ABOUT ME: THE PEDDLER’S PITCH

The day’s greetings, ladies and gentlemen!  Welcome to my blog.

I am Fran, known by some as the “itinerant peddler from Alaska.”  I’ve lived in Alaska for 47 years, over half my life, and I have an on-going love affair with this place.  Therefore, I’ll be doing a little “show and tell” on my site.  I’ll show you some of what I sell and tell you a few Alaskan stories.

I lived for 20 years in the small village of Ouzinkie, on Spruce Island, close to Kodiak Island.  While there, I built myself a house and got a job teaching adults in the village.  Besides teaching GED and some business classes, I started a group that we called “Plants Class.”  We studied, ate, and used wild, edible, and medicinal plants from our island.  We eventually published a book called “Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island.” I will be including articles on wild plants from time to time under the category called “Backwoods Botany.”

In 2011 I moved to the community of Gustavus, close to Juneau.  I might as well still be on an island, as the only way to get here is by boat or plane.  It is a fine place and full of interesting people.  I will be interviewing many of these folks for my blog, so stay tuned.

If you have a comment or question about a blog post, please submit it as I’d love to hear from you.  If you would like to buy something shown on this site you can order in one of two ways.  Go to my eBay store, The Peddler’s Pack, to order most items.  If you do not see the item or if you would prefer to order directly from me,  you may contact me at peddlerspackgifts at yahoo dot com, or you can call me at (907) 500-3279.  Please do not send payment information in an email.  Send me your phone number and a good time to call, and I will call you.

I hope you enjoy my blog and come back to visit often.  I’ll be adding new posts each week.

To visit my store, click on the eBay link at the top of this page.

P.S. Many of the pictures in my articles will enlarge if you click on them.

INTRODUCING DON BRYANT: FRIENDLY, KIND, WORLD TRAVELER, A “QUIET REBEL”

Don Bryant was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Margerie and Vaughn Bryant.  His father was a news correspondent for the Associated Press.  Don has one full brother, Vaughn, older than he, who is now a professor of anthropology at Texas A & M, and one half-brother, Jim, who presently flies for UPS.  When Don was still an infant, the family moved from Rio to Santiago, Chile.  Because his nanny in Chile spoke only Spanish, it became his first language as a toddler.  Then they moved to New Orleans when he was about three years old.  He lived in New Orleans for about five years.  Their completely different accent influenced his English speech.  Then, as the family followed his father when work took him to a new location, they moved to Texas.  Here, his dad worked in public relations.

His parents divorced in 1956.  In Austin, his mother, Marge, met and married Jim Woodworth, an Alaskan, who was a professional hunter/guide in Kodiak.  Don went to Alaska with them.  Marge and Jim homesteaded on the Kenai River, near Sterling, Alaska.  Jim wrote a book titled “The Kodiak Bear.”  In his book, he used “Monarch of Dead Man’s Bay” as one chapter title.  Later, another author used the same title for his book about a Kodiak bear.  Jim also wrote articles for the pre-Alaskan magazine called “The Alaska Sportsman.”

In 1959, Don went back to Texas.  After about a year, he went to live with his brother, Vaughn, who was in college.  In 1961, Vaughn and Don went to Europe by ship, where they were supposed to go to school.  His brother studied in Germany and Don went to school in France.  The school was for foreigners, to teach them French.  Don says he lasted about a week.  He knew no French when he started his classes, and the teachers spoke only French.  So, Don started hanging out at the beach with the Swedes, who all spoke English.

Don loved Alaska and was determined to live there.  Then, when he went to Europe, he found he really liked it there, too.  In his last two years in high school, he took French and German.  He’d already studied Latin and Spanish.  He finished high school in  Continue reading

THERE’S A BOAT AT THE FOUR CORNERS by Kate Boesser

Fritz (short for Frederick) has a tee-shirt that reads “Bundin er batlaus madur –bound is boatless man.”  He subscribes to Wooden Boat magazine and Messing About in Boats.  His grandparents on his mother’s side came from the fjords of Norway, so he is l/2 Norwegian.   He loves to build, repair, fish from, and journey in boats.  He spent the first thirteen years of his life in Sitka, living on Sheldon Jackson campus across the street from the beach, rowing with his neighborhood friend in a small wooden rowboat.

