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CHRISTMAS  1999
 

by Bob Harrison
December 13,  1999

75 AND COUNTING

On December 25, 1999, if I make it, I will have celebrated my 75th Christmas.

There have been some good Christmases and some great Christmases but no bad ones. My parents always managed to provide us with plenty of candy, nuts, and fruit and an acceptable amount of presents under the tree.

During my 75 years on this earth, I have seen some extraordinary events transpire. I can remember when the drone of an airplane engine brought everyone outside to look up at the rare sighting. My Mom and Dad often told the story of the day when I, a young lad of three or four, ran into the house screaming for "Mom, come and look, thereís a big snake outside." When she ran outside, she looked up into the air at a large blimp-passing overhead.

I remember my Dad and an uncle sitting up all night to setup a new table model radio, Stewart Warner, I believe, then donning earphones to listen to the magic of this new contraption. The radio occupied the entire surface of what we called a library table, probably four or five feet long by two or three feet wide. On a lower shelf of the table were the batteries required to power it. I vividly recall the escapades of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Dutch Shultz, and Bonnie and Clyde.

Etched on the mother board of my brain are the rantings and ravings of Adolph Hitler aka Adolph Schikelgruber (sp), the tramp of SS and Brown Shirts boots, and the crowds screaming "Heil, Hitler". Much later, we were to hear that no one in Germany was a Nazi and certainly no one was a follower of Hitler. I also have images of Benito Mussolini strutting like a peacock. Iím sure he thought he was the epitome of manliness but we thought he was comical. What was more comical were Italyís efforts to subdue a tiny African nation and finally having to call for help from Hitler to accomplish their goal.

I recall the Lindbergh kidnapping or rather, the aftermath, when parents were so afraid for their own children that they wouldnít let them out of eyesight lest they be snatched away.

Then there were the big bands of the thirties and forties, Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Kay Kaiser, Sammy Kaye, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Glen Gray, Lawrence Welk, Wayne King, etc. The list goes on and on. Something almost lost to our kids, regrettably.

I recall FDR and Eleanor and Herbert Hoover, and the fireside chats. As a kid, I didnít listen, of course, but I was aware of them.

I remember the dance marathons and saw them in the newsreels as couples hung on to each other while half asleep.

I remember my first movie, a silent Tom Mix western, shown on the side of a merchants building in Bethel, Ohio while we stood and watched in wonderment.

I used to listen to the Joe Louis fights on our radio and sat on the edge of my chair as Max Schmelling defeated Louis in their first fight, probably about 1936 and Louis annihilated Schmelling in the return match. This was at a time when Hitler was ranting about the "superior" German blood and the superman boast. I sat glued to the radio on Memorial Day to listen to the Indy 500 as Louis Meyer, Mauri Rose, Wilbur Shaw, Rex Mays, et al, made history.

I saw the Cincinnati Reds lose to the Yankees in the 1939 World Series and defeat the Detroit Tigers in 1940. Those were the glory days of Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Paul Derringer, et al. We sat and listened to "Lum and Abner", "Amos and Andy", "One Manís Family", "Fibber McGee and Molly", Bob Hope, Bing Crosby (with Bob Burns and his Bazooka), Jack Benny, Fred Allen and so many others I have forgotten.

Then I saw the darkening clouds which brought on WWII, the constant bombing of London, the aerial battles over England, Chamberlainís kowtowing to Hitler with his "peace in our time" crap, Churchillís ascendancy to Prime Minister and Englandís valiant defense of its land, guided by the greatest statesman in history. I recall the manipulating that went on between Germany and Russia and the pact they made to divide up the spoils of Europe and how devious both sides were until Hitler finally threw off all restraints and invaded Russia.

Then came Pearl Harbor and war for the USA. Suddenly the entire atmosphere changed as our country finally awoke and began to gear up for the war effort. Factories came alive, everyone went to work to contribute his share, young men enlisted and finally the depression days were at an end.

I saw my first television set in my uncleís house, a show called "Charades" while several well-known actors and actresses did just that, played charades. The set had a lid that opened on the top of the TV. In the opened lid was a mirror. The actual screen was in the top of the TV and the image was reflected into the mirror for viewing. Later, when my Dad finally bought one, after much tuning and adjusting to see a picture, we sat enthralled while watching "rassling".

Thatís about it. Not really though, there is so much that I didnít, couldnít mention, not only because of space limitations but because of memory lapses. There were the times when we had to skip a meal or two back in the 30ís, other times when we had "taters" for breakfast, beans for dinner and supper. There were times when Dad worked in Meyersí coal yard for 12 and 16 hour stretches unloading a coal gon (55 tons), then went back out in the early morning hours to load up his coal truck to begin delivering what heíd unloaded the day before. All for $12 a week. There was the time when a bill collector came to our door insisting that Dad pay him, knowing that Dad had not a nickel to his name. He became so insistent in telling Dad what he was going to do, like take our furniture and beds, that Dad knocked him off the front porch. He never came back any more. Then, finally, in desperation, Dad sold his prized Winchester 20 gage shotgun, hitch hiked to Indiana and found a job where we moved a few weeks later.

Now, looking back, I think those hard times may have been good for me. If I said that such an experience would be good for the welfare recipients of today I would be branded some sort of monster for not being more caring, more sympathetic. How can you be eympathetic when you know you had it much worse than anyone today can imagine?

The years rolled by, the aches and pains began, wrinkles and creases appeared in what I once thought was a permanently youthful face, retirement, time on my hands, eventually a new computer, playing games writing essays, poems, more software, then came genealogy. Genealogy led me to the internet in 1996.

One day, I got a message from a guy who called himself "Cuz". Turned out to be Sid. I was so surprised and overcome that I shed a few tears though I never told Sid. We exchanged information till we were all caught up on the years gone by--well, not caught up Ďcause now and then one of us has an inspiration, something to tell the other guy--thatíll probably go on as long as both of us live. Sid suggested I might be interested in Ron Martiniís BBS, warned me it was primarily for submariners, so I thought I would try it. We had an agreement not to reveal our family ties, just to see how long it would take a bunch of bubbleheads to catch on. I think it took several weeks before some of the more probing minds began to make connections. We probably made it easy for them by complimenting each other on our various writings, essays, compositions, poetry, etc. Hell, no one else complimented us so we had to do it ourselves. So, for the last two and one-half years, Iíve had the opportunity, make that an honor, to make the acquaintance of many good friends in addition to renewing a relationship with a long-lost cousin. How could I begin to name them all? Answer: I canít. No doubt I have made some enemies along the way and Iím sorry for that. Iím too old to make enemies. Trouble is, I have some strong opinions on certain things and I cannot let other peopleís negative comments go unchallenged.

Anyhow, I thank Ron Martini, Gil(two of them) Ramjet, Cool Bob, John Wynn, John Cole, Roy Ator, SOB, Rankoon, Cowboy, Smitty from Samar, Ramon, Skibo, Dex, COB, canít leave out Daisey and Amy, Myron, Mike, Ric, Len, and, of course, Cuzzin Sid. This list is by no means complete. If I left your name off my list, itís only because I cannot possibly name all of you.

So, Iím looking forward to Christmas, 1999 with much anticipation and a certain amount of trepidation, wondering what the year, 2000, holds for me. For us. For the world.

What would I like for Christmas? The assurance from the Higher Up Authority that I would be writing more of my memory dumps on my 76th birthday.

Bob Harrison

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