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Preamble – Train from Oslo to Bergen

31 Jul

We had no idea… The train trip from Oslo to Bergen, Norway was billed as “Spectacular”. We had a nice time touring around Oslo the day before, but, we were ready to get on our early morning train to ride across Norway to our Hurtigruten cruise ship at the famed Hanseatic League port on the western coast.

Oslo is an attractive modern city, with attractive sky-scrapers, with interesting windows.

Our whole family enjoys trains. We hauled our suitcases on board, stowed them out of way, and took our seats by large panoramic windows.

Starting out, everything was green, with trees and fields and gradually less houses.


We started our gradual climb.

There are lots of lakes, and rivers and gradually we started to see mountains.

 

The railroad crossings and station were a bit sleepy.

The scenery was interesting, but not yet “Spectacular”.

The hills continued to get higher, the rivers appeared to get wider.

It was a lovely.  Red and white farm houses and the hills reflected in the water.

We started to see more rapids in the rivers.

We kept climbing higher and higher.

The villages were built on hillier terrain.

We appeared to nearing the start of the higher hills.

Then came the lakes.

Each emerging from the end of an ancient glacial valley.

Suddenly, we started seeing mountains with snow.

And there was ice in the lakes.

The green hills transformed to gray and black, still speckled with snow.

The reflections on still, partially frozen lakes were amazing.

We continued to see more and more snow cover…

And, more and more ice.

It was the 28th of May…

 

But, the ice had not cleared from the lakes yet.

Now we could see Glaciers and Snowfields…

 

Flowing down into the lakes.

We stopped briefly in the next town and saw people getting off the train with Skis!

People in Oslo were walking around in shorts the day before…

But here, the rivers were frozen…

And, ski season, if not at its peak…

Was still going strong.

   

We saw small shacks out by the still frozen lakes.

Occasionally we would see a house.

The terrain was spectacular.

The wintry landscape was unexpected.

The arctic conditions reminded us that…

Summer was still coming…

To this region…

We saw the summer homes scattered around, hopefully…

But summer, still seemed a couple of months away.

Finally we crested the high point of our rail trek…

And, started down the west side of the mountains.

Though we still saw glaciers and massive snow fields…

The lakes were starting to melt again…

Forming raging streams…

Rushing rivers…

 

The hundreds of waterfalls and rapids…

Were spectacular as they continue their dramatic drops through winding valleys.

Then suddenly, we stopped in a town where we were greeted by a friendly Mountain Troll.

The streams leveled out…

And, formed lovely glacial lakes.

It was Spring again. Everything was green again. The Mountain Troll had performed some type of magic, calming the raging rivers, melting the snowfields, returning the Norway to its broad, beautiful lakes with scenic mountains in the far distance. It has been a surprising, spectacular, snowy, scenic trip over the mountains. Just a little way further, now, to Bergen, and more adventures.

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Blog by Bruce Summers, Summersbw@gmail.com, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales. Former Board Member, Regions and Chapters Director, Association of Personal Historians.

This Blog is part of a series:

Our Norwegian Cruise

See also:

Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge

Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge

12 Jun

First view of the Arctic Cathedral

We agreed ahead of time that instead of a paid “excursion” we would hike across the high harbor bridge, past the Arctic Cathedral to the Cable Car. We had 4 hours and 15 minutes to get off the boat get there, explore the mountain at the top of the Cable Car and get back. We planned to walk there and if needed take the # 26 bus back. Our friend Mary agreed to join our personal “excursion”.

Tromsø is our next stop

Tromsø is about 240 miles north of the Arctic Circle, so we had our thermals and layers ready. It was a nice day, our good weather continued to hold, it was cool but not frigid cold. I prepared my day pack, we filled the water bottles, rolled up and stuffed in the emergency rain coats. We reviewed maps and confirmed our bus route back with the ship’s activities staff.

  

First view of the Arctic Cathedral

It was a beautiful trip into the harbor. Snow capped mountains surrounded the perimeter as far as the eye could see, all around Tromsø, some near while others far and then much farther in the distance. The city of Tromsø is the largest in northern Norway, about 70,000 people. We passed quite a few ships coming into and later out of port. Freighters, excursion boats, fishing boats, cruise liners, sailboats – all a lovely cacophony.

A tall bridge about a mile long dominated the channel between the major island the mainland. We knew this was the bridge we had to cross to get to the cable car. We saw on the map that our ship would birth fairly near to it. On our starboard side we could see the cable car on the hill and the platform 1,300 hundred feet above us. We would need to cross the bridge to get to it.

