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Issue Home April 6, 2004 Site Home

Slices Of Life
100 Years Ago

Straight From Starrucca
Along the Way...With P. Jay
From the Desk Of The DA
An Inside Look

Slices of Life

The Importance Of Mail Order Catalogs

I’m a great NPR listener. In fact you might say that everything I know about the world today I learned from National Public Radio. The music, All Things Considered, Car Talk, and Fresh Air entertain and enlighten me as I work in the kitchen. And this week the local news informed me that Lillian Vernon was speaking in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre area. Lillian Vernon. What great memories she conjures up.

In case you don’t know, Lillian Vernon has a mail-order business and for many of my struggling years, hers was the catalog I coveted. All those pages of unique housewares, which I would pore over, deciding what I would buy when I finally saved enough from my household budget. My wants were usually practical rather than decorative. A special bedspread, a set of nesting aluminum cooking pots, a plastic footstool filled with foam pellets (which I still use). The last item I bought from her catalog was a stainless steel lasagna/roasting pan with a rack and spatula. That hasn’t gotten too much use because lasagna is not on my heart-healthy diet. But it comes in handy for other things.

In those early marriage years, it was an exciting moment when the mailman or the UPS driver would leave that package on the front porch. Almost as exciting as when the Montgomery Wards or Sears package got hung on the mailbox when I was a kid.

Hearing about Lillian Vernon also reminded me of the other homemaker’s helper of the 1960’s – the green stamp catalog. I can’t begin to tell you how many of those little stamps I licked, sometimes one or two at a time, in pursuit of furnishings for my home, baby accessories and gifts for others.

My first matching set of dishes came from green stamps. They were a blue and white print; a combination I still love. I was so proud to set my table with them. Later I replaced them with a set of all white china dishes, also compliments of Green Stamps. I have kept one place setting of those as a remembrance. I recently broke the knob off the lid of the sugar bowl and crazy-glued it back on. Just couldn’t part with it.

Talking about green stamps brought to mind one of the many times my sister moved. Low on cash, but high on generosity, I gave her my six books of green stamps as a housewarming gift. If I remember correctly, she chose to spend them on a red bedspread.

It was a sad day when green stamps were no longer used as promotions. Leafing through and through the catalog deciding whether to go practical, like my bathroom scales, or frivolous, was a many-evening pastime.

Betty Crocker "points" on her product boxes resulted in cookbooks and silverware. A promotion on a cereal box brought a much-loved Christmas present for my daughter. It was a baby doll with a whole wardrobe of clothes. And even though one of the doll’s eyes wanted to stay closed, my daughter still tells me that was her best Christmas present ever.

This trip down memory lane points out to me, once again, that life is not about money. One of the greatest pleasures for me is the game of living well by using my wits rather than a bankroll. Not that I don’t like to spend. I think we all do. But it’s the conserving where we can so that we can be frivolous at times that is the challenge and fun. And Lillian Vernon helped me to do that.

I hope wherever she was speaking, she influenced her young audience as much as she did me.

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100 Years Ago

BIRCHARDVILLE: On the evening of March 24, at the Birchard homestead, occurred the very pleasant wedding of Fred W. Dayton and May T. Birchard, performed by Rev. James S. Wilkes of Stevensville. During the day, loving friends decked the old parlor with laurel and vines and, as the appointed hour drew near, about 50 guests had gathered there, who later sat down to a delicious wedding supper.

SPRINGVILLE: A Springville correspondent says: When the Civil War was on four brothers by the name of Lyons enlisted and all gave their lives to the cause. Four Brothers Post was named for them and each year at Montrose, where they are buried, the G. A. R. holds its services at their graves. Dame fortune did not deal so harshly by five brothers who enlisted from Springville. All soldiers good and true who stood to the end of the war and are all living at this time. We refer to the Hungerford brothers--John K. and Hon. Charles, of Tunkhannock, Ira and Clark, of Wilkes-Barre, and George, of Nicholson. We doubt if another family can be found who were so fortunate.

