Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Find A Wheel And It Goes Round, Round, Round

I bought new tires for my truck last summer. I did not need the expense but I did need the tires.

After 1,000 miles I was to take the truck back to have the tires rotated for "maximum usage". Of course I put it off. Putting things off is something I am really good at.

So a couple of weeks ago I got up early to make the trip into town. I figured if I was at the tire place I would be in and out without too much waiting. Then I would treat myself to lunch. Maybe I would buy some fast food and take it to the state park and eat under the trees.

I pulled into the parking lot. I was in luck. There was only one other car waiting to be serviced. I would be second.

I parked near the front door and went inside.

"What can I do for you?" asked the young man behind the counter. I smiled. Then I explained that I had bought my tires there at the end of last summer. I needed an alignment.

He assured me that it would be a quick job. Then he quoted the price. Not quite $60.

Now I knew that tire rotation should be at no cost. And this guy wanted to charge me $60?

I thanked him and turned around and walked out. I got in my truck and drove away.

I did not treat myself to lunch. It was too early. But I did pick up a breakfast sandwich and a hot tea. I drove to the state park and found a good place to eat. And soothe my mind.

Halfway through eating my sandwich I realized my mistake. I said I wanted a wheel alignment not a tire rotation. Once again I felt so stupid.

I waited a week before I went back. Even I am not immune to embarassment.

I got my tires rotated. I had my lunch in the park. All is right with the world.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Total Eclipse

It was here. August 21, 2017. The day of the total solar eclipse.

My son had ordered the special glasses to be able to look at the sun without frying our eyes. I had called my sister-in-law to invite her to go with us to the viewing. We agreed to meet for an early lunch before the big event.

My son and I had scouted for the ideal place to see the eclipse. We agreed that the rural cemetery that is the final resting place of family members would be perfect.

Around the edge of the cemetery there are no trees. We would have an unobstructed view. It is located in the middle of cornfields. Few people even know it is there.

We decided on the best spot before we drove home.

So I woke up bright and early. To an overcast sky. Oh no. After having little to no rain all summer we have been having quite a bit lately. The plants need it but not this day. Please.

I watched the weather on television. The forecast was for intermittent rain and mostly cloudy skies. Noooooo.

The weathercaster did say that the best chance for the skies to clear enough to view the eclipse was in our area. Dare we hope?

My son and I gathered our things together making certain that we had those special glasses and his camera. We were going to take a chance. Off we went to have our early lunch.

As we drove toward town the clouds did seem to clear a bit. Hope flourished.

My sister-in-law had just arrived so we sat and ordered. It was a nice lunch which we ate quickly. Then on to the cemetery.

We were a little early so we set about grooming the graves a bit. A quick touch up with the weed-eater, dig up a couple of thistles, and clear off the headstones.

We opened the package and each took a pair of special eclipse-viewing glasses and put them on. Then we realised that they were too dark to be able to see normally. We took them off and found our spots to watch the eclipse. Then we put them back on.

I chose a nice bench near the edge of the cemetery. There was a tree behind me but it would not be in the way.

I looked up and found the sun. The eclipse had begun.

At first there was a small edge of the sun that darkened just a bit. Then I could see the moon moving farther into the path of the sun. As it moved across the sun the moon looked totally black.

The temperature dropped a few degrees. It was not cold but a difference was felt. The wind increased significantly. Whether the eclipse was the reason or not I have no idea. But it was windy during the eclipse.

The sun looked like a wedge of melon and then a banana. As the moon moved to the southeast the yellow of the sun with the orange edges moved from the side of the sun to the top.

Then there was a thin thin eyelash shaped yellow with orange edges on top of the sun.

We were not in the line of complete totality. We only had about 97 % eclipse here. But it was so close that I am more than satisfied. As the moon began to leave the front of the sun a large fluffy cloud moved across the whole thing.

We did not see the end of the eclipse. The cloud covered the rest of the time.

My sister-in-law went home. My son needed to go to the pharmacy so we went on to the town where it is.

As we drove that way we saw a nasty black cloud in that direction. It covered the sky as far as the eye could see and was moving quickly toward us.

By the time we got to the store the sky was dark above us. We rushed inside.

We were only there for a few minutes. When we went back outside it was beginning to rain. By the time we got in the car it was raining pretty hard.

