Monday, April 14, 2014

Pure Joy

It' been a long, hard winter. I haven't seen a lot of rip-roaring joy in quite some time. I must admit that there have been all too many days in my own life when I  felt as though there wasn't much to smile about.. But I don't  think I have been 'trapped' by a real solid 'downer' in quite some time.
I got to thinking about the meaning of joy the other day.  What it is. Why don't we feel joy all the
time?  Why does inner joy happen more often? More predictably?

I was going through a lot of old pictures the other day, basking in good memories (and a few challenging ones) and I ran across the one above.  It's been one of my favorites over the years, in part because it exudes joy at its highest.  It happened in the 1970's when I was still working at McDonnell Aircraft. Every year the company would sponsor Christmas parties for children involved in foster homes or less privileged children  sponsored by groups like the Salvation Army. This little girl was among several who were guests of our training department. I was not at my best that afternoon -  I was struggling with a migraine headache.  It was a miserable one but it didn't stop me from letting this girl try out an aircraft flight control training device.  When she moved the simulator control stick she got all kinds of aileron, rudder, and stabilator movement. The picture illustrates her moment of absolute joy when the surfaces started flapping. Then I wondered - what about the next day? Or the next week or month? Did she have downers  like many of us might have?

I am reminded of some words from Psalm 30 -  "....give thanks to His holy name, for His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes  in he morning..."

I believe that life is filled with dark and hurtful moments. However, there are also moments that are bright and positive. Things do not always go the way we wish they would. We have moments when we experience frustration and disappointment at work.  But it seldom lasts - something good may happen the next day.  That may be in the form of a new job, or some  other positive change.  I know what that is like - downers followed by positive surprises.  It happens  in families - disagreements - hurts but there is joy when problems are resolved. It is wonderful when bad times pass away and we realize that life may have tough events but even then our faith is rewarded.

Like an old hymn says......."....And the night is as black as the sea, oh yes; There will be peace in the valley for  me some day; There will be peace in the valley, Oh Lord I pray; There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see, there will b peace (and joy) in the valley for me..."

And you!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Over and Over.....Again and Again

One move, two move, three move four....

Lord, I hope there won't be any more!

It's been a way of life. Before I could walk - and maybe talk - it was off by military sea transport to Hawaii. It went on and on - moving eight times up to high school graduation. It went on after I left home on my own and has continued up to now. I guess it will end only on my one way trip from a funeral home someday.
I presume my first clue about the Air Force life was when I was assigned to the 3499th Mobile Training Wing. I should have known what I was heading into when I saw the word Mobile. After an ill-fated move by military air that took me to almost a dozen bases in a week, put me on record of AWOL (absent without leave, a definite Air Force no-no), and I complete my move by train. I became convinced that I needed a car.  It became even more of a challenge when I got married and the car became transport AND storage.  We loaded the trunk and back seat with most everything we owned, including a seven inch black and white bare-bones Teletone television set. By bare bones, I mean just that - it was a chassis and picture tube but no cabinet. That's the way lived until our
mobile home era.
In the trailers we began to amass things and when we moved everything went into the trailer, often including concrete blocks used to support the trailer when we got to our destination
Next came the house decades. That meant more souvenirs and possessions and they moved us (or we moved them) even as we entered the ministry years. We've completed 60 years together and that meant more and more stuff and now, here we are moving out of our home of 13 years (that includes two or three moves in and out of this house.
The picture tells my story. We know that our next domicile will have very living space - or better said, limited space for stuff. This has produced a major challenge: How does one decide what can go and what has to stay? Beyond that, what do we do with stuff headed for treasure heaven. 
I guess I am the problem. There's always the tension involved in making a choice what goes with us and what is otherwise disposed on. It is commonly described as sorting treasure from trash and more specifically, What IS treasure amd what is trash. Making that worse, one person's treasure is apt to be another's trash. I guess I have been the one to keep stuff.  You know what I mean - I keep stuff sometimes like forever.  Old electrical and electronic cables. Coffee cans of unsorted screws and hardware. Newspaper articles I wrote forty-five years ago. Pictures almost that old. And old magazines.
How does one overcome this problem?  I find that a wife, in many ways, knows how to handle this dilemma. She can select more freely. And when it comes to my stuff, there is always 'her look'.  She wisely will pronounce the truth statement: "there's not going to be room for everything" and give 'that look."
The husband responds, "But I need that - I've got some projects in mind." 
Silence. More silence - and then -----the look. It's taken me a lot of years but I have learned to listen to her - and be aware of the 'look'
I'll let you know in June how we (and our stuff) have survived the move.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Disagreeable Stinky Time (DST)

I used to smile a lot. Unfortunately my facial expression has changed by degrees as we've gone deeper and deeper into a wild Michigan winter. It has not helped that a daughter in Virginia keeps
talking about 60 degree temperatures and possible flowers making their way into sunlight.  Especially when we still have snow drifts up to the windows.  I know, this kind of stuff is not unusual in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but, hey, we're not the Upper Peninsula.

