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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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Ghosts Of Elections Past

It is still more than a year to the next Presidential election but the headlines are already there with the latest in this upcoming contest.  Even though the elections are only ever four years if you live long enough you endure or enjoy quite a few of those events.   The memories may be colored in sepia and the sounds more like echos but the recall can still be vivid.

I was too  young to have any memory of Roosevelt’s ’44 election but I do recall later hearing my Dad and his friends who were all in the War talking about the shock of his death because he was the only President they really remembered.  His death was quickly forgotten though in the turmoil of winning the War.  Berlin still had to fall and Iwo Jima and Okinawa were not yet done deals.

I do remember the newsreels at the movies about the ’48 election.  Images of Truman on the back of the train speaking inevitably to the union group and then photos of the suave Dewey.  I just remember thinking even then that Dewey didn’t look manly enough with that sissy skinny mustache.  He was no Clark Gable.  I don’t remember much reaction to the election afterward as all the adults were very much in the getting back to normal life after the War.   Mostly everyone just wanted stability and a chance to resume doing anything routine.

I was young but I definitely liked Ike just as most of the country.  He came across as that firm but fair grandfather and with a touch of the sage to him.  Even as a youngster I found Truman’s screaming and ranting a bit too much.  Besides Ike had led all those millions of men to victory and he knew how to lead.  Those ’50’s were great years.  Adlai Stevenson was the opponent both times.  He was too prissy; supposedly a real intellectual but he also had a very sharp tongue with his opponents.  He was too friendly with the Commies for the country.   You have to take into account the threat of the Commies during those years.  We really did have bomb drills at school regularly and the Commies continued to crush the Hungarians and foment wars and terror around the world.  The Commie threat wasn’t an abstraction, it was palpable.

Those first televised debates in ’60 were interesting and frustrating.  I didn’t like Kennedy from the git go.  He was too cool and cute by half.   Plus I resented him coming from a family with a corrupt history and born with that silver spoon in his mouth and then having the gall to say how the rest of those aspiring to do better for themselves had to pay more in taxes.  (yes, I know it reduced them some later).  I wasn’t  wild about Nixon but he was a Navy man himself and I thought would do a better job of standing up to Khrushchev.   I didn’t mind Jackie much but really got irritated with the liberal media treating her like some celebrity for just standing there and looking chic.  By the way the election was stolen from Nixon by the crooked Democratic machine  in Illinois, the Daleys.  It was that close.  Many wanted Nixon to sue as Gore did later to challenge the fraudulent results from Cook county but he refused saying it would be bad for the country to have the integrity of the election in question for months.  That was the real profile in courage.

Then came the Goldwater/Johnson duel in ’64 with the famous mushroom cloud behind the little girl.   I thought Goldwater was a very bright guy and that it was time for a Jew to come to the fore just as the Catholics had with Kennedy.  Johnson was the epitome of the crooked politician.  I was aware of the venality of the ’48 election were he had the dead vote for him down there in South Texas.   When he and Ralph Yarborough were the Texas senators each of them never met a union boss with a bag of money they didn’t love and would obey.   It was a nasty election with horrendous consequences.  The Great Society has  been a miserable and costly failure and resulted in even more powers being concentrated in Washington just as the Democrats wanted.  For them it was a huge success and their corrupt reach expanded  exponentially.  Of course we got the Viet Nam war out of him after all the fear mongering he did against the alleged war hungry Goldwater.  You have to at least appreciate the irony of it all. 

Next up was Humphrey and the reborn Nixon.  Humphrey definitely talked too much.  You should not that I believe he still holds the Senate record for a filibuster.  He was the guy to continue the Great Society programs and even expand them.   Nixon was for the Silent Majority the did their jobs and wanted a decent society with much less government.  I voted for George Wallace.  Didn’t even like the guy and he was way too populist for me, but, but , but, he was totally anti-establishment man and especially against the Democratic view of running everything and everyone from DC.  His campaign cost Nixon lots of votes and at least it sent a message.   He did as promised and started the draw down in Viet Nam although I wish he had bombed and mined Haiphong harbor right away as long as we had guys on the ground fighting VC and North Vietnamese.  I will discuss Watergate with you only if you have actually read the Watergate Transcripts in their entirety as I did and not just news accounts of those events and if you used you tube to listen to all the Watergate testimony before the Joint Committee and again not news accounts that are consistently skewed and often flat out wrong on the basic facts.

