Friday, November 23, 2012

Requiem to a Dead Bird

Alas, poor bird - you have left this life. Such a sacrifice for the welfare of of the hungering multitudes. Welfare, he says? Well, if hyper-gastric acidity is welfare, so be it. At least one
person at our house consumed so much of the gobbler and accessories that the un-named person
is still quite full almost 24 hours since the feast. So, Mr. Turkey, rest in pieces - your goodness will be remembered for at least another year by all who partook Thanksgiving,long with the warm and loving fellowship of he family who gathered around the table.And the remains will fuel some enough that they will have strength to cope with Black Friday. Now let's move forward through the great open door to the Holy Season of CHRISTmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They said I was AWOL

It was August, 1953. I was being transferred from Chanute AFB in Illinois to Selfridge AFB in Michigan. I was to travel by military air using one of our Wing C-46 Curtiss "Commando" aircraft.
With all my gear I checked in and the clerk at Operations said I was on the manifold (passenger list)
and that I was to go out to the flight line and board the plane.

Once boarding I found the pilot to be someone I knew quite well and so I felt comfortable with him at the controls. Once airborne we headed east and, with two hours completed< I thought we ought to be getting close to the Michigan area. But when I looked out the window I saw a city below surrounded by a "Y" of rivers. Going to the cockpit I told the pilot that it sure looked a lot more like Pittsburgh 'downstairs' and he said I was correct. I asked,"isn't this a strange way to get to the Detroit area?" He replied that I was pretty perceptive, but that we were not going to Michigan - we were going to Suffolk County AFB in Long Island, NY. Obviously there was a glitch in the flight plan, or maybe it was a problem with the manifest. At any rate, when we got to New York the flight crew supposedly checked with Chanute to see what they should do with me. Chanute came back to say that they would let us know.

And so we charged on to the next base: Dow AFB, ME. Another check with Chanute. Same answer.
Same thing at Andrews AFB. And Donaldson AF. At MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL there was a B-25 going to Selfridge But no authority to switch planes was granted from Chanute.

By this time I was beginning to think that I had been drafted into being a lifetime load master because at every base I was wrestling equipment off and onto the aircraft. I may have even heard a few snickers from the crew chief and the cockpit crew. Every base we stopped at the answer was the same;' We're working on it and we'll let you know'.

From MacDill we went to Keesler - Biggs - and Barksdale. Same old story. From Barksdale we headed north to Seward AFB, near Nashville TN. By now the flight had consumed almost a week.
I had now gotten interest in the Loran navigating system and had almost gotten it down pat. One more base to go: McGee/Tyson AFB in Knoxville TN. Well, actually there was another - back to Chanute AFB from which  I had started this ill advised trip. Getting back quite late at night I stayed over in the transient barracks wondering is was fated to go out on another load master assignment.

Not likely. When I checked back in with the First Sergeant of home squadron. Instead of a warm welcome home I found myself in the midst of a hornets nest. Turns out that none of the calls from the aircrew had gotten back to the squadron and I had been carried as AWOL (absent without leave). When everything was ironed out they prepared new orders for me to my initial goal, Selfridge AFB,
Michigan. What's more, they heeded my plea not to send me by military air - "Let me go by train,"
I begged. That's what they did and I finally got to the base the next day where I was roundly counseled by the Detachment First Sergeant.

I think it was only two weeks later that I bought a car and the rest of my transfers were by car. After all, I was no given a load master rating so why should I have to do it without getting flight pay?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How Time Flies

I was reminded, yesterday, that it was fifty years ago that President Kennedy announced to the public that our nation was blockading Cuba. Aerial reconnaissance had revealed that missile bases were being established on Cuban soil - facilities so close to America that our nation was endangered. And I was there.

Not because I wanted to be. I had just returned from a Navy deployment in the Mediterranean. I was informed of our new departure right after lunch one day - told that we needed to be aboard the USS Enterprise in four hours. I called home and told Joyce to pack my bags. She responded that they hadn't really been unpacked and where was I going. We had been told that the ship was pulling out of Norfolk on a hurricane evacuation. That included my squadron's aircraft as well. I never stopped to ask myself, "Why do field engineers (civilians) have to go on a hurricane evacuation?

I did what I was told - skidded cruise boxes of support material down the stairs at NAS Oceana, rushed home and on to Pier 12 at NOB (naval operating base) Norfolk and shortly after we were under way out of Chesapeake Bay and into some rough weather. I began to think it was a hurricane evacuation. Until the next day.

Then came aircraft changes - A3J Vigilantes from Florida were flown off the ship - A-4 Skyhawks came aboard. The announcement came to us - "We're going to blockade Cuba and we have no idea how long it will take."  Communication from the ship to home was not allowed and so, knowing what we knew, we were unable to let our families know. That is, until they heard the Presidents announcement and all they knew then was that we were in harms way. That was hard on loved ones but that is service life and though we were civilians we were no different in our responsibility from any active duty Navy personnel in the same situation.

We remained on combat readiness for some time. The ship was assigned south of Cuba where we went back and forth between Cuba and Jamaica. Finally the Russians backed off. The tension of combat readiness eased and then boredom set in. We still maintained flight operations but it was obvious that the worst of the deployment was over. Now it became a waiting game. It finally ended not long before Christmas.

Now, fifty years later Enterprise is still sailing. It served in the Vietnam conflict. It served in the Middle East conflicts. But ships get old. Many ships do not maintain effective operations longer than 20 or so years of service, For Enterprise it's been over fifty. Newer ships have been deactivated but Enterprise sails on. I've heard she will be retired in 2013. If true, she will have amassed a significant record. And I'm proud to have been part of her history.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Lovely Cottage in the Country

It's been a busy week. A couple of days ago we checked out houses that Vic and Amy have been looking at should his job keep him at Headqurters. Our greatest impressioin has been that the stories about the DC traffic appear to be true. To be sure, we haven't been in the capitol city itself yet - but Alexandria and Arlington traffic has convinced us that Indianapolis traffic isn't so bad after all.
Needless to say, the Beltway congestion has lived up to all the stories we've heard.

