Found this interesting team photo showing both the 8th and 9th grade boys on the Meadowbrook football team in 1958. Some of these kids went on to play football as a Highlander...they are marked with a green dot.
Look, I know that Michael Jackson died yesterday. And that is a shame. But lost in the resulting media blather was the fact that an even more memorable entertainer also died yesterday—Farrah.
While I’m sure the artist responsible for Beat It was important to a lot of folks, what red-blooded American male alive during the second half of the seventies could ever forget Jill Munroe? And if he was a newly wed at the time and is still married to the same woman, which of those ladies has ever let him forget that he never forgot Jill Monroe? Rest in peace, Farrah--I don't know where the time went.
One of the many good things about present day computer technology is the ability it provides to explore an infinite number of subjects in which you might have an interest. One of those many things I have explored is my father’s service during WWII. He was a member of an aircrew based in England and although I had seen his mementoes over the span of our half-century life together, I had little notion of the true nature of his service. He rarely talked about it.
Dad didn’t really measure up to the war heroes portrayed by Gregory Peck or Clark Gable in their post war films…you remember them, don’t you? They were the films broadcast on early 1950’s late night TV, unmercifully cut up and smothered with commercials. As the years went on, those films were cut even more until their storylines became unrecognizable. But even then, Dad still didn’t really look like the same kind of warrior portrayed by those actors.
Of course, it was unfair to compare our fathers with the actors in those films, who themselves had not served, or who like Gable had served in token roles. After my father’s passing and his mementoes coming to me which coincided with the arrival of the Internet and much more capable computers, I began to develop his story in a fashion he never could…and what a story it was!
I mention this as a suggestion and example for you to consider with regard to potential uses of the Internet as you venture into geezerhood with me. To date, through use of the Internet as a communication tool, I have made contact with offspring of about half the men who flew with my father. I never knew these offspring nor did I know anything about their fathers beyond their names on a list my father kept. Their fathers’ images are forever captured in my memory from a crew picture showing them standing with my Dad.
The crew picture used to illustrate this piece is typical of tens of thousands of others that were taken of the Army Air Force bomber crews as they were assembled during WWII. Dad was pictured in two of them. In researching the details of his service, I discovered that a lot of these pictures didn’t represent quite the same story told by Dad’s pictures…a story of 9 or 10 very lucky young men.
The picture accompanying this piece is of a crew taken just before they left for service in the ETO. Their plane was lost at sea during the Atlantic crossing and no trace was ever found of them. So, in this picture you are looking at a group of young men, age 18-26, who never got the opportunity to live a full life
As people with a common interest in our fathers’ service, we have been able to share some pictures and stories some of us had never before seen or heard. Our class was born in the years 1944-45, meaning that we were conceived during the war. By fact of our birth, we know what Dad and Mom were doing at one point during the war…a natural follow-up question might be, how is it that Dad was home at the time?
For me, the answer was kind of amusing…Dad was home on leave between tours. He had volunteered for a second tour of duty, which in itself is a fairly extraordinary story, since the average bomber crew flew only 15-missions before being shot down, against a 30-35 mission obligation. Dad had made his 30 and earned the right to be assigned to safer duty, but he volunteered for a second combat tour. While he was home, he and mom made me and while he was doing that, the crew he was destined to join when he returned was shot down and ditched in the North Sea. All of the crew survived and by the time Dad got back into it, he joined what was by then, a very experienced crew.
It’s said that the good die young and considering the losses already suffered by our class, it would seem that there is some truth in the saying. It is also said that another description for an old man or woman is lucky. And by the way, Dad now holds a place of distinction in my mind that dwarfs Clark and Gregory.
Today’s computer & Internet technology is both amazing and troublesome. I think our class was about the oldest in society to have taken some interest in learning something about personal computing when the first PC’s came to our desks in the early 1980’s. I dealt with this subject in March 2006., so I won’t repeat it in this posting.
Bob Dillard’s comment in the previous post about his measured move to the Internet and the arrival of indoor plumbing in his corner of the planet got me to thinking about the subject of technology once again.
