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May 27th, 2010:

More George Ewing Stories

In the wake of George Ewing’s passing, my old friend Lee Hart sent me an email full of reminiscences. Some of these were familiar to me, but most of them were new. (Lee had been local to George for a lot of years and saw him far more often than I did.) So let me set them down here with minimal editing, as I’m currently in the center of the vortex trying to get things in sufficient order to do some serious writing in coming weeks.

Lee remembers (as I do I, in some cases) these WA8WTE tidbits:

  • Words like weaselrat, snoguloid, kremulator…
  • The toilet, on a raised dais in the center of the living room in his geodesic dome home (the “throne”).
  • Panning for coins and ICs in the sand floor of his dome after we tore it down in 1980.
  • How he kicked a skunk into the river because it was after his food.
  • His “motie” charger for his 2M handi-talkie: a series capacitor and bridge rectifier in a disorderly ball of duct tape.
  • His movie reviews, which made me wonder if I’d seen the same movie he did! (Ed: I have a couple, which I will scan and post in coming days.
  • Plowing his driveway with his picnic table.
  • His “tin Plymouth” that was so rusty it even holes in the roof. (Ed: This is the Barracuda he drive to Clarion. It was a…remarkable…thing.)
  • Making chili with peanuts because he was out of beans.
  • His “portable” computer, which was a military surplus shipping case. His Heath/Zenith H89, printer, a change of clothes for padding etc. all inside. He used the (empty) case as a seat, and screwed legs onto the cover as a table to use to hold the computer when everything was set up.
  • The car he sold to John LaPrairie for $200, with the proviso that John had to clean it out. (There was so much junk front and back that only a driver could fit inside). John found over $200 in loose change, wadded up bills, and refund checks in it.
  • Going to Soo, Ontario (Canada) in his rusty old pickup. The brakes failed rolling down the Canadian side of the bridge, so he rolled straight past customs at speed. Flashing lights, armed guards, etc. chased him down. When they found all that surplus junk in the back, they searched it for hours. They figured he was either an insane terrorist, or a harmless idiot. (“What’s with the bottom half of a chart recorder, eh?”)
  • George visited a friend he hadn’t seen for a while. The friend happened to mention that he was trying to fix his old Jeep, which had a bad carburetor. George starts rummaging through the pockets of his huge Army surplus coat, pulls out a carburetor and said, “Like this?”

I’ll add a couple of my own here: George (who was a very big if gentle man, and almost entirely muscle) visited us at our first house in Chicago shortly after we bought it in the spring of 1978. It was a 1913 bungalow, and paint had been used carelessly everywhere. The kitchen casement window wasn’t painted shut, but it would only go up a few inches without jamming. George saw me struggling with it, so when I stepped aside he grabbed both brass handles in his huge hands and heaved upward, hard. Ker-unch! Both handles came out of the wood and away in his grip.

A few years later, he drove his ’76 Monza hatchback out to our house in Rochester, NY and stayed for a couple of weeks to housebreak Chewy. We noticed that the Monza’s pot-metal door handles had been replaced with custom-shaped (in a vise, with files) galvanized iron angle stock. He had torn the real handles off within a year of buying the car, simply because he didn’t know how strong he was.

Damn. If George Ewing had been around in 10,000 BC with a jack and some 2 X 4s, Atlantis wouldn’t have sunk. And I don’t have a lot more friends like that to lose. Like, none.