The Official Newspaper for Foster County

Articles written by Tom Purcell


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  • Guest: A hairy situation for balding men

    Tom Purcell|Jul 15, 2024

    As our country goes to pot, I find myself more focused on personal matters, such as this hopeful item I read on MSN.com: Researchers have identified a molecule called osteopontin, which is a potential game-changer for people who are losing their hair. That’s good news for fellows like me, whose hair has been slowly receding for years. For most of human history, you see, the roles of men and women were clearly defined. Since basic survival was so difficult, the division of labor was very clear a...

  • Guest: How air conditioning changed politics and world

    Tom Purcell|Jul 1, 2024

    Thank God Willis Haviland Carrier invented air conditioning — for the most part. Before air conditioning, the heat drove us outside and brought us together. Friends sought the shade of trees or a refreshing dip in a lake or river. On the hottest nights, whole families brought their blankets and pillows to riverbanks, where it was cool. In the evening, neighbors sat on their large front porches, enjoying a cool breeze as they sipped lemonade and told stories. Even in the 1970s, when I was a k...

  • Father's Day: A 1974 plumbing disaster

    Tom Purcell|Jun 17, 2024

    In 1974, when I was 11, I flushed an apple core down the toilet. You see, my father had remodeled our basement into a family room with a powder room. Always looking to save a buck — he had six kids to feed on one income — he bought the cheapest toilet he could find. It never did work right, and since we couldn’t afford a plumber, my father spent much of his spare time unclogging it. Armed with this knowledge, then, it’s remarkable I did what I did. One Sunday morning, after chomping on a large...

  • Guest: Memories of my free-range childhood

    Tom Purcell|Jun 3, 2024

    It was the first time in my childhood I had an excuse for coming home late for dinner, but nobody — not even the cops — would listen. In the summer of 1972, when I was 10, Tommy Gillen and I built a dam in the creek on the other side of the Horning Road railroad tunnel. We’d been building up the dam for days to create our own three-foot pool in which we chased after crayfish and minnows — our own cool spot to while away the hot summer afternoons. We’d just completed adding another row of blocks...

  • Guest: Honoring family members of those who serve

    Tom Purcell|May 27, 2024

    Ida Ayres never served a day in the armed forces, but at 95, she knows plenty about the sacrifices of war. “Through six wars, I have been the daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother of family members who served, or are serving, their country,” Ida told me. During World War I, Ida’s father, Sam DiRenna, fought for the Italian army. DiRenna, who was born in a small town near Naples, was captured by the Germans and spent 13 months in a concentration camp. The German’s branded his forehea...

  • Guest: Mothers - teaching the art of laughter

    Tom Purcell|May 13, 2024

    My mother would have been considered eccentric had she been financially wealthy. She would do almost anything - and wear almost any silly costume - to bring joy into the lives of others, much to the embarrassment of her six children. But she is wealthy in the ways that really matter, and her greatest wealth is teaching the art of laughter. She knew the benefits of laughter long before scientific studies confirmed them. When she wasn't laughing herself, she was teaching us how to. Most nights...

  • Guest: A good month to prevent distracted driving

    Tom Purcell|Apr 22, 2024

    “It wasn’t my fault the car in front of me hit me. I glanced at my text message for only a second when our bumpers collided.” “How could the car in front of you hit you?” “The idiot stopped to let a deer cross the street — and dented my front bumper with his rear bumper. Yet the cops wrote me up for texting while driving!” “It’s because of people like you that April has become National Distracted Driving Awareness Month! Safety advocates are urging drivers like you to avoid texting or watching...

  • Guest: Making the best of the common cold

    Tom Purcell|Jan 15, 2024

    I forgot what it was like to experience a good old common cold. Prior to covid, you see, the cold-getting experience went like this: I’d wake with a stuffy nose and scratchy throat and my only thought was to curse the gods for visiting a new virus cocktail on me that was going to make me cranky for nine days. I remember at first denying that a cold virus was feasting on me, then, as the hacking got bad, I moved on to the anger stage before finally accepting my fate that the miserable common cold...

