Monday, September 29, 2008

Special Olympics Team Cultivates Goodwill At Grape Jamboree

Special for Gazette Newspapers

GENEVA – Visitors to the 45th annual Geneva Grape JAMboree might have expected to see this familiar purple fruit displayed in all sorts of festive forms over the weekend. And there was plenty of ‘grapey goodness’ to be had everywhere, in ice cream, pies, juice cocktails, and local wines. But those enjoying the attractions at Broadway and Main received something extra with their fruited delights – a dose of goodwill, thanks to the Ashtabula County Special Olympics.

Athletes from the ‘Lakers’ softball team were on hand to celebrate their Division III State Title, won after a lengthy season of dramatic competition and sheer endurance. It was the first time they had taken the crown in their twenty-four year history.

Bill Jenner, a Coordinator of the ACSO, said it once again demonstrated how a positive attitude can open doors to success.

“This championship is all about what the athletes can do, not what they can’t do,” he observed. “All of the athletes worked very hard for this, and we are proud of them.”

Instrumental in supporting the team throughout their season was Truckers Helping Hands, a group organized to provide assistance of all kinds to the handicapped athletes. Scott Carlson, a long-term member of the organization, said that the effort has exceeded even his own expectations.

“We started with a few trucks, and an idea,” he recalled. “But it kept growing with each year. It has been incredible!”

Originally, Truckers Helping Hands was propelled by the lively presence of Rush ‘Boss Hog’ Starcher, an individualistic soul who believed that the professional drivers should be ambitious in their charitable activities. He encouraged the collective to think on a grand scale that matched the girth of their freight-hauling vehicles.

The result was an expanded slate of events that included appearances at Speedco, and the Ashtabula County Fair.

While Starcher passed away before seeing the ACSO softball team win their title, his legacy was in evidence, throughout the Grape JAMboree celebration.

There was goodwill by the gallon, and smiles to spare.

The JAMboree parades included clowns, vintage automobiles, local officials, marching bands, and even Chief Meteorologist Jeff Tanchak of WOIO Channel 19. Yet the oversized, rolling displays seemed to be most impressive for those who attended.

Sabo’s Woodside Nursery of Madison donated flowers for the Special Olympics float, which was a long, colorful platform topped by trophies from the summer athletic season. In a procession of trucks that stretched to the horizon, members of the ‘Lakers’ softball team eagerly thanked the community for their support, with shouts and whistles of good cheer. At street level, a band of ‘Olympic Angels’ passed out candy and fliers.

It was a mobile presentation like no other.

A variety of public safety forces participated in the benefit Special Olympics Fire Truck Pull, including Fire Department teams from Geneva, Saybrook, Troy, Harpersfield, and the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department Corrections Team.

Troy Township bested their competitors in the event, with a timed tug of 8.53 seconds, over a twelve-foot distance. But the ACSO team demonstrated an unstoppable ability to win the hearts and minds of those in attendance.

William Griswold, a stout member of the bunch, described his technique as being simple, but effective.

“I grab the rope like this,” he said, gesturing powerfully, like a medal-winning grappler. “And then, I PULL!”

Ever present in the crowd was Mike Adley, owner of Mouse and Double-Click Productions of Ashtabula. As a professional photographer and volunteer, Adley has been instrumental in helping the ACSO team reach their goal of personal development.

“I’ll do anything for these guys,” he remarked. “They deserve our support.”

A post-JAMboree banquet was held on Saturday evening, at the Flying J Travel Plaza in Austinburg. Staff and managers from the Country Market Restaurant offered a warm reception for everyone who participated. Coordinators Bill Jenner and Pat Whitten officiated at the feast.

It was a celebration that capped the 2008 campaign. And, the Grape JAMboree.

“We’re all family here,” Whitten proclaimed.

The athletes and truckers were quick to agree.

Afterward, the Lakers were eager to express their appreciation to the professional drivers. During a final round of photographs, the moment arrived to express their heartfelt gratitude.

A silent pause descended on the room in Austinburg. And then came a cheer.

“One-two-three-four… THANK YOU!” they shouted in unison.

The ACSO team had proved to be champions, in every sense of the word.

The ACSO Softball Lakers became Division III State Champions for the first time in their history.

The Ashtabula County Special Olympics athletes celebrated with Troy Township’s Fire Department after the Fire Truck Pull on Saturday.

