Monday, April 30, 2012

Ft. Worth East Side Evolution - 6 - Eastern Hills High School

Our EHHS Class of 1963 was the second EH class to have attended all 3 years at the new school.  Although we may not have attached much significance to that fact at the time, the fact that a class had attended all 3 years at EH meant that essentially none of the students in that class knew any other high school experience.  That was a significant difference from the first 2 EHHS graduating classes, 1960 & 1961.  Before EHHS opened in 1959, members of each of those first classes had attended either Poly or Handley High schools as underclassmen.

For those of us attending EHHS as underclassmen during those first couple of years, what appeared to be a stable atmosphere was actually something much different.  The school was growing and changing substantially from one year to the next.  The first (1960) EHHS graduating class was essentially the Handley HS juniors from that school’s last year.  As such, members of that class were and remained very close to one another over the years.  Although there may have been a few Poly transfers, there were not many.  Poly seniors living in the Meadowbrook area were given their choice of schools, EHHS or Poly, to finish out their high school matriculation.  Not surprisingly, most of them chose to finish at Poly.

The 1961 class was more of a mix from the 2 other high schools, and the 1962 class was the first to have attended EHHS all 3 years.  For the reasons of these mixes and changes, attempting to write a generalized description of our East Side high school experience is difficult…it was quite variable, depending on which class is the focus. 

Our music charts were most frequently topped by Ray Charles and Roy OrbisonElvis and the Do-Wop melodies of a few years earlier were giving way to the Isley Brothers' “Twist and Shout.”  About the time we prepared to leave EH, the Beach Boys and the Beatles burst on the music scene.  Our music was changing quickly.

Our popular films were the beach blanket bingo films of the early sixties…Frankie & Annette and Gidget & Moondoggie.  Didn’t we all wish we could go out to California and play on the beach, just like in those movies?  …some of us did!  There were some memorable dramatic films also…the “Days of Wine and Roses” produced a theme song of the same name, which we tried to vote as our senior class song.  After her filibuster of the motion, Miss O’Dell vetoed that one.
For our very own pop culture icons, we had Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Jackie Kennedy, AND James Bond.  Has there been a more amazing group of attractive people since those?

Audrey may have been the icon for those a little older than us, but did you ever see another woman wear a black dress any more strikingly than her?  

And if we needed another beautiful image for our early maturing years, could there have been a more classy person than Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in our White House?

And although JFK was a handsome man, you have to agree with me…for us, the symbol of urbane sophistication was James Bond, right?  Weren't we all challenged to emulate this guy, if we could?


Brigitte was our new sex symbol following Marilyn who held that spotlight during our 1950s childhood.  To see Brigitte though, we had to go to one of the West Side theaters where she could be seen in some non-descript film…but only if you could bluff yourself by the “adults only” restriction at the door. 

Since about the 6th grade, we were encouraged toward the study of math and science…a reaction to Sputnik getting into space before the USA.  For most of our Jr. Hi. and high school years, the NASA space program occupied prominent places in our daily ingestion of the news.

During our fall 1962 senior semester, the Cuban Missile Crisis played out in the Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico.  On October 22, 1962, the United States military services were placed on DEFCON 2, the highest post-WWII alert status our country has ever been on.  And the country remained on DEFCON 2 until November 15, 1962.  During those few weeks, our Highlanders played football games against Carter Riverside, Paschal (yes, the famous 8-7 win!), Poly, and North Side, winning 3 of those 4 games!

So, with so much going on during those years leading to our departure from EHHS in 1963, it is really difficult to characterize us in general terms.  We had a variety of external influences moving us toward adulthood, including the flaming monk phenomena that was building far to the west in Southeast Asia.

Road Trip !

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yes, Dear - Plus 2-Years

Well, it's been 2-years since I tried to die. Feeling fine now, thank you.
Wife continues to amaze me. She's still watching some of those cooking programs and sees more things she would like to add to her kitchen tools. We still don't have space for them unless she throws something out.  Wife is a packrat - she throws nothing out; chaos seems to suit her.  Oh well, we'll find some more space.

 Last Year

 This Year 

Got her one of those nice organizers this past know, one of those things with the compartments for separating's under there, somewhere.  And the beat goes on...


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Driver’s License Renewal – The Examiner

Over the span of your first few license renewals you learn that as long as you don’t allow your current license to expire, the renewal is fairly painless and does not involve a driving test…and another go at the dreaded “parallel park” maneuver.  Even when renewing in a new state, you find that most states observe reciprocity with one another.  Usually, there’s no written test either…as long as your current license has not expired.

