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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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Football Memories And ’61 In The Rearview Mirror–Part II

The varsity guys were tired from beating up on each other for several days before we freshmen arrived.  It was hot and dusty.  The practice fields were right next to the stadium which was only used for special workouts and the games.  It had great grass and most of it was marked off in five by five yard squares to accommodate those awful drills where we hammered each other inside that dimension.  Of course we barely knew our assignments for lining up on defense and were completely disorganized but we were enthusiastic and ready to show our mettle against the varsity.  They naturally ran rough shod over us, over and over.   Every few plays another group of us was thrown into the mix.   The game we all quickly learned was much faster than it had been in high school because everyone was good if not terrific.   The varsity knew their assignments by heart and would pound into us as we were trying to adjust to that speed and “see” the play development at the same time.  When we would occasionally make a good play and stop them we weren’t congratulated by the coaches.  Coaches are pretty universal with praise and criticism.  Mostly when we did finally do a good job even if by accident the coaches would unmercifully deride the varsity for screwing up against a bunch of rag knot freshmen.

When it was time to go on offense it was even worse.  We always ran the upcoming opponents offense to let the varsity get a look at how they set up and ran their plays.  In the huddle the coaches would hold up and cardboard with the play designed for each man on offense and we had to use the signal system for the snap count from the opposing team.  With only a few seconds to see the play and being nervous about that different signal and snap count we were terrible and usually made no yards or very little.  When we finally would run a decent play again it wasn’t because we did anything right but rather because some poor schmuck on the varsity screwed up.   After 30 minutes or so we went back to our own workout routine trying to learn offense and defense, more drills and then those God-awful wind sprints to close out the workout.  We would do them in increments starting with five yards, then ten, all the way up to 100 yards.  You could really be sucking for air by the end of those.

We repeated the same pattern for several days then classes started and we at least only had to work out once a day around 3:30 but you had to get to the locker room by around 2:45 at the latest to get geared up and your ankles taped.  They were fanatical about taping our ankles every practice.   As the season wore on it got into a regular pattern.  Our workouts were all hard through the entire week.  After all we were learning and there for the varsity and only had two games of our own at the very end of the season within about 5 days of each other.   The varsity’s workouts tapered off on Thursday and really did so on Friday but not ours.    They had a game and we didn’t.  Our Friday workouts were as miserable and hard as Monday.  But we were young and healthy and survived.   But we all kept an eye on the calendar looking for those two games against Tulsa and Oklahoma State at the end of the season and the release from football purgatory.  I guess I should remind you that in those ancient days freshmen were prohibited by rule from playing on the varsity during their freshman year.

For the most part we freshmen weren’t treated badly by the varsity off the field and in the dorm.   We all ate together in the athletic dining hall and had mandatory study hall.  It was required for all freshmen and the upper class men also if they had less than a C average.   It was three nights a week and was for two hours right after the dining hall closed for dinner.   It was  drag as you can imagine but good for us.  That freshmen coach was there to supervise and there was no horsing around.  You didn’t have to study of course, you could sit there and merely stare at your books but you would sit there for the whole two hours.  I should have opened that French book more often.

For some reason that I truly don’t understand I got along very well with the varsity guys from the get go.  They accepted me pretty much as an equal.  Probably  because I had always been mature; I was born an old man.  The other freshmen were mostly ignored.  The star of the team that year was a fellow who made All-American at tackle.   He weighed around 225 if you can believe that; that was pretty normal for that day.   I was the interlocutor for introducing him to his future wife.  We had some kind of open house or picnic at the athletic quadrangle.  Must have been on a Sunday because Saturdays were game days.   We all went along with the other athletes, I believe it was a required show.  Anyway during this function a really pretty girl flirted with me.  I suppose she thought I was a varsity player.   Later Billy who was the All American and a senior asked me about her and if she was my girl.  I explained no.   He liked the way she looked and wanted to know if I would introduce him and recommend him to her.  Just like high school, he was so nervous.  But hey it was a way to ingratiate myself with the most prominent guy on the team and a senior so why not.  I did talk with her and let her know Billy would like to meet her and gave him a strong thumbs up.   He did, they did and far as I know they remained married happily ever after and I had a real pal on the varsity for the rest of my tenure at Oklahoma.

“Ambition destroys it possessor” The Talmud.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com


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Football Memories And ’61 In The Rearview Mirror

In August of 1961 I was stepping out for a new phase in my life.  I had just graduated from High School, gotten engaged to the child bride that has endured me for over 50 years and was set to leave kith and kin and the neighborly confines of home for the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship.   The omens during that month were most propitious.  A major hurricane hit the south coast of Texas near Houston.  A not rare occurrence but certainly not the summer norm.   During the ’40s and the ’50’s we in fact had many more hurricanes than we have had during the last couple of decades.  Don’t take my word for it, look it up.  In Dallas we got some rain which was always welcome and indeed rare during August.  Then only a day or so before I left my gal and me were out parking and sparking in the fields not far from home when a giant meteor (relatively speaking) slashed through the night sky and lit everything up and produced a very loud bang and rolling thunder sound.  Scary as the devil.  Thought the damn Russkies were attacking for a few seconds.   Of course I was anxious about leaving my gal. We spent lots of time together and except for a few days here and there weren’t really apart for over a year.  I was already missing her without having left.  You ever miss something you still have but know won’t be there in the future?

