The Day I Met Mister Rogers

Mr Rogers NHood

When Fred Rogers decided to make PBS his neighborhood, just about every American child near a TV screen instantly became his neighbor.

And by the time my daughters were old enough to watch his show, I was the Denver Post’s TV critic. So I was delighted when Bill, the PR man at our PBS affiliate, invited the three of us to join Mister Rogers for a lunch interview at a fancy restaurant. But why, I asked, did he want to include Annie, age 3, and Jenny, age 5? Because, Bill said, Mister Rogers much preferred the company of children. I thought he was joking.

As I envisioned an award-winning column, I put the girls in their best dresses and headed for the restaurant. Bill had alerted me that we’d be in a private dining room, and the other guests would include the station brass and a few major donors. When we arrived, Bill started to introduce me to Mister Rogers. But he didn’t have a chance — our guest of honor had spotted the girls and immediately started chatting with them.

So I joined the other adults and made idle conversation while waiting for my chance to do an interview. But when it was time to take our seats, I couldn’t find my daughters. Someone nBrush Teethodded toward the fireplace. And there were Annie and Mister Rogers, sitting on foot stools facing each other. Both were leaning forward so that their foreheads touched. “Do you brush your teeth?” Annie asked. “Yes,” said Fred, adding in an earnest tone. “And do you?” I held my breath to hear her response. “Yes, three times a day,” she said.

Just then Bill directed them to their assigned seats, Mister Rogers to be surrounded by those big donors, and we three at the end of the long table. But he’d have none of it: He beckoned to the girls and had them sit with him at the other end, rearranging the silverware so they’d all be safely away from the big people.

I can’t remember what I wrote in my column, and I certainly don’t recall any prizes. But I do recall chatting the next Sunday with a minister at my church, who told me he’d gone to seminary in Pittsburgh with Fred Rogers. He said he was amazed that I was able to get any quotes from Fred. “I always got the impression that he preferred kids to adults,” he said.  Trying not to roll my eyes I replied, “And your impression was correct.”

Odd CoupleAs this experience indicates, being a TV critic was often full of surprises. Another indelible memory dates to 1971, when I’d flown to Hollywood to interview stars of the upcoming season’s’ shows. I arrived a day early, so ABC invited me to be in the first live audience for “The Odd Couple.” The stage play had been turned into a popular movie, and now Tony Randall and Jack Klugman had brought it to the small screen. The first season had the customary laugh track, but Randall didn’t like what it did to his comic timing. And Klugman complained about “the rotten canned laughter.”

So the producers decided to try live laughs for the second season. Everything seemed to be going smoothly — until wisecracks started coming from someone seated behind me in the small studio audience. I could tell from the pained look on the director’s face that the sound track was picking up the voice.  Randall and Klugman carried on bravely while the network people huddled, debating what to do.

What was the problem, I wondered — why not just throw the jerk out?

The reason this wasn’t possible became clear after the credits started rolling and the mikes were turned off.  Randall came to the front of the stage and announced grandly to the live audience, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, now you can tell your grandchildren that you were in the same TV studio as Groucho Marx!”


Groucho Marx

   ~ Barbara Haddad Ryan


Pure New York Maple Syrup

Many Maples Farm LK

Pure New York Maple Syrup, how it’s done today. My nephew’s father-in-law Pete Walrod and his son Sam have a sugar bush at their farm, Georgetown NY. They tap about 8000 maples and run the sap by pipe lines to their sugaring house for processing into syrup. In a good year the sap will have about a 2 percent sugar content. It takes a barrel of sap to make a gallon of syrup. It’s done by reverse osmosis and boiling. Thousands of gallons of sap will be processed starting in December and lasting through March or April. 1/2 a gallon came home with us. A delicious treat for our pancakes.