There never was any question about McGovern versus Nixon.  He was too liberal even for a nation at  the height of the Hippie movement.  I always tipped my hat to him for being a bomber pilot during the War but otherwise found him liberal trite, if not lite.

Then we had Ford against Carter.  Ford was a handsome man and a former All-American football player at Michigan.  Carter was a peanut farmer with a hokey approach with pretensions of profound depth.  He was the former but certainly lacked the latter.  He was evil incarnate like Johnson but he was an embarrassment.   He tried a one and done military action to get those hostages out of Iran but then wouldn’t follow through with any other efforts and his economic policies only lead to “stagflation”.   Look it up that was the call sign for an economy during his era, that along with inflation off the charts.  We took a home improvement loan then at 13 and a half percent that was floating in anticipation of it going higher.

Thankfully the good Lord took mercy on us and we got Reagan in the ’80 election.  If you weren’t there you can’t begin to understand the breath of fresh air he was and the new sense of pride he brought it and hope that things would finally get better after two decades of slow but constant decline.  That floating loan I took out for the house  actually dropped under Reagan because inflation was at last tamed under his direction for the economy.  Mondale never had a chance and for good reason in ’84.  The detractors said he was not smart enough, well he won.  Besides we’ll likely never have a President as bright as Jefferson again.  He had a clear vision and direction and got the right people to move us in that way.  The results surely speak for themselves.

Then we had Bush 41 in ’88 against Dukakis.  The country was not in the mood for a return to traditional Democratic theories after seeing the results of trying things a different way and Dukakis was again to prissy and prim.  Bush had been shot down by the Japs during the war and no one could challenge his courage or his devotion to the country.  Dukakis was still singing the Democratic mantra of kissing up to the Commies and criticizing vehemently the whole Star Wars program and military build up under Reagan and  Bush’s pledge to continue it.  Reagan was right and Bush fulfilled the commitment to win the Cold War.  Like Reagan said when asked how the Cold War would play out.  He said–we win.  The wall came down and the Soviets finally got the demise they deserved.  along the way he faced Saddam and was resolute in Desert Storm.  Only wish he hadn’t called of the dogs so soon.

Then there was Clinton who portrayed himself as a new Democrat with  a more centrist approach.  He was a chameleon who would adopt any ideology that got him power.  The millennials and other youngster are ignorant completely about his election.  Virtually none of them recall or know that he won without a majority of the vote.  H. Ross Perot handed the elections to Clinton.  Perot took 19% of the vote; Clinton barely got over 40% to sneak into the White House.  All the shame and ignominy that Clinton brought to the Presidency can be laid at the doorstep of Perot.   It was a time of despair for honorable people and even as the door was hitting his behind he added one last insulf with the Marc Rich pardon on his last day.  Dole was a decent man and admired his tenacity after those awful wounds he survived from the War but he didn’t have the zip or personality to win.

“When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near”  Will Durant, American, philosopher, anthropologist and historian extraordinaire.   http://www.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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Observations On Moms And Daughters

I don’t like to write about things that I don’t know about.  Ok, enough with the comments that I shouldn’t be writing anything.   I am not a mom or daughter.  But I have a mom that I have lived with almost 50 years and four daughters and six granddaughters so I been able to at least observe over the years some of those interactions and reactions between moms and daughters.   They can have such scratchy relationships at some times but those gals always seem to know how to work things our better than we guys.  It might have something to do with using those 20,000 words per day that experts have estimated the gals must get in daily to feel good.

Those brand new moms with their first babies are often more cautious than even the dads handling the baby.  Watch them at the hospital.  They love holding the baby but they treat them so gingerly like they are a China doll.  Of course it doesn’t take more than a few score of diaper changes and baths before they can put them down on the changing table and get to it quick as a flash.

I know some ladies prefer not to nurse for good reasons but there is something special about those moms who do and that image of them holding their new daughter to her breast.  I realize some would dispute that there are medical or health benefits to nursing but I think it does give that mom and daughter a special bonding that comes with it.  It must be incredible to know that part of you is going directly to your child.   We have a beat up small sculpture of mother and child doing that and it is one of my favorite pieces in our house.