However, let your license expire and it’s a do it all over again situation…written and driving.  About 14-years after getting my first license as an EH sophomore, for whatever reasons involving a move to a new state, I let mine expire.  So, here we go again, the whole enchilada. 

We grew up in a segregated South where, when we first got our license, all highway troopers were Caucasian-Americans.  Fourteen-years later, that was no longer so.  Entering the written test area I notice a dude, similar to the one pictured, sitting on a stool, acting as the test proctor. 

Since I’ve got to take a driving test after the written, I had to write the description of the car I would be using for the test on their test form.  At that time I was driving one of those fast little foreign sports jobs that was the dream of every adolescent boy and unattached young man.  Its color and accessories screamed, “up yours” even when sitting still.

While I’m taking the written test, I notice the trooper casually scanning the papers, including the test car description.  The trooper gets up from his stool and steps over to one of his side-kicks for a short conference, referencing my papers.  Shortly, my trooper disappears, replaced by his side-kick, who takes over the proctor perch on the stool.

Grading the written test was quick, and within a few moments I’m outside for the driving test, wheeling my “up yours” car around to the starting line, a long CB antenna whipping in the air.  There’s my missing trooper dude, standing on the starting line, waiting for me, clipboard in hand.  A cool, pretty day…the top is off.

Somewhere I had read that the only limits required to be met during the driving test was to not drive recklessly and stay within the speed limit, and of course, meet all the other rules regarding stopping, yielding, and whatever else.  Reckless was defined as chirping the tires loose.  I reason that accelerating to the speed limit is at my discretion and turning corners can be done as quickly as I can turn them, as long as the tires don’t break loose—what’s to be concerned about?  I’ve been driving for 14-years, after all. 

Making sure my trooper is buckled up, off we go, going fast, turning fast, and stopping fast...but never chirping the tires.  Slamming around the surrounding neighborhoods, the loud, distinctive exhaust blasts its notes, and double clutching the gears up and down fills the air with a fairly consistent, tightly-wound, loud engine noise.  There are 5-gears on the floor, but only 2 are used for this test...we aren't going very fast, even though it sounds like we are.  Although my trooper is armed with a clipboard and test check list, he doesn’t mark on it…he’s engaged for most of the test in hanging onto his hat with one hand, and holding onto the chicken handle with the other.  He’s grinning, ear-to-ear and I think he waived the dreaded “parallel park.”

Back at the DPS shop, still grinning, he dismounts and says, “you handle it very well.”  Thanks, I say…it’s the third one and I’ve had plenty of practice.  Don’t recall another driving test since, but this one was a kick.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Driver’s License Renewal – The Gatekeeper

Got my license renewed yesterday.  It’s been 51-years since I passed that first fearful “parallel park” maneuver.  Although technology has changed radically over the past half-century, the periodic trip to DMV remains remarkably static…it’s often been a miserable event. Miserable clerks to blame, I think.

I’ve had licenses in about a half-dozen different states and all of them are similar…guess that’s not surprising since driving is similar in those various places, too.  Four wheels, a steering wheel, some signs, some lights, all about the same.  Except Colorado…there they want to be sure you know that it doesn’t take as much beer to make you dizzy, so they focus on a few tricky altitude-related questions. 

Years ago, in large cities, the lines and resulting wait could drag on for hours and sometimes result in finding that due to having overlooked some obscure sign in a huge room, you had been standing in the wrong line.  And seeking any sympathy from the mind-numbed clerks is fruitless anywhere.

Yesterday, I accompanied my eldest to get our renewals done.  Living in a small town helps avoid long lines, but nothing whatsoever improves the encounter with the ill-tempered, scowling Gatekeeper.  She looked very similar to the lady pictured above and she was absolutely impervious to my sexagenarian’s wit and charm.  Nothing worked…not quips, not winks, nothing.  Don’t recall her name…I’m sure it wasn’t Kristin or Misty.

