Sunday, June 27, 2010

In The Pfafftown Spotlight

I plan to periodically feature an individual who has lived a long time in this area of Forsyth County of North Carolina.

The first person in the spotlight is my mother, Ann Anderson Mabe, a lifelong resident of Pfafftown. She was born in 1924 in the Dozier community and was 9th of 13 children born to Jasper and Elvira Anderson. Both parents and all but one sibling, Pat Puckett, have passed.

The picture of mom was taken a year ago for the church pictorial directory when her age was 85.

She was married to George Howard Mabe for 47 years until his death in 1990.

My mother has three children of which I am the oldest. Beyond the normal love and admiration a son has for his mother, there are qualities about her I'd like to make you aware.

Among 13 siblings, she was the only one to graduate high school. She graduated from Old Richmond School in a class of size thirteen in 1942. Most students in the 1930's and 40's in this area didn't earn a high school diploma. The high dropout rate was due to the culture at the time. Many parents bore children and had large families for the labor needed on the farm. Most children weren't discouraged from quitting school because they were needed to help attend to the crops, gardens, food preparation, and the gathering of firewood. Survival was more important than school for most families. When asked why she didn't quit like her brothers and sisters, she replied, "I enjoyed going to school and liked to learn from my books. I enjoyed my classmates and didn't want to quit."

After her children were in school, she pursued and completed professional training as a Licensed Practical Nurse and worked at Forsyth Memorial Hospital and in private-duty nursing for her career. Again, she was the only sibling to seek professional training as an adult.

The next thing I admire about my mother is the furnishing inside her home. There is no clutter due to excess stuff in her house and basement. Her closets and drawers are half empty and there is wide-open space throughout her basement with stored items well organized. Her walls, bookshelves, and tables are not occupied with things and stuff without purpose and usefulness.

When mail arrives at her home, she carefully uses the scissors to cut open the stamped end of the envelope. After reading the correspondence, she carefully folds the document and returns it to the envelope. She sometimes writes a note on the outside like "paid" and saves it for one year. She gets me to shred older documents each year.

Whenever my mother writes, she uses the cursive style she learned in school. I observe many people today reverting back to the print or block style of handwriting even after they've been taught cursive. I find that curious. Look at the picture of my mother's current handwriting. See if you can read it.

A few years ago she wrote an autobiography entitled "Precious Memories". After getting her 46,000 word manuscript word-processed, she published her life story in hardback and gave the books to her children and other family members. One copy of the book was donated to the North Carolina Room of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Library. Her life story is on the shelf there for perpetuity.

My mother has always been disciplined and in control of her behavior. I've seen her sad, disappointed, hurt, and upset, but never angry. She seeks to discover the positive in all situations and accepts all outcomes that are beyond her control.

Like many people, she doesn't seek publicity or fame, but lives life quietly, with integrity, high morals, faith, and upright character that is admired by all who know her.

I'm a lucky man to have a mother like this to guide, instruct, and be a good example for me to follow.

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thinking About Time

Are your contemplative thoughts mostly about the future or about the past?

Last week I thought mostly about the past. Wednesday morning I drove a few miles from my home and took two pictures. The building in these photos is the Old Richmond Grange Hall on Tobaccoville Road. The sign on the front of the building reads, Old Richmond Grange 675. The local Grange constructed the building in 1955 with a $10,000 grant from the National Grange and the Sears Roebuck Foundation. The grant was given for active community involvement by this Grange, which was chartered in 1930. Local Grange leaders organized community groups, helped create a local volunteer fire department, and provided other important functions to the surrounding unincorporated areas. The Grange and its building continue to serve the Old Richmond, Tobaccoville, Pfafftown, and Dozier communities for local club meetings, a place for new churches to get organized, and as a meeting place for other community gatherings.

In 1957 I joined the Boy Scouts of America when Troop 146 met on the lawn and inside this Grange Hall. Sam M. Gilbert (1921-2002) and Charles D. Hooker (1923- ) were scout leaders. I was 10 years old and recall taking an interest in the Scout's Handbook and the survival tips suggested on the pages inside. I was in scouting only a couple years and then other youthful interests became a priority. During that period, I learned about the outdoors, knot tying, and camping as well as getting to know other rural boys beyond our familiarities in school.