When they a couple of years on them the moms seem to all know instinctively how to do all those arts and crafts things with their daughters.  The paste, scissors and ribbons and such and they make these little collages and cut outs that you would think were going into the Lourve.   The little girls all love doing those things and then showing them off to everyone who is sitting still and breathing.

Of course there is the entire drama and production around the getting dressed up as they move into school age.  Sure they are still young enough that often it is just shorts and a tee shirt.  But when holidays or Sunday School or other special events come along that little girl and her mom will be exploring through every option in the closet to pick out just the right outfit for the occasion.  Moms love for them to look all frilly sometimes and those patent leather shoes top everything off.  When a Dad tries to pick the clothes he is evitably told that whatever he choose just won’t do.  We have to sense of fashion apparently.  But it is in the DNA of those gals, big and small.

The day will come when Mom doesn’t go do the shopping for clothes for the daughter by herslf anymore.   It doesn’t matter whether they are shopping at Wal-Mart or Neiman’s the drill is the same.  You can see it at the stores.  The two of them picking, putting back, selecting, eliminating and then the interminable trying everything on, and then again.  I reckon that teaching the daughter how to choose the right outfit within the budget is considered a true neccessity for survival like learning how to start a fire and skin the kill.  Of course when they arrive home the male side of the family is required to ooh and aah over the great deals and the style and how pretty everyone looks.

Then there is the whol ritual of applying make up.  They start doing these around puberty and Mom is definitely the artist in chief.  Usually the daughter will start off wanting to do it herself and take her cues from magazines, TV or movies or youtube I guess these days.  For sure when they first start using the make up they use too much.  Lordy, how many fights have there been over the eons between moms and daughters about the amount and use of the make up?  Cleopatra probably argued with her daughter on how much henna to use or ground sand to apply for just the right look.  Those young gals always go through about two years of trying to look about 5 years older than they are before they settle down before college.

The kitchen is a whole other matter.  When they are little the daughters love to “help” in the kitchen by playing like they are cooking also.  They get all the equipment from the toy store and are happy playing.  But they tire of that after a couple of years and they usually don’t have much interest in Mom’s cooking as long as it is  there on time and meets their perceived dietary wishes.  Those vary with weight from time to time.  Some decide to lose weight when they are only 14 or whatever even if they don’t need to.   Mostly they don’t show much interest in cooking skills during those teenage years or even into college.  But, but, but give them a few years down the road and they start remembering all those really great meals Mom could fix and they decide they wish they could fix a pot roast like Mom’s or stroganov or whatever it is they remember being so good.  Then Mom gets those phone calls asking for directions about how to fix the dish and they soon are sharing with the Holiday meal preparations.

Moms and daughers as the years pass are talking about their families, friends, their worries and their happy moments.   They really do share in ways we guys will never relate too. They often become friends which doesn’t work when you are raising them.  They can pass a quiet and very pleasant afternoon just drinking tea and visiting with each other the whole time.  We guys run out of topics pretty soon but they never do.  Their relationship is special as it should be.  You will be blesse and learn about life if you get to observe those Moms and their daughters even from the cheap seats.

The Good Lord got it right when he pulled that rib and gave them to us.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Mom Memories And Play

I am rapidly approaching the 50th high school reunion for my class.  That event doesn’t make me sad but just catches me by surprise.  Been so busy with life and the kids and now grandkids that it stuns the mind to actually come to grips with the fact that the graduation was 50 years ago.   Some of those events still seem as though they occurred only a few months ago yet the calendar has turn over many times since that event.  When I think of myself I still “see” in my mind’s eye a young man I suppose of some indefinite age but late twenties or thirties I suppose but then I step in front of the mirror and realize that haggard face is mine not just a hazy memory of a dream.  As they say it is a shame that youth is wasted on the young.

