Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Journey, An Autobiography

Born of Scottish parents, who in the 1920's immigrated to America to start their young life anew. Dad from Glasgow, Mom from Dundee who bore two sons four and a half years apart: brother Andrew, the elder, and me, six months, arrived in Pottstown the summer of 1935 when Dad took a job with Bethlehem Steel as a draftsman. Brother Andrew joined the Navy leaving Pottstown during Korea and never really returned. I've stayed 80 years living out my story.

Life begins with a quality education: a graduate of Pottstown Junior and Senior High Schools, then matriculated to Penn State, State College,  for three semesters garnering 50 credits, came home and enrolled in Ursinus College, night school for 50 more credits, still 28 credits short of a degree. Even so, I was elected into Pottstown High School Alumni Honor Roll Society, one of only three of my 1953 graduating class.

The field of sports engaged much of my younger years: here at home I received recognition becoming co- captain of the football team, was on the golf team, threw weights on the track team. Later, was on the championship adult men's industrial basketball team, Tony Zee's. At Penn State, even though I was the 52nd freshman to receive a uniform, my play brought me recognition and got me a new uniform as I was elevated to first team freshman and received the game ball for play against arch rival, Pitt. At Penn State I scrimmaged against the likes of : Redskins, Lenny Moore and Dan Radakovich ; all pro, Rosey Grier ; Jesse Arnelle ; Richie Lucas and Sam Valentine, All Americans. But, but now only a dream of what could have been.

When not at ball playing, I worked. At the age of nine I began caddying at Brookside Country Club which I did off and on until I graduated high school. Worked at Ringing Hill Orchard at harvest time then at fourteen began mowing lawns for Henry Fox staying with him for some fifteen years as he built his business into a three state landscape contracting firm. After a five year hiatus I got reinstated at Penn State for football, got busted up pretty badly, and dropped our for good. Acquired a salaried position at Firestone and began night school at Ursinus.

Left Firestone in 1969. I got remarried : first marriage lasted five years, fathered two: Bonnie and Sherri ; divorced five years ; now remarried 51 years, fathered three : Heather, a teacher; Lia, a Critical Care Nurse ; Ronald, a technician. I returned to landscaping joining with Fisher Hughes. We purchased and operated Pine Forge Ski Area and developed The Foundry Lounge along with expanding our growing landscape company. Citing conflicts, I left the organization, got my insurance a real estate licenses until unhappiness crept in and back to the land I went.

Developed Pottstown Nursery, a Garden Center and a fully functioning landscape construction company. Operated this way for ten years, then leased the Garden Center and moved the landscape company to Douglassvile on 57 acres of open land we'd purchased. Bob Smoyer and I formed Downie Smoyer Landscape as our business name in a seamless changeover. Smoyer's untimely death as my physical vitality diminished required me to settle the business's books. As in all businesses assets hopefully balance out with obligations and debts as ours barely did. My health: a prostate operation, foot complications from a deep cyst both landed me in the hospital. More debilitating has been my ongoing losing battle with type two diabetes. Now I only move with help of a walker and have not driven an automobile in five years.

All the while during my years in business I keep a close contact with the functions of this town, Pottstown, I call home. Early on, Jaycees then Ambucs, becoming president, also BIE, president again, Schuylkill River Greenway Association, yes president. School Board, four years; Parks and Rec, next ; eight years on Borough Council and finally eight years on Borough Authority, last four as chairman. An Elk, I've been named Elk of the year, I've earned a fifty year pin at being a member of the local Masonic Lodge, same with Reading Shrine and Consistory. I am past president of CAP, Carousel At Pottstown, and have an Ampitheater at the Schuylkill River named by the Borough in my name since I was instrumental in its construction. When this project was finished, I donated the machine I used to build the Ampitheater to the Parks Dept. who use it to this day.

Now 80 years old, when looking back, I would have had to live a long time to do as much as I did. In the last year I was named Pottstown's Poet Laureate in a book "Legendary Locals of Pottstown" written by Sue Repko. Poetry has been my advocation for the last half of my life. The bonding of thoughts onto paper that others may independently involve with the writer is an art dating back by man deep into antiquity. Whether good or bad, I pride myself in being able to live in real time by blocking out the past and not relive yesterdays. Only through an exercise like this am I able to bring the past into my preview. I hope this answers some questions.

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Perpetuating Failure

Suites with ties on the benches of professional sports teams don't play in the games but they address press conferences. Suites with ties who administer public education don't meet with children in classrooms but they, too, address the press.

