machine just before we left town. Amtrak provided us with free return transportation on the first revenue Salt Lake City to Los Angeles run the next day but we elected to fly to San Francisco so that I would not miss any additional work.

The Desert Wind Inaugural
February 4, 1980 found me on the inaugural of a second train on the San Joaquin route from Oakland to Bakersfield. This, again, was a one day round trip and my fondest memory of it is the return trip. The politicians and most of the press had left the train after it arrived in Bakersfield and a few of us spent a great deal of time riding on the rear platform of a SP office car through the cool San Joaquin Valley night toasting drivers at the grade crossings.

The Second San Joaquin Inaugural
In fall of 1981 there were two west coast inaugurals of interest and it took some doing to participate in both. The first was the unnamed second train on the Coast Starlight route from Sacramento to Los Angeles. This was the short-lived The Spirit of California and Amtrak went all out. Invited guests (including a fair percentage of the local railfan community) were invited to ride to Sacramento on October 21 on the Starlight. The inaugural itself ran October 22, 23 with an overnight in San Luis Obispo. Some of us decided to get off at Salinas, and after a short visit in town caught the Starlight back home, again complements of Amtrak. Four of us bought day space in a Superliner Deluxe bedroom to travel north in style.

The next day found me on a Western Airlines flight to catch the inaugural of the Portland section of the Empire Builder to Spokane where it joined up with the Seattle section (as it does today). The main Amtrak public relations crew was still on the Spirit of California, but the short Superliner section was full of invited guests as we rolled our way along the Columbia River and up the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle. Although our arrival in Spokane was late due to celebrations along the way we arrived in plenty of time for me to catch the Empire Builder to Seattle and sleep the rest of the night away in an Amtrak provided economy room (now roomette).

In late 1981 I left California and moved back to Pittsburgh. This marked the start of an extended dry spell in inaugurals, at least those I was able to participate in. In May 1989 I was invited to ride the inaugural of the short-lived Atlantic City Express but was unable to do so because of a prior commitment. However, a few months later found me in Amherst, MA on July 17, 1989 to catch the re-inaugural of the Montrealer to Montreal. This was a one way inaugural and featured the usual hoopala including speeches by Senator Patrick Leahy (D Vermont), with a full complement of Vermont delicacies (e.g., Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, local beers, etc.) served on board. The train ran through to Montreal’s Central Station and I had an excellent French dinner with some Amtrak friends before going back to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (a far cry from the hotels of the Lake Shore inaugural 14 years earlier) and calling it a night. Amtrak’s invitation included a complimentary return trip in coach on the first southbound Montrealer the next day. I checked and no sleeper space was available and I was resigned to breaking my streak of never having sat up for a night on a train when, out of the blue, an Amtrak friend (the late Tom Papadeas I believe) offered me the upper berth in his bedroom. I rode to Philadelphia where I caught a revenue Atlantic City Express to Atlantic City, covering the route I had missed in May. I spent a few hours at a local casino (which led almost directly to the formation of my own business, ConJelCo), and then caught a USAir BAC-111 from the Atlantic City airport back to Pittsburgh.

The Montrealer Inaugural
While not an inaugural, in April 1990 an invitation to ride the Pennsylvanian 10th Anniversary celebration on April 27, 1990 arrived in my mail. This was a one way celebration from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh on the regularly scheduled Pennsylvanian. I had missed the inaugural while I was living in California but had ridden the route many times. Never-the-less that morning found my friend Bill Metzger and I catching the Broadway Limited for Huntingdon from the Pittsburgh Amtrak station. Amtrak had graciously provided the connecting tickets and the day was beautiful so we did not mind waiting for the Pennsylvanian which that day was a slightly longer than usual Amfleet consist with our old friend office car 10000 (formerly Autoliner DC-1000) on the rear. Since this was the regularly scheduled train the celebration was mostly on board, though there were somewhat longer than normal station stops. I remember the ride back across Pennsylvania mainly for the shoofly pie served to guests. 