FRITZ AS A TEENAGER

SV Red Sea

When Fritz moved to Juneau as a teenager, his dad bought him a 16-foot wooden skiff and an 18-horse engine.  He began to teach himself how to repair and replace boat engines; how to wire and repair boat electronics; how to build wooden boats.

LEARNING TO SAIL

Fritz and I crewed on a 56-foot ketch, named the Red Witch, out of Juneau when we were 20.  We were running before a storm outside of Baranof Warm Springs when 19-year-old deckhand friend John raised the sail but over-stretched the winch’s reach.  Screw-bolted into the wood, it actually ripped out of the mast and hit John in the chest.  It could have killed him, but he was unhurt.  We made it back into the protection of the cove, where we all took hot tubs and hiked the hills of natural hot springs to avoid the raging captain carefully re-mantling the winch so we could continue on our journey.  A few days later we hit an unseen iceberg south of Juneau in Taku Inlet, heard the screaming blame of the captain one too many times and decided to leave the ship for good once back in Juneau. This was not the captain for us, but we certainly had sailing in our blood from then on.  Two things remain to this day – I am willing and Continue reading

MEET BOB LUDERS: A MAN WHO IS KIND, LOYAL, AND FAMILY-ORIENTED

Robert Ernest Luders entered the world on June 20, 1923, in Berkeley, CA.

Bob’s mother, Alma Vass,  had graduated from art school in San Francisco.  She was an entrepreneur and owned a design shop with two other women in the city.  She had been invited to study art in France.  Bob says, “Fortunately for us, that’s right when she met my father, so that was the end of her art career and the beginning of a family.”  It was not an easy choice, but one she thought about carefully.

Bob’s grandparents came from a well-to-do family in Lübeck, Germany.  They moved to London in the mid-1800s.  As tensions between the English and Germans grew, Bob’s grandparents were urged to go back to Germany, but they opted to stay in London instead.  The family was extremely wealthy.  They had become interested in gas lighting, put a significant amount of their money into it and lost their fortune.  So, “disgraced,” they packed everything up, including the grand piano, and shipped it to Texas, then overland to California.  Bob’s uncle had purchased land in Bakersfield, California, sight unseen. They lost two European manor houses and ended up in a tar paper shack.  Bob’s uncle disappeared and his grandfather took one look at the place and folded; he died shortly after that. Bob’s father, Ernest, was now responsible for his mother, his two sisters and himself. Bob says, “In those days, in wealthier families, as soon as you were born you were given a silver spoon with your name engraved on it.”  The highly educated wealthy class didn’t “work;” they managed their estates and businesses.  For Ernest, however, when things got tough, you did anything you could to provide for your family.

In Bakersfield,  they started a farm, raising strawberries and produce.  They even planted an orchard. Unfortunately, the water they had been promised wasn’t always available.  At one point, the little irrigation water they received simply ran into a hole in the sand.  Their solution was to plug the hole by “planting” Bob’s Aunt Anna. That hole was so large that Anna stood in it and they shoveled sand around her.  They added sand until Anna was covered up to her hips.  With the area now covered with sand, the water was forced to the plants.

Eventually, they had to abandon the farm.  The land was worthless.  Although oil had been found in Bakersfield, none came from their property.  The good news was that because of the land boom, they were able to get jobs at the land office in town.  Then, an old acquaintance from Germany suggested they go to San Francisco where Ernest could Continue reading

AIMEE YOUMANS: INNOVATIVE, COURAGEOUS, ENTREPRENEUR, WORLD TRAVELER

The more of these Gustavus interviews I do, the more I am amazed at the people who live here.  So many of them love to travel, and have been to far-flung parts of the world.  Aimee Youmans is no exception, but has done more than her share of seeing and experiencing distant places.  It seems to me that there are three kinds of people in this community.  One group is content spending their life here.  Another group has done their exploring of the planet, and find in Gustavus a quiet place to spend their later years.  Many others consider Gustavus a home base, from which they can travel and explore where they will, and when their journeys are completed, they return to the calm, comfort, and familiarity of home.  I believe people here are oddly unique, and Aimee fits that description.