So, our visit yesterday to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon was a breath of fresh air. A lovely home with a marvelous history. There was a strong reminder that our first president had some great dreams for the future of our country.

The first time I ever saw Mount Vernon was way back in 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. My dad was making a stop at the War Department to initiate his return to active duty in World War Two. The house itself remained as beautiful as ever, and this time we spent hours roaming the plantation rather than the few minutes we had in 1941. I loved the view from the front porch looking down over the Potomac River. It was easy to see what made the estate so special to Martha and George. (Am I being a little flip usaing their first names?)

But the trip was more than sightseeing trip - it was an emotional trip in history.
A reminder of where out country came from and the values that were so important in the formation of thiss nation.  One of my favorite reminders of the greatness of George Washington was a painting of the General at a dark moment of the Revolutionary war. I've included it in this blog because it says a great deal about our first president. A reminder that in our darkest moments prayer still matters. Even today - and maybe especially today.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On the Road Again - Again - Again....

We've completed a trek to the Washington DC area. The picture is a random one on Interstate 68 as we crossed from West Virginia to Maryland. It was a beautiful ride though the better half did not enjoy the winding roads even if the Interstate didn't have too much traffic. See, the problem is that we have gotten accustomed to the straight-as-an-arrow highways of the Midwest..

Then as we began to get complacent when we got down hill and the roads got straight - we discovered that there are a few other cars in the DC area. Actually - a lot of cars all moving at least 10, 20, or 30 miles an hour faster than we were going - and we were going the speed limit.

As I've said before, a GPS sure makes a trip a lot easier. We used the mode for quickest routing andall went well. That is, until we got close to Washington proper. Someone in the GPS programming department must have been to DC before because it kept routing me in any direction other than the Interstate. But I found they knew more than I did as they guided us down the Washington Memorial parkway. What a lovely ride with quick views of he Washington Monument and the Potomac River.
Not a chance for a picture - but it took us where we wanted to. Then we got a really good look at the Pentagon - nut not good enough for a picture.

But we got to Amy's - knocked on what we thought was her apartment door and guess what - Some
young guy who didn't look anything like Vic opened the door. (By the way, Vic was on the Gulf Coast on FEMA business  so we didn't expect some man) When it suddenly dawned on us that Amy lived in 306, not 305. Oops.

Making life more interesting - when we got to the apartment complex there was no daughter to be found - turns out I had said we were (according to the GPS) 20 minutes to destination (which I conveyed to Amy by cell phone) and which she thought afforded enough time to make a run to the store.  Another oops - but all ended well - complete with a slobbery welcome from Pippa - the tiny guard canine of the estate.

Anyway, we're here and have been surrounded by rain all day. Our wish for the evening:  better weather programmed for tomorrow and a good chance for capital (or is that capitol? photos.
Watch for then next exciting chapter.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I had a computer glitch a few weeks back that necessitated my doing a lot of backtracking and reprogramming and restoring and has created situations involving some holy words not really worth putting into type. At any rate, I just wanted to ring out the tidings (glad I hope) that we will be back in the blog business and should have a few new ones for you in the next few days and weeks.

Meanwhile, tomorrow we will crank up the Caliber tomorrow morning and head out for Alexandria, Virginia and a visit with middle daughter Amy. Keep us in mind as we try to take in the Washington DC sights and we will try to come up with some pictures and text for your entertainment.

Thank you staying with us the past four years and welcome back.

Now, if I can just remember to get the laptop and power pack (just though of THAT) out of the confusion (sorry, I meant the COMPUTER) room and into the car.......

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tell Me Where To Go

Well, the title opens a lot of opportunity for someone to tell it like it is. But should you choose to do it now, I can assure you that you won't be the first, and most likely, not the last.

Any husband probably has experienced someone advising them what turn to make or what speed to drive at. Or the common statement wives sometimes make. "I told you so."

To ease the burden on my good half, I have invested in a new GPS (a global positioning something or other). The new one replaces an older model loaned out which was lost when a car was broken into.

I was very selective this time. True, no GPS unit is completely free of being stolen. But one can really compare to see which one has what seems to be the best capability and potential for the future. I checked out size, specifications, battery life, and supportability. But this time another factor was added: price. And, whether it was a new unit or a reconditioned one.

I won't name the manufacturer - they all produce good units but I finally made a choice. But then someone with doubt in mind said, "We better check it out to see how it works." So off we went yesterday for the proof test.

Now, I need to go back a few years to when we were given our first unit. We were using it to guide us on a long cross-country trip. For the most part I used it with a great deal of appreciation. But on the second day I didn't believe what it was saying when we sought directions to a daughter's house in Minnesota. We stumbled around a main highway with the GPS screaming out, "recalculate" or 'recompute" (I can't remember which but I know it was very insistent that I had made an error in my driving). First it kept saying, "turn around and go the other way." I kept thinking, 'that can't be right' and I became more and more frustrated. Eventually we called our daughter on our cell phone (which didn't always work) and had her meet us at a certain intersection. It turns out that the GPS was right - I just denied what it was telling me. I went through the same kind of exercise a few more times
eventually admitting that the GPS was right and I was wrong.

I little like the time in Florida when my good half remarked that we had passed a particular church before and it took another time around to realize that we were going in circles on the same route.

Anyway, yesterday's test worked perfectly. To be sure, it didn't warn me of a downtown festival in one town which required following detour signs. But the GPS kept following where I was and we ended up right where we wanted to be. It even guided us to a fast-food restaurant for lunch. And when I deviated from the projected route it accurately guided us back and compensated for any deviation pleasantly and accurately. Not once did it say "recalculate" or recompute" but it did get us home easily. And it never said a nasty word -
it just told me where to go. Even my good half liked it - so what more could a man ask for?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Meanwhile, Back to the Real World

We've gotten home from a vacation from retirement. Spent three weeks in our former home in Oscoda, Michigan which now belongs to our daughter who lives in Virginia. Needless to say, the house has sat idle for quite some time. We spent quite a bit of time painting, trimming shrubbery, repairing, and replacing. The picture below may tell some of the story.
I proved to myself (to my surprise, and to others) That there is still some life and limberness in the old body.