There seemed to be four segments to our trip. Walk along the harbor, take the 15 minute walk across the high bridge, pass the Arctic Cathedral and make our way to the bottom entrance station to the cable car, then ride the car up to top entrance at an altitude of 421 meters above the harbor.

It was 2:15 PM when the MS Lofoten snugged into its berth. The gangplank was carefully placed by a forklift. The crew prepared to check us out, we all queued up, had our Ship ID Cards scanned, “goodbye” it signaled, and the five us gathered on the pier, cameras and cell phones out and ready to take photos; then we were off. It was always great to get off of the boat for a few hours of exploring each day.

My son, daughter, and I alternated fast walking and taking the lead through the harbor piers so we would each have a few seconds to stop, snap some photos, then fast walk again to keep up with fellow hikers. Snap, snap – harbor, fishing boats, rowing boat team, statues, interesting houses, businesses, signs in Norwegian, the harbor, freighters, and then the bridge.

Once we were on the bridge it was a fairly long steep climb. Again the three of us fast walked, then paused to take pictures – city skyline, ships, piers, the Arctic Cathedral, the far shore, the cable car, and the many snow-capped mountains in the distance.

We stayed on the right side of the bridge, designed and dedicated for foot traffic. We saw or passed walkers, strollers, and joggers going both ways. Cars, trucks and buses used the center lanes. Bikers made good use of the left designated bike lanes, again being frequently used both ways.

Above us and beside us were sea gulls, floating on the natural breezes but also on the breeze being generated by ships passing under us, and by the vehicle, bike and human foot traffic passing along the bridge. They floated slowly by, hovering on the breeze slightly above us, beside us, or just below us – seemingly happy and enjoying the day. Sometimes it was just one bird smiling, Other times it was three or four birds together wafting along on their own excursion beside the bridge a couple of hundred feet above the harbor.

The steady climb up the bridge went on and on, and then finally it peaked and we started down towards the Arctic Cathedral. The walk down seemed much faster now aided by gravity. Our strides seemed longer and views of our destination drew us on at a swift pace. As we made a slight curve to the right we now had a clear view of the lovely Arctic Cathedral. We paused, snapped a few photos and then continued our march.

As we came off the bridge, we paused to take a few snaps and to orient ourselves. Our maps did not show a clear path by foot, to the bottom of the cable car. We could see the cables up the hill in the distance and decided to follow the road signs for autos to the cable car. We paused to take a photo of a phone booth. It seemed a common sight at the various islands and towns we visited during the cruise, but phone booths are increasingly rare in the US, at least where we live.

The air was fresh, the temperature cool, but not cold, it was a great day for a hike. So we set off up the hill following the road signs, After a bit of a climb there was another road sign up the hill further, then we saw the anticipated sign to the right. Another sign said the equivalent of “keep going”, in Norwegian. As per our norm, various members of our crew paused to snap a new picture of a house, a sign, the city across the harbor, the bridge, the passing ships, or the mountains in the distance.

Finally there was the expected sign to turn left and up the hilly parking lot was the bottom entrance to the cable car and we smiled inwardly, three legs of our journey done. We walked up the hill, turning once or twice to snap the view. We bought our tickets, getting two discounts for students (college students count). Then we had about a 10 minute wait for the next cable car.

These of course were not like the San Francisco Cable Cars. The cars are gondola type cabins are suspended by cables and ascend fairly rapidly to the upper platform – only a four-minute ride. Our group was first in line so we secured the optimal places in the car to look down and backwards to take more photos of the view as we rose to our destination.

We arrived to a small snack area, that opened at the front to a large viewing platform with a 180 degree view of the city and harbor area across the channel. To the right was the bridge far below us. On a hill diagonally in line above it were the 2 or 3 ski jumps, now bare of snow, that I had seen on the city map. We could see the airport on the back half of the island that had been hidden by the central hill above Tromsø. We could see the high, jagged snow-capped peaks in the far distance across the water behind the island.

We could see many other islands and snowy mountains on all sides in the distance. It was a lovely panorama. We had our friend Mary take group shots of us with the town and the mountains and the landmark bridge behind us. There were even large table like chairs on the viewing platform where you could lounge, out of the wind and just soak up the Arctic sun.

Behind us were hills still fully covered with snow, We had seen one man carrying snow skis earlier on our hike to the cable car. It was the first of June, but still ski season for some. Just outside of the snack shop there was a snow drift about 6 feet high. We could see where the hiking trails started, most were still snow-covered of course.