We stopped at a nearby drive thru to grab something to drink because my mouth was dry. My window was open long enough to pay for and collect the drinks. I was soaked clear through on that side.

By the time we reached home the rain had stopped temporarily. I was glad to be in my house.

My son did get a couple of pictures of the eclipse. They turned out well.

I am grateful that we were able to see the most important parts of the eclipse. Were you able to see it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Year I Was Born

 In a couple of days I will be 70 years old. I have had a full and wonderful life. As a matter of fact I have been telling you about it for several years.

I began to wonder about major happenings the year I was born. Let's see what I found.

The most popular song was Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette sung by Tex Williams. I even know the song... imagine that.

I will not name all the popular songs of 1947 but I do want to mention a few. Remember that they were not necessarily new that year (although some like This Land Is Your Land were).
  Civilization (better known as Bongo, Bongo, Bongo) by Louis Prima
  Too Fat Polka by Arthur Godfrey
  This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
  Move It On Over by Hank Williams
  I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder by Eddie Arnold
  The Wiffenpoof Song by Bing Crosby
  Open The Door Richard by Count Basie

There were a lot more but you get the idea.

Movies? There are so many. I am going to name only my very favorites. It is a hard list to make.

  The Farmer's Daughter starring Loretta Young and Joseph Cotton
  The Egg and I starring Claudette Colbert and Fred McMurray (one of my all-time favorites)
  Life With Father starring William Powell and Irene Dunne
  The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer starring Shirley Temple and Cary Grant
  The Ghost and Mrs Muir starry Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison
  Miracle On 34th Street starring Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara
  It's A Wonderful Life starring James Stewart and Donna Reed
  The Bishop's Wife starring David Niven, Cary Grant, and Loretta Young

You will notice that my favorites are mostly comedies. If you want to see westerns or drama there are a lot of good ones from 1947. You can find them by doing a search.

Most people did not own televisions in 1947 but there were television programs.

  Kraft Television Theater was the first commercial dramatic series on TV
  The first broadcast of the baseball World Series was broadcast featuring the New York Yankees against the Brookline Dodgers (the Yankees won)
  Howdy Doody Time was introduced
  President Harry Truman gave the first presidential address on public television
  Meet The Press began and became the longest-running news program on television

The average annual salary was $3,500
Minimum wage was 40¢ per hour
A loaf of bread cost 12¢
A gallon of milk was 80¢
To mail a letter cost 3¢ for the postage stamp
You could buy a house for $13,000
A new car cost $1,500
Gas for the car cost 23¢ per gallon

In history 1947 was interesting.

  A special UN committee recommended the creation of not one but two Palestines, one Jewish and the other Arab. Jerusalem would be maintained as an international city under permanent UN trusteeship.
  Richard Nixon became a member of the US House of Representatives. Then he was invited and accepted a position on the House Un-American Activities Committee. 
  In 1947 the HUAC began its investigation into the entertainment industry and was responsible for the blacklisting of 320 artists.
  John F Kennedy also became a member of the US House Of Representatives in 1947.
  Jackie Robinson became the first African/American Major League Baseball player.
  The Diary of Anne Frank was published
  Larry Dolby became the first African/American Major League Baseball player for the American League.
  In the Soviet Union the AK-47 went into production.
  Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain became engaged to Lt Philip Mountbatten. Of course she is now Queen.
  President Harry Truman signed the Presidential Succession Act which states the line of succession in case a president dies while in office.
  Thor Heyerdahl and crew sailed the Kon-Tiki across the Pacific Ocean to show that ancient people could have traveled in primitive boats.
  The US Department of Defense was created.

Okay. Enough of that. There is much more but again you will have to investigate for your selves.

History for my birthdate includes:

   In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted burying Pompeii and Herculaneum
  The scheme of Wall Street insider trading was begun in 1982. 
  The Britsh captured and burned Washington DC.

In 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico, something fell to Earth. The headline of the Roswell Daily Record said, "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer In Roswell Region". Ever since then the UFO phenomenon rages on.

It was not the first sighting of something in the sky that could not be explained. Why on my birthdate alone:

  A mysterious light was seen traveling across the sky over Denver in 1897.
  In 1947 and mother and young daughter in Florida saw several discs maneuvering in the sky.
  A UFO was seen hovering over Adrian, Michigan in 1950.
I will not list more but there have been several dozen sightings on this date alone throughout the years.