FOREST CITY: During the pure food crusade the latter part of last summer, Julius Freedman, of Forest City and Clark Bros, of Carbondale, were respectively charged with selling adulterated molasses and vanilla. Recent tests by the state dairy and food commissioners has developed the fact that neither of the articles mentioned were adulterated, although the vanilla was a low-grade extract. AND: John, the five-year-old son of Michael Smith, living near Forest City, was drowned while playing around a well near his home.

HALLSTEAD: Frank McCroy, of Buffalo, formerly of Hallstead, claims to have found the long lost art of tempering copper and has demonstrated it so thoroughly to Buffalo parties that a capitalist of that city has offered him $75,000 for the secret, but he will not sell at that price. Young McCroy is but 21 years old, but ever since a mere lad has been experimenting with this end in view, having read of the process of tempering copper being lost and hearing a fortune was waiting for the one who again found it, during a conversation in the round house at Hallstead, he commenced experimenting. Hon. James T. DuBois took an interest in his work and helped him materially, sending him to Washington where he gave a number of successful experiments at the Naval department. The young man is also well known in Montrose, having been employed a few summers ago by George B. Felker [Bottling Works]. Even then he was persistently at work during spare time trying to solve the problem, and his room in Mr. Felker's residence always bore the appearance of a laboratory. A large portion of his earnings would be expended for alcohol lamps, acids, chemicals and other things needed.

SUSQUEHANNA: The board of trustees of the Susquehanna City Hospital was organized at a meeting held recently. The following officers were elected: President, George W. Conklin; vice-president, Rev. A. D. Decker; secretary, C. F. Curtis; treasurer, L. G. Benson; executive committee, M. J. Ryan, Rev. Wilbur Stowe, Rev. Edward Berger, H. R. Benson, Dr. John D. Kelly, H. C. Miller. Active work will be done by the committee and the people who are interested in the cause are urged to give the matter their earnest support. AND: William Atkinson has been offered the position of United States Consul at Bangkok, Siam, the land of the white elephants.

RUSH: The Ladies' Aid Society of the Baptist church will meet for dinner at the church on Thursday, April 14; the gentlemen are all invited to come at the same time and place and bring their teams, axes and saws and get up some wood for the church.

NEW MILFORD: Dr. C. A. Hull has opened an office in Mrs. Edwin Adams' residence; Dr. Hull is a native born New Milford boy and resided here all his life until he began the study of medicine nearly 20 years ago; he has practiced medicine for the past 15 years; we expect that the friends of Homeopathy will rally liberally to his support. AND: Stone quarry people hereabouts are slow in resuming operations this spring, owing to the condition in which the severe winter weather left the quarries and the continued cold weather.

FAIRDALE: On Wednesday morning, March 23d, Ruth Bolles counted in one tree in front of her home 18 robins; and soon after in the same tree, 17 bluebirds.

CHOCONUT: One of the infant twins of Cyrenus Donnelly died recently of scarlet fever.

GREAT BEND: The contract for repairing the bridge between here and Hallstead has been let to the Canton, Ohio Bridge Co. It is to be completed on or before the 14th under a forfeit.

NORTH BRANCH, Middletown Twp.: Burton and Warren Coleman had the pleasure of entertaining the mumps, recently.

ALFORD: J. M. Decker took up his new duties as postmaster, April 1st, in place of J. S. Marean, [who] resigned.

MONTROSE: The grand jury recently in session took action on a petition signed by a large number of influential citizens in regard to the incomplete condition of the soldiers' monument and recommended that the county commissioners reconstruct the parapet around the monument, and secure complete lists of deceased soldiers to be inscribed on tablets like those now in place and do whatever should be done to carry out the original design of the monument. The monument was erected by private donations, and the grand jury has recommended that the expense of putting the environments of it in creditable shape shall be borne by the county. This long delayed important matter, we trust, will soon receive merited attention. AND: O. A. Basset, formerly of Montrose and for many years connected with the agricultural works in this place, conducted by Sayre Bros., died suddenly at his home in Norwich. Mr. Bassett was a practical millwright and experienced workman, and of the 25 men employed at that time was one of the four still surviving, L. B. Pickett, Shadrach Horton and Guy Wells, being the only ones known to be now living.