Aimee Youmans was born in Seattle on September 6, 1948.  The family immediately moved to Sitka, where Aimee lived until she was ten.  Her mom, Anne, got a job as a nurse at the Sitka Pioneer’s Home, where she worked for 25 years.  For Aimee’s first ten years she lived in Sitka.  She says a bit of her heart is still there.

When she was ten, her father already had a job at Glacier Bay Park.  He was discovered by the Park Service.  He had been prospecting.  Though he had done nothing illegal, her dad said they hired him so they could keep track of him.  He worked on the Nunatak, the supply boat for the park service, as a deckhand.  At the time, there was only a foot path to the park.  It was decided to start building a station at Bartlett Cove, and her dad became the foreman.  They got the roads in and docks built.  When Aimee was five or six she visited her dad, who lived in a wall tent in the summer and a small cabin in the winter.

Then began the annual family exploration of Glacier Bay, for two weeks every summer.  Aimee recalls, “My mother would pack the big ham, spam and foodstuffs in the Spindrift, our ‘marine station wagon’ that my dad built from a ‘Kriskraft’ kit.  We would set up camp in the Ibach’s old cabin in Reid Inlet, the kitchen and bunks for my brother and me, and a wall tent master bedroom just outside.  At this time, Muz Ibach’s trees, rhubarb, and the vestiges of her garden were all the green in the rocky new landscape of the West Arm of Glacier Bay.  We rarely saw another boat or plane, and never any animals at all.

One night a berg came into the pothole harbor on the high tide and picked our boat off the hook.  What a surprise in the morning!  My dad had to row the little punt halfway to Russell Island to retrieve it.  Who knows where and when it would have been found had he not spied it far out in the channel!”

Another favorite family jaunt was to take their boat behind Lester Island in the Beardslees to a small island called “Strawberry Island.”  Aimee and her family used to go there every year to collect raspberries from prolific bushes at the old fox farm.  They also gathered their strawberries from both sides of the road out to the park before there were trees, giving them a plentiful bonanza of berries.

In her tenth year, Aimee and her brother, Ken, came out to live with their dad.  Their older brother and sister were just finishing high school in Sitka, so they stayed with their mother until they graduated.  The Gustavus School needed eight children to start.  Ken and Aimee were number seven and eight, so there were enough to open.  The school at the time was held in the former preschool.  Over time this building served as a grade school, preschool, and the post office.

Aimee’s mom saved up her days off and flew out from Sitka when she could.  She flew the milk run — Angoon; Tenakee; Pelican; finally, to Gustavus.  Her Continue reading

MEET GREG STREVELER: BIOLOGIST, TEACHER, GARDENER, OLD-TIMER

Greg Streveler is a modest and unassuming man who does not agree that he is a Gustavus icon; however, I believe the description fits.  He has worked for many years, either for pay or simply as a concerned citizen, to move forward projects designed to enhance life here.  His contributions to our  community, no matter what he says, have been enormous.

Greg was born in Racine, Wisconsin.  He lived with his folks across the state line on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.  His dad worked in the steel mills as an electrician.  When Greg was six, they all moved to Marathon County in Wisconsin, where his parents were born.  The family lived in the country about 30 miles south of Wausau.  His dad was the “Mark Berry” of their community.  (Mark Berry is the local man in Gustavus who wears many hats and fixes what we break.)  Greg says his dad could fix anything.  Greg was often his “gofer.”

They lived in farm country.  Though they didn’t run a farm themselves, they were surrounded by them.  Consequently, Greg grew up working for farmers.  He says, “To this day I have to get my hands in dirt or I don’t feel right.”

Greg worked for a German farmer, Joseph Baur, who paid him what he earned and taught him to be useful.  He adds, “There was a difference between then and now.  During my youth, people were poor enough that the work I did for them really mattered.  That’s always stuck with me.  I wanted to be useful.”

