Tag Archives: family


Many of us have memories of the various “firsts” in our lives.   Some of those memories and events are quite mundane to the world in general but can have powerful emotional pull for us as individuals.  I was blessed with great parents so my negative memories are mercifully few and none related to them.  My negative memories were all of my own making and foolish decisions.

My first Christmas memory was when I was about 4 I would reckon.  We lived in a duplex on Monticello in Oak Cliff.  I got a train set.  It was the old fashion kind made out of really heavy metal.  It had an engine and several cars and my dad had it all set up when I came down stairs that morning.  I loved running that train round and round and in a figure eight.  That was all the track I had.  I am sure they are all wireless these days but then it had a big box with wires to the track and a switch that controlled the amount of electric juice to the track that controlled the speed.

I do remember my first day at school when I was allowed to go home by myself.  Mom had walked me there and picked me up for a few days.  School was about a mile or so from home.  That first time I decided to walk  home with a buddy.  I said we went this way and he said another.  After a few blocks I realized I was wrong and headed into a strange neighborhood.  We backtracked to school and started over.  He was right about the direction.  Good lesson in humility at an early age.  Mom was waiting for me at the corner off Edgefield and our street.

When I started to school it was from our first house that we owned.  It was on Savoy street in a neighborhood where the developer had served during the War.  Most of the streets were named after battle sites in Italy and north Africa–Bizerte, Anzio, Salerno etc.  Dad and mom were really proud of that house.  Today it would be considered very lower middle class at best.  It was two bedrooms, one bath and maybe 900 square feet at most.  It had one of those faux fireplaces in the living room.  The were popular then to give the house an upscale look.  It had an inset in the wall and a very small mantle over it.  In the inset we had a gas space heater with the fake logs.  I am sure today they would not meet code.  The gas line was just an exposed hose running from the gas outlet to the heater.  You turned the knob to let the gas flow and lit it with a match.  We thought it was top drawer. On winter days if you got within a few feet of it you could feel the warmth.  Once my brother got too close and caught his pjs or robe on fire.  But not to worry his yelps brought rescue quickly.

First car with air conditioning was probably our ’56 Chevy.  Prior to that all the cars had vents in the front fender panels you could open to let in the air on your legs and all the cars had small windows on the driver side and passenger side to adjust the air flow from outside on hot days and there were many of those.  First car with automatic transmission was I think the Chrysler New Yorker, a ’49 model.  That was also quite an advance at the time and the auto manufacturers had special catchy names for their transmissions, like “Powerglide”.  My first car and even second car were still manual transmissions.  The old Ford convertible, a ’46 model I got in 7th grade and then a maroon Buick.  The Buick transmission was funky.  I had to hold it in place for second gear or else it would slip out every time.  So sometimes my start from a red light was a bit awkward.  You guys know how to hold the clutch just right at a light on a hill so the car doesn’t roll back?  Each clutch was a bit different and you had to adjust the pressure on the pedal.  My wife’s first car was a ’54 Chevy with auto transmission.  She had it in high school and we were still driving it when I started law school.  It was some kind of rosy and cream color.  First car with seat belts would have been the Ford station wagon I suppose in early ’70’s.  The Volkswagons in the ’60’s for sure didn’t have them, the Karman Ghia, the van and two bugs.

I must be wearing you out.  I’ll hang it up for now. Maybe more memories another day.

Nothing is more important than family.  It is the tie that binds.

God bless,


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Salute To Dad

I do have sympathy for those guys who never had a dad.  Maybe due to death, divorce and even outright desertion or abuse.  I was fortunate I suppose to have the best dad.  He certainly wasn’t destined for greatness as a youth.  My grandfather was not a nice man to put it as politely as possible.  He was a drunk and abusive to the extreme.  My dad left home at age 13 and went to live on a side porch with his oldest sister who was married.  Not exactly a formula for any future success.  This was also during the Depression so times were tough for everyone and everyone had to figure out how to make do pretty much on their own.  Dad went to work right away before and after school.  He did manage to make it through his junior year in high school but that was the end of his formal education.  It was about that time that he met my mom.

They were both from a lower class neighborhood known locally as “ignorant hill”.  He worked at a bottle water plant filling the bottles, loading them onto trucks and making deliveries.  A bit later he worked at a meat packing plant in the industrial area off what is now interstate 35 near downtown Dallas.  They brought in live cattle for the slaughter and rendering and butchering.  He mostly was used to carry sides of beef from the refrigeration area to the butchering area.  They gave him that job because he was strong enough to handle the sides.  They were very heavy and many couldn’t carry them.   When the War came he went to work for North American where they built the Corsair aircraft carrier planes. He and mom were married then and he was just waiting for my birth before marching off to the drums of war.  In fact on my birth certificate his occupation is described as a “drop hammer operator”.  He went into the Navy and was assigned to the Armed Guard as a gunner’s mate.  Heda served til War’s end.