Larry Kingsley, OLLI Member, published author and member of OLLI Writer’s Group


StaffEquipment 2Equipment 1Bottles on table


Ruminations at 35,000 Feet

Grand Canyon

 My eye takes in the landscape as we fly over the Grand Canyon at thirty-five thousand feet. It is the second time this year that I have viewed it. The first time was from the perspective of standing on the rim, this time from high above. I notice patterns that form, repeat, shift and change as we glide through the scenery. Everything curves, swirls and leads the eye around and away and back again, like the oxbow rivers. I laugh out loud at a detail on the bottom of mountains that remind me of the pleated skirts on my grandmother’s slipcovers. The only straight lines are occasional highways in this vast canvas of nature’s painting.

An insight comes to me; I have never been fond of fixed point geometric perspective in Renaissance painting. As an artist, professor of design and a student of Art History, that is my least favorite period.  Now I know why. It is not the way most people view the world: through an absolutely static lens as the viewer is fixed to one point in space. In reality, we move our eyes, we shift our view, we see the sides and fronts and sides of things again.

We modern people move through life. Every place I have travelled to has its own rhythm. Italy during the Renaissance did too and I don’t think the art we see reflects that. Renaissance art has more permanence; it’s closer to Egyptian sculpture. It never lets you get ahead of yourself. You must walk a straight line until you reach the horizon, or take a sharp angle to turn left or right.

Impressionism freed us from the tyranny of fixed shapes. We had to collaborate with the artist to find the cathedral in the landscape. Expressionism brought us to the moment of conception of a painting, when the paint hit the canvas and left a contrail.

marbel class and science objects-11 GV

As an art student, creating designs came naturally to me. Applied art has a purpose and the decoration of surface was an extension of the principles of art I learned in undergraduate and graduate programs. My own artwork used dyes to create marbling on paper or fabric and resulted in textile designs for the apparel industry. Seeing them now I am aware how closely they resemble the aerial landscape of the Grand Canyon. It would be hard to find a rigid straight line in any of my drawings or paintings. Adding a digital element to more recent work I scan portions of my hand-made fabrics and then manipulate them using artist software programs to break and bend and twirl the shapes even further. I am surprised to see the patterns mirroring the view from thirty-five thousand feet above Arizona and Colorado.

JV Gallery

Dr. Geraldine  Khaner Velasquez is a member of the Ollie Writers Group. She is Professor Emerita of Art and Design and will be teaching the fall 2018 lecture “Vincent Van Gogh: His Loves, His Letters, His Art.”



The Sandwich


“The sandwich was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth-century English aristocrat. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and others began to order ‘the same as Sandwich’… Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards without using a fork…”

With time the Americans took the sandwich and acculturated it as the most common way of eating. The Americans love any food they can eat with just one hand. Hot dogs and hamburgers, heroes, hoagies, submarines, and sandwiches made of almost anything. They add to the meat, or fish, cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomato, optional mayo, salt and pepper, and the dreadful ketchup. Voila, all the food groups in one meal that may be eaten with one hand, without any preconceptions of the environment. It’s low cost and practical. Ethnic variations invaded the sandwich culture. The Middle Eastern pita bread, with its pocket, accepts almost any type of food. The Mexican burritos, chalupas, and enchiladas are fodder for any lunch, even dinner. The pizza slice, rolled up, may be eaten with one hand.

To sit a citizen at the table with food that needs fork and knife is, for some, maybe the majority, painful.  The fork, in the right hand, brings the food to the mouth, while the left hand, without any use after briefly cutting the fare, falls down to the lap. If some piece was not completely cut the fork is then painfully used, like a blunt knife.


In 1986, after six years in the US, I took the family back to visit Portugal. We toured the places that tourists normally did. As a guide to my children, Angela and Ricardo, I brought them to the places that were probably already fuzzy in their memories. The vistas, the sounds, the smells of the city of their upbringing were my old experiences too but, I didn’t realize then, became their new experiences.

