|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
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.