Of course a lot of famous people were born this year as well as those of us not so famous. But sharing this date although not necessarily the year with me are:

  Dave Chapelle
  Vince McMahon
  Mike Huckabee
  Marlee Matlin
  Hal Smith (Otis from The Andy Griffith Show)
  Yasser Arafat
  Anne Archer
  Cal Ripkin Jr
  Rocky Johnson (father of The Rock)
  Steve Guttenberg
  Duke Kahanamoku

So that is a bit about my birthday. I hope you have as good a day as I plan to have.

Friday, August 18, 2017

In The Kitchen

When I graduated from high school I needed to find a job. My friend saw an ad that said one of the hospitals was looking for help in the dietary department. It was a fancy way of saying kitchen help.

We both applied. She took a part time job there. Her parents had a little money so she did not have to work. I was hired full-time. 

I was to work the morning shift. It started at 6:00 AM. Once I was trained I was responsible for taking steam carts of food to the floor that served maternity and then to the floor that served pediatrics.

The steam cart was a heavy push cart filled with water. It would be plugged in to heat the water and then again on the floor to keep the water hot. That kept the food warm. And boy were they heavy and bulky. Not easy to steer.

Carts containing food trays with whatever dishes and silverware necessary had been taken to the floor a little earlier. They also had napkins and a name card with the room number, bed number , and name of the patient.

Special diets were served by a different part of the kitchen staff. Those were meals for diabetics or other patients who needed special foods.

For breakfast I made toast as well as looking at the menu for the day and serving each tray. I made sure that whatever beverage was placed on the tray. Juices and milk were kept in a refrigerator on the floor. I had a large coffee pot to fill individual pots for the trays and hot water if tea was the requested drink.

After serving my floors I returned to the kitchen area and the work really began. The steam carts were pushed back to the kitchen. The food wells were removed and emptied. They were sent through the dishwasher. That steam cart was thoroughly cleaned and refilled with water to heat for lunch.

We took turns operating the dishwasher. There was a pressure sprayer to clean most of the food off the dishes. The dishes were placed in racks. When the racks were full they were sent on a conveyor through the washer. It also sterilized them with extremely hot water.

When the dishes came out of the conveyor they air dried fairly quickly because of the heat. Someone would stack them and carry them to where they were ready for the next meal.

My regular chores were to make coffee in all the big coffee pots for each floor. After they were emptied I also cleaned them. Once a week they were cleaned in a special solution to keep that coffee oil from building up.

I made the Jello that is a staple of so many hospital meals. It had to be done early enough to be set when needed.

Each day we had to get salad ingredients ready for both lunch and dinner. We peeled potatoes. We did have a potato peeling bin that spun them against a rough side that scraped the peels off. Then we had to rinse them and make sure that there were no peels or eyes left.

Then the potatoes were put into huge pots and covered with water. Our dietician wanted us to put MSG into the water to keep them fresher. We finally convinced her that we could not do that because it was against dietary rules.

Then we got lunch ready to go.

After lunch I again made coffee, did dishes when it was my turn, and we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. The afternoon shift and part-timers would be in soon and we would be going home.

My salary was $240 a month. We were paid twice a month so before taxes I had $120. It was good money at the time.

As I say all the time my family did not have much money. I still lived with my parents and siblings. I gave Mom $20 each time I was paid. That was for room and board. My parents never asked me for it but it was what I wanted to do.

I also gave Daddy $20 to help with the car payment and gas for the car.

My youngest sister and youngest brother were very small. After I got paid I would take them to town. They each were able to choose a toy or something they wanted. Then we would visit the food counter at Woolworth's. They usually had strawberry shortcakes and I had strawberry cheesecake. It was a fun outing for us.

They were both so small that they do not remember anymore. But they were fun days for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


We all have nightmares occasionally. Some experts claim that we need to work out problems and/or feelings and nightmares help us do that. Others feel that nightmares help to release fears. I am sure there are many other "reasons" for nightmares. I know that I have a bad dream once in a while.

I have also learned that nightmares are common in people who have certain health conditions. Epilepsy is one of those conditions so I qualify.

As I said most nightmares are just bad dreams. When we wake up we may or may not remember the dream. If we do remember it the memory fades and usually we feel better.

Then there are dreams that fill us with terror. A terror so real. A terror that stays with us for much longer than a few moments. I had several of those when I was younger. I even remember them in detail.