I took them for lunch to a well-known place, the Suíça Coffee Shop, in Rossio, a center square of the town, flooded with tourists siting in the café terrace, enjoying the sun and the city bustle. One of my favorite dishes there had always been a small flat steak, drowned in a creamy sauce, with an optional fried egg on top, served in a plate with French fries and a roll on the side.

HG Pastry Shop Portugal

The waiter brought the steaming dishes. I smiled at the family, foretasting the grub. I picked up the fork and knife and ordered on: “Enjoy”.

We all started cutting and munching the steak, and the French fries bathed in the delicious creamy sauce. Through the corner of my eye I watched everybody’s enjoyment, except for my son Ricardo. He took his knife, opened the bread roll, soaked it on the sauce, forked the stake and tucked it in between the two pieces of bread; secured the sandwich with the right hand and began to savor it, while dropping his left hand on his lap.

I realized then that my son Ricardo was already an acculturated American, a citizen of the sandwich country.

Henrique Gomes (OLLI Member & OLLI Writer’s Group Coordinator)

Traveling in England with a 17th Century Guide

petrifying well 2 (2)

My husband and I made a tour of northern England with Celia Fiennes as our guide. Celia made her journey in 1697 which is recorded in “Through England on a Sidesaddle in the Times of William and Mary.”

Through England Book

The genesis of our trip was a manuscript on Celia Fiennes’ account of her journeys were in 17th century spelling and grammar. I was so intrigued that I “translated” her tour into contemporary English. Then even more intrigued, I searched online for photos of places to which she had been.  The upshot is I created a hard-bound, illustrated and easy- to-read version of her trips. So, what next? Let’s go!

Celia’s reasons for her journeys resonate well today as she says in her introduction, “both ladies, much more gentlemen” should “spend some of their time in journeys to visit their native land and be curious to inform themselves…of the pleasant prospects, good buildings, different produces and manufacturers of each place…”  Other of her trips were to Cornwall and various places in southeast England, including Bath.

The part of her 1696 and 1697 journeys which my husband and I traced took us to the Peak District, the Lake District, Nottingham, York, and Newcastle and more. It was most satisfying to see places that are still there and have her commentary on what we were seeing.

For example, outside of York is Knaresborough which boasts being one of the first roadside attractions, the Petrifying Well. Due to the mineral content of the water, an object can take on a stony exterior.

Peak Cavern (1)

In the Peak District we visited the Peak Cavern, famed for (if nothing else) being the largest cave opening in Britain and into the 1950s, home to rope makers, and, by legend, bandits. It, too, was a tourist attraction in the 17th century. Daniel Defoe makes mention of it in his book of travels.

At Chatsworth, we admired the park and gardens which Celia enjoyed and were as much delighted as she was, by a metal tree that looks like a willow tree and is a fountain.

Celia was a spa enthusiast, so we had to go to Harrogate and sip the rotten-egg smelling water.

York was a delight as she “took” us through York Minister, with its windows “so large and so lofty.”  We went to Burton Agnes Hall and entered under the very gate house which she had.

YM Windows

For North Carolina local interest, we followed her to Durham, seeing the cathedral and cloister which she describes as “good,” certainly good enough for filming a scene in a Harry Potter movie.

It was especially gratifying to talk to guides at various places who knew of Celia’s trip and were delighted with our enthusiasm. Our trip was accomplished by trains, taxis and local buses which certainly added to the adventure.

I am awaiting delivery of a book, “Horseback Journeys of Celia Fiennes – 1000 miles across England” by Elizabeth Barrett. I was thrilled to find a fellow traveler doing her 20th century pilgrimage.

Celia Fiennes

As an aside, actor Ralph Fiennes is a family descendant.  Broughton, the family seat, remains in the family and is open to the public.

Pam Martin (OLLI Member)


My Love Affair with Tennis

We’re keeping that tennis theme going since I don’t have a piece about football!


My Love Affair with Tennis……..

