Monday, July 28, 2008

Losing weight with Ice Cream at Gatsbees Worlds Fair Soda Fountain

Three questions I’ve been hearing a lot lately:

1. When are you going to start your weight loss contest? (This is very unfortunate, because I started two weeks ago…which makes that question a little demoralizing.)

2. Why did you have a weight loss contest at a Soda Fountain?

3. And the old favorite: Why don’t you have any money?

I’m not going to dignify the first with an answer; however, whenever I get asked in person, I do respond with “When are you going to get your eyes examined?”

After the first week of the weight loss contest, however, the Gargantuan Gang of 15 had in fact lost over 120 pounds. For full results, check my blog:

Now to the second and third questions: Interestingly, the answers are about the same.

The Soda Fountain referred to is Gatsbees Worlds Fair Soda Fountain, a project I began about a year ago.

And I don’t have money, because I simply don’t…. some folks assume that I do, but it’s not true, as my friends, employees, and business associates can attest.

In the movie “Hello, Dolly”, there’s something along the lines of “Money is like fertilizer. You’re supposed to spread it around to make things grow”. I happen to believe that. Whenever I occasionally come across a little tad of money – emphasis on “tad” -- I try to put it to a good use. For instance, I think having this small community newspaper you’re reading is good for our community, because it helps neighbors get to know their neighbors and keep up with their local community. And it gives small local businesses and advertisers a way to compete with the big boys. So, years ago, I started putting all my “tads” of money into beginning this newspaper… and a few others in communities which needed newspapers of their own. Which sorta explains why I don’t have any money!!

A couple years ago, I came up with another idea which I felt might make a positive difference, and some of you have been watching this idea grow before your very eyes.

Like many of you, I worry about the decline in our society. I long for the good-ol- days. As the younger generation rushes toward the impersonal, fast-paced new world of the Internet, cell phones, fast food, shopping malls, and digital TV and music, I’m concerned that neighbors no longer have the time to get to know their neighbors.

It doesn’t feel right.

Whatever happened to slowing down, taking a few hours off, and just relaxing with friends or family?

It was a little over two years ago that an inspiration came to me:

What if there WAS such a place… like the good-old-days… old-timey and nostalgic. I remembered the Soda Fountains that were once the central gathering place for EVERY small town in America. Soda Fountains were where families gathered, neighbors met neighbors, and things were a lot simpler.

After looking around, I discovered that TRUE soda fountains… where beverages were mixed by hand almost any way you wanted one…. were totally a thing of the past in America. (Most of the soft drink machine company reps told me they didn’t even know you COULD make a cola without their fancy machines.) The leisurely, neighborly soda fountains which were once the fabric of our nation have long since been replaced by fast food chain restaurants. A great part of life was missing.

Frankly, I became fascinated with the concept of bringing back soda fountains to a new generation of Americans…. And for the last two years, have worked to develop the concept.

Along the way, we discovered that it was really about a lot more than the drinks, treats, and ice cream. It’s about having a family-friendly place to spend time, relax, and get to know your neighbors again.

For over a year now, Gatsbees Worlds Fair Soda Fountain has been “unofficially” open as we’ve looked for ways to re-invent the soda fountain. We’re still not quite there yet…. But we’re getting closer, assembling our management team, and are hopeful of having our Grand Opening soon.

In the meantime, I want to personally invite anyone and everyone to drop by, check us out, and help us by giving your ideas and suggestions. We’re open Thursday through Sunday from 11am until 9pm, and will be open other times by appointments for catering, private parties, meetings and special events. We’re located at 7585 St. Andrews Road in Irmo (behind the Lizard’s Thicket and beside Carolina Wings.) For more information, you can visit

Frankly, I’d like your help to make this small dream of mine a success. And maybe, with your help, we’ll bring back a bit of Americana that can make the world just a little friendlier, happier place for all of us.

As always, I thank you for your support.

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Got something on your mind? Want to complain about my 10 year old picture? Just want to fuss at somebody today? Got ideas or suggestions? Send them to me via electric email: Or, for the Internet savvy, just post’em to my internet blog:

The Big Race Weight Loss Contest UPDATE

Week of July 27th, after almost two weeks of the seven week contest.