Most of the little towns we lived in had railroad tracks running through them. As a matter of fact we usually lived fairly close to those tracks and had to cross the tracks to go to school.

We were told not to get too close when the train went by. Of course that was good advice. But often it was added that the reason not to get close by was that the train would suck us under and we would be killed. Talk about a scare!

I dreamed we were walking to school. It was early morning in the fall. The air was a little nippy so we were wearing jackets. There were just the five of us.

My youngest brother at the time was in kindergarten. You may remember that he acted like he had a sort of "cloud" surrounding his head. He often seemed oblivious to the things going on around him.

As we got closer to the tracks we heard a train coming. We were going to have to wait for it to pass. Trains going through these little towns tended to be very long so there would be a long wait. It was okay because we might get the engineer to blow the whistle and then the conductor would wave from the caboose.

So we were standing there watching the train go by. Then I saw my little brother walking slowly toward the train as if in a trance. He was hypnotized by the movement of the train and getting closer and closer.to it.

I started screaming for him to stop. Over and over and over. But he just kept walking toward the side of the train with that glazed look in his eyes. His face was totally blank. He did not hear me at all.

In the meantime the other kids felt like they were going to run to save him. I had to hold them back while I was screaming at him to come back.

He got too close to the train. It sucked him under! There he was between the tracks looking at me with his big brown eyes full of terror. I then began to scream at him to not try to get out. He was safe as long as he was between the tracks but he would be cut to shreds if he tried to get out.

Boy was I glad when I woke up. At the same time you can see that the dream stayed with me.

My baby sister who was about two years old and I had died. It seems that the place you go after you die was where you were living when you died. Except that the base (or invisible floor) was about the same level as peoples' heads.

I was so grateful that I was there to be able to care for my sister. She would have been alone if I was not there.

So there we were at head level. There was no one there but us. There was no furniture, no anything, just my sister and me. It does not seem too bad. But there was a problem.

We could see our family. We could hear our family. The house was just the same, furniture and everything. That was the problem.

My sister could see and hear our mother, but of course our mother could not see or hear us. My sister could not understand why Mom kept totally ignoring her pleas to be held. She was crying uncontrollably. Nothing I did could console her. The afterlife was going to be miserable for my sister and me.

In high school I seem to remember my biology teacher telling us about a parasite called a glassworm. Whether I remember correctly or not is beside the point. A glassworm reproduces by carrying it's eggs inside the body. Shortly before the eggs hatch the worm breaks open and dies expelling all the eggs so they can hatch and continue the cycle.

Remember that the glassworm is a parasite. They burrow under the skin of the host. When they break open and die they cause a great deal of damage to the host, including death.

In my sleep my husband had gone into a small grocery store to cash his paycheck. We were going to grab a hot dog afterward and go home to watch TV. I waited in the car for him.

While I was sitting there waiting I noticed something funny about my arm. There was an elongated lump just under my skin.

When my husband came back to the car he noticed that I had a strange look on my face. When he asked me what was wrong I told him that I had a glassworm in my arm. In a shocked tone he told me that he had warned me about that. What if it exploded? I would die.

Precisely as he said that the glassworm broke open. I died.

I had always heard that if you died in your sleep you would also die for real. I am here to tell you that I am still here.

I lived in Nebraska. It was a time and not far from where Charles Starkweather and Carol Ann Fugate murdered her whole family then drove to another state killing people along the way. It was a shocking series of crimes. I felt awful about all the murders but the worst of all was Carol Ann Fugate's little 2 year old sister.

My baby sister was close to two years old at the time. We were in the process of potty training with her.

I have to stress that potty training meant that anyone who saw signs of her needing to use the potty would help her to the potty, sit her on it and wait until she was finished. There was no yelling or other punishment about accidents. There was no throwing her in the little chair and making her sit there until she did what was expected of her. It was all a gentle and ultimately very successful process.

It is no wonder that I was surprised beyond belief when I woke up in the middle of the night to find my sister sitting on her potty. At first I thought she was asleep. When I went to pick her up I realized that she was dead. She had been beaten and set on the chair.

My parents were asleep in their bed. I was crushed that they would do such a thing. Then I was angry and wanted revenge. I was going to kill them.

I woke up for real. Unfortunately those raw feelings were still there. I went to my parents' bedroom and woke up my mother. I told her about my dream and that I had (in my dream) wanted to kill them.

