Saturday, March 27, 2010

A four month Marriage No-No

In the early 1950's General Dynamics produced the intercontinental bomber, the B-36.
It had six pusher-type propellers and four jet engines and was big - certainly in aircraft dimensions of the day. A lot of people have seen the movie "Strategic Air Command" starring James Stewart and June Allyson and the B-36 was one of the planes featured in the movie.

What a lot of people don't know is that General Dynamics also produced a cargo version of the B-36 and it was known as the C-99. Even by today's standards it was big - almost the same dimensions as a Boeing 747 in use on many airlines with intercontinental routes. In 1954 it was huge.

In 1954 the C-99 was flying cargo between several Air Force depots - Kelly Field, Texas; Spokane and Tacoma, Washington; and McClellan AFB, California, outside Sacramento. The XC-99 was big and heavy and was limited in the fields it could operate from. Because of this, relatively few people ever got to see this huge airplane in operation.

In 1954 Joyce and I were assigned to McClellan AFB on a temporary assignment. Housing was hard to come by for for TDY (temporary duty) personnel and we were fortunate to find an apartment made out of a retired railroad refrigerator car. Our bedroom window looked out at the end of a major runway and thus we heard (and could see) every aircraft landing or taking off. That included World War Two propeller-driven fighters, Military versions of the Lockheed Constellation, and -- the XC-99.

The B-36 and XC-99 both had unusual sounds - nothing sounded like them. One time I heard that special sound - a kind of a hmmm - hmmm --- hmmm or vroom-room-room grumble. It was early in the morning and I jumped out of bed. The sound got louder; then I decided this was a momentous sight and I called to Joyce, "Wake up - wake-up. Come to the window." Thinking there was a disaster, Joyce jumped out of bed and came to the window and asked, a little breathless,"What's going on?" I pointed out the window just as the XC-99 came into sight and said, : "Look, the XC-99!!!" Very quietly, and with deep emotion, she said, "You mean you woke me out of sound sleep to see an AIRPLANE?"

As indicated in the title of this blog, there are some things you wake a wife up for. A fire in the kitchen. A tornado coming across the field to your house. But never, never, wake a wife up to see an airplane pass by the back window. No matter how big. No matter how rare a bird.
Especially when you have only been married three or four months.

Today we live on a former Air Force base in which a major industrial portion of the facility has been converted to repair and maintain 747 cargo aircraft. They have a unique engine sound as well. And my love of airplanes has never waned. If we hear one of the 747's taking off I still run to a window or into the back yard to see it take off into the wild blue yonder. Only thing is, she does the same thing. Maybe time mellows a person - or maybe she has figured over these almost six generations that it's not worth fighting some things - it's easier to join in. Just so long as a husband does not run to the bed, shake her, wake her out of a sound sleep, and say, "Come to the window; you gotta see this."

Yes, dear, I've learned my lesson!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Would Today's Teachers Do?

The picture goes a long way back - to when my brother and I went to a two-room school. As I looked at the picture I thought to myself: "With all the upsets in our 21st Century school system, how would our teachers in today's society handle what teachers in 1940 contended with.
I know that one of our daughters is a teacher and we are very proud of her. But she may be a bit concerned and maybe upset by what I am going to say in this blog.
If you look closely at the picture you will see two teachers - Mrs. Hall at the lower left and Mr.Crounce in the top row. Mrs. Hall taught grades one through four. Mr. Crounce, in a room next door, taught grades five through eight. And if you look closely, neither of them looked young - especially Mr. Crounce, who was well along in years, was an amazing person who taught all kinds of classes - reading, writing, 'rithmatic, geography, history, --- you name it - he taught it. Well, I need to back up a bit - he did not teach music - they had a traveling music teacher who came for an hour or so every week or so. And what I want to emphasize is that unless a student had a significant mental problem (and there were one or two that did) he or she eventually graduated from the two room school to the "big" high school seven miles away able to read, write, and handle a reasonable level of mathematics.
It could not have been an easy job working with four classes at the same time. The teacher would work for a while with one class then move back a row to the next class (a grade higher)
and then back a row to another class until he or she reached the eighth grade when they would go back to the fifth grade at the front of the classroom. It meant that teachers had to work with all levels - and it also meant that students had to spend a lot of time on their own. And when the year was done each class moved back a row and the eighth grade moved out the door.
I am very proud of the fact that I went to a two room school. I have great memories of Mr. Crounce and Mrs. Hall - and I credit a lot of my talents and abilities to the educational foundations they built in my life. I think to myself that a lot of the great people of the past 65 or 70 years - people who brought us into the electronic - atomic - scientific - intellectual world of today were people who might have come out of a one or two room school beginning.
The nearest thing I can see today is home teaching and at least two of our daughters did just that - and did it successfully. I think some Charter Schools deserve a lot credit as well.
I read recently that the city of Detroit will be closing over forty schools in June. To make matters worse, the knowledge level of students is often deplorable. Why? We've seen a change of educational priorities. Sometimes students who aren't able to read graduate from high school
perhaps because they have skills in sports. Sports and other peripheral activities often are given priority over basic educational subjects that are essential to being able to cope with the workplace. I have a problem with the priorities of education within the teaching profession. Granted, teachers deserve and need a fair and equitable support package. But in many cases teachers don't seem to exhibit the same outlook on teaching that Mr. Crounce and Mrs. Hall had - and I venture to say that they worked for peanuts because they truly loved working with young people - after all, this picture reflects the era of the Great Depression. Please notice that both of them are smiling. In short, I deeply appreciate the gifts and sacrifices my teachers made for me.
I don't want to blame school administrators and teachers for all the shortcomings of where we are today -- a lot of the fault lies with parents as well. And with distractions like television, video games, and entertainment as well. We didn't have those back in the 1930's and early '40's. All we had was personal social life and a different quality of life.
Guess I'll just close with a hat's off to those parents who home teach, and to those people who seem to have some old-fashioned priorities in life. Maybe I'll keep my prayers aimed at the hope that traditional values will be brought back because they are the basis of good ethical, moral values on which our country was built.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's In a Name?