My mom was always a good sport about things and usually ready for just about any adventure.  My Dad was the cautious one and much more likely to want a few more restrictions on my activities, not the social stuff but the cars, traveling out of the neighborhood and who I was hanging out with.   Mom always encouraged me to be more social and mix with the groups.  I started having a real passion for reading when I was pretty young.  By the time I was a teen ager I would just as likely prefer reading one of my books in my room as watching Lucy or Gunsmoke on TV.  Mom couldn’t stand that.  She was one of the few parents who fussed about her boy reading too much!   But she sure let me and my brother have our fun in the neighborhood.

She always let us build our forts in the backyard or trees if they were large enough.  The forts were used to play cowboys and Indians or soldier.  We would get whatever sticks or rods we could scrounge up and some cardboard boxes.  We could always find some of those.   We would plant the sticks in the ground which was often very difficult because the earth was so hard from the drought during the ’40’s and ’50’s.  As long as they would remain upright we were set.  Then we would cut the cardboard to size and tie or tack it to the sticks to make walls.  The walls often collapsed during construction and required constant attention and rebuilding.  We course had to leave a door way somewhere and that was usually determined by the bends in the cardboard.  The roof was always a challenge and more than on ce it made the whole thing fall in or over and had to start afresh.   They always looked like something out of a real junk yard but up0n completion we had a place of privacy and a spot to get into and out of the direct rays of the hot Texas sun. 

In hindsight they must have been very unsightly but Mom always let us build them and we could keep them as long as they would last which was until the first rain and the 20th collapse of the structure and we couldn’t repair it any further.  Of course we would take out toy guns and things inside them and the kit items from the Army and Navy store.  In those days those stores were loaded with surplus from the War and Korea.  Every stain on a backpack or musset bag we were sure was the blood of some fallen hero.   Mom would let us take our baloney or peanut and jelly sandwiches out there to eat and kool aid.

At the heat of the day we had to come inside to play because of the scare of polio.  It was generally believed at that time that exp0sure to heat would trigger the polio condition.  I have no idea if that was true but all the moms believed it and from about 2 to 5 we had to stay inside.  Of course it was only marginally cooler inside that out because the only cooling was by electric buzz fan or rotating fan.  No one could afford air conditioning.  By the time I was about 15 we got our first window unit a/c and we thought we had the life of Riley.  (Do you know who Riley even was?)   The only downside about playing inside was that was when Mom would talk with me and help me with school work. 

She would often set up the ironing board and do that while she had me sit at the table beside her and work on my numbers, letters penmanship.  Sad to say I never developed the pen hand that she preferred.  Mom was from the old school that thought it was very important to have a good “hand”.  Hers was magnificent.  You’ve seen those shot in movies where the pen scratches across paper and the script is beautiful.  My Mom could have written those words for those shots.  

When I was released back outside I could ride my bike or go play with the neighborhood guys.  I had several friends within just a couple of blocks to that was great and they usually wanted to come to my house to play and I naturally wanted to go somewhere else like the creek a block away.  If I was home I always feared Mom would cut off my play time sooner that normal if all she had to do was open the door and there I was.  She would always let me play until dinner time.  Poor Mom me and my brother and Dad always wanted the same thing–meat and potatoes.  Mom constantly tried to get us to try something new, liver, fish, cauliflower, rutabagas, greens or chicken.   She would fix something that we considered weird a couple times every week and was always surprised and disappointed that her guys didn’t like that stuff.  She would ask about the next day’s meal and it was the same refrain–we want meat and potatoes.  In fairness to us we could take our potatoes, baked, fried, boiled, mashed, au gratin or thick cut.  See we were flexible.  Thanks Mom for the memories.

“A good wife who can find?  She is more precious than jewels.”  Proverbs www. olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood–II

When I was in elementary school I would come home and begin the real enjoyable part of my day.   School was fun sometimes but like most kids I was more eager to do what I wanted rather than having to do as instructed by the teacher.  I would almost always have my homework done before I left school.   There was allocated time to study.  Lots of kids goofed off during the period but I used it to do my school work so I would be free in the afternoon.   It was only about a six block walk from school to home but me and my best friend would always make it take as long as we could, exploring and just looking to see what was happening in the neighborhood.  Mom of course knew exactly when we got out and she knew how long it should take us to make that short walk home. 

