Let’s Not Forget Grandsons

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Daniel

Tyler

Zack

Liam

Dominic

Landon


Granddaughters – What else could I ask for?

November 23, 2010

Ariana, the old man, and Alexis

This will be a simple post.

Granddaughters are much more fun than daughters… although a grandfather still worries about them.

With Thanksgiving a day or so away, I thank the Lord for all my grandchildren, but especially for the granddaughters… and I pray they will always be kept safe and find the perfect gentlemen to marry.

Anna

Emma

Maggie

Rachel

Ellie


More Ramblings Down Memory Lane

November 15, 2010

That puzzle magazine continues to stir the memories long ago locked away in the remote recesses of my brain.

My original shopping center

As the calendar crept toward Thanksgiving, the merchants of our neighborhood would begin to order their Christmas wares. Note that I did not say they would display them; they would simply order them so they could be displayed soon after Thanksgiving.

Not shown in the above photo is the Crafton Heights First United Presbyterian Church – my first church home. The building sits back to the left of the telephone pole and car shown in the left corner of the picture. I point this out because shortly after Thanksgiving, a huge community Christmas tree would be erected in the church yard. The merchants would split the cost of the decorations and electricity to keep it lit throughout the season.

Back in the days when a letter could be mailed using a three cent stamp (Christmas cards could be sent for two cents if the envelopes were left unsealed) the U.S. Mail (this was long before the outfit changed its name) increased its service leading up to Christmas. We had our mail delivered twice – morning and afternoon – on Monday through Friday and once on Saturday. It kind of makes me wonder what happened. When they changed the name to Postal SERVICE, things seemed to go in the wrong direction.

Speaking of pennies, how many of you remember when you’d put twenty cents in a cigarette machine and get a pack of smokes that included two or three pennies in change?

I quit smoking more than ten years ago, but I’m told the price of a pack of cigarettes is now over $5.00! And there are no coins in the wrapper as change.

Another thing I remember about the Holidays was a company called Railway Express. Whatever happened to them? Quite often my family would receive a package sent by an uncle who spent his winters in Florida. That was the one time of year we’d have orange marmalade.

Come to think of it, winter was the only time our family had citrus fruit. As I recall, it simply wasn’t available any other time of the year. Of course, this could be said about most fresh produce. If it wasn’t grown in the U.S., it either wasn’t available or was too expensive for my family’s budget.

To this day I am amazed that our family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s home. When the twins got home from the Navy following World War II, a normal dinner would find mom and dad, my three brothers, and I gathered around a standard sized dining room table. With the other furnishings in the dining room, there wasn’t very much space for anything, or anyone, else. Yet, we somehow made room for the extended family on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The extended family included our two sisters, their husbands, and their combined four children. So, on those special occasions, we had eight adults and six children crowded into that same space. We must have had a “children’s” table, but I don’t remember it.

I do remember those 25 to 30 pound turkeys! Mom and our sisters really went all out to make sure no one left hungry.

If I’m not mistaken, Thanksgiving is only a week or so away. Time to fire up the cooker and make sure I have plenty of peanut oil.

Things will never match my memories, but then I wasn’t doing any of the cooking. My only job was to clean my plate. I was good at that. Come to think of it, I still am.


Thoughts That Never Occured to Me… before

November 12, 2010

Veterans Day Parade in Branson, Missouri - 2009

My bride and I are planning a trip to Germany in the not too distant future. To prepare myself, I’ve been listening to a radio station in Munich. (My computer picks up the signal far better than my short-wave radio!) The station I’ve settled on has an interesting format; similar stations in the U.S. (which are difficult to find) call it “The Music of our Lives.” It’s a step beyond the “Oldies but Goodies”. Most of the music played was recorded in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. There’s some Rock n’ Roll, but most of the songs would remind the listener of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Dinah Shore, Doris Day, and the like.

I’d estimate that eighty percent of the songs are sung in German; another ten percent are instrumentals, and the remainder are in English. Many of the songs are well known, but the English versions are not always by the original artists. Of course, I’m assuming the songs sung in English were U.S. originals. Based on what I’ve recently learned about German technology and a rich history of creativity, perhaps those songs originated in Germany and not in America.

Right now I’m listening to “Please Mr. Postman” and I think the group singing the song is the Carpenters. Go figure!

I was born in 1944 – about a year before the end of World War II. As a young boy, I would go to the neighborhood movie theater and cheer for John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Aldo Ray and others as they fought and defeated the Japs and Krauts.

It’s strange that I grew up considering anything labeled “Made in Japan” as junk, but had no similar opinion of German products. My memory tells me that the first products I recognized as having German origins were the Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen automobiles. One I saw as very high quality while I perceived the other as a pregnant roller skate of little value.

Today, it seems that the Japanese and Germans, along with the Koreans, are teaching Detroit how to make high quality vehicles. But that’s a story for another day.

