The Tale Spinner

Vol. XXIII, No. 20

May 20, 2017


  • From HeroicStories, here is an incident involving Guardian Angels
  • We get letters from Jean Sterling and Kate Brookfield
  • Tom Telfer quotes some statistics from 100 years ago
  • Marilyn Magid tells the story of two drops of water
  • Catherine Nesbit sends an article on understanding engineers
  • Sites are suggested by Barbara Wear, Catherine Nesbit, Jay Sansum, Tom Telfer, and Zvonko Springer

In Heroic Stories, Laura Beers of Mountaintop, Pennsylvania, tells her story about


In 1983 I was a high school student in Queens, New York. I was also a model and travelled to Manhattan occasionally. I almost always travelled alone.   When I first started going to Manhattan, I would use only buses. Eventually, I began using the subway -  it was faster and less crowded. I became comfortable using New York's Mass Transit system. Too comfortable.

My confidence grew to the point where I would take the subway at night. One evening at about 10:00 I was in Manhattan waiting for the train. I was standing far down the platform, away from the sales booth, when I was approached by a man in his late thirties who asked me the time. Not realizing that a large clock was right on the platform, I slid my sleeve back to look at my watch. The next thing I knew he was holding a knife to my throat.

As my train came, he made it look like we were hugging. I was paralyzed with fear. The train left and he dragged me down the platform, toward the tracks. I realized that this was not going to be just a robbery. I struggled, and because I was wearing winter gloves, was able to grab the knife. I threw it onto the tracks and screamed. He punched me in the mouth.

As we struggled, he took out a smaller knife. I kicked him in the groin and ran toward the sales booth. He grabbed my coat, but was unable to get a firm hold. I'll never forget screaming at the people waiting for their trains on the other side of the tracks. No one tried to help, but someone did call the police. They arrived quickly and determined that the mugger had escaped by running down the tracks to an emergency exit.

I was too shaken up to file a police report. I just wanted to go home, so the police waited with me for the next train. When it arrived, there was a squad of Guardian Angels aboard. The Guardian Angels formed in 1978 as a response to escalating subway crime. They are men and women who volunteer their time and efforts to prevent crime. They are unarmed, but skilled in self-defense. They work with the Transit Police, but were long maligned by the local news media, who portrayed them as vigilantes with questionable backgrounds. I had always been a little wary when I saw them on trains.

The police told the Guardian Angels of my predicament. Two of them sat with me and calmed me down. They got off with me, escorted me to my next train, and stayed with me until I got home. I felt safe and protected.

New York is often thought of as cold and impersonal, but the Guardian Angels showed me that people do care, and I gained a new-found respect for them. I will never forget their kindness. They went above and beyond the call of duty for me.

ED. NOTE: To comment on this story, or to get your own subscription to the site, click on


Jean Sterling writes about the book recommended by Norma Patterson called "The Underground Railway," by Colson Whitehead:

I recently read this book - just took it back to the library!

I am going to attend a Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program about the Underground Railroad in July. We will be staying in Niagara Falls on the New York side, but a fair amount of the program will be in Canada. Apparently Niagara Falls was a very important station on the Underground Railroad. ;

I taught homebound kids for the school system, and I remember a story in the high school literature book about Harriet Tubman. What a lady! It was impressive that she returned to lead people out of bondage once or twice, but she did it many times, which is truly mindboggling! She would give a bird call of a bird not native to an area, and that way slaves knew that Moses (as she was called) was out there. The trip north was very difficult, and on one trip a man decided that life on the plantation was easier and that he was going back. Tubman pointed a gun at him and told him that he was a dead man if he turned back. She knew that he would likely endanger all of the escapees if he got back. She was a tough lady who did a lot of good.

I remember a little black girl I taught. Her mother told me that they were descended from Seminole Indians as well as blacks - that the Seminoles took escaping slaves in. I am reading a book about slavery in Florida, and it talks about the relationship between the Seminoles and blacks. The Spanish (Florida was a Spanish colony) were not real keen on slavery. Also slaves from the deep south (like Georgia and Alabama) often escaped to Florida (which was much closer than Niagara Falls) and were taken in by the Seminoles.  

I am looking forward to learning more about the Underground Railroad.

Kate Brookfield writes about their travels to Europe this spring:

A day-to-day account of our recent travels from Canada to Europe is available at my blog site. I am sorry that I did not give Jean the correct link, so she was stuck in last year's trip to Spain, and I wondered why she was not following our 2017 journey.

My travel blogs are public and still available on the WordPress web site. I have to admit that I still need to do more reading about sharing my blog. I do not want to share it on the social media sites as I do not think it wise to let the world and his dog know we are absent from home! So I use the method of sending friends and family a special invite. I am happy to share my story of our travels and the photos.