But I learned something else in the process. We had no TV service in the house. If I wanted to check e-mail or on-line banking I had to go somewhere that had a computer I could use since I had not brought my laptop with me. The Kindle son Jeff gave me gave some access to e-mail but I still needed a WiFi connection. I found, to my surprise, that life's stress levels went way down without television. I was reminded of the time, many years ago, when we had no electricity and there was little access to the outside world apart from personal contact. No soap operas - no mysteries - no 15 minute kid shows like Tom Mix or Jack Armstrong - and most of all, no news of any kind other than the weekly paper with all its gossip columns.

I found, in my three weeks in Michigan, that there was less stress, and more communication, and it was good.

When we got back and had all our modern systems available again that the stress level went back up again. Political stuff was filling the airwaves. Commercials were still as monotonous as ever. And the news was just as bad as ever. Then we became involved in the horror of the movie theater massacre.

For all the good TV has produced, it seems to me that the stresses and tensions of today's world that TV offers isn't always worth the time spent watching. Perhaps the same can be said for movies, and even music in today's world. I think at times I could easily and happily slip back into a life like when we had no electricity, no radio, no TV, but we had family communication. Alas, as one of our sons once said (and it is true), we live in a different world - and we have to live with progress and its products. But it is good once in a while to be put in a situation where God's quiet still rules.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

School Daze

There are a lot of graduating classes celebrating exodus from high school this month. My graduation was sixty-seven years ago. The smiling faces of my class are shown above.

Sixty-seven years is a long time. I remember that we all had high hopes for the future. It had been a challenging four years. Three months into our Freshman year Pearl Harbor was bombed and our country became enveloped in World War Two. When we graduated it was a couple of months before the war ended. Several of my classmates were called to service in the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, or what was then called, the "Air Corps". Most came home - a few did not survive

In 1980 the class had a reunion. Most of the class was able to attend. I was the one who came the furthest. A few had passed away. a few were 'lost' - no one seemed to be able to track them down.
But I was able to recognize most of those who were there - a little older and perhaps a little chubbier. The cheerleaders were, for the most part, able to lead the school cheers albeit with a few protesting muscles and joints. My senior class English teacher, who later became principal of the high school, remarked to my wife that "Bruce is the last person I would have visualized becoming a minister".

One of my classmates, married to the son of the local Lutheran pastor, remarked that I should not bask in an ego trip in the ministry because she "knew what I was like when we were growing up together". I have no memories of knowing much about her in school. Maybe she was talking about mischief that some of us would get into and I confess that I did get into some mischief. I do recall that when I went to the reunion a few of my classmates were at the bar on the way back to the reunion room and one of them mistook me for a photographer from the paper - not a classmate. But if you go back to the yearbook, I was credited with being in charge of photography for the yearbook.

As I looked through the yearbook (a half-size volume intended to conserve paper for the war effort) I saw all of the projections and individual intentions of people. Moving around as much as I have over the sixty-seven years since graduation, I've lost touch with almost everyone. I've wondered how many classmates achieved the goals they set back in 1945. I know a lot of them had done well by the time of the reunion. One or two are on my internet list but I wonder what many of them have done in the meantime. I wonder, in fact, how many of us (now in our middle eighties) are still alive and I wonder, as well where they are and what they have done, or are doing with their lives.

There are those who say I dwell on the past. That those days are passed so why even think about them?  I don't dwell on the past - but I treasure good memories. My high school class was in school during a terrible time in history and we made the best of it. I am proud to have been a part of my high school class. I look at the picture and realize that it was a class filled with hope for the future. And it was a class filled with wonderful classmates. I am thankful to have known them, and treasure my memories of fifty-some young people who dreamed dreams and optimism for the days ahead. It's great to have memories celebrating positives - the world today is filled with too many negatives.

Monday, May 28, 2012

From Cook to Colonel

Is this any way to treat a West Point graduate? After all, he was trained to lead troops into battle. His troops appear to be a dog and cat. I don't think he was cut out to be a Mess Officer

I'm not sure where his own wishes were at the time. He and his wife and very little boy had been assigned to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. The picture was probably taken in 1929 or so. Somehow he ended up in Cooks and Bakers School. I suspect it was not by choice. He was a bit of a maverick in some ways, not particularly content with how the Army of the late 1920's was functioning. Could some unhappy commanding general have felt it was only justice that the second lieutenant be relegated to a job that was a step above the infamous Kitchen Patrol duties? I remember that kind of duty well from a time many years ago when one day I was assigned to KP and the next day to Ash and Trash and kept that routine up for several days in a row.

 Later in life Cooks and Bakers School paid off - he ended up with a real gift of cooking, especially his secret recipe for waffles. He produced the best waffles I've ever had and he went through a performance worthy of the greatest gourmet chef in the world.

He didn't stay on active duty too long, resigning from the Army in the early thirties and worked in banking and real estate for about  decade.

Then came World War Two. Some might think the Army had grown desperate for manpower when he was recalled to active duty. Instead, the powers that be were realized that he had unique gifts that would be important to the war effort. Not only did he serve through World War Two but he continued faithfully serving in the Army for many years - even into the 1960's, when he officially retired from active duty.

Even in retirement years he continued to exhibit qualities and abilities that were valuable to society.He lived a life steeped in West Point's focus of duty......honor....and country. And he continued to make the best waffles in the world. I'm proud of the cook who became a colonel. He was my dad. Gone but not forgotten.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Someone thought I Was Enormously Gorgeous

Someone once said I was enormously gorgeous. When I looked in the mirror this morning I asked the question, "Are you talking about me?"

