Saturday, July 14, 2018


Dr. Alfred Ames: 1916 - 2007

Dr. Alfred Ames, a former Chicago Tribune writer whose glowing review launched James Herriot's book "All Creatures Great and Small" onto the best-sellers list, was a lifelong book lover who spent his retirement years volunteering at a church library.
"We have books from floor to ceiling in our house," said his wife, Violet, a librarian Dr. Ames met at his Florida retirement community. "He has given away so many; you wouldn't believe it."
Dr. Ames, 91, who wrote for the Tribune for 30 years, died Monday, Aug. 27, in Ft. Myers, Fla., of complications from abdominal surgery, his wife said.
About six weeks earlier, Dr. Ames donated his collection of letters from veterinarian James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pen name James Herriot, to the museum in England that bears Herriot's name.
Wight always credited Dr. Ames' 1972 rave for "All Creatures Great and Small" in the Tribune with making his writing career a success. Wight noted his appreciation in a letter he sent Dr. Ames on Sept. 23, 1974.
"Another thing I shall never lose is the deep knowledge of my indebtedness to you and your professional skill because I am convinced that without Alfred Ames I would never have got off the ground," Wight wrote.
Dr. Ames was the first major reviewer in the U.S. to give notice to Herriot's book, Violet Ames said. "The New York Times kind of ignored it until St. Martin's Press ran a full-page ad of Alfred's [Tribune] review in the New York Times," she said.
Dr. Ames, who joined the Tribune staff in 1951, was a book reviewer for five years. He enjoyed doing it so much that he continued the task after becoming an editorial writer, a position he held for 25 years.
"He was always amazed the way he fit in there because he was not a dyed-in-the-wool Republican like most others," Violet Ames said. "He is much more liberal-minded."
A Quaker and pacifist who was a conscientious objector during World War II, Dr. Ames was a stark contrast to Col. Robert R. McCormick, the Tribune's longtime editor and publisher.
Dr. Ames did not often write about politics, however, said Jack Fuller, a former Tribune editor and publisher who worked with Dr. Ames on the editorial board. He generally focused on education, the environment and civil liberties.
"He had a very solid sort of moral sense about him, which reflected itself, not only in his writing, but in the passion in which he debated points on the editorial board," Fuller said.
While working at the Tribune, Dr. Ames taught classes at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where Fuller was one of his students.
"He was a very exacting, very good teacher," Fuller said. "He had a very clear sense of not only simple, elegant prose, but also the difference between gushing opinion and clarity of expression that might carry a point with it."
From 1936 to 1944, Dr. Ames was on the faculty of the University of Illinois, where he had received his master's degree and doctorate. He taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1944 to 1951.
After retiring from the Tribune in the early 1980s, Dr. Ames moved to North Carolina and then Ft. Myers. He continued to send his former colleagues letters when he saw articles they wrote that interested him.
Steve Chapman, a Tribune editorial writer and columnist, received a letter in June that Dr. Ames had written on a typewriter.
"I am glad that you are having a long tenure there, which I know from experience can be rewarding and happy," Dr. Ames wrote.
Dr. Ames' first wife, Nell Ames, died in 1992.
Other than Violet, Dr. Ames leaves no immediate survivors.
A memorial service will be held at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at the chapel of the Village Church at Shell Point Retirement Community in Ft. Myers.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Oh! the Ocean

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
From Reflections of a Happy Old Man

Fabulous, man!
We were rolling at 5:30, hit the beach a little after 7. We would have missed sunrise by about 10 minutes, if there had been any sunrise. This part of the FL coast almost always has a cloud bank on the eastern horizon at that time of day. So we watched an angry sea in a 40 mile wind, and in 20 minutes the sun emerged over the clouds.

This morning there were ripple-like clouds in the sky, and the hidden sun painted them with delicate pastel colors-- for only a few minutes; we were glad we were there.
Comfortably togged out in the big coat sister Joel had given me after Austin died; Ellie had less covering and had to find a protected nook. 15 minutes there in the wind made the whole trip well worth while, but there's more!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The First Osprey

Sunday we went to Meeting as usual. 30 minutes of silence; then Ellie began what proved to be a lengthy message about our visit to the beach, majoring on our experience with the ospreys.

As I listened, I began to wonder if a spiritual message might be forthcoming, and indeed Ellie spoke of the joy of such experiences, always coming from God. Then silence.

