Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Whistle

In a recent blog, I recalled the nine o'clock Curfew Whistle.

Indeed, the whistle did strike fear and terror in all the kids under eighteen years old.

But the other two times when the residents of Nanticoke heard the whistle, the warning it was sending was more terrifying than just the nine o'clock warning.

The whistle also alerted volunteer firefighters as to the location of a fire within the city limits.

Three long blasts followed by six short blasts signaled the number 36.

The number 36 indicated the corner of Church and Fairchild streets, where I lived.

Even more terrifying were those long, long, continuous blasts that announced some sort of life threatening news coming from the colliery.

Those long blasts indcated a cave in, fire, or explosion, not unlike the events that hapened in the first quarter of 2006 inWest Virginia.

The sound of that whistle still haunts me today, 50 years after leaving Nanticoke.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What Does It Matter Anyways?

Thank you to "What Does It Matter Anyways? for commenting on my latest post.

My learned scholar writes:

Hey "Expletive Deleted", as usual, you've gotten it ALL WRONG, the 'proof is in the Pudding'? WRONG...The actual expression is..and most, like you, get it wrong...'The proof in the Pudding is in the TASTING...'

I appreciate constructive criticism because I learn from it.

Actually, what I learned is that the expression goes, "The proof in the pudding is in the eating."

At least that's the way it appeared in "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes and how The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language refers to the expression.

I'm also hoping my scholarly friend used the word, "anyways" to point out that it is as incorrect as "The proof is in the putting." Surely, everyone knows the correct word is "anyway."

The Proof is in the Putting

No. This is not about golf!

I know. Everyone says, "The Proof is in the Pudding."

But I needed a way to wrap-up the motivational speech I advertise on my coal miner website, that last week attracted a unique audience.

The audience included unemployed and under-employed professionals who came to hear me explain how "How I Found Gold in a Coal Mine" and how they could too.

In practicing this speech, I kept wondering if these people would really put into practice some of the ideas I was sharing with them.

Then, isnspiration, or maybe desperation, struck.

I started playing with the idea of "putting some of these ideas to work" and, somehow, continued to return to the phrase, "The Proof is in the Pudding."

And with a little twist, I came up with the following:

The Proof is in the "Putting"

Are you going to put your money where your mouth is
Or are you going to put your foot in your mouth?

Are you going to put your foot down on fear and procrastination
Or are you going to put your feet up and let success come to you?

And are you going to put your best foot forward?
Or are you just putting on the Ritz?

Are you going to try to put your finger on it
Or are you going to put your whole heart into it?

Are you going to put all your ducks in a row and
All you eggs in one basket before you put it all together?

Are you going to put off until tomorrow
What you should be putting into action today?

Are you putting fourth your best effort or
Putting first your best effort?

Are you going to put some of these ideas to work for you
Or are you going to put them on the back burner?

The Proof is in the Putting
And the Putting is up to you.
Success in not in wishing,
It's found in what you do.

Copyright 2006 Al Borowski All rights reserved.

Should you be putting this message in the hands of someone you know?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Life Long Learning Lesson From a Man with a Third Grade Education

At 6 p.m. every evening, the door to my father’s bar would open, and in would walk John Sirera.

Everyone called him "Pancho."

"Pancho" came to America from Spain to work in the coal mines. He spoke in very broken English. But the one phrase, he always repeated is something I will never forget.

I will not forget it because those words were packed with wisdom and truth.

From the time I was in eighth grade, until I graduated from college, Pancho’s words were ingrained in my very being.

"You don’ (pronounced with a long "o") know nottin."

Pancho was a prophet.

My education extends many hours and courses beyond my Master’s degree. It extends through16 years in the corporate world and 21 years of owning a training and speaking business. It expends through three grown children and 11 grand kids.

Through all that, the one lesson I have truly learned is that Pancho was right.

I learned a lot of lessons about life and leadership and business from my experiences growing up in a coal mining town and actually working in a coal mine.

And still with the immediate obsolescence of technology, the globalization of information, and the constant demands to remain competitive, I realize "I don’ know nottin’."

I grew up in a predominantly Polish town. My Polish vocabulary is about 10 words. I deeply regret that I resisted learning the language of my parents and grandparents.

In college, I took two years of German. My German vocabulary is about 15 words.

Pancho’s words are ringing in my ears.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fear, Discipline and Respect

One of my more vivid memories of growing up in Nanticoke, PA was the nine o'clock whistle. That sound struck fear and anxiety into my heart and soul.

The sound of the whistle remains with me even after 50 years. It was not the sound of a factory whistle with a high pitch. It was a low tone, similar to that of a steamboat whistle but lower and much louder. It was so low and loud you could feel it deep in your chest. It was so powerful it could pin you up against the wall.

I know that's a little bit of exaggeration. But as a 10 year old kid, that's what it seemed like.
Anyway, the nine o'clock whistle was a signal to parents and children under 18 years old. The whistle signaled the town's nine o'clock curfew.