I really recommend for people who wish to write a blog, and for armchair readers who like to browse other people's stories and photos. There are some really talented people out there, and it makes a big change from reading about politicians or rich celebrities!

This link will take you to the main site and you can explore what is to offer:

My sign-on name is ktb99 and you should be able to find all my travel sites. This year's site is 2017 Canada to Europe-Italy-UK

For Spinner readers, I am going to write separate and more detailed stories on places we visited this year, starting with Milan.

ED. NOTE: I'm sorry I got sidetracked onto the wrong site, which I checked now and then to see if there were updates on Kate's blog. Of course there were none. For those who missed her entries, you can go back through them to see the marvellous photos she posted on the above site.

Tom Telfer sends these interesting statistics about


The year 2017 is the 100th anniversary of WWI. What a difference a century makes!

Here are some statistics for 1917:

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only eight percent of the homes had a telephone.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year; a dentist, $2,500; a veterinarian, between $1,500 and $4,000; and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned by the press and the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were 14 cents a dozen. Coffee was 15 cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death were: pneumonia and influenza; tuberculosis; diarrhea; heart disease, and stroke.

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write, and only six percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!"

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the entire USA.

Without retyping, this message will be forwarded to others in a matter of seconds. If you are old enough to appreciate that marvel, you'll agree that it's impossible to imagine what it may be like in another100 years!


Did you know ... that in 2002, "Spider-Man" became the first movie to make more than $100 million in its first weekend. It was released on Friday, May 3, 2002, and quickly became the fastest movie ever to earn more than $100 million at the box office, raking in a staggering $114.8 million by Sunday, May 5.

Marilyn Magid sends this story


A lady goes to the bar on a cruise ship and orders a Scotch with two drops of water.  As the bartender gives her the drink, she says, "I'm on this cruise to celebrate my 80th birthday, and it's today."

The bartender says, "Well, since it's your birthday, I'll buy you a drink. In fact, this one is on me."

As the woman finishes her drink, the woman to her right says, "I would like to buy you a drink too."

The old woman says, "Thank you. Bartender, I want a Scotch with two drops of water."

"Coming up," says the bartender.

As she finishes that drink, the man to her left says, "I would like to buy you one too."

The old woman says, "Thank you. Bartender, I want another Scotch with two drops of water."

"Coming right up," the bartender says. 

As he gives her the drink, he says, "Ma'am, I'm dying of curiosity. Why the Scotch with only two drops of water?"

The old woman replies, "Sonny, when you're my age, you've learned how to hold your liquor.... Holding your water, however, is a whole other issue."

Catherine Nesbitt forwards these hints for


Two engineering students were biking across a university campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?" 

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want.'" 

The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, "Good choice, The clothes probably wouldn't have fit you anyway."

To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!" 

The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such inept golf!"

The priest said, "Here comes the green-keeper. Let's have a word with him." He said, "Hello, George. What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The green-keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime." 

The group fell silent for a moment. The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there's anything she can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"

What is the difference between  mechanical engineers  and civil engineers? Mechanical engineers build weapons; civil engineers build targets.

The graduate with a science degree asks, "Why does it work?" The graduate with an engineering degree asks, "How does it work?" The graduate with an accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?" The graduate with an arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

An engineer was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." 

He bent over, picked up the frog, and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn back into a beautiful princess and stay with you for one week." 

The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it, and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want." 

Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?" 

The engineer said, "Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog - now that's cool."


Barbara Wear forwards this link to “one of the best armchair travel videos” she has ever seen. She has visited all the places shown in Iceland:

Catherine Nesbitt sends the URL for a video showing Dubai through the eyes of a camera strapped to an eagle, whose only interest in the flight was finding its trainer on the ground below:

Jay Sansum sends this link to a video which shows 14 useful tool hacks, some of which he will use:

Tom Telfer forwards this link to a story of 17-year-old Malyk Bonne, who went to extraordinary lengths to aid the escape of a woman who had been abducted by her ex-boyfriend earlier this month in Montreal:

Tom also sends the URL for an animated photorealistic recap of the moon landing, composed of thousands of photos from NASA's Apollo missions:

Zvonko Springer forwards these links to excellent videos of spectacular scenery and interesting events:


Jeffery Lew, a Seattle parent, created a gofundme account with the goal of raising $21,000 to cover the outstanding school lunch bills for families throughout the district:

After last week's massive ransomware cyber attack, this CARP site tells you how to stay safe online and protect your personal information:

From NotAllNewsIsBad comes this story of the Rescue Express, one of dozens of organizations in the US which transport animals from euthanasia shelters to the Pacific Northwest, where they help them to find new homes:


Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.  

- Francis of Assisi


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