Greg says he had a lovely childhood.  He had a very tight family; his parents were good to each other and to the children.  The neighbors and his parents Continue reading

MEET DAVID THOMAS: ENTREPENEUR, KAYAKER, NATURE LOVER

Since his arrival last May, David Thomas has jumped into Gustavus community life with both feet, introducing his own roasted coffee brand, Sentinel Coffee, and initiating a number of new activities here.  He has taken over the editorship of the Strawberry Point Pioneer, our local newspaper, started a “slow food” recurring event, and begun a monthly foreign film showing.  What a great addition to the town!  His energy and ideas add new enjoyment to our lives.  Read on to learn of the niche he is building for himself here.

David moved here because his wife, Louise (known as Lou,) a marine biologist, got a job at Glacier Bay Park.  A Juneau woman, she was hired as a whale ecologist, arriving here in November of 2015.  As David was working for the legislative session, he waited until it was over to move.  The couple found a cabin to rent from Karen and Larry Platt near the Good River, through the recommendation of a friend.

Actually, David had been here before.  Gustavus was the first place in Alaska he visited.  After completing a job in 2001, he returned to his birthplace, Massachusetts, and got a job as a bar manager.  However, he decided he wanted to travel again.  He looked for work on CoolWorks.com, and found a job working as a server at the Bear Track Inn for the summer of 2001.

After leaving Gustavus behind, David started a small coffee shop in Woodstock, Vermont, traveled the country in an RV and finally wound up on the Oregon coast, where he set up another coffee shop.  The Oregon coast taught David surf kayaking, hitchhiking, and pastry-making. It is also where he met his future wife, Lou.  David’s Ye Olde Green Salmon Coffee  is still open to this day, owned and operated by David’s original business partner.  A well-known eccentric hippy joint, David always insisted of the Green Salmon, “We are not hippies!”

In the summer of 2010, he went with Lou to the Pribilof Islands, where she had a job as a biological technician.  That summer he worked as a volunteer.  David and Lou were married on October 3, 2010, and went to New Zealand for the winter.  In the summer of 2011 they started doing the fur seal count together as part of a “mark and recapture” study with NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) in the Pribilofs.

David has an established coffee business in Juneau.  This business is not his first experience with roasting coffee. His operation is small.  He services 6 cafes in Juneau, and caters to individual customers on a subscription service.  At present, he returns to  Juneau every Monday on the ferry and comes home again on Wednesday.  On his ferry-rides, he does bookkeeping and paperwork.  In Juneau, he does his deliveries with a helper, as there are lots of stops.  They deliver to homes, offices, the six cafes, and Bartlett Regional Hospital.  Besides coffee, David carries 20 different types of tea and a chocolate sauce to die for.

To Stephanie Shor’s satisfaction, David took over the newspaper, the Strawberry Point Pioneer, in November of 2016.  His goal is to make the Continue reading

VIVACIOUS & INTREPID ANNIE MACKOVJAK: TEACHER, HIKER, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER

Annie “Cricket” Mackovjak tells an amazing story. She has lived through some great adventures, and has come out of them carrying only the benevolent scars of memory.  Read about this first part of her life journey and see if you don’t agree with me that she must be protected by a very competent guardian angel.

Annie’s story will appear in this blog in two parts.  This first part describes her adventures up to her marriage to Jim Mackovjak in December of 1978.  The second section lists the highlights of her life after moving to Gustavus.

Annie Osgood Mackovjak was born on December 5, 1948, in Lincoln, Maine.  The family home was in Prentiss, a town so small that some people in Maine didn’t know where to find it.  Annie grew up on Maple Grove Farm, a dairy and potato farm.  Annie’s brother tapped maple trees from their farm for Christmas gifts.  A neighboring family tapped the trees for syrup to make their living, using horses to provide labor, doing things the old-fashioned way.

In the 20s and 30s the family sold lots of apples, sending them by train to Boston.  They no longer harvested the orchard by the time Annie came along.  However, her mother still made lots of applesauce.  These days, her brother still lives on the farm, and the deer eat more of the apples than the humans do.