From left: Bill (Ashtabula County Special Olympics Coordinator) and Chevy (Truckers Helping Hands driver) were in a lighthearted mood at the Grape JAMboree.

Friday, September 26, 2008


This custom classic was a welcome sight as I ran errands on a recent afternoon. The 1955 Bel Air glistened in the mid-day sun with an aura of summer days, grilled hamburgers, and songs by The Beach Boys:

Though still a common sight at car cruises across America, the '55 through '57 Chevrolets hold a special appeal for automobile enthusiasts. They are mobile sculptures that convey the hopeful outlook of their era - a Golden Age still cherished by modern-day folk around the world.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

“Invasion of the Squiggles”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It started at the beginning of summer.

Call it – an invasion of the squiggles.

My musically gifted niece, Dree, came home from college with a four-year degree and lots of household leftovers from her stay in Marietta. She had accumulated books, furniture, theatrical costumes, and artwork of all sorts. But among this relocated personal collection was one pervasive edible element:

Ramen Noodles.

They were everywhere. Fifty-eight packages in all. Flavored with shrimp, beef, chicken, cured goat milk, Cajun fish, hot peppers, pizza cheese, organic lawn clippings, fried goldfish, or kelp. Stray packages had been stuffed in every container from her dorm. They waited atop a box of energy drinks and canned spaghetti-rings. More were wrapped inside sheet music for a lost Ukrainian opera written to celebrate the beauty of Kiev. Some had even been tucked into a worn-out pair of Birkenstock sandals.

Squiggles were marching on the Icehouse.

As I helped move her possessions back to Geauga County, a subliminal message began to take hold. My appetite for wings, ribs, and tacos was being turned aside… by a grumbling deep in my belly for these inexpensive noodles.

Weeks later, my wife and I attended a church luncheon in southern Indiana. Central to the festive buffet was a casserole dish full of Ramen Noodle salad, made with almonds and Oriental spices. Liz noted its delectable nature, immediately. The tasty treat soon had everyone talking. And, running to the table for second helpings. Better-known vittles like potato salad, baked beans, and fried chicken went unnoticed by the crowd. We were in the thrall of some mystical culinary spell… and it grew stronger with every bite.

As fall approached, I noted that our ten-year-old daughter had manifested a Ramen craving of her own. Inexplicably, she lost interest in Beefaroni, Pop Tarts, and sliced ham, all long-term meal favorites. Instead, Soccer Fairy begged us for bowls of beefy noodles and American cheese.

Squiggle-mania had spanned the generations!

Finally, this mood permeated my home office. While relaxing with a mug of tea, I began to research Ramen Noodle recipes on our computer. My intent was to rediscover the almond creation we had enjoyed. Soon, a likely recipe for the dish appeared:

Ramen Noodle Salad (

1 head lettuce (pieces)
6 to 8 green onions (chopped)
1 (6 oz.) can Mandarin oranges
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1/2 c. slivered almonds (toasted)
1 (3 oz.) pkg. chicken flavored Ramen Noodles, uncooked & crumbled

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 c. salad oil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. vinegar
Seasoning mix from noodles

Mix together lettuce and green onions. Add all other ingredients except noodles and almonds and set aside in an airtight container until serving. Blend together dressing. Just before serving, add dressing, almonds and noodles to lettuce mixture. Serves 6.

In addition to the noodle salad, other meal ideas were yielded by my search. Quickly, I assembled a collection of Ramen alternatives to enhance my next newspaper column:

Ramen Spam Doodles (

2 packages of Ramen Noodles
4 cups of water
1 can of Spam
1/2 cup of green peas
1/2 cup of green onions (sliced)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Put 2 cups of water in a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add Ramen Noodles. Wait 2-3 minutes until the noodles are tender and separated. Take off the water with the strainer. Cube the Spam. In a skillet, lightly brown the Spam in the sesame oil. Add the garlic powder and dry herb seasoning. Enjoy!

Hot Dog Ramen Soup (

1 package Ramen for each person
1/2 the amount of recommended water
1 hot dog for each person (cut into chunks)

Bring all to a boil, turn off and add:

Seasoning packet
2 raw eggs (whisk in separate bowl)
1/2 - 1 cup of cheese (sliced works great too)

Mix and let finish cooking.