The problem arises from the proliferation of suits who are neither on the court nor in the classroom but they promote policy without the agony of actually competing and they speak to the press as if they're superstars.

Education has become bloated, top heavy, in order to fill out forms that Harrisburg requests. Sports teams are overwhelmed with statistics ; such as, how many times does a player blink when he attempts a shot or swings a bat. Are school rooms destined to be under the analyzer of statistics, statistics as absurd as, how many flies are on east facing windows as opposed to all others ? Of course, professional teachers would be expected to perform the counting task.

Even more bloated is the whole Washington, DC. fiasco : bureau after sub-bureaus piled upon each other under which weight the system is bound, someday, to bust. The IRS is an ever expanding behemoth which will implode in due time. We all heard about "inflate gate" ; now when the tide changes, the seas rise, and the Potomac seeks sea level storage facilities will be under water, with it, most staffers weak at swimming will be gone. Another government holiday is in the offing.

Ronald C. Downie

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Father Paul's Message

Me, I'm a push over for a well delivered lecture so I eat up a good homily ; if still ambulatory, I'd probably go to church again. This Saturday I stayed glued to the TV and watched Supreme Court Justice Antonine Scalia's funeral in America's Cathedral at Catholic University, Washington DC.

Father Paul Scalia delivered a strong, well thought out homily in honor of his deceased father Judge Antonine Scalia. Father Paul officiated over the entire funeral service which seemed to go over without a hitch.

His homily began with him telling us, his huge audience, what he wanted us to remember : about yesterday, today, and for evermore (for eternity - for hope) ; he then told how his father fit into this matrix ; finally, he reinforced this trilogy by summing up his three pronged homily by reinforcing each time element.

Laced with subtle humor, Father Paul, spoke lovingly of the man lying before him and before the World. Many a listener would sometimes get a child's name confused with another, no matter how intelligent he was, if nine names were in the mix. Father Paul's grasp of "the big picture" shone through his dissertation in a way which will last and last.

I could only think of my grandson, Connor Kurtz, who just graduated from Catholic University this winter and had been a tour guide of the campus while a student there, and was extremely familiar with all we saw on TV. I have yet to question Connor about his impressions of the funeral service. Great job, Father Paul ! May your father rest in peace !

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, February 22, 2016

   The Village Within

With all the flowers
Across from
Golf Course Road,
A couple of cars,
A Cape Cod with a garage,
South of the railroad tracks,
Old Reading Pike.
You'll see, color everywhere.

A house in a village
Stands out
By its tendered colorful care
Displayed by those bedded flowers
That engage the eye
And capture an emotion
To just visit.

It is the village
Within these walls
That makes this place stand out.
It is the extreme love exhibited
Awaiting the passing
Of a mate's life
Which mirrors Nature's Law :

A season of germination,
Birth and unfolding,
Then pressing into a burst
Of colorful flowers,
Setting the stage again
For fertile seeds,
Before a sleep.

With a smile and a nod
We pass the flowered abode
Happy to have seen the color display
We feel a tug within the chest
A twang from
"The Village Within."

Ronald C. Downie

For Sherri and family-
Remembering Steve Kurtz : husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend to all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Three Legged Stool

I always pictured the three legged stool as a fixture in Old Pa Wade's milk house. A couple of them were always available for milking time and other chores where sitting down was the habit in an old Dutch farmstead. I guess, when looking back, the tripod formed by three legs was more stable where the floor was rarely level.

Later in life, much later about retirement years, I learned about the three legged stool as it pertained to an important symbol for people close to old age. Three legged stands for the three pillars that are hopefully present when someone retires : (1) Social Security
(2) Pension (3) Savings. It is the stability of having sufficient amounts in each case that enables retirees to stop working and still live in a comfortable manner. Sadly, though, in this day and age, the stability of the three legged stool is being eroded, the floor is way out of level, even the milk bucket is prone to tip over.

The age old desires of a democratic society was : to be born, to grow, to learn, to be gainfully employed, to own a home, to vacation, to expect offspring to do even better, to retire, and to leave an inheritance in testimony to a fruitful life. Bowing to the scourge of war, to the greed of the moneyed class, and to the dysfunction of our government these dreams have been thwarted to a point where they maybe lost forever.

