In June 1982, I finished my sophomore year of college in Florida. On my final day of classes, my head was focused on exams, but my 19-year-old heart was already on summer break at the New Jersey Shore.
On the Saturday after school ended, I hit the road for my birth state. Boardwalks and bar bands beckoned, and my family and boyhood friends guaranteed a summer of fun.
Bruce Springsteen, playing at Asbury Park's Stone Pony club, in summer 1982. Photo by LARRY GOANOS
To reach my promised land on time, I swore I'd drive all night. My buddies had given me a heads-up that Bruce Springsteen was making surprise appearances at the Stone Pony nightclub in Asbury Park on Sunday nights, with the house band, Cats on a Smooth Surface. I couldn’t miss that opportunity.
In my 1967 Ford Galaxie convertible, I sped the 1,100 miles up I-95. My lasting memory from that nonstop drive from Orlando, Fla., to Jersey was one infectious song that floated hourly from my FM radio. The song was “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” sung by Dave Edmunds.
I arrived Sunday at my mom’s house in West Long Branch, seven miles from Asbury Park. I took a nap, a shower, gave mom a hug and wolfed down her specialty of mussels marinara. Then, I went to meet my friends.
Larry, Greg and I entered the Stone Pony to the pop sounds of Cats. This band was fronted by Bobby Bandiera, a Shore music mainstay for years to come. We bought Miller Lite longnecks and watched them play.
Springsteen, with Bobby Bandiera of Cats on a Smooth Surface, at the Pony in 1982. Photo by LARRY GOANOS
After 1:30 a.m., Greg excitedly blurted, “He’s HERE!
I was next to him at the urinals!”
Minutes later, pandemonium as Springsteen takes the small stage, with Cats. The crowd pushes in. Standing on the dance floor, we’re 12 feet from our local hero.
To my wonder, one of the first songs is “From Small Things,” the catchy tune from my overnight trek.
“I love this song!” I shout into Greg’s ear. “I can’t believe he’s covering it.”
Greg sets me straight: “Bruce wrote this song. It’s HIS song!”
Big things, indeed, came that magical summer. We saw Bruce four more times at the Pony, each set featuring vintage covers from Chuck Berry and the like. It was electric, a concoction of Springsteen’s energy and a sweaty throng in a boardwalk bar.
One Sunday, while Larry was surreptitiously snapping photos of Bruce from a Kodak Instamatic, I pushed to the stage front. I found myself 3 feet from Springsteen, whose gyrations shook sweat on us like a soggy golden retriever.
"Cats" was the house band for the Pony in the early 1980s.
Another night, a different friend and I talked our way into staying after closing time. Posers in the inner sanctum, we were privy to the after-party at the home of Butch Pielka, who owned the Pony.
My old convertible fit right into the Springsteen caravan to Pielka’s house. Bruce left the party after 45 minutes. My friend, Mike, and I hung out until daybreak. Then, I made the walk of shame past my mom at the breakfast table.
I awoke that afternoon with a hangover. But my buzz from that summer still lingers.
Bruce Springsteen frequently made Sunday night guest appearances at the Stone Pony with Cats on a Smooth Surface in 1982 and 1983. Photo by LARRY GOANOS
It was a typical Tuesday night for retirees George and Maggie Dobson. They were seated at their favorite pizza place in DeLand, FL, enjoying dinner and drinks. Then, a call came through on the restaurant’s phone, with an urgent caller asking to speak with George, one of the pizzeria’s regulars.
George Dobson, 79, invented his cord-storage board after becoming frustrated with finding the correct power and digital cables in the tangle of a junk drawer. The longtime DeLand, FL, resident was granted a patent for his design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
He took the cordless phone, while Maggie looked on with concern and rising anxiety. This kind of call is almost never good news. Good news waits its turn, announced happily over cocktails or a Sunday brunch. Bad news rings your phone or doorbell at midnight. Or it interrupts your weekly pizza night.
But not this night. This time, the script was flipped like a cook tossing pizza dough. And this call served up news better than that moment when hot pizza and cold beer reaches your table.
George recognized his daughter Elaine’s voice on the other end of the restaurant’s phone: “Dad, congratulations! The patent for your invention has been granted by the U.S. patent office. It’s fantastic news. You need to celebrate!”
That part was easy – much easier than George’s invention, itself. Anyone who knows George, 79, and Maggie, 77, knows they already had drinks on their table. “We both had tears in our eyes,” Maggie said. But, then, their native British sensibilities kicked in, and they shook off their emotions and quickly ordered another round of beers.
“I could tell my dad was choking up a little when I gave him the news. He was a bit emotional,” said Elaine about George’s invention, which is, simply, a unique way to organize and store the electrical and digital cords that power and connect the devices that keep us all plugged in.