To add to everything we contend with Daylight Savings Time.

Or, maybe, it's just contending with time.  A clock in the living room indicates one time. The two in the kitchen say something else. The bedroom clock seems to be on time, but the clock in the car is
not.  And maybe it even gets to my having to ask what day of the week it is.  And the response is,
Just another cloudy, snowy, chilly day in the north side of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

Then life comes up with another thought: how does one calculate time in another part of the country?
We have relatives all over the place - at least three. Arlington, Washington, near Seattle for instance.
We know we can't get in touch with him much earlier than eleven in the morning. How about Lake Tahoe? Or Yuma, Arizona. Are they on Pacific, or are they on Mountain time?

I'm reminded of the time we made a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. I tried calling the home office at six at night and all I got was a familiar voice on an answering machine. Okay, what time is it in Florida when it is six or eight in the evening?  Or the times I was  in Italy or Holland  trying to contact my wife who was in Detroit and having to wait an hour so even to get an overseas phone line to begin with?  No satellites in those days and one had to cough up lira by the gross load just to make the call.

In the latest Saturday Evening Post there is a tongue-in-cheek story about Indiana's love/hate relationship with Daylight Savings Time.  Indiana was one of the last Daylight Savings Time holdouts, sticking for a long time with year-round Eastern Standard Time.  Well, that was most of Indiana - there are a few corners up in the northwest corner that relate to Chicago (Central Standard Time).  It became a bit challenging for us since I was serving a four-church parish at the time. Three of the churches were on Chicago time; one was on Indianapolis time. There was one time I showed up at a church a bit late to find the congregation on the front steps and one of the leaders proclaiming that they were about to begin the service without me.  I'll  admit- country folk are pretty self- sufficient and I have no doubt they could, or would, have done a fine job of winging a service.

So, I'm not going to dwell on long distance time constraints - I've got enough challenges just figuring
out what time it is, right here in our comfy-cozy home on the shores of Lake Huron.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Main Street Sweets


To borrow a thought from old-time band leader Guy Lombardo, the Boston Candy Kitchen was the sweetest shop this side of heaven.  It was the place a lot of high school students went for lunch before the school had a cafeteria. More importantly, it was the gathering place for teenagers in the evening, especially on Saturday night. My group had a special booth, last one on the left alongside the big Wurlitzer juke box. Behind us, between the booths and the kitchen was a telephone which enabled us to coordinate our  carpool to the dance destination for the night. Beyond all of that, there was wonderful home made ice cream and  candy. Fact is, the Boston Candy Kitchen set records for  production of ribbon candy every year - miles and miles of it at Christmas time. And it was still considered a Christmas season, not downgraded to a holiday event.

This was a mellow place for youth, but it seems as though most towns had gathering places like this.
In nearby Pittsfield,  Massachusetts there was the Sugar Bowl, across a street from the YMCA. It's claim to fame was its variations of cola drinks. You could get lemon cokes, or other flavors, but the hallmark soda was called the "Awful Awful" which involved using a base of cola flavored with every other syrup in the fountain. It was, indeed, a horrible mixture but presented an opportunity for young and macho guys to prove their manhood - or  willingness to suffer dire digestive consequence.

However, the Candy Kitchen was more subdued featuring sensitive and flavorful treats serve up by Nick Demos and his wife. They earned a special place in the hearts of 1940 and 1950 teenagers.
Today there re hundreds - perhaps thousands - of men and women in their seventies or eighties who remember the Demos family as very special members of the Chatham community.

Harriet was a young lady with an eternal smile. Athena became a librarian, who found her way back to the Chatham Library. Chris became a doctor. He has held a special place in my heart having saved me from drowning at a nearby lake one time. But Nick and his wife were very special - partly because of community spirit the shared with their community, but even more, the lasting influence
on the teenagers of the time.

One last thought. I always thought the Boston Candy Kitchen was unique to the Chatham area. However, research has brought out another Boston Candy Kitchen in Glens Falls, and perhaps another Kitchen in Hudson Falls. Was there a tie between them? After all, their claim to fame, at least in part, was fabulous ribbon candy. But the one in Chatham remains the special one in my life -
after all, the Demos family has impacted many lives - particularly mine. And I continue to count my blessings.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


I don't remember the first time we went. Was it 1952? Or was it 1946? or as far  back as 1941? I just know it was a long time ago, and was  with my grandparents the first time.

