What to be thankful for after 80 years?
Thanksgiving Day 2012

I was born the day before the banks were ordered closed. Deep in the most serious depression this country has experienced. However, my father was a letter carrier and the mail must be delivered even in hard times. This made my early life easy compared to many of the citizens.

The city I was in had a manufacturing base which never closed.. The depression was
 not a serious factor in my early life.

When the Second World War began, I was eight, that manufacturing base became an important part of the war effort. My town became the "Arsenal of Democracy". But the inflation which then began made my family a part of the lower middle class for my fathers secure job’s salary did not escalate with the bounds of inflation. Still we never starved. I did have a new pair of shoes every year and the last years shoes could be used for play. They were all stretched to accommodate a larger size.

We always had supper and the holidays were never times of want. The turkeys were bought and cooked. The balsam trees were set-up and trimmed with baubles and strings of popcorn and cranberries. There was worry by my parents, but, there was always a quarter on Saturdays for the double-feature shoot’em up plus Selected Short Subjects. Of course only after my brother and I helped clean the house.

I left home with a case of “get-away-from-home-itis” in my 19th year and never returned except for vacation visits and an occasional family gathering. By this time I had not finished high school and so joined the military without a diploma. By the fortunes of the time this was not an insurmountable problem as it is today. Documents and certifications by academia was not the proof of ones worth, just hard work and showing-up were a fine recommendation.

As the years passed I progressed in my profession and was promoted through the ranks until reaching the magnificent level of enlisted grade 5, Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. I also acquired a wife and children which could be supported on the pay and allowances of that grade. I was taking home about $375.00 a month.

The acquisition of wife and children had happened while in Germany where I was stationed for four years. A most happy time.

Good fortune and serendipity placed me at Andrews Air Force Base at the time the Federal Aviation Agency and the Air Force were contemplating a merger of their Air Traffic Control manpower into a truly federal force. Andrews became a test process and also the need for a longtime cadre of controllers to serve the Presidential flights resulted that many of the controllers at Andrews were able to transfer to the Federal Civil Service and I was converted from E5 to GS(General Service) 11 from one day to the next.

A year or so later the controller force was rearranged and the supervisory force was augmented with a Crew Chief between Watch Supervisors and Controllers. Again serendipity intervened and their were only enough of us qualified by rule to be promoted to the Crew Chief grade. Now a GS-12 I was thrust into the role of supervision. I found this something of a chore rather than a pleasure. Some years later I was offered a Facility Manager job and by that time had made the decision that my personality did not lend itself to that type of work.

By happenstance one day as I reported for work on a evening shift, I stopped in the Assistant Facility Manager’s office to say hello. It happened the Facility Manager was on the telephone in that office and he motioned me to a chair and continued his conversation.

What I heard then led me to my next position.

As he hung-up the phone I asked, “Is that the ATREP (Air Traffic Representative) at Patuxent (Patuxent Naval Air Station)?”

He responded, “Yes.”

I said, “I want that job.”

By this chance meeting I acquired my last ten years of work in a position which matched my professional experience and helped both the FAA and the military.

I am now retired for over 24 years and surrounded by family as I descend into my dotage. My wife of 57 years is still complaining about my loud voice, sarcastic words and attempts at humor.

I have ceased my attempts at singing because I can no more plan ahead that my physical abilities will allow for performance .

Never in want. Never unwanted. Coddled by my progeny. No fear of the future.

What does July Fourth mean to me?

For my formative years there were no extravagant celebrations or memories. Maybe a picnic at Chandler Park with my father’s fellow Lake Countians who were in Detroit to better there lives.

After joining the Air Force in 1952 I was trained as an Air Traffic Controller and went on to work shift work with rotating days off: so, I was either working on the 4th of July or it was just another regular day off between work-weeks.

Leaving the Air Force for the Federal Aviation Agency in 1960 merely changed the name of my employer and my mode of dress. Still the shift work and rotating days off for the next 19 years until I secured a different position which gave me a “normal” work-week and holidays were extra days off.

I then began attending fireworks displays and making special plans for celebrating the 4th of July.

Since retiring from regular employment I have begun to be more contemplative and interested in the real background of why we commemorate this day and why we should use it as spring-board to a deeper understanding of freedom and liberty.

In 1776, before there was a United Sates of America on the North American continent, there was a group of men, undoubtedly supported by their women, who were of like mind in their desire to live free lives unencumbered by the trappings of a despot King and a Parliament over which they had no input. In other words they were being ruled by those who were not representative of their wishes.

