PAGE 6 of 13, Eric Lacitis, Seattle Times, also from a former editor of 3 newspapers who is a historical novelist.****
Sharing from school of life----
One of my experiences may have a part in a movie, "Murmansk Run" I rode freight trains and hitch hiked to my ships as a 16 year old wartime seaman. (i was not on that particular run however)
Oliver North is doing a series about the Merchant Marines on Fox News, "The Gauntlet:" which shows my friend, Captain George Duffy, (google George Duffy) who was captured by a German raider at sea and turned over to Japanese for several years. I received the combat ribbon medal, the Pacific war zone ribbon, the Atlantic War zone ribbon, and one other at age 17 issued by the "War Shipping Administration"
Two writers follow below.
Seattle Times, by Eric Lacitis
(Pictures not shown here.) A similar story followed on the front page of "Slice of Life" issue, a month later) That paper goes to about a quarter milion homes who are not subscribers to the Times.
This clock watcher has time for you - and then some
The other day an e-mail arrived, one of those short notes that said something nice. You know, the kind that we vow to start sending but never do, that takes a minute to write but brightens somebody's entire day.
I couldn't help noticing the e-mail moniker of the sender: Grandpatime. It turned out that tens of thousands of you already have met him, even though you never knew his real name. This year, he'll receive something like 500,000 calls, a radio talk-show host's fantasy.
"I reach the public via 361-TIME," wrote Grandpatime. "Where I live I sometimes don't see anyone in person for two days, so I like e-mail and telephones. I like to read people's ideas."
I decided to visit with Neal Vonada, 72, especially when I learned of another free phone service he offers.
When you call 206-361-TIME, you also are given a second phone number, one that keeps callers coming back time after time. His following includes blind individuals, those who might be laid up in a hospital.
They can dial 206-440-8735 and hear jokes, vignettes, ruminations about the world, ideas for local trips and even the history of the hymn "Amazing Grace." It's kind of like tapping into an immense Reader's Digest archive. About as naughty as it gets with the jokes is Vonada repeating this T-shirt saying: "Wanted: meaningful overnight relationship."
Grandpatime lives alone in a big home in the North End overlooking Puget Sound, although his children and grandkids are nearby. He's been married twice; cancer took both his wives.
His home has 13 phones and an intricate phone-answering system in the basement. Vonada once owned a phone-supply store, so he knows quite a bit about them. Since he always liked talking to people, this seemed like a good retirement hobby. Needless to say, there are plenty of clocks scattered about the home.
That 206-361-TIME call, becomes even more popular when daylight-saving time starts and ends. Then, for several weeks, calls jump from 900 to 4,000 a day. Vonada considers it his duty to provide the most accurate time possible, checking frequently with the U.S. Naval Observatory's atomic clock.
"One time I had Caller ID, and I know that people from Amtrak, from steamships, from government agencies called to get the time. I know lawyers use it to prepare a case, because they've called, wanting to know how accurate it is," Vonada said.
Sometimes, when he's programming the equipment, and a call comes in, Grandpatime picks up the phone and answers directly. "They're always bashful. They never expected a real person," he said.
When you call for the stories, what you get is the phone version of sitting around on a porch, Grandpatime talking about this and that. Vonada is one of those entrepreneur types who have done everything from being a door-to-door to world travels and observations.
Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times
Here's from a letter a well known novelist wrote to her family and friends
(Neal) is an original thinker, "out of the box" is today's way of
describing original thought. I knew neal at the time my boss started a
monthly newspaper for the mobile home and RV industry and told me maybe I
could "put together some news once a month" to fill the space between ads.
but as it turned out, Sid, our ad salesgirl, and I took it on as a challenge
and became real crusaders.
I remember Neal as the youngest and most professional of any of those many
dealers,, many of them former used car dealers and salespeople and all of
them competing with each other. almost single-handedly. this upstart former
door to door salesman,, who had bought his first trailer at 19, pulled this
warring group together, started a strong professional organization that holds
annual shows in the Coliseum. I realize now, that the paper was a strong
ally to the association (which also had a well-respected attorney) in
getting the legislature to pass a law allowing homes built in a factory to
be placed on private property, provided they met code requirements, I think
it was on the basis of that that I was given the award.(most contributing
outsider to the industry, that year) I don't remember ever interviewing
Neal but when Sid would come back from picking up his "VON'S tRAILERS" ad,
she would bring a sheaf of papers Neal had dictated to his secretary, (who happened to be a state champion typist, coincidentally his Mother as well) plus
info from the national association of mh manufacturers, always stressing
affordable housing. these became the "meat" of our pages. then Neal's
beautiful young wife died of cancer. He sold his business, gave up his job
as President of the association and stayed home to raise his two small
children. For 35 years I lost all contact with any of those industry people
then four years ago< a voice on the phone said "this is Neal vonada"
I could write much, much more about what Neal has done with his retirement
years but that would be far too long