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Thursday, April 17, 2014


Some Cranky Old Man posts are aimed directly at family and or friends.  The following post is for my children and grand-children.  Even if you are not in this category, you are still welcome to join in and read.

This is about your Great-grandpa kids.  Some of these stories may not be totally correct, I have only heard them second hand, but I am passing them along anyway.   From the Grandpa I knew I believe they are true.  I can only imagine how many stories of Grandpa we will never know; these are three that I have been handed down to me. 

Grandpa was a loving man with a big heart and a wonderful sense of humor.  When he told a story, it was always punctuated with his own infectous laugh.  Often his stories were slightly off color (at least for up-tight WASPs of the '50's) and if Grandma was around the story ended with an abrupt Grandma admonishment,

"Oh Milton!"

This admonishment would be followed by more infectious laughter.

Your Great-grandpa ran his own business, The “J Milton Hagy Waste Works” in Philadelphia.  They made rags and wiping cloths.  I am told the big money was from oily rags used by railroad trains in their “Hot boxes”

From Wikipedia:

A hot box is the term used when an axle bearing overheats on a piece of railway rolling stock.[1][2] The term is derived from the journal-bearing trucks used before the mid-20th century. The axle bearings were housed in a box that used oil-soaked rags or cotton (collectively called "packing") to reduce the friction of the axle against the truck frame.

How he got into this business I don’t know.  The Hagy’s used to run a paper mill in Philadelphia, and they used rags and cotton fiber in the paper making process, so perhaps the Waste Works morphed from that industry.

One famous Grandpa story has it he came to work one day and found his workers picketing the business for higher wages.  Grandpa went up to the picketers and asked what was going on.  He was told, “We’re on strike” and was handed a sign.  Legend has it that he grabbed the sign and marched against his own business for a half hour before someone recognized him and yelled, “Hey, it’s the old man!”

The employees all dropped their signs and returned to work.

I would like to say Grandpa gave everyone a raise after that, but I don’t really know if he did…probably not.   

Your Great-grandfather did not have a strong heart.  He had a heart attack at about age fifty.  He was a big man, almost 300 pounds when his heart kicked up.  He also drank a bit which probably didn’t help.  After his attack he lost about 100 pounds and quit smoking, still he complained that his heart sometimes missed a beat.

Grandpa owned a small fishing boat.  One day the engine was not working too well and he crawled into the engine compartment with a hammer and a screwdriver to see what he could do.  Grandpa claimed that if something could not be fixed with a hammer or a screwdriver, then it could not be fixed.


While poking around with the screwdriver, and with his feet in bilge water, he hit a loose wire.  His body straightened out from the shock and it was many seconds before he could release the tool.  What little hair he had on his head stood straight up.  My uncle was with him at the time and screamed, “Are you all right?”

Grandpa looked up calmly, grabbed his wrist and held on for a minute before claiming, “Damn, it’s the first time my pulse has been normal in three years.”

Your Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother were terrific bridge players.  They were both grand masters, a big deal in the day when people played card games, not "Candy Crush."  My cousin Greg told me they were so serious about this card game he once heard the two of them arguing in their sleep about a bidding convention.

Several weeks before their fortieth wedding anniversary, they were playing in a bridge tournament.  Grandpa had just bid a grand-slam contract (winning all 13 tricks) when his heart began to give out.

Grandma asked, “What’s wrong Milton.”

“It’s my heart, call an ambulance.”

Everyone at the table started to get up, and Grandpa insisted they sit down.

“Not so fast, if you make the wrong lead, this hand is a lay down.”

They played out three rounds and Grandpa laid down his hand claiming a successful grand slam.

The ambulance arrived and Grandpa left with a satisfied smile.  He passed away the next day.  He left in his characteristic calm triumphant manner. 

He left a winner.


  1. Wow what a way to go! I can only imagine the stories he had to tell.

  2. Great stories! I need to rummage in my own memory attic for some like these to share with my grandkids. Thanks for the nudge...and for the chuckles.

  3. Thanks for sharing your memories of this colorful man.

  4. gosh, what a character. loved the picketing story.

  5. What a funny man indeed. I loved the picketing story and especially the fixing the boat motor. I laughed out loud. Sorry about that. Well, not really.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  6. Great story Joe. What an awesome guy your grandfather was.

  7. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories about your grandfather. I suspect you take after him!

  8. Now that is the way to exit. We should all be so blessed. Sounds like you come from good stock, not like that weirdo, flat-headed Pearl. ;D

  9. Little teary... I love whatever year that picture was taken.

  10. You were lucky to have Grandpa!!

  11. This was a great post about your grandfather! I loved the part that he walked his own picket line with his employees!

  12. Clearly a fine sense of humour is a family trait. Thanks for sharing your grandfather. He sounds like he was someone we'd all like to know.

  13. A good man and great stories. Always remember, there is no story that can't be made better by rearranging some facts, as their stories of us will prove.

  14. lol I love grandpa stories. This reminded me of my grandpa and now I have to go call him. :)

  15. Wow...what a character. LOL at him finishing the card game.

  16. What a great story about a colorful guy. Of course I never knew him, but I bet I would have liked him. :)


  17. What a guy! From rags to riches.

  18. Fabulous story, Cranky. Loved how he waited right till he dealt his winning hand. That kind of determination can only be inherited :)