Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Diversion from Radio Projects

The FPM5 is in the box but has a few issues. You know the drill: Worked great 'al fresco" but now that it has been made neat there are some RF feedback issues! Sometimes it is good to take a break and just do something else.

[See video of FPM5 at the bottom of the section 12/23/2016.]
So here is the something else. My sister whose OM is also a ham sent me an early Christmas present and I must admit it has really captured my attention. By way of history I was born in a small town in western Pennsylvania (PA) not far from the city of Pittsburgh. The name of the town was New Kensington. While PA was known for coal and steel it was also home to aluminum manufacturing which of course was in New Kensington. Yes those Alcoa pots and pans were at one time made right there. The Alcoa Research Labs were also located there. Much of the area economy was derived from those working at Alcoa.
So the book I received is about New Kensington history but a different side of the economy. After all, those folks making all that money needed a place to spend it! The name of the book is "Little Chicago: A history of organized crime in New Kensington, Pennsylvania". Think of the movie "The Godfather" only transplanted to western PA. The author is Dennis L. Marsili, ref:  ISBN 978-0-692-53892-0. Mr. Marsili spent many years as a detective on the New Kensington Police Department thus has a first hand knowledge of the detail.
What has captured my attention is that I was growing up in that town right when all of the "action" was taking place; but was only vaguely aware of this other side. Having an early insane interest in electronics can keep you away from the real world. 
Some of the people mentioned in the book I have met. In one case an individual high up in the "organization" had children going to the same high school I attended and one of the children was a  classmate and friend. On one occasion I was introduced to the father but somehow never added two and two.
The author presents a side of the two brothers that headed the organized crime family that in reality provided a stabilizing force that actually made the town safe. Nothing happened without their approval! There was a sequence in the book about a store owner being robbed and the first person called is not the police but an individual with connections --several hours later all the stolen merchandise was returned --no questions asked. In 2015 our home here in California was robbed and in speaking to the police detective assigned to the case -- I said to her, if I was back in New Kensington, I know a guy who knows a guy and in short order I would know who did this. She (also being Italian) said that works very well there but not here.
Another sequence dealt with integration. In the 1960's segregation in the USA was still in evidence and New Kensington was no exception. With the passage of the civil rights act and the strength of the civil rights movement the last thing the two brothers wanted was Federal intervention. Mind you these two brothers had no more than a 7th grade education but were astute business men and made a conscious business decision. They simply made it known that the businesses should be integrated. I would like to say the transition was overnight --maybe not, but close. Done deal. The author leads you to ponder that organized crime was far better at handling social issues than the organized government. Just think of the debate that would take place, the lobbying of special interest groups, the back door deals and then finally a chaotic vote. No fuss, no muss -- it was good for business and a done deal.
With the passing of the two brothers the town is no longer a "safe" place and alas Alcoa has also moved out. What you see today is a rust belt city with the attendant decay, high crime, and a just shadow of what was once a thriving community.
It is a great read to me as I lived there and the places, locations and names are very familiar to me and in some cases has filled in the blanks on why certain things happened or didn't happen. There is a even a Cuba connection and gun running.. So it was more than regional in its scope. The read has served me well as I now have had a sufficient diversion from the FPM5 to think about RF feedback problem resolution.

Happy Holidays,
Pete N6QW