If you value your privacy as I do, there are some things you are going to want to know about this technology and its capability to intrude on your life. First, you should understand that when you ask someone how much they know about computers and the Internet, everyone lies. The subject is so vast and constantly changing that not even experts who work with the stuff every day knows more than a fraction of what is available. In order to save face, people tend to either lie or be evasive when the subject of comparative tech savvy arises. That leaves a sense in all of us that something else is going on “out there” and much of it could be nefarious. And much of it can.
A lot of people know how to blog, set up and run a website, use facebook, myspace, twitter, tweets and others yet to come, take and post digital pictures, fire off emails, utilize web-based collaborative software, operate within a CRM or ERP environment, and any number of other activities requiring use of both the net and a computer. A lot fewer people have acquired the good sense to judge what to post and what not to post. And it is in this area where you are likely to experience some problems.
The net seems to have developed as a “bottom up” environment, meaning that things are being driven by the youngest and least experienced among us…those who haven’t lived long enough to develop good judgment and caution. One thing that I find most troubling is that once data is digitized, be it documents or pictures, it is quite possible that the damned thing will never go away. Young people today have no idea how long those naughty pictures they have been posting to the net will bedevil them during the next decades of their lives, but it is entirely likely that they will never disappear, much as an old picture could come back to haunt any one of us.
What does it all mean? Well for starters, someone like me can go online and write about people I knew over 50-years ago and haven’t seen since; the person in charge of your church newsletter can post pictures of you from the Sunday social; your local Chamber of Commerce can post your name in conjunction with their neighborhood activities; any club imaginable can post pictures and other information about you; your local property appraisal districts are already posting a lot of information about your home; published obituaries give family details; someone at a family gathering can post pictures they take—flattering and otherwise; and on and on.
“I have nothing to hide,” you say. It doesn’t matter. There are people cruising the net constantly looking for something to exploit, and it could be you, whether you have something to hide or not. And don’t forget that this is a worldwide phenomenon as the recent strife in Iran has clearly demonstrated. Bob, I found you on a whim while surfing the net one morning, even though we live far apart. As you assimilate your newly arrived indoor plumbing, think carefully about how you want to manage your online profile. If you want yourself “out there” then there is no better place to do it; however, if you want to maintain a low cyber-profile, it will take some forethought.
On the other hand, the net has been a wonderful place to share information with others about things in which we share a common interest. Knowledge of narrow interests can be furthered with some ease where there might not be more than a few others on the face of the planet who share your interest.
SUV’s – Part 2. Since my last posting General Motors joined Chrysler in declaring bankruptcy. Dad always drove GM cars and wouldn’t have anything else most of his life and I bought a couple of used ones when I was still a kid. Neither of them were any damned good and I never bought another. Based on my observations while driving rented or company-supplied Chrysler cars many years ago, I never had any desire for one of their products either. So, as members of the class of the earliest Baby Boomers, I suspect that many of us made similar discoveries and reached similar decisions.
SUV's. My first car was a utility vehicle…long before they were called utility vehicles—the “sport” part of it hadn’t been invented yet. No, those utility vehicles of long ago were called what they were (& are), trucks, jeeps, and station wagons. People bought them for specific purposes rather than as showy “bling” on wheels.
I’ve grown to strongly dislike SUV’s and their drivers. Unintentionally favorable asset depreciation laws favored the use of Mercedes and BMW cars as company vehicles in the eighties. And similar laws influenced use of the leather upholstered, Bose laden, overstuffed $50,000 trucks masquerading, under a clever manipulation of the language, as tax havens for small businesses and professionals during the nineties and naughts. A fad that
I must admit having some pleasure last summer as gas went to $4.50/gallon and the SUV crowd howled as they learned the lesson that we touched in the seventies. Why do I dislike the SUV crowd? I think it’s their insufferable selfishness. When asked why they wanted the large, 4WD vehicles for highway use, the most frequent response I recall was that it made them feel safe. Of course the converse of that observation amounts to a “screw you” to anyone driving smaller cars—"I’ll be O.K. in my big bastard…up yours."
