Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Belgian Pen Pal

Forty-five years ago, I was studying French in junior high school in Long Beach, California.  To increase interest, students could sign up for a French-speaking pen pal. I signed up and, voilà, my pen pal was Christine Dallons from  Charleroi, Belguim.

Of course, I was a schoolboy then and I wrote schoolboy letters that were probably not very interesting.  Of course, she was a schoolgirl too and, truthfully, I could hardly make out her graceful cursive script.  Sad to say, we gave up after two or three letters.

I now live 120 miles away in Bakersfield, California. I run a small plastics manufacturing company.

My pen pal’s name has been banging around in my head these forty-five years and, recently, out of curiosity, I looked for her on Google and Facebook.

I didn’t find her exactly, but I did find an interesting family history of a man with the same last name from the same town in Belgium.  Thinking this was perhaps some sort of relative, I read on.   François Dallons, a glassmaker, moved his family from Charleroi, Belgium to Indiana in the 1890.  In1906, the gas field that fired the glass plant gave out and the plant closed overnight. The Dallons family moved to Stockton, California where there was work making glass for repairing San Francisco after the earthquake there.

In 1920, the immigrant’s son, Victor Dallons, moved his family to Bakersfield. In 1923 they bought some land, and built a house on 8th Street, just a few houses down the street from where my company is today!

When I saw a picture of the house, which I immediately recognized, I couldn't help but laugh how small the world is.

Reading on, the likelihood of a relationship to my pen pal doubled.   There was a second branch of the Charleroi Dallons family that had moved from Belgium to England and then Los Angeles.  During World War II, the grandson of  François Dallons, Willis Dallons, who lived on 8th Street, was stationed in Los Angeles, met and courted the granddaughter of distant relative Jean François Dallons, Suzanne Dallons.   They married and one of their sons, now retired and living in Florida set up the website I found. 

I haven’t found Christine yet, but she’ll be interested to know that her probable-relatives have been doing well in America.
The Dallons family moved on from the house on 8th Street years ago.

What an odd coincidence of human migration.  
I'm enjoying the World Cup soccer this year.  I think that once every four years is about the right dose for me.

On the funny side, I was talking to an old friend of mine here in California about the World Cup.  He's a Jew, was born in pre-Israel Palestine, served as a tank commander in the Israeli army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and moved to California in the mid 1970's.  That just sets him up as a tough, funny, old guy with a rugged accent and direct manner of speech.

My friend doesn't have any favorites among the countries.  He watches games to enjoy the talents of several players he follows.  Among the top world players he was following was Luis Suarez of Uruguay.

A day or so after the Uruguay defeated England, we were talking on the phone and he said that just as the game was starting on TV,  a premonition came to him how it would end.  He said, "I looked at the TV and said 'Suarez, today you will score two goals.'"  That's just how it happened.

In the the next game, Suarez created quite a controversy by biting one of the Italian players.  I called my friend and left a message asking if he had predicted the bite.

He called me back. "My predictions are about human behavior, not animal."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why would I bother?

In my plastics workshop, from time to time we need our saw blades sharpened.

A sales rep from the sharpening company comes a few times a year, takes the blades away and brings them back sharpened in a week or so.

One visit, out of idle curiosity, I asked the saw blade man if any of his customers ever lost a finger.
"Oh, yes,” he answered rather matter of factly.  “Probably about a digit a week."   I was floored. I had never expected that rate... and uncompassionately calling them “digits”...
He went on to the story of an oldtimer customer of his.  The old guy had run a lumber yard full of probably very dangerous saws without  accident. Retired for many years, he was using his table saw at his home shop and did the classic stupid thing.  After a saw cut, he tried to remove a little cutoff sliver and it dragged his finger into the blade, cutting it off.

"Did you get it sewn back on?" asked the saw blade man.  The oldtimer replied "I'm 92 years old. Why would I bother?"

The point is, there are stages in life that you haven’t even considered.  I'm still at the stage where the finger would get sewn back on.