Like most great ideas, this one was born out of need. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but George Dobson is the father of this one.
A few years ago, he went looking for the power cord for one of his devices. Like many of us, his frustration grew as he tore through a jumbled drawer of tangled cords. “The circumstance was a drawer full of cables, and searching through the cables and everything else just trying to figure out which one is which, and which one do we use,” George said. “So, I just said, ‘Oh, heck, I’ll just find something to hang on the wall.’ ”
One of the key facets to Dobson's cord boards are precise cruciform openings that snugly hold any plug's prongs so a cord dangles untangled. For info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The idea of George’s cord board was born.
“I actually made the first one out of a piece of wood from an orange crate. … I still have that one, the original one I made,” said George of the rudimentary storage board he created to mount in a closet. His goal was simply to create a rack where he and Maggie could hang power cords in an organized manner to be easily identified and accessed.
The idea soon came out of the closet and evolved quickly.
The key facet of his creation is a precise plug-size opening to snugly hold the plug prongs on each different cord so they dangle toward the ground, instead of becoming an accordion in the tangle of a junk drawer. George designed each of his storage boards with mounting spacers that allow a user to literally plug into the board (in a non-electrical way) to ensure secure cord storage that may be easily labeled to identify the correct cord quickly.
From the wooden orange crate, George’s modest idea was starting to bear fruit.
George and Maggie involved the rest of their family in the creation. Over the next year, with their input, George refined the board’s design. Slots were added for USB cables and mini cables. The original wood board gave way to demos of other materials – aluminum, plastic and other woods. The deciding factor for each of the board’s new versions was its ability to retain a snug hold on the prongs of the power plugs, using his unique cruciform design that allows a plug to be inserted horizontally or vertically.
After trials with boards made of wood and aluminum, George Dobson determined that an acrylic plastic, at a thickness of just 3/16th of an inch, was the best material for ensuring the proper fit with power and USB plugs.
When testing was completed, a durable type of colored acrylic plastic proved to be the best material for the board. A new batch of the acrylic prototypes was ordered in sizes ranging from 9 inches wide, with capability to hold nine cords, to smaller boards of 3 inches wide (the USBuddy®), which store two cables, convenient for hanging near your laptop or printer so you never misplace a cable for your phone or digital camera.
George also created several mounting options for the boards, so they might be affixed to a wall by traditional screws or stuck to a smooth surface, like a mirror, by a suction cup – a mount that is smart for travelers prone to forgetting valuable USB cables in hotel rooms or cruise ships.
During the time George was refining his creation, his daughter Elaine Lerner, an attorney in Orlando, FL, was securing the trademark for USBuddy, the mini two-cord board, and working on the legal process that would officially make her 79-year-old father one of America’s oldest inventors.
Elaine had seen her father’s inventions and creativity through his years as a mechanical engineer, a business owner and a problem-solver who always had a gadget or fix to keep things running at home. Once, when Elaine lamented that she couldn’t keep her books dry while reading in the bathtub, George came back to her with his personal invention of the “Bathtub Reader,” a suction-cup Plexiglas holder that secured an open book above the tub’s water.
The USBuddy® is perfect for forgetful travelers. With a suction cup, it affixes easily to a mirror, and it offers the option of holding two USB cords or one USB and one power cord (top) in its patented, hold-tight cruciform design.
That idea never developed, but Elaine was determined that her dad’s cord board wouldn’t go down the drain.
She and Maggie worked with George on a detailed patent document for the board, ensuring that all of the unique technical aspects of his invention were articulated – and that no other product like it was on the market. Gaining a patent for an invention is not a slam dunk; every detail is scrutinized and every creation is thoroughly vetted to ensure there is no overlap with similar products.
That’s why Elaine turned over the completed document to attorney Terry Sanks, whose Orlando firm of Beusse Wolter Sanks & Maire, PLLC specializes in intellectual property and securing patents through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Sanks thought George’s invention was a winner, so his firm revised and formalized the patent document and used its expertise to make a formal application for George with the USPTO in July 2015.
George’s patent was pending for more than a year. Then, on Aug. 9 – while he and Maggie sat in that restaurant – the pizza finally came out of the oven. Elaine’s call served up the good news.
“I’m so proud of him, but I’m not surprised,” said Elaine, who recalls her father’s creative efforts in the start-up of Bison vacuum cleaners and in helping invent poison-gas detectors for Brunswick Corp. “He’s been a genius my whole life.”
George received his latest patent news with a good deal of satisfaction: “I thought, wow! That’s pretty nice.”