Ellie was so right. She inspired me to follow her lead as usual, and after a decent interval to make my contribution:

We are the fish of the sea; God is an Osprey. From the sky he watches us, waiting patiently for the propitious moment. Then like a rock he falls upon, takes us in his loving arms.

We wonder what may happen next. In the course of time we come to see that God means us to help in the ongoing work of Creation. Finally we realize that we are Co-creators with God. Is there any higher calling?

The ospreys! ! Oh my! They would hang in that gale like you may sit in your living room. They got back behind the water, luring the fish to the surface (the wind was driving the fish right to the osprey's table!). About 150 feet above the surface they would drift against the wind (really!) until suddenly--wham! Down like a dive bomber' I mean straight down, vertically! They lazily stop an inch above the surface, delicately dip their beat into the water (or is it their claw?) and rise into the air with a good sized fish. High into the air they would rise and go off somewhere to enjoy breakfast, or maybe to feed the babies.

The day progressed with complete satisfaction. We drove up the coast to St. Augustine. This is one of the few places on the East Coast (aside from South Florida) where you can drive along and enjoy the waves, the birds, God's good earth almost like it was in the beginning.

Monday, June 25, 2018


Service in War II
The first part of this is described in the I take it up with the South American period.....

I went home again for a visit. This time the union rep offered me a berth on a Mississippi Shipping Co. freighter. They had a premium route, down the coast of South America. I probably would have left the sea sooner if I had not got on the Cuba Victory. As it was, I made four trips to Buenos Aires and points between. I think those trips must have been as interesting as all the rest of the trips I made.

I realized that the job I had was a lazy man's paradise. There was so little to do, I answered to no one but the skipper and he couldn't care less about my activities. While we were in port I lived ashore, if I cared to. The only expenses I had were discretionary; in fact I could have saved every cent above the income tax, had I wanted to. As it was, I saved about $5000 during a 3 1/2 year period and used the money for three years of school.

The Cuba Victory was one of a large class of ships built for the war. The largest class, the Liberty ships were slow, jerry-built, awkward, and barely worthy of the name of ship. The Victory ships were some improvement; they generally ran about 14 knots. As always I had nice quarters more or less to myself and could spend as much or as little time with other people as I cared to.

I struck up an acquaintance with Bill Wolfe, the second mate. His stateroom was up the hall from mine. We spent some time together. He was about 18 months older than me, but he could easily have passed as my father. A great big belly and dissipated face; Bill said he had had "clap" 8 times. Nevertheless he was basically a fairly decent sort. On the third trip the first mate got sick or left the ship or something, and Bill had to work in that capacity. It was really too much for him; he came down with an advanced case of hives.

During those three trips we stopped at a lot of ports on the east coast of South America. First we stopped at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for refueling or at Trinidad. I don't remember ever getting ashore at Trinidad, but I did go ashore at St. Thomas once. Both of these places were free ports, a good place to get duty free liquor or whatever other consumer goods you might want.

The South American ports of call were Para (or Belem) near the mouth of the Amazon (of that more later), Recife, Bahia, Rio, Santos, Rio Grande do Sul, Montevideo and B.A. and one or two others that don't immediately come of mind. We didn't go to all these ports each trip, but to all of them at least once during the year or so that I sailed on the Cuba Victory.

My three favorite ports were Santos, B.A., and Montevideo in that order. The easiest way to recall my experience is in terms of each port rather than each trip. I guess the most exciting experiences of my twenties took place during the couple of weeks that I visited Santos. Santos is probably the primary coffee port in Brazil, and we customarily put in there going and coming from B.A. The fun part of Santos (for me) was the beach area, several miles from the port area. It was a sort of resort; I suppose many people came down from Sao Paulo, the industrial capital of Brazil, for vacations on the Santos beach. It was lined with hotels and pensaos, these last being more modest establishments in the business of entertaining vacationers.

My adventures on the beach at Santos began when I mysteriously got a phone call on the ship. It was actually for someone else, but anyway I was called to the phone. A girl named Maria Teresa was on the other end, very friendly. She had apparently met one of the other ship's officers, and she wanted to continue the acquaintance. She encouraged me to come down to the beach at 3 P.M. or some such, which I duly did and met her.

