Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blue Water Sailors - The Tin Can Navy

For many reasons, Seventh Fleet sailors, when on the Pacific, sense themselves in the company of spirits.  Massive, historic events took place out there….not very long ago as history goes.  Most of the sailors have a keen sense of that history as they cruise through, by and over it.

Whether Pearl Harbor is their home port or they are just stopping over on the long transit to the Western Pacific, no one can ignore they're berthed in the shadows of the USS ARIZONA and the USS MISSOURI, both vessels that define the endpoints of America’s involvement in WWII.  Each rates a sharp salute.  

Further west, just about every deployment brings a tour of the legendary sites of the largest naval war in history...we pass over the site where the previous ship bearing our name rests on the bottom, the victim of a torpedo in 1942.  

Beneath these waters lie the ghosts of our forefathers, and if you listen carefully to the wind on a moonlit night, I swear you can almost hear them calling out, "carry on, Sailor".  And that's what we do....

“The destroyer is different from the rest of ships. It is small, fast and personal.  No other ship offers the experience that a destroyer does in any sea state.  Long after they are gone, their crews remember.” 

The destroyers were affectionately known as Tin Cans for the way they took the seas.  They bobbed, rolled, dunked, dove, pitched, and twisted in the waves…even in relative calm.

During long transits, the smaller destroyers had to be periodically refueled from the carrier.  When the ships came alongside to pass the fuel lines, carrier sailors got to see the smaller destroyers from close aboard. To a man, no carrier sailor ever wished he had been a destroyerman.  However, also to a man, no destroyer sailor would have had it any other way.

...and those aren't heavy seas !

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blue Water Sailors - Heavy Seas

Sailors tend to be a pretty close-knit group and they have a lingo all their own; some of it steeped in centuries of tradition.  They sail over the horizon and disappear from sight of loved ones left on the piers at home.  What occurs on the other side of the horizon can be difficult to describe.  Much of it is pretty monotonous.  Engines drone on and daily routines repeat again and again.

Sunsets are often spectacular; you don't see much wildlife.  A few flying fish jump out occasionally, glide a few feet, then plunge into the water again.  Porpoise ride your bow wave in and out of port, then disappear once you're further out.  No birds if you're far enough at sea.  Sharks' fins rarely break the surface.  

Gooney birds glide up, over, and down the wake; pirouette on a wing tip touching the surface and retrace their flight path in the other direction ...they're spectacular aviators and they venture out a lot farther than the Gulls.

Then, the skies darken, the swells pick up....and, pick up higher.....and, wow.  Heavy seas...a sailor's code for a wild ride.  Hard to clearly describe heavy seas to a landlubber.  Words don't quite cover it...even good ones.  The clip below does a good job of showing a ship, the 456' French Frigate shown above, riding out heavy seas.  Words don't quite cover it.  Sound is great on this...view full screen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The EHHS Social Order – 8.1 – Handley Junior High 8th & 9th Grades

Back in the day, as today’s cliché goes, Handley and Meadowbrook Junior High Schools (No kiddies, they weren’t called Middle Schools then) were located about 5-miles apart, roughly along Meadowbrook Drive, as they still are today. 

There was some interplay between the two communities but, in my experience, not much.  That interplay tended to be centered at the local churches and for the kids, summer sports.  As a relatively late arrival to the EH community, I had essentially no knowledge of the Handley contingent of my future Highlander classmates.  All I recall of Handley JH was that each of my 2 falls at Meadowbrook we met their football team on a local field I scarcely remember…I think it was the old Handley HS field. 

Thanks to a loan of a 1960 Handley JH yearbook, and absent an essay from one of my Handley EH classmates, I’ll have a swing at describing what I think was going on at Handley during these grades.  However, I have no idea how the personal connections with one another might have been. 

The East Side Social Order was really a mixed bag of families from the fairly prosperous to those barely getting by.  Conversations with others have persuaded me that the EH and earlier social order was not entirely our own doing…it was also our parents doing some sorting of their own.  More on that later; for now, I’ll just make the statement that Meadowbrook people were seen as snobs by Poly people and Meadowbrook people tended to look down on Handley people but, not necessarily on Poly people. 

The reasons for that appear to be fairly subtle…Meadowbrook was actually a newer NE extension of the much older Poly area.  Graduates of MJH all went on to Poly until EHHS opened in 1959 and then took about 60% or more of the MJH students.  Handley, on the other hand, was an area about as old as Poly that had existed for decades as a distinctly separate community situated along the old Dallas Pike, complete with its own Handley High School.  When EHHS opened, it entirely absorbed HHS, leaving HJH in the same building with most of the same faculty.