More than anything I remember Dad always being there.  For all my sports events, especially football he was there with Mom.  He even came to almost every workout from 7th grade through high school.  He was never obvious.  Always off by himself and very inconspicuous but there in a far corner of the field or from the cab of his pick up truck.   I have no idea how he managed that with his work and even more so after he had started his own business in the mid 50’s.  But he did.

When I was little I got so excited during football season because Dad would be with me and we would listen to the Southwest Conference game of the week on the radio with Kern Tips announcer.  I loved those Saturday afternoon’s.  I remember them like they were last week.  When I was a bit older he started taking me with him on our annual deer hunts.  Got my first deer with Dad.  It was a completely lucky shot because that sucker was running full tilt and I hit him about 100 yards out.  But hey I fired the shot not anyone else.  As a teen I started playing golf with Dad.  As a late teen and young man I enjoyed those Saturday outings to play golf with him and his buddies.

I don’t remember Dad ever lecturing me about how to be a man.  But everything I embedded about what that meant certainly came from him.  Mom and Dad had many friends.  Far more than I ever had and he was the “leader” of their groups.  You could simply observe it.  The men and women in their circle did look up to my Dad.  He was “Big John”, not that he was overweight at all but husky, well built.

He had started his own business as a very young man and he made it into a real success through a lot of hard work and willingness to take a risk.

Then the cancer came. I was in my mid 40’s and had a big family and lots on my plate.  But when he told us it hit me hard.  He had his faith in his ultimate destination.  But still I can’t imagine the courage it took to face death and keep his composure as he did.  I was in the room when the end came.  I couldn’t believe it had happened.  During my life from time to time we had talks about life.  I never had let him know how much I treasured his thoughts, opinions and only occasionally advice.  Ever since he has been gone I felt like I had lost my pole star.  There was so much more I needed to learn from him.

I have visited his gravesite some since that time, over 34 years now.  I don’t have the right per strict military protocol since I was never in the military but ever time I leave it I give a salute to Dad.  It is a small sign of respect.  The tears always come.  The highest compliment I can think of to give my Dad is simply to say–“I miss you”.

What our current world, society, culture and the country needs now are more good Dads.


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Cadillac Version

In a time of long ago the Cadillac car was considered the cream of the crop.  They were what rich people drove.  In far second place was maybe the Ford Lincoln.  Chrysler had the New Yorker which was really a pretty darn good car.  We had a used one in the early ‘5o’s for a while.  It was built tight and could really rumble.  In fact the fastest I have ever driven in a car was in that New Yorker.  We were on our summer road trip and in the middle of Wyoming.  Those giant rolling hills stretching out for many miles.  On an open vista with not another car in sight for miles while my brother and mom slept in the back seat Dad said,  “lets see what she’ll do” and he hit the floorboard with the pedal.  We hit 120 but only for a minute or so and then he cut it back to normal.  But that was quite a thrill even if short lived for a 12 year old.  She didn’t shimmy or shake but rode smooth as the down on a duck.

But still there was no denying that the Cadillac was the top dog.  That is what movie stars drove and big wig politicians.  Their ads were quite different than those of Ford or GM.  Sometimes they would show the latest model and simply sign off “enough said”.  Everyone got the point.  They remained at the top or very near it well into the ’70’s.  In fact when you went shopping for something non automotive you could make a reference to the Cadillac and the salespeople immediately knew what you meant.  If you were looking for a washing machine or lawn mower you could say you wanted the “Cadillac version”.  That meant the top of line for whatever you were seeking.  It made for a great short hand communication.

Those early impressions do stick with you.  My child bride thought they were super.  When we had our 25th wedding anniversary I got her a silver Cadillac.  She was in tall cotton let me tell you.  Drove it too for 15 years.  It wasn’t really that tight but I will say that engine had lots of oomph.  More than any other car I have ever driven.

Back in the ancient days Cadillac didn’t really have serious competition.  Mercedes, Rolls and Bentleys were curiosities for the wealthy and never seen by ordinary joes.  But you could see Caddies around town.  Even if you didn’t have one it felt good to know you lived somewhere with Cadillacs on the street.  I am quite positive today if you asked at the Home Depot for the Cadillac version of a chain saw that the clerk, assuming you could find one, would have nothing but a blank stare in response.  Oh, well the wheels of progress I suppose.  But sure do miss lots of the old themes we had.  Still not accustomed to not going to Sears for anything and everything.  Got all my school clothes and toys there.  Mom would sometimes leave me in the toy section or the tool section while she went to look at clothes or linens or whatever.  That was always fun but they didn’t have those racks of comic books like they did at the A&P grocery store.  Now that was absolutely the best way to spend time while your mom shopped.  You just couldn’t bend the pages or they would make you buy it.