She just put her arms around me and held me while I cried. I finally calmed down. Mom suggested that I go back to bed and try to get some sleep. I was still afraid. She said to read for a while and see if that helped. It did.

Would you have been so loving and understanding if your child woke youo and told you she wanted to kill you?

I had several other nightmares that I will probably share one day. The problem with the nightmares was that when I woke from them I could not go back to sleep right away or the nightmare would repeat. I learned to keep a book by my bed. I would turn the lamp by my bed on and read until my eyes were heavy. Then I would slowly allow the book to settle on my chest and I would go back to sleep. I could not even move enough to turn off the lamp.

Mom knew if she woke up and saw the light on that I had another nightmare. She would always find a tactful way to talk to me about it. It helped.

I have since learned that you can train yourself to wake up when a dream goes wrong. It has made my life a lot easier.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What Did You Do?

 When I was a child my family had very little money. Sometimes we received an allowance. It depended on my father's job.

I remember when he was the town marshal we got 25 cents on Saturdays. We were responsible to save 5 cents for the collection plate at church on Sunday. The rest was ours to spend as we pleased.

We also did odd jobs. We weeded gardens, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, and just about anything else someone wanted done around their house. We were never paid a lot but it was spending money.

I was 11 years old when I had my first "real" job. By that I mean I received a paycheck. Taxes and Social Security taxes were withheld. I began paying taxes when I was 11 years old.

What sort of job would pay an 11 year old child you may ask. I set pins at the local bowling alley.

This was before automatic pin-setters like the ones that reset pins today.

If you are not familiar with bowling it is a game. There is a long wooden floor called an alley. On either side of the alley is a sort of ditch called a gutter. At the far end of the alley are the pins.

The pins are oddly shaped. They have a flat base. Then they flare out to become wider in the body. The tops are narrowed and long, rounded at the top.

There are ten pins for most bowling games. They are arranged in a triangle with the tip of the triangle toward the beginning end of the alley.

The purpose of the game is to roll a ball to try to knock down as many of the pins as possible. Each person has two tries per turn.

If all ten pins are knocked down it is called a strike. If they are not all knocked over with the first ball the second chance is used. If the remaining pins are knocked over it is a spare. Each strike and spare gives a chance at extra points during the players next turn. If they are not knocked down in the two tries each pin is counted once toward the final score.

Not many people want to run to the end of the alley to retrieve their ball. They also would not like to have to place all ten pins in their formation for the next bowler. So there are pinsetters.

A pinsetter goes back behind the area where the pins are. It is called the pit. Anyone in the pit is not seen by the bowler. The job of the pinsetter is to place the ball on a return duct so the bowler can bowl again.

As far as the pins we had automation, sort of. We pulled a cord and the machine lowered to capture standing pins. When it raised them another piece swept from front to back to clear fallen pins from the lane. Then it set the standing pins back down in place for the second try.

At the end of the second try the pinsetter pulls the cord again and sends the ball back to the front. All pins are picked up quickly and placed into the machine which lowers them down into the correct formation. It must be finished before the machine lowers or not all the pins will be there.

The pits are filthy and dark. At the end of our shifts we would come out looking like we had been digging coal.

Usually we were in charge of two lanes at a time. Between tries we sat between the lanes on a part of the ball return so we would not be hit by the ball.

That does not mean we were completely safe. One time someone threw his ball especially hard when he hit the pins they flew hard too. One of them jumped up and hit me in the leg. Thankfully after being taken to the doctor we found it was not broken.

League nights were the worst. Bowling leagues are groups of people who form teams and meet usually weekly to play against each other.

League nights were quite the social event in our little town. There was a men's league and a women's league.

Not everyone on a league was courteous. Sometimes they were so busy gossiping that there were long lulls between play. We were hot and bored back there. Then there were the impatient bowlers who released their balls before the machine was finished. The balls would slam into the machine.

The wife of the chiropractor was my least favorite bowler. You have possibly seen the type. She was short and extremely overweight. She was loud. Her make-up was overdone. Her eyebrows looked like they had been applied with a paint brush.

When she bowled she simply waddled up to the foul line and set her ball in the alley. It was only the slope of the alley that made the ball roll ever so slowly to the pins.