Annie has always loved being outside, and when she was young she was given the nickname of “Cricket,” as they chirped every night in the summer.  (This nickname actually came back to her twice later in her life.)  She earned the nickname from her mom, though she spent many hours outside with her dad, helping with feeding and milking the cattle, getting in the hay, and digging potatoes.  When she was six or seven she had a pony that she rode a great deal.  She didn’t have a bicycle until she reached eighth grade.  Very often after school her dad would have her pony saddled and waiting in the stable so she could ride.

When she was ten, her dad got a sleigh on skis.  They lived on a side road with little traffic, so she could take her brother on rides in the winter.

Annie drove the family tractor starting at about age nine.  She drove the fields to pick up rocks and she also helped with haying.  The family had approximately 600 acres, some in forest, but enough for cattle to graze and to raise oats for them to eat.  They also planted fields of potatoes.  Annie would ride her pony, accompanied by a border collie, to round up the cows and bring them in.  She loved to ride, and one time actually tried riding a pig.  However, she says horses are better.  The farm also had chickens.  One Sunday afternoon when she was outside, she heard a great deal of squawking coming from the chicken coop.  When she went to investigate, she discovered that a scrawny, hungry fox had broken into the pen.  Annie killed the fox.  She says she doesn’t remember what she hit him with, but it was something hard enough to do the job.  She also remembers seeing black bear sitting in the field of oats, raking in the grain.

Annie attended a one-room school from first through fourth grades.  Then a new school district was formed, and she was bused to school in Springfield, Maine.  Annie liked the new school as she could play sports, such as basketball, volleyball, and softball.

She attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Portland, Maine.  This academy was an all-girl Catholic boarding school.  (Now that school has been combined with another and a new school has been built called the Maine Girls’ Academy, but it is no longer a boarding school.)  At that school there were no sports offered, and physical education classes consisted of lessons in such athletic activities as swimming, tennis, or ballet.

When she was a high school freshman, her “big sister” was called Cricket, which reminded Annie that she had shared that name for a long time.  Every Sunday morning she would write home and sign her letter “Cricket.”

One time Annie’s grandfather came to visit and brought a big box of chocolates.  She was in “Seventh Heaven Dorm,” and after lights out, she and two of her friends gathered in the large bathroom and ate all the chocolates.  Of course, their transgression was discovered.  The next morning a nun met them to arrange punishments.  Annie’s was to attend a 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. class in Latin, and another from 9:00 to 10:00 at night, for one month.  Annie continued taking Latin as a class after she completed her month of punishment.  The extra classes paid off later, as Annie took the national Latin exam and got a 96%.

Annie’s aunt and uncle in California gave her a trip to California as a graduation present.  This trip took her further from home than she had ever been before.  She was there for six weeks, and then couldn’t get home because there was an airline strike.  She had to take the bus, which followed the old Route 66, from Los Angeles to Maine.  She made an interesting observation on this trip:  She says that after she crossed the Mississippi, people didn’t have much patience; jostled other passengers and were rude in general.  On the western side of the river, people seemed to be more helpful and accepting.

From 1966 to 1970, Annie went to college at St. Joseph’s in Maine.  She had a full tuition scholarship.  Her degree was in English with a minor in history. Continue reading

THE PEDDLER’S PITCH: CLIMBING QUESTIONS FOR ANNIE MACKOVJAK

After I finished the article on Annie, I realized I had more questions about the climbs she made.  Perhaps some of you do, too.  So, for this column, I will do something a bit different.  I’ve asked Annie four  questions about the climb.  Read on to learn her answers.  After you have read them, if you have further questions, please send them in the comments section at the end of this column, and I will get answers from Annie and print them here, as well.