The 10th Anniversary of the Pennsylvanian
I almost had to forgo the next pair of inaugurals in November 1990. I had a business meeting in Washington that I could not miss. Luckily I was able to arrange things to ride the re-routed Broadway Limited inaugural from Chicago to Pittsburgh and then the re-routed Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Cleveland where I left the train and caught a flight to Washington and made it to my meeting more-or-less on time. The reroute of the Broadway was necessitated by the partial abandonment of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago line it had used throughout its previous history. So I never got to see the line through Crestline in daylight. But this pair of inaugurals allowed me to see the B&O line from Chicago to near Pittsburgh in daylight, and the Pennsy’s line through Alliance in daylight, something I would not have been able to do otherwise. There are two specific memories I have from this pair of inaugurals. One was that one of my traveling companions, Dave Ingles, arranging a delivery to train side from the Fort Wayne Steak and Shake (not that we didn’t have enough good food to eat aboard without it), and the other was that I got to spend the overnight in Pittsburgh in my own bed – a first for me on any inaugural!
Aboard the Broadway Limited
April 1993 found me flying to New Orleans to enjoy a dinner of jambalaya and gumbo followed by the inaugural of the extension of the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Orlando. This was another event well attended by the railfan community and it involved three days of daylight travel with overnights in Pensacola and Jacksonville. Since I did not need the mileage beyond Jacksonville I left there and flew home the next morning.

I didn’t know it at the time but the Sunset extension was to be my last Amtrak inaugural—at least to date. There have been some routes added over the years but nothing that has caught my attention enough to make the trip to attend the event—if indeed there was one. I enjoyed each and every inaugural I rode and especially the friendships I made with Amtrak people over the years, many of which endure to this day. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Story of Dirty Ducky

When Chuckie was but a tot one of his treasured toys was a stuffed duck from the toy department of Marshall Field's. Freshly off the shelves it was a tall yellow duck with legs, wings, a beak, a pair of eyes and a tasseled dark green beret very unlike the cap that the vastly more famous Donald Duck wore.

He was Chuckies favorite stuffed animal and he took him everywhere. Dirty Ducky shared his meals, his romps in the park, probably his baths, and they were inseparable. Dirty Ducky very quickly lost his off-the-shelf good looks, but Chuckie didn't care. He was called Dirty Ducky because he was a duck and oh so very dirty.
Dirty Ducky and Friend, circa 1950
Chuckie's Mom did what she could. Dirty Ducky made many trips to the washing machine, but he got rattier every year. Wouldn't Chuckie like a nice new clean Dirty Ducky? Chuckie would not. He loved his Dirty Ducky and did not want a new one.

Fast forward to, say, 1954. One day Chuckie's Mom comes home and tells Chuckie that she has solved the problem of cleaning Dirty Ducky. Chuckie wonders how and Mom tells him that she has purchased a "Magic Bag" from Marshall Field's. She says that when she puts Dirty Ducky in the Magic Bag and shakes the bag it will clean Dirty Ducky and make him as good as new. Chuckie can't wait to see how the Magic Bag works. He brings Dirty Ducky to his Mom and she puts it in the Magic Bag, shakes it, and out come Dirty Ducky perfectly clean. Chuckie is amazed and he runs off showing everyone how nice his Dirty Ducky looks.

Usually a pretty smart kid, it took me several more years to figure out the secret of the Magic Bag, and when I did I was mad as hell -- at my Mom and myself.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Dogs of My Life - Part One - Freckles, Angel, Tag, and Angela

[Note: this is part one of a two part series. The second entry can be found here.]

We moved to Highland Park, Illinois in 1952 when I was just about four years old. A few years later, after much begging from my sister Kay and I, my parents decided to get a dog. After talking with the local vet and researching breeds they settled on a springer spaniel -- on the grounds that the breed was good with young children. Freckles, as we called him, did not get the message and bit me at least twice before my parents reluctantly decided that he was not the dog for us. The vet helped them place him with a family on a farm. We were upset, but knew that there was another dog in our future.

One day my Dad, unbeknownst to any of us, went off in search of a dog for us. He had read a classified advertisement for an AKC registered miniature schnauzer from a family breeder in Kenilworth. He got there and immediately fell in love with the dog. Not the puppy they wanted to sell, but rather with the family dog, Angel, a champion, perhaps 8 months old. He negotiated with them and came home with Angel but would never tell us what he paid for her. As a part of the deal, the breeder was allowed to show her several times in the upcoming months.