Yesterday was Veterans Day. I always thought the U.S. did a fine job in recognizing the members of our “Greatest Generation”. As for our Vietnam vets, that’s another story, but it has improved.

On November 11, 1998, I was working in London, England. I was stunned when all activity in the office came to an abrupt stop at 11:11 AM. An announcement was made on the public address system and we were all asked to stand and observe a moment of silence. World War II had a much stronger impact on the British Empire than it did on America.

The victors certainly take the time to honor their soldiers, but what about the losers? Do the Germans and Japanese have parades to honor their citizens who fought so bravely, albeit for a losing cause?

I was recently told that the swastika can no longer be found anywhere in Germany; that it has been outlawed. However, another source tells me there is a museum in Berlin that displays many items of historical significance to the Nazi party, including the swastika. However, according to this source, there is very little to do with Adolf Hitler. If I was a German, I’d probably want to forget he ever existed.

Because of the war movies of my youth and the carry-over of anti-Japanese and German propaganda (that continues today in Hollywood) in my mind’s eye I see the enemy as blood-thirsty brutes who committed inhumane acts on our soldiers as well as on many innocent civilians. Let’s face it, it’s extremely difficult to view pictures of the Holocaust and see the German people in any other light.

And yet, I do. I’ve known a number of German nationals in my life and they are good fun loving people. It’s extremely difficult to imagine Horst, Chris, Joe, and my other German friends committing any act as brutal as those depicted in the historical documentaries.

“I was only following orders” is a defense that continues to be used to this day. Without having any factual information, it is my guess that the majority of the German and Japanese soldiers of World War II were fighting for a number of very simple reasons. First, they were drafted into the military and if they decided to go AWOL they could be shot. Second, they had to follow the orders of their superiors… or be shot. Third, when they faced the allied troops, they had to fight for their lives… or be shot.

It’s also possible that there were threats such as, “If you fail to follow orders, your families will be put in concentration camps or… be shot.”

Thus, I’m guessing that many of those soldiers were fighting because they had no choice. I’m sure each country had a number of combatants who bought their leaders’ propaganda completely and would be glad to shoot their fellow soldiers if that was necessary to insure the purity and harmony of their units.

But all of this is speculation on my part. I would love to sit down and talk with a German old enough to have been a part of the war effort… even if he or she was simply a teenager who gathered scrap metal for the war effort. As Americans who have never known a war on our own soil (in our lifetimes), it’s impossible to imagine how it felt to experience the exhilaration of the early Nazi victories, and how terrifying it must have been when the bombs started destroying their homes and cities. What were they told of the brutality of the allied soldiers? How much fear did they experience in the face of total surrender?

As for the Japanese, once again it is impossible for us to imagine two of our cities being totally destroyed by single bombs.

We lost the war in Vietnam – not because of any failure on the part of our military – but due to the ineptitude of our politicians. That ineptitude continues to this day.

In our country, it appears that we have finally learned to appreciate the efforts of our soldiers regardless of the situation that got us into war and the outcome of any military action. But how does a country pay homage to a military that failed to protect the homeland?

Again, I can only speculate. I would simply blame the political leaders who got us into the war to begin with. Then, I would honor and thank the soldiers who fought so bravely when they really didn’t have much of a choice.

I realize I did quite a bit of rambling with this, but it is an effort to wrap my arms around a subject that had never crossed my mind until I began listening to this German radio station.

The questions that gave birth to this blog entry were in regards to the music. So much of the music this station plays were popular songs in war-time America. Were those same songs played in war-time Germany? Or were they banned because they were American?

For that matter, were German songs banned in the U.S. at the same time? Prior to the war, Germany and the U.S. had many things in common. Was World War II like a divorce? All of a sudden, I will dislike everything about you simply because it reminds me of you? I will overlook all the good times we had during our life together simply because we’ve now discovered some basic areas of disagreement?

It seems to be such a shame. Perhaps all sides should listen more to the music than the rhetoric. If we can get everyone to agree on the same tunes, maybe world peace isn’t so far away.

Yes, I am a dreamer.


Maglie of Mound Fame

November 11, 2010

Where my knowledge of trivia began

I recently received a crossword puzzle magazine in the mail. I love doing puzzles and I quickly jumped into this publication with relish. It wasn’t long until I found myself thinking about the many times lately when I’ve said something humorous in the presence of my grandchildren and been met by blank stares. Come to think of it, it’s not just my grandchildren who have no idea what I’m talking about; and it’s not just my attempts at humor. Most people twenty or so years younger than me have no knowledge of the trivia of my life.

For example, last week I mentioned that I once had a friend who was very much like Joe Btfsplk. Recognizing that I probably mispronounced Joe’s last name, I quickly added, “He was the little guy who always had the storm cloud over his head.”