They said that it was because I had beautiful blonde hair. I don't - fact is, I have a slighly receding hairline that is more gray or white than blonde. But I count my blessings that there is something there.

To be enormously gorgeous they said I needed to have perfectly straight white teeth. I don't any more - there's a gap here or there and I observe dentists licking their chops and checking heir balance sheets every time I visit,

To be enormously gorgeous, they told me that I could not have little brown dots called freckles on my face. I didn't back then but now I have age spots and an eager-to-grow beard growth. Thank goodness I haven't gained too many wrinkles.

To be enormously gorgeous, said the other person, I needed to be the smartest kid in town. I wasn't and I'm not. It took me three times to pass algebra in high school and probably never got my deportment above a D. I've done all right since school - maybe age mellows a person.

To be enormously gorgeous, they said, I need to be able to tell the funniest jokes around. My problem is that I remember part of a joke  but seem to always forget the punch line

To be enormously gorgeous, I was told, I had to live in the nicest house in the best neighborhood. I remember the years where our trailer homes progressed from 27 feet to 30 feet, to 33 feet, to 38 feet,
to 40 feet, and finally to a 55 foot 10 wide mobile home. Each time a new child came along it seemed we moved into a larger unit. Now I'm happy to be in an independent living 2 bedroom 2 bath senior apartment. Better, I think than some of the negative alternatives.

To be enormously gorgeous, my advisor said, it involves wearing only the coolest clothes and most popular shoes. Maybe my blue jeans and tennies might come close in this category but they sure are not like what we had to wear to school back when nice shoes, sport coats, ties, and stylish slacks were the norm.

My friend said that you had to come from, and become,  the perfect family to be enormously gorgeous. Some in my ancestry really thought this but I learned how not to be perfect from a couple of classmates and my brother.

But when I look back to my age in the picture I might have fit my mother's idea of enormously gorgeous. Then I looked in the mirror and thought to my mom - "sorry, beautiful lady, there have been a few changes over the years."  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mad Scientist Laboratory

To  begin with, Joyce says I need to clean up my mess. But she has been saying this for months. Now I wonder why she let me add more electronics to my computer room collection. To top that off, it's not the entire collection - there are more units in the living room. Just not as obvious.

Notice that I said 'computer room' - not 'man cave'. She has a real thing about the man cave description so I feel comfortable with 'computer room' - it seems to offer a bit more sophistication.

At any rate, the additional equipment came as the result of Jeff asking for videos to watch as he goes through his cancer treatment. I'm happy to do that if it make Jeff's days more pleasant.

First, my wonderful Super VHS video tape unit quit. (It currently resides under the bed out of the picture.) So I had to go out and try to find a VCR playback unit to feed videos to my computer for conversion to compact disc. Not too hard to find -
got one for half price (five dollars) at a Goodwill store. Then I needed to find a Cassette player for downloading music. That was a bit harder to find. None of the Goodwill stores, or DAV stores had cassette players - cassettes seem to be out of style.
So I started to make the rounds of pawn shops. I finally found one - got it home and it didn't work and took it back to get another. That works fine. Another ten dollars down the drain.

So, I now have a playback disc player, a cassette player, a VHS playback, two 8mm camcorders (in the closet), a computer and a printer in the computer room (not forgetting the maze of wiring connecting various components). Oh, I must not forget a non-working computer at the end of a dresser, a slide projector, and an 8 mm antique movie projector. And a few (?) piles of slide reels, movie cans, VHS tapes, and CD's and DVD's. That's the computer room which also has a closet (full), a dresser, (full) and bed (laden with'stuff').

Not to be outdone, the living room includes a DVD/VHS player AND a DVD recorder attached to our flat screen 46 inch television which is also connected to a cable system box.

Does the mad scientist label fit?

And Joyce has advised me that in two or three weeks we will be having company from out of state. I fear she will not simply ask - but perhaps lovingly demand - that something is done to make the computer room habitable. Oh, well..............

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The End of an Era

It's not fair. Slides have become passe. And getting slides converted to prints is almost impossible to
get done. I checked with a large number of mainline drug stores and the machines they have only work with computer media. Checking stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Best Buy, and Meijers were just as bad. It seems that the only way to get old slides converted is to work with a major photography store (and I'm not even sure about that) or to buy a slide converter that puts the slides in digital form.

I guess that much of traditional photography has passed its prime. My uncle Ralph, back in the thirties and forties, was a really good photographer. He would take pictures with classic German cameras and process the film in trays in his apartment bathroom. It was all black and white pictures. Later, in Missouri I bought a classic Speed Graphic press camera and did my own processing as well.

In 1941 my father bought an Argus c-3 35millimeter slide camera which he used a lot during our family vacation trip from New York to California. A few of those slides still exist, believe it or not, some which show my brother and I wearing honest to goodness 10-gallon cowboy hats in the image of Tom Mix and his Ralston Straight Shooters, (For those who might never have heard of Tom Mix, he was a movie cowboy in the 1930's also was a featured star in a children's quarter hour afternoon radio serial. I wanted a Stetson because it seemed more western than a tall cowboy hat but I had to deal with what I had.

As time passed I got still and movie cameras well before the days of digital. I can't remember all the cameras I went through but almost all of the cameras were used to take slides, especially of the family.That's the problem I have gotten into - a zillion slides and no way to make prints of them. In the picture above you may get some idea of the pictures I took back in the fifties and sixties. These slides are treasures but without a projector it's hard to look at them, and slides don't go well in scrapbooks.