Mom would allow for a little bit of leeway on our walk but not much.  If I was more than about 10 minutes late she would be on the porch waiting.  That was not a good thing.  That meant she would be on my case for being late and she might restrict me to the house.   If the weather was warm enough I always wanted to be outside until dinner time.   I didn’t like having to stay in the house after school except to watch a few special things on TV.   I would carry my books to my room I shared with my brother.  We didn’t have backpacks or even satchels of any kind that I remember.  We just carried our books.  Today all the kids have backpacks.  I can’t really remember when that became the standard.  I guess they started doing that 20 or 30 years ago.  When I was in school only the nerds had satchels or briefcases for their books.   I guess they were ahead of their time.

If I had to stay inside because of the weather or mom was making me do it, I would watch a little TV.  There were the special shows like Howdy Dowdy and Mickey Mouse and local shows just for kids in the afternoon.  They were live shows with a small audience of local kids.  There wasn’t anything like the kids channels today on cable.  There were no electronic games of any kind but we had toys but mostly we liked to go outside.

I was lucky to have a few guy pals on my block so on most days I could always find someone to play with.  My best friend lived only a few houses down the block and we would hook up together to do something.  There was always the bike we could ride.  Mom had a pretty restrictive route we could take.  We weren’t allowed to get more than a few blocks from home on the bikes.  From the time I was 5 or 6 until I started driving a car I always had a bike and rode it almost every day at least a little while.  We particularly liked riding in the alleys because you never knew what you might come across and in the spring and early summer there was always fruit trees you could stop and plunder–peaches, apples, crab apples, pears and even figs.  I didn’t like the figs but it was fun to “steal” them from the limbs hanging over the back fences.

When we weren’t on our bikes we would be playing football or even throwing the baseball around some.  Mostly we played football.  We would play a game of punt.  You would kick the ball and try to back up your opponent as far as you could with the kick. He would catch and do the same trying to make you back up.  The one that could make the other move all the way back to the corner of the street was the winner.   We also played lots of tin can hockey in the street.  Just used and old tin can and whatever sticks we could find and smash away with them to propel the can.  The curbs were the out-of-bounds and we would sit up goals with whatever came to hand.   Sure got a lot of bruised shins doing that game.

Climbing trees was another favorite pastime.  It was fun to get up there and “hide” from everyone.  Of course the moms knew where we were.  My mom actually was pretty good about it although she didn’t like us to go too high.   Naturally we were always pushing the limits of what “too high” was.  It was fun to be up there and pretend you were a soldier or cowboy waiting in ambush on the bad guys.  This was only a few years after the War so we were constantly battling the Japs and Nazis.  To get to sneak up there with your BB gun was the best.  Then you could shoot sparrows or other critters that came along.  Grasshoppers and frogs made as good a target as anything else.  As a last resort there was always each other.   I can report though that those were always just threats and never put into action.  Sometime we would a toy soldier figures on the ground below the tree in what we considered battle formation and then go up into the tree to shoot back down at them pretending our BB hits were an artillery barrage.  We would do this until we knocked down all of them and the jeeps and artillery with them–or until Mom called us in for dinner.

We always ate dinner together.  I liked Dad coming home every day.  There was something very comforting I suppose about him being there and being so dependable.  I loved listening to his tales of his workday. That was probably strange in that age but I did.  Mom never had to worry about me ruining my eyes with an electronic game or video only from reading too much in her estimation.   It was not a complicated life but it seemed good at the time and in hindsight seems even better.

“Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Memories That Endure

We all experience much in life on a daily basis. So many things happen to us and we do a lot everyday if you think about it. As the decades roll by it is curious why some of those memories stick with us more than others. I have had lots of interesting things, joyous moments, scary times and exhilarating episodes but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of them have been lost in the mist of time and the memory. Others remain so clear I can conjure up the weather, smells, smiles and tears of specific events. Some of them are not really that important at all but they stick in the mind and won’t go away like that rattle in your car you have tried to find for months.