Blank stares from all but one or two people in my presence. I had to explain further, “He was one of the characters in Li’l Abner… the Al Capp comic strip.” At that point, I realized that, even though we had just gone through an important election, mentioning Senator Phogbound’s name would get me nowhere.

Li’l Abner left the daily newspapers in 1977. I have to remind myself that most people younger than thirty-five have never seen anything to do with Al Capp’s Dogpatch.

Does anyone anywhere still celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day?

So what does Pansy Yokum have to do with a crossword puzzle magazine? Nothing more than the name of Desi’s daughter, Mindy’s TV roommate, Philo of whodunits, Warbucks’ ward, a 1984 dictator, J.R.’s mom, the actress who played Miss Kitty, a Princess Phone feature, the patriarch of the McCoy family, Imogene’s partner, TV panelist Francis, Burr’s TV crime fighter, DDE’s opponent, Robert of “I Spy”, Mountie Do-Right, Slaughter or Cabell, Bucky Beaver’s brand, Sapphire and Lightning’s radio and TV show, Vaudeville super-star Al, Kuklapolitans, and Will Rogers’ prop. And the list goes on.

Every puzzle in that magazine had at least one entry that would be extremely difficult for a young solver. I’ve often run into puzzles that throw in extremely obscure words or foreign phrases, but I’ve never seen so much absolute trivia.

At the same time, I’m loving that magazine because it’s bringing back so many memories.

It’s been years since I’ve given any thought to Captain Video and the Video Ranger, Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, Clarabell, Princess Summerfallwinterspring, Phynias T. Bluster, Flub-a-dub, Bobby Orr, Otto Graham, Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Jenner, Ara Parseghian, Lech Walesa, Mario Lanza, Emma Peel of the Avengers, Maxwell Smart, Hedda Hopper, Erma Bombeck, DeSotos, Lonesome George, Uncle Miltie, Mamie’s predecessor, Walt Frazier, James Arness, Chester (Dennis Weaver), and Xavier Cugat’s wives.

Anyone who has recognized all the people and events I’ve mentioned so far is either somewhere around my age, or a great fan of meaningless information. Perhaps this will generate some comments and we can all remind each other of many other trivial items. In the meantime, I’m going to fill my jug with some Kickapoo joy juice and work another puzzle.

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By the way, let’s all take the time to thank our fellow citizens who have served, or are currently serving, to protect our rights as Americans. Today may be a bit special – Veterans Day – but we shouldn’t wait to say “Thanks” only once a year. We thank them every day!


Who Will Step Up?

November 10, 2010

Let’s face it, everyone is getting older… every day! In the big picture, that’s really not a problem – it is simply life. So why do I mention it?

For ten years of my life I was a member of LIONS International. When I first joined, in my mid to late twenties, I was among the youngest members. Most of the members were the men who had formed the club when they were in their mid to late twenties. They were all twenty to thirty years older than I. My ten year membership began in 1973 and ended in 1983. I would guess that many of the men with whom I was associated have passed on.

A year or so ago a good friend invited me to join another service club. I went to a couple of meetings and, once again, found myself to be among the younger people in attendance. I was sixty-five at the time.

My bride and I are very active at our church. I serve on the Church Council, the Community Outreach team, the Gift Card committee, and a musical group that entertains at senior living facilities. Over the years I have also sung in the Chancel Choir.

On the Church Council, I am one of the older members. I’d guess that the majority of the Council members are forty and older. We have two members who are most likely in their late twenties or early thirties.

The church’s Chancel Choir is made up of some wonderful singers… most of whom are in their fifties and older. Our Community Outreach team is also made up predominantly of senior citizens.

Recently our Pastor announced that the bulk of our financial support comes from the senior members of our congregation. I have to admit that he rubbed me the wrong way when he said we need to get our senior members to include the church in our wills.

What we need to do is find a way to get young people to step up and take their rightful place in society.

I’ve heard all the excuses. We have young children involved in numerous activities and don’t have the time nor the money to do volunteer work. Strange, when I first joined the LIONS club, I had young children involved in various activities. And I wasn’t a parent who simply dropped the children off so I could run off and do my own thing.

I sat through many practices and rehearsals. My children weren’t in scouting programs; they were in the YMCA Indian Guides. As the father, I had to attend all functions with them. I was glad to do it. As for my LIONS activities, whenever possible, I took my children with me.

I can understand monetary impediments. I don’t buy “We don’t have the time.”

I know older folks who have trouble finding the time for some activities, but would never even be late to the activities that are near and dear to their hearts. It’s a matter of setting priorities.

If a person can find the time to watch every episode of “American Idol”, he or she can find the time to attend a weekly or monthly meeting and spend an occasional Saturday afternoon helping to raise money for a worthwhile charity.

Let’s face the reality of the situation. When the “older” folks who are keeping the service organizations and churches in business die off, the younger folks will have to step up and replace them, or the institutions will die along with their members.