Here are the unofficial standings:

Listed by name; starting weight; pounds lost so far:

Don Gawrys

Barry Walker

Rod Lorick

Kirk Luther

Bruce Holland

Robert Wessinger

Jim Miles

Terry Campbell

Mike Andrews

Lewis Gossett

John Wentzell

Joe Kennedy

Rod Shealy

Shirley Towne
Our mascot

R.J. Shealy

We're unofficially weighing in each week at Gatsbees. We'll keep you posted!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Race is On!!!

The race is on!

Yes, the long awaited race is on.

Well… if you can call 15 fat guys waddling along a RACE. (Or to be exact, 14 fat guys, and our lovely and charming mascot, Shirley.)

As you may have read earlier in one of these recent columns, the time has come for our Next Great Almost Annual Weight Loss Challenge Invitational Competition.

In all, fifteen brave souls answered the call for competition, collectively representing the approximate gross tonnage of a nuclear submarine. (With luck, after the contest, it will be closer to a HumVee tank.)

We kicked off our little informal contest last Tuesday, June 15th with an official weigh-in at Gatsbees World’s Fair Soda Fountain. As a side note, I offered each participate in an on-the-house free treat before the weight-in – choice of ice cream, sundae, hot dog, hamburger, soda, popcorn, cotton candy, their choice – as sort of a last meal before the diets began. (It also broke us: biggest single day loss in the history of Gatsbees!)

Everybody kicked in 100 American Buckos into the pot, with the winners taking all: half to the total weight loser, and half to the biggest percentage loser. (We had the lawyer in the group hold onto half of the money we paid in advance… probably demonstrating the incredibly bad judgment, which got us into our poundage and plumpness predicaments in the first place.)

The initial weigh-ins ranged from John Wentzell’s measly 209.4 – we all think he’s just in the contest to see how the over-half lives – to the whopping 381.2 reported by Northeast Columbia resident Don Gawrys, better known as the Store Manager of Michaels Arts and Crafts.

Scattered in between those weigh-in numbers -- along with my editorial comments -- were:

Jim Miles – Former S.C. Secretary of State, weighing in at 234.2, who I know has no will-power. Good luck.

Barry Walker – Irmo Councilman, better known as proprietor of Mac’s on Main, who has cleverly offered free Peach Cobbler to any of his co-contestants during the contest. I suspect strategery at work. Fat Back registered a 327.2.

Bruce Holland – the only lawyer in the group, and therefore the one holding the cash. He weighed in at 238.2, so he’s not really likely to win. (Please keep you eyes on this guy for us.)

Joe Kennedy – came to us directly from working out at his gym. He was already down 20 pounds from an earlier weight loss effort. His guy doesn’t have a clue about the “eat first, diet later” startegy of how to will a weigh loss contest. Weight: 217.8

Rod Shealy, Jr. – Junior has joined his dad – me -- in this contest for the third year in row. Like Joe, he seems to have a little dexterity when it comes to calcuting the math part for winning a weight-loss contest. Weigh in: 217.6

Robert Wessinger -- Robert’s a Real Estate guy, but he seemed to have a little bit of DoNut belly left over from his career as a Lexington County Deputy. At 251.0, he could be a contender.

Rod Lorick – Of the Cayce-West Columbia News, a well known golfer who asserts himself to be the Greatest Living Athlete in Cayce-West Columbia. But he also asserts himself to be the winner of this conntest. Ha! There’s a reason you weigh 312.2.

Shirley Towne – Our Mascot, who the guys all fell in love with. As the only female in the contest, we’re withholding the information we share on the others. Let’s just call her healthy… and BY FAR the prettiest person in this contest.

Lewis Gossett – Former director of SC LLR, now director of some sort of big deal business group. His weigh of 247.6 is deceptive, because it would be a lot more if he had any hair at all.

Kirk Luther -- Weighing in at 236.2, Business Manager and partner in this very newspaper, the reigning champ, but Not Necessarily Expected to Win Again.

Terry Campbell -- An Insurance Executive Extraordinaire who should have been able to calculate his 0% odds of winning. He weighed in at 241.6. To increase his odds, he wanted the contest date to contain his lucky number 7. Hence, the contest period is exactly 7 weeks, ending on Sept. 2. (Hate to tell you, buddy, but lucky numbers don’t help much in a weight loss contest: but pushing away from the Mexican buffet last Saturday would have!)

