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.