Oh,,,,finally saw a news account aboutwhat the Feds are paying the hospitals for covid-19.  Story said it was $30,000 per patient. Wonder what influence that had on what the physician put on the death certificate?  It is just an opinion remember.

Meanwhile the moon is coming up and I am going down.

God Bless all,


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Its A Wonderful Life–1948.

This date was picked at random by our staff’s secret algorithm.  Nothing magic about it but it was as good a year as any and at least a year that this feeble brain can still recall with a modicum of clarity.

This was the front of our drought that lasted until 1957.  I can still recall the huge cracks in the ground everywhere.  They were in our yard the playgrounds and parks.  You could also discern the effects in the cotton field right behind our house.  We moved that year to  truly fancy digs on Savoy which was the southernmost street in Oak Cliff, a section of Dallas.  It was brand new and Dad bought it with a V A loan which was a new program started after the War as part of the GI bill.  It was a cookie cutter clapboard house with 2 bedrooms and one bath.  For reasons only known to the developer of that day, there was a fake hearth in the living room with a small mantle.  It was where we placed the gas heater with the false logs.  The whole house probably had at best 1000 square feet but we had an ample backyard.  There was no paved alley and behind the house was a large cotton field that ran all the way to Kiest park.  The crop was skimpy due to the drought and the ground parched.   Within a year the development began with more cookie cutter houses and the streets and side walks being poured.   These homes were a notch above ours because they were all brick and not clapboard.

I was 6 but not yet in school because I had a September birthday and had to wait another year.  Mom worked with me more than I wanted naturally on my colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes and I suppose a little reading.  There were that first Christmas no TV antennae in the neighborhood.  That started changing right away though.  With just three years or so it was unusual to see a house without an antenna but there were still some.  Radio was the major entertainment center of the day.   Saturday mornings in particular were special because they had all the kids shows.  Buster Brown was a favorite along with Archie and his friends.  Mom would let me sit by the radio after breakfast until about noon or close to it for all those programs.  Friday night early was also terrific.  You had the Green Hornet, the Inner Sanctum, when they didn’t think it was too scary for me, the Lone Ranger and all the others.   It required imagination and I suppose that was part of the allure of all of them.  You got to imagine that Western landscape the way that fit your own image of it which in turn was no doubt influenced by the Westerns you had seen at the theatres.There was no multi-screen theatre.  But there were local movie houses in just about ever commercial area of any size.

The nickel values of the time were many.  You could get a Coke for a nickel.  All the filing stations had those big red Coke machines that stood upright and many still had those that open from the top like a large freezer.  There was nothing like that really cold Coke on a hot summer day if you could get your mom to spring for the nickel.  You kids have probably never heard the expression “its your nickel”.  It meant you had paid the nickel for the phone call so start talking and don’t waster the money.  Yep, there were pay phones everywhere.  Sometimes just on a street corner if it was a commercial neighborhood and at churches, schools, parks, and almost every retail store had one.   One advantage of the pay phone was that you weren’t on a party line.   In 1948 we were still gripped with tight regulation of the phone service and getting a phone was a real hassle with the bureaucracy, Federal of course.  But it was allegedly for our own good, like it always is with Federal programs.  Typical wait times were several years to get a private line. I distinctly remember we wanted one in 48 but didn’t finally get one until about 1953 or 1954.  That was tall cotton living I can tell you.

You could ride the bus for a nickel and sometimes for only 2 cents, that was a Saturday only deal if I remember correctly. The adults had to pay 8 cents and a dime on weekdays.   That also included the street car which were still running in 48 on a regular basis.  I always preferred the street car because you could lean out the window a little and that was especially daring when you went over a bridge or viaduct because you couldn’t even see the tracks below and it was like flying through the air and was a big thrill.  Mars, Hersey and Babe Ruths were available for that nickel and these were the full size ones and the popcorn was there for a nickel.

Don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year but I do recall getting out my Lionel train set and playing with that and the awful white flocked Christmas tree mom wanted.  The train set was from a year or maybe two before.  It was really wow.  Must have cost mom and dad 10 bucks and was so heavy. It was made out of that old cast iron but had such great detail on the engine.