My earliest memory is of my da.d coming home for leave from the war. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time but I have the distinct memory of being in my playpen and seeing my dad in a uniform (Navy). I cried because Mom was leaving with Dad. I am sure they weren’t gone more than 24 hours together but I had to stay with my grandmother and I can recall being very upset about that. I don’t remember the hugs my Dad gave me although I know he did. I don’t recall him coming home with Mom from San Francisco when he was discharged in late 1945 but I do remember the duplex we lived in for a while. We moved a lot those first few years after the War probably a function of money needs and the effort of Mom and Dad to “move up” in the world. I do remember the first house we bought when I was six. It was two bedrooms and one bath, a wood frame house. We had a big back yard and a detached garage. No trees in the neighborhood; it was a classic tract house built in that era for veterans. I can even remember the old Victorola player in the garage. I have no idea where it came from. It had one of those cranks on the side to wind it up to play a record. Don’t I wish I still had that now. It was just gone at some point.

I don’t remember my first grade teacher’s name but I can remember what she looked like. The school was brand new. One of the many built at that time to accommodate all the kids being born after the War. The principal was a man and he had a Phd. The same man ended up being the principal at my high school a few years later. Almost all the principals then were men and they had advanced degrees. I never heard of a female principal then. I can recall getting our polio vaccinations at school. We were all lined up and nurses came to administer the shots. It was a big deal. I remember my Mom making me come in to rest during the summer because she was afraid I would get polio in the heat. I have no idea where she got that idea but that was the common belief at that time. Then in the early ’50’s we got our dog tags at school. Just like the soldiers had. We guys thought that was really cool. It had our name and other info on it. That only lasted a year or two. We were supposed to wear them all the time in case of a nuclear attack by the Commies. I distinctly recall the drills we had to do in class and in the halls in the event of an attack. We were taught to dive under our desks if it was sudden, against the walls if there was a bit more time, and if there was an air raid warning we went to the halls and got on the floor with our heads against the lockers and our feet toward the middle of the hallway. I have no idea why it was that precise but it was.

I don’t really remember that many Christmases or birthdays. I remember them being fun but can’t really remember any particular gifts except a couple. I remember the Lionel train I got when I was about 5 for Christmas one year and I remember my tenth birthday when I got my 410 shotgun from Sear and Roebuck. I do remember all the store windows being decorated and having toys, Santas and reindeer in them. I loved going to just look at the windows of all the big stores. Then there were no strip centers or shopping malls, everything was essentially down town.

When I was small we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood and look for fruit trees in the late spring and early summer. We would use the fruit that fell over the fences as missiles to throw at each other. On occasions we would be very daring and actually hop over a fence to get some of the fruit and then right back as quick as we could so we won’t get caught. The figs and peaches made the best weapons. Even thought cars and trucks abounded there were still wagons with mules that would come to the neighborhood about twice a week with fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if that was peculiar to our neighborhood or not. I recall it seemed very old fashioned even to me at the time.

We kids liked to listen to the stories of the old man who lived in the neighborhood, next door to me in fact. He dressed very old style, string bow tie, white coat in summer and hat and cane. He even had one of those goatees. It and his hair was all white. He was at least 90 something then and would sit on the front porch in good weather for hours. He would tell us stories on the old west and we loved it. I don’t know if his stories were all true of course but I was fascinated by them. Indians, cowboys, and then WWI and what things were like then. He had lived in our town since right after the War Between the States.

Those are only a few memories of the zillion little memory bytes buzzing in my head but to think of all those that can’t be retrieved. Perhaps more another day.

You will have regrets in life, but nevertheless you should try each day to live in such a way to avoid the those rash comments that cause them. You know how to do that in your life better than me.

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Where Were You When_____

There are some events in history that are high water marks and even those who don’t normally pay any attention to current events much less history can recall where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred.  The most recent example of that would be 9/11 of course.  Most of us can recall where we were that day and what we were doing.  Those of an older generation can sure tell you about how, when and where they heard about Pearl Harbor.  I recall my dad saying he had never heard specifically of Pearl Harbor.  He obviously knew of the Hawaiian Islands and was aware that we had a base there but didn’t know its name.  He did know it was Sunday and that he and my mom were together and planning to go roller skating when they overheard someone talk about the attack.  (Yeah, I know a much simpler time)  They went to a neighbor’s to listen to the news.  They got married a month later and 9 months later Dad was off to the war.  Recall that the Great Depression was still in full force at that time and most folks were still worried about the next paycheck  more than they were about world events in far away places.    They listened to Edward R. Morrow on the radio and saw the papers talking about the War that had already been under way for two years but food on the table was a more immediate concern.  Don’t believe the current pundits who assert Roosevelt had fixed the Great Depression, ask someone you know who lived through it.