When their entreaties for representation were denied by that King and his Parliament they decided that breaking away was the only way they could live with their consciences as they passed down their society to future generations.

Because of their knowledge of societal philosophies different from the form which they were born into, they decided to assert for their freedom from the existing order.

In Congress assembled they wrote a Declaration of Independence and that became a founding document of the political society in which we now live.

It began:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Thus these men proclaimed to the world their intention to be free and separate from their oppressive King and his Parliament.

It ended:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


July 4, 2012 (236 years later)

My first and only semi-combat experience.

The scene is Korea, early 1953. The hot war was was still on.

The stalemate of relatively permanent battle lines have been established along the same border which existed at the beginning in 1950. The Chosin reservoir debacle was history and Pork Chop Hill was still in contention

I was new to the war having been assigned to the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) at Taegu Air Base, then known as K2, only a few days before.

A requirement to have extra guards at outlying sites over the May Day celebrations was thought to be prudent as May Day was a big deal in Communist circles and the North Koreans and their friends the Chinese were very high on Communism. I was detached from my prime outfit and sent to the Tare George (TG) Radio Beacon site some 7 miles east of K2. I was relatively useless at the ARTCC because of my recent arrival and need for training in the local situation.

The TG site was on a small hilltop. It was surrounded by 10 foot high barbed wire fencing. Within the compound was a diesel generator which was always on supplying electric power for the radio beacon and the barrack, a Quonset hut for living quarters and the equipment producing the radio beacon signal, and a slant-roof corrugated metal shack used as mess and kitchen next to the barrack. A three holer latrine and a bit of sandbagging some two feet high, front and back of the barrack completed the arrangements.

All of us had an M1,30 caliber carbine and the Air Policeman who was leader of the site security had a 45 caliber Greasgun and a 45 caliber pistol sidearm. There was a mobile 30 caliber machine gun mounted on a tripod for use if required.

We had, with the augmentation of me and a couple other newly arrived men, a complement of about 6 men to guard the site over a three day period. The nights were split into one hour guard mount periods and we all stayed in the mess shack waiting our turn outside of staring at the black night and wondering what might happen, M1 at the ready. The generator providing a low rumble all the time as background noise.

During one of my shifts in the middle of the night I picked up a small pebble and rolled it between my fingers. Finally I flipped it in the air by flicking my thumb as one does with a shooting marble. It took an infortuitous arc and struck the curved side of the Quonset hut and rattled between it and the mess shack wall making a tick-tick-tick sound.

The lights in the mess shack went out. The door opened and the Air Policeman came out in a crouch attempting to guard with the low sandbag wall as much of his frame as possible. He had his Greasgun at the ready. A couple more of the complement followed him.
He, the AP, asked in a lowered voice, “What happened?”
I answered, “Nothing, what’s the problem?”
He then described the noise he had interpreted to be incoming small arms fire striking the wall of the shack.

I was still standing fully upright and unconcerned and stated I knew nothing about any untoward activity. After some minutes of investigation and no holes being found in the corrugated steel walls of the shack and the rest of the compound being in good order everyone returned to the mess shack and resumed their wait for the next change of guard.

Only now some 59 years later I have come in contact over the internet with the Air Policeman of that incident and now I can tell the story with little chance of being struck down by God or man for my dissimulation that night.

Yes, Berry, I did know what made those sounds that night in 1953.
No, I wasn’t about to tell anyone about it when it happened.

The next two days were spent sleeping off the nights activities and on one occasion taking target practice with our M1s on frogs in a terraced rice paddy down the side of the hill.

We were also taxed with a job. Dig holes to provide stay anchors for an antennae. We began, but soon found that below about 3 inches of topsoil was rock. Being a very resourceful group, someone, probably the AP suggested we hire some local Koreans to dig the holes. We did, with an appropriate amount of cigarettes. Soon two Korean men chipped and dug holes of sufficient depth and size to accommodate the screw anchors for the project.

A couple weeks later we heard that the Tare George site had experienced a night attack or at least the people there believed they were attacked. The 30 caliber machine gun had been fired at the area of the three-holer and pretty well cut it in half. The AP had suffered a burn on his cheek from an ejecting cartridge while firing the gun. This story was merely local gossip and can not be confirmed.

Ah, war is hell!

May 18, 2012

As I look out my window I see the birds, all kinds from sparrows to mockingbirds, busy in their 
spring duties, eating, drinking, flying, singing and procreating. They have no shame nor should 
they. The flowers and trees are at the same business. Only the oaks still maintain their winter 
somber tone and appearance. No great show of spring enthusiasm there, but wait until fall when 
they strew the ground with mast for the deer and squirrels.