Two longs blasts. If you were under 18 years old, you had better be in your house before the end of the second blast. If not, you could be hauled down to the Nanticoke city police station.

This threat was enforced by the presence of a police officer standing on the corner of Church and Fairchild streets every evening at nine o'clock. He religiously opened the call box on the telephone pole to report everything was nice and quiet at that location.

As I said, if you risked being out outside after nine, you were in big trouble. If that officer caught you, he would use the call box to report to summon the "paddywagon" to take you to the station.

As the saying goes, "That was a fate worse than death."

First, it meant that your parents would get a call to come bail you out.

These were tough times and most parents could not afford the fine for this curfew violation.

Secondly, it meant that one or both of your parents would have to walk to the station to get you out.

Does anyone remember that term, "walk?"

Indeed, these were the ‘50s. Not everyone had a car.

Imagine coming home from a 10 or 12 hour shift working in the coal mines or the dress or shoe factory or the cigar mill and having to walk 5 to 10 blocks to and from the police station.

Imagine, as a kid, your parents had to walk to retrieve you, pay a fine and endure the embarrassment that their child had broken the law.

I am happy and proud to say that my father never had to do that. Not because I was such an exemplary child. I was scared to death of what my father would do.

The title of this piece is Fear, Discipline and Respect.

Need I say more?

You bet I will say more.

Those are three words that are miserably missing in today's society. Kids today have no idea what those words mean. And parents don't have the guts to teach or enforce those concepts.

Look what has happened as a result.

From being the smartest, wealthiest, most respected country on the planet, the US now suffers from a horrible lack of leadership on all levels, our dominance as a manufacturer and supplier to the world has disappeared and most of our biggest companies are owned by foreigners.

By this time in our history, we should be driving cars that run on water or air. But instead, we are still oil dependant and we now pay $1.50 for a bottle of water rather than drinking it from a tap.

And we are still killing and maiming coal miners because mine owners and the government flat out don't care about miners. Profit and power are more important than the miners and their families.

Okay, enough on morality.

Come visit me on my coal mining website,

Copyright Al Borowski 2006 All rights reserved

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I "Grew up" in a Coal Mine

The recent mining disasters around the world brought back many vivid memories of growing up in a coal mining town and actually working in a coal mine.

I grew up in the anthracite coal mining town of an Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, in the northeastern corner of the state.

When the miners emerged from the mines, thirsty and tired and sore, the first thing on their minds was washing the coal dust and dirt down with a couple of cold beers.

The first thing they saw as their eyes adjusted to day-light brightness or evening lights was a neon sign that read, Borowski’s. My father owned a bar one block from the Susquehanna Coal Company colliery.

My father’s bar was one of six taverns on or near the corner of Church and Fairchild streets.

I can still remember the names and the stories of most of my father’s patrons. Each of my father’s steady customers contributed to my education and my success in some way. Each taught me valuable lessons that have served me well in my personal and business life.

The recent mine accidents, disasters and tragedies have prompted me to speak and write about my experiences in hopes that others may gain from the lessons I learned.

For others who have lived through similar experiences, I hope my words bring back memories of the good times and thanks giving for living through the bad times. For many, the bad times outnumbered the good.

Coal mining is hard work.

I believe hard work is a concept far too many people do not understand. Many people moan and groan and bitch and complain about how hard they have to work.

I’ve seen the anguish and the suffering and the pain in the eyes and limbs and words of my father’s customers. Nobody knows hard work like coal miners.

From my earliest recollections of growing up surrounded by coal miners and miner’s families, one phrase - one piece of advice - one message -still rings my ears and in my mind.

"Use your brain, not your back."

Every miner, every laborer, every person who ever had anything to do with mining operations all said the same thing at some time to me.

I count myself as one of the fortunate people who were able to escape the need to rely on the mines for a living.

But, 50 years after growing up in an environment where any minute could bring news of the injury or death of someone I knew and loved and respected, I am troubled and angry that families still endure that anguish.

I guess I can say, "I grew up in a coal mine."

The lessons I learned from those coal miners and the lessons I learned actually working in a mine helped me "grow up" mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Before I sign off for today, let me explain what I mean when I say I worked in a coal mine.

Indeed, I was a card-carrying member of the UMWA - the United Mine Workers of America. I was classified as a Laborer. I was not a coal miner.

I worked for the electrical gang of the Glen Alden Coal Corporation. This electrical gang was a group of linemen who were responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining all of the electrical equipment needed to keep the mines, breakers, collieries, and front office operations working.

As the muses move me, I will share my stories and lessons, along with photographs and links of this great American heritage called coal mining.

And, I invite you to do the same. Please send me stories and photos and links that I can use on my blog and in my speeches.

Today’s work force needs to know and understand what hard work is.

Please share your wealth of words, wisdom and wonder.

Copyright Al Borowski 2006 All rights reserved