Here’s what I asked her:

  1.  Were you ever scared during your climbs?  “There were times I got worried, but very rarely scared.  I was scared when I was awakened and thought a crevasse was going to open and swallow me when the ice groaned and cracked deep below my tent on Denali.  Also, fear gripped me when the first climber on my rope team fell into a crevasse and I hoped we’d be able to hold him from not going too far.  Luckily, we did, though we had to do a real crevasse rescue to get him out.  Otherwise, I was most scared rock climbing.  I never did it very much but it was always free climbing, and I was always afraid I was going to fall and break bones, whether I was 10 feet up or 25 inches.  I always thought of a friend who was a Swiss mountain guide.  He fell in the Alps and broke 15 bones in his feet.  He had to walk 5 miles out after that happened.  I don’t know how he did it
  2. Was it hard to learn how to walk in snowshoes?  I don’t remember anyone having any trouble using snowshoes.  Although some of the people could ski well, we used the snowshoes to have a level playing field with all the expedition members.  Snowshoes were also a help for crevasses as, at that time, the snowshoes were longer and would more easily help wedge a climber into the sides of the crevasse, preventing a deep fall.  I remember reading about a McKinley climb in the early 80s with Jim Wickwire.  His climbing partner fell into a crevasse.  The fellow was lodged head down and Jim could not get him out.
  3. Did you use ropes, pitons, or other climbing gear at all while climbing the mountain?  We were always roped up on the mountain — lower down for the possibility of crevasses and higher up, where it was steeper, for falls.  There was a fixed line on Denali’s Headwall from about 15,500 feet to the ridge at 16,200 feet.  We would use our jumars (mechanical ascenders attaching us to the fixed line) to go up that one 45 to 50 degree section, the steepest part of the climb.  Then, hiking from 16,200 feet to the bowl at 17,200 feet was the most dramatic part of the climb because the ridge occasionally narrows to perhaps 2 to 3 feet across, and drops off dramatically on both sides.  You are totally exposed and many climbers have lost gear here, which has tumbled down to the Peters Glacier far below.  I’ve read that there are now fixed lines around Washburn’s Thumb on the ridge.  We always had our ice axe, as well.  We practiced doing belays, self-arrests, and crevasse rescues before every climb.

Did you have to rappel from anything during the climb?  No, we didn’t do any rappels on Denali or Aconcagua.  The only rappels I’ve done have been totally for fun and practice, both off cliffs and into crevasses.

Okay, readers, now it’s your turn.  If you have further climbing questions for Annie, please post them at the bottom of this article.  Hoping to hear from some of you.

VIVACIOUS AND INTREPID ANNIE MACKOVJAK: PART II

After Annie and Jim got married in Maine, they returned to Talkeetna to run dogs.  Later in January they drove the 800 miles from Talkeetna to Haines to catch the ferry to Juneau.  They had a little yellow VW bug which Annie had bought brand new in Anchorage in 1972.  Annie had driven about every road possible in the area at that time.  Jim had hit a moose with it near Talkeetna so he had to put in a Plexiglas windshield with a plywood frame.

They drove toward Tok during a big snowstorm.  Jim was wearing his Arctic parka and Annie was wrapped in a down sleeping bag to stay warm.  On their feet they wore “Bunny” boots (vapor barrier boots made for the military to stay warm in extreme cold) so their feet were toasty.  The snow blew and drifted.  They would have to gain speed on the bare stretches of road in order to bust through the drifts.  On one straight stretch where it was hard to tell where the road ran, they actually went off the road, throwing up snow all around them so they couldn’t see anything.  Amazingly, there were no trees; only a few low bushes, so they ended up almost back on the road.  Luckily, another car came along within an hour and helped push them back on the highway.

In Canada, several miles beyond Dezadeash, they traveled in a line of three cars following the plow truck.  As they gained elevation, the visibility became almost zero and the snow got so deep that the plow had to turn around.  Fortunately, they had enough money to get a room at the Dezadeash Lodge for the night.

The original cabin

Finally they arrived in Gustavus.  They left their little bug in Juneau and flew home.  Fred Rose picked them up at the airport and gave them a ride to Four Corners.  No one lived on Wilson Road or at Rink Creek in the winter then, so they had not plowed the road.  Annie and Jim had to walk carrying packs all the way home through the snow.  Leaving Four Corners at 4:00 p.m., they finally made it to their cabin at 7:00 p.m.  It was a clear moonlit night, so they were able to navigate easily, though slowly,  through the 16 inches of snow.  Jim had to do a return trip that night to get more of their gear and food supplies.