  • Guest: A win-win New Year's resolution

    Tom Purcell|Jan 1, 2024

    Here’s a great New Year’s resolution: get a pet. As we wrap up a very inflationary 2023, pet shelters across the country are at maximum capacity and they don’t have room to house the pets people are turning in. ABC News reports that animals entering shelters began to climb in 2021. During the covid pandemic, you see, many people adopted pets, but as they began to go back to the workplace, some decided they no longer wanted to care for a pet, so they turned them back in. The past year was signi...

  • Guest: How to restore the gift of giving

    Tom Purcell|Dec 11, 2023

    Here’s an unpleasant holiday statistic: Average Americans are giving significantly less to their favorite charities this year than they did just four or five years ago. Average Americans have long been among the most generous people on Earth. But this year, thanks to an economy disrupted by COVID, soaring interest rates and three years of high inflation, many are unable to give. Americans are hurting in their pocketbooks. This past year credit-card debt jumped faster than ever before in history,...

  • Guest: Tipping demands have gotten out of control

    Tom Purcell|Dec 4, 2023

    With every purchase you make — at coffee shops, fast food restaurants, chain stores and more – you are presented with a digital payment screen that asks you to leave a tip. On one hand you feel guilted into leaving a tip, because the person who just rang up your purchase is staring directly at you. On the other hand, you wonder how in the world did we get to a place in which workers in so many different roles – even plumbers and mechanics – are suddenly expecting extra money just for doing their...

  • Guest: Footing our growing debt service bill

    Tom Purcell|Nov 27, 2023

    Well, that didn’t take as long as expected. In case you missed it, our federal government is now estimated to pay more than $1 trillion a year to service just the interest on our national debt — about $200 billion more than we spend on our military or Medicare. Why are we suddenly paying so much? Because the cost to service our debt has doubled in the past 19 months as annual federal deficits balloon and high interest rates make borrowing more expensive. The origin of this “sudden” problem...

  • Guest: A stylish way to improve men's health

    Tom Purcell|Nov 6, 2023

    Hopefully, the rugged beard I’ve been sporting will motivate at least one of my fellow men to take better care of his health this November. Every November, you see, two charitable organizations, Movember and No-Shave November, raise funds by encouraging men to not cut or shave their facial hair. Both organizations have made November an enjoyable month for we men to share photos of our thickening mustaches, beards and other long hair. The idea is to get men thinking and talking about mental h...

  • Guest: We need a rebirth of empathy

    Tom Purcell|Oct 16, 2023

    When I read a news piece about the passing of longtime California senator Dianne Feinstein a few weeks ago, some of the comments left at the bottom of the online article made me sad. Feinstein suffered a very public health decline before she passed. Anyone with the slightest sense of empathy would think “there but for the grace of God go I” — as every one of us could suffer a similar decline before our time finally comes. Empathy is in short supply these days, however. I don’t recall the exact w...

  • Guest: The president's dogs that bite people

    Tom Purcell|Oct 9, 2023

    President Biden is being dogged by a unique White House problem. About a week ago, Biden’s German Shepherd, Commander, bit a secret service officer — Commander’s 11th secret-service-officer biting since he moved to the White House in December of 2021. Commander must have been following the paw prints of Major, Biden’s previous German Shepherd, whose biting appetite included secret service agents, technicians and at least one National Park employee. At one point, Major bit an unlucky governm...

  • Guest: Love and honesty will get us through

    Tom Purcell|Oct 2, 2023

    It was a family event for the ages. Last weekend, my family traveled to Gettysburg to attend my nephew’s wedding. I drove my mother down Friday so she could participate in the rehearsal. We had a wonderful drive talking about a variety of things, mostly stories about my father, who we lost last year. After the rehearsal, we attended a welcome party, where we had great fun catching up with my cousins and other family members. The room was filled with intense joy. Every person there was e...

  • Guest: A small home is a happy home

    Tom Purcell|Sep 4, 2023

    Houses are getting smaller again — which is going to make many Americans happier. Americans faced with high mortgage rates and a shortage of affordable homes for sale are opting for new, smaller homes that do not have dining rooms, living rooms, spare bedrooms and even bathtubs, reports the Wall Street Journal. Builders are building smaller homes partly to give cost-constrained buyers a more affordable option. But it’s mostly because it’s the only way home builders can turn a reasonable profit,...