Got my license, though…an 8-year deal, no restrictions.  If I’m still alive for the next renewal, I’ll be 75.  Eldest steps up to the unsmiling Broom-Hilda, smiles at her, compliments her Grinch pen, and the hag smiles back!  And she keeps smiling throughout Eldest’s gymnastics with the forms and pictures, even letting her check the picture result.  For goodness sake! 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Navigating this Blog

  • Topics are written as they come to mind and published in chronological order.
  • Multi-part topics are generally posted in sequential order and grouped together.  As they are published, they show up in reverse order in the archive list (see side-bar).
  • The Google search window works just the way its net search window does, but limits its search only to the blog.
  • Labels located at the end of each piece will find and return links to all other posts having that same label.  This is a very good tool for quickly locating similar material.  (Unfortunately, it depends on me to put the labels in, which I sometimes forget—so, it’s not perfect, nor am I).
  • Tip 1:  If you return to Google’s net search window and search for 1963 ehhs much of what is returned points to this blog. 
  • Tip 2:  Switch the Tip 1 returns view to “images” and nearly every image you see points to this blog.  This is a very easy way to skip around the blog to things you want to see without having to plod through the archives.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jim’s Ditching Story

            This is an abbreviated version of a much longer story I thought I would share as an illustration of the kind of useful information transfer that can take place online.  Before the arrival of the net, developing something like this was essentially impossible.  For instance, until many of the WWII veterans started retiring in the 1980s, most of them knew very little about the larger story they had once been a part of during the war.  My father, a 21-year old aviator in 1944, built a substantial WWII library and for most of his life, studied the Army Air Force he had been a part of. 

            The wide availability of the net arrived a little late for most of them, but many invested a huge amount of time and effort in further recording their experiences as young men.  Their communication tools:  a phone, mail, and Xerox copies of original documents.

            Jim never flew with my father’s crew although they did fly their missions during some of the same months of 1944, from the same Army Air Force base in England.  A few years ago, as I went through my father’s things, I found the beginnings of Jim’s story.  It was a 1-½ page typewritten letter and a few pictures Jim, then 70, sent to my father as his submittal for possible use in the Group’s reunion history.  Jim’s story wasn’t used; he passed away a year later.

            His brief letter didn’t contain much information, but as I read it I could sense the pride and strength in the once young eagle’s words.  He included a photocopy of his Goldfish Club patch and certificate, which suggested that there might be an interesting story beyond Jim’s words.  I dug into it.

            Here is Jim’s 1991 letter as he wrote it:

A Mission Remembered

“One of the most memorable of the thirty missions as a ball turret gunner was my sixth with the Squadron and the sixty third for the Group.

            “May 12, 1944 was to be a day not easily forgotten.  Our mission was to destroy a parts and repair plant, the Focke Wulf, in Swickau, Germany.

            “Early in our flight we were met with heavy German resistance.  In spite of the loss of one engine due to heavy enemy fire and flack, we were able to continue and deliver the bombs right on target.

            “Returning back to the base was a bit more challenging.  Two more engines were made useless by the constant German fire and flack.  The injured tail gunner managed to down one enemy plane and I downed two from the ball turret.  On orders we’re going to abandon ship.  Within a split second our plans were changed when the injured waist gunner accidentally kicked out another chute as he jumped.  It was decided that we would ditch in the English Channel.

            “As the plane lost altitude, everything of weight was thrown out (guns, ammo, radio), anything to make her lighter.  The plane took quite a beating.  We now had a B-17 with one engine and a flack ridden bomb bay door which could not be completely closed, heading for the channel.  The crew had a fatally hit tail gunner and a severely wounded navigator.  Under the skilled hands of Lt. William Moses, the plane skimmed the choppy waters and an unbelievable landing was made.

            “Our surprise of surprises came as those red handles were pulled and only one dinghy was found put aboard.  I have since learned that a stripe or two was lost due to the oversight).

            “The deceased tail gunner was buried with the fast sinking plane as the others got into the dinghy.  The dying navigator knew I was the only crew member on the outside of the raft, hanging on rather tight.  He asked the co-pilot that he be buried at sea thereby making room for one more, me.  Upon his death, his wish was sadly carried out and I was helped on board.

            “The sight of an English sea plane coming to our rescue made us more aware of being attacked by ground troops.  We were closer to the French boarder than first thought.  The rescue plane took two rough hits but we safely boarded and headed out.

            “After being released from the English hospital, where flack was removed and treatment was given, a week of R&R at Spetchley Park was quite a welcome change.  Then it was back to the base from where the remaining missions were flown.

            “Before leaving for the U.S., I was presented with a patch and a card making me a member of the Gold Fish Club.  On the way home I truly felt exactly what belonging to the “Lucky Bastard’s Club” made me. . .

