July 4 with strings attached

The nice kind of strings, fortunately…the melodic kind.

July 4, as always, was brought to me by the kindly folks of Contoocook, NH, who annually stage a very nice children’s parade and a longer adult one, always on July 4, whenever that day falls.

And it was also brought to me once again by my brother Rick, wife Ginni and various family and friends, who provide the lodging and the food.

July 4 in Contoocook has become a bit of a tradition for us as you can see by searching for July 4 on this website.  Each year the granddaughters are bigger and more independent in their participation in the kids’ parade.

I was glad I staged a photo of them before the event this year, because I could hardly keep track of them once they were off and running with all the other decorated youngsters.

The adult parade has remained comfortably much the same through the years.  The VFW at the front, followed by the band on a trailer (with the addition of a blue tarp roof this year to provide some badly needed shade on a very hot day), a bunch of old cars and a long line of noisy fire engines.

The strings this year were special, brought to the gathering by granddaughters Margeaux (violin) and Simone (cello), son-in-law Ryan (violin), grand-niece Evelyn (violin), and Georgia (violin), guest of nephew Jon.

As I said, it’s comfortable.  If you want, take a look at last year’s festivities.


The Ford family with cousin Evelyn, pre-parade.  Below are various photos of the kids’ parade.  Click on one to bring up the slide show.  (Photos by Ron Haines)


Photos of the strings are below.  Click on one to bring up the slide show.






Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Another generation of paddlers

Third-Gen.  I guess that’s what I’ll call granddaughter Margeaux now, the third generation of paddlers in my family.  She had been out once before, but that was three years ago on a short excursion with her younger sister, parents and I on a small lake in Manchester, CT.  Boredom set in quickly that day.

This time it was the real deal, no boredom involved.  A month shy of her ninth birthday, she got to go paddling on her own with Grandpa.


Photo by John Messier

She had her own seat in the front of a tandem canoe, her own paddle, and her own responsibility for helping the boat move forward.  She filled the seat, worked the paddle, and handled the responsibility well.

The occasion was an evening excursion with some of my friends from Paddle Killingly, a loose amalgam of leisurely paddlers from eastern Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

We were out for a bit over two hours and covered about four miles in the harbor at Mystic, CT.  Margeaux paddled nearly the whole time and on the way back insisted on trading paddles with me so she could use my double-bladed version.  She needs one like that of her own, that’s for sure.  She kept the boat moving and I added a few strokes and did some steering with her small, child-sized paddle.

I had rigged a chair in the middle of the boat, anticipating I might have a bored, tired


The name of this boat drew snickers of course.

passenger on my hands at some point, but she used it only a couple times to take short  breaks and grab a snack.

The rest of the time she was up in that bow seat, paddling.  I could feel the boat move at her every stroke.   We pushed against a breeze and incoming tide to the outer end of Mystic seaport and then back to the launch near Interstate 95.

We paddled past a lot of very large boats and went under an open-trestle railroad bridge just in time for a very loud Amtrack train to go roaring through about ten feet above our heads.  That was a little unnerving!

We didn’t get to see the huge counterweights of the quaint, 100-year-old drawbridge on Mystic’s Main Street  in action because of what looked like a mechanical problem, but we did  witness the opening of the long swing bridge that carries passenger rail traffic across the water between Groton and Stonington.

Margeaux says she had a good time.  I know I did and I was pretty sure she was enjoying herself.  The only boredom was on the drive there so she kept busy with the paper and pen I had in the car.IMG_5941c

The end of a paddle is never the most fun time of course, with all the trips from the water’s edge to the car with the boat and all the gear.  After all the hauling and as I was finishing up the ropes holding the canoe to the trailer I noticed Margeaux had retired to her car seat and closed the door against the slight evening chill.

I figured she was just tired out and in fact might be falling asleep already.  But when I got into the driver’s seat she handed me this:img_5938c.jpg

She did fall asleep on the way home, but in a most adult manner.  After dinner at Angie’s Pizza with a few of my paddling friends it was nearly 10 pm when we turned on the GPS so she could call her mom with an ETA and hit the road.  She set the alarm on my phone and went to sleep in her seat.  The alarm went off five minutes before we arrived home.  By the time we pulled into the driveway she was awake and ready to walk inside and hit the bed.

Well done, Margeaux!  Here are some photos of your mother in the same boat:


And some more photos from your trip…IMG_5914cIMG_5920cIMG_5930cIMG_5344cIMG_5310cIMG_5923c


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Plains, Georgia

As a journalist in the late 1970s I developed a fondness for Plains, Georgia.

It was the hometown of our peanut-farmer president, Jimmy Carter, and a place where I could get a quote out of his mother Lillian; sister Ruth,  or better-yet, brother Billy, good enough to hang a story on, if I asked the right questions.newsweek-brother-billy-cover

I remember rather unfondly that long drive to Plains from the Atlanta airport, but more pleasantly I remember the feeling I always got in Plains that this president was of decent, albeit a little wacky sometimes, stock.

The 39th president of the U.S., James Earl Carter was for me the most down-to-earth leader this country has had in my lifetime.  He was a former Georgia Senator and Governor, but somehow didn’t act like others of the political establishment in this country at that time, or now.  He was maybe too down-to-earth and too naïve to get himself reelected, unfortunately.   He got shellacked by the first actor this country has elevated to the highest office, Ronald Reagan.

In recent years I have found his comments and opinions about the politics and politicians of the day sometimes pretty irrelevant and often just plain wrong, but there is one thing I cannot fault him for at all and that has been the way he, along with wife Rosalyn, has led his life as a former president.