We all fell in love with Angel immediately. She was a definite princess though and perhaps not as much fun as Freckles would have been. On the other hand, she did not bite. Mom always said she could take Angel anywhere and she'd behave like a lady. She would even take her shopping at some of the fancy Michigan Avenue stores that she patronized.

During the first months we had her, Angel made an appearance on WGN TV for some event, and at one dog show at the International Amphitheater. At this latter event we saw that she was so miserable to be away from us that we took her home and she was never shown again.

After a couple of years we decided that Angel needed a playmate and some friends in Glencoe had miniature schnauzer puppies available. I picked a pup out of the litter because he was clearly the friendliest of the pups. His name was Beau's Brother. Angel was along and the pup immediately picked up the end of her leash in his mouth and walked her around the basement. We named him "Angel's Tagalong" because he followed her everywhere. But we called him "Tag".

Tag was a great dog and in many ways the opposite of Angel. Angel was a lady, knew it, and acted like it. Tag was a bum, knew it and acted like it. Angel was fun, but Tag was great fun.

My parent's house was one house away from Lake Michigan and there was a beach we'd frequent during the summer. To get to it we'd climb stairs made of railroad ties that zig zagged down a high bluff. Angel and Tag would join us. I don't recall Tag ever getting in the water, but the first time we had Angel down there she ran into the water, swam straight out (doing, I suppose, the dog paddle), and turned around and swam back to the beach. After she shook herself off I don't think she ever went into the water again.

When we were growing up there were no leash laws (that I knew of at least). Our house was on a private road with five other houses and the dogs ran freely. As a result they visited the beach more often than we did. Tag, especially, liked to go down to the beach and find dead alewives to roll around in. He was a challenge to be around for several days after he'd do that.

Another non-leash law story about Tag: when I was in high school I used to catch a bus up at the Ravinia train station about 3/4 of a mile from our house. I would catch a ride there with my Dad who was commuting to Chicago at about the same time. One day I am sitting on the bus waiting for it to leave and I look out and there is Tag merrily trotting along. I got off the bus, asked the driver to wait a minute, grabbed tag, brought him into the station, handed to Dad and said "gotta run" and got back on the bus. Not sure exactly what Dad did at that point. :)

Tag was a fast dog. He'd sit in our living room staring out the back window at the woods until he'd see a squirrel. At that point he'd begin barking his head off and run to the front door which was on the exact opposite side of the house from the window he was looking out. We'd let him out and he'd go racing around the house yapping all the way. I'm not sure he ever caught a squirrel outright doing this, but I do know that for a number of years there was a tailless squirrel in the area.

Tag (left) and Angel, December 1973
Angel was approximately 16 when she died, and (I'm guessing) Tag was about 10 at that time. He immediately started slowing down and my Mom was worried enough to take him to the vet. The vet told her that Tag was depressed and that "he doesn't need medicine, he needs another dog". This, of course, is very self-serving for a vet, but in this case he was absolutely right. And so another miniature schnauzer, "Tag's Angela" came joined our family. At this point I was heading off to college so I did not get to know Angela as well as Angel and Tag, but Tag certainly did. He perked right up and they were fast friends almost immediately.

One of the bad things about popular dog breeds is that they tend to get inbred over the years--leading to medical issues. This certainly is true of miniature schnauzers though I was slow to realize it. At any rate, Angela developed diabetes at an early age as a result of this. She would get an insulin injection once a day and would come for it willingly right about the time she would hear the sound of the kitchen cabinet that held her dog biscuits opening.

Angela, 1977
We had to put Tag to sleep a month before my sister Kay got married. He was 16 and it was time, but I am ashamed to say that I accused my Mom of having it done so he wouldn't be in the way during the wedding. I have regretted saying (or even thinking) that ever since. Angela died before I was out of graduate school and I was dogless for a number of years.

Coming up in part two: Casey, Toto, Koko, Lacey, Rosita, and Maggie