Buried Treasure Ramen (

Pork-flavored Ramen Noodles
1 raw egg
1/2 cup frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, corn)
Water (not cold)
1/2 cup chopped cabbage (very thinly like Cole Slaw, or Thai cabbage)
Pickled peppers

Crack an egg (don’t break the yolk) into deep bowl and then pour water to fill the bowl halfway. Place the Ramen onto the top of egg and add seasoning packet. Add the frozen veggies and chopped cabbage. Next, add more water to barely cover the ingredients and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Heat in the microwave on high for about 5 minutes. The egg should be soft boiled when it finishes. Garnish with a little bit of cabbage and peppers.

Doritos Ramen Salad (

1 package of Ramen Noodles
1 bag of Frito Lay Doritos (a small one was enough for our recipe)
1/2 lb. of ground beef
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
Taco seasoning

Put 2 cups of water in a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add Ramen Noodles. Wait 2-3 minutes until the noodles are tender and separated. Take off the water with the strainer. Cook the ground beef in a cooking pan. Once it's ready, put it in a bowl. Add the Ramen Noodles and mix it with the beef. Place the Doritos chips around the beef like on the picture (it looks like a flower!) Break into small pieces the Doritos you have left and put them on top of the beef. Add the shredded cheese and taco seasoning.

When I presented the list at our dining room table, Soccer Fairy was impressed. But Liz wondered about my own attempts at amateur chefhood.

“Why don’t you add one of your own concoctions?” she exclaimed.

After dinner, I complied with a favorite from many years ago:

Uncle Rod’s Ramen Stir-Fry with Chicken

1 package of Ramen Noodles (chicken)
1 egg
1 can of chunk chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can of chopped mushrooms (4 oz.)
Peanut oil
Soy sauce
Curry powder
Five spices

Fry chicken in oil. Prepare noodles per instructions on package. Drain most of the water and add spice packet. Mix with egg and meat in skillet, and stir-fry. Add onion and mushrooms. Season with other ingredients, to taste.

Long after sunset, I finished my work. It was a missive to the faithful, celebrating this affordable, Asian delight in journalistic prose…

The dinner bell is ringing… long live the squiggles!

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This relic came from a bazaar in Orwell. It is an ARGUS C3 rangefinder camera, leftover from a collection of unsold goods. The device is in beautiful condition, aside from some wear and missing bits on the leather case.

Manufacturer: Argus

Date of Production: 1939 - 1966

Variants: Argus C3 colormatic, Match-Matic,
Standard, Golden Shield, Argus C33

Type of Camera: rangefinder

Film/Sensor Type: 35mm

Lens: Argus Coated Cintar 50mm 1:3.5

Shutter: leaf shutter

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Don't mind me here. I just saw a ghost...

I happened upon this vehicle, while at a Geauga County Wal-Mart location. It appeared to be an early 70's Ford Econoline. The van was just ahead of my own, at a traffic light on Route 6. After a brief tag-along, I tracked it to the local Giant Eagle grocery store. The vehicle was being driven by a young 'dude' and his girlfriend.

It eerily resembled my own 1972 Ford from bygone days. Because it was huge and green, I nicknamed it 'Godzilla.' This vehicle was a bit more opulent, but very similar. It revived many lost memories of blue-collar living and living on the cheap:

My erstwhile '72 Econoline was a one ton cargo vehicle, with the 302 c.i. V-8 motor. It had been used to carry newspapers in Pennsylvania. I had it for one year, then sold it to my brother. It had manual steering, a non-existent heating system, and little in the way of creature comforts. But I loved it for being sturdy and unique. It was like a living room on wheels. And I could go anywhere... in body and mind... at the wheel of that land-ship from Detroit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


On September 20th, 2008, a benefit dinner and auction for Tim's House was held at The Church of St. Mary, in Chardon. The event was attended by numerous Geauga and Lake County residents. Notable officials in attendance were Mary Bramstedt, of Chardon City Council, and Dr. Bob Evans, a candidate running for County Coroner in November.

Tim's House is an organization dedicated to helping those who have been affected by the pain of a loss to suicide. The group also celebrated one year of existence as a non-profit community service institution.

The Tim's House benefit event was well-attended by supporters from across Geauga County.

(Above, from left) Jamie Ice and Debbie Hess enjoyed supporting Tim's House through the event.