Many also recall where they were the day Kennedy was shot.  I do.  I was in school at SMU.  The wife and I had only been married for a little over a year at the time.  She was still working full time for LTV, then a defense contractor on its way to becoming a large conglomerate and she was attending school part time.  I was just the opposite, I was attending school full time and working part time.  My part time job was both great and a pain.  I drove a school bus for Dallas County to transport children with hearing and speech disabilities to a special school supported by the County.  It was a small bus, more like a van, and I hauled about 10 kids each day to and from school.  I would pick them up at their home or apartment and then return them in the afternoon.  I had to leave very early because the each trip was about 60 miles and it took a long time  because they were widely spread out over the county.  I totaled 120 miles every day and so did those poor kids.   Then I would reverse it in the afternoon and take them all right back to their doorstep.  Naturally there was lots of traffic because of the morning rush hour and then the start of the afternoon rush hour.  I had them to school by about 8:00 each morning and picked them up at 3:30.  That allowed me to attend my classes during the day so it was a great job from that standpoint.  We needed the money and the kids were mostly fun.  They ran the gamut from total loss of hearing and being mute to those with terrible impediments in their speech but they could talk and be understood if you listened carefully and got used to their speech patterns.  I learned to sign with them.  Not very well and I have forgotten almost every bit of it over the years. 

I had made my usual trip that November morning delivering the kids and was on campus for classes. I had a noon class. I recall going to the class and we were just getting settled when someone stuck their head in the door and said that the Governor and Kennedy had been shot.  That caused a bit of a stir and assorted comments of disbelief and a little  dismay by some.  The class was Abnormal Psychology and the professor who taught us, and I am not making this up, was Dr. Strange.   Within  moments he was giving a lecture about the type of personality that would be an assassin.  I mean he was getting into and writing terms on the board and the whole nine yards.  But during his lecture other people kept sticking their heads into the classroom and  giving updates on the news from radio or TV.  He finally got it that no one was really paying that much attention.  Everyone was more interested in the news than they were in his lecture.  He dismissed us rather reluctantly and we all went down to some other room that had a radio and listened to the newscasts.  I will admit that I was not a fan of Kennedy at all.  I didn’t like him and didn ‘t trust him.  I was angry and upset that the event would make him a martyr which is exactly what happened.  Even worse was the idea of Johnson being President.  If you care to go back and look at the news accounts of the day you will find that lots of people shared my opinion of him.  The election coming up the next year was already projected to be as close as the one he won.  He won that one by a whisker and only because of the voter fraud in Cook County Illinois.   He was not universally loved.  We were mostly concerned if there was some Soviet conspiracy involved.  Before the day was out Oswald had been arrested and immediately it was known that he was a Marine defector who had spent time in Russia and married a Russian wife.  The Bay of Pigs fiasco was still fresh in everyone’s memory and so naturally thoughts of Cuban involvement were rife. 

I still had to get the kids that day and take them safely home.  The route we took was right through the heart of downtown where the assassination had taken place.  The traffic was already terrible with the curious and onlookers.  I and the kids were caught up in that mess.  We were much later getting home that day than normal but we made it.  They were all asking a million questions and I had a busy time trying to manouever that van and keep them entertained on that long ride home.

A  comment on the lack of integrity and accuracy in the media of that day.  The schools let out early that day in Dallas due to the shooting.  In many of the schools the kids were intentionally not told why they were being dismissed early but only that they were.  Of course being kids a lot of them let out a cheer and a whoop.  They were getting a free holiday from school.  The national media reported it as the kids in Dallas cheering  the assassination and death of Kennedy.  The correct version was issued by the school district right away after the story broke of the cheering but very few of the media ever made a retraction or correction.   They let the story stand and the impression it gave even though they knew it to be false.