Maria Teresa provided for me a tremendously stimulating experience. Fairly attractive, very bright and outgoing, she had a large group of friends, many of whom I met. We would spend the evenings together on the beach. They were very well educated young people; they all spoke English fairly well, and most of them were fluent in Spanish and French as well as their native Portuguese. Their level of culture surpassed that of any group of people I had known; in addition they were the first group of young people I had been intimate and comfortable with. I suppose they met some of the Cuba Victory officers through me, and we had many enjoyable evenings.
We used to take part in the paseo every night, a very economical way to spend the evening. It was simply a two block area that people walked up and down, greeting friends, stopping to chat, moving on, etc., an informal social hour. When you got tired of walking you could sit down on the terrace of a large hotel in the midst, enjoy a drink and watch the festivities. I thought the Brazilians were wonderfully civilized people.

Most of these girls were going to a "normal" school. My mother would know what a normal is, although my children probably wouldn't. A normal school was for the preparation of teachers. These girls expected to teach school for a year of two before they married. Maria Teresa was one of twelve children; her father was said to own 18 coffee plantations. I never knew how true that was, but simply had no reason to doubt it. She was obviously upper crust, as were most of her friends. Maria had a cousin named Lais, really a more attractive girl than Maria, although Maria was my sweetheart. Lais' father had lost everything in the 1930's crash, as had so many other people in Brazil and in our country as well. Maria was spoiled, self indulgent, but Lais was much less self centered.

Maria also had a close friend named Leda. What I remember about Leda was that everything was hyperbolic to Leda. She exaggerated everything. Life was a series of peak experiences. Leda's little sister, Wanda, was really a favorite, and after I became disenchanted with Maria, I got a crush on Wanda, probably mainly because she obviously admired me. She was as smart as the others, talked about studying philosophy in school, but later went into medicine. It was because of Wanda that I took pre-med and went to medical school---not really a good enough reason to go to medical school!

All of these girls were charming and friendly, and made a young American feel like a prince. I asked them once why they liked American boys so much. Wanda said "because they're not malicioso." She confirmed the low opinion I have always had of the male latins with reference to their sexual values. By and large they saw women primarily as potential conquests. Their primary fulfilment seemed to be the bragging they did in their mens' clubs.

On one of the trips we spent over a week in Santos. I got a room in a pensao on the beach. The food was terrific and lots of it. Since my eating schedule varied somewhat from that of the average Brasileiro, I often found myself the only person in the dining hall. Twice a day it was a 7 course meal. The waiter stood behind my plate and as soon as I got it half way empty, he would feel it up again--with the existing course. Finally I would say in desperation no mas, no mas. Then he would bring the next course.

Those were golden days in Santos, the most normal and enjoyable days of my youth. Unfortunately they were all too brief. It was a really sad time for me when I left Santos. Later I thought seriously of going back, on my own, but I never could figure out any reasonable way to do it.

Buenos Aires was my next favorite port of call. I'll never forget my first visit. The ship was docked not too far from the main street--Avenida Corrientes. I overtook a well dressed Argentino (they were all well dressed and well fed, all in B.A. that is. I never saw the interior.) and with great effort managed to get out a halting message, "Puedo ...Ud....decirme....donde..esta. Avenida.....Corrientes?" He gave me a funny look and then replied. "Oh, Corrientes St., it's two blocks over that way."

The argentinos were proud, anxious for us to know how great they were. They were quite friendly. I was getting a haircut, and the barber was bragging about the people there. He said, "In B.A. everybody dresses like a millionario." I replied, "In my country the millionaires try their best to dress like ordinary people." So it went, the culture shock. It's tremendously stimulating to get acquainted with the people in another culture, and Brazil and Argentina are among the few places where I experienced that with some intensity. In general I was too young and naive to get much out of foreign visits.

Friday, June 8, 2018


Here are a couple of pictures of ospreys that nest in a big cypress tree at the marina in Edenton. Paul

Friday, June 1, 2018



Swamp Dogwood



Button Bush

Button Bush & Water Hemlock





Beauty Berry



Wednesday, May 16, 2018




Vetch ? Cowpea

Water Hemlock


Morning Glory


Lizard Tail




Goat's Rue ?


Tread Softly

New Jersey Tea or Redroot



Paw Paw


Deer Berry or Sparkleberry



Fringe Tree

Swamp Dogwood

Cyrilla  ?

Trumpet Vine



Butterfly Weed

Devil's Walking Stick

Rusty Lyonia




Greenbrier Family

Unidentified Parsley? similar to Mock Bishop Weed



Wild Poinsettia

Wild Hydrangea 

Sensitive Brier







Bromeliaceae family


Button Bush

Sweetbay Magnolia



Sarsaparilla Vine - Greenbrier family


American Holly


Gopher Apple (Licania)



Friday, May 4, 2018