Several of us walked over to a far viewing platform through about eight inches of snow. There was a somewhat beaten path where others had walked, but it was a might slippery at times. Luckily my feet stayed fairly dry. Again the view from the far platform was stunning and slightly different than from the viewing platform. You could see another 45% degrees around to south with a long view across water to the farther away rugged snow-capped mountains and islands in the distance. It was a lovely view, I smiled inwardly, enjoying being up on a snowy mountain on the northern coast of Norway with the sun shining on my face.

We walked carefully, again with a bit of slipping and sliding on the snowy path, less beaten, through less walked path through the snow. We all got hot chocolate at the snack shop. They actually had an additional cafeteria space with tables and chairs, the Fjellstua Cafe. If we ever go back in the summer for a mountain hike, I would definitely take advantage of this. I walked out on the viewing platform for one more look at the view. Came back in and enjoyed my cocoa. We made sure we queued up early to get the prime front view in the cable car going down. After a five-minute wait we were on our way – four minutes down to the lower station while snapping more photos of the view.

We decided we still had 90 minutes to get back to the ship. My family and I decided to walk back. Our friend decided to try the bus. Again, gravity made the walk down to the bridge must faster. We stopped to take some external photos of the famed Arctic Cathedral. We decided to save visiting this for another trip, hopefully. We enjoyed our fast 15 minute walk up and over the pedestrian side of the bridge. We passed more walkers, strollers, and joggers, cars, trucks, and floating sea gulls. We did not see Mary’s bus, but we did see other buses crossing the bridge regularly. The air and the view were again lovely and interesting.

Off the bridge, we strolled through the city a bit, glanced over at Pepe’s pizza – no, no, not this trip… We got back to our ship with plenty of time to spare. We walked around the dock area a bit, then watched freight, still being loaded onto the M.S. Lofoten continuously for the past three hours. This freight was headed for still further northern, smaller, more isolated towns and villages on our cruise path north.

The M.S. Lofoten is a working ship. It carries freight and passengers to and from towns that may have no roads, air, or train connections to other towns.

We took off our extra layers, stowed away our gear, day pack, water bottles and rain gear, and assimilated back into “cruise” mode. Dinner was in another hour and a half and there would be lots to see as we started the next leg of our journey. Let’s see, it will be Skjervøy next at 10:15 PM.

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Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge is one of a series of blogs – Our Norwegian Cruise by Bruce Summers, summersbw@gmail.com  Bruce is a Personal Historian and founder of Summoose Tales.  He is a former board member, regions and chapters director of the Association of Personal Historians.

See also:

Preamble – Train from Oslo to Bergen

 

Our Norwegian Cruise

11 Jun

The waves were over 15 feet high and the wind was strong as we crossed open sea during the last 13 hours of our cruise. It’s like riding a horse, but with an immensely strong “bucking” motion every 4 or 5 seconds.

Some passengers retired to their bunks at 3 pm, others just after a short stop at a port around 5 pm. I was one of the lucky few who seemed less affected by the rocking of the MS Lofoten way… forward down the back of a wave, and then way… back as we road up the front of the next wave. Then suddenly we would start to roll way… over to starboard, was it going to stop we wondered! Then a slight pause, and we would roll way… over to the port side, impossibly far…, but the good ship righted itself as it had in all-weather and all seas for the past 53 years.

Our family recently returned from a Hurtigruten Cruise up the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes. All together the Lofoten made 33 stops as we sailed up the magical and rugged western coast of Norway.

We traveled well above the Arctic Circle. At one point we were just 1,250 miles from the North Pole. We sailed above the northern tip of continental Europe and finished up about 15 kilometers from Russia and due north of Cairo, Egypt.

The Lofoten is an older smaller cruise ship, more intimate with less than 90 cabins. You really do get to know all of the crew. By the end of the seven-day sail you get to know, by face, most of the passengers. Several were on a first name basis and start sending us emails before we get home, saying they miss their “cruise family”.

The Lofoten, is a classic cruise ship, still with elegant service and white table cloths at each meal. My favorite waiter spotted me across the dining room each morning, caught my eye and headed over to serve me a long elegant stretched out pour of coffee from a foot away.  Some how the coffee always streamed directly to my coffee cup, regardless of the rock or roll of the ship.  He knew I was good for four, maybe five refills for breakfast. One more, he would ask and I would nod and say thank you.

 

One waitress smiled at the end of dinner one night, “that’s my last meal” (the last course she needed to serve on the second serving).  She was happy because she would get a two or three-hour break ashore at our next stop. She shared, “I will go for a walk, and there is a cafe I like to go to.” Another waitress later appeared on deck. She smiling to herself with her bicycle in both hands, ready to roll it carefully down the gang-plank to the pier, and then go for a ride to relax on shore after a busy day of serving meals.