8-Track Heaven

A couple of vintage 8-Track tapes from the thrift-store universe...

The wonderful Chuck Berry album recorded with notable sidemen including Derek Griffiths, Kenney Jones, Dave Kafinetti, Robbie McIntosh, Owen McIntyre, Ian McLagan, and Nic Potter. One half contains studio tracks, and the other is taken from a live performance.

John Kay's classic 1973 solo album, in glorious stereo on 8-Track tape! This recording demonstrates his artistic ability as the guiding light for Steppenwolf.

Friday, September 19, 2008


My wife's mother found this furniture gem recently in Mentor, at a house sale on Route 20.

It is a Curtis-Mathes Stereophonic Entertainment Center, dating to about 1960. It is rendered in the 'ash' hue, with black and white TV, turntable, and AM-FM stereo receiver.

The cabinet holds six speakers, in a tall and wide creation that is about nine feet long. Moving it required four people.

When considering this gigantic living room artifact, I was moved to buy a smoking jacket, hoist a martini glass, and place a vinyl jazz LP on the record player...

The Curtis-Mathes behemoth pictured here was sold through a B & B Appliance location in the Cleveland area. It is a relic of joyful, bygone days. And evidence of the colorful past that predated our modern times.


Note to Readers: Matt Boland and his band have released an audio CD and a live performance DVD. I am honored to report that they included some of my comments in the liner notes of their CD, 'Picklebilly.' This is a band with energy and talent in generous amounts. What follows here is a promotional blurb about the discs, from MySpace:

It's here, friends - the new CD and DVD by Matty B and the Dirty Pickles. If you've never been privileged to hear them perform, then this is the time.

Once you've got some tangy brine on your turntable... or iPod or CD player... hell, even an 8-track would do... then CRANK IT UP!!

These guys have been professionally cured in a salty mixture of rockabilly, punk, and do-it-yourself rock 'n' roll.

Find them at: http://www. myspace. com/mattybandthedirtypickles
http://thedirtypickles. com


From, "Thoughts At Large" Website - Rod Ice

I first discovered Matty B and the Dirty Pickles while on summer assignment for Gazette Newspapers. They were playing at the Conneaut Sock Hop, an event that encompassed the entire downtown area of that northeastern Ohio city. While searching for a different group amid the vintage cars and sidewalk voyeurs, I happened upon their performance. It was a moment I'll never forget. A bright light of revelation seemed to strike the makeshift stage where Matty busily kicked, prodded, danced, howled, and plucked his guitar. There was the hot aroma of scorched 'Chuck Taylor' sneakers in the air. Anyone standing still had to be comatose or deaf.

I couldn't help babbling with praise about his work:

"Matty - Thanks, man! You guys have brought back the fun to rock 'n' roll. Seeing your shows has not only been a good time, but it has been a spiritual resurrection of sorts. When I first heard Pickledelic music, I remembered the goodness and meaning of the music as it was... Ramones, Pistols, Richard Hell, and historic legends like James Brown, B. B. King, The Stones, etc. That spirit is not gone. You are carrying the torch.
For that, I thank you! Keep rockin'!!!"

From "Thoughts At Large" the book by Rod Ice
….I tingled all over while the band played 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' by Gene Vincent.
Their interpretation
of the tune was gritty and authentically energetic.

I was mesmerized….

The trio throttled up their instruments, for a powerful electric joyride.

The truck trailer stage they had inherited literally bounced off the tarmac!
A string of familiar tunes developed, touching on work by a number of iconic 50's performers.

Dancing spectators lined the sidewalks…
Then the frontman shouted over his seafoam-blue guitar.

"We're the dirtiest pickles you ever saw!"

…on what was to be their final night performing as Buddy Holly and the Crickets, this raucous rockabilly trio discovered something new.

At Erie's Roadhouse Theater,…devoted fans have seemed to gather in greater numbers as the combo
became a postmodern entertainment phenomenon.

Undeniably, Boland (Matty B) portrayed the notable, southern character with skill.

He played a sunburst Fender Stratocaster guitar, that was a perfect component
of the authentic 'Holly' persona.
Yet beyond having the garb of that era, he also exuded the energy
that typified a real performance by the late rock progenitor.

In a sense, he did more than simply act in the role.

He appeared to channel the spirit of Buddy Holly, from a far off point in oblivion, into a current setting.