GLENWOOD: One of our near neighbors, who was lately deprived of a home by fire, is responsible for the following: He built a small house to protect himself and family from the freezing cold of winter. One evening, being somewhat colder than usual, he built a fire in three stoves and went to bed; being a man of clear conscience he soon dropped off to sleep. On awaking, long toward morning, he found his mustache was feeling very heavy and soon after water began to drop down on him. On examination he found two good-sized icicles hanging to his mustache. He was telling this to a neighbor who made the remark that this is an ad for the Democrat. But please, gentlemen, no names, nevertheless it's a fact.

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Straight From Starrucca

Meet Peter Wynne, who is the new secretary/treasurer of the Starrucca town council.

Peter was born in New York city in the 1940’s and schooled at the parochial grammar school. He received a scholarship to attend Regis High School in New York City, ranked as one of the highest in the country. Furthering his education, he earned a BA Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a Master of Arts from New York University, as well as a professional certificate from Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

This is a man of many talents. Among other things, he has published two cookbooks, Apples and Grate Grains. The Scranton Times has him as their classic music critic. He is part-time musical announcer for WVIA-FM and does program notes for the Northeast Philharmonic that plays in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. He and his wife, Katherine have an antique shop in Lakewood called Wake-Robin, a flower which we commonly know as trillium. Peter and Katherine are also licensed real estate agents.

When asked how they happened to select their home site at the outer reaches of King Hill Road, they saw an ad in the paper that said "waterfall for sale." Intrigued by the ad, they came and what they saw delighted them, so twenty-five years ago (the first ten years as a hideaway) they moved to the country, away from the intrusive life of the big city.

I told him I could never do justice to the myriad abilities and talents that he has. To further know him, he does freelance writing and is a stringer for other newspapers. Peter has taught at SUNY, Binghamton, taught English at University of Poznan, Poland for a year, traveled extensively throughout Europe and speaks French, Italian and Spanish, and understands a bit of German and Polish. Locally, besides being secretary/treasurer of town council, he is also director of publicity for the Wayne-Lackawanna Forest Landowners.

He and his wife, Katherine call home where the waterfall is, back of their house and share the domicile with five Papillons (toy spaniels), two cats and penned up outside are two guinea fowls, two peacocks, one goose and a fair number of chickens. They are expecting baby chicks soon.

When asked if Peter had a hobby, he said, "Work is my pleasure," but they also have a garden to putter around in and relieve stress.

Peter’s philosophy of life is, "I feel that I have benefited in my life from the good things done by the people before me, and I want to do good things that will benefit the people who come after me."

This man is very unassuming, easy to talk to, but easier to listen to. His breadth of knowledge is awesome and very interesting. I’m sure the town records and monies will be taken care of meticulously.

Happy Easter.


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Along the Way...With P. Jay

Looks like a good move from here

The hottest gossip in the courthouse these days is the possibility of making the employees contribute to their health insurance coverage. As we hear it, the county commissioners would like to incorporate the change in all union contracts as they come up for renewal. If the move does come about, responsibility for approving the change rests with the Salary Board that consists of the three commissioners and the county treasurer.

On the surface, it appears like a bold move but really it isn’t. It is being done in the private sector all over the nation. Most employees have come to expect it and our county employees should be no different. I am told that the average monthly premium for county employees is in the neighborhood of $700 to $800. The county employs about 200 people and it is costing the county about $1.8 million a year to provide fully-paid health insurance for all of them. If the employees would kick in, say 10 percent, it would save the county $180,000 a year.

Of course the union is going to have something to say about this and it probably will not be printable. But the wish here is that the employees themselves will agree that having the county pay 90 percent of their health insurance is a pretty good deal.

There is one other issue that bothers me and that is providing health insurance for some part time employees. You don’t see that very often in private enterprise. Compounding the problem is the fact that some lawyers who work part time for the county are provided with health insurance and a pension plan. Think about it. There are widows and widowers in this county who have a tiny fixed income and struggle to pay their taxes, only to have some of their tax dollars provide insurance and a pension for lawyers who are probably making six figures in their private practices.