Just this past March, with the passing of George H.W. Bush, Carter became the country’s JIMMY_CARTER_Habitat_for_humanityoldest living former president.  Still a Sunday school teacher at his church, Carter’s continued peacekeeping and humanitarian work since leaving office have gained him a lot of admirers.  The image of him in hardhat at a Habitat for Humanity house-building site is perhaps what most people will remember of him when he is long gone.

So there was no question when I was traveling up to Atlanta from Florida a few weeks ago with some spare time on my hands that I would take the detour to Plains to spend the afternoon.  Enjoy the photos.



Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Ethiopian fashion show

It was a real treat for me today to see my two granddaughters all decked out in the Ethiopian dresses my daughter and I brought back for them on our recent trip there. IMG_2245c

The trip was a revisit to Ethiopia, where I lived fifty years ago, when the traditional clothes were way more prevalent then than they are now.

Margeaux and Simone wore their outfits for a musical performance with their dad, Ryan, at the Unitarian Universalist Society East in Manchester, CT.

More photos from today are below. I also tossed in three photos of folks in traditional dress from our trip.  One is of an  Ethiopian youngster who danced for her fellow passengers at Lalibela airport, the second is of a woman displaying a traditional Ethiopian coffee service, and the third is of a woman I met in the countryside. (The daily log and all the photos from our trip are here)




Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Helpful street signs

It’s nice when there are street signs that actually let you know that it’s a place you just don’t want to go:


Scrape Bottom Road, Scottsville, NC. (Photo by Ron Haines)


To Do List Lane, Chauga, SC. (Photo by Ron Haines)


Drown Road, Pomfret, CT. (Photo by Ron Haines)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Johnstown Flood

Recently I was driving along the empty rolling hills and mountains of rural southwest Pennsylvania when I saw a sign and an arrow:

“Johnstown Flood Memorial,” the sign said.

I know about the flood, having interviewed an actual survivor of it back in the 70s.  And I of course knew it happened in Johnstown, but that city was still several miles down the road from where I was.

So why put a memorial to the flood out here in the middle of nowhere, I thought.

When I arrived at the memorial and got out of the car I remembered why.  The small visitors center overlooked a large green valley.

The valley used to be full of water, a reservoir created when the South Fork Dam was built on the Little Conemaugh River in the 1800s.   Constructed as part of a cross-state canal system, the lake and its dam later became the property and playground of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, an exclusive and private mountain lake retreat whose membership grew to include more than 50 wealthy Pittsburgh steel, coal, and railroad industrialists.

At 3:15 pm on May 31, 1889, the earthen dam collapsed.  In minutes the valley was empty of water and in less than an hour, after scouring small settlements along the river to bare rock, a massive wall of water slammed into the heart of Johnstown, 14 miles downstream, killing 2,209 people.

Interestingly, Johnstown’s recovery from this disaster was the first major relief effort for the fledgling American Red Cross and the work was led by founder Clara Barton herself.  She would spend five months there.

I recall my interview with a female flood survivor back in 1978, one of few still alive then.  She was in her early 90s, putting her at about toddler age when the flood hit.

Unfortunately for me, her memories were less than vivid and devoid of the kind of detail I needed to make it a good first person survivor tale.  The story made the paper, barely, the woman’s sparse recollections padded with lots of history.

Just as I am padding out this post with some old photos, below.

Johnstown Floodjohnstown-flood-1889-5johnstown-tree-in-houseOther Pictures 035uploads_2017_1_30_johnstownflood_2

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Pizza Pizza

I have been taking photos of repurposed gas stations and posting them here since about 2013.

My favorite remains the first one that caught my eye and got me started: Goobers Laundromat in Lucedale, Mississippi.

Goober's LaundromatLucedale, MSCR: Ron Haines
As a structure, it’s not much, sort of ramshackle and lacking the classic lines of most of the the old gas stations I’ve encountered since.

But as a concept, particularly the name and the use of the former pump island as a raised planting area, it grabbed me, hard.

Since then I have photographed hundreds of recycled, empty and falling apart gas stations all over the U.S. and even internationally, if you count a three-day jaunt across a lower bit of Canada and a two-week trip to Ethiopia.

The major reuse of old stations is definitely for auto repair shops and used car lots. Those are so common I don’t even bother photographing them any more, unless there is something really unique about the building.

A popular runnerup seems to be as pizza restaurants and I titled this post Pizza Pizza in honor of these two I found recently in Charlotte, NC.  Both of them make good use of the old overhands as outdoor seating areas.


And just in case the title of this post is ringing a bell and you can’t figure out why, here it is: Pizza! Pizza!, said quickly with the words run together, was a long-running advertising slogan for the Little Caesars pizza chain.

That catchphrase, coined in 1979, twenty years after the company was founded, was meant to convey that the price for one of its competitors’ pies would buy you two pizzas at Little Caesars. And they came in that unwieldy, long, two-pizza box inside a long paper bag.

Have you noticed, by the way, that the Caesar character in the chain’s advertising has lost his chest hair? And that the design on his togo now contains the letters L and C instead of being just a random pattern?


upright old final



no hair copy final









And as long as we’re knee-deep in the trivia weeds, I should note that the chain cannot use its Pizza! Pizza! catchphrase in Canada. A company there, Pizza Pizza, founded in 1967, years before Caesars thought that up, objected.

So in our neighbor to the north, the company uses “Two Pizzas!” along with “Delivery! Delivery!”, “Quality! Quality!” or other such double-word tag lines.

Other former gas stations selling pizzas and the rest of my finds from my recent jaunt through Georgia, the Carolinas, the Virginias and Pennyslvania are here.

And no pizza post would be complete without me confessing that I do love pizza and always have.  So much so that back when I started calling my daughter Jennifer Juice because of her love of apple juice I became known as Papa Pizza.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments