Friday, December 23, 2011

We wish you a messy Christmas


This is not the peak picture - it really topped off a couple of weeks later. But then it got cleaned up (somewhat) and now it's a problem again. Residuals from incoming packages - packing materials and more.

The story of my life, so the wife says. She has accused me of being a packrat, and maybe I am - but my redeeming explanation is that it is all important stuff - much too important to get rid of. Well, the picture does not include Christmas presents (that I can see) but it does include a lot of my life.

The red case in the foreground is a fishing tackle box that I use for artist supplies. Behind it is a stack of slide reels - one or two of the family - one or two of England - and a couple of the Holy Land and Egypt. On top of the box are several blank VHS tapes that I'll use 'someday' - except that now I'm using my computer to made DVD's and CD's

Behind that is a box with shoes on it - and in the box is 'stuff', literally translated to electronic cables and unidentified material that I may use someday. Maybe. Maybe not but I just don't want to get rid of  because as sure as I do, I'll need it. Someday. Maybe.

Then there are shoes (a few of which may have memories of Florida ten years ago - there's a lot of sentiment there. In the foreground center and right are shoes - my bright white tennies from the VA that are worn to formal events. In the bookcase are a couple of sets of WEB Griffin books (Marine and Army, family history, an autographed Methodist hymnal from 1he 1986 General Conference in Baltimore, and Bibles and religious books that I will need when a Bishop decides I'm much too important to leave wilting on the vine. Oh, and I can't forget the mini-camcorder on the floor (an older one is hidden behind the foot of the bed)

On the right, almost hidden behind the door frame is more 'important stuff' - I'm not sure just what but I'll check one of these days to be sure it's okay.

Hanging up is clothes - some bordering on ancient - and I must admit that I finally disposed of a pair of blue jeans that go back to 1977 - or is that 1799?

And on the top shelf (nort in the picture is hats, Navy and cruise books, a miniature wood working tool kit, several old copies of 1940's Popular Mechanics, and every McDonnell Aircraft Product Support Digest magazine from the late 1960's to the late 1970's. Oh, and hidden in back are two boxes of correspondence that goes back into the 1950's and 1960'. Precious stuff I have to save for what ever I might need it for.

And that do;es not include the precious stuff in the storagne bin upstairs. Maybe someday I'll check that out too.

With all that said, I just want to say, 'Have a blessed and messy Christmas'  Ho, Ho, Ho!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank you..........

s
.....for all the years you've shared with me.

......for the times you graciously contended with my grumpiness when I came home from work after a bad day.

.....for contending with move after move when it might have been nicer to stay in one place for a while.

.....for going through birth pains five times - a situation no man can ever understand or experience.

.....for being both mother and father when I was off on overseas tours. And lots of other times as well.

.....for being patient when patience probably was hard to come by.

.....for thinking the same thing I was thinking of - maybe two minds working as one. So often in tune.

.....for being the perfect pastor's wife when it was me that got the call.

.....for the time I got a four hour notice to go aboard ship and you packed me up for whatever the duty meant. And not complaining.

.....for enduring one trailer after another.

.....for contending with my specialized kind of clutter when you so loved neatness.

.....for keeping me on the health track when I might have preferred to nutritionally cheat.

.....and for a zillion other things - large and small - you have done and been over all of these 58 years. Thank you from the bottom if my heart.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!                   With love - the old guy in the blue suit

Friday, December 9, 2011

Santas Boots



Somebody said  'a boot is a boot'. I disagree - boots have personality.I know that mine have over the years.

For instance, when I was in elementary school I lived a mile out of town and it was quite a walk back and forth to school. No school bus for that school. Our usual winter apparel was blue jeans and plaid shirts and heavy coats, scarves\, gloves (or mittens) and stocking caps. On my feet were high-top boots with a pocket on the side of one to hold  a knife. These were heavy, not well lined, so we would wear one or two hesvy socks. The knife in the boot pocket almost needed to be a Barlow unless wanted to be out of the Junior Macho group.I re member rubbing neatsfoot oil into my hightops so that they would (supposedly) be waterproof. It didn't always work. And the hightops almost always had leather-strip laces that almost never broke.

I used to hate galoshes - they kept the snow off your feet unless you had to go through big drifts or deep puddles of water. They were floppy and closed with clasps. Galoshes went on over shoes or boots and were clumsy and awkward. I'm not talking about British Wellingtons - could have waded in a creek with them. They were more practical as far as I was concerned -  I hated galoshes when snow or water would come over the top and go down the boot insides and soak my feet and socks.

Then there were boon-dockers. Correction: there have been, are, and will always be boondockers When I was in the Air Force these were the issue work shoe and they were heavy and would make a  sound when you walked. In basic training the Drill Sergeant would be after us continually to put a glossy shine not only on our black low quarter shoes but on the boondockers as well. Problem was, with the boondockers the rough side of the leather was on the outside and that made it almost impossible to get a really good shine on the boondockers. The Drill Sergeant took sadistic pleasure in reminding us that our boots were almost never as shiny as they should be.

I also had to wear steel-toed boots or work shoes when I worked in  a machine shop. I was glad for these boots - the protective covers over my toes worked a number of times to save toes when I dropped steel bars on my feet. I put steel toed boots and safety glasses as two of the most important things I had to wear.

Then there are the red boots in the photo. I call them my 'Santa Boots' because they look like the kind of footwear that might have been appropriate at the north pole. They are Hush Puppies and I love them dearly. They became mine when Joyce and I left Florids after 17 years of warm weather living to move the the north land of Michigan. My church friends decided to provide us a roast before we left and in the process gave us all kinds of things they had hung onto when they migrated to sunny Florida. Most of these gifts were gag gifts and there was a lot of laughter during the presentation. One of the men gave me a beat-up pair of boondockers that looked as thought they had come from the Spanish-American War. But the tops and soles were great and all it took was a few licks of Boondocker Polish and new laces and they felt almost new. They lasted a good ten years before going to Goodwill industries, Not to be junked, but to go a few more years on someone elses redneck feet. The boots in the picture were a gift from a retired New York judge who thought he'd never need them in Florida. I polished them up - wore them a while - put new zippers and new soles on them - and they are among my favorites even today.  I don't think that Judge Lee ever thought that they would last like they have but there are doing just fine - thank you - and I may be buried with my Santa boots on when the time comes for me to take my final journey way up north..

Like Nancy Sinatra sang, 'These boots were made for walking' and they bring back good memories..

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I was surprised

Back in the old days we didn't have mcrowave ovens. In fact, at one point we had an ancient wood-burner that worked just fine so long as I brought in enough firewood to keep it going. I know, it makes me sound old but not so old that we had to cook all our meals over an open fire in the fireplace. Maybe that makes me middle-aged. Anything to keep me from feeling ancient.

But we DID use the fireplace for one special  thing - we popped corn over the open fire. Not Orville Redenbachers pop corn - but Jolly Time - which I think is still in the stores. We put the kernals in a good-size basket with steel screen, and the basket was mounted on the end of a long handle. The basket had a mesh lid which served to keep the pop corn from going all over the place when it popped. Then we held the popper over the coals or fire and watched the kernals expand and explode
in the basket. For a little guy like I was it was a handful to hold the popper long enough for all the corn to pop but when it was done it was wonderful served up in a big bowl saturated in real butter and a measure of salt. It seemed as though popcorn was always better in those days than it is now with convenient ready to pop packages right out o the microwave. Could it be that the open fire added something special?

Apart from great eating, we would use pop corn for making garlands for the Christmas tree. We'd get strong thread and needles and then string the corn on the thread. It took a lot of time to do this  but, hey, there wasn't much to do what with television ten or twelve years away. Sometimes we came up with a different twist - we would use easter egg coloring to color the kernals different colors. It provided a bit of color and added a bit of variety. But the best thing of all with these garlands was when we interpersed the popcorn with firm ripe red cranberries. You had to sort them to be sure they lasted through the Christmas season. When the tree finally came down after Christmas we would remove the garlands and hang them on trees in the yard for the birds to eat.

I was surprised the other day when I found suggestions about popcorn and cranberry Christmas tree garlands on the internet. I thought things like that were long gone and it was nice to come up with a good memory of things I enjoyed as a little boy. Maybe there are a few people out there who share good memories of family projects that are fun to do and provide some essential family togetherness in a world where togetherness is often forgotten.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

84


Who would have thought the monkey in hand would last 84 years?

But then, again, who would have thought that I would have lasted so long? It looks a bit grotesque and I can't figure out the pose, but maybe it had something to do with the rickets I was supposed to have had at very early age.

I was thinking this morning - thinking about all the birthdays that have passed since November 12, 1927. I don't remember this picture ever being taken but it is one of those that seems to emerge when you least expect it. Like the one where I was proudly looking into the camera lens with diapers at half mast. I hated that picture because it always seemed to come out of the archives just in time to be shown to some person I least wanted to see it. And our children - at least certain of them - seemed to gloat that they had put one over on the old man. By the way, I haven't seen THAT picture in quite some time - maybe it has found some blessed file thirteen along the way.

But when I look back over the past 84 years, I realize that lot of history hasa been made in my lifetime. People like FDR, and Harry Truman, and Ike, and JFK and Nixon and Clinton and the Bush's. Events like the great Depression, World War Two,radio and television, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the protests of the sixties, the Space Race, atomic energy,  Iraq and Afghanistan along with a whole flock of good or tormenting events throughout the world.

Then I think of all the jobs - large and small - that I've had. A Tydol/Veedol grease monkey - helping build a freezer locker plant - pitching hay - shoveling manure - newspapers - radio -  machinist and draftsman - Air Force -  aerospace engineer - preacher - teacher - travel agent and more. It reminds me of an interview where an interviewer, who had read my resume, asked if I thought I had found my niche in life. Maybe, maybe not - who knows?

I think of all the valleys I've gone through - and the mountains I've climbed. I think of love lost and love gained - of a wonderful wife who has traveled through life with me for all these years - and our children who no longer are kids but grown adults with lives and families of their own. I have memories of times not so good - and times of great joy. A lot of it is wrapped in in photos and videos and  blogs and newspaper columns most of which are buried in boxes that probably will be unloaded after I'm gone. But memories can be treasures. Like when our middle daughter Amy and friends dressed up for Hallowe'en as a string quartet. Or when our eldest daughter Linda was the cause of a public relations situation in Colorado. Or when we took Linda to college and I realized the at-home family was shrinking for  the first time.Or when Jeff left for the Navy. Or Greg went west or when Lisa won her nursing pin.

Memories - we've all got them - and we treasure them more and more as the years pile. They help us grow and for most of us, they help us mellow.

As for me, the best birthday is the 84th - today. It opens the door to tomorrow, and it gives cause to remembering special times - like when I turned 18 and got my first notice about being drafted for the Army. I wasn't drafted but I remember the induction center with its marble benches and the inductees were pretty much bare naked. So, like I say, treasure your memories and thrive for tomorrow. Remember: the best birthday of all is when you wake up in the morning, put your feet on the floor, look in the mirror, and thank the Lord for another day and another opportunity at life.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friends Forever

 

Have you ever stopped to think of people you knew when you were young? Special friends? Classmates, perhaps?


Back in 1980 my high school class celebrated 35 years since graduation. Though we were living in Indiana, we decided to go back to New York for the occasion. My first experience when I walked in the door of the restaurant where the reunion was being held was seeing a couple of "classmates" sitting at the bar and one of them commented that the celebration was in a back room and she pointed to the door. She made some comment about my being the photographer from the local paper - after all, I was laden down with camera gear. Obviously, she didn't put my 1980 grey hair within the class and, certainly, had no idea who the good-looking lady with me was.


Inside the dining room it was not unexpected that people had changed - some I could recognize despite changes in weight, hair color, and so forth, but like so  many reunions, those of us from out of town had little in common with those who still livd in the home town.. After all, we hadn't seen each other for 35 years. People I remember as 'best friends' were just interesting people exchanging stories about what they had done, and pictures of children and even a few grandchildren. So often it works like that - the ones  we described as 'best friends for life' may not be anymore. Oh, on occasion I might have run into a classmate in later years - one of my classmates retired near us in Florid and we still e-mail back and forth at times.


But this weekend Joyce and I drove up to Detroit from Indianapolis to attend a memorial service
for the wife of one of her brothers. It struck me that our friendship with Jim and Sandra has lasted over many years. When Joyce and I were  talking about getting married we got together with Jim and Sandy to get their advice on marriage. After all, he had been in the Air Force, and they had been married a year or so, and they were experts on married life in the service. Right?  Then, when it came time for the wedding,we had a problem finding a church and minister and so Sandy interceded and steered us to her church and pastor. I don't know what we would have done without them.


The years passed - we went our way, they went theirs but somehow, one way or another our lives seemed to intertwine. In 2002 we went back to Michigan for a family reunion with Joyce's sisters and brothers and she suddenly realized it had been 50 years apart, for the most part, from her family.This led to our move back to Michigan and Jim and Sandy were right in the middle of that. They had bought a home on a former Air Force base, and we ended up buying one close to them. And so 'best friends' were reunited. The years In Oscoda were rich ones - we had great times together.


Then Sandra came down sick. She struggled with poor health for quite some time and eventually she and Jim moved to Bay City to be with their daughter and closer to their doctors and medical centers. In the meantime, Joyce and I moved to Indianapolis to be close to our youngest daughter, Lisa, who is a nurse. My health problems cleared up - Sandra's got worse. Her problem  turned out to be cancer and she eventually passed away not long ago.


And that was why we went to Detroit - to go to her memorial service. It was a time of great reflection of how her life impacted in good ways upon our lives. She was a really good person -
a very special person who contended with some tough things in life with grace  and love. Especially relating to her family.


Most of all, Joyce, especially, can look back even to her teen years like the photo above (Joyce on the left, Sandra on the right) and testify that there, indeed CAN be friends forever - one's you can remember with love for all the years that friendship lasted.


Monday, October 31, 2011

My Dad Never Knew....

.....at least he never said anything to me about it. It was Hallowe'en, 1944. I was sixteeen - a classic teenager - andI had gotten my driver's license a  few months before. To make matters worse, I had the night off from my movie projectionist job, which in aftertought would have been better for me to have been involved with.

Hallowe'en was big time stuff in our town. Art students from high school entered a contest involving art work on store windows. A requirement was a parade. Our town loved parades and of course parades involve the high school band. After all, the little ones in their costumes needed music to prance to. And
I was in the band. A dozen or so musicians and I played the cymbols. Holmes Hutchinson played the bass drum and Corky Hover played the snare drums. I mention these participants because they went far beyond the call of duty.

One the parade was over we headed back to where the band had formed. There, nosed in to the curb, was my father's trusty 1940 Studebaker Champion four door sedan. Suddenly "we" (I'm really not sure whose idea it was) decided that we would load the car with as many as we could - with as many band members included - AND INSTRUMENTS - and drive down Main Street to provide a second parade concert. Ready to go, with people in and outside the car, we made our way back to Main Street which meanwhile had been blocked off. Nothing ventured nothing gained, I always have said and so we drove around the sawhorses that blocked the street and created the most awful sounds you ever heard as we drove down the street a little faster the normal. Once past downtown we all had a big laugh as we parked the car and went about the normal trick or treat activities with a major focuc on upending outhouses (yes, even in town there were some outhouses waiting to be tipped over - hopefully with one more more occupants in them. All told, we felt like it had been a great evening of ghosts, goblins, and devious teenagers. We all went home tired but elated at the evenings activities.

But wait just a moment - it's not over yet. At scholl the next morning the public address system sounded of asking that certain members of the band needed to check in with the principal - and the sooner bthe better. Once gathered in the office, we were told that our presence was requested at the railroad station immediately if not sooner. This was not a good sign - the mayor of the town was one of the honchos at the station. With a certsin sense of forboding, we drove cautiously, legally to the station where we were greeted by the mayor ----  and the chief of police. The lecture seemed more directly aimed at me than at the others but we all stood there shaking in our boots. It appeard we had accomlished not just one or two infractions - but a bucketful - disturbing the peace, speeding, driving through a barricade the wrong way on a one way street and a few other charges I can't remember. Or don't want to.

With his wrath winding down, and with our apprehension growing, the mayor tuned to me and said that my father was a good man. I nodded in agreement. My dad was in the army and it was wartime and the mayor finally said  he could throw the book at me. It was serious enough that I (or we) could get acquainted with a jail cell down at Tracy Hall. The chief of police nodded as though he or one of his deputies would be happy to provide us  accommodations for the rest of our lives.

But then the mayor said, "I'm not going to tell your fathers - but do something like this again and it will not go easy on you." Chastened, we went back to school thinking that every classmate knew what we faced and we did not mess around on the streets - or even in school for some thime therafter. Interestingly, thr mayor dsaid nothing about the outhouses.

Ad as I said, I don;t think my dad ver heard the story - but now, with him heaven, I suspect he is shaking his head and saying, "What else was that boy up to that I wasn't aware of?"

By the way, in later years I got to be great friends with both the chief of police and the mayor.
Until they looked at each other, grinned, and asked, "Remember that Hallowe'en night in '44?
And I would cringe..

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mercy, Mercy, Nursey, Nursey


What does a nurse do when she gets sick? More specifically, what does a nurse who contends with asthma do when the autumn season brings on allergies beyond belief. Enough that she calls her parents to announce that the people in Urgent Care believe she should go to the hospital emergency room to see what can be done about a horrible headache, sweating, and the shakes - all of which apparently turned out to be a reaction to prescribed medication.

She's not the only one in the family who reacts to medications. Most of our children - now grown adults - have tough times when having to contend with medication. Not only them, but Joyce has unbelievable difficulty with anesthesia. I seem to be the only one who doesn't seem to react to medication (for the most part) although I had a bad scene with Percoset one time - terrible itching and it challenged me one time so that I got dizzy and fell out a bus door right square on my face.

So last night was one of the really bad times for our nurse daughter. Ordinarily she's the one who is always there with good advice and a caring nature. But this time we have discovered that she needs care, attention, and love at times herself. Independent as she is about a lot of things, this time she has felt bad enough that she has accepted parental support and encouragement willingly. And she has accepted the fact that some medicine does not settle well. To make matters worse, she is  a lot happier when she can work with her job of home care for homebound patients. She needs to work, and wants to work, but where is that dividing line where she is well enough to attend to other people.

I have a special spot in my heart for nurses - especially those in places like emergency rooms.They never really know what they will face next - nor what kind patients they will work with. Having seen some of the best of medical situations - and some of  the worst, I want to award my heroine of the week award to nurses - especially those who might end up caring for other nurses or doctors who sometimes know enough about symptoms that they may contest their care provider's diagnosis. I was particular proud of Lisa last night in the emergency room because she had a "yes, ma'am' attitude through the whole thing. But when one feels as  badly as she did last night there's not much option.

She went home last night after some corrective medication, and she has done a bit better today -
but isn't past it completely. She may be right - it may take the first covering snowfall to get rid of allergens and pollen and all that nasty stuff. I can't say I'm eager to see snow but if it makes her feel well again, it winter can't come soon enough.
'

Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Things Never Change

 
Sometimes it takes a grandchild to make me think.

Not about  campus parties, or academic achievements, or scholarship funds. Sometimes it is no morw than a book that Granddaughter Jill shared with me. A really thought provoking book entitled "Riding the Rails."

Shortly after I graduated from high school I got a job on a weekly newspaper. Early on my primatry task was editing gossip columns from small communities surrounding the home town of the newspaper.
As time passed I graduated to photographer, and sports editor, and eventually to writing feature articles.
One of my assignments had to do; with a hobo from the 1920's and '30's. Because the town I worked in was a major raailroad center at the time, it was an ideal location for hobos to congregate or switch trains. We had the Rutland Railroad to the north, Boston and Albany east and west, and the Harlem Division of the new York Central System south to New York City. Along with the migration of hobos were souvenirs they left behind. For instance, my news paper assignment was to photograph the unique initils on one particular hobo that had left his 'mark' on a grade crossing shack of the Rutland down the street from the paper. It turned out that his mark had been found in thirty-some states.

But there were other marks left by hobos. We've included a picture of some of these which indicated conditions other hobos might find in a town they stopped at. Some of the signs offered hope fo the wanderer - other reflected warnings. It all went together to remind us that hoboism was not an individual life - it was very much a community efoort where, in many cases, they helped one another in whatever ways they could.

The book I'm reading looks at transient life in a different way. I remember seeing adult hobos hirtching rides on trains when I was young. I remember my mother and grandmother warning me of "tramps" that might come to the back door. There was a fear that hobos would take off with young people, much like fear of gypsies.

However, I never syopped to think that young kids - even pre-teens - left homes to go on their own. Sometimes it was because families "couldn't afford' the children. Other times children and gteens escaped abusive home environments.It wasn't just a few - It was estimted, in 1935, that there were as many as 250,000 so-called 'wild boys' either hitch-hiking on the highways, or riding the rails, in, on, and on top, of railway boxcars. Some just followed wanderlust - other sought any kind of work in the desperate Great Depression years.  It was estimated by the Interstate Commerce Commission that, in the single year of 1932, almost six thousand  so-called trespassers were killed when riding, or trying to ride, on railroads. Of these well over 1,500 were youth under 21.

Things have changed a lot since he Great Depression. But the tragedy of the homesless continues ever today.Their modes of transporation may have changed, but the tragedy of poverty or homelessness continues. Our to picture reflects the concerns of an organization in Florida. The fact of the matter is, homelessness and 21st Century hoboism, if I can call it that, continues and probably always will be there, perhaps amplified by the challenges of today's economy. It's tragic to say the least..

Friday, October 14, 2011

Where's Flo?




Maybe you've seen it - an advertisement by Flo's favorite insurance company. I found this one in Popular Mechanics and I saw a couple of different ads like it in a doctor's waiting room. The thought was the same: in every ad you were asked to see if you could pick out Flo from a picture of a large crowd. Try as best I could, I never found her and I venture you might have a problem yourself.

It's something like a 'Where's Waldo' event within our family circle this past week. Our grandson Keith is in the Army and he was granted a leave to come home for a while from a deployment in Afghanistan. Nobody seemed to know when he was to leave and when he DID leave where he was. So, we watched a bunch of exchanges on Facebook asking 'where's Waldo?', or more accurately, 'Where's Bubba?'

Well, Keith finally showed up in Dallas, Texas and eventually got home to the Seattle area a few hours later. It took him three days to make it back from Afghanistan. I hope those three days were not chargeable to leave - and I hope the time going back is not chargeable either - that would make for a short visit home.

More personally, it's like my closet. The closet that Joyce would like to empty out. Or even more, the workshop I used to have. She'd ask when I was going to get rid of some of that 'stuff' and I'd say, 'One never knows when you might need that piece of wire, or when that old battered knob would fit on a door.' Now that I think of it, why did I keep the old hard drive from a computer that died years ago? It's just the old idea that someday that may have a use - but keeping a hard drive that doesn't work - or whatever?

Or the 'man thing' when I come into the living room and ask if Joyce knows where an object is. 'It's probably in the storeroom,' she suggests. But where? What box is it in? Or could it have been left somewhere we used to live? Or could it have been thrown out? Or sold in a yard sale? (Our children are still talking about a yard sale over thirty years ago where they say I was willing to sell anything or everything for a price - maybe including pets or kids.)

So, a year after our last move I still play 'Where's Flo', or 'Where's Waldo" from time to time. And like the picture above, where I couldn't find Flo, there are still things around the house that I can't find.
And is it even important anymore?

Well, as far as Bubba is concerned, it was worth the wait to know he was back in civilization and that he was no longer lost in the crowd. Some treasures pop up eventually and the make the finding a special event.

















Saturday, October 8, 2011

Last Rites



I'm going through a loss in the family. A death if you want to call it that. Or maybe a partial death.

My trusty computer began to exhibit some strange quirks a few weeks ago and it proceeded to get worse.
To begin with, it began to feel a bit warm to the left of the touch pad. Then it would sign itself off of its own accord right in the middle of some procedure. Finally, the screen would come on and then go blank and eventually (finally finally) the screen wouldn't come on at all. My favorite computer guru pronounced that the computer had an incurable malady and there fore it was time for last rites on that one and off to the computer store for a new one with all the upgraded goodies. Not only am I trying to get used to the new programs and operating system, I have been struggling to transfer what I can of material from the old computer to the new one. I'm not done in that department and I expect to hav it all done by 2014. if the wind is in my favor. And to top all of that, the new confuser has a different keyboard which is an interesting experience for someone who types with two or three fingers and two thumbs.

I got to thinking about my experience with computers. I started with a Radio Shack TRS-something or other
back in 1983. I can't remember whether its capacity was in kb's or mb's but I'm sure in was kilo's - not much memory but enough that I could learn programming in Basic. Plus, it used a small cassette recorder.
A year or so later I was transferred and that church had early Apple computers - not Macintosh but enough that I could write stuff with it.(I looked at Macs, but they were too much for my wallet)

When we moved to Winter Park, Florida, the Chairman of the Trustees (through the church) gave me an early PC computer with twenty megs of memory. He claimed that it would simplify my writing and I found that it shortened to time to edit stuff I wrote and I went through a true computer conversion experience. As the years passed I climbed the computer ladder - my first Windows unit, to Windows 95 and 98, eventually to Windows XP an now Windows seven. With each upgrade the computer memory capacity made quantum leaps and so in thirty years my memory capacity has gone from 30 or so KB through a couple hundred of so Megabytes on up to 150 gigabytes and now its almost 500 gigabytes (whatever gigabytes are) Too bad my brain memory system has been downgraded every time the computer memory went up - it isn't fun to get old.

They say that one can always learn something new - and I'm working at that. Meanwhile, you can notice in the picture that my touch pad was well-worn. But there are enough good parts (I think) in the oldtimer to keep Joyce's identical computer going for a while. At least I hope so.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall Again
















We just got back from a quick trip up north to Michigan and we discovered that it is fall up there where it is ALMOST fall here in Indy. Not quite peak color where we were, but enough to remind us that summer has pretty well given up for this year.



We left Indianapolis at around 11 am last Monday and got to Tawas City on the shores of Lake Huron around five in the afternoon. In the process we checked our gas mileage and found that it took 342 miles to Bay City and it took 10 1/2 gallons of gas to top the car off. Figured out to almost 33 miles to the gallon. Love that Dodge Caliber. They can say what the want about all the other cars but that Caliber (bought in 2008) was great before all the rest of the economy cars started tooting their horns.



Had a nice visit with one of Joyce's sisters and her husband - they were in the process of packing up for a move back down to the Detroit area. Thay.like us, have a lot of mixed emotions about leaving the northland. It's a really beautiful area and very peaceful. Living in Oscoda was life ath its best. However, as the years piled up, I guess we all found it to be more condusive to good health to be closer much closer to civilization, and in my case, closer to medical care. Not that it wasn't adequate 'upnorth', but a lot of times we had to drive 75 miles or more for significant and specialized care. So, I love the convenience of the city, but I also loved country living and country folk when we were up there. As you can see from some of the photos, it's beautiful country, a great place to enjoy the best things nature has to offer.



One thing we did was to walk down well over 300 steps to see the shoreline of Foote Pond and Iargo Springs. It's a beautiful spot - I had been down there a few years ago. But this time Joyce could go down with me (her knee replacements made this possible)). She loved it as much as I did except that both of us came to the conclusion that it may have been 300 or so steps down but it felt like 700 or more coming back up. If anybody ever wants a natural stress test, that's the way to do it. And at our ages we were amazed not to have any aches and pains when we got done.



I hope you enjoy these pictures. They don't do justice to what they call "Pure Michigan". Try a trip 'up north'sometime - you'll like it there.


Meanwhile, I don't want to sell Indiana short either. We went to Brown County State Park yesterday and it is beautiful as well. And before I get a reminder from our Seattle area son,

I want to remind the world that the State of Washington is fantastic as well. So is Oregon - and Nevada - and Colorado. Yep - I guess there is beauty all over - if you only take the time to look around you.










Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bobby Took Us to the Pour House!







And you thought we had gone to the poor house? Not quite yet, but life is more and more challenging for us as anyone else. I think of the Poor House and am reminded of the old folks home in Ghent, New York. It was where aged without families or resources would go years ago. There probably a lot of those years ago and I felt sad about the one in Ghent on one hand, but felt comforted that those people had somewhere they could call home. But getting back to the subject of this blog, note that we went, not to the poor house - but the POUR house. As in Cambridge City, Indiana. A nice place for a good cup of coffee, a great sandwich, and super fudge.

As a diabetic, I should avoid the word fudge but, hey, fudge is good no matter how you spell it or say it,like, "Ohhhhh,........fudge!"




Bobby is our worthy tour leader at church and she is driver, navigator and whatever else she does to keep her passengers happy. A few weeks I talked about our trip to Delphi, Indiana, and this trip took us east, almost to Richmond along the old National Road, otherewise known as US-40. Cambridge City is known for its antique shops and it has a great history. The picture of a sign above talks about the Overbeck family of artists and sculptors who were famed in the artworld. Near Cambridge City is the Huddleston House, built in 1839 ( now a museum) and in great shape. In Greenfield are great memories of poet James Whitcomb Riley.


And sharp-eyed Joyce saw a Studebaker sign between Greenfield and Indianapolis. One of the great cars though Joyce did not like my 1950 Studebaker Commander because it was black, but the sign piqued my interest to the point that later we drove back and found it was an outlet for parts and memorabilia of this famous auto and truck manufacturer long gone but not forgotten. You may even find a Studebaker sticker on my Dodge Caliber, not that I don't love my Caliber but memories reign supreme in the hearts of some of us old guys.


At any rate, it was a fun trip and I'm grateful for Bobby's efforts to put trips like this together, and for the 'Ancient Mariners' group that fill the bus each trip. Now, we look forward to a Brown County trip later this week and we'll report on that later.






Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The March of Time



The two pictures are of the same spot. The bottom one is the 'before' picture; the top one is the 'after' view of the same location. They were taken 25 years apart.


Maybe the same think has happened in your neighborhood. Joyce has reflected on the same kind of thing where she grew up. Before World War Two her street was out in the country. After the war the whole area blossomed with homes and today Detroit's suburbs have moved quite some distance west.


It so happens that the pictures I've used are of Elmont, Long Island New York. In the 1930's it was a quiet rural suburb of New York City. Some 120 families live on and worked the farms. I remember going with my father out to Long Island and seeing all the farms. Once in a while we would stop and watch the airplanes flying in and out of Roosevelt Field, from which Lindbergh departed on his historic flight to Europe. To get to Long Island we would ride a ferry from New Rochelle, New York across Long Island Sound to Port Washington.


Twenty five years after the 'before' picture, parkways and Interstates were built as well as some beautiful bridges. The door had been opened to new 'settlers' and Elmont had changed from a farming community to a 24,000 community. In fact, it became wall-to-wall residential communities close to New Yorks major airport, first known as Idlewilde Airport and what is now know as JFK airport.


The world just marches on - growing and populations increase as well. So, if we have any thought that things will never change, they are never true around cities. There are a lot of rural areas - scenic areas - that continue to exist. But as I said, time just marches on and you never know what tomorrow and the tomorrows years from now will look like. But it is fun to look back in history and think of what used to be.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"So Round So Firm So Fully Packed.....

.....That's my Girl" was the name of a country music top seller a lot of years ago.

However, So Round So Firm So Fully packed also describes an object in our refrigerator. Well. half of it anyway. It has to be the biggest cantaloupe I have ever seen. Fact is, when I weighed the remaining half this morning it weighed five and a half pounds so when it was new and fully intact I presume it weighed at least ten pounds, maybe more. About like a bowling ball.

A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I love watermelon. Believe it or not, this critter was as big as a small watermelon - I don't mean one of those puny little watermelons - I mean a small full-size watermelon. I never knew cantaloupes (or whatever is the one in the picture) could be so big - but it is/was good. There was some concern by my beloved that it might not be good because it was so big but it was the sweetest melon this side of Chicago. Well, maybe even this side of Tucson, Arizona. After having been accused of taking the biggest melon on the shelf, I was very much relieved that it was perfect eating.

A long time ago -back in the mid-1950's - we had another experience with melons. It was either in Sacramento, California or Tucson, Arizona (we moved so often in those days that some events tend to congeal) that we saw a fruit stand along the highway. They had cantaloupes as well - priced at ten for a dollar. But they were small and nowhere near as tasty as our Indiana prize. And yes, this came from a roadside fruit stand as well. It cost a bit more (three dollars) but it may well have weighed as much as the gross weight of the ten we got in the '50's. So, all you folks who live in crowded cities, or areas that don't have cantaloupe ranches or farms or whatever, eat your hearts out while we eat some of the best cantaloupe this side of heaven.

Hot as it may have been (or is) in Indiana, I'll accept the heat along with the great fruit and veggies we enjoyed this year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One of my Favorite Pictures....



....but it's not one of our children. It was a little girl at company Christmas party for Salvation Army children. And yes, it's me in the background hoping she won't damage the flight control simulator.


I really enjoyed working for McDonnell Aircraft un the days before mergers. Although my clock number was 95702, it didn't seem as if I was working for a large company. The head of the company, J.S. McDonnell, would come over the public address system with pep talks preceded with raps on the microphone and his call, "This is Mac, this is Mac, calling all the teammates." And that was how we felt - part of a team - part of a 'family' of workers, proud of our products and proud of our company. They even had annual company picnics at Blanchette Park in St. Charles, across the Missouri River from the St. Louis airport where the factory was located.


McDonnell Aircraft had all kinds of outreach prograns in the St. Louis area. It was a company that cared for the city it grew up in. The planetarium in Forest Park

was named after J.S. McDonnell. All over the city of St. Louis are things reflecting the generosity of the company. It was a day when there was a personal touch to a Company image - a caring touch that impacted many people.


So it was at Christmas when children were invited to share the Christmas spirit.

Our department hosted a number of children from a less-priviledged life style. The little girl above was one of our guests andit is evident that she is getting a thrill from 'flying' a flight control trainer in the departmental training department. I love the expression on her face. And I was glad to be a part of bringing joy into a young persons life.


I don't think the company atmosphere was ever the same after the merger with Douglas Aircraft. It was more like becoming a corporate number instead of part of a company family. Like so many things, the 'family' atmosphere in industry seems to have disappeared. Maybe it has never been there and it seemed that way just to me. Maybe automation, robots, and labor unrest has replaced old-time industrial pride, but I like to remember a time when a company seemed to care about its community and its employees, and employees were proud of who they worked for. Some of the old time things were not so bad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Clip Joint - circa 1962

I've had a lot of jobs but the one I've not talked about much was as a barber. I know, the barber's Union may come down hard on me for being a non-union scab, and the Commonweath of Virginia may act retroactively on my non-licensed activities. Or maybe the statute of limitations may have run out since it was a long time ago.


However, the more likely reaction may be a protest from the subject getting the haircut. But maybe he'll appreciate the generous crop of hair being displaced to the ground at the time.


For myself, I'd be pretty well off if I had charged today's going rate for haircuts. But those were days when a penny or three counted and any old way we could save was the way to go. I only had one style of haircut and that was a buzz cut or crew cut. Just whack it off with different cutter heads and say, "well, that's another few dollars saved."


I was in a big department the other day with my good half and mentioned that maybe we might buy a clipper with a variety of heads and she could cut my hair. She gave me one of those looks a wife sometimes gives a husband when he comes up with a far-out idea, and said, "I don't think so." I neglected to say I might pay her to do it - maybe the reaction would have been different.


I think she likes my silver locks the way they are and the way Carolyn does the haircut. Yes, I use a lady barber - a no-no in the old days. After all, the barber shop was a man's stronghold years ago - one of those places a lady never set foot in. Now I may be getting along in years, but I am young enough that I never saw a Police Gazette there and it was too soon for Playboy. But times have changed, and so have some barber shops, and so have the two figures in the picture above. But I won't complain if he won't.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old Navy

"Old Navy" is a correct description of the vessels above - they go back some 70 years - back, in fact, to World War Two or before. They are models of actual U.S. Navy ships, like the cruiser Portland and destroyers Sampson, Jouett, and Davis.

Before the war started I got the idea of making a scale model of every ship in the active Navy. Using an ancient copy of Janes Fighting Ships (the authoritive book listing all Navy ships of the world) I began to make small models of active ships.
Using small pieces of balsa, at a scale of 100 feet to the inch, I crudely shaped the hulls and super structures. Guns were formed with magnet wire, and the vessels were, for the most part, painted with water soluble poster colors. A scale model of the battleship North Carolina is in the set but it is battered with it's superstructure pretty well gone because it was too high for the box it was in.

I don't know what got me off on this project - I think I saw some models made by a neighbor's son who was a student at Annapolis. Also, I often got caught up in the enthusiam a lot of teen agers had about the Navy in the late thirties and early forties. I even tried to join the Navy during the war but was rejected because I was too young (my father was not happy at all about this ill-fated attempt which involved playing hookie from school).

Anyway, this little box of models has somehow survived all our moves and is a reminder of an early-age passion. So has a copy of the 1942 edition of "Janes all the world Fighting Ships" that provided dimensions and outlines of the ship models.
Not all the ship models survived - among the missing is a very complex model of the first aircraft carrier "Langley". However, I'm happy the small number that HAVE survived are still around - they remain a memory of creative times and of a teen-agers love of the Navy. Now that I think of it, my life has involved the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy at one time or another. Not many people can claim that and no one has this many ships that are long gone but not forgotten by the men who sailed aboard them

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On a slow boat....






Six miles an hour in fact. 48 miles in 8 hours. Compare that with an average of about 520 miles in eight hours on an Interstate highway. To be sure, we've come a long way since the days of canal boats.


We took a short journey (an hour and a half or so) north from Indianapolis the other day to the lovely town of Delphi. An hour and half, that is, by church bus which would have, by my calculation, have taken almost 14 hours by canal boat if there had been a canal directly from Indianapolis to Delphi.


In the mid-1800's the Wabash and Erie Canal was an example of the highest technology of the time. it went from Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie to the Wabash River and Evansville, Indiana on the Ohio River and involved 468 miles. Until the advent of railroads, the canal, second longest in the western hemisphere, was a major contributor to the growth of the midwest. Delphi has made the canal a focus for tourism in Indiana and they have done a magnificent job in doing it. There are museums, restored buildings from the 19th century, and artisans plying trades of the time. We rode the 'Delphi', a replica canal boat and it was a peaceful experience. But we wondered what it would have been like with a full passenger list for an extended time. And we didn't see any restrooms - and neglected to ask what one did at a 'necessary moment' on the cruise.


In the center of Delphi we found a typical traditional Indiana town - the kind we love to visit. We ate at a hometown restaurant in a building which had once been a thriving bar with a brothel upstairs. And there were a number of folks going up and down stairs - hopefully to a second-floor dining room.


All in all, a really nice day in a nice town. I'd like to think we all would find joy and peace in visiting local communities and learning about their unique contributions to the history of our country. All to often we're in a rush to get from here to there on the Interstates and ignore the treasures we pass by in the process. Take a little time to slow down - and enjoy the moment.











Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Can See Clearly....

















....but I couldn't see very clearly in March of 1954. At least in North Texas. We experienced a dust storm similar to the one in Phoenix a week or so ago as recorded in the photos above. It was not a pleasant experience.


We were on our way from Chanute AFB in central Illinois to McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California. The first couple or three days before had been clear and pleasant but then as we left Oklahoma in to the Panhandle of Texas the skies got dark and the wind picked up significantly. Just east of Shamrock, Texas visibility got extremely limited - we could hardly see the road ahead - and we decided to get into a motel in Shamrock. It was virtually a miracle that we saw a motel sign through the dust and we pulled in and was able to get a room with a carport. The folks in the motel said there was a good steakhouse across the road (we couldn't see it through the dust) but we dared to cross the road and found the restaurant.

After dinner we went out to find visibility much worse but somehow we found the motel and a night's reast.


The next morning we found dust had seeped through windows and doors and when we checked out the car in the carport we found that dust had gotten through every crevisse and was piled up in the car and engine compartment. But the storm had passed and the sun was out and the day was beautiful.


A day or so later we had a few problems with the car engine and the carbureter air cleaner was choked with dust and sand. With a good cleaning of the engine area and a new air filter the engine ran as good as new. We now knew what people in the midwest and plains states had experienced during the dustbowl days of the 1930's.


Later we teamed up with some other people who had been assigned in that area and they talked about how dust storms took the paint right off their cars. Nasty things, dust storms - so we can relate to the folks in Phoenix a little while ago.


I've experienced similar things like fog banks and smog. Fog was a big problem in Canada when I would drive back and forth between Niagara Falls and Detrot.

All I could do was use the center line on the road to guide the way. And there was smog in Los Angeles - I remember walking down Firestone Boulevard in Downey and having people call from cars on the street I couldn't see to ask what the cross street was (For instance, Paramount). Fog - smog - dust storms - all nasty things that make highway travel treacherous. And so my sympathy to the folks in Arizona in their latest attack by dust. And sympathy to our troops in the middle east who contend with it more often that we do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just a dream or two away.....



In some ways I've always been a dreamer. I've dreamed of far away places. In the third grade I dreamed that I would marry my teacher and was sorely disappointed when she upped and married someone else nearer her age. I had dreams at one point of becoming a forest ranger or a geologist. I guess the dreams go on as I sometimes have vivid dreams at night even now. Could it be pills I take?


The other day I looked back at my Class of 1945 graduation yearbook and found that my hope for the future was in motion picture work. Not as a performer - I was too introverted for that, thus there was no specific goal. But I do remember that I was enthralled with the possibility of working at Radio City Music Hall in New York - as a projectionist.


In my sophomore year of high school I landed an unpaying job as a rewind boy in the post theater at West Point, New York. I had done a bit of projection work in school using 16mm Bell and Howell classroom projectors. But when I went into the projection room at the post theater I could not believe the size of the Super Simplex E-7 machines they used. They answered a question I had carried for years - 'How did the Wizard of Oz movie change from sepia tone to color when Dorothy landed in Oz?' Simply a reel change from one projector to another. I hadn't realized it took two projectors to run a continuous movie. In time the assigned sergeants who ran the movies began to teach me how to operate the machines - how to thread the film - how to make 'changeovers' from projector to projector - how to maintain a brilliant arc light - how to cue up reels for smooth changeovers.


Eventually we moved back home and, while in high school, I filled in for the normal projectionist who was off fighting a war. These projectors were a smaller version of the big E-7's but they worked the same way and for the better part of two years I enjoyed filling the big screen with some of the best movies of the mid-forties. I loved the job and the money was good for that time in history - 75 cents an hour. But eventually all things come to end and when 'Diddy" came back from the war, he got his old job back and I was on the streets hunting new work. But I had been so deep into theater work when I graduated it was my dream to project movies for the rest of my life - hopefully ending up in the theater of all theaters, Radio City Music Hall (see picture above).


Well, it never happened - I did, however work a couple of weeks for RKO Radio Pictures in their Albany film exchange. It was extremely hard work and I was just a little feller, and was not eager to throw heavy cans of film around every day. So, I ended up going in different directions.


But, you know, what goes around comes around. Thus in later years I got deeply involved in home video. Eventually I even produced video programs for cable TV systems and a number of promotional travel videos for a Christian travel company I worked for. I loved motion picture and video work, and still enjoy making and editing movies. Nothing worth Radio City Hall, yet fulfilling a graduation prophecy of motion picture work. I guess some dreams do come true. And that is good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's a rough life....

.....but somebody has to live it. Senior Apartment living, that is.

When I was in grade and high school there was a County old folks home a few miles from where I lived. A lot of elderly lived there during the Depression years (1930's, that is) And I would go by and see a bunch of them sittin' 'n rockin' on the front porch. I think the buildings are long gone, but senior living still marches on. I know - I live in a senior apartment today - but it's fur piece up the road from what it was back when.

We have a bright apartment with two bedrooms (one is used as the computer room, not just as a 'man-cave') and two baths (no waiting in line here) and a nice size kitchen. The living room has a view of trees (remember, we live in the city).

We have elevators if we want help up and down, though we usually use the stairs. We have an exercise room, a place to do jig-saw puzzles, a library and a really nice laundry room. The halls are bright and cheerful and in miserable weather they provide a great place to walk. There's coffee and newsapers in the morning when one waits for the mail. There are free trips to the store and occasional outings. And there's an on-the-spot maintainance supervisor and a manager who really cares about people. What more could a senior person ask for?

For instance, the picture above is of 'Steve' - an entertainer who comes to the complex from time to time. Like last night. He shared Caribbean music, country music, rock and roll, and a bushel and peck's worth of good humor. There was senior dancing and I could not believe some of the folks who got up and did the twist. One man, Lee, age 96, got up and danced and even the manager was up there doing the hula.

I can't remember when I've laughed so hard but that's the kind of life we live. For those who fear moving out of traditional life to senior living, don't fear - it is better than I ever dreamed it might be. Thanks to all of those who make life so pleasant - Helen, Tom, Steve, all the other folks who contribute to what I want to call, the good life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

House on Houston

It was August of 1969. With five active children and harried parents, our St. Charles Missouri home was too small. One official bedroom, one bath, and an attic converted into two bedrooms just wasn't enough living space. We must have thought small in those days - we even had a tw0-door Dodge Dart to carry our seven member family (a particularly challenging experience if we took a long trip). So, we began to house shop and in fairly short order we found the above house near the high school on Houston Street. But it didn't look like this when we bought it for 11 thousand dollars and got an additional 11 thousand dollars to rehabilitate it.

The trouble started Labor Day weekend when we moved in. It had been converted to three apartments. It had two furnaces, knob-and-spool wiring with sixty amp fuses, and plumbing from the dark ages. We discovered the first of the plumbing problems the first weekend we were there when the sewer in the basement backed up and no sewer service was available on a holiday weekend.

That was the beginning. As time passed an outside stair was torn off - a closet and bathroom was added to the master bedroom - the kitchen was completely redone - plumbing and fixtures in the main bathroom were replaced (Joyce's dad somehow got the old clawfoot bathtub down the stairs and a new one up to replace it). The bathroom was tiled and re-plumbed. The entire house was carpeted and painted inside and out. The job lasted nine months to get finished and we jokingly called it our sixth pregnancy. But it became a lovely place with a lot of good memories of exchange students and fun in a sprawling old house which, reputedly had been built in the 1880's using lumber from a project involving the construction of a bridge across the Missouri River. Oh, by the way, we also converted the main furnace from oil to gas. (The other furnace was already gas.) In the process, I learned to do plumbing, carpentry, roofing, plumbing work, tiling, electrical and decorating. I found I have little talent when it comes to painting but fortunately my wife and daughters were good at that and installing wallpaper. We learned, in no uncertain terms, what it was like when Mr. Blandings built his dream house.

It's nice to go back to some place where we have lived and see our old house in nice condition and still being lived in. When we last saw the Houston Street house we met the current owner who said it was back to being apartments. But he did not invite us in but if the outside is any clue, the place is still cared for and that is good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

It was 70 years ago this month. New York schools always seemed to take a summer recess later than many others and so it was in our two-room school. The picture reflects our three person eighth grade 1941 graduating class.

Marilyn Williams, on the right, was our class valedictorian. The scrawny kid on the left, with an ill-fitting outfit, was the salutatorian. Virginia Race filled out the trio. Marilyn went on to marry a local boy (one I considered as one of the 'good guys' in town) and she became the hostess of the Spencertown Academy once the school closed down. Virginia married one of my best friends and continued to live in our small village.

The picture brings back a lot of memories of two room school life. Walking a mile each way in every kind of weather. Living with respect, if not fear, of Mr. Crounce's alleged rubber hose in the top left-hand drawer of his desk. The excitement of moving back a row every year - assuming, of course, that we were eligible to be promoted. Memories of his and her outhouses out behind the school. And memories of picnics down at the creek behind the IGA store, and once-in-a-while trips to the State museum in Albany.

Who would have known what it would be like to move in the fall to a 'big' school seven miles away where we would change rooms every forty-five minutes or so. At least for me, the change to high school was challenging and having to get used to a number of teachers was not easy. Making matters worse was taking a month off from school in December to visit grandparents in California where we experienced West Coast panic when Pearl Harbor was bombed. When I got back from the trip I was hopelessly behind in Algebra which involved a couple more years before I could pass the elementary level. My majors in high school were fun and games and it is amazing I made it to graduation. I did much better in college during much more mature years.

At the time the picture was taken, who would have ventured a guess as to what life experiences were ahead? I suppose that we really had a hard time seeing beyond 'tomorrow'. I guess memories are great - but I still enjoy wondering what tomorrow holds. Just like it was in June of 1941.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heights of Derringdo



The picture reminds me of a mountain in Glacier Bay, Alaska. However, it is somewhat closer to home. At least the home country I grew up in as a teenager. Anybody recognize where it is? And the name of the mountain?


It's Storm King Mountain, looming above the Hudson River in New York State, about half way between the US Military Academy at West Point and Newburgh.

If you look closely at the base of the mountain you'll see the roadbed of the old WestShore Railroad, and at a higher level, Highway 218 climbing along the side of the mountain. When we were living at West Point in the early 1940's we would ride a rickety 1930's bus over the mountain and it was always a scary experience with sheer drop-off's alongside the narrow road.


Even more thrilling was a camping experience some of us boys had in 1943. Several of us decided to camp out along the river - no adults allowed. Early the morning after the sleep out we decided we would climb Storm King from the river to the road at one of its higher points. For a moment go back to the picture - take a close look at the picture. See if you can find a way upto the road. Frankly, I can't see how we did it. We had no mountaineering equipment. Wait a minute - yes, we did. We had a few lengths of clothesline - and that was all. At first it seemed fairly easy. However, the higher we went the rougher the climb became. We began to use the clothesline. We dug our tennis shoes into small cracks in the granite. And we made the mistake of looking down. Not good - several of us got a bit dizzy and began to wonder if we should go back down. It looked worse down than it did up.


Needless to say, we became survivers of sorts. After we surmounted the wall along the road we faced oncoming traffic from both ways on a narrow road where we would not have picked up a hitchhike ride even if we had tried. By the time we got to the lowest level of the road we quickly retreated into the forest close by the railroad tracks and patted ourselves on the back for accomplishing a seemingly impossible mountain climb.


At the same time, we agreed that none of use would tell our parents what we had done, and agreed, without any question, that we would not do something like that again. And, as the title suggests, it was a ridiculous moment of derring do by a few teenagers who had more daring than common sense. And survived.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Busy Hands

What? Where? Who? Why? When?

That was the first lesson I learned about newspaper reporting. It also can be applied to writing a radio or TV commercial. I know from experience because it was my introduction to working continuity in the first radio station I ever worked at.

On my job interview these words were my guide to writing my first commercial. What? saving money. Where? Berkshire County Savings Bank. Who? The friendly staff of the biggest bank in town, Why? Someday you'll have a real nest egg. When? Start saving today. A similar thing happened at one of my announcer interviews -ad lib (talk off the cuff) for five minutes about a spot on the ceiling of the studio. This was more valuable than you might realize when I was doing a newscast and a friend (?) set fire to my script half way through the program and I had to ad lib my way out of the newscast.

So, what about the picture above? It was a picture of several young women. Where? In a Cairo, Egypt mosque. Who? The carpet repair crew. Why? The prayer carpet in the mosque was getting frayed. When? Probably in January of 1988.

Notice that there are smiles. They don't appear to dislike their job. They probably are highly skilled at what they do. It looks like it might be a menial job by our standards but they are earning a living rather than drawing welfare. I don't know if Egypt had (or has) a welfare system but to me it seems evident that the ladies enjoy the opportunity to do something constructive. I like to think of this as busy fingers at work and that is good. But would people of our society be happy with work like this? Possibly not if it paid minimum wage. In the end the real story is (1) that the Egyptian women are working busily and (2) they seem happy to be doing whaat they are doing.

Is there a lesson in a picture of busy hands?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Watermelon Time



I love watermelon. I always have. From the time I was a little boy I've loved to smear my face in it especially when I had been working in the hayfields when the weather was hottest. That's not to say I don't like cantaloupe or honeydew melons - It's just that I grew up with watermelon and besides, I get bigger servings with watermelon.



Besides, there are relatively new reports out telling us that it is a healthy fruit - that it has some sort of disease-fighting compound in it that makes it not only good to eat but healthy as well.



Let me tell a true story about a watermelon.



I was working for an NBC radio station back a few decades. I had the morning shift, putting the station on the air at five a.m. with three hours of country music.

The name of the show was "Sunrise Jamboree" and it was a lot of fun for me getting to play records by the top country music stars of the time. I talked about "ole Jim down at the three flagpoles" (literally translated to engineer Jim at the remote transmitting facility several miles west of town - which had three tall transmitter towers behind the building. As a matter of dubious interest, those three towers were still there fifty years later.


Anyway, I also invited people to stop by the say hello, or to phone in requests.

Needless to say, this was well before the days of automation, or top forty programming. One morning an ultra-fundamentalist preacher who recorded his Sunday program at our station stopped by one June morning just to say 'howdy'. We chit-chatted a bit and suddenly he said he would be back in a minute - he had a gift for me in his car. A little later he returning struggling under the weight of the biggest watermelon I have ever see. IT WAS HUMONGOUS! He set it on a big table outside the control room and as we talked (on the air, no less) I asked him where he had gotten it. He replied that he had been to a big religious camp meeting up north in Georgia. On the way back, at dusk, he saw a big watermelon patch alongside the road and as he put it, "Ole Satan just got a holt of me and I couldn't resist the temptation of grabbing one (was it really only one?) to bring home. And so this ultra-fundamentalist preacher shared a pilfered watermelon with me. Maybe it took a little of the guilt away from him, but I invited all my local listeners to stop by for a bit of watermelon on the way to work. (I'd like to think it took a bit of the burden of being an accessory to the crime off of me.)



At any rate, it was a wonderful watermelon and a good time was had by all since it only lasted half an hour or less - our parking lot filled to overflowing in no time.



Yes, indeed - I DO love watermelon. How about you?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

With Tongue in Cheek.....

Somebody sent me an e-mail forward the other day - Nine Words Women Use. In the interest of maintaining domestic tranquility in our happy hacienda, I'm not going
to share it verbatim, but I thought I would come up with something like it that does not center only on women but deals with the same theme. I'll call it For Better Or Worse, Words We Use. Including what men say, and what is meant by what is said.


For instance, IT'S SIMPLE -ANYBODY SHOULD UNDERSTAND. Often shared by men, especially when talking about electronic equipment or maps. I've heard it from women as well; for instance, when a man leaves a key ingredient out of something he's cooking, like eggs from egg rolls. Or a man's response when A woman has a problem with a cell phone or TV remote control.


WHY DON'T YOU STOP AND ASK? A woman's reaction to man who is lost while driving.
Man never gets lost while driving a car; confused perhaps, but never lost. Classic example: the time in Florida I passed the same church three times while going in circles trying to get back on the main highway.


LOUD SIGH. It doesn't take a word to express frustration; a sigh will do it and the sigh comes in different forms, loudness, length of sigh, and tonal quality.


WHAT? Either the question was lost by hearing aid failure, or by distraction. Often followed by a LOUD SIGH or the words, NEVER MIND.


I'LL DO IT MYSELF! A common female statement when the stud of the house has been asked to do something four times and won't leave a TV football game until half time.
And by that time he may have forgotten what she asked for in the first place.


THANKS! A nice expression by either the male or female of the house. Be careful, though if it comes out, THANKS A LOT! that may indicate sarcasm.


SILENCE. I don't mean the word, it is the unspoken word that is a concern. This often is accompanied by a glare or sneer and it says more than any word or phrase can convey. This element of non-verbal statement has been known to last for several days and eventually the cause may be forgotten. "I know I'm mad at () but I can't remember why." Then comes the challenge of trying to forgive and forget.


I DON'T CARE! Chances are somebody does and it is worth trying to understand whether this is just a casual pass of the torch regarding a restaurant selection or whether there is a deeper meaning. Usually somebody DOES care but it is hard to determine the extent of the statement. A degree in psychology will help solve the dilemma.


I don't want to forget THE LOOK which often speaks much more loudly that any spoken word. Valid for men and women alike. And yes, there are different looks = consider Nancy adoring look at Ronnie or Maria's more recent look at Arnold,


You can probably think of a dozen or so more words or expressions. I'm sure you have phrases or expressions of your own. My hope is that you are aware of these situations and are prepared to respond in a constructive. I don't always understand, and I don't always say the right thing at the right time. But I'm a survivor and I'm glad for that.