If you read last week’s column, you will recall that we mentioned that our county is hoping to participate in a statewide health insurance plan being put together by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. So if the employees are required to kick-in 10 percent of the premium cost, the bottom line should not be too bad.

Going Up

Plans to install an elevator in the county courthouse are moving forward faster than anticipated. Would you believe that we could see the elevator installed and working this year? Give credit for the quick progress to the county commissioners and President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans.

While you are tossing out the accolades, send one to former Scranton Mayor Eugene Peters whose engineering design group developed an inside installation plan that should not change the exterior design of the historic courthouse.


Attorney Francis X. O’Connor of Great Bend now has the distinction of being the only attorney from Susquehanna County ever to be elected to the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Mr. O’Connor will represent Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties on the board.

Looking at it from here, I’d have to say that is quite an honor. Congratulations Mr. O’Connor.

Go! Go! Firemen!

It was good to see so many area volunteer fire companies getting a share of some $564 million that was spread across the nation by the Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. The awards are for training, vehicles, firefighting equipment, personal protective equipment, wellness and fitness programs for fire prevention programs.

Grant recipients in Susquehanna County included: Clifford Twp. Vol. Fire Co., $59,940; Forest City, $39.096; Harford, $131,715; Hop Bottom, $73,699; Snake Creek, Liberty Twp., $29,700; United Fire Co., Montrose, $34,830; Springville, $55,647; Thompson, $85,478; and, Union Dale, $55,201. Across the river from Forest City, the Browndale Fire Company received $106,605.

And finally...

If you have a computer, check out the county’s new and revised 911 site at It is worth a peek. Great job!

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WORLDWIDE RALLIES "Against War" – Along with thousands of Pennsylvanians, protesters of the war in Iraq held rallies in all parts of the world. Rallies in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and other cities drew large crowds. New York State and North Carolina came out in the thousands. Protests were also held in France, England, Italy, Spain, Japan and Australia. According to the consensus of participants, the war against Iraq was not necessary. Proof was never found that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing. Terrorism will not stop until the United States gets out of Iraq and Afghanistan (maybe). How much longer must we (the USA) get involved in every part of the world that has uprisings and dissensions? If the United Nations does not want to get involved, then, what good is it doing. We certainly can’t protect countries that are in turmoil, when we need all the protection we can get. It seems, with the presidential race "going full speed," getting our troops out of Iraq is secondary. The question that many parents no doubt are asking, "How much longer will our children be in Iraq?" Another question asked, "What are we doing over there, anyway?" It seems that the Iraq people don’t want us over there. So, let’s do them a favor – bring all our troops back home!

JUST FOR THE RECORD! – As of March 27, 2004, gas prices in the country soared to (in most states) $1.75 a gallon. In Susquehanna, gas at our two stations have regular gas at $1.749. One reason I’m writing this is – that perchance – many years from now, a 2004 County Transcript may be lying around, so the reader may know what gas cost in March of 2004. According to a national news release, part of the increase in prices is the fact that the United States government is buying oil at a record pace to fill their National Reserve tanks that will hold 700 million barrels. Critics want the Bush administration to stop buying oil for now, and to release some of the reserve to help boost the commercial supply. That is one of the big reasons that gas has hit a high in the United States. Sad situation, isn’t it? Our government is buying oil to stock, driving the prices sky-high. Does that help the economy?

WEB SCAMS On the Rise – State Police are warning people to be wary of e-mail asking them to verify or update personal information. So be careful when you are asked for information.

A NEW "D.A." Feature – No doubt by now, you have seen and read the column "From the Desk of the D.A." written by our county District Attorney, Jason Legg. I do believe this is the first ever that a news release has been forthcoming from the D. A. office. The column is very interesting and provides county residents with "What’s going on in the D.A. Office." Hats off to Jason, who asks "to let him know the different topics that need to be addressed." He looks forward to hearing from you. (You can address your letters to Mr. Legg, in care of the D.A. office, Montrose, PA 18801.)

STEROIDS ARE BANNED – Major League baseball has banned the use of steroids by players. Whether or not they (steroids) were responsible for the mammoth number of home runs hit during the past several years – we may find out this year. Sure, we all like to see home runs, but do it on "your own," not with stimulatives that make you feel like "Tarzan." Let baseball – like any other sport – be a game of talent, without the help of being "juiced up."