So with no way to convert the slides to prints it became a real challenge in trying to copy do it commercially. More than challenging, it was nigh on to impossible. And so one more gadget is
added to a computer room (some might call it a man-cave) that Joyce would love to see cleaned
up. It took a bit of experimenting to get the device to work (I needed to learn the proper switch positions) but I finally succeeded. So I think I will make the technology available to friends and members of the family who are faced with old pictures that technology has tried to consume to
the waste of the world. But I have finally come up with a better idea. So there, all you super-stores who move with technology but forget there are a lot of people who some old-timey service

Monday, April 16, 2012

Missing: One B-36

My WW (Wonderful Wife) says I have a tendency to dwell on the past at times. I don't call it dwelling on the past - I prefer to look at it as treasuring good memories. And so we decided to escape the 'closing-in-walls' of our apartment and just go somewhere.

Somewhere turned out to be Rantoul, Illinois, our home away from home off and on from 1953 to 1959. In some ways it was much the same as we remembered, but like most towns we remember from fifty years ago it has changed a lot. The Methodist church is much bigger - there's a lot more shopping but the old Air Force Base - Chanute AFB - is shut down - has been since 1993. Maybe it was time for it to happen - it was one of the oldest bases in service.

As we drove around the base many things were changed - wooden barracks were gone - newer brick dormitories were in  state of decay - and even the roofs of the giant hangars were showing their age. The "new" (new in 1957) hospital our middle daughter Amy was born in - is falling by the wayside. But I recognized the building I worked in and the base headquarters. Some things didn't seem to have changed. But the static display B-36 was gone. Or at least I couldn't find it. Even with the excellent display of aircraft at the Chanute Museum It wasn't in sight. Where was the B-36?

Well it wasn't at Chanute. Probably before the Museum was opened it was dismantled and shipped in pieces to what was Castle AFB in California where it was reconstructed and stands on display there. Probably makes sense when you think about it - Chanute AFB was not a B-36 base and Castle was the home of the big birds - I think they called the the 'Peacemakers." I remember them flying in Texas when I was in basic training, and I remember the cargo version of the B-36, the XC-99, flying in and out of McClellan AFB in California. (If you go back a way in my blogs you'll find a story about the XC-99.

I guess, like old soldiers, airplanes don't always fade away - they just go on display in some museum. And that makes good memories

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Maybe Then but Not Today

It could have been me in 1946.

I had just finished helping a neighbor stuff an attic with insulation. The itchy-scratchy kind. And it was August when a friend and I got done with the job.

We thought a camping trip would suffice as relief from the job and so Eddie and I gathered up survival rations and primitive camping gear and set out for the Hunter Mountain area of New York's Catskill Mountains. No backpacks. No tents. No sleeping bags. No insect repellent. Two bushel bags full of food a little like the picture above but not carried on a pole. And we were hitchhiking.

We arrived at the mountain in late afternoon ate our first meal, and proceeded to spread our primitive
bedrolls to get an evenings rest before setting out on the trails the next morning. What we didn't know was that flies, fleas, gnats, and mosquitoes had scheduled a convention in our camp site and we were their welcome guests.

The joy of camping and hiking was gone by morning and, rather than going back home, we decided to hitchhike to Niagara Falls and back. So back to the highway we went and it was not long before a farmer allowed us the privilege of riding in the back of his pickup truck for a few hours. When he reached his destination, we thumbed another ride in another truck for quite a while. (I think we ended up in Cooperstown of baseball fame by then.)

On the road again, we got a ride from a traveling salesman who got us all the way to Buffalo. On the way we cooked up a supper and he picked up a lady who turned out to be totally out of it from an alcohol binge and she was deposited at the front door of a Syracuse Police station. Then it was on to Buffalo where our driver allowed us to sleep on the floor of his Buffalo apartment living room.

I have no recollection of how we got to Niagara Falls but we made it there, and at the end of the day we decided to stay in a YMCA in Lockport. By this time we were getting a bit "ripe" and the "Y" had showers. The next morning we were on our way again - same clothes since we brought no change of clothes. Somehow we got to an open field between Syracuse and Utica where we camped in an open field. No bugs and 'critters' this time but the ground was really hard and sleep was hard to come by.
Seems to me that we started the day off with a breakfast of sardines and beans since there was not a lot of food left.

The next day we somehow made our way to Albany. How I don't know because we were really looking pretty shabby - an d left some body odor behind wherever we were. Not only that, but we were not very agreeable to each other - we were trying to decide whose crazy idea it was to take this trip anyway. We may have been out of food, but we had a little money in our pockets and decided that in the interest of getting home we would take the train the final 30 or so miles. By the way, it was well before the days of Interstate highways.

When Eddie and I met again some fifty years later we had matured a bit. we had a pleasant reunion but the question still remained: Whose idea was it to take the trip in the first place? And whose idea
was it to give up hiking to go to Niagara Falls? And was the trip a wise one to undertake?

Not on your life - but it was one of those things adventurous teenagers do - and sometimes still do.
But times were different then and we got away with it. I can't say the same for doing stuff like that today.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tulip Time

A few years ago Joyce and I took a nice jaunt from our then home on the eastern shores of Michigan to go to a train museum in the center of the state and then we spent the night in Grand Rapids. The next morning we drove to Holland. Not Holland Holland - Holland Michigan. It was a perfect trip - the huge crowds that invade Holland were gone and it seemed as though we had the town to ourselves - except for millions and millions of Spring flowers. What a wonderful place Holland is - either the one in the Great Lake State - or the one in Europe. I remember that one well from my Air Force days when I spent several months in The Hague working with the Netherlands Air Force.

i guess that all came back to me yesterday when we drove down to Evansville for a a college honors convocation in which granddaughter Jill was one of the honorees. The University of South Indiana is one of those places that has masses of tulips at this time of the year. Not just the University - the flowers were all over the city and it was beautiful. It really brings to mind the beauty of God's paint brush and makes one glad to be alive.

But I wasn't all that glad when our cell phone went off a when we were in our local bankers office the other day. The cell phone sounded off and it seemed as though everyone started laughing. I don't know why - all it was was a cell phone ring.  It was just a ring tone of Tiny Tim of past years singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". If you haven't heard it, or are unfamiliar with who Tiny Tim was, look him up on the Internet -  I'm sure you will be impressed - or at the very least puzzled why anyone in their right mind would use that ring tune. Then, again, I''ve not been accused of a somewhat twisted mind for a long time. Or maybe Joyce doesas well - I think the ring tone was her idea.