It might well have been 1957, or 1977.
Typical chronology
didn't matter anymore.

When a member of the audience kept shouting "Stray Cats! Stray Cats!"
Matty B finally paused at his vintage microphone.

"Do we look like the (expletive) Stray Cats?" he laughed.

While the 'Cats' were a successful 80's detour from the more pervasive heavy metal and
Pop-synthesizer themes that ruled the day they only imitated the beauty of a lost tradition.

The Dirty Pickles have proved able to expand upon that theme by crafting a new creation from
the ethos of rocks golden age, and the rebellious authenticity of punk.

In a sense, their performance once again demonstrated rock's ability to reinvent itself
for a succession of new generations.

Note: Excerpts reprinted with permission of Rod Ice, from Thoughts At Large, The Book and http://www. thoughtsatlarge. com
So you are educated enough to read this now go to the web site and order the book already!!

“McDonald’s Hall of Fame”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: A recent trip away from the Icehouse Home Office offered unintended benefits during our period of road-going travel. It was an episode that effectively demonstrated how random consequences often contribute more to life than actual planning…

It was late on a Sunday evening. Liz and I had been in the car for several hours, winding our way from the friendly hills of West Virginia, through southwestern Pennsylvania. At the enclave of Canonsburg, we spotted a local McDonald’s that would provide food and refreshments. Smiling through fatigue, I turned toward the exit ramp, off of Interstate 79.

As my wife investigated the menu selections inside, I took our Pomeranian co-passenger for a walk. Quigley bounced through the outdoor tree-lawn with doggy enthusiasm. He was a yapping fuzzball of brown and white, after lazy napping on the back seat of our car. Both of us were revived by the cool air.

Suddenly, there was a squawk from the restaurant doorway.

“Rodney! You won’t believe this!” my spouse exclaimed.

The Pom rocked on his heels. “Yip yip yip!”

“Calm down, Quig,” I said. “It’s just Mommy. She must have spied a new burger on the Mickey D’s menu.”

“Come here!” Liz pleaded. “And bring your camera!”

I raised an eyebrow. “What, is Ronald cooking the food himself, tonight?”

She glared with impatience. “Give the dog a bowl of water, and come here!”

Quigley returned to his spot on the back seat. “Yapp!”

Dancing across the parking lot, I mimicked the familiar McDonald’s jingle. “Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba… I’m lovin’ it!”

My wife wrinkled her nose. “If this was ‘America’s Got Talent’ you’d be buzzed off the show!”

“Thanks for the love, Sharon,” I groaned.

Inside, customer traffic was surprisingly brisk. But then, I caught sight of a framed row of vinyl records and old photographs. There were posters everywhere, and souvenirs. And in the dining room, bronze busts of Bobby Vinton, and Perry Como, both recording artists who were born in the Keystone State borough.

My jaw dropped open. Ronald Mac’s in-house display conjured up visions of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. While studying a photo of ‘The Four Coins’ with Elvis Presley, I fumbled for the camera.

My skin tingled with electricity. “Now, I really am lovin’ it!”

Liz folded her arms with a look of satisfaction. “Go on. Get your pictures, Rodney. I’ll order our meal…”

The fast-food depot yielded a wealth of information on the music culture of Canonsburg. Yet as we exited with our McVittles, I felt a whisper in my ear. It was a hopeful message, spoken in the raspy voice of a hamburger angel:

“Ba ba ba ba ba…build it – and they will love it!”

My wife wrinkled her nose again. “Are you okay, Rodney?”

I leaned against a brown, diner-style chair. “Yes. Just having a flash of inspiration…”

Liz tilted her head. “Inspiration? About what?”

“Coming here was a happy coincidence,” I said. “Or, perhaps an event of divine guidance? Only Ronald knows for sure…”

She was puzzled by my observation. “Quit speaking in riddles! What do you mean?”
“They are building the new McDonald’s in Chardon, right now,” I replied. “What a great opportunity for our own local eatery and McMuseum…”

My wife snorted. “Come back to Earth, Rodney!”