It was a hard year and a good year.  The good made it easier to not notice the difficulties especially if you are only 6 and not having to pay the bills.   We could have been rich maybe but it all worked out well with me.  Can’t complain and in fact was so very blessed with my childhood.  My parents were the best, can’t blame my faults and failures on them.  Thanks Lord as I try to attain only a portion of their goodness.

“Ho Ho Ho’,,,Santa Claus, everlasting  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com



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Watchman, How Goes The Night?

There is something especially admirable about one of those turn of phrases that carries both a secular and a deeper philosophical  or religious meaning.  The title is one example of this wisdom and intelligence or luck of the unknown author, and they are always unknown it seems.

On a purely secular level we’ve only had police or cops as we now know them for less than 200 years.  The modern idea of cops comes from the movement of Robert Peel the British Prime Minister in the mid-19th century. Thus the term “Bobby” for the English cop on the beat. For most of Mankind’s journey personal security was provided by a handful of constables, sheriff’s or yes watchmen employed by the local King, Baron or other prominent person of the area.  Mostly you were on your own when it came to security after the Sun set.  Going back for centuries if you read the history you will see that those who could afford it had private guards (footmen for example) when out at night or they went about armed.  Gentlemen carried swords not for decoration but to actually defend themselves and more often to discourage the potential robber or criminal from even attempting an assault.

The term Watchman was used for centuries in the cities.  Ben Franklin referred to the Watchman when he was trying to organize a more formal police presence in Philadelphia in the 1730’s.   That was as generic term that covered Constables or others hired by the local governor or mayor to light the street lamps and make a circuit along the major streets.   So the title phrase today is more or less the equivalent of tuning into the 10 o’clock news to see if there is any danger out there.  Two centuries ago you would have asked the Watchman on his rounds if there was anything nefarious afoot.

Of more profound and emotional content is the personal introspection and depth of the inquiry.  Just as the phrase “whither thou goest”?  That is very penetrating.  Many of us much  of the time might not really want to answer that question because an honest response would be adverse to our self-esteem.  That query can apply to the immediacy of today or the panorama of our life path.   It is indeed a good and happy man that can answer that poser with equanimity.   Remember how Adam in the Garden of Eden didn’t want to answer God’s question about his original sin of the fruit and blamed everything on Eve or even God himself since He gave Adam the woman?  Our strivings in life should be such that we can actually answer that question each day of our lives.  Every day that you refuse to answer that query or are reluctant is a day you should try to correct on the morrow.  Thankfully the good Lord allows us to redeem ourselves and that is available for a day or a lifetime.   A good life is not about perfection but about perfection in effort to be noble, honest and decent.

Lead your life so that when you here that voice from within or from real but ethereal origin, calling to you–“Watchman, how goes the night”?  You can reply–all is well.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”  Proverbs 27/6.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Mouse In The House

Seems as though every family has a special word or phrase that they use as code to bring a smile to everyone’s face.  Usually the phrase comes from some event that occurred during the routine of life but made everyone laugh a lot at what some family member did or said.   It could be as simple as “I’ll have ketchup with that” or anything that recalls that silly or humorous event.  Like when your brother asked for ketchup and then when he hit the bottle with his hand the top cap fell off and he got a bottle of ketchup in his lap.  It passed down into family lore and simply repeating the phrase years later will make all the family smile and it will be used anything goes wrong, even without a ketchup bottle in sight.

I started using a phrase decades ago that didn’t recall a specific event but rather a circumstance.  It started with my own children and then carried over to all my grandchildren.  When our guys were little, say less than 10 and I would come home and here them running around the house doing their kid things I would often cry out “There’s a mouse in my house” or some variation of that phrase like “I hear a mouse in my house”.  I did it because usually I would hear them long before I saw their little smiles with those small baby teeth gleaming through.  I got lots of responses from “I am not a mouse” to “its me”.   But playing that little game always meant a lot to me.

It meant so much that when the grandchildren came along I would do the same thing whether they were at my house or we had gone to visit the grandchildren at their homes.  Papa more often than not would enter the abode with the sing-song cry about the mouse in the house.  It constantly made my heart light and happy when I would get a response either verbally or see one of those smiling little faces peek around at me.   They knew when they heard that phrase that old grand dad was there.

We still have several grand kids that are small enough that I can play the game with them but they now live pretty far away so the chances for it are much smaller than they used to be but I still look forward to  being able to play that game every chance I get for the next few years.  Won’t be very long and the youngest  will all be teenagers . But heck I might continue to do it even then just to irritate them and make my own heart lighter.   It was almost a daily thing for the longest time and when they all lived nearby it was certainly a regular feature of each visit.   I liked it being my trademark intro and greeting.