Several years ago and after Mr. Gilbert died in 2002, I attended the public auction where his estate was sold. There I offered the highest bid ($30) for his last wristwatch, a Swiss Army model with a Speidel Twist-O-Flex band. See it in the pictures below. I wear this watch more than the others I own and sometimes think of my assistant scoutmaster when I look to check the time.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


If fire doesn't turn it to ashes, or a tornado change it to splinters, or termites pulverize the cellulose, then this table should fulfill its purpose from now to more than one hundred years.

The planks in this table came from a walnut tree that grew on a farm in Mocksville, North Carolina. Over thirty years ago Henry Abraham Whitman harvested the tree and milled its trunk into lumber. Shortly thereafter, "Abe", as he was called, lost his life on October 12, 1978 at age 49 in a tragic car wreck. A young person drove through a highway intersection without stopping and crashed into a jeep in which Abe was a passenger. Mr. Whitman was a husband, father and a respected building contractor.

At the time of his death Whitman had two daughters, Debbie age 23 and Robin age 19. Among the keepsakes, the daughters saved their daddy's walnut lumber. The siblings moved the boards from place to place after they married and relocated their homes. Both women have had several pieces of fine solid walnut furniture built from the lumber. As the inventory dwindled, Robin envisioned yet another dream for the leftover boards.

She commissioned Herschel Lamb, my friend and creative woodworker, to build the table shown in these pictures. Robin gave Herschel approximate dimensions and a picture to be used as a model. She offered a drawer-pull as a pattern to match other furniture made from the same tree.

Look at the details in these pictures (click on them to enlarge):
Solid walnut, wooden drawer slides, mortise & tenon joinery, dovetails, tapered legs, and square pegs in round holes. This signature table is marked with Mr. Lamb's turtle logo and a 2010-penny inlaid to denote the year the table was made.

Herschel engaged Harold Jones to turn the drawer pulls. Mr. Jones made his career as a patternmaker in the foundry industry and is an expert in turning wood on a lathe.

Robin and Herschel became aware of one's need and the other's skill through Linda at the Cricket's Nest, a craft shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The table was delivered to Robin's home a week plus a few days before Father's Day 2010 and positioned along a north wall in front of a window in a special room. It will be used to support a computer and store desk related items. It is most fitting that the wood prepared by Henry Abraham Whitman long ago has been turned into an object of beauty and purpose by a daughter who had a vision and who holds continuous love and admiration for her father.

The spirit of a good father can occupy a mind and cause goodness to be lived forward even after his flesh has been returned to the soil.

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

How To Convert Company Assets Into Personal Wealth

"A control fraud is a company run by a criminal who uses it as a weapon and shield to defraud others and makes it difficult to detect and punish the fraud." This concept and quote came from the book by William K. Black entitled The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One, How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry published by University of Texas Press in 2005.

Mr. Black worked as a bank regulator for the Federal Home Loan Bank during the period of the Savings and Loan Crisis during the 1980's and 1990's. He helped root out the crimes of S&L executives of which Charles Keating was most notorious. Throughout the book he describes how white-collar crime works at the executive level in banks and companies. Unscrupulous or greedy company executives with the help of politicians loot companies by converting company assets into personal wealth. They do this through stock options, political donations, and numerous perks for executives. Politicians help set the rules and weaken government oversight to allow looting to take place. Jim Wright, U.S. Congressman of Texas was one of the most difficult politicians to roadblock government action against control fraud in savings and loans banks in Texas.

Here is an example of how government regulators became weak. Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency on the platform that government was "too big" and "the problem". When elected, President Reagan appointed department heads that managed as if their departments were "the problem" not the businesses they regulated. Staffs were slashed and bank audits made infrequent. When audits turned up questionable practices, politicians stepped in to fight the auditors. Black said, "It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that government will be ineffective if one designs it to be ineffective. The systems-capacity problems of the SEC and the Bank Board are parallel. Both were forbidden to pay salaries competitive with those offered by the banking regulatory agencies (much less private firms). Both experienced rapid turnover and had to staff key operations with inexperienced personnel."

Mr. Black pointed out, "that for many years no public accounting audit firm exposed any S&L control fraud." In other words, there was a crisis in the industry and no public accounting firm gave any signs or warnings.

Black wrote, "One advantage that white-collar criminals have over blue-collar criminals is the ability to use top lawyers, not only at trial but also before criminal investigations begin. Control frauds maximize this advantage by paying for the lawyers who help the controlling insider loot the firm." Of course the lawyers are paid with company funds.

In addition to reading his book, I watched Mr. Black's interview with Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers' Journal. You can see the interview here. Not much has changed with regulations to prevent fraud since the S&L Crisis.

Black is currently Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Have a good Week!