“Not before this dream is fulfilled,” I said, defiantly. “Ba ba ba ba ba…”

While lingering over our meal, I folded an empty bag and began to write my own list of dignitaries to be considered for the new ‘Golden Arches’ location on Water Street:


10. Peter Chardon Brooks – Our most obvious choice, but worth being considered. Once upon a time, Godfrey’s Restaurant in Big Wheel Plaza had an inside mural that depicted the incredible life of this fellow from New England. Brooks made a fortune from the insurance business in Massachusetts, and donated land for the historic Chardon Square. His moniker lives on as the signature of Geauga’s Capitol City.

9. Sheriff George R. ‘Red’ Simmons – Known for strong leadership, savvy as a media figure, and persistent disagreements with the County Commissioners, Simmons was a unique character in local politics. Well-respected by those of both major parties, he brought candor and enthusiasm to the highest law enforcement office in Geauga.

8. Frank Tainer – As the owner of Kresse’s Bi-Rite #1 in Tanglewood, and #2 in Chardon, this entrepreneur brought jobs and genuine customer respect to the county. Tainer embodied the kind of old-fashioned business ethic that derived success from service. He earned respect from customers and friends through supermarkets that were well staffed and pleasant to navigate.

7. Mel ‘Chief’ Harder – Harder was a right-handed pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. A native of Beemer, Nebraska, his career as a player and coach with the team spanned thirty-six seasons. Harder was a frequent patron of area businesses and lived in Chardon until his death at age ninety-three.

6. Ron Hutter – Geauga’s own connection to the indomitable spirit of Dale Earnhardt. Hutter has long been a master builder of NASCAR racing engines. His creations have powered winning vehicles in NASCAR’s Truck Series, Busch Series, and cup racing, in addition to IHRA and NHRA drag racing competition.

5. Grace Butcher – This local author has long been an avid motorcyclist and athlete. She taught English at the Geauga Campus of Kent State University for twenty-five years. Still active as a mentor and wordsmith, she remains committed to promoting the craft of professional writing to future generations.

4. Milt Abrams – As the colorful owner of Lawson Ford & Mercury, Abrams helped put
many Geauga County residents on four wheels. He operated with respect for each
customer as a valued individual. His folksy style and personal integrity helped make
our region a place envied by those from other districts of Ohio.

3. Bev Carver – A longtime member of the Maple Festival Board, and officeholder
extraordinaire, Mrs. Carver was a durable figure in Geauga County. Her ability to
educate and inspire motivated generations of citizens across the area.

2. Mary Bramstedt – A local writer, teacher, tennis coach, councilperson, and volunteer. Bramstedt was a ‘maverick’ before any of our current crop of change-oriented political candidates. Her good-natured ability to cut through ‘doublespeak’ remains an asset worthy of praise.

After much consideration, I settled on the number one candidate for a place of honor in the new Water Street McDonald’s location. Though the choice was not easy, one individual seemed perfectly fit to occupy the top spot of notability in the new House of Ronald:

1. Midge – The Guinness Book of World Records certified her as the smallest drug-enforcement dog on Earth. But this tiny member of The Geauga County Sheriff’s Department is an authentic workhorse. She has become a useful ambassador for the region, and an example of excellence through determination.

The rest of our journey transpired without much excitement. Yet magic had touched us with great effect. It was a revelation of things to come…

In November, at 430 Water Street.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008


My first encounter with Mike-Sells chips came in the mid-80's at Kresse's Bi-Rite Supermarket, in Chardon. The snack company was making a push into the Cleveland market, and we were given the option to carry their potato chips. Because Mike-Sells snacks were prepared with peanut oil, we were immediately impressed with their unique flavor.

M-S hit a homerun with the owner and management of our grocery store. We decided to carry their products, immediately.

Unfortunately, Mike-Sells snacks didn't go over well in the Cleveland market. In spite of their flavorful nature and wholesome goodness, they soon disappeared from the area.

But I continued to buy them in our state capitol, while visiting my grandparents on Refugee Road. A particular favorite was their Mesquite Barbecue variety, which offered a taste treat unequalled by any other chip manufacturer.

Mike-Sells continues to produce chips and snacks in the Dayton area. They are well-known throughout the central and southern regions of Ohio.

The bag shown here was purchased at The Andersons General Store, in southeastern Columbus. I can only hope that one day, customers in the region of Lake Erie will realize how desirable these chips really are.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Ale-8-One Memorial”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a late night in Thompson.