IRAQ DEATH TOLL – According to the "USA Today," deaths in Iraq (as of March 20) are: Army 492, Marines 83, Navy 9, air Force 8. California has the most deaths 59, Texas 46, Pennsylvania (third) 31, New York State 26. As of March 20, 570 US service-members have died, 387 from hostile action, 183 from accidents and non-related incidents.

CUTBACKS IN VA Hospitals – While hundreds of Americans are being killed, injured, etc., fighting for the USA, Pennsylvania and six other states are proposing the closure of veterans’ medical facilities (in seven states). The Pennsylvania American Legion has vowed to fight any reduction in medical service for veterans. The Pennsylvania Department said it also would contest any such closings in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania's quarter million Legion members will fight to keep the state’s medical facilities open. State Legion Commander Bob Shalala said, "We will do what it takes to protect the rights of our veterans, especially when it comes to health care benefits that are promised by our government to the men and women who have served and continue to serve our nation."

ARE THEY "Really Atheists?" – It may be resolved by now, but atheists have petitioned the Supreme Court to take the words pertaining to God out of our pledge. Evidently they (the atheists) don’t have much to do, but go around trying to eliminate God from our prayers, etc. I recall reading an article several months ago about two atheists out in a motor boat. The boat’s motor died, the two were caught in the middle of the ocean, the waves rocking the boat unmerciful. It was then, that the two atheists, got on their knees and shouted out, "Oh, God, please save us!"

BOROUGHS HAVE A CHOICE – The Pennsylvania State House has voted in favor of a bill that includes a provision to allow boroughs to install stop signs without traffic studies at local intersections. The Senate must now act on the bill.

NEVER TOO OLD To "Scam" – A Philadelphia judge sentenced a 72-year old woman, Isabel Parker, of New Jersey to 12 years of probation for fraud. She bilked insurance companies out of $500,000 in false claims. Ms. Parker said, "It was relatively easy to defraud the insurance companies, until I got caught."

OLD RESERVE "Safe" – The United States oil reserves – in Texas and Louisiana – will not be touched to ease the all-time high gas prices. Washington said they will keep pumping oil into their reserve, "to make sure we have the resources in the event of an emergency." (If we don’t have an emergency, now, we never will have!)

GAS PRICES "Causing Havoc" – According to news releases customers will be paying an "added cost" to have deliveries made to them. One store owner said that they will have to raise their rate of delivery due to the high cost of gas, even to travel one mile. "We will have to charge more," one store owner said. So, while President Bush and his "right hand men" continue to buy gas to store in the two country’s reserve tanks, we will continue to pay high prices for gas. Oh, yes, the economy will sure get better as gas prices rise!

TIME TO SMILE – Life’s greatest pleasures are the simple ones, like seeing the driver who cut ahead of you on the freeway get pulled over three miles down the road.

JUDGE "FINGERED" – At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. "Isn’t it true," he bellowed, that you accepted $5,000 to compromise this case?" The witness stared out the window as though he hadn’t heard the question. "Isn’t it true that you accepted $5,000 to compromise this case?" the lawyer repeated. The witness still did not respond. Finally, the judge leaned over and said, "Sir, please answer the question."

"Oh," the witness said, startled. "I thought he was talking to you."

BAD BOY – A young boy went to the store with his grandmother. On the way home, he looked at the items she had purchased. He found a package of panty hose and began to sound out the words "queen size." Excited, the boy turned to his grandmother and exclaimed, "Look Grandma! You wear the same size as your bed!"

MISSED TURN – Driving on the highway one day, a man saw a slogan on the back of a well-known trucking company’s vehicle: "We Always Go the Extra Mile." He then noticed another phrase scrawled in the dirt just below it: "That’s Because We Missed the Last Exit."

SCHER TO GET NEW TRIAL – A Pennsylvania State Appeals Court has ordered a new trial for Dr. Stephen Scher, the former Montrose doctor previously convicted of killing Martin Dillon, who’s wife, Scher married later. It seems the new trial has been granted due to the fact that, after five hours of jury deliberation in the first Scher trial, a juror was removed.