The pictures that follow are from the 1960 HJH yearbook and show our Handley counterparts in the 9th grade just before we joined with them at EHHS, fall of 1960.  What I see in these pictures contradicts the notion I’ve been told, that Handley was an inferior school to Meadowbrook or, at least it was seen as such in the eyes of some of our parents.  For instance, the well-known Morris clan patriarch refused to put his boys through Handley on the belief that Handley was inferior; this, even though his family lived in the Handley school zone. 

MJH was a much newer school, having opened fall 1954, where our Handley counterparts had the advantage of attending a much older, much more established school with a seasoned faculty.  Observing the 1959 HHS reunion preparations and communications a few years ago, I was impressed with how well they had done in life and how complimentary they were of their school and teachers.  It was the 50th reunion of HHS’ last graduating class. 

The pictures illustrate a range of activities and recognitions that go well beyond what we had at MJH.  They were obviously the beneficiaries of a continuation of the long established HHS traditions and practices.  For one important thing, they had a yearbook, where MJH didn’t.  Pay attention too, to the color pictures used as section dividers.  They are remarkably clear, color reflections of small bits of our life then, which are seldom found in color and in this fine condition.  Thanks, Lynda !  If we were too tough on you guys, Gus apologizes.

I wondered how Suzanne and Dianah could displace our Meadowbrook cheerleaders when we convened as Sophomores or, where the popular and very quiet Roy got his support at EH.  But, these pages show that they were pretty much Mr. and Miss everything at Handley where, at Meadowbrook we might have been somewhat more diluted in our loyalties.  Anyway, this bunch comported themselves very well indeed, at EHHS.

Handley's smarties, yearbook and newspaper staffs.

 O.K., there you are, Pups !

Monday, December 09, 2013

The EHHS Social Order – 8.0 – Meadowbrook 8th & 9th Grades

Since I moved to the Meadowbrook area at the start of this 8th grade year, I had no idea how the social pecking orders had settled out there the year before.  However, if Meadowbrook was anything like my 7th grade year at Richland, the end of that 7th year left us with a moderate feeling of detachment.  In some instances old friends had somewhat faded and new ones had replaced them but, gone were the long-standing familiar and comfortable ways of our elementary school years.  We were now through puberty and ready for the next chapter and, what to do with it !

The comfort of our small elementary school classes behind us, and the much more raucous first year of Junior High fresh in our minds, for me 8th was just stacking up to be another 7th with the same kind of kids with whom we had not yet settled into our places in the pecking order.  So, how difficult could it be to do 8th grade in a new school—well, it wasn’t.  However, in retrospect, it helped that I still wanted to play football for, on those dusty fields were other boys with similar aspirations.  And at Meadowbrook that 8th grade year they would turn out to be a remarkable group of boys that would later achieve at very high levels at EHHS.  I’ve been told by younger class members that they were known locally as the “Rat Pack.”  More on them later.

Spending after school hours each fall, standing around watching, shooting the breeze, and playing football was a very effective integrating activity.  There you could quickly size up who was good, who was not so good, who was intelligent, funny, quick, slow, and just about every other human trait one might notice. 

Unquestionably, slots in our male pecking order were substantially sorted out then.  And, as a newcomer with no particular outstanding traits, my place in the sorting was muddled at best but, not entirely excluded by what would turn out to be a fairly exclusive group of strong willed youngsters.  They were curious about me, I suppose.

The composite photo above is taken from the team picture at the beginning of this article and shows my recollection of who made up the Meadowbrook boys’ in-crowd.  There were others in school that held adjunct positions with that group but, they were not (football) athletes like this bunch.  Tom Koebernick, Steve Means, Mike Cooper, and Paul Tate had been classmates since the 1st grade at Meadowbrook Elementary in 1951.  Danny McCoy and Larry Guthrie had been classmates and pals since their first grade year at Poly Elementary.  Those two joined this MJH gang in the 8th grade, like me.  Sam Scott, Kendall McCook, and Bob Dillard had joined the Meadowbrook gang about the 5th or 6th grade.  I think Paul Shields and Glen Brandon were relatively late arrivals, too.  Adjunct members I recall were Bob Larmer and Charlie Rigby.