Several times her ball was stopped by the pins. I hated that. I had to crawl out from the pit in the gutter that ran beside the lane . I had to be careful not to knock any of the pins over. I would retrieve the ball and send it back to her after I crawled back into the pit with it. All the while she would laugh that awful high pitched cackle she had.

A line is the ten sets of tries a player uses to get a final score. We were paid 10 cents for each line we set. It was pretty good money for a kid. Most of the setters were teen-aged boys. It was good money for them too.

That was my first job for which I paid taxes. What was yours?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pop Goes The Weasel

I was sitting at my computer. It was fairly early in the morning. I decided to check the news before I began my day.

I keep my computer near the door that looks out into my back yard as well as the back yards of at least three neighbors. There is seldom much movement back there. I see birds hopping around. There is the occasional feral cat. Once in a while I will see a rabbit.

So as I sat here looking across the yards I saw a cat stealthily crossing a neighbor's yard. It moved from a shed to a propane tank.

As it moved I thought that moving that way made the cat look extremely long. Then I noticed that it had a rat's head!

Around here we see field mice an sometimes other very small rodents. I had mistaken a squirrel for a cat. Silly me.

Then I saw that it had a strange tail. It was nowhere near as fluffy as a squirrel's tail should be. Maybe it was a rat. But no, the tail was definitely not the skinny whip that rat's have.

I sat here in amazement. What on earth had I seen?

As I sat here contemplating and gathering my thoughts it came back. The animal retraced its steps. This time I paid more attention and saw it more clearly.  It was a weasel!

Now I had never seen a weasel before at least not in real life in "the wild".

To make sure I saw what I thought I saw I did a search. There were a couple of other rodents that looked similar but they are found in other continents. It was definitely a weasel.

When I was telling my youngest grandson about seeing a real weasel my son was sitting next to him. My son said my grandson's eyes opened wide with interest. Does this mean I am a cool grandma?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Where Were You?

There are few events in our lives that we remember vividly enough to remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. I remember the births of most of my siblings ( I was too young for a couple of them), I remember my graduation from high school, I remember my wedding, and I remember the births of my children and grandchildren. I remember the horrible days that I learned that my brother had been killed in Viet Nam, my niece died, my father died, my mother died, and my other brother died. I remember joyous occasions like weddings and births.

Those are personal memories. Sometimes the memories blur a bit because some things are too painful to deal with all the time. But the memories are there waiting to be acknowledged. All I have to do is call them up and it is like they happened yesterday.

Then there are memories that are shared by most of the world. We watch enraptured as a new pope is elected. We watch as countries elect, choose, or have new leaders forced upon them. We see the atrocities committed for whatever cause is supposed to be the "right" one. We see how people can come together, united for the benefit of most. All of those are so important.

There are those memories that you look at someone and say, " This is where I was when that happened." Usually they are catastrophic events. Usually they change the way our world is viewed from then on.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first "rock star" president. He was the first to use television as a tool to help him be elected. He was photogenic and so comfortable in front of the cameras. He looked like calmness and strength during his debates with Richard Milhous Nixon.

JFK was beloved by his followers and by the people around him. Secret Servicemen and media members all were pleased to do his bidding. "Regular" people had pictures of him prominently displayed in their homes.

The United States as a whole adored the young president and his family. His wife Jackie was lovely and obviously elegant. Women wanted to be like her. His very young children, Caroline and John-John, were beyond cute. We loved to see them interacting with their father... just like he was only Dad and not the President of the United States.

Even though the Kennedys were one of the wealthiest families most of us felt they had empathy for us, the little people. Most politicians give the impression of being born to money and many people feel that those politicians do not understand the day-to day struggles we have.

But not JFK. He understood and wanted to do something about it. At least that was the way most people felt.

In 1963 the US was gearing up for elections the following year. President Kennedy was running again for president so he was in the midst of campaigning as well as running the country. One of his most important stops was Dallas, Texas.

In early August that year Jackie Kennedy had given birth prematurely to a son. The baby did not survive.

Needing to feel close to her husband and knowing that she was an asset to his campaign Jackie decided to accompany JFK to Dallas in late November. They were both still grieving the loss of their baby and being together made sense for many reasons.

While in a motorcade with John Connally, the governor of Texas, and his wife, John F Kennedy was shot and killed.

The phrase "where you when JFK was assassinated" came about years later. The thing is that we all remembered where we were.