If you have a mouse in the house cherish every moment of that time.  The first puff of smoke from the campfire is thick and very visible but turn away for just seconds and then look back and it is gone.  You are blessed and privileged to have a mouse in your house.  Sometimes I can hear the sound of small running feet or the tiny screams and giggles of those mice I had in the house even though they are only the memories of times past but they still seem so real.   The echos of those sounds resonate in the memory chamber with a clarity formed from the happiest of times.  Your mouse is so special, may your have the wisdom to see that.

“Never take anything for granted”  Ben Disraeli, British 19th century PM.  olcranky.wordpress.com

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Christmas Memory Album

Only a week to go til Christmas morn and the weather here is about what you would expect for the time of the year.   The stockings are hung, the trees, yes plural, are decorated and the house sprouts Christmas trinkets and artifacts galore.  It is a lot of work and there of course is always the battle of trying to stay within some budget; even unlimited budgets can be busted I have learned over the years.   I, for one, do relish the nostalgia, the cloying sentimentality and the sights and sounds of the Season.  It is impossible at the end of a year to not have some reflection on not only the past year but some of the years from much farther back.   When you close your eyes you might remember the smells from the kitchen as your mom or wife prepared home-made double chocolate fudge with extra walnuts or pecans or recall the thrill of that special present under the tree when you were under 4 feet tall.   Rather than resist some of those memories I suggest your throw open the memory gate and let them flow in and surround you.  Satisfaction with life after all is but the memories we make and have.

We had trees when I was young but they varied from year to year.  The first I can actually recollect was a flocked tree with that white goo all over it.  My mom just loved those trees but the rest of us much preferred the real trees unadorned with the plastic.  They started doing those flocked trees way back because I go way back and w0uld know.  They were hard to decorate because all that goop constantly fell off when you added the lights and decorations.   For a few years when I was under 10 we did get regular green trees.  Once Dad brought home a cedar tree.  I really didn’t like that one.  Didn’t like the smell and it reminded me of hot summer days playing around them.  There are lots of them naturally in our area.  Maybe we were a little tight that year with money and Dad was able to just cut one down.  Kids never think about money they just assume you can get them what they want.  Then for several years Mom ruled the roost again and we had those blasted flocked trees.

She did give in one year  with a Frazier fir and she wanted to do the old-fashioned tree.  I was probably in my early teens about then.  She insisted that we do the popcorn garlands around the tree.  If you haven’t done than then I suggest you give it some real thought.  It ain’t as easy as the movies make it look like.  First of all you have to thread the needle and the thread needs to be really long which is a nuisance.  Then you best have a thimble for your finger.  Pushing that needle through the popcorn is tricky and the kernel can be tough and the back end of the needle will poke your finger quite hard and it doesn’t feel to good.  Lastly, class, I am here to tell you that those darn kernels break or crumble when  you run the needle through about half the time so cook up at least twice as much as you think you will need.   Each string of the popcorn garland will be at best three feet or so, trust me on that so it takes a lot of them to cover your tree.  But heck it you have nothing to do on a Saturday before Christmas go for it.  Oh, the kids might say they want to help but they won’t last more than about 10 minutes so you are on your own.

My mom was really big on Christmas and I enjoyed that.  She made lots of adornments and even made her own stockings for us.  My wife and I still hang a stocking my mom made when we were so young with both our names on it.   Merely looking at it brings those memories of my own children when they were babies or ankle biters and we had lots fo them.

When I had my own family and we were establishing our own traditions and habits for the Christmas season I always looked forward to the Sunday before Christmas at church.  Our choir was really good and they would have a special Christmas program will all the music of the season with an orchestra accompaniment.   We went to that program many years in a row and then would go have a great lunch at the club back when I was rich and famous.   During those years the wife and me would work so hard on Christmas Eve getting everything organized and typically would be up till 2 to 5 in the morning with aiding Santa’s miracle.   Morning came early and for about 10-12 years we would leave on Christmas day for our ski trip.  So the morning was a flurry of activity tearing into gifts and shouts of joy and smiles and laughs and photos for the memory box.  That was  ensued by the frantic effort to get everything loaded on the Suburban for the 13 hour drive to Raton N. M. on our way the next day to Colo and the slopes.  Absolutely exhausting.  The energy was totally drained and then of course a week of skiing ahead and getting all that gear organized.   The drive always produced screams, threats and fights between every combination you can imagination between six brothers and sisters with a 9 year spread among them.  As painful and draining as those Christmas weeks were and they really were, I can assure you I wish I could start all over again, doing it all over again.   To paraphrase someone famous–they might have seemed to worst of time but they indeed were the best of times.