Before our cruise we took a fascinating train ride from Oslo, the capital of Norway, to Bergen, the second largest city in Norway on the western coast. A bus took us from the train to the MS Lofoten. We checked in our bags and then we got lost looking for the “tourist” harbor. Those stories will be in other blogs.

Our Norwegian Cruise will include a series of blogs, each with photos and commentary:

“Our Norwegian Cruise” is by Bruce Summers, A Personal Historian and Founder of “Summoose Tales“, former Board Member, Regions and Chapters Director, Association of Personal Historians, summersbw@gmail.com

Happy Birthday Walt Disney

5 Dec

There on the wall was the earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse.

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In the showcase was a one of a kind Oscar with Seven Dwarf Oscars.

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There were early pictures of Walt Disney at work

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The past summer we toured The Walt Disney Family Museum located in the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

On display are the Oscars went to Walt Disney the innovator and Producer, not to the Disney Corporation.

So more than a dozen Oscars are displayed in his family’s museum, not in the corporate headquarters.

The Disney Family Museum is more personal, is not corporate, it showcases his vision,

his innovations, the stories and dreams he brought to life.

There are lots of early works

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There are original cells and sketches from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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Images of work on Bambi

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Pinocchio

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Fantasia

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Dumbo

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Peter Pan

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And many more.  I liked how Walt often jumped into the action

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The original sketches and favorite filmed scenes were a joy.

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On a TV Screen I could see the Wonderful World of Disney of my childhood come to life. I could see the original models for Disney World. I could feel the magic.

It is well worth at least a half a day or it can be a full day destination visit. It was one of the highlights of our trip to San Francisco.

Happy Birthday Walt, and thank you.

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales, Summersbw@gmail.com

Geese in a row

16 Jan

Today we went for a walk with a friend around Burke Lake Park in Northern Virginia. Driving in I commented that there was a gaggle of geese guarding the west end of the lake.

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Later I got some great photos on the gaggle on patrol.

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We have continued to have a mild winter so Burke Lake is free of ice and the gaggle seemed very content to congregate and guard their western border.

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Later, as we hiked around the northern boundary of the lake we saw an even more interesting group of geese.

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These geese seemingly we practicing some type of goose oriented military drill.

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They were sitting perfectly in line jutting out into the water in a southerly direction.

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Occasionally, one of the geese would float out line and then look back at his or her colleagues to see if they were still in proper array. Then this goose would ease on back and rejoin the rest of the military gaggle.

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It was a great day for a walk. I hope everyone is have a great start to 2016. When you get a chance, I hope you can take some time, and take a walk.  Maybe you too will get to see geese in a line in a lake.

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Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

See also

When and Where: Interesting places to visit in the Washington, DC Area

What does Thanksgiving mean?

24 Nov

Travelling

  • Over the river and through the woods
  • Or staying home
  • A time to record a new chapter of family stories

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Recording a new chapter for Thanksgiving? Hmm…

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Being there…

  • Wake up early
  • Help in the kitchen
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Record a new chapter of stories – interview a loved one or a friend
  • The annual family chore
  • Polishing… the wood, the silver, and the plates
  • Favorite dishes
  • Setting the table
  • Share what you are thankful for… more stories

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Active Listening…

  • Share a story… what’s new, what do you remember…
  • Listen to a story…
  • Ask a question… what was Thanksgiving like…; did you ever attend the Macy’s parade in New York…?
  • Be prepared to…Turn on the voice recorder
  • Record a new chapter…
  • Follow-up during quiet time after the meal or the next day… Ask another question… take a photo…
  • Explore what’s in the basement… Where did you get that…?

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Traditions

  • Family
  • Something new
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade… did you watch it when you were little…?
  • Hospitality… say thank you… take a picture or a video…
  • Record a new chapter?

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Whether you are celebrating old traditions, doing something new and different, far from home, or with friends and family, I hope you will take the time to record a new chapter, a few new stories, or a few old stories. You will be glad you did.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Bruce Summers, Personal History, Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

Board Member Association of Personal Historians, Director of Regions and Chapters

New Freedom Carnival Memories

28 Jun

 

The annual New Freedom Lions Club Carnival starts June 29, in New Freedom, Pennsylvania of course. While we no longer go every year, the vivid memories linger.

New Freedom Carnival Poster 2015

The carnival was after school was out, usually it was held during the first week of July, the week that included the 4th of July. It was something to look forward to in our small town of perhaps 1,200 people. My three brothers and I, and perhaps everyone else in town, counted down the days until carnival each year.