Have you ever traced your family history? I mean, gone back as far as you can to find out what your family roots are? I've never gotten deep in genealogy but I've always had an interest.
My grandfather on my Dad's side, in his later years, wrote a couple of family history books that were/are excellent sources of family history. For instance, for many years I did not realize that the battle of Guilford Courthouse in the Revolutionary War was fought on Mitchell land - one of my direct ancestors. There also was a story about a little girl that was captured by the Indians and was saved - another direct ancestor. One time, at a church meeting in Mattoon, Illinois I met an aunt (distant but direct just the same) that I never had heard of. And here in Oscoda a member of a local church came up to me one time and asked me if the Harry E. Mitchell who wrote genealogy books was a relative. I told him that Harry E. Mitchell was my grandfather and it turned out that the Oscoda man was another cousin.
Oh, another thing - my grandfather's book also revealed that there were a number of Presbyterian pastors in my family background. My father commented that in view of this, it didn't seem quite right that I was a METHODIST pastor. All I c an say is that God, in His wisdom, is in control and mayj not have read my grandfather's book.
A few years ago our youngest daughter, Lisa, started working on the family history of my wife's father. We drove into Canada, found a bunch of family graves and history and checked out family information. Later we traced a lot of family history and graves in Detroit and other parts of Michigan. By the time Lisa was done she had compiled a excellent family history that went back to when Joyce's ancestors had come to Canada from County Mayo in the 1800's.
On my mother's side, her family goes back to Lincolnshire in England (around Epworth where Methodist founder John Wesley grew up)( I hope I'm right there) and eventually became one of the original Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. You'll find the name of Isaac Allerton on the Mayflower Compact and my middle name is Allerton. One of my ancesters was involved in developing rubber products like boots or raincoats. Not tires. But the company was Goodyear India Rubber Company or was it Goodrich India Rubber Company? But I DO know that it was not a forerunner of one of today's tire companies. Or maybe it was.
It's interesting to go back in family history. I've never gotten deeply involved in genealogy but family history is interesting just the same.
Oh, about the picture. One of the neckties is the "Bruce" Tartan. I guess I was named after the
great king of Scotland. The other tie is the "Mitchell" tartan - my direct family clan. It is also related to the Innes clan, and the Galbreath clan (which is the one my Oscoda friend is descended from.
It's a small world and I thank a friend for setting me to reflecting on family ties. Maybe I ought to do this more often.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First TV in Town

"Come on up to my place and I'll show you my etchings." That's the invitation every girl feared way back when.

In the late 1930's the invitation might have been "Let's go over to watch Bea Mesick's front-load Bendix washing machine." That was the first washing machine with a window on the front where someone could watch unmentionables going around and round as they were laundered.

But then there was the mid to late 1940's - and I was guilty of another invitation. "If you come over to my house I'll show you my test pattern."

Up to 1947 home television sets were few and far between. Home entertainment was mostly games, reading, socializing, and listening to the radio. Radio was something you could become enveloped in; your imagination was filled with mental images of Tom Mix or Jack Armstrong as they tried to right all the wrongs of the world. I was desolate when the actor who played the Lone Ranger died in an automobile accident -- I was convinced that the Lone Ranger was dead and gone - and then I realized that someone else could play the role. Radio was a time and era when people found their imaginations being honed and mental visions became 'real'.

Early television left a lot to the imagination - for instance what was behind a tiny screen full if snow with a flickering images or a test pattern (see picture above) or people like Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle) who did a weekly variety show. If I was lucky (and I mean LUCKY) I could get one station and that was a snowy picture even with a high and complex antenna.

We had the first TV set in town - a seven-inch Teletone portable which was about the size of a medium-size suitcase. It weighed 30 or 40 pounds and cost around 150 dollars (nearly a thousand in today's dollars) and I was being paid 35 dollars a week. (everything came out of that - rent, food, taxes, entertainment, train fare home most every weekend -- AND -- the television payment).

My mother and dad inherited the TV set when I moved to a new job in a town that did not have TV reception. It was a momentous occasion when we invested in a 'fresnel' lens that boosted the picture size from 7 to 10 inches. Instead of watchingfrom 5feet away all the way up to 7 or 8 feet away which meant a larger crowd could come in and watch whatever was on (and that might be the afternoon test pattern).

Today we take television for granted. Where, with radio, everything was left to the imagination, television today leaves little to the imagination. Today we take for granted 150 or more channels
or more high definition crystal-clear channels via satellite or cable.

What a difference 60 years makes, and what an impact has been made on society by television. Love it or hate it - we can hardly live without it.