As much as you may enjoy recalling your own Christmas memories it is even more important to bear in mind that life is always about tomorrow.  Enjoy those memories and miss them, that is ok.  But never forget that you have the chance this year and every year to make new memories that are as good or better.  You book isn’t finished yet and you ARE the writer of your tale.  Yes, with God as a guide you will be the master of your destiny.  Go out there and build those incredible memories.

Unto us a Savior is born.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Summertime, In The Good Old

When the air begins to hang heavy and the winds diminish, the Sun is unobscured by clouds and the heat hits you when you open the door my thoughts drift often back to those summer times of my youth.  School would be out and we kids had almost three full months of relatively free time for our moms to fill.  We are already pretty well acclimated to the heat by the end of May because the schools then had no air conditioning.   That’s right even in Texas we were expected to endure the horrible discomfort of being hot in class.  Each class had one large blow fan up front for the teacher and the front row or so.  The really nice teachers would sacrifice and not take any of the fan-borne breezes but would let all reach as many in the class as it could.   The windows would be open but that was not much help as all it did usually was let in more hot air unless there happened to be an actual breeze blowing hard.   Oh, we certainly were not allowed to wear shorts to school, applied to both boys and girls.   The guys were all in the standard uniform of the day, jeans and t-shirts, white.  The girls wore mostly sun dresses by late May.

No one then went to camp of any kind.  It was pretty much unheard of in the middle class neighborhoods.   We and our moms were expected to find our own entertainment and amusement for those long summer days.   For the majority of us the only organized activity during summer was Vacation Bible School which was usually in June before the heat became unbearable because not all the churches were air-conditioned either.  Yep, big fans again, even in the sanctuary.  the various churches would organize miniature parades around the neighborhoods honking horns as a way to promote VBS and the cars would be decorated.    VBS was ok for me when I was really small but by about 9 or 10 it began to be a real drag.  By that age boys are hard pressed to get much pleasure and excitement out of the arts and crafts we did there.   We were too energetic and sitting at the table pasting things together didn’t have much appeal any longer.

Today most of our moms would be considered derelict parents who endangered their children.  We would often be off in the neighborhood, actually outside, for hours at at time and under no adult supervision (other than the watchful eye of neighbors which was the unwritten rule of the moms).  We all had bikes but the difference then was that we truly used them everyday, all day, of hoofed to our play and activities.   We did most of our hard playing in the mornings and late afternoons and even after dinner (which was at 6) to avoid the worst of the heat.  After breakfast many days me and a couple of buddies would go the creek nearby. Normally the rule was I had to be home by lunch.  First we would powder ourselves all over our legs and arms with the powder sulfur mom kept on the front porch.   It would ward off the chiggers and the mosquitoes a little.  Those times were terrific.  We hunted for anything and everything.  Most of us had pocket knives  and envisioned ourselves a true Daniel Boones.   There were frogs, tadpoles, sometimes minnows or very small white fish and a complete assortment of fossils in the limestone rock that lined the creek bed.   I almost always  brought something home as a trophy of the exploration.   The times that were slower was when I had to take my little brother who was 4 years my junior.  A 7-year-old is a real drag to an 11-year-old especially when you know it is your fault if he gets hurt and comes home telling on you for being “mean”.    Poor guy he probably didn’t like himself and mom got him his own friends as much as she could.

Most days we would also go bike riding.  Yeah, just riding our bikes all around the neighborhood looking for whatever 11-year-old boys think is interesting.  Up and down the alleys looking for figs to pick even though I hated the taste of them.   When it is 103 outside you can burn up a lot of calories and energy riding a bike for a couple of hours.   We would have races and play a bike version of ice hockey in the streets with brooms an any kind of can or ball that came to hand.

Almost everyone had trees in their yards. I had a really big elm tree in my back yard.  A few days a week we would go out there and climb the tree and take our bb guns.  We would shoot at leaves, toy soldiers we sit on the ground, ant mounds and anything else that struck our eye.  We often played WWII using the bb guns as cannon or rifles, they were very versatile that way.  Even though the Korean War was on it didn’t have the magic or allure of the -War.  And the grownups sure didn’t view it the same way they did the War.  We could waste an entire afternoon in those trees but we loved it even though mom constantly told us to not climb higher than one particular limb but we did almost every time.