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From the Desk Of The DA

My daughter is 14 years-old. Despite our objections, she is dating a 19-year old young man. We have grounded her repeatedly, but she continually finds ways to have contact with this young man. I suspect that she may be engaged in sexual activity with this young man. My daughter repeatedly has informed me that there is nothing wrong with her romantic relationship. Can you provide any information as to how the criminal law protects juveniles from potentially predatory behavior?

A Concerned Parent.

With children wanting to grow up faster and faster, this particular topic is certainly pressing. First and foremost, you have correctly identified the first line of defense: parental supervision. Unfortunately, even where parents are careful, law enforcement encounters these types of scenarios all too frequently. Oftentimes, after the information is discovered and reported to law enforcement, the teenage victim refuses to cooperate, because he or she "loves" the perpetrator.

The Crimes Code attempts to protect juveniles from this type of sexual contact in a variety of ways. For instance, the crime of statutory sexual assault creates a presumptive age under which the juvenile victim cannot give effective consent to sexual intercourse, which includes sexual intercourse in any form. I mention this only because a growing number of adults and children seem to believe that oral sex does not constitute "sex." Regardless of the definitions provided by our politicians, the Crimes Code makes clear that sexual intercourse includes oral sex.

Pennsylvania does not have a per se age of consent; rather, Pennsylvania provides a sliding scale based upon the perpetrator’s age and the victim’s age. A person commits a statutory sexual assault if he or she has sexual intercourse with a victim under the age of 16 years, provided that (1) the perpetrator is four or more years older than the victim; and (2) the perpetrator and the victim are not married.

At first blush, a layperson may have difficulty understanding this statute, as it does not necessarily provide a bright line rule regarding the age of consent.

In the example set forth above, if the 14-year old juvenile female has sexual contact with the 19-year old man, this would constitute a statutory sexual assault because (1) the parties are not married, and (2) the juvenile is under 16 years of age and the offender is 5 years older. As a result, the 19-year old young man has committed a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

If this had been a 16-year old female, then there would have been no statutory sexual assault, because the victim would not have been under 16 years of age. If the victim had been 15-years of age and the perpetrator had been 18 years of age, there would have been no statutory sexual assault, as the perpetrator was only three years older than the victim, as opposed to the four or more years older as required under the statute.

In the last two examples, however, the Crimes Code still provides protection for juveniles under the age of 18. A person commits the offense of Corruption of a Minor if he or she is 18 years of age or older and commits any act upon a person under the age of 18 that would tend to corrupt the morals of that minor. In the examples above, the perpetrator was 18 years of age or older, and engaged in sexual contact with a juvenile female under the age of 18 years. Assuming that a jury would agree that engaging in sexual contact with a juvenile female under these circumstances tended to corrupt the morals of the minor, then the perpetrator committed the crime of corruption of a minor, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

In short, you can inform your daughter that her conduct can result in the arrest of her young Romeo. If your daughter does "love" him, she will avoid any further contact with him because such contact could result in Romeo spending a substantial period of time as a guest at our local correctional facility.

Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.

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An Inside Look

Since spring has arrived, I’ve watched a steady decrease in the amount of work that has been accomplished. Is spring fever to blame already? Most likely, yes. Junior year has been, at least to me, the toughest one yet. However, I’m not ready to give up yet. I just wish that my classmates felt the same way.

Take the public speaking class for example. For those of us who have Mr. Brosious, right now we’re expected to do a seven- to nine-minute, persuasive speech. The number of people who are actually doing this speech, however, is amazingly low. Sure, not everyone likes to get up in front of people for that long, but sometimes you have do things you do not want to do. I think the students here need to basically suck it up and get going.

It’s beautiful outside, we all know that. And the spring sports are in session. However, school is still important, and needs to be given as much attention as ever, if not more. The teachers are now trying to get everything in to fulfill their year’s lesson plans, so classes are starting to go at a faster pace. Needless to say, this is not a very good time to slack off.

