Saturday, October 31, 2009

And you always thought it was the pumpkin

As this is written, it's Halloween - that very special time for ghosts and goblins. And costume-clad little kids carrying sacks to be loaded with candy and other treats. But it has never been limited to little kids like Margaret O'Brien in the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis."
Remember the scene? She was with a gang of kids - she was the smallest - and was pushed up to the door of the meanest man on the street so he could end up with a faceful of flour?
No, Halloween was for teenage boys as well - and I remember the occasion(s) well.
There was a time when a fender of a 1930's car was run up the flagpole in the center of our village. One year someone put a farm wagon on top of the Methodist church - another year a surrey was placed on top of the shed behind the church - in those days some churches had sheds where church folk could leave their horses and buggies during the church services.
It was a tradition at Halloween to soap up windows but the town leaders got a better idea - why not have a contest and let school children make a supervised project of fancy paintings on store windows using a base of Bon Ami to help with the cleaning when the season was past. I even did that with Christmas paintings on mirrors on our homes and once on a display window
in an Italian hotel in the mid-fifties. Lovers of art as they are, the folks in the town loved the American contribution to the Christmas season in their town.
We always had a Halloween parade in town and the high school band (all 8 or ten of them) was featured. Half the band was percussion as I recall but we made a joyful noise unto the community just the same.
One time I remember some of the boys loading up a big trash can with old, dried up highly flammable nitrate movie film, setting the barrel in front of the firehouse, and torching it off.
It provided the best explosion and fire in several years and and the firemen were not impressed.
Appreciative that they didn't have to take the truck out - but not happy just the same.
However, the real symbol of Halloween was not the pumpkin. While in grade school the thrill was making jack-o-lanterns. But when we became teenagers it became the season of the outhouse. The more outhouses that could be tipped the better - and if we could tip one with someone in it, all the better. Sadly, the outhouse is gone along with steam locomotives but memories still remain for some old guys who remember the day of the outhouse. There's a book that memorializes the "necessary house": Nature Calls by Dottie Booth and published by Ten Speed Press. It's a history book worth looking at.
But my father was smarter than many teenagers -- when we finally got running water in our house he invited our fire department to a beer bust in our back yard - and in the process told them they could have a training event by burning down the outhouse. A good time was had by all except the teenagers the following Halloween -- after all, outhouses were meant for teenagers at Halloween - not firemen at a beer bust. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Know where this is? And When?

Back in the last century - in my Air Force days (or years) (I spent a tour of duty at Lowry Air Force Base. I loved Colorado and it was nice to be back there this past summer.
However, since 1952 and 1953 a lot of things have changed in the Denver area.
There is no Lowry AFB anymore. It was closed down a number of years ago and most of the base facilities are gone.
However, the humongous hangar (or hangars) are still there and are the core of the Air Museum of the Rockies - well worth a visit. I've wondered if the old Base Headquarters building has been retained - it was a beautiful building with a Spanish
touch to its architecture. Looking at air photos of the area on
Google shows the huge "Brick Barracks" still there - not far from Hangar One. It held several squadrons including my 'open bay' instructor squadron, a small base exchange, and a dining hall. Even the facilities of the summer White House of Eisenhower's day, and remains of the earliest days of the Air Force Academy are no longer there. Most of the base has been done away with to allow building of new subdivisions. But memories of Lowry stay with me and good memories of Denver.
I remember a New Years eve when I went downtown to take pictures of all the Christmas lights on the Civic Center from the steps of the State Capitol. The next day we were driving around Denver in a Pontiac convertible with the top down. Weather in Denver was hard to predict. I roller skated at a rink in Englewood not far from the Gates Tire Company factory. I filled in occasionally as an announcer at KGNC - a country music station. I skied weekends on the base ski team and ended up on Sunday evenings in snake dances down the main drag of Idaho Springs or at a pub atop Lookout Mountain, looking down over Golden, Colorado. We had great times at Lakeside Park and Elitch's Garden where they had big bands of the time at their dance pavilions.
And we would take trips to other places in the area. Like the picture above where several of us spent part of a day at Royal Gorge. I couldn't easily handle crossing the Royal Gorge bridge today because of a problem with vertigo but in those days I had little fear (if any) of heights.
As I suggested earlier, a lot of what I remember is gone. Stapleton Airport has been replaced. Elitch's has moved closer to downtown. The electric buses no longer run the distance from downtown Denver to Aurora. Time changes a lot and Denver has become a big town and really sprawls. It has a problem with smog. It has problems with traffic. But in a lot of ways, Denver will never change. And some of us who lived there many years ago remember it as a special place with special memories. And that is good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Somethings you simply accept in faith

It's been a year and a half since I retired from the pastoral ministry at Whittemore UMC.
It was a wonderful three years and I have missed it. In some ways. I miss the people and the personal aspects of being a pastor under appointment. The people of the church - each individually - became a part of my extended family and it was a deep personal loss when we
were not part of their family.

I was asked to go back there last Sunday to share a Communion service and it was really wonderful tom get back if even for one day. For a couple of weeks before I worked hard to
develop a message that would be meaningful. I finally came up with one that I titled "All In
the Family" but it was not oriented toward the Archie Bunker TV series. Instead, I borrowed from Bill Gaither music - a song called "The Family of God" It goes (in part) like this:

"You will notice we say 'brothers and sisters' round here
It's because we're a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory, in this family so dear."

We walked into the church last Sunday morning a little early and it felt like 'Old Home' week. It didn't take long for the choir director to ask if I'd sing with them like in the old days. "Sure," I said and I wandered back to where they practiced - and what do you know -- they were singing................"The Family of God." "Oops," I said, "You guys just took care of my sermon for the morning!" They said, they could sing something else but I said, "No, I think this will fit in just great."

I think the amazing part was that both of us were thinking of the same thing at the same time. I'd like to think that God was in control that Sunday morning - that we all were focused on the same thing. That we're part of God's family - and it's wonderful.

"I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God
Washed in the fountain, cleansed by his blood,

Joint heirs with Jesus, as we travel this sod

for we're all part of the family - The Family of God"