Liz, my wife, was slumbering as we rolled into the driveway. With temperatures still hovering in the seventies, her Taurus pinged and popped from heat fatigue. We had been on the road since seven o’clock in the morning. Comic squawks of Phil Hendrie echoed from the radio. In the living-room window, a cat yowled through grogginess.
I was glad to finally let go of the steering wheel.

“We’re home at last,” I said with satisfaction.

There was a noisy pause as my spouse emerged from her blanket. “Ohhh… did I fall asleep?” Her brown curls flew wildly as she exited the car.

“Right after we left Columbus,” I replied, while gathering a handful of grocery bags, and a suitcase.

Moonlight streaked our deck with luminescent gray. Liz yawned while pulling another bag from the trunk. “Sorry I wasn’t better company on the ride home.”

I smiled. “You were fantastic. My family couldn’t stop crowing about you…”

She seemed to be embarrassed. “Oh, Rodney!”

“Give yourself some credit, honey,” I exclaimed. “You began yesterday at two a.m. and then we left for southern Indiana at nine o’clock… today we were up at six in the morning and kept rocking until now, from Scottsburg to Cincinnati, to Columbus and Cleveland… I’d say that deserves a gold star for effort!”

My wife rubbed her eyes. She dropped her bag on the couch. “Instead of a gold star, how about coffee?”

I nodded. “Coffee it is! But I want an Ale-8.”

She wrinkled her nose. “A… what??”

I pulled a six-pack of soda from our Meijer grocery bag. “Ale-8, the pride of Kentucky!”

Liz narrowed her tired eyes. “I saw you put that in the cart, while we were shopping in Westerville. But… what is it?”

“Part of my childhood,” I answered.

My wife curled up on the sofa. She was spent from our fast-paced, memorial adventure. “Rodney! No riddles tonight, please…”

“Okay,” I agreed. “My family lived in eastern Kentucky for a year, while I was growing up. That’s where we discovered Ale-8-One. It tasted like a fruity ginger ale. After moving away in the summer of 1970, I never saw it again… until today!”

She raised an eyebrow. “So… it’s another item for your collection?”

“Yeah,” I said with a grin.

After starting a pot of coffee, I sat down at the computer. A search for the beverage quickly yielded its company website. I read out loud as Liz waited for her own refreshment:

“Ale-8-One, the soft drink unique to Kentucky, has been bottled in Winchester since 1926. Still a closely guarded family secret, the Ale-8-One formula was developed by G. L. Wainscott in the 1920’s after experimentation with ginger-blended recipes he acquired during extensive travels in Northern Europe. He sponsored one of America’s first ‘name the product’ contests, and ‘A Late One’ was the winning entry. The drink’s logo, Ale-8-One, was adopted as a pun of its description as the latest thing in soft drinks.”

“Isn’t that amazing?” I asked. “It’s a regional beverage that has managed to survive amid corporate takeovers and industry consolidation.”

My wife bit her lip. “That is quite unusual…”

I continued to read from the company history:

“Wainscott had been in the soft drink business in Winchester since 1902, bottling soda water and several flavored drinks in a plant on North Main Street. In 1906, he introduced Roxa-Kola, a popular rival to the cola drinks then available. By 1935, Wainscott had converted a livery stable on West Broadway and moved his growing bottling operation. Jane Rogers Wainscott inherited half of her husband’s bottling stock at his death in 1944. The other half was divided among the company’s employees. At her death in 1954, Mrs. Wainscott left her interest to her brother, Frank A. Rogers, Sr. Mr. Rogers bought out his partners in 1962, and incorporated the Ale-8-One Bottling Company. Frank A. Rogers, Jr., became manager, was later named president, and the phenomenal growth of the new corporation began.”

“We first saw the stuff at a gas station in Owingsville, Kentucky,” I said. We had just moved there from southern Ohio.”

Liz sighed. She took a first sip of coffee. “So, when was this?”

“1969,” I observed. “That service station was near the end of our street, Wells Avenue. I rode my bicycle there every day.”

