Tag Archives: economics

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Jack fails to make it in time – again – – –

DSCN1013

Well the latest big surprise yesterday was an email telling me that ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ was voted one of the top three bookstores in SW Virginia by readers of a Virginia wide tourism magazine.

I thought to begin with that it was some kind of scam, but after exchanging a series of emails with a nice lady it became clear that it was genuine.

This immediately raised a few questions –

The bookstore closed over a year ago and the building is now a private dwelling again, and the new owners probably wouldn’t want hordes of folk knocking on the door or even just walking straight in.

There again – who voted and how did they not know we’d closed?

To be clear, we had the best time running that bookstore for fourteen years and made it into a real community hub. We made many friends along the way. The only reasons we sold up and moved was that Wendy’s job could be handled more easily from where we are now in Wytheville, it felt like time to move on and the building needed more TLC than a seventy-eight-year-old guy could contemplate.

I tried to find out whether we would have been first, second or third, but for understandable reasons we couldn’t be told. I also asked if our votes could be transferred to our good friends at Oracle Books in Wytheville but no dice there either.

 wendy-welch.com/2012/08/28/a-virtual-tour-of-tales-of-the-lonesome-pine-used-books/

Sometimes life is just weird – – –

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Branches – –

Jack actually makes it in time –

This week has been a bit strange, what with Wendy being away for two weeks helping her parents and me keeping an eye on the (very hard working) guys trimming back the tree overhanging our house.

tree

But then there was this –

My friend Dirk who engineers my radio show is also a video guy and he startled me a year ago with a proposal to make a documentary film of my life. As we worked on the radio shows he had become interested in all the things I mentioned, including why I moved the US, my various different careers and my musical life.

He started with a great number of videoed interviews with me and the original idea was to try to cover all of that. The first version I saw was an hour long and dived all over the place. Interesting to me but probably few others!

But once he decided to focus essentially on the musical side it all began to make more sense.

It was fascinating to see how he went about it, chasing after people who knew me and persuading them to share their observations then painstakingly transcribing their interviews. Busy folk in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and even in Scotland.

But then he had to turn it into a narrative that made sense, where one interview meshed with others and where various musical interludes contributed.

It finally went public a few days ago.

I think he did a wonderful job. I hate to use words like ‘humbled’ and ‘honored’ but this time I have to. I’m so grateful to him and to all my friends who took the time and trouble to contribute so thoughtfully.

I’ve been emailing today with my sister about an audio interview with our mother that Wendy helped me do twenty years ago and it reminded me how important a legacy these seemingly fleeting things can be.

The video can be seen here –

https://vimeo.com/382758864

 

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Power ain’t Necessarily – –

Jack gets way over his deadline but pleads Christmas recovery  –

I noticed that Christmas has become a very ‘on-line’ thing over the last few years and that got me thinking.

Random thoughts – – –

I got my first computer around 1998, just after the college where I worked began to introduce them. Prior to that I hand wrote memos, handed them to my secretary, who typed them, copied them and then sent them to the designated recipients. There was a whole protocol around memos including who was ‘CCd’ and how that could be used as a weapon! I learned – – –

Back then there was hardly an internet as we now know it. There was eventually an ‘intranet’ within the college, and on my personal computer at home (with great difficulty) I could eventually connect via ‘dial up’ with the college.

Ah – dial up! One of the guys at the college could imitate that sound perfectly

I joined ‘America on Line’ (AOL) and got an email address, which I still have. Back then, in Scotland, you connected to your email via dial up. They had three numbers for the whole of the UK and Ireland! So getting your emails was sometimes a frustrating experience. But that was just to get your mail and not to surf the internet. There wasn’t really any internet!

When I assumed the position of Head of Construction Trades, I found by accident that the Department had ten computers. The trouble was I couldn’t find them. After a search, I was told that the computer department had pauchled fifty by attributing them to other departments! So eventually ten Commodore Pets briefly were in my department as they were wheeled to the dumpster – – –

pet

The final story is much later. I had been promoted again, had gained my MBA and was teaching management classes. Like everyone else I had great difficulty getting any kind of urgent response from the IT team to fix any problem (check out ‘The IT Crowd’ on YouTube https://youtu.be/nn2FB1P_Mn8). Nicola was their manager and was in one of my evening class programs. That night we discussed the different forms of power within organizations – hierarchical, fiefdoms and expert. Expert was the one! As soon as I had explained expert power to Nicola I never had an IT problem again.