I was in Algebra II class. It was a split class. We went for half a period and then went to lunch and then back to class. When we came out for lunch students and teachers were in the halls crying and with looks of disbelief on their faces. The President had been shot. He was rushed to a hospital. We had not yet heard that he was dead.

So that is where I was when I found out. For the next few days all television stations showed and re-showed all things Kennedy.

Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested for the shooting. Two days after the President died Oswald was being transferred to another facility. As was the practice of the day media was present at all events they chose to attend. They chose to be there when Oswald was moved. It was being shown on live television.

Since the schools were closed and the whole thing was important we were glued to the television watching. Suddenly a man jumped from the crowd in the basement of the police station. He had a gun in his hand and shot Lee Harvey Oswald right there on live TV. We saw it as it happened.

Fairy tales do come true. We saw it happen when Prince Charles married Diana Spencer. It was a fairy tale wedding and we watched on television. She was such a beautiful bride. He was a regal husband.

We were thrilled when Princess Di as she came to be known had two heirs to the throne of England. They were a fairy tale family.

Then things began to ravel. Rumors of infidelities circulated. Eventually there was a divorce. The Prince remarried. The Princess had suitors. The young Princes seemed to be relatively normal.

Princess Di was the darling of the paparazzi. She was beautiful and went to the most chic and fashionable places with the most in demand people. The paparazzi all wanted to get that picture that no one else had in order to make their names.

Leaving a nightclub Princess Di was besieged by the usual photographers. Her driver tried to get away from them and had a terrible accident. Princess Di was killed.

I worked the night shift locked away in the cash office of a major department store chain. One of the cashiers came to the little window they used to communicate with us for whatever reason. She asked if I had heard about Princess Di. I said, "noooooo?" and waited for the punch line. I thought she was going to tell a joke.

At first I did not believe her when she told me that Princess Diana was dead. Finally she convinced me. I was in shock that something so terrible had happened. That is where I was when I learned of the death of Princess Di.

My sister and I worked together in the cash office of a major department store. We rode to and from work together. After a long night at work I dropped her off at her house and went home. I still had to drive my son to work. He could not drive at the time for medical reasons.

When I returned from taking my son to work I laid down on the couch to watch the news. I promptly fell asleep.

What woke me I do not know. There was a talk show on TV. They were talking about an accident involving an airplane. As I watched a plane flew right into the building they were showing on television.

The World Trade Center in New York City had been attacked. Two airplanes flew directly into the towers. I saw the second one as it happened.

I called my sister and asked her if she was watching television. She answered no. Why? I told her, "Somebody just declared war on us." I could not believe it. But there it was in front of me.

Both towers of the Trade Center were hit by planes. Both collapsed causing many deaths. The devastation did not end there but that was the beginning. Today everyone on the globe is trying to deal with terrorism.

I actually called off work that night because I was mesmerized by the coverage on TV. The downed plane in Pennsylvania and the crash into the Pentagon only added to my need to understand. Unfortunately I still do not understand. But I know where I was when it happened.

I was watching the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. I do not want to go into space but the space program has always fascinated me. As I watched the Challenger exploded. All seven people aboard were eventually declared to be dead.

I just remember where I was. I was sitting cross-legged in the middle of my bed.

Is it strange that I have such vivid memories of such unhappy things? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that none of them should have happened. They were all preventable. Most were the actions of someone trying to harm someone else. Why?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Castle On The Hill

Have you ever felt like you belonged to a building or that it belonged to you? It sounds strange maybe. I have two such buildings.

The first is the house my family built. We built it from the first to the last bit. We chose colors and decorated the inside. We put something of ourselves into it. It instilled something of itself into us. I still drive by once in a while just to look and make sure everything is good with it.

My second building is a castle. Actually it is my high school. The Castle On The Hill.

Long before I was dreamed of (even before my parents were dreamed of) the city recognized the need for a new and larger school. Plans were drawn up and construction began.

The very best materials available were used. Marble floors and stairways. The finest of sandstone for the outside. Classrooms were extremely large. There would be no crowding. Students would have enough room to work in comfort.

The Castle was furnished with the most up-to-date features. Thermostatically controlled heating meant no more feeding a wood stove or coal stove by the boys who were students. Electrical bells to mark the beginning of school, the beginning and end of classes, and the end of the school day.

It was built to look like a castle. It was beautiful. But as the city grew so did the number of students. The school was too small.