The great show of yellow and white is under way. Forsythia, daffodils, narcissus and for contrast
the purple grape hyacinth still blooms as it has since the snow was on the ground. 
The pussy-willows, those early harbingers of a new world have lost their catkins and are ready 
to leaf. The grass has been cut the first time not so much for show as to even the clumps with 
the slower blades. The ground invites turning and the old peasant genes stir and cause this old 
bag of bones to get out and smell the fresh-turned earth. 

A moment of conversation with the wife helps instill some initiative into my soul. The
neighboring farmer and his oldest daughter have been at the plow for some days. A team of four 
and a single blade turn only so much in a day and the ground must be ready, not too dry and not 
too wet. Spring rains control the work as much as the daylight. 

How many teenage girls can or would sit on the plow seat and guide four, thousand pound horses
back and forth along the furrow? I am reminded of the German word which describes slightly over 
two acres of land, “Morgen”. The same word means in German and translated into English, morning. 
Did the plowing work a man could do in a “Morgen” amount to that size of land? Probably.

What promise Spring brings: The resurrection of the leaf on deciduous plants, the soon to be
tasted fresh tomato, sweet corn, strawberries and all the other fresh and scrumptious tastes of 
fresh garden plants. 

Maybe a bit of dandelion salad, wilted just so with bits of bacon and bacon grease and vinegar
dressing or fresh from the field wild salad greens like chickweed and field cress. If you haven’t 
tried them you have missed one of the greatest taste treats of the year. Lots of vitamin C and 
cheap too!

This week has seen the great Spring religious celebrations of Passover, the Passion and
resurrection and an Islamic one which sadly I can’t name and I’m sure all the eastern religions 
have a special spring commemoration. Sorry, my lack of knowledge in this area is prodigious.

All peoples must enjoy what I do each Spring, if not, how sad.

What more to be said. 2007 ---

The Passing of Wilmer R. White
Air Traffic Controller, Letter Carrier, Veteran
To the family of WW, you have my deepest condolences in your loss.
It is somewhat strange that a few months of association creates lifelong memories though this
is what happened because WW had a cot next to BS in a Quonset Hut in Korea.

WW was Wilmer’s operating initials as BS were mine.

WW quickly became “Double Shot”. BS needs no explanation.

After  Wilmer and I returned to the states in the spring of 1954 we had a couple days together.
I was traveling from my home in Michigan to Savanna, Georgia and the way passed by Hazard, KY so
I stopped to visit.
We spent an evening out having a couple beers and meeting some girls. They sold beer at the
downtown restaurant and the waitress was a tall slim and dazzling girl to which I immediately
became infatuated, at least for the evening.
Wilmer had warned me to contain my penchant for verbosity for if anything I said would be taken
as an affront or insult. I must know, every man and boy in the county had a gun or knife on him
or in his car. This dampened my usual garrulousness.

I always respected Wilmer and his steady, quiet way. He is a loss to all of us.

With great sadness I remain, Your friend.


When is the last time you saw the Milky Way? No, No, not the candy bar.

What’s that you say?  You’re not familiar with the Milky Way?

From WIKIPEDIA: The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Earth. This name derives from its appearance as a dim "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky, in which the naked eye cannot distinguish individual stars. For we are looking through the galaxy edgewise.

In years past almost anyone could identify the Milky Way on  clear night by merely looking up into the sky. In most of today’s urban and suburban world one cannot see it nor over half the other stars in the heaven because of “light pollution”.  That’s light as in “light and dark” not “heavy and light”.

Even where I live some 35 miles from downtown Washington the night sky is obscured by the lights of the towns and shopping centers nearby. I can’t see the Milky Way!

Why can’t we have at least one night when all unneeded lights are turned off, all over the country. Turn them off from sunset until at least mid-night  so we all could once again see the wonder of the heavens above.

I propose that a coordinated effort be made to turn off all lights not required for safety reasons from sunset until midnight on a clear night in the week if June 21st. That week we have the shortest nights of the year and the best chance for good weather conditions.

First, someone, a whole lot of someone’s,  must coordinate with the owners and operators of the lights in question.

Second, a night in the week of June 21st must be picked for the effort and that will depend on the weather and forecast.

Third, the night used may be different in different parts of the country because of weather, but, still keep it in the prescribed week.

Fourth, all school-children must be made aware of the project.

Fifth, we must all enjoy the wonders which we will see.

