SoCS: carousels

To my immediate left is a throw on the back of the couch which features carousel horses.

Here in Broome County NY, carousels are part of our identity. Back in the early part of the twentieth century, one of the important sources of jobs for immigrants and for people already established here was the shoe company named Endicott-Johnson for its founders. They also gave their names to two of the villages, Endicott and Johnson City, that with the City of Binghamton make up the Triple Cities of Broome County. I’m sure everyone is excited to learn this local geography!

The Endicott and Johnson families wanted their employees and their families to have a good quality of life, so they paid them fairly and helped with home ownership, as well as innovations like providing health care and pensions. They also invested in creating recreation opportunities, which brings us to carousels.

The families installed carousels in six public parks scattered around the area. Because they didn’t want anyone to be deprived of a ride, part of the stipulation of the gift was that they would always be free to ride. And because one of the founders recalled the disappointment of getting onto a carousel but being on a stationary horse, all the horses on these carousels are “jumpers” which means they go up and down as well as ’round and ’round.

Most of the figures on the carousels are horses, but some also have a couple of other animals included, such as a dog or boar. Most of the carousels also include chariots to accommodate babes-in-arms or anyone who can’t climb up onto a horse.

When my daughters were young, we spent many hours at the various carousels. They traditionally open Memorial Day weekend and close after Labor Day weekend. I admit that I also love to ride carousels and we would see many other adults there, too. Sometimes, bridal parties will even make stops at the carousels to take photos. My favorite visitors would be elders who grew up in the area but then had moved away; they would come to take a ride and tell stories of how it had been visiting the carousels when they were young.

In our photo albums, we have a succession of years of photos of E and T visiting the carousels. It was a privilege when granddaughter ABC was living with us to introduce her to the carousels, too. It won’t be this summer, but maybe next it will be safe to travel and we’ll get to bring ABC and her little sister JG to the carousels for a ride. We’ll take photos with our phones that they can look at when they return home to the UK and remember.

ABC’s first carousel ride in a chariot being held by her mom with her dad riding on the horse beside them

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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to write about the memories evoked by what was to one’s immediate left when writing the post. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/05/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-8-2021/

the return of a local institution

For many years, a favorite destination in our area has been the Cider Mill. Every year, from August sixteenth through December first, they make doughnuts and cider for sale. On weekends, they make plain, powdered sugar, and cinnamon doughnuts, and on weekdays, they add chocolate frosted with or without chopped peanuts, maple frosted with or without chopped walnuts, and vanilla frosted with or without shredded coconut. They also sell pies, cookies, jams and jellies, and, once they are in season locally, candy apples, winter squash, and many varieties of apples.

When they are pressing cider, you can walk back and observe them prepping, crushing, and pressing the apples to extract the cider. There is a chalkboard telling which types of apples and in which proportion that day’s cider contains.

In a bit of a strange twist, the Cider Mill is also home to a local professional theater company. The former apple storage space has been transformed into a cabaret-style performance space which mounts a seven-play season with each play running for three to four weeks.(People especially love concessions at the fall plays because they can get fresh cider, hot or cold.)

While the opening day is supposed to be August 16, most years the owners try to get ready and open earlier.

Daughter E, who, mind you, is five thousand miles away in Hawai’i, told daughter T yesterday that Cider Mill was opening today. Note: she is much more attuned to social media than her mother.

So, today, for the first time ever, T and I went to the opening day at Cider Mill. It was amazingly busy with long lines and separate areas for ordering and checking out.

Of course, we bought fresh cider and doughnuts.

Because they were so busy and because it is quite warm and humid, the doughnuts were being frosted and sugared when they were still quite warm. I put our doughnuts out on a rack in the kitchen so that they can finish cooling and so that the frosting didn’t adhere to its neighbor.

Once they are throughly cool, I’ll put them back in their waxed bakery bag to await tomorrow’s breakfast.

Although chocolate or maple frosted doughnuts also make a mighty fine dessert…

This week in NYS IBM news

On Monday, Governor Cuomo lauded IBM for keeping 3,100 jobs in the Hudson Valley and adding 500 in Buffalo. On Thursday, IBM carried out yet another round of lay-offs in the US, including Poughkeepsie and Endicott NY. No speeches from the Governor on that.

Endicott, the birthplace of IBM, is just across the Susquehanna from me. In a perverse twist on decimation, IBM now employs less than 10% of the people it once did in Endicott. Decimation would be knocking out every tenth person; instead, IBM has knocked out nine, (usually) keeping the tenth.

It’s happened over time. Sometimes, IBM sold a division to another company. The workers get transferred to the other company, but their employment there doesn’t tend to last very long because the new company wants the contracts, not the experienced workers whom they deem too expensive. Other times, IBM off-shored the jobs. It adds insult to injury to have your last weeks of work spent trying to train a new grad in India to do the job for which you spent years developing your skills. In recent years, it seems to be that corporate America’s answer to everything is to cut costs to drive up the earnings per share, regardless of what this does to your ability to deliver quality products on time. There are only so many cuts you can make before you run into difficulties with not having enough skilled people to complete the job, even though the remaining workers do lots of (unpaid) overtime.

In Endicott, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that IBM has not done much hiring here in the past 20+ years. Most of the cuts now involve workers with over thirty years of experience, who wind up being bridged into retirement. What goes with them are critical skills and knowledge base which haven’t been able to be transferred to younger workers because there aren’t many around.

IBM’s mantra for decades was THINK. The corporate leaders seem to have forgotten that. IBM made its name because it was loyal to its workers and they were loyal to IBM. IBM invested in their training and well-being and the employees innovated, obtained record number of patents, and made great products. IBM on a corporate level is making itself into just another company chasing some number for the next quarter and not thinking about the long-term future for themselves, their employees, the communities, and their customers. Will they remember their heritage before it is too late?