It’s all right, my wife knows and tolerates this addiction.  You might think that someone who spends hours on court almost every day would be a terrific player.  In my case, you would be wrong.  My fellow players agree that I’m slow, but I’m also clumsy.  My main strengths come from my size.  I’m 6’3” and my wide wingspan of nearly 7 feet helps me cover the net. Serving in tennis involves leverage on the ball, and tall players have more leverage.  My role model, John Isner, is the classic example of a tall man with a killer serve. In addition to being a famous tennis star, John is from Greensboro and graduated from my alma mater, UGA!


So, what do I get from tennis? Sunshine, a mixed blessing – vitamin D is good, skin cancer isn’t.  Wear sunscreen and a hat, and remember to avoid the heat of the day (11:00 am – 3:00 pm).  Night play is a cooler option, especially during Raleigh’s extended summer.  Another benefit of being outside is fresher air – indoor air may be filtered but, usually, it’s more polluted than the great outdoors. Exercise – any time spent on your feet is good for your heart and other muscles.  Much of the time between points involves walking from side to side, bending over to pick up balls, and those steps can add up – I walk at least 2 miles for each hour on court. During points, we run and whack balls (great stress relievers), yell and laugh at ourselves.


Tennis is a great way to meet fun people and enjoy their company – this is especially true of the senior tennis group at the Raleigh Tennis Center (Millbrook Exchange Park) and other facilities throughout the Triangle.  Tennis is a lifetime sport – just ask the kindergartners and their great grandmothers and grandfathers


Dad and Son

Most tennis centers have coaches who will help you learn to play and improve your game.  I found that coaching helped my game, as long as I listened to the coach and practiced doing what they told me.  A key part of coaching is found in the phrase: “keep your eye on the ball.” The US Tennis Association (USTA) has a “Try Tennis” program to give beginners of any age a chance to see if tennis fits their lifestyle. Students receive a Wilson racket, six weeks of professional instruction and a “Try Tennis” T-shirt for $40.

Coaching K

Lessons learned on the court often apply to life, for example: 1) don’t think too much; 2) you may lose today, but tomorrow brings another chance for redemption; 3) there are always players better and worse than you, so do your best and enjoy the game; 4) doubles is easier on senior bodies than singles; and finally, 5) the Hopman Rule: stick your racket out and something good might happen.   See you on court!


Mark Long (OLLI Member and Volunteer Instructor)










A few minutes in the public eye from my earlier (Yankee) life.

Tennis Court

 In 1983 I was living in Hyde Park, NY, Roosevelt country. I played a lot of tennis. I began calling lines at an amateur event, the Poughkeepsie Tennis Tournament. The chair umpire, a member of the USTA (United States Tennis Association), recruited me for a tryout he was holding for chair umpires and linesmen. About 50 people showed up. Myself and two others were invited to New York City for further training. I joined the Eastern Tennis Umpires Association. I worked formally as a USTA linesman for the first time in August 1983 at the Junior Davis Cup Inter-sectional Tournament at Poughkeepsie, NY. As time went by, I began working professional tournaments.


Boy Tennis Player

I made it to the U.S. Open in 1988. In 1989 I made it to the big time, the two show courts at the Open. On August 31, 1989 I was the net judge (the guy with his finger on the net to detect service lets) for a match between Andre Agassi and South Africa’s Neal Broad. The incident in this video was recorded by ESPN for posterity.

As an official I could not, of course, accept a gift from a player so I gave it to a very helpful ball boy. As the net man I was responsible for ball changes. One of the ball boys had a prosthetic arm with a clasp on the end which he used to open the ball cans for me. He was delighted to receive the shirt when my shift ended.

I worked at the Open from 1988-1992, and at other big events in Boston and Miami, and lesser events all over the East. I left umpiring in 1994 after I moved to Raleigh. With a new job, at SAS, I couldn’t afford the time off. So it goes. It was a fun time I will always remember.

Joe Gosselin, OLLI Member and Science Program Sub-Committee Member



Views and comments from the members of OLLI at NC State