At great cost an addition was built. The reason for the cost was that they wanted it to blend with the original building. You cannot tell where the original was as opposed to the addition. Still the number of students grew. A fourth floor was added and blended to keep the look of a castle.

The picture above is the way the building looks today. It is so majestic, so royal looking. Just looking at it brings so many feelings. I feel pride, honor, love, and belonging just to name a few.

The basement of the building was the original gymnasium. It was called (naturally) The Dungeon. By the time I attended The Castle it was considered too dangerous to hold sporting events there. An annex was built across the parking lot.

The annex contained several gyms, the swimming pool, band and choir rooms, auto shop facilities,  wood shop classrooms, and a few odd classrooms. Besides crossing the parking lot there was a tunnel we could walk through so we would not have to wear coats in the winter. It helped to stay warm after swimming classes too.

The annex was a modern looking building and does not look like it belongs to The Castle at all. But it was useful to handle all the athletic features needed. Gymnastics classes could be held at the same time as basketball practice, volleyball, modern dance, swimming, and other gym classes. There were enough gyms to handle them all.

The year I was a senior they reopened The Dungeon to allow us to have a place to relax after we ate lunch. There was even a jukebox for dancing. Of course there was no touching allowed and all music had been deemed acceptable.

We were not required to stay at school for lunch and often went a block away for fast food. But the cafeteria served delicious food. There were choices. You could have a salad, hot or cold sandwiches, soups, stews, hot meals of your choice from the meals offered that day, choice of desserts. Each had its price and you simply paid the cashier when you had made your selections.

There was a giant auditorium. We gathered there for Christmas programs, student council meetings, and other things where the entire school was expected to attend. Occasionally there would be speakers who would give inspirational talks. We had some really big names. For instance Dear Abby and Ann Landers were alumni of the school. They spoke often to the assembly.

There were some outstanding teachers there as well. Math teachers strictly taught math classes and nothing else. I remember two quite well. The geometry teacher taught what I thought was a totally useless subject but he taught it very well. Second year algebra was taught by an older woman who needed to retire. I am afraid that what little we learned from her I forgot until college.

The chemistry teacher was from Greece. I loved to hear him talk. With his accent he said kostyens instead of questions. It was cute and he looked good too for an old guy.

My homeroom teacher was the biology instructor. Homeroom was where we reported at the beginning of the day. Attendance was taken and any announcements were dispersed. Then the bell would ring and we were off to classes.

Anyway the biology instructor was brilliant. He really knew his subject. He also expected a lot from his students and it was a difficult class. I feel better (and smarter) for having taken it.

Besides giving us the opportunity for an excellent education we had our sports teams as well. Our teams were the Little Maroons. We had good seasons and not so good seasons but we cheered them on just the same.

As students at the castle we were expected to act with the honor and dignity befitting us. We were after all the Knights and Ladies of the school.

Each graduating class made a gift to the school. During World War II The Castle donated two cannons to the war effort. My graduating class replaced them. After more than 20 years the cannons were back to protect The Castle.

Eventually as the city grew so did the student population. Talk began of building a new school. The Castle On The Hill was old. The beautiful stairs were worn and shiny with age. Some were deemed so dangerous that we were not allowed to use them.

The city decided that three new high schools would be erected to take the place of The Castle. The Castle would be closed and probably eventually demolished.

Luckily The Castle On The Hill is now a National Historic Site. It cannot be demolished. It has not been a school for more than 40 years. It has gone through a lot of changes as far as what goes on inside. There have been Indian Affairs offices and various business concerns. The mural that graced the wall across from the principal's office has been restored.

There is a small area set aside for a gift shop selling items that commemorate the school. And now it provides apartments for low income housing.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about that. I miss seeing the hustle and bustle of students at the school. That is why it was built. The Castle On The Hill was meant to have students learning and enjoying being young.

At the same time the apartments mean that the building does not just sit there deteriorating. People who might otherwise have trouble finding a place to live can live in this magnificent castle.

The annex has been sold. I have no idea what it will be used for. It was not the school to me anyway. (It was recently decided to make more low income apartments in the annex It is being remodeled now.)

So I feel that pull of belonging every time I drive by The Castle On The Hill. It sounds strange to love a building but I love that building. And I show it to anyone I can hold hostage long enough to drive by. I do it with pride.