It was a long time before Walt Disney introduced his first wonderful world of fun and games in California. In fact, there were a lot of amusement parks across
country in those days - not the fancy and glittering super theme parks we see that usually cost an arm and leg to get into these days. But they were wonderful just the same.

There was Playland in Rye, New York, and Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts; Lakeside Park in Denver (Elitches Garden was just down the road). Does any one remember the Walled Lake park outside Detroit? There's no forgetting Coney Island, and Palisades Park in the New York/New Jersey area. I remember an amusement park in Norfolk, Virginia that was the scene of a thriller movie centered on the destruction of a roller coaster when the park closed down. There were a lot of the old fashioned amusement parks. But
one of the very unique parks was Knott's Berry Farm which was just what the name implied - a berry farm.

But it was more than just a berry farm. It's theme was a ghost town complete with an old time western steam train. It had (and I think it still has) characters like Sad Eye Joe who occupied a cell in the ghost town jail. You'd also find residents like Handsome Brady and Whiskey occupying a bench not far from the hangin' tree. It was a low pressure experience in less complex lifestyle.

Well, it's still there. The ghost town. The wild west steam train. And the chicken dinner restaurant. The Farm has grown; There are a passel of rides and a big selection of attractions appealing to today's thrill seeker.

Today's blog relates mostly to the chicken dinner restaurant. It still serves up scrumptious dinners and it is till as popular as ever.  In one year (1937) a little over one hundred chicken dinners were served in a year. By 1952 over a million
dinners were served. And dinners are still served to this day.

I tried to find out what the current price is for a Knott's chicken dinner, but it was not available on my computer. But chicken dinners at Zehnders here in Michigan are approaching double digit-dollars. Turkeyville, near Marshall, Michigan has dinners at around seven dollars.

But can you beat the Knott's dinner price on yesterdays menu shown above? Not likely; times, they have changed.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


My good half and I have done a pretty good job of agreeing over the years. Oh, we have our own little quirks but we have, for the most part, reasoned things out together. However, one thing we don't agree on is winter. Like our youngest daughter, I tend to like chilly, snowy weather. Joyce hates winter.
I didn't always feel this way, especially when I had to get up early and drive some distance to and from work n snow and particularly on icy roads.
I remember a time in St. Louis when we were heading home and the roads were slick, even the Interstate highways. Fortunately, there wasn't much traffic but what traffic there was moved pretty fast. Fast enough, in fact, that cars went by us as if there were no problem.  One went by us like a shot, only to start a skid a short distance ahead of us. Just driving steadily we saw the other car slide into the passing lane, still rotating, and in the rear view mirror I saw the car slide back into our lane slide off into the ditch. A miracle perhaps, but by using bit of caution and a prayer or three we got home safely.
There was another incident when I made it back to our town in a snowstorm and confidently headed up the fairly steep hill to our home. Not far up the hill I lost  traction and the wheels started spinning.
I stopped for a moment, then suddenly the car whipped around and of its own accord headed back down the hill. Fortunately, there was an alternate route to the house and, shaken a bit, made it home with no other problem.
But the incident I remember most clearly was in 1945. I had driven some distance in my fathers 1941 Studebaker Champion to pick up a date. Heading up the highway from her home on a snowy road we chattered when suddenly a wheel dropped off the pavement causing the car to lurch. The car spun, missing highway guard rails to the left and ended up in the ditch facing in the opposite direction. I couldn't see anything out the driver's side window, snow was piled to the car roof.  (Like the car in the picture.) All I can remember saying, with a blank expression on my face, "Well, we're here!"
Deep in the snow bank, the car engine had stalled, but amazingly started as if nothing had happened.
Hesitantly, I pushed in the clutch, put the car in gear, said a prayer or two, and gunned the engine and the car pulled out of the snowbank as if nothing had happened. Thank goodness for old-fashioned recapped knobby times that worked better than I had expected.
Things happen. And I drive a little more cautiously. Especially on slick roads. Who cares what that young guy thinks of that ancient driver who's just poking along.  After all, using a bit of caution is not such a bad idea. And Joyce agrees.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

slippy -slidy (on your heinie)