Sixth, we must thank those who make it possible.
Seventh, we must all work to decrease the night-time light pollution to a minimum at all times forever after.
April 13, 2012

Spring's impetuous grass, 

Rising through late winter snow,

Marked by blooming forsythia,

Conquer the unyielding

Changes of March.

April 2011


Summer - 1954 - Turner Air Force Base, Albany, Georgia was a beautiful time in my life.
I was an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force recently returned from Korea and assigned to a GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) radar unit in what was the least military acting part  ( Airways and Air Communication Services) of the least military (United States Air Force) of the armed services, with the large exception of the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

We worked round the clock shifts keeping our part of the air traffic control system available to all who asked for its services. Ergo, few if any inspections, parades or extra duties such as KP (Kitchen Police).  Besides, we didn’t belong to the chain of command of the air bases at which we were stationed, but, were “attached” units.

As I reported for duty one afternoon the Assistant Air Traffic Control Officer, Lt Martha ------- noted that my hair was too long for her tastes and the good of the service. It was fairly unusual to have an officer at the field GCA unit for the Sergeants handled the daily shifts and regular military discipline. But Lt. Martha was young eager and a newly minted Air Force officer.

I took the good lieutenants rebuff to heart, but, had no money to spend on haircuts. My pay at the time was about 100 dollars a month plus room and board and one did have the costs of an automobile and an occasional beer.
So, the next day before reporting for work I shampooed thoroughly and brushed the coif back, training it to lie closely to the scalp.
The Lieutenant remarked when I reported for duty, “That looks much better.” Whether she really thought I had a fresh haircut or was humoring me I’ll never know for there was no further comment that day or in the future.

Kudos to SMECO for their work in Northern St. Mary’s County!

At 8:31 AM, Saturday morning the rain began on Dixie Lyon Road. The weather deteriorated from then until it became a hard blowing wind and driving rain.

At 6:59 PM the cable system failed. After all the warnings on every channel it was expected. Both Little League World Series games were complete and only preseason football was lost by this failure.

There were some momentary voltage reductions. The lights dimmed and once or twice the electricity was off for a blink or two. This was also expected. It reminded us to get out the kerosene lamps and candles. Move the flashlights and electric lanterns to strategic points in the house. Fill some buckets and a bathtub with water and check that the some food was out of the freezer and refrigerator.

10:10 PM the electric service failed and we were in the dark except for the candle which had been lighted earlier as a precaution.

A couple more candles lit in strategic places allowed for normal progressions through the house without reducing any safety standards. A battery operated radio tuned to a local station and so to sleep. Oops! The dog needed out, so she was allowed out the lee door and after her business came back in with no urging.

The house was buffeted throughout the night by winds and rain. By 4:30 AM the storm was subsiding and the wind was down to manageable levels. No worry about flooding for we are on some of the highest elevation in the county, a whole 175 feet MSL.

When morning came that self-same dog needed out again. Same procedure. The coffee in the thermos which had been made on Saturday was still lukewarm and tasted good as a campsite drink. A bite of coffee cake and then to getting the generator up and running. That was a son’s job and soon we had electricity to the refrigerator and all its contents were available again.

An inspection of the yard showed one young but ill tree blown down. One large limb of an old maple cracked and hanging askew. The Bradford Pear had half its foliage and limbs torn away, much small debris strewn about. The grass was bright green and growing and there was little standing water about. The Washington Post had been delivered to our rural mailbox as if it were normal to do so in a raging hurricane.

Allowing that this was a “historic storm” we didn’t expect electric service to be restored until, who knows when? So preparations for a long Amish weekend were started. After cooking our Sunday dinner, on our gas stove, another visit from a neighbor, we were settling down for another night of candles and radio when at 4:25 PM, THE LIGHTS CAME ON.

And so another story to tell and all is well, except the cable is still out.

Hardly a story for the grandchildren without a bit more embellishment.