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Some Things I Miss

We have many marvelous gadgets, tools and devices these days to make our lives easier and I enjoy having most of them.  We have changed the way we do business in our personal lives and in industry.  I suppose many of those changes are useful but I am not so sure.   They in theory make our work more efficient and that is true is some instances but might be an impediment in others.  Socially the changes are quite large over the last 60 years and regarding those I have serious doubts as to their social effacacy.  I am not sure we are a better society for the alleged improvements due to social engineering and the brute force of political correctiness.  There are some things from the past that I feel strongly about.  Some gadgets, processes and systems were better then than the replacements that have evolved.  Below I list some of those I miss. 

1. The old school savings account–When I was a child you could save money in your own savings account at a bank at school.  Many of us did that.  You could save literally a nickel or dime or dollar every week in school.  It was a regular part of the home room period.  The amounts were small but it gave a sense of responsibility to the kids.  After a couple of years those nickels and dimes added up to 20 bucks or whatever.  The teacher would help you do the deposit each week.  Wish we still did that.  I wonder if any school districts still have that program?

2. The Series E savings bond–There was a time when you could buy these bonds issued by the Government.  They paid a low rate of return but they were solid and could come in various time frames.  You could get a one year, 5 year or 10 year bond.   They may have had even more of them than that.  They were advertised on the radio, TV, at school and in the papers.  You could buy them at any bank and I believe they were even sold at the post office.  Many a kid got a $10.00 savings bond from old aunt Milly as a birthday gift; they were also popular as a graduation gift from High School.  The Government got the use of the money and the kids learned to delay gratification for a while.  Not a bad thing to learn.   Today everyone seems to think they are entitled to instant gratification for anything they want.

3. The standard 30 year mortgage–You got a loan to buy your house after putting up 15 to 20 per cent down and then that same savings and loan held your mortgage till maturity.  It wasn’t repackaged and sold.  That same s/l also serviced the loan.  They were who you did business with until the mortgage was paid off.  It made them pick good customers and was a very stable if not glamorous industry. 

4.  School leaders–I loved it when the teacher was the boss.  She might be wrong sometimes and overbearing but more often than not she was right and did a pretty good job educating you if you did your part.  They darn sure weren’t glorified babysitters.  They had real authority in the classroom.   If the teacher was the boss, then the principal was God himself.  He ruled the school with an iron fist and had almost total control like the Captain of a ship at sea.   Again, they might have messed up on occasion but not very often.  That authority made us toe the line which is not a bad thing for kids to have to do.   Lots of life is about toeing the line.   Kids were safe at school and you had an education provided and you learned something about authority and how to “play nice” or else you paid the price.

5. Two mail deliveries a day–During my childhood we had a morning delivery of mail then another in the afternoon.  This was true for private residences and businesses.  You could communicate with another business on a same day delivery if the addressee was in your city.  My memory is they stopped doing this in the early ’60’s.  Of course the postmen were much more efficient then.

6. Two daily newspapers–There was a time when every major city and even many mid size cities had at least two major daily newspapers.  Usually one would be a morning paper and the other an evening paper.  Now it appears that newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  So many are already in bankruptcy or in severe financial straits.  I liked having my morning paper, then coming home in the evening to see what the latest news was. 

7. Latin–There was a time when that was the foreign language requirement in most schools.  Some would take Spanish but they were the same guys taking metal and wood shop classes.  If you were on a college prep course then latin was the language you took.  It is great mental exercise and a great way to develop an understanding of Western culture.  Plus it was very useful in learning English and grammar.

8. Posted grades–Today I know lots of folks would faint at the idea of their grades being posted outside the class room for all the world to see.  In our politically correct world it would be anathema.   It might hurt some one’s self esteem.  When I was in college and law school it was de riguer.  Our grades were posted with the exact numerical grade.  Not only that but you would be ranked with you classmates.  If you were at the bottom of the barrel, it was right there for all  the world to see.  In our modern pass/fail world it must seem barbaric to actually let everyone know how you are doing in school.  But facts are facts, you rate where you rate.  It is a competitive world, or at least I think it should be, and truth of your performance is vital information for future employers.

Many may think these are ramblings inspired by nostalgia and maybe some are but I ask you to think about whether some of these old things are an improvement over the “advances” of the last 60 years.

“The first destroyer of the liberties of a people is he who first gave them b0unties and largesses”.  Plutarch.  With our current political envoirnment and the grotesque growth and reach of our Government, I urge you to ponder that quote from a man smarter than you or me.

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