We would swim but then the swimming pools were pretty small affairs and located on almost every elementary playground.  The gym teach would earn extra money teaching swimming during the summer but there were also free times to swim.  It was free then.  Covered by school taxes.   Today I am sure it would be considered a liability hazard for the school system.   It was several blocks away and we walked or rode our bikes.  The moms didn’t take us and pick us up like would happen today.  For one thing almost no family was a two car family then.  It was relatively unusual for two cars per house then.  We had two but only because dad drove an old International Harvester pick up truck for work that he got to bring home.   Most dads took the family car to work in the morning and brought it home at night or the mom drove him to work and picked him up.

Just warming up to those days,,,,,maybe we’ll talk baseball, kick the can, bat catching and bow making another time.

My child hood was blessed with wonderful parents.  The lessons and underpinning of a good childhood by good parents are your strength in later life with challenged by the inevitable vicissitudes.  It is an endless well of restoring waters to draw from.  Count yourself fortunate if that was your experience.   God bless one and all.

“Think for yourselves  and let others enjoy the same privilege to do so too.”  Voltaire.  olcranky.wordpress.com




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Moving On

That title is certainly not to be confused with MoveOn.org.  This isn’t about politics but rather family and home.   After almost forty years of living in the same home the child bride and I moved in the last month or so.   You’ve no doubt heard that a move is one of the more difficult events in life to absorb and endure.  Of course age and time in location make a huge difference.  When we were young and more or less carefree we moved several times as is common with the youth.  When we were first married we moved into our one bedroom apartment near Stephens Park golf course and then moved within two years to another apartment that had two bedrooms so I would have one for my studies during law school.  After that in my last year of law school we moved when the bride was pregnant with our first child.

We were looking for a house because we anticipated my graduation and real employment as an attorney in short order.   Due to the impending birth and graduation we had to delay the actual home purchase a few months and so everything went into storage and we lived out of our suitcases for a while.  First for two months with my in-laws and then the last month before my daugout ohter’s birth with my folks.  Indeed we were there when she was born.  Not fun living out of the suitcases.  Then we immediately moved into our new house in Garland but that was followed almost immediately with my firing for asking for a 50 cent an hour raise.

So we packed up and moved again to Santa Fe as that was the only place I could find a job quickly and I needed one quickly; there were three mouths to feed.  We moved, I took the bar exam and picked out our rent house all in one week  and spent two of those days at the hospital with our daughter who had dehydrated terribly.  After six months in the provinces we moved back to civilization in Dallas and into another house in Garland.  Whew, we got to stay there for about two and half years and then moved to a really nice place that my Dad built for us.  Cost 21,000 which seemed huge at the time.   Stayed there for about three years until the last move to University Park where we remained until this spring.

All those early moves you note were when we were in our 20’s and young, healthy and full of ambition.  The moves were tiring but each felt like we were moving up and doing better for our family.  Those moves were merely tiring physically but there wasn’t any deep emotional bond to those locations.

By the time we got to University Park we had five of the kiddos and then the last was born there. That is the home they think of when they recall their childhood and it is where we have the memories of birthdays, Christmases and first days of school and neighborhood activities, our church life and all those thousands of sports events we attended.  That is where the kids all had their first crushes on someone and where we endured the lumps of life and also were blessed with the many joys a large rambunctious family brings.    I could drive home from work without even thinking about the route; it was ingrained in my brain.  That house was far more than shelter it was a hive of memories and emotions for both of us.  During forty years you can accumulate a lot of stuff.  Some is just truly junk but you have a memory associated with it and some came from family now in heaven and you can’t trash them.

The current move was very hard physically because there was so much to lift, pack, tote and re-position.  The hard part was the internal feeling of abandoning an old friend and finally having to make those choices about what had to be tossed even after you had given away as much as you could endure.    All those tossed items had been important at one time or another for an event or emotion associated with it or you wouldn’t have kept them in the first place.   I had the feeling of running out on a duty owed to that house because it had been so good to my family for decades.   It will be razed to make way for a new house.

So now it is time to begin making new memories and attachments. We’re in a nice neighborhood.  Everything in much newer here and for the most part everything works and I don’t have to constantly fix everything.  We are very fortunate that we are within driving distance to the kids still living in the area.   The yard will be nice; the little lady has already worked hard putting in our her flowers and garden to add color and we’ve planted a peach tree and the Red Maple comes next week.    Our loyal dog and I get to make our run/walk each morning along a creek bed and see the sights  and wildlife.  Now, the trick is to live long enough to build that new treasure chest of memories with family.  Some of the grandchildren might remember this as their grandparents home and I sure want to insure that they are given that opportunity and more importantly that they feel love and and a sense of joy when they are here.  It can never replace the old memories but if we do our part maybe it will be the reservoir of new memories, life the fresh blooms and leaves of new spring.

