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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

NOTHNAGLE
8/20/2011 5:16:43 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Unless you live in Western New York, the name John Nothnagle probably means nothing to you. To me, though, his name is synonymous with John D. Rockefeller or Franklin Roosevelt. Here’s why:

My first daughter was born August 15, 1954, and there was nothing unusual about her arrival, except the rapture of having a baby girl, and that at the time we lived in a rented half-house in the Dutchtown section of Rochester, NY. The house was owned by a Scotsman, surrounded by Italian immigrants, and located in Dutchtown. Go figure.

It was, to say the least, a somewhat unusual house. We occupied the front portion, and it was partitioned off with the living and dining rooms on the first level, and two bedrooms, a bath—and kitchen!—on the second floor. Travis MacNabb lived alone in the back, but I was never invited in and have no idea how it was laid out.

I brought my new daughter home there, but I knew it was just a matter of time until I’d have to find more suitable quarters.

The year was 1954 and I was beginning to make inroads into local TV stardom. To be sure, I had no money in the bank back then, and my potential was nebulous but obvious. So obvious, that Mr. John Nothnagle, owner of John T. Nothnagle Gallery of Homes, took notice of me.

“I have the perfect house for you,” he said. “It’s in a great neighborhood on Hazelwood Terrace — 3 bedrooms, 2 baths — and the kitchen is on the first floor. A fenced in yard that would be great for your kids. No garage, but plenty of room for one. Just eleven-five. Go take a look at it.”

I did — and fell in love with the place. But, of course, it was out of the question. To get a conventional mortgage, Mr. Nothnagle told me I’d need a down payment of about $1,500. Fifteen hundred dollars! If I had that kind of money, I’d have to be wearing somebody else’s pants. I had twelve dollars and forty-two cents stashed away in “budget envelopes.”

“Tell you what,” John Nothnagle said, sensing accurately I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. “I’ll advance you the $1,500. I’ll even help you get a mortgage — I have friends at First Federal who owe me. Sign a note and I’ll keep it in my safe. Four percent interest. Pay me back, say, within five years. Deal?”

Somewhere the “Halleluiah Chorus” was playing, and before four months had flown by, my new daughter was gurgling, spitting up, and soiling her diapers in our new home on Hazelwood Terrace.

My income, having soared (by my standards) to stratospheric numbers, enabled me to pay back Mr. Nothnagle with interest in less than one year. The day I went to his office with the final amount, he took the original note from his safe and burned it in a ceramic dish on his desk.

A chubby little man, bald and sporting a mysterious indentation in his temple, he said, “I knew you’d be good for it. You’re the first customer I ever did this for. Probably the last. You like the house?”

I liked it so well we lived in it for nearly five years. Over time, I put in a driveway, rented garage space from a neighbor, had the house painted, installed new storm windows throughout, put in four window air conditioners and a new furnace — then found my “dream house” in the suburbs, which I owned for the next fourteen years.

Unfortunately, it was sold to me “by owner,” and I could not involve John T. Nothnagle Gallery of Homes, Inc. as my broker. In fact, I never saw Mr. Nothnagle again after that day of the note-burning in his office. Ironically, my future mother-in-law worked for his firm years later, and an erstwhile colleague left broadcasting to become his branch manager.

But John Nothnagle, like Abu Ben Adam, is forever inscribed in my Book of Life. Had it not been for him and his generosity, not to mention his unwarranted faith in me, I might still be living in a grotesque structure in Dutchtown.

Might, of course, is the operative word.

Today, I am retired and live in Marietta, GA. My son, also retired, lives in Penfield, NY. Daughter No. 1 is in Louisville, KY. And daughter No. 2 lives in Nashville, TN. John Nothnagle, were he still alive today, would be about 115. At least.

Gone — but hardly forgotten.

Copyright©2011 by Robert A. Mills, all rights reserved

BONUS BLOG – GET THE PUCK OUTTA HERE!

Gas was about 40˘ a gallon in 1967, and I had season tickets to the Rochester Amerks hockey games. Between the 2nd and 3rd periods one of my TV sponsors ran a promotion called SCORO!

All one had to do to win 250 gallons of gas was shoot a puck from the closest Blue Line down the ice into an empty net. To make it difficult (and nearly impossible,) the net was blocked by a piece of plywood with a 31/2-inch slot at the bottom. A professional hockey puck is 3” in diameter. The odds were about the same as a mule ridden by Jolly Joe Wilson winning the Kentucky Derby.

One Sunday night the Gods of Chance were present, and my ticket was chosen in a random drawing. I was escorted amidst thunderous applause to center ice. Wonder of wonders! when I caressed the puck with the curved stick just as I’d seen Red Armstrong do a million times, the black vulcanized rubber sphere flew majestically through the slot! Voila! I had won 250 gallons of gasoline! The crowd went berserk!

Independent Oil, host of the event, was one of my TV sponsors; I never collected my prize, of course, but I was reminded of that spectacular night when I heard about the twin boys in Minnesota who recently duplicated my fantastic feat — well, one of them did, so it seemed.

Only this time, the prize was $50,000, not a hundred dollars worth of gasoline.

And the insurance company that backed the event wants to welsh on its commitment — even after the boys’ dad fessed up that the son who made the uncanny shot was not the one whose name appeared on the ticket.

Say what? Come on, Mr. Insurance Man, cough up the loot! Or puck off.

Copyright©2011 by Robert A Mills, all rights reserved


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