Mike Andrews: He’s the Tune-Up King from Bob Andrews Motors, and is tipping the scales at 282.4, making him one of the statistical favorites for this competition. Unfortunately, he suffers many of the aforementioned afflictions: a) counting on lucky numbers b) the will-power of at gnat; and c) suffering the delusion that he still looks like he looked 20 years ago, which face it, wasn’t that great even then, unless there was lots of alcohol involved.

And then there’s me: Your Publisher, and the actual eventual winner of this contest. I’d truly like to share more details about my weight, condition, and strategy… but would you look at this, we’re all out of time for this week.

But we’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lake Murray Memories

We’re approaching the hottest part of summer, a period of time which is often referred to as “Dog Days”… mainly because is too hot to do anything except lay around like a dog. (I make that up. I really have no idea why it’s called “Dog Days”. I try to make up and publish a new and different theory every year, just to give myself something to do during the time period.)

There’s really nothing much that is suitable to do during Dog Days. It’s a bad time to take up salsa lessons. It’s not the right time for hog-wrasling. Wrong season for duck-hunting. TV reruns are dwindling down. Loitering on Main Street has been outlawed in most jurisdictions.

There is, however, one pastime that was practically MADE for Dog Days. It’s SWIMMING!

Just about everybody grew up going swimming somewhere… in a favorite lake, pond, or watering hole. For me, that favorite place was good old Lake Murray… way back before it was what it has become these days.

Back in the early 1960’s, my watering hole was still in its infancy. It had only been around for 30 years… far younger that its current age of nearly 80 years. There were lots of landings which dotted the shores of the lake, but not very many houses.

We may not have lived at the lake as many do now, but that didn’t stop us from driving to the lake every Sunday afternoon after church.

My family had a place at the lake – a place, not house – where a dozen families would congregate on weekends.

Just thinking back to those days brings back a lot of memories:

-- Do you remember that you could never go at into the water for an hour after you ate lunch? (I think it would cause some sort of “cramps” if you swam too soon after eating.)

-- The boats were a lot different then than they are now. Back then, the boat was powered by a 25 horsepower Johnson which was started by putting a rope… over and over until it finally cranked. Of course, it was an out-board, because what else would it be?

-- The swimming entertainment device of choice was a flotation implement known as an “inner tube”. You could choose your inner-tube in any color you wanted, as long as it was black.

-- Did I ever tell you that I learned to water-ski without a boat? True story! Like most folks, we did not own a boat in the early days… but we did have a set of waterskis and a couple of ropes, and Dad wanted me to learn to ski. So, he had me tie the ropes together and doggie-paddle myself out as far as I could go. Meanwhile, Dad would tie the other end of the ropes to the back of his…… drum-roll, please…… bbbbpppummmm, pbbbbppppummm, bbbbpppummm…. Buick convertible!!!! If I’m lying, I’m dying! I learned to ski begin a Buick. Dad would drive the car along the store as far as he could, and I would manage to get up on skis for a few yards…. Then do it all over again.

-- I actually have a similar true story about how a learned to swim a year or so earlier, less than 10 yards from where I learned to ski. Before learned to swim, quite by accident, I was a confirmed life-jacket man. I never went anywhere without that bright orange appendage strapped around my torso… except when I was out of the water for an hour during lunch-time. The pimento cheese sandwiches and vienna sausages only took about 30 seconds to scarf down…. But the adult mandated “hour” before returning to the water seemed to take FOREVER. It was torture. We kids could hardly wait until we heard the “OK” signal to get back into water. It was a mad rush off the deep-end of the dock, back into the depths of cool, refreshing, summertime lake water!!! And it was during one such frantic, as-soon-as-possible dash back into the deep end that this six year old neglected to grab a life-jacket before plunging into the depths, and thus decided that it was time to teach myself to swim!

-- I called it a dock. It was not really a dock by today’s standards. It was a home-made ramp, with a coupled sheets of plywood on top, some planks along the sides, and four 55-gallon metal drums lashed together to keep it all afloat. It worked fined until the drums sprung a leak. But until then, you could float it along the lake, anywhere you wanted to go…. Huck Finn style… all the way to the other side of the lake, if you could figure how to get back. I was a lot like having your own boat, without the boat.

Things have changed a lot at my favorite watering-hole, Lake Murray. But it’s still a good way to spend some time during Dog Days.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Report from Vacation Week

I’m back from vacation, and I thought I would give you a quick report.