  • Guest: Paying attention pays off

    Tom Purcell|Aug 21, 2023

    Declining attention spans have reached epidemic levels. That’s what Adam Brown, co-director of the Center for Attention, Learning and Memory at St. Bonaventure University in New York, tells Time. That’s certainly the case with me. As I struggled to write the first three paragraphs of this column, I searched autotrader.com for a new car I don’t need or want; searched Facebook Marketplace for lakefront vacation homes I can’t afford; and visited Amazon.com to order more expensive treats for my...

  • Guest: A/C hasn't only made life cooler

    Tom Purcell|Jul 31, 2023

    As a heat wave hits America from coast to coast, it’s hot outside — but cool inside, thanks to the triumph of air conditioning. For most of human history, there was little people could do to avoid heat. During the day, it drove people outside of their homes to enjoy the shade of a tree or to take a refreshing dip in a lake or river. At night, folks in cities slept outside on their porches, roofs and even fire escapes. When I was a kid in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, few homes had air con...

  • Guest: The lost freedom of bike hikes

    Tom Purcell|Jul 24, 2023

    I dream of recreating some of the epic bike hikes I enjoyed as a kid back in the 1970s. My used Murray five-speed spyder-bike with the high handlebars only cost 25 bucks, but it was one of the coolest bikes of the age. Man, I loved that bike. During the long summer days, I rode with a group of kids. We’d ride for two or three hours in the county park, then make our way to McDonald’s for an orange drink and apple pie, which I paid for by borrowing a handful of coins out of my dad’s penny jar. It...

  • Guest: Dodging increasing crime rates

    Tom Purcell|Jul 17, 2023

    People are getting so used to increasing crime rates in cities across America, an etiquette is evolving between some muggers and their victims. I learned about this while I walked with my friend and his wife from a Washington, D.C., pub to their home six blocks from the Hill. “When you get mugged, there are certain rules you must follow,” said my friend’s wife, walking at a fast gait. “WHEN I get mugged?” I said, trying to keep up with her. “She’s right,” chimed in my friend. “Muggers are of...

  • Guest: A collaborative way to celebrate July 4

    Tom Purcell|Jul 3, 2023

    The Fourth of July has always held a special power over me. I love the hot dogs and burgers and my mother’s delicious potato salad. Mostly, though, I’ve always cherished the great gatherings of family and friends that culminate with spectacular fireworks displays that light up the dark summer sky. I knew as a kid that on July 4 we were celebrating our many freedoms, which we earned by gaining independence from the British during the Revolutionary War, and which we cemented with the creation of...

  • Guest: Good luck paying Uncle Sam's debt

    Tom Purcell|Jun 26, 2023

    The national debt broke the $32 trillion barrier this week. It’s a number so huge it’s incomprehensible to the average citizen. We knew $32 trillion was coming. It just got here a lot faster than the money experts thought, thanks to the roughly $5 trillion that the feds spent to help people and businesses withstand the many blows inflicted by Covid-19 and lockdowns. If you are a good citizen who’d like to gift a few bucks to the federal government to help pay down the national debt, you need...

  • Guest: Fathers Day - Lucky to be my father's son

    Tom Purcell|Jun 19, 2023

    Modern dads are portrayed as fools in television sitcoms and commercials. Lucky for me, they are the polar opposite of the loving, strong and decisive father who raised me. Over the years, as I clogged a toilet with an apple core, shattered a picture window with a baseball and hit a golf ball through a neighbor’s window, he had only one thing to say: “Son of a !!!” He always fixed the things I broke — once he found his tools, which I was forever losing. He often found them lying in the yard af...

  • Guest: A personal salute to Flag Day

    Tom Purcell|Jun 12, 2023

    It’s long past time for me to put a flagpole in the center of my front yard – one that holds a large American flag that dances proudly in the summer breeze. We bought such a flagpole for my father on his 70th birthday, shortly after he and my mother moved into a new house with a stately front yard. He was proud of his flag – with good reason. He was born during the Great Depression. As a boy, he was immersed in our country’s great unified effort to defeat mighty foes during World War II. He...

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