The three legged stool may also describe our system of government ; constitutionally made up of three equal branches : the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Though deemed equal by constitutional mandate each branch in recent years has been under siege from one or both of the other branches. The Legislative branch ( Senate and House) recently polled at a 9% public approval rating and just this week the Senate leader vowed to not accept any appointment of the President to  fill an open seat on the Supreme Court, even though, the President is mandated by The Constitution to appoint a successor with advise and consent of The Senate. Any wonder the public does not respect the Congress, especially its leaders. Founders, I'm sure, never expected any branch of government to play schoolyard chicken with another branch, the old "gotcha" game of bullying days.

Seems the legislators of our country especially need three legged stools since their chamber floors must be like an old milk shed's floor, bumpy and out of level. What we need in Washington DC. Is more representatives the likes of Old Pa Wade and less professional politicians, who believe they are entitled to the larges of our great but weakening country which they manipulate through vote benefiting only themselves.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cause and Effect

Strong roots resulting in a healthy tree is an example of cause and effect. It is, as the way saplings are bent, so the trees will grow. All that lives is subject to some fundamental law of nature, one of them is, the cause and effect quandary.

We're living in a period of governance in the United States of America where voter participation will cause a huge effect in who will lead our nation for four and most likely eight years as president. If, a meager voter turnout occurs, big moneyed oligarchs will smile over their conquest, finally dominating over the will of the people.

The "one man one vote rule" can easily be thwarted by apathy. Oligarchs play the game of "chicken" with an unsuspecting public. If they can get you to think that nothing you can do, that no matter how you vote, that all is lost anyway; they got you !  Big money is after slow, dim witted, complacent citizens rather than those who can think, who can question, and, especially, those who will exercise their constitutional right and vote.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gunfight In South Carolina

Just another episode at the "OK Corral" last night at the Republican Presidential Debates. Sharp guttural words aimed at one another debaters stung as if gunshots were being used. Cries of liar, liar cut the air frequently. Grown men, thought intelligent, lowered themselves back into a world of playground bullying through words remembered as harsh and biting.

Will a Republican nominee evolve from these six men, well from the four combatants who wore six shooters ? Two, who are relegated to also ran : one meek and mild, the other who talks like an older brother full of logic stayed away from the fray since they were not packing.

It is extremely difficult for me to picture one of the four as presidential. Will I be able to keep my mind on a presidential speech like the State of the Union or a talk to the nation without picturing last nights debate ? I doubt it. At 81, I still remember the bullies on the elementary school playground as being loud, harsh, and dishonest.
Is a gunfight what will determine just who will lead America into the future?

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Down, But Are We Out ?

What an indictment, made by observers of the worst towns in southeastern Pennsylvania to live in, was verified by a set of figures they compiled. Overall, Pottstown named second worst, although we led them all in crime by a large margin, worst in home value, and lowest in household income.

Living here over eighty years the last forty in the same house, caught up in the scourge of property taxation, income stagnant on social security; yes, I can understand the ranking. Even though I lived through Pottstown's greatest heydays the post WW 2 ones, the days when Pottstown supplied the economic muscle for the whole of Montgomery County, the vitality of stature does not go on forever. What made us once an envy of Philadelphian suburbs now makes us the doormat of the area because of a shift in economic muscle.

I'll not outlive our degrade ! I hope I can die with dignity and without becoming destitute. But, young people will arrive with new energy and fresh ideas, they'll grab the reins of government and steer our ship of state toward calmer waters. Pottstown's one saving grace comes by way of MCCC, Montgomery County Community College, which is on the threshold of a major expansion in our town. ( I do not know this as a fact but it sounds really good ) We should always acknowledge that Pottstown is a college town when we refer to ourselves in writing or in verbal communication.

Ronald C. Downie
Pottstown, A College Town

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Not Understanding Caucuses

Talk about not eating sausage or scrapple if you saw it being made. Well, the Iowa caucuses gave me the same feelings when I tried to understand them while watching it all unfold on television. The greatest, strongest country on earth chooses its president, the World leader, by a process a kin to a butcher shop process. Everything but the squeak and the squeal went into these caucus theatrics.

Someday when the United Sates matures beyond an Old Western mentality of guns and guts by understanding elections are part of the sacred trust between the voters and those we elect to lead our nation.
Primaries, with the Iowa caucuses leading off, are strictly political party affiliations and many times unique to the state they're scheduled  in.

First, a multi-party commission should be convened to rewrite the election process. When passed, this commission should have considered  in its deliberations the following : (1) weekend elections (2) divide country into six primary election territories (3) universal use of private voting booths (4) any other suggestions by you or others.

Second, a similar commission be empowered to limit terms. House limits ; 6, two year terms ; Senate limits ; 2, six year terms ; President limits ; remain the same, 2, four year terms.

Ronald C. Downie