Ruminations on the Fourth of July
We celebrate the 4th of July by picnics, fireworks, music, occasional politician’s speech, traveling or just laying back.
The picnics include the American standards: The food traditions of England - baked beans, apple pie; Germany and Central Europe - hot dogs, beer, potato salad; Latin America - barbecue anything and salsa; Italy - pizza. Fireworks are courtesy of China and the French and Italian nobility. Music: A Russian’s (Tchaikovsky) commemoration of the defeat of Napoleon at the gates of Moscow (1812 Overture), march’s composed by the son of a Swiss-Italian immigrant (John Philip Sousa), more patriotic music by a Russian Jew immigrant (Irving Berlin). Background music of  extremely popular fables of the triumph of reason and self-worth over dictatorial rule composed by an Austrian and an American of English birth (Thus Spake Zarathustra & Starwars Theme). Yes, a real American melange.
Due to our multifarious forms of communications, i.e., newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, cinema, internet, etc., we seldom care or have time to hear an oration by anyone, even a popular politician. Traveling is done to keep our family ties tied or merely to use the day as a vacation day and recreate. Weather permitting there are millions of boats in our waters.
And what is all this about? It is to celebrate the most successful free society ever created and sustained by the human mind. For 234 years since the first promulgation of the “Declaration of Independence”, we, the future and present citizens of the United States of America have enjoyed the fruits of the philosophy of those brave and intelligent men who signed the “Declaration” pledging “their lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to accomplish its goals and 11 years later were able to craft a nation forming document, our Constitution, which this September will be 223 years old.
What does 234 years represent in the life of man, a mere moment, but, in the life of a nation, a long time, over nine generations. Count the rest of the nations of the world and you will find none other with so long a span under one constitution and only a handful which have the same form of governance throughout that length of time. Amazingly, I have lived through three of those generations, one third of the history of this country.
Because of the avarice and self-promotion of some of us there have been major and minor interruptions in the spirit and the words of our governing documents and laws, but, because of the rule of law, freedom of spirit, charity, good fortune and thoughtful people, we have stayed on course to be the most successful experiment in individual liberty ever devised for human society. Perfect, no, but, still the best way ever found to insure liberty.
Benjamin Franklin said it best when asked what the Continental Congress had wrought. He said, “A Republic, if you can keep it!”  We must keep it for if we don’t the world will again be totally controlled by force, avarice, cruelty and the rest of the horrible thoughts of the depraved human mind.
As former President John Adams said in a letter, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).,(Emphasis and underlining by this writer)
He only missed the day by two, but, that was because the Declaration had been approved by the Continental Congress on July 2nd but not published until July 4th. We don’t celebrate “Constitution Day” and most don’t now what day that would be. It should be celebrated for it has guided our laws and society since its approval be the Constitutional Congress of the United States of America, September  17, 1787. By June 21, 1788, nine states had approved the Constitution, finally forming "a more perfect Union." Maybe that should also be a day of celebration.
So, let us reflect on these facts and many more which make our celebration meaningful. Eww and Ahh at the fireworks, applaud the music, enjoy the foods and recreate in ways you most enjoy, but, always, remember and thank those great minds and citizens who built the grandest form of human governance which has ever been.

It was a dark and stormy night, really!

   John and I were driving home from work at the RAPCON (Radar Approach Control) at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. We had worked the swing shift controlling the approach and landing of various stray flights caught in the winter storm which was covering the Mid-Atlantic area with rain, low clouds, wind and freezing rain.

   Our specialty at the time was the GCA (Ground ControlledApproach) approach, sometimes known as the controller talk-down. Using two types of radar systems the aircraft would be identified on the radar scope and then directed by compass headings too fly and altitudes too maintain until appearing on the final approach radar screens. The first was known as the surveillance radar; a radar with a radius of scan of 60 miles. This was also used to maintain separation between multiple flights desiring to operate in the immediate area around the airport.

   The second type, the final approach radar was two presentations appeared on one radar scope. The top half of the scope represented the altitude with a line projecting a nominal 3 degree descent or glide-path to the runway. The other below was an azimuth or representation of the position over the ground and a line of the extended centerline of the runway out to a ten mile distance.

   The actual radar antennae systems were located about half-way down and to the side of the runway in use. The radar information was transmitted by cable to the room in the middle of the golf course. The building had been built during world War Two and was originally a command center. The RAPCON was in the war room of that center. It was large and two stories high with plenty of room for multiple radar scopes and radio equipment.

   We had controlled a few flights during the shift which had lasted from four in the afternoon to mid-night. It had not been very busy, but, each approach is an adrenaline rush for the controller and I suppose for the pilot. Especially when the weather is poor with low clouds ceilings and rain and fog restricting visibility.

   John and I had started our little “share the ride program”. He lived much farther from the base than I so he would stop at my home on the way to work and we would alternate providing the transportation. I was driving a Dodge Lancer and he used a partially rebuilt MG, a little two person English roadster with a convertible top. John had installed seatbelts in the vehicle though this was many years before the law was written requiring them. He used aircraft type belts. They were about three inches wide and of strong webbed fabric with the