Then there is the story about  long flower beds filled with beautiful tulips - a little like the picture above. This flower beds ran from a sally port entry to a large apartment complex in Rye, New York. Running along the flower bed was a concrete sidewalk leading to an ornate entrance to the building proper. I was quite young - perhaps four or so - and we had an apartment, our first home on the mainland after my father retired (for the first time) from the active Army. This row or tulips was the managers pride and joy.

Needless to say, I had not completed driver education but I was equipped with wheels - a four wheel pedal car. Unfortunately it was not equipped with GPS and so, when I drove it, the little car had a mind of its own as the direction it went. If you are think that the car might have  affinity for tulips, you are 100 percent right. Not just one side of the sidewalk but both sides experienced a floral demolition derby. From one end to the other. It was not a tip toe through the tulips - it was mass destruction.

If memory serves correctly, we did not last in that apartment complex. I've been told that the manager invited (urged? insisted? demanded) us to move quickly after my moment of floral devastation and we ended up in my grandmother's boarding house. The picture above is of the infamous vehicle with me behind the car and one of the Tucker boys to the left. Granted, the picture is a bit faded, but so am I at the moment. And wonders of all wonders, I have a considerably better respect for flowers - especially if they are my wife's.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness

It's a glorious time in the Midwest - a time when all hearts and souls focus on basketball. High school, college, and most everyone else. Except this year when people held their breath to try to figure out where former Colt quarterback Peyton Manning would end up. And so it will be the Denver Broncos and now focus is back to basketball.

But I want to focus on something else - the March Madness of 2012 weather in Indiana. I thought it might be interesting to compare our 2012 weather to New York City winter in March 1888. As noted in the picture above, the Big Apple enjoyed a bit of snow in mid-March.  As much as 58 inches in one storm. There were 400 or so people who died, and there were damages estimated as high as 25 million in 1888 dollars (over a billion dollars in modern money) The storm produced winds as high as 80 miles per hours, creating snow drifts as high as 52 feet.

Then there was the time in my lifetime in New York State around 1940 when we had a snowstorm in which we had to use snowshoes to get to town because the snowplows couldn't get to our house. And the time in Rensselaer, Indiana when we had so much snow we had to cancel church three weeks out of four because churches were inaccessible for weeks at a time. When we were first able to make our way to some of them we had to drive on single lane roads with snowbanks on the side almost twice the height of our car. In Kokomo, Indiana we had an occasion where we couldn't get from our apartment into town for several days and Joyce couldn't get to get job in Marion (fifty miles away) for a week.

But then there is the year 2012 - another record setting weather year. Not for snow and cold -- just the opposite - warmth. It's been a really mild winter. And now it's mid-March. I venture to say we are

having Spring a month early and here is where we are this first day of Spring.  I'll take it but we do that with big question - It's great this year -- but what about Winter 2013? We shall see - but like I say, it's wunnerful this year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This was the morning that was

In case someone wonders, it is not all peace and tranquility back at the senior citizen ranch in good old Indianapolis. The above is a self portrait at around 9:30 this morning.

What it represents is my reaction to a smoke alarm going of in our apartment. I might expect it once in a while in the kitchen area when I have been incinerating a steak. Or maybe overcooking some of the good lady's favorite Brussels sprouts. (Let me correct that: LEAST favorite - it's me who has craved them ever since I had them for ten days straight in three Israeli hotels where they are a mainstay.)

At any rate, it was not a kitchen alarm that went off - it was a bedroom alarm and nothing I tried would cause it to stop screaming. Before anyone has any false illusions, we were far away when it sounded off so it wasn't anything we did - maybe forty years ago but not today.

Next thing we knew the phone rang - the manager downstairs wanted to know if we had a problem. Only an alarm that we couldn't shut off. Then the maintenance man showed up with three of the biggest and bravest firemen I've ever seen - all the way up to the second floor. Finally everyone agreed - a smoke sensor had malfunctioned  and had to be dissembled to stop the alarm. A few hours later a new sensor was installed and hopefully will continue to guard over us unless some dire (real) emergency occurs.

All this sounds like something not to big but in an apartment building like ours it affects every occupant in one way or another. Maybe it's that the building fire doors automatically close. Or maybe that a building-wide warning is sounded. So, though I really had nothing to do the problem, I got a lot of dubious looks when I went downstairs for the mail a little later. And a few questions as to what we had been up to in good old 227. The manager, bless her heart, said, it's happened several times the past few weeks because of failed parts and our friendly firemen have paid a courtesy call every time. Even last Tuesday when someone else's sensor sounded off at two in the morning.

Oh, well, things happen, and I'm glad the system is here - maybe sometime it will protect us when
something more serious happens. Meanwhile, enjoy the picture - it's pretty much where I was at the time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the Walls came Tumbling Down

One time, some years ago, Joyce and I were hiking through a Michigan woods not far from our home. It was a fairly dense woods and there were not any significant trails. She looked at me a couple of times and then, rather quietly asked, "Do you have any idea where we are going?" That is not the best question to ask a somewhat self-assured man, and of course my response was, "Of course I do, why do you ask?"  There was no response but a few minutes later she asked, "Do you REALLY know where we are going?" With a little impatience I responded, "Sure - we're headed east toward the river." She shook her head, evidencing some doubt but about five or ten minutes later we broke out of the woods at the shore of the Ausable River. I didn't say I told you so, but I must have had a smug look on face when she asked, "How did you know?" My answer, "I knew which way we were going by the direction of the sun." She looked satisfied but I thought to myself, "Thank goodness the woods wasn't as dense as some out west are, and I'm sure glad I knew the general direction of the river.