            “Upon graduating in Larado from gunnery instructors school, it was on to Westover Field, Massachusetts.  Assignment at the Range ended about the time of V.J. Day.  Honorably discharged at Ft. Devens, I headed for Toledo with a new “Ruptured Duck” and a promise that was fulfilled six months later when a New England gal became my wife.  Looking back there is no doubt, I had the privilege to fly with a great crew that day.  As anyone reading this has experienced…some days were a bit easier than others but it’s great that I’m here to write this and that you are here to read it.  So it surely was a good cause after all…God bless America.           

Jim - 1991

                    Jim’s letter was puzzling in that he didn’t name any members of his crew.  A bomber crew was typically a very tight-knit unit, but in Jim’s case, as I discovered later, he was flying as a replacement with this crew…so, he didn’t know any of the others.  He had a story he wanted to tell, but it was really hard to figure out from his letter just what it was.  This is not uncommon when you read old accounts, or more recent accounts written by older men…we all tend to lose our sharp recollections over time.  However, I recognized the specialized terminology from having studied my father’s AAF service.

            There are so many similar stories that time doesn't permit developing them unless they touch my father’s experience.  Jim’s halting story intrigued me.  Within a few hours online, I had the names of the crew and a very narrow idea of what had occurred.  Within a couple of weeks I had the Missing Air Crew Report from Maxwell AFB and a much better understanding of the story.  Of the 10-man crew, 7 had been rescued, 2 killed, 1 bailed out and taken prisoner; and the rescue planes had come under fire from the shore about 4000-yards distant.  This was a far more dramatic event than most similar ditchings with which I was familiar.

            After taking the story as far as I could in 2007, I wrote up a brief piece summarizing the information I had, and posted an inquiry to one of the WWII Air Force forums.  Almost 4-years passed before the first response came in.  It was Jim’s daughter and she knew less than I did about her father’s ditching experience, except that it had happened.

            About a year later, after 5-years had passed, a great nephew of the “deceased tail gunner” and the pilot’s son got involved by comparing their notes and pictures.  The MACR contained a real collection of documents that included reports from nearby aircraft, from a German POW camp, and from several of the rescued crewmen themselves.

            Jim’s crew had been seriously shot up over the target, torn up further by Luftwaffe fighter attacks on the way out, and ultimately they ditched just offshore.  Unlike most ditched aircraft where the crew was killed, 7 of Jim’s crew managed to survive the ditching and escape capture aboard a rescue plane as it came under fire from the nearby shore.  As a result of the "deceased tail gunner's" distraught father being very persistent in seeking the details of his son’s death, the MACR was filled with far more information than are most others.  There are lengthy personal letters from several crewmen describing what had happened in much more detail than Jim wrote in 1991.
            Quite a bit more could be developed about these crews and this particular mission.  For instance, other researchers are working on the details of the mission itself and of individual unit locations.  It is known that the Luftwaffe fighters had repeatedly attacked Jim’s bomber stream in their devastating 10-abreast frontal attacks.  At this point in the war, these attacks were rare--the Luftwaffe had been severely damaged earlier in the year during "Big Week."

            The following is a page from Don’s personal journal describing Jim’s May 12, 1944, mission from Don's perspective flying in a nearby B-17…it was found quite by chance as I was preparing this essay.  These are his words, verbatim, as he wrote them into his journal after returning to base from the mission…it’s poignant to think that as he was writing these words, Jim and what was left of his crew were just being recovered from the English Channel:

 “We started out this morning at 8 O’clock, flying our own ship (400) as #5 in the lead.  Our route was between Dunkirk and Ostend.  A little way in enemy territory, we picked up a few of our escort (P47’s).  Then about half-way to the target, bombardier calls out about 10 e/a which attacked from 12:30 high.  They passed thru us not making any hits, or us on them either.  P47’s jumped, leaving us without dropping bombs on us (no effects seen) and attacked following wing.  That wing was lit up like a Christmas tree with 20 mm cannon fire.  I saw at least 10-12 B-17’s blow up or else go down out of control.  It was a horrible sight.  About 5 minutes later about 15 e/a passed thru our formation, causing one ship in high group to blow up, and a few other planes to feather props.  This was another head-on attack.  From then on to the target we were not bothered by e/a, but were also without visible fighter support.  Our bombs were dropped over primary target O.K., and from what I could see results were not good.  However, the other group really plastered the aircraft plant.  There was no flak there, but during the day we ran into scattered stuff, none of it accurate.  After the target, we picked up some P-38’s which “S” –ed overhead.  At that time we were attacked by 12 ME 109’s from 1 O’clock, a little high.  The escort didn’t seem to pay a bit of attention to them, which burned us up.  From then on the rest of the mission was without incident.  Our crew made no claims on e/a, and I saw only one fighter go down.  Peters (co-pilot) and Prendergast (navigator) flew with us, otherwise complete crew.  Flying time was 8 hrs. about 6 ½ on oxygen.  No damage to our ship.