As it got closer, it was harder to wait. Anticipation mounted. Just a couple days to go. Everyone in town, well especially the children, and I suspect many adults, consciously or subconsciously turned their gaze towards the New Freedom Playground.

We knew magic was about to happen. The broad expanse of green grass of the playground was going to transform. We were looking for the first truck. The truck transporting the first of the carnival rides. My brothers and I competed for bragging rights. Who would be the first to spot the trucks pulling into the grass to set up a dozen or two dozen rides?

20150607_123450 New Freedom Playground and former site of the Boy Scout building

The trucks arrived either late Saturday or on Sunday to set up the carnival rides and various carnival games in time for the opening at 7 PM on Monday. Sometimes we would spot them if we were out late Saturday night, but more likely we would spot them while we were driving to or from Trinity United Methodist Church in the morning. The trucks meant our town was soon going to explode with activity. Hundreds and thousands of visitors were about to descend on New Freedom for the seven nights of carnival.

Carnival meant flashing bright lights, rides, music, games, lots of good food and bingo.  My dad was the head of bingo at the carnival for decades.  Weeks ahead of the carnival he would get out his spreadsheet and pad from the prior year and start making his calls from our black rotary phone in the breakfast room.  He was calling the regulars to get them scheduled into shifts to collect coins at the bingo tables.  A handful of the regulars were lined to alternate about every 15 minutes as the bingo callers.

Dad also had to check the catalogues and call in the order for bingo prizes.  Every game had either a single winner or two or more 1/2 game winners. You could accumulate your wins all week long. Sometimes you might borrow a win or two from another family member so you could get that special prize you had your eye on all week.

The players gathered on the white wooden benches placed on pebbles and attached to long white wooden tables about hip high.  They sorted through the stacks of well-loved 1/8 inch thick bingo cards looking for 2 or 3 cards with their lucky numbers. One or two women in town were suspected of buying and memorizing books on how to win at bingo.  Everyone always cast an eye their way when they shouted out bingo.  Did they really know secrets? Did they really win more than the rest of us?

Every night hundreds of cards were spread out on the table and gallons of dried field corn kernels were spread out in strategic piles the length of each table.  Corn kernels were used to mark the called numbers on your card. We all had our own bingo strategy.  My birthday was on the 11th so I was pretty sure my lucky card(s) had to include B-11.  The card(s) would be especially lucky if B-11 was in one of the corners. Some of us came earlier in the evening, when there were less players.  Logically this meant our odds of winning were better than when the tables were crowded.  Some of us stayed for those last 5 or 10 games when everyone started to leave.

The best of times was when my Dad was calling bingo, which happened 3 or 4 times each night. No, no, he did not send me a secret signal so that I had an advantage.  It was the best of times because that was my dad’s voice, announcing the numbers at a practiced cadence… “Under the B-7, N-42, I-19, N-40. Under the G-60, O-67, B-4, I-30.”  I moved my corn kernels onto the card to cover each number I had, looking for patterns to emerge. Two in a row, three in a row counting the free space in the middle, and drating the numbers that were close but not quite one of mine.

As time went on I knew we were getting close to someone calling it out, calling BINGO. Dad calls my lucky number… “Under the B-11,” now I had 4 in a row going at a diagonal, just one more. This could be a really lucky card, especially since I included my dad’s special number in the other diagonal corner. “Under the O-69, G-55, O-62.”  Now the anxiety level was really high. Most times someone else would get their special number and shout BINGO or perhaps there would be multiple Bingos. But sometimes, magic happened and my dad called “O-Skixty-skix” and I would holler BINGO so the whole tent could hear me. O-Skixty-skix was Dad’s signature call.

Dad would call out, “Hold your cards”, perhaps my cousin Carol or my friend Scott would be working my row, collecting coins. One of them would hurry down the row and shout out my four winning numbers.  Dad would respond via the microphone, “That’s a winner, anyone else?” We’d all look around, this time I was really lucky, I was the only winner. Dad would close out the game, “Single winner.” Then we would hear the bingo number ping-pong balls drop back into the machine, the coin collector would drop off my “1 Win” card and head back down the row collecting coins for the next game.

I would play a few more games to see if I was on a hot streak. Then I would gather up my win card(s) and my coins and head out to explore the rest of the carnival knowing that I’d be back either to play, or to work my shift at collecting coins, or sometimes, knowing that I was going to be a bingo caller for the late shift when I could call out “O-Skixty-skix.”

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Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian for Summoose Tales, he is a Board Member for the Association of Personal Historians and serves as their Regions/Chapters Director. To learn more about preserving your life stories contact Bruce at summersbw@gmail.com

 

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