I don’t see what the big deal is about completing homework or studying for tests. I know I have not wanted to plenty of times, but that’s not reasonable. To be successful, you have to push yourself. Anyone in any sport knows that, just as successful business people do. School is not any different. Spring fever is not a real clinical illness, so why let it infect you?

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Dear EarthTalk: Why is gasoline so much more expensive in Europe than in the U.S.?

Bo White, Chicago, IL

There are multiple components to gasoline prices, according to the Energy Information Administration, an independent statistical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy: the cost of production and delivery, including the cost of crude oil to refiners and refinery processing costs; marketing and distribution costs; retail station costs; and taxes.

In 2002, crude oil accounted for about 43 percent of the cost of a gallon of regular grade gasoline; refining costs and profits comprised about 13 percent; distribution, marketing and retail dealer costs and profits made up 13 percent; and federal, state, and local taxes accounted for approximately 31 percent of the cost.

Gasoline prices in countries such as the United Kingdom and Norway can sometimes reach $5 per gallon – because of high taxes. According to the Wall Street Journal, taxes in the United Kingdom account for 80 percent of the pump price, while the Europe-wide average is between 60 and 70 percent.

In Germany, gasoline taxes account for a whopping 20 percent of all government revenues. Across Europe, such taxes have resulted in more fuel-efficient vehicles. According to John DeCicco, a policy analyst at Environmental Defense and author of Automakers' Corporate Carbon Burdens: Reframing Public Policy on Automobiles, Oil and Climate, "The higher taxes have contributed to fuel efficiency that averages 30 percent higher [than U.S. levels]. However, they have not motivated ongoing conservation."

If gasoline taxes in the U.S. had the same effect on driving that cigarette taxes have had on some smokers, higher gas prices could provide the motivation for some consumers to switch from, say, large SUVs to smaller more fuel-efficient cars. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces smoking among pregnant women by seven percent. The average American driver is certainly not as motivated to "do the right thing" as a mother-to-be, but it stands to reason that, like the effect of cigarette taxes, increased gas taxes might drive motorists to drive more fuel-efficient cars – and those tax revenues could be used to further promote fuel-efficiency and develop alternative fuels.

CONTACT: Energy Information Administration, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585, (202) 586.8800, /primer_on_gasoline_prices/html/petbro.html; Environmental Defense, 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, (212) 505-2100,

Dear EarthTalk: I have been looking for an electric can crusher so that I can crush my aluminum cans and store them for recycling. Do you have any idea who makes one?

Jon Marshall, via e-mail

As far as we can tell, there are no consumer-marketed electric can crushers. But that's no tragedy. Why waste fossil fuel-generated electricity when human power will do the job just fine? One of the most practical models we’ve seen is the MultiCrush Can Compactor available for $23 from Planet Natural. The all-steel unit stacks up to six cans, and then feeds them automatically into the much-feared (if you're a can) crushing chamber. Put your recycling bin underneath, and the flattened cans fall right in.

If you’re planning on a lot of crushing, consider the Barco Aluminum Can Crusher, available from Berlyn Enterprises for $60. The crushing device on this model, which is made of high-density polyethylene, is attached to a trash bin that holds up to 400 crushed cans.

Still not satisfied with these low-tech solutions? You can always contact the Plasma Dynamics Laboratory at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), which has, for its own whimsical purposes, invented an industrial-size can crusher that uses electricity to create a powerful magnetic field capable of reducing aluminum cans to a heap of compacted metal. You can visit RPI’s Can Crusher home page for a demonstration.

Whichever method you choose, recycling your empty cans makes good environmental sense. "The aluminum can is the most valuable and most recycled beverage container," says Jenny Day, director of recycling at the Can Manufacturers Institute. Day says that the aluminum industry paid $800 million last year to reclaim cans. Recycling eight six packs saves the energy equivalent of one gallon of gas, and the energy saved by recycling just one empty can is enough to power a television for three hours.

CONTACTS: Planet Natural, 1612 Gold Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715, (800) 289-6656,,; Berlyn Enterprises, LLC7333, 2060-D Ave de Los Arboles #220, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362-1361, (888) 404-7750,,; Can Manufacturers Institute, 1730 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20036, (202) 232-4677,

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit your question at; or e-mail us at

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