“When the state is corrupt then the laws are most multiplied”  Tacitus, Roman orator.  Ponder that as you contemplate our current Federal Registry and US Code and Statutes.  olcranky.wordpress.com

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Old/New World of Water

Today you can get bottled water in those coke size bottles just about everywhere.  They even have gallon and larger sizes at the grocery stores and the large private water companies delivery the 5 gallon size bottles to the water coolers at homes or offices around the country on a daily basis.   Indeed in many stores the variety and amount of bottled water almost equals that set aside for soda and fruit drinks.   People have been getting drinking water from private companies for centuries around the world and since the earliest days of our country.    The packaging and delivery and availability has changed a great deal in the last two decades but the basic delivery system and packaging is pretty much what it was almost 60 years ago.   Not long ago our kids got us one of those fancy Sodastream gizmos.  Filling it with the fizz brought back memories from a time long ago when I filled thousands of similar bottles with fizz.

As a teenager in 1955 I started working at a water plant owned by my uncle and where my dad was then the manager.  They had been in the business of delivering drinking water since 1898 throughout the Dallas area.  The early public water systems were slow to be built due to the expense and the quality of the water was variable.    I was too young to get the job legit but my dad agreed I could and I believe he thought it would be a good lesson in life for me to work each summer.  So that summer of ’55 I started much to mom’s chagrin, she thought it was too dangerous around that plant, trucks and equipment plus in her view the negative influence of those older working guys that were in fact a little rough around the edges.   I was so proud working at the same shop as my dad with the big men.   In fact in was very hot, exhausting work and definitely a little on the dangerous side with that equipment and the glass bottles.

The water was bottled into several different size.   Then they were all made of glass, not plastic and hence and additional element of danger from cuts when they broke which inevitably they would.  The basic standard was the 5 gal bottle.   By ’55 there were two kinds–one with a wide and smooth neck for a cork and the other kind with a slimmer neck and screw ruts at the top for a screw top cap to fit on.   We liked the old type best because they were easier to grip.  Your hand was always wet with water and sweat and lifting those bottles to load in the washer or onto the bottling machine after cleaning and then onto the pallets and the trucks.  Being able to grip the bottle tightly was best.  Those old bottles were corked and then we would put a paper cup over the top and tie it in place  with red twine to hold it there.   The screw caps were turned by hand and then a wet latex sleeve was put around the neck and when it dried it would shrink to seal the cap.   When you pick up and move 4 or 5 thousand of those bottles a day by hand those little things make a big difference.

The company made distilled water, indeed that was in the company name.  But it also sold demineralized water which went through a filtration system to purify it.  They sold ozone water.  Some folks and even doctors believed that drinking water laced with ozone was good for you health.  The shed that held that equipment smelled so strong.  If you have ever smelled the ozone in the air during a big thunderstorm you have the idea but this was much stronger.  Couldn’t stay in there too long.  Probably was a health hazard and today OSHA was explode.   And they even bottled and sold fresh mineral water which had a high sulfur content which again some folks thought was the bees knees for you health.  Stuff stunk to high heaven to me.  But every couple of weeks I got to drive the truck to Glen Rose to pick up about 5000 gallons of the stuff.  Driving that truck was like loafing compared to working on the bottling line and loading all those bottles.  The 5 gal. bottles with the glass included weighed near 40 lbs each and about 2 empty.

In those days lots of homes that had bars and of course restaurants and lounges had seltzer bottles with the fizz to fix cocktails.  They also sold those but that was a pretty small part of the business.  Every 3 weeks or so me and my cousin would be assigned to cleaning out the old seltzer bottles and re-filling them.  They were about a quart size and had a metal top with spigot and lever to release the fizzy water.  Of course being kids we would first find all the bottles that had a little steam left in them and squirt each other.  There was also some there.  Then we would take the clean bottles and fill them on a simple machine that had a special tray with restraint to hold the bottle with the top off then pull down a lever that was attached to the tank of co2.  Whoosh and it was filled right away.  Those bottles had special wooden crates that were used to deliver them to the bars and homes and held twelve each.  The machinery for these work was in a special shed that had great ventilation when the back and front doors were open so the work was much cooler than some of the other work and we loved doing that.  But we never did more than a few hundred at a time so it was quickly back to the grunt work on the big bottling line with the washer and bottling machine and all that lifting and toting.

So, Sodastream each time I use your device it does bring back memories of a 13 year old boy thinking that getting to fill a bottle with fizz was about as good as things could get on a hot July day in the mid-fifities.  I worked at that plant every summer for three years and then moved on to other work with my dad’s new business.

“In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” Napoleon.  http://www.oclranky.wordpress.com


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