            This was a helluva mission, and made me admire those old timers that flew without escort (note: just a few months earlier in 1943).  The Luftwaffe still packs a mighty wallop, if they want to come up and fight.  On visual missions, like today, we are going to see a lot more of ‘em. (Hope not!!!)”
            Most recently, and most astoundingly, one of the current descendents researching this story of his great uncle (the deceased tail gunner), found on eBay a picture of a lone B-17 shown in a large, but clear Army photograph.  He bought it knowing only from its markings, that the plane is from his great uncle’s Group.  He sent a copy of it to me after he received it.


             I was able to isolate the plane and enlarge the clear image.  The tail number identifies the aircraft as being Jim’s plane !   And the lower border nomenclature reveals that the mission is the one that Jim’s story tells.  You can clearly see smoke trailing from the off-side, outboard (#4) engine, #3 appears to be feathered, and there is visible damage on the horizontal stabilizer.  As related in the accounts, this plane was shot to hell.

            They were still aloft, by themselves at this point, in slow descent heading for their date with destiny.  And this is a fantastic story that began with a single posting to the net, about 5-years ago.  None of the survivors ever saw this picture...the story now belongs to their descendents.

Do you see any tears in my eyes?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Digisexual - Dilbert

Been laughing so hard the past few days my sides are hurting...and along comes Dilbert with this gem.

Almost done with a serious post, once I can beat through the writer's block I've had with it.  Maybe up later today, or tomorrow.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Nabisco Round Saltine Crackers

It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?  Noticed about a week ago that my life-long saltine cracker maker, NABISCO, had changed its package…nothing new there—see my earlier rants in the blog about the toilet paper makers jerking around with their packaging.  This ongoing jiggering with packaging, flavors, and weights irritates me on other levels, but this one is a direct attack on one of our fundamental, life-long preferences.

Of course, one of the principal reasons for the change is to confuse consumers so they will pay more for less product…a quasi-clever way to raise prices—significantly.  That’s going on across the board with all manufacturers and is made ever simpler since the advent of EXCEL spreadsheet programs.  The problem with those programs is that they are only good at if-then-else calculations, and utterly clueless with regard to whether a considered change will enrage their customers, or not.  I suppose it's the marketing department’s job to make that calculus, and you know what I generally think about unbridled marketing.  But then, I’m just a Dilbert-type technical guy.  I suspect there are a few of my kind muttering quietly to themselves somewhere back in the dark, hot, and greasy parts of some NABISCO plants.

In a world where airlines that once ran their operations without much drama, we now observe those operations run by today’s current crop of managers having serious problems figuring out how to get passengers off a stranded airplane at the gate…for 7-hours!  And now we have the Giant Kraft Foods, owner of NABISCO since about 2000, under the leadership of the ladies shown above, apparently seeing no problem trashing an American standard we have known all our lives.

Time will tell how this works out for them, but for now the house brand saltines at half the price are just fine by me.  One thing those spreadsheet programs cannot calculate is the effect of my dropping OREOs, Maxwell House, and pretty much anything “NABISCO” from my shopping rotation.  With the problems today’s “enlightened” management teams" seem to be having running their “core” businesses, I doubt they will ever figure out what went wrong and why.  But then again, few of them stick around long enough to care much about that anyway.

I may address flavored salt next.

Dec. 2012 Update:  Apparently our dissatisfaction with this ham-fisted maneuver has had some effect.  I've got a much larger selection of my old standards back on the shelf.  But take notice my NABISCO friends, those "house" brand saltines are just as good as yours and at half the price.  Now you've got to get to work and re-sell your product to me.  And I've generally dropped most of your products from my shopping list.  This particular move on your part was disgusting in my mind....or, maybe just dumb !

BTW, this article is one of the most heavily visited pages in this blog.