Really, there’s absolutely no good reason I should be giving you a “report” from my annual vacation. As if it could possibly matter to anyone else in the world!!!

But… I just got back into town from vacation a couple of days ago, and I’m trying to string it out as long as possible. Also, I need to write about something to fill my space, so a “report from my vacation” is as good as anything. (The bar is actually not very high, as you probably already know. The topics I typically write about are along the lines of “Did I tell you about the time I trimmed my toe nails” or “I really need to lose some weight: I’m a Big Fat Giant Hippo Pig Whale”.)

This vacation did, in fact, have a bit of drama: A young girl swimming at North Litchfield Beach, just a few hundred feet from where I swam, was apparently bitten by a shark… a few hours after I left for home. And although I was long gone and heard about it later on the TV news, I still consider it to be High Adventure… possibly even “My Brush With Destiny!”

My REAL true life animal adventure for the week was nearly as harrowing: Raccoons attacked our garbage can during the night… less than 80 feet from where we were sleeping, two floors above the ground behind a triple-bolted door. I could have been seriously frightened… had I not been sound asleep, enjoying a REM cycle that wouldn’t have been disturbed by a Mack truck driving though my bedroom.

Not to take any chances, however, we left the garbage bag on the upstairs screen porch the following night. Better safe than sorry, we figured. I’d hate to become one of those raccoon-attack statistics who you always hear about on the news from places like Australia and California, but never think it will happen to you!

Turns out, raccoons are wiley.

About midnight, we heard the screen-door slamming. Our worst fears were being realized: we were facing a raccoon attack! The rodent had figured out that the garbage was being stored, not in the garbage can, but on the upstairs porch… and had made its way up the stairs and onto the porch…. managing to open a closed screen-door along the way! Crafty devil!

When we summoned up the courage to venture out onto the porch, the wascally-wodent scampered up into the ceiling, out of our reach. And, within an hour or so, he had signaled the “coast-is-clear” alarm to a couple of his friends: an opossum and a fellow raccoon. The three of them were having a big time terrorizing the tourists… which was me! You couldn’t ask for more hair-raising horror if Stephen King suddenly appeared.

So, anyway, now you’ve heard the highlights from my vacation: missed the shark, but saw the rodents.

If it sounds boring…. yes, perhaps it was, which was fine with me, because my sole objective for the entire week of vacation was simple “taking naps”!

I took lots of naps.

Naps in the evening. Naps in the morning. Naps in the afternoon.

I took breaks from my naps so I could take more naps.

It was wonderful.

I heard some of my relatives talking about exercising during vacation. But not me. Exercise would have interfered with my naps.

The result of spending a full week of vacation wherein your most strenuous activity is searching the Internet to learn the feeding patterns of various rodents is simple: you get FAT. Which I did, during my week of vacation napping at various locales adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, of course, its time for the other shoe to drop, figuratively speaking. (Did I mention that I wore flip-flops for an entire week during vacation, literally speaking?)

The other shoe is the DIET. I have fattened myself up very nicely. (Did I mention that I’m a Big Fat Giant Hippo Pig Whale?) Now its time to drop those pounds like an off-key Idol contestant.

Which means its time again for the Next Annual Semi-Organized Weight Loss Competition… the same one I mentioned a few weeks ago in anticipation of leaving for vacation.

So far, we have 10 willing contestants who have answered the call, but there’s still room for YOU. (Actually, there’s only room for you if we all meet in a very large room. For that matter, there’s only room for ME in a large room anymore.)

I won’t bore you with the details of the coming weight loss contest. I already did that sufficiently during the raccoon story, I believe.

Rather, I will direct you to my Automatic Electronic Internet Blog -- – and let you read the details for yourself. However, I will let you know that we’re planning to kick off the contest on Tuesday, July 15th with our official beginning weigh-in… at which time we’ll figure out the rest of the still-somewhat fuzzy contest details among ourselves.

If you’d like to join the pain, agony, and misery of a public weight loss contest, let me know. Email me at, and we’ll count you in.

But I’m not begging. I’m not trying to force you to join us… although I think it’s pretty obvious you need to. This time, I’m not even taunting you with insulting comments about your girth (did I mention I thought a saw a whale at the ocean?), the size of your behind (how many hogs do you reckon were BBQ’d for July 4th), or the fact that the shade created when you stand outside could be one of the long-term solutions for our global warming crisis.