Which brings to mind that we often guide our directions by certain objects. In Seattle we might look for the Space Needle. In Paris our point of reference might be the Eiffel Tower. In London it might be the big Ferris wheel. In New York City it might be the Empire State Building. And in Kokomo, Indiana it was a gas tank.

When we would drive to Kokomo we would see the tank from miles away - long before we got to the outskirts of town. It had been built in the 1950's and was huge - almost four-hundred feet high. It served as a point of reference for anyone in the Kokomo area, even long-time residents.

But all things come to an end eventually - football stadiums, apartment houses, skyscrapers, old ships - and 387 foot tall gas tanks. As noted above, the walls of the tank came down by implosion in 2003. Having been gone from Kokomo for over twenty five years I wondered, when I drove into town this past week, where my key point of reference. Then I found it it wasn't there anymore. And I began to lose my sense of direction. I missed the old tank and so did a lot of people in Kokomo.

I guess it's consistent with the old saying, "Eventually, all things come to an end."  Even when it means that walls are coming down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A new opera:Vigaro...Veegaro....VEE...GA...ROW!

My abject apologies to the great composer of the opera "The Barber of Seville" for my mangling of its reference to Figaro.
I simply could not think of any better way to give some credit where credit is due.

The picture above reflects something that needs recognition.
My wife has a unique gift of raising flowers. The one above is just a sample of her green thumb with plants. This particular specimen has been amazing. It was the runt of the litter for some time. Then, a little while ago, she moved it to a table away from our west-facing living room windows where it seemed logical to flourish in natural sunlight. But no, it seemed to struggle by the window. Now it is under a lamp with a regular lightbulb. We both wonder why it has flourished where it is now. It gets the same treatment as other plants in the same room. Same watering. Same plant food. Same sweet talk from those who enjoy flowers.

That's not to say the other plants aren't doing well - they look great but just not quite as spectacular  as the one above. Could it be the American Flag stuck in the pot with the plant?

Joyce has always had a gift of growing things. She's got a shamrock plant that never seems to give up. It's survived inumerable moves from cold country - to hot country - to cold country - from trailers to houses to condos to apartments. Oh, it's had its moments but somehow even when its existance seems near terminal it surges back better than ever with flocks of pretty flowers. But then, Joyce is of Irish descent so maybe it understands her loving care more than it would mine which likely would be a combination of Scottish and English cockney.

Some people are just naturals with plants. She always has had a knack with them. The only hiccup  in her gardening that I can remember was a veggie garden back in Missouri.
She planted carrots, beets, corn, beans, and more. Especially
Zucchini squash. Lots of Zuchini plants. Enough we could have supplied ample amounts through three or four surrounding counties. When I asked her why she planted so many Zuchini plants she said she thought there was only one squash per plant. I made some inane and inappropriate remark and she looked at me and calmly said, "How was I to know - I grew up in the city."  I mention this only because she has a real gift for growing plants and I have a Midas touch for growing things - hers do well and mine shrivel up and die.

A final note - she uses Miracle Gro - not Vigoro - I found no opera that I could parody in a title. I can just say - whenever she feeds her plants they do well. And whenever she feeds me I do well. What more could a man ask for?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Flip of the Lid

If you go to Switzerland, you're apt to see one of these - a pretty hat with a white feather on it. You may find them in Germany and Austria as well.

This one was purchased at the intersection of three Swiss cog railroads at the base of the Jungfrau - one of the ever-snow and ice-covered mountains in the Alps. I thought it might help me to get motivated enough to yodel. No such luck at that - but it has earned a corner of my closet shelf. However, there remains a problem - a felt hat like this does not moisture. Somewhere in its lifetime it has been rained upon and it shrank. Originally it fit fairly well. When I try to wear it now it sits high on my head and looks a little funny. On second thought, maybe the hat has done well and it has been my head that has grown. Some people end up getting a swollen head over life accomplishments - but I hope that's not the case in my life. Makes me think about the country music song, "It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way." Sure, and I make chocolate sushi in the summertime.

Anyway, though the hat has shrunk the number of emblems on it has not. Each on of them reflects somewhere we've been. The majority of them reflect places we have been to in Switzerland. Places like Geneva, and Zermatt and Schiedegg (where  the hat was bought, and where I got the first pin.
There are other non-Swiss places represented - places like Heidelberg, Oberammergau, and Berchesgaden in Germany. There are pins from Jamaica, and Alaska, and even West Point.

Some might say, "So what - it's just a bunch of pins" on a hat I can hardly wear anymore. But the collection is more than that - every one of the emblems represented some place we have been. Each of them provides a bright memory of some time in life. Each of the has a back story of life and people we met or traveled with.

So, I keep the under-size hat with all of its pins and emblems on a corner of my computer room closet, not just to gather dust but rather to offer memories of some really good times with good friends in amazing parts of the world. As I sometimes say, along with Bob Hope, 'Thanks for the memories' - and things that bring back good memories from times gone by.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Eyes of the Beholder

I recognize that I have a problem with hearing - an affliction that impacts a lot of us as we age. That may be a subject for another blog down the road.

I thought, when I had cataracts removed from my eyes a few years ago, that all would be well with my sight. For the most part, that is true - for someone who had terrible vision for years it was a near miracle after that surgery - close to 20/20 sight without glasses now. I can even see well enough on a clear, sunny day, to drive without glasses.

But I have a hunch we all have vision problems in other ways.

Like the time in Michigan when we were having a wild thunderstorm. I looked out the condo window to watch the storm and across the way I saw something strange. We had experienced a near lightning strike and as the rain poured down I saw what seemed to be a power line on fire. The red or yellow light flickered and flared just like a flame and, as a committed 'good citizen', I called the fire department. It wasn't long before the fire engines arrived and we got a call from the firemen asking if we could pinpoint where the fire was. In the meantime someone from the fire department came to the condo office and asked about the  reliability of the person who made the call. The manager assured them that we were reasonably sane, but about the same time I came to the realization that what it actually was was power lines moving past a yellowish street light. I rushed down stairs, feeling like a fool, and told the firemen there that I was mistaken and that it wasn't a cable on fire after all.  I think they laughed and left shaking their heads about that crazy old guy who was seeing things.  I won't say who it was that insisted I call the fire department but I will say that it was a cooperative effort.