Even more irritating about the SUV proliferation is that those like me who are driving smaller cars cannot see through or around or over the big bastards. The roads and parking spaces became stuffed with their bloat everywhere. Where I used to be polite and wave forward a driver wanting to enter traffic from a driveway or side street, now if they are driving a SUV, I am no longer courteous and seek to prevent them from getting in front of me.
True or False…A is to B as C is to D?
And if you must view the rear end of another, which would you prefer?
For the graduating Class of 1963, Vietnam was little more than a distant rumble when we took our diplomas home from the coliseum that night. First we had to deal with the JFK assassination as first semester Freshmen, then continue our first semester studies while attempting to maintain new social lives in new surroundings with new girls, new boys, new teachers, new coaches. The film, Animal House, was set in this time frame.
The first hint of trouble afoot that I recall was that Life magazine issue showing the burning Monk. “What in the hell is that all about?” I thought. By Summer 1965, LBJ announced his decision to dramatically increase troop strength in Vietnam and it quickly became clear that without maintaining a student deferment, all lads age 18-26 were going to be drafted.
Our class game plan quickly became an extended infatuation with higher education. Since the trek of our age slot through history roughly coincided with draft pool for Vietnam—we were 18 in 1963 and 26 in 1971; the Vietnam War ramped up in 1965 and was in decline by 1971. So if we could get our BS in 1967 or 1968, our MS in 1969-70, and get into a doctorate program after that…well, we could keep rolling that student deferment over indefinitely or at least until that bloody war was over. That is what occurred and I would suggest that is why so many of our classmates became doctors or professors. And a number of them were not from our high school pool of top academic achievers…funny thing, motivation.
A wild card, in the form of the draft lottery, was introduced in 1969, so if your number was higher than 195 in that lottery, you were home free…you would never be drafted. Before that, from 1965 to 1969, there was a constant pressure to either stay in school in order to hold that student deferment or find a Reserve program that offered little exposure to the Vietnam jungles. I don’t recall ever meeting one of my peers who was anxious to be a soldier or sailor.
Six month active duty reserve programs were available through most branches of the military, but by 1965-66 there were 2-year waiting lists for those programs. These were good programs because with just a 6-month of active duty obligation, there was not really enough time to train someone to go to Vietnam, so most of those reservists served their active duty periods in the USA, “playing soldier” as most of them described it. Dan Quayle and Al Gore were two of those 6-month reservists, both I’m relatively sure, gaining entry around the waiting lists due to the pull of their politically connected daddies.
As a back up to the 6-month programs, 2-year active duty reserve programs were available from the Navy and Air Force. Even though the active service requirement was the same as an Army draftee, these programs were superficially attractive because neither the Navy nor the Air Force were in the business of crawling through Southeast Asian jungles. Of course, assignments to Sea Dragon, the MRF, Tuy Hoa or Da Nang were not mentioned in the recruiting spiel.
Reserve officers were obligated to 3-1/3 years of active service while pilots signed on for 5-year active duty hitches with about 18-months of that spent in training. After the training, pilots could look forward to 3-1/2 years on the line—plenty of time for a lot of them to die. Google, “Still the Noblest Calling” for one of the most poignant personal recollections of Vietnam combat air service I’ve read. Be sure to use the “quotes” in your search…it was written by J.D. Wetterling.
When you finished your active duty service, you were still obligated to be a member of the reserves for several more years until you had completed six. The newspapers and evening TV news talking heads continued bleating body counts, the “students” kept rioting on their university campuses, and oddly, very oddly, you didn’t care any longer—your time in that hell was done. Of course you grieved for those lost, you always do, but it wasn’t your war any longer—it was someone else’s turn.
The protest fervor continued building, but it didn’t involve you any longer. In fact, it seemed rather self-centered and selfish on the part of the students….Mommy, Mommy, not me, not me. Time to grow up kid, you thought. Time to grow up. For years after the service I could quickly tell if someone had served or not…it was something in their bearing and in their humor.
Age and experience adds perspective that youth can never possess—it takes time, kid and you won’t find it in the books. A well-regarded personality recently visited our soldiers in Afghanistan and returned home in awe of the young soldiers he met. He said that he felt small in their prescience. “The opportunity to serve occurs only once while you are young,” he observed. “I had the opportunity to serve during the Vietnam War, and did not take it,” he said. “My draft number was high so I didn’t go,” he continued, “and I have regretted that decision all my life.”