And, by the way, have you ever noticed how a raccoon waddles when he’s climbing up a post?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Taking a Nap... For America!

Happy Birthday, America.

To celebrate the 232nd anniversary of the Independence of our Nation, I’m taking a nap! Lot’s of them!! And I recommend that you do the same!

Actually, I’m celebrating The Fourth of July by spending a whole, entire week on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, roughly in the locale of North Litchfield Beach, just north of Pawley’s and south of Murrell’s Inlet. It’s my annual family vacation with the in-laws.

Before leaving for the coast, I had made plans that this year’s vacation would consist of three major activities: 1) Eating 2) Drinking; and 3) Napping.

But, having arrived at my destination, I decided to narrow the primary activity for the week to: Just Napping. It’s my personal tribute to Independence Day.

For sure, I’ve already partaken in a few other activities. By the time I had been here a full day, I had already participated in: Swimming. Sunning. Reading. Eating. Drinking. Games. Conversation. Listening to the Rain. Three trips to the Bi-Lo. And, of course, at this very moment… writing this column. But I’ve made a firm commitment to not let anything get in the way of my napping this week. I’m dedicated to it. To celebrate our nation.

At an early age, I learned the old adage that “anything worth doing is worth doing well”. I think that includes “napping”. “Do your best”, they taught me in Boy Scouts.

So I’m trying to do the best job possible at napping this week. Call me a patriot.

During my first day of vacation, I was admittedly not really dedicated to it. I simply spent the whole day catching as many naps as possible. Four to be exact. There was not particular rhyme or reason… no specific strategy.

By the second day of vacation, however, I realized I could do better. Four naps may seem okay… but that’s merely quantity, not necessarily quality. I resolved to spend a little time not only taking naps, but also studying the subject to increase my knowledge about the fine art of napping. After all, I’m doing it for America.

I was disheartened to discover that there does not seem to be a great body of knowledge about the subject. Apparently, napping is a field of study that science and academia has largely overlooked.

No problem. I just anointed myself to be an expert, and jotted down my own notes on the subject. (It’s the least I can do for the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.)

Following are a few of my early findings during my preliminary research on this most important topic:

-- The five best locations for naps are, in descending order: 5) Floor 4) Couch 3) Chaise lounge 2) Lazyboy recliner 1) Hammock (Note that “bed” is disqualified from this assessment due to unclear lines between “napping” and “sleeping”.)

-- Quality naps are directly related to air temperature. Both heat and cool can be quality naps. For instance, napping in the sun on the seashore is a high-quality nap… but so is coming in from the heat to nap on the couch in the air conditioning!

-- The three worst places to take a nap, based on my own past personal experiences are: 3) Airport waiting area; very similar to napping inside an airplane. (For that matter, most forms of public transportation are lousy places to nap. Don’t ask me how I know.) 2) The dentist chair. True story… I once napped during a cleaning. That’s possibly when I first realized I had a gift for napping. 1) At the office. Head down on your desk is a poor-quality nap, just like it was in high school trigonometry class 35 years ago.

-- All naps are not created equal. Excluding vacation naps, the optimal times for naps are a) weekends; b) mid-afternoon; and c) after meals, especially lunch. (An example of a less-desirable nap would be the “early morning roll-over”, when you’re trying to catch a few extra winks, but you know it's almost time for the alarm clock to go off.)

-- Optimal conditions for naps are: a) after a meal, especially the afore-mentioned lunch; b) during a rain storm; and c) with the TV on. (My personal favorite TV shows for drifting off are The History Channel, American Movie Classics, and, of course, the old reliable, CSPN2.)

-- Napping is seasonal. Holidays are the highest rated, along with vacations, both of which we refer to as “special occasion naps”. Other than the special occasions, the top napping seasons are summer, when it’s hot; and winter, when it’s cold. Winter napping generally requires a fireplace, while summer napping allows for greater diversity (i.e. – hammock, swimming pool, beach, ceiling fan, etc.). Autumn napping is also highly regarded, although it seems narrowly limited to football weekends on couches.

I trust you will find this brief overview of napping useful, and I hope it may, in some small way, add to your enjoyment this holiday weekend.

I know I will feel much better about the many, many naps I’ll be enjoying during the remainder of my week, comforted in the knowledge that I am doing my best. It’s the least I can do to show my patriotic pride.