Maggie Dobson, 77, was integral in keeping the cord-organizing board on track and in helping George patent his invention. For more details on this product, email email@example.com.
That’s the low-key response you would expect from George, whose past creations and patents were overshadowed by large companies he worked for, including Brunswick, Sparton Electronics and Lockheed Martin. But George’s passion is in the inventive end, not so much in production and marketing, so he’s open to the idea that his novel cord-storage device might be attractive to a business that could license or purchase the patent and manufacture the boards with its own resources.
No matter who ends up making the boards, Maggie exudes pride for her husband’s latest invention and his continuing ingenuity.
“He has a curious mind and wants to invent things to make them look better, to make them work better. He can’t resist having ideas and improving stuff,” said Maggie, who has been instrumental in helping keep the cord-board project on track. As George’s co-pilot, she has had the best vantage of his innovation during their 54 years of marriage, which included immigration to the United States in 1966, from England. “He’s a problem-solver,” she said. “If I were to sum it up, he has a creative mind.”
On the approval document from the U.S. patent office, George Dobson’s invention is officially titled “Panel with Receptacles to Receive Different Types of USB Connectors.” That’s a dry description for all the creativity and effort that went into the cord board and USBuddy.
Thankfully, George and Maggie made sure the celebration of this invention was not a dry occasion.
Alejandra Maddox is in the business of making people smile. Her actual business is making custom cakes. Her edible creations inevitably lead to beaming grins.
Maddox works hard to earn those smiles. People use the expression “a piece of cake” to describe a simple task. But that phrase would never accurately describe the detailed design efforts Maddox puts into her culinary creations.
Maddox, 37, is the founder and owner of Everything Cake in Longwood, Fla. She bakes and designs specialty cakes for any type of celebration or party. The word “party” can’t be spelled without a-r-t. That perfectly describes Maddox’s creations. Her intricate designs are the centerpieces at celebrations. Maddox’s decorating talent produces jaw-dropping reactions. Many customers are impressed to the point where they hesitate to cut her cakes.
“Each cake is unique, so it’s (gratifying) to hear that comment,” Maddox said.
But a sweet tooth and a cake knife usually win out. The reluctance is forgotten a few bites later because Maddox’s cakes taste as good as they look.
Her cakes are a hit, judging from the hundreds of “likes” and comments on Everything Cake’s Facebook page. She recently baked two kid-themed cakes to celebrate the birthday of twins. Lynda Flores wrote: “Both (cakes) were amazing – everyone decided to try both. Another success! Thank you for always being part of our family celebrations, Alejandra. We always look forward to what you create!”
Lisa Roberts Morelli wrote: “Everything Cakes is amazing! We have used them several times, from our wedding to our son's first birthday, and she does not disappoint! The cakes are not just beautiful but also yummy!”
Maddox’s baking skills did not rise over night. She studied hospitality and culinary arts for eight years in South America. The first four years were at a university in her native country of Bolivia, then she spent four more years studying in Santiago, Chile. She came to Florida at age 26 when she accepted an 18-month internship at Portofino Bay Hotel, working in restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort. She further honed her craft by spending several years in Central Florida’s thriving hospitality industry, including time at Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek hotel.
Maddox excels at creating cakes for kids.
About four years ago, Maddox decided to start her own business. Everything Cake was born.
The “Everything” in her business’ name captures the myriad celebrations for which she bakes – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, sweet 16s, bachelorette parties, holidays and, of course, weddings. It’s not just the variety of cake themes that is impressive. It’s the painstaking detail Maddox puts into the cakes. For example, perfecting the petals of each edible flower on a bridal cake. Maddox might spend a half-day or more decorating, making sure the colors of a cartoon character or the logo of a sports team are just right.
She offers a variety of flavors, fillings and icings, all of which are discussed on her website, as is pricing, which is determined by the complexity of the design and size of the cake. Reservation requirements for wedding cakes are also detailed on the site.
Exceptional wedding cakes may be Maddox’s forte. She continues to grow her wedding business, and articles about her in Orlando Wedding magazine, as well as in trade publications, would indicate more bridal business is coming down her aisle.
“People like my work, and people who promote cake businesses are referring me, as well. I feel very proud and very humble and happy,” said Maddox, who even baked and decorated the cake for her own wedding.
Designer purse? Think again. It's a custom cake.
Her satisfied (and repeat) customers obviously like Maddox’s work. They continue to spread word-of-mouth recommendations and promote her talents on social media. Her Facebook page and website, EverythingCake.com, feature entertaining photo galleries of her elaborate creations. The breadth of her baking is too expansive to list here. Maddox says it best on her site: “There is no cake that we cannot design, bake and make.”