 

 

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Onward and Upward – – –

Jack gets there in time again –

maslow

I’ve seen a lot recently about encouraging young folk to go for trades rather than university and I absolutely approve of that. I had a fairly miserable time at High School and only really enjoyed French, Art and Woodwork. So I left school at age fifteen with no formal qualifications and entered my apprenticeship as a house-painter and sign writer.

But the messages I’ve seen all concentrate on the amount of money to be made from the likes of plumbing or electrical work and I’d like to suggest that there are other, sometimes surprising, positive outcomes from following the trade path.

As part of my training I attended the local college and discovered that I could go there in the evenings and get the academic qualifications I’d failed to garner at school – English and Math. So I wound up with them plus the highest trade diploma in my specialism. Some years later this proved to be required for me to become a lecturer in the construction department of that same college.

That’s when I really finally entered higher education. I attended Jordanhill teacher training college in Glasgow and studied educational psychology among many other things. That was when I first encountered Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It was a revelation to me and cropped up regularly during my career progression from lowly part-time lecturer in painting, full-time lecturer, senior lecturer, head of the construction department and finally senior manager. It was only five years before my retirement that I finally attended Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh to gain my MBA.

Through all this Dr Maslow kept cropping up and nudging me – from student motivation through to team dynamics and leadership styles and even marketing strategies!

But it’s not just dry academic stuff. I look around the world right now and I can see how lucky I’ve been. I mean that I’ve managed to hover around the top of the pyramid, while an awful lot of folk aren’t so lucky. So the hierarchy of need continues to haunt me.

And – yes – follow a trade by all means. You won’t necessarily make a fortune but you might be surprised where it takes you!

 

 

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Per Ardua ad Astra et Pictorum

Jack just makes it again – – –

A few weeks ago, I blogged about house painters and decorators and briefly mentioned my dad.

Dad - RAF

Early in the RAF.

So, here’s a fuller story about him as an artist-craftsman –

William Beck (usually known as Bill or Willy) was born in Govan, in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a ship’s painter. Govan was the center of Shipbuilding on the Clyde and the Clyde was the center of shipbuilding in the world then. Painting ships was fairly rough industrial painting, but Bill was destined for much higher-class stuff.

He moved to Fife at a fairly young age and entered apprenticeship as a decorative painter. In these days (the early 1900s) an apprenticeship lasted at least seven years. Once he’d finished his time he was employed by Henry Hoggan and Son, the most prestigious and high class painting and decorating company in Dunfermline. He quickly progressed to be their expert in interior design – color coordination, mural drawing, Church decoration, marbling, wood-graining, sign-lettering etc, etc – – –

His training had included time at Edinburgh art college where he’d studied color theory, Greek and Roman design, calligraphy, water color painting and much more. A true renaissance man and a student of the marriage between art and craft!

When WW2 came along he volunteered for the RAF and spent most of the war in Egypt where his skills were employed painting the identification numbers and letters on planes and lettering maps.

After demobilization he set up a decorating business in partnership with another ex-employee of Hoggan’s – Tom Anderson. Tom was the expert in painting and wallpapering, while Bill was the artistic one.

During all this time and even while he was in Egypt he was doing excellent water color paintings – mostly portraits but later on a good many landscapes too.

Around the time that I left school and started my apprenticeship, Tom Anderson retired and Bill continued as the sole partner. In these days before DIY took hold around half the work was in private houses and half was contracts to paint government offices, hospitals and schools. The firm usually employed around five or six time-served craftsmen and two or three apprentices (of which I was one). Because the work ranged from ‘high end’ domestic to fairly basic industrial my apprenticeship gave me a good grounding. Bill built up a successful sideline in lettering shop signs and vehicle lettering and often took me along, so that added another string to my bow.