I was a child once. One or another of my relatives say that sometimes I revert to a kid again, but the body assures that there's a lot of wear and tear that reduces my ability to play in the snow like I did
seventy or so years - but the yen to 'play' remains. And the memories.
With the Olympics nearing, with bobsled and luge races, I'm reminded of my bobsled days. Somewhere we got a huge bobsled - nothing more than a very heavy plank with primitive runners.
There was no brake, and none of the aerodynamic body visible with current sleds. Actually, it resembled an eight person luge in its simplicity and had moveable runners in the front that were moved with a piece of clothesline rope. It worked reasonably well until the rope got wet, frozen, and brittle  and broke under tension. The ride, at that point became perilous frequently ended deep in a snowdrift with the six or seven passengers scattered along the road, or in the drift with the bobsled
It was a thrill a minute, especially when a sledding crew came around a turn of the road to discover a car trying to make it up the hill. But cars often were godsends because drivers sometimes took pity on the sledders and towed the very heavy bobsled up the hill for us.
Many years went past.  Settled into parenthood, I began to have qualms about winter. I had to face snow and ice getting to work. Winter was not as much fun any more but the children loved it. Like so many families, we lived from payday to payday and didn't have much for things like sleds. But the kids begged and pleaded for something to use in the snow. I didn't have a garbage can lid that could be adapted to sliding, nor did we have any tire tubes that would work. Then the idea hit: there's some lumber and hardware in the basement; I'll make sled. I used a wide board for the bed and made runners out of two-by fours clad with the remains of tin cans from the kitchen. Again, clothesline worked to steer the cumbersome sled. It was heavy - very heavy - and took most of the kids and me to pull it to the top of the hill. It did work, but took almost more effort than it was worth, and was left
behind when we made our next move.
As the years past, I graduated to things like toboggans and skis. I hated the thought of jumping but thrived on down hill racing. As time has gone by all I have left is memories. Oh, I still like to bundle up and announce to my better half that I'm going out to play in the snow. Then she gives me one of those looks as if to say, "Act your age, old guy." So I give her one of my looks, take my coat, gloves, and fuzzy snow bonnet off, and head for the heated recliner, sigh, and think to myself, where has all the fun of childhood gone?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


    I have to confess that as a United Methodist I tend to move in a bit different theological direction from my Baptist friends but I have to admit that the folks at South End Baptist Church have a point
with their church sign. Even their welcome line is covered with snow and I have a hunch they are saying, "Enough, Enough!" Around this corner of Michigan we are ready for some mid-thirty temps
to warm things up. The TV stations are saying it's the worst winter in decades and maybe it is.

    But I'm far enough along in years to remember some winter storms that were challenging in their own right. In my later elementary school years I attended a two room school - one with 1st through 4th grades, the other with 5th through 8th grade (the room I was in for four years where we moved back a row each time we were promoted, and out the door when we finished the 8th grade.) I walked to school a mile each way no matter what the weather. I made it to school and back every day except when we were snowbound and even the big Oshkosh tank-tread snow plow didn't make it up our hill.
The only way we made it outside our house was on snowshoes and like I said, it was a mile to town.

There was another time when I was in the National Guard in Massachusetts that we  had a crippling January ice and snow storm that turned out to be designated a disaster and I was on guard duty at a ice-threatened river bridge and we had icy snow and heavy snow with terrible wind. The Salvation Army came around every half hour or so with warm gloves and coffee.

In more recent years I was assigned to a four-church parish in northwest Indiana. It seems unbelievable that we had major snowstorms at the end of every week that meant cancelling services four successive weeks in a row - even the church next to the parsonage and it was alongside a major highway. Church members couldn't make it in from the farm roads, and I couldn't get to their homes and even to town for some time. When the weather finally let up we headed out for one of our more remote churches and the snow piles along the road were half again or twice as high as the car. To top that off, The roads were plowed only in one lane - fortunately we didn't meet anyone coming toward us - one or the other would have had to back up to a  driveway - and there were precious few of them that were plowed.

During the mid-1980's we were serving at a mid-Indiana church and scheduled a vacation in January.
It was a great time to go but a day or two after we got back we were assaulted by another major snow storm. Joyce was working in an office in a city an hour away and the weather got worse and worse. So bad, in fact, that it was a week before she got back to work and the driving even then was hazardous. Fact is, it was several days before we could even get into our town.

So, I guess  our storms through December and thus far in January I can say to those around us,
"been there - contended with that before." Those who have to make their way to  work have my sympathy. I am glad to be retired, especially when we have snow up to our windows and the thermometer is hovering around the zero mark.

But I still say, to the weather powers that be: "Enough is Enough!" And if I  were still serving a church I wonder what I would put on a signboard in times like this? It's a bit dated, but how about "Snow, Snow, Go away.........Come again another 2025."