Gustavus had less than 100 residents during the winter then, and the mail plane only came twice a week, making for a big social gathering at the post office while awaiting the mail.  They started clearing more land and building a big shop.  Annie spent a lot of time taking out stumps with shovel, axe, and mattock.  The wood for the building came from DeRosier’s sawmill at Excursion Inlet.  Sometimes he brought the wood over on a barge, and Jim and Annie walked the planks out to the barge to unload it at the boat harbor.  Once Jim went to Excursion Inlet in his skiff and pulled a raft of lumber home, going about 3 knots..

Annie and Jim interrupted their building with trips into Glacier Bay, hikes around the Point and up Excursion Ridge, visits from Maine friends, and Continue reading

WELCOME LOU CACIOPPO: ARTIST, CARPENTER, ATHLETE, SONGWRITER

I received an introduction to Lou Cacioppo’s art before I ever met the artist.  I first saw one of his masks, and as the saying goes, I was “blown away.”  Delighted that he lived in Gustavus, I looked forward to seeing more of his work.  Then I met Lou, and, once he opened the Outpost, enjoyed several music nights in his place, surrounded by his marvelous inspirations.  Now I have the pleasure of telling a little of his story and showing you a bit of his art.  I’m sure you will agree that he has a great deal of talent. As his story shows, he has worked at perfecting his skills his entire life, and the results are reflected in all he has created.

Lou Cacioppo was born on November 28, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York.  Both his mother and father were Sicilians.  Lou reassures us there were no mafia connections. Lou’s mother came from this country, while his dad was born in Palermo, Italy.  Lou’s grandparents on both sides immigrated from Italy.  They spoke Italian and English.  The family lived in Brooklyn  in a section of town called “little Italy.”

After Lou’s kindergarten in a parochial school, the family moved from Brooklyn.  They first moved to Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, where 50 to 60% of the people were Italian or Jewish.  His parents enrolled him in a Catholic school.

Lou was the “wise guy” in class, so he got in trouble with the teachers a lot.  When he was a 4th grader, he became involved in a fight with a 6th grader, and ended up in Mother Superior’s office.  She smacked him with a large paddle with holes in it.  Lou swears she hit him so hard that her feet came off the ground.  After the incident, at Lou’s insistence, his parents took him out of Catholic school and enrolled him in the regular school.

Lou’s parents had totally different views on his fighting.  Lou’s mother would smack him for losing a fight.  Lou’s father would hit him for fighting.  Lou decided winning a fight was better — he didn’t have to suffer so many smacks from the other guy, or from his mother.

Around 1954, the family moved from Valley Stream to South Farmingdale, a suburban area with ranch houses and a nearby creek.  The area still had trees.  Lou played in the woods, either Tarzan or army, with sticks and fingers, nothing that looked real.

Lou drew constantly.  He had paper bags filled with sketches.  Comic books were his first texts for art.  Teachers always volunteered Lou for school art projects, such as murals.  Lou loved doing these projects.

South Farmingdale had a junior high — seventh and eighth grades — in a separate school.  His years there were uneventful.  Though not in sports, he was an avid weight lifter.  Of course, he always did a lot of art.  He says that he had art teachers all through junior high and high school.  Lou says the art teachers were fantastic.  His three greatest teachers were Mr. Denali, who was a big influence and took Lou under his wing; Mr. Cole, a great watercolor artist; and Mr. Schaffer.  Lou made his first sale of a piece of his artwork to Mr. Schaffer.  It was a wood sculpture, and he sold it for $15.00.  He bought a pair of pants with that $15.00 — his first purchase of his own clothes.

Lou went to high school in South Farmingdale.  He says it was a great school.  From junior high through high school, his favorite academic subjects were biology and geology.  In biological science lab, dissecting mice and frogs sparked a never-ending quest of how things are put together.  He liked geology for the same reason:  He liked  Continue reading