Then we moved to Indianapolis and found we had a nice view out our window toward the west.
Perfect for watching sunsets. But for months I have been mystified by the appearance of some kind of a building in the distance. I thought at first it was a part of the Raytheon factory some distance west.
However, in the many times we drive past that plant I could not find anything looking like the "building" off in the distance from our window. Then last week it finally dawned on me: It wasn't a building after all. It was a large sign (or signs) on I -465 just past the rehab center to our west. Like the title above, I was fooled by what seemed to be something altogether different.

I apologize for the picture - it's not a problem with my eyes. Instead, the camera must have focused on the spots on the window. That's another story in itself but for now I'm trying to focus more clearly on the real stuff - not mirages.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Strange things happen around our house.  Not ghosts as such - but mysterious noises and stuff hung  on door handles.

Last night we heard a rattling at the door - perhaps like someone trying to slip a key in the lock and trying to open the door. At first I thought it was something on TV but we were watching a debate and who would be rattling during a debate. Maybe someone trying to get at anyone who would watch CNN for something political. Then I got up and looked out the little view window in the door to see if anyone was there. No one in sight -- maybe it WAS a ghost.

This morning I opened the door to get the morning paper and there it (or was it they?) was hanging on the door. The picture of the door above is what I found - a lovely string of pearls for Joyce and beads with an Air Force medallion for me.

We haven't figure out where they came from - nor have we figured out who the donor might be.. Maybe someone was giving a gift to give me some positive thoughts after my facial chemo was at it's worst. Or maybe someone has decided to celebrate an early Mardi Gras.

Well, guess I'll go check the mail and see if anyone has beads to flaunt. Meanwhile, thanks to our mystery  visitor - we appreciate the gift.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Politics oops, I said that word!

Usually, around our house, and even on the Internet, discussions about politics are a no-no -- and I  respect other thoughts than mine. But I have a problem with today's politics in general.

My problem lies in what our leaders and candidates really are thinking of in their beliefs. I'm old-fashioned in a lot of ways -
and I am reminded of this more often than I like, but I don't want to apologize for how I think about our country. For instance, I look back at Harry Truman and realize that, though he may have made mistakes, he held fast in his beliefs and never 'passed the buck', instead he was decisive and history reminds us that he was right more often than wrong. I look back in history to Theodore Roosevelt, a president I have admired for a long time. With Theodore Roosevelt, the needs of the nation and the morality and accountability of leadership was paramount in his leadership.

I know there are a lot of people who do not like and maybe detest Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck, but the two books above (by them) have motivated and excited my thoughts about 'old-time-politics - something somewhat lacking in today's political world. I know, there are those in my family who are apt to say to me, 'the world is different,' and I must agree. But I think that we need to reconsider who we are as Americans, and what we expect as Americans. Just like the question of what to believe in the church: should the church change to conform with society or should the church hold fast to its traditional beliefs and try to lead society to a strong and consistent belief in the presence and power of God.

Both Washington and Lincoln lived in dreadful times but each of them, in many ways, stood fast in their priorities. Neither of them deviated from their belief in God's power, and belief in the United States Constitution. Each of them sacrificed much for the sake of our freedom and national potential.  In many ways today's focus is on self aggrandizement, and secular and personal things. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt did not prioritize a give-away government - he came up with programs like the CCC and WPA that put people on a payroll. Yes, their salaries came from the government - but people did not live on handouts - there was dignity in earning what they got.  Look at the legacies those programs offered us, and those results continue to this day.

I am sure that the books above may not appeal to everyone. But the fact of the matter is, we all need to deeply and sensitively consider what made our country great and what our national priorities are today. What sacrifices do we make that might parallel the sacrifices of Washington and Lincoln and the people of their times? Washington was not perfect (he admitted that) and surely I'm not - but Washington and Lincoln, in terrible times,
placed trust in God and did the best they could to mold a strong nation. And I've tried to do what I could in my lifetime.

Finally, the books must be good - they have been on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for quite some time. Beck and O'Reilly must have done something right - and I appreciate
their efforts. The big question is: 'Who among our leadership today offers the same commitment to what America stands for'?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Procrastination 2012


Did you ever have a time when you knew you had something to do but just didn't have the initiative to do anything about it? You know, the old proverb, 'Don't do today what you can put off to next week?'

Like saying, I'll make make my New Year's resolutions someday.
Someday may be tomorrow, but then, again, it might not be until next December -- after all the political campaigning is over.

I guess I've been guilty of the doldrums since Christmas - a post-holiday letdown. Not quite depression but a lack of motivation for much of anything. I've done a lot of reading - Christmas brought a lot of new books and a really great DVD about religion in America - one of those six-episode specials from PBS. And the everpresent no-no -- candy, candy, and nuts surrounded by chocolate. Like I said, maybe it's just letdown after the busy times at Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Or maybe it's that we're beginning to experience a bit of winter for the first time this year. Or is it the first time since  the end of summer? The skies are grey, there's been a lot of rain, and now a bit of snow and frigid weather.

Or, maybe it's just that I miss all the family - our children and grandchildren (and a great grandchild or three or four). I see other families coming together in family reunions and our family is scattered from coast to coast. The only way to experience family is through picture albums or videos, and memories. And those go way back in some cases, To my brother and his wife, or to my mom and dad who are long gone now. And to Joyce's family - and to a flock of friends we have known over the years.

But I also can walk into the bedroom and see the picture I have included above. Then I can look at each picture and say, 'Thanks for each and every memory' and wonder what memories we'll collect in the next 12 months.

Have great year yourself and keep in mind that every day that goes by it's a day closer to  spring - and one day less of political campaigning.