He continued to work very actively right up until he retired and I remember many occasions when he clambered up a ladder and over roofs while the rest of us looked on in amazement.

One of his proudest moments, though, was after I started teaching painting and decorating in the local college. He had always wanted to do that but had never had the opportunity, so I brought him in as a guest to demonstrate his marbling and wood graining skills. By that time he was quite sick, but he put on a great display to an appreciative audience (and boosted my reputation no end!).

In the last few years of his life he kept himself occupied by continuing to paint water colors and did all his own mounting and framing. We’re delighted to have a number hanging on our walls!

Now my mother – – –  There’s a story for a future post!

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If Music be the Food of – – –

Jack easily gets in under the wire this time – –

I have a fascination with certain musical instruments – some of which I can play and others I wish I could. Guitars, obviously, but also various reed instruments such as the concertina, melodeon and even the jaw harp.

A few years ago I built Wendy a rather nice harp from a kit and noticed that the company also had a hurdy-gurdy in their catalogue. Now, that I would love to make, and it’s long been on my bucket-list!

But before I get to that there’s another project awaiting.

heritage organ

Heritage with the pump organ

Back in the early 1980s when my old folk band Heritage was young we somehow got hold of a portable pump organ. Imagine an accordion turned on its side with pedals to operate the bellows! We had just recruited Mike Ward who was an excellent keyboard player so it provided a lovely wheezy bass to our music. Of course we knew little about how it worked and were probably very lucky that it continued to.

Wendy and I love visiting antique and thrift stores and I’m always interested to see what instruments they have. Very occasionally there will be a pump organ, but they’re usually not portable. However a few years ago we came across one in NC for a reasonable price and bought it. That’s when I began to learn what went on inside them. Because the bellows was – knackered – – –

I was able to make enough temporary repairs to push air through the reeds and we discovered they all worked and were in tune! Since then I have looked at it and promised myself (and Wendy) that I’d get it working again, but still it sits.

pump

Are you going to fix me this time?

A few days ago I said I’d love to get that hurdy gurdy kit – – –

“As soon as you finish the pump organ” she said.

hurdy

Me next!

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Which Side are You On

Jack scrapes over the wire with the Wednesday post – – –

I’m a week or so late in acknowledging Labor Day I know, but –

On our kitchen wall we have a tea towel with a print of a certificate by the house decorators and painters union dating from the mid 1800s.

towel

It fascinates me for two reasons. It reminds me of a famous book – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – that describes the working conditions of a group of house painters in England in the early 1900s. The other reason is because I served a six year apprenticeship learning all the skills depicted in that certificate.

The scenes illustrated clearly display great pride in the variety of specialisms involved –

The simple yet carefully prescribed way of painting a paneled door.

The use of color to enhance a classical Greek style cornice.

A cherub studying design and another one lettering a signboard.

A collection of regular paintbrushes and tools and another collection of tools for applying goldleaf.

In the center is a scene showing why the union was so important – a sick painter (maybe suffering from lead poisoning) is being attended by a doctor while his wife and son look on.

In The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists the main character is a young man, newly finished his apprenticeship who has a particular talent for design. He spends a lot of his own time, unpaid, making wonderful designs to be used later as part of his work. This reminds me very much of my father who served his time back in the 1920s when the system still included attendance at art college. Truly a marrying of art and craft and the legacy of people like William Morris.

My apprenticeship was served under my Dad in his painting business and I was ‘indentured’. That means that, like all his apprentices, we both signed a legal document that was then torn irregularly in half. At the end of my six years I received his half, which when matched to my half showed I was legally a time-served craftsman (indentured actually means ‘patterned like teeth’).

Everything has changed now. In Scotland there are still apprenticeships but they last just three years and don’t cover the same breadth of skills. Indenturing no longer takes place and DIY has blossomed with the introduction of easier to use materials and tools.

But I learned a lot – not just about craft skills, but also social skills. Not only that but it was the gateway to my college career, so a very good start to my working life.

Finally – I’m a big believer in unions!

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