She blinked while pondering my story. “A chubby little kid on two-wheels…”

I snorted, and began to read again:

“The 80th Anniversary year of 2006 re-introduced Ale-8-One Suckers and pioneered Ale-8-One Salsa. After an 18- year lapse, Ale-8-One and Ruth Hunt Candies in Mt. Sterling joined forces once again to supply the Ale-8-One Sucker to fans of the Kentucky soft drink. Working with the Kentucky Proud program through the Department of Agriculture, the bottling company commissioned Ale-8-One Salsa. Unique as the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Ale-8-One, the salsa is made with Kentucky-grown products, Ale-8-One concentrate and flavors. Available in two varieties, sweet and spicy, Ale-8-One Salsa is available wherever Ale-8-One soft drinks are found. Ale-8-One Apple Butter was formulated in the fall of 2007. A second product line directly impacting Kentucky agriculture, Ale-8-One Apple Butter has been created using the pulp remaining when apple cider is pressed and the juice extracted.”

“Ale-8 salsa?” she said with wonder. “And apple butter?”

“Never heard of those products,” I admitted. “But maybe we’ll find them on our next tour through the area.”

“I’m surprised they don’t offer Ale-8 hot dog chili,” she said.

I slapped the kitchen counter with amusement. “That’s the spirit! Let’s write them a letter!”

Suddenly, Liz sat upright. “Rodney, you need to come back down to Earth. This trip was for a funeral, after all. Can’t you be serious for even a minute?”

Silence took hold. I bowed my head without a word.

She covered her mouth. “Rodney, I’m sorry…”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Saying goodbye to Grandma was a very sad experience. But she was happy. And at the age of ninety-seven, she had enjoyed a full ration of life experiences. I mourn her passing, but celebrate her ascension to glory.”

“Yes,” Liz agreed. She pulled me away from the computer.

We embraced while green bottles floated around the monitor screen.

“Beyond that, I am thankful for you, and our daughters,” I said. “And for the miracle of our family…”

She took an Ale-8 from the carrier. It bubbled in the moonlight that peeked through our window. “And… for a distraction to ease the hurt?”

“Right,” I sighed.

The day ended with a cool taste of Kentucky pride, and a whispered prayer:

“God, please take Grandma home to be with you. Amen.”

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Monday, September 08, 2008


During a recent trip, Liz and I paused at the McDonald's in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania for grub and refreshments. We'd visited the restaurant before, but used the drive-thru service. This time, we went inside... and were overwhelmed with the display of local music history.

Canonsburg has produced more than its share of entertainment legends, including Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. Both were immortalized inside the burger palace, with displays that depicted a simpler, more authentic period in creative history:

Above: The Canonsburg McDonald's location

Above: Bust of Perry Como

Above: Bust of Bobby Vinton

Above: Stage outfit worn by Bobby Vinton

Above: The Four Coins with Elvis Presley, 1958

Above: Looking over Bobby Vinton's shoulder at the restaurant counter

The Canonsburg website ( provides details of these performers and their hits:

Welcome to the small town Music Capitol of the World
Canonsburg,Pennsylvania - a town of 8,600 residents - has had more charted singles than any other small town in the world.

To date, that includes an astounding 192 songs!
That includes:
Perry Como 141
Bobby Vinton 44
Four Coins 7

Among those songs are 15 that went all to the way to No. 1 - "Til the End of Time," "Prisoner of Love," "Surrender," "Chi-Baba, Chi Baba," "Some Enchanted Evening," "If," "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes," "Wanted," "Hot Diggity," "Round and Round" and "Catch a Falling Star" by Perry Como and "Roses are Red," "Blue Velvet," "There I've Said It Again" and "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton.
In addition, the Canonsburg group, The Cynics, have had seven albums released and more recently, Jason Walker has had five top 10 hits on the dance charts, including two that went to No. 1 in Billboard Magazine - "Foolish Mind Games" and "Set It Free." His new album is due in March, 2007.
And the hits just keep on comin'....

To be recognized as a legendary performer would be enough, perhaps... but to be celebrated in the decor of a fast-food emporium like McDonald's is more uniquely American, and an honor like no other!

Friday, September 05, 2008


During a recent trip to southern Indiana, we paused for fuel and snacks at a Love's Travel Stop off of Interstate 71. Still groggy from our early morning departure, I didn't notice the abandoned building next door when we pulled off the highway. But as we turned out of the parking lot, there it was... a forgotten 'CB Shop' waiting for a visitor to lovingly document its presence:

Love's Travel Stop # 352
13023 US 35
Jeffersonville, Ohio 43128

Highway: I-71
Exit: 65

Phone: 740 948-2342
Fax: 740 948-2372