I had visited the campus already during my recruiting trip with my mom and dad and my gal so I knew at least the lay of the land and what my dorm would look like its location.  The morning came in mid August and off I went in my ’56 Chevy the folks let me have for college.   Picked up my future roommate who lived about 75 miles away.   We weren’t like girls going to college so we easily got everything packed into the car with room to spare.   When we arrived we were met by the Freshman football coach who in addition to coaching was the point man for discipline for all football players and running the dorm and our study hall requirements.  We were assigned a room on the third floor which was actually pretty good, some guys were all the way up on the fifth floor so we didn’t have to carry our stuff as far. The one elevator was for freight and strictly taboo for our use.  It was so darn hot.  I knew it would be but worse than I expected.  The dorm room had everything built-in and nailed down–bunk beds, desks and the one dresser.  The only m0vable items were the two plastic chairs.   Don’t faint but the dorm was not air-conditioned.  That is hard to believe I know.  Our first purchase was a small rotating fan to move the hot air around.  Today of course many of the major schools don’t even have athletic dorms and the guys live in apartments or other student housing.

At that time going to OU was a big deal.  They had won two national championships in recent years and Bud Wilkinson was still the coach and as big a name as there was in the game.  There were 48 of us in the freshman class.  We were all at least good or outstanding or we wouldn’t have been there.  OU pretty much got the pick of the litter for players in the entire southwest along with Texas.  I was probably one of their last selections and near the bottom of their acceptable range but I was there.   The guys from Texas were used to spring training and two-a-days workouts but they had no spring training then in Oklahoma and most other states.  That first afternoon after getting unpacked we were sent to the dressing room and equipment room to get fitted and outfitted with our football gear.  While this was going on the varsity team came in from practice.  They weren’t bigger than us but the revealed all those tell tales signs of bruising workout in the hot southwestern sun and the helmets and facemasks of the day.   More than on had a tooth or two missing and since the facemaks of that era were almost exclusively a single bar almost everyone of them had those cuts and bruises on their noses and forheads from the helmets smashing into their face or an elbow shoulder pad or cleat.   Gee, they looked like survivors from the Bttaan Death March and they were understandably in no mood to be friendly.   They wanted  a shower and hot meal and as much rest as they could get before the early morning call the next day and doing it all over again twice in the same day.

It wasn’t intimidating to see them or scary just a real reminder of what was in store for us.  Like those replacement troops going up the front and passing by the walking wounded on the way.  A bit disconcerting.   But we buckled up the next morning and were off to do our thing which was nothing but drills and then more drills.  The old bull-in-the- ring and other assorted torments to see who could deliver and take a blow. In those days everyone had to play both ways so the pain was evenly spread.  No prima donnas.  The star halfback or quarterback had to also play cornerback or safety on defense.  In addition to our drills we learned our basic offensive formations.  I remember spending about 15 minutes doing nothing but aligning the huddle and getting out of it to the line of scrimmage, over and over till the coach was satisfied we wouldn’t embarrass him the way we lined up.  You can get pretty tired doing that over and over after having gone through the crash and smash drills for 45 minutes or so.   Once we could huddle up correctly then we were sent on our next assignment–cannon fodder for the varsity.

“Dance with the girl you brung”   Darrel Royal.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Election Reflections

We are all sitting around anxiously awaiting the election results.  It is another big one and losers will be disconsolate.  Even as we wait on the knife’s edge and before we know the outcome it ain’t all bad to ponder some thoughts about life that moves on regardless of election day or the outcome.  These are for your consideration to keep some perspective on the political wars we wage with a do or die attitude.

For untold thousands in the wake of Sandy the election is probably not much on their mind.  More to hand is concern about their belongings and whether the can rebuild their home or find a better place to stay for months than a temporary shelter.

Some people had loved ones die today.

Countless thousands learned today that they have cancer.    Some spent hours taking chemotherapy treatment.  Many others had surgery today to remove a tumor and are awaiting the biopsy report.

Sadly untold hundreds were badly injured or killed in car crashes this day.

Some fellows asked their sweethearts today to become their wives.

How many babies were born today?  The election is a footnote to those happy people.

Some of our troops face real danger today on foreign soil.  Some probably will be badly injured or killed.  Within hours most likely their families will be notified during election returns.

Some young people received their college acceptance letters in the mail on this day.

Someone got a notice from the IRS for an audit.  Believe me that ruined their day regardless of any election.

There are people today who lost a hard-fought law suit or filed for divorce.  There are those who filed bankruptcy today.

Thousands of 6 year- old’s came to mom or day today with that tooth that was just hanging by the proverbial thread and the tooth fairy will be visiting tonight with a quarter.

Thousands of families had to begin today whether they were prepared or not to start making funeral arrangements.  Thousands held the hand of a loved one who died today.   Some had to attend funerals today while you were at the polls.

There are kids out there who finally learned to stay upright on their bikes today for the first time.

The Sun and the Moon will both make their appointed rounds tomorrow.

Even if the bad guy, BO, wins and the country does begin a slow or rapid decline as a society and body politic, all these other events will continue to take place.   Better faith in God and family than any politician or governmental body.   They aren’t there always but God and family will be.

God Bless and good luck to us all.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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