Between them, this group earned about 9 or 10 EHHS football letters and several more in baseball, basketball, track, and tennis.  They played on 2 city championship football teams, 9th and 12th grades, and 4 of them were recognized as all-city players.  They weren’t academic slouches either.  Paul Tate was our top ranking scholar at EHHS, and 6 others were EH honors graduates.  They were lively, smart, and possessed pretty powerful personalities which probably made it difficult for others to join in with them.

Some pretty good visual clues to how the MJH cliques were (or had) formed can be readily seen in the Stars Over Meadowbrook programs and pictures shown in the blog article elsewhere.  As I recall it, there was a great excitement each Spring to organize acts for the program and both the rehearsals and stage preparations provided plenty of after-school time for those social interactions to strengthen relationships.  In my case it was the fortunate happenstance that each year’s program featured a gag act employing a number of members of the football teams who basically had no talent whatsoever but, could be counted on to show up, have a good time, and tease the girls. 
On the distaff side of the MJH in-crowd were, of course, our cheerleaders, Gay, Julie, and Celia along with their entourage, Kay Humphrey, Sharron Ballem, Candy Woodward, Carole Stallcup, Carolyn Marcotte, and maybe a few others.  As a newcomer, it wasn’t clear to me just how the social connections had been made nor on what commonalities they were based but, it was clear that connections already existed by the time I joined the class.

The Stars Over Meadowbrook programs provided a lot of jobs for probably all the kids having an interest in participating.  Besides the stage acts, there were announcers, stage hands, choirs, music, directors, and such.  Two of the memorable ’63 girls’ cliques (in my mind) are the girls shown in the pictures above.  I think they stayed close all the way through EHHS a few years later and several of them are still friends involved in getting our class reunions organized.  Those long-standing friendships are quite a substantial track record !

See part 8.1 next 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Leonard's Star Awards - FWISD

These Leonard's Star Award pins showed up late in the school year and were presented by Mr. Roy Johnson, Mr. K.O. Vaughn, and Miss Odell at a school assembly. I found an article in an old school paper that stated these pins required a straight A in Citizenship and no academic grade below a B.  While a spirited teen, I found those citizenship "A's" a little elusive at times.

Leonard's was sold to Tandy in 1967, was expanded a bit, then sold to Dillard's in 1974 and the Leonards signs came down. A person wrote to tell of receiving one of these pins in 1974.

Seniors in our 1961 yearbook mentioned them in their short bios, which would suggest that the pins dated to at least 1958 and a HHS '58 graduate wrote to tell of his first award in 1956. So, at present we know the program ran at least from 1956-1974.

At the end of our senior year 24 students received a gold pin, while about 50 students received a silver pin. By comparison, the 1962 class earned 31 gold pins.

The Leonard’s Star Awards were a kind of additional recognition for those who managed to achieve high academic standing.  The rules for the award were straight forward: for an entire year, No academic grade below a B and No citizenship grade below an A.  In those days the numerical range for a B was 87-92, so an 86 in a course could throw you out for one of the Leonard’s pins.

The awards were designed to function something like the Olympic medals; a Bronze for the first year’s achievement, a Silver for the second, and finally a Gold for the third year. In practice, this program was more like an endurance run in that it set a specific floor for the minimum grades and provided no allowance for any short-term variations in an individual’s grades.

In those days, each teacher submitted a separate citizenship grade for each class, each 6-weeks marking period, and if you had a bit of a clash going with a teacher or two, they could also knock you out of the run for a Leonard’s pin.

Although it is of no consequence now, it is interesting to note a few things about this listing of recipients that were not obvious at the time.  About 26% of this 1963 class graduated with honors; however, slightly less than half of the honors graduates, or about 12% got one of the 1963 Leonard’s Star award pins.

About 8% of the class earned a gold pin.  As you would expect, those with the highest honors earned the most pins; however, there were some who missed the minimum requirements for one of the pins who were among our sharpest classmates.

Another interesting thing is that about 75% of both the pins and the graduation honors went to female graduates.  Only 23 of the 80 honors graduates were boys.  No wonder the womens' rights movement took off shortly after we graduated!

Any idea when Leonard's started the program with the FWISD?

The picture at right is a pin that was awarded to my father who graduated from a Dallas high school just before WWII. It was called the Linz Award, named for the long established Dallas Jeweler and has the initials, "DHS" for Dallas High Schools, in the center. It was given to all Dallas High School students who achieved a 90 average or higher and was established sometime after 1924.

Two years later he was in the nose of a B-17 bound for Berlin on one of the first daylight missions flown by the USAAF to that destination.