I tried skiing a long time ago and quit it a long time ago also. It was kind of expensive, hard to get to the slopes, slippery roads, potential for long plunges into deep canyons, and cold. The rented gear didn’t fit very well, the boots hurt, and it took a lot of dedication to get any good at it.
Skiing has always had a bit of a hey, look at me aspect to it. I think for most it was more something to brag about having done when folks got back home. The best skiers were rarely the best dressed.
For me, the worst thing about skiing was the assorted ski bunnies and ski dudes from the flatlands (flatlands—that’s everywhere else where mountains weren’t) who couldn’t figure out how to get off the lift chair without falling down on that little hill at the end of the ride. Plop, down they tumble…the lift stops…dozens of others behind the tumbling geeks left dangling in their lift chairs, impatient and cold.
Of course the views from the tops of those runs are often dramatic and beautiful. And the trip down the run can be exhilarating, or they can be long and taxing if the tip of one of your skis snaps off on some moguls. Well, you get the idea.
After one last, excruciating ride up to the top of Loveland Pass (abt. 13,000’) on a particularly cold and windy afternoon, stopping for every chair advance to wait for the stumbling flatlanders to pick themselves up and clear the dismount area, I decided once and for all that, for me, skiing wasn’t enough fun to keep enduring all the discomfort and agitation. And that was my last time to go skiing…I liked warm places better anyway.
Over the years you tend to revisit things you once did and decided to do no more, sometimes wondering if you made a good decision to stop. But rarely does such a remarkably clear illustration of the thing that turned you off in the first place appear in print. This flatlander ski dude was at Vail this past January.
On a glorious weekday some months ago, I was driving by the local middle school and noticed something that seemed odd. The thing that caught my eye was the tremendous fleet of automobiles parked in the lots adjoining the school. At a casual glance, the sheer number of cars was amazing, considering that the oldest kid in the school was about 13—there wasn't a driving age student in that crowd.
Curious and with some time available, I cruised through the lots and counted the cars—there were just over 200 of them, or about 1 car for each 8 children in the school. Could there possibly be that many adults drawing their incomes from that one school? The local middle school has almost 1700 students, 14 principals and professional staff, and 130 teachers, which could account for about 144 of those cars. Maybe the rest of the cars were those belonging to custodians, lunch ladies, helpers, police, and whatever else today's progressive educators deem necessary to do their job...competently?
About half of us went to Meadowbrook Jr. Hi. and the other half went to Handley. After referring to a 1959 Meadowbrook Jr Hi student directory, I discovered there were just over 700 students listed, supervised by 3 administrators (a principal, vice-principal, and a dean of girls), 1 secretary, 1 part-time nurse, 30 teachers and counselors, and 6 maids, custodians. Add in several lunch ladies, and you probably had no more than 1 car for each 17 students in that 1959 parking lot...yes kiddies, we had cars back then---'57 Chevies and T'Birds among them. A few kids had Lambrettas, Cushmans, and who could ever forget Bill Gilmore and Sam Scott's Mustangs? (Not the Ford Mustang...look it up kiddies).
Today, 50-years on, Meadowbrook has 900 students (+30% over 1959 enrollment) and is on academic probation. The principal, Cherie Washington, “expects her school to move into Stage 5 sanctions. That means that Meadowbrook could be taken over by the state, reopened as a charter school or operated by a private management company.”
Today, Meadowbrook has 9 principals & administrators, 25 auxiliary staff, and 65 teachers, accounting for perhaps 99 cars in the parking lot (+135% more cars than 1959), or about 1 car for each 9 students. Overseeing all this progress in public education is a FWISD superintendent named Melody, BS Sociology from PU in Enid, who is being paid about $325,000/year. For this compensation Melody churns out linguistic pabulum such as spearheading long-term systemic reforms while fostering a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect, with initiatives such as "Project Prevail” and “Digital District.” Ever wonder why your property taxes are out of control and your grandchildren can't read?