If that sounds like a challenge, Maddox is up to the task. The galleries of her cakes run the gamut of themes. And no one has yet stumped her on a design.
Oh, but she has been tested! A customer once brought her a photo of a pet Rottweiler and requested a dessert in the dog’s likeness.
Not to be collared, Maddox produced a cake of the muscular pooch that was spot on, lifelike down to the dog’s unique mahogany coloring and outstretched paws.
“I love the challenges of different ideas and techniques. I love to learn,” said Maddox, who also makes custom cupcakes, cookies and chocolates.
Everything Cake specializes at creating unique wedding cakes. Photo courtesy of JoeyWrightPhoto.com.
Sometimes, the greatest challenge for Maddox is letting go of her creations.
“When I go to drop them off at the weddings or (parties), I feel sad to leave them after all the hard work,” she said.
But then she remembers the smiles.
“I love the cakes,” Maddox said. “I need to keep doing this, to keep doing what I really like to do and, hopefully, continue to do it better and make more people happy.”
Scroll down to see more photos of Maddox's cake creations. Visit her cake gallery here.
The Ninja Turtles nestled atop a pizza illustrate the design talent of Maddox. The entire cake is edible.
Milestone birthdays make up many of the cakes Maddox bakes. She's up to the challenge for any theme or design.
At Everything Cake, the shoe fits for women seeking a perfect creation for a special occasion. Photo courtesy of Amalie Orrange Photography.
Sports-minded men will like more than just the taste of the cakes Maddox creates.
Andy Mackler, 12, of Lake Mary, Fla., is a talented tennis player. The boy also loves dogs. When Andy saw an opportunity to combine those two passions for a special charity, he jumped on it like a weak second serve.
For a bar mitzvah project, Mackler, 12, is directing a doubles tennis tournament to benefit Canine Companions for Independence.
As a bar mitzvah project in advance of his 13th birthday on Sept. 28, Andy is staging a Charity Doubles Tennis Tournament this August, with the proceeds benefiting Canine Companions for Independence.
From a fund-raising standpoint, Andy’s effort is in the first set. He’s working hard to win support from his tennis community in order to achieve his goal of assisting Canine Companions.
The entry donation is $20 a person for the Aug. 2 tournament at Sanlando Tennis Center in Altamonte Springs. After expenses, proceeds from the event will go to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), which is a non-profit organization founded in 1975. Canine Companions enhances the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure successful partnerships. CCI is the largest non-profit provider of these assistance dogs.
The Lake Mary, Fla., middle-school student loves tennis and dogs, especially his golden retriever, Honey.
“Doing a charity tournament to benefit (CCI) combines all my passions. I love to play tennis. I adore dogs completely, and I’ll do whatever I can to help people when they need it,” said Andy, whose family pampers its own 6-year old golden retriever, Honey. “This combines three of my favorite things into one great fundraiser.”
The one-day tournament is open to players of any level, and the field will be limited to 80 players. In addition to the matches, there will be raffles from sponsors who are donating tennis-related items. There are still sponsorship spots open for businesses, groups or individuals wishing to help the tournament’s donation to Canine Companions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It would be a thrill to get 80 people (40 teams) in this tournament. That would be so incredible for me. It would be such a great experience, and there is not much more that I could ask other than that,” said Andy, who will work numerous community-service hours at Sanlando Tennis Center in tradeoff for the court time donated by the center.
Like a good doubles team, Andy has a strong partner for this project. His older brother Ryan, 15, built the website for the event and helped with the tournament’s flier. Go to ccidoubles.weebly.com to reach the tournament site built by Ryan, who is also an outstanding junior tennis player. You may sign up for the event on the site, make a donation or gain further details. Email questions to email@example.com.
Andy Mackler is a talented junior player who is putting his know-how into staging a charity doubles event.
Andy’s parents, Robin and Jay Mackler, are proud and delighted by the charity effort.
“It’s nice to see your kids think about things other than their own little world and realize there are things out there they can do to help people,” Robin Mackler said. “It’s really cool to watch them grow up and do things like this. And it’s also nice to see them (the brothers) work together, too.”
Serving as “tournament director” puts Andy in an unusual position. He’s more at home on the court, where he is ranked in the top 25 in Florida for boys 12 and under. But he is embracing the challenge of running the charity event – and enjoying it!
“It’s already been a lot of fun for me,” said Andy, whose favorite pro player is nine-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal, a lefty, same as Andy. “I’ve always just really admired him.”
Admiration comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s in regard for a special athlete or role model. Other times it’s found in a dog’s eyes gazing upon a master who, in turn, relies heavily on his canine companion.
Andy Mackler’s fund-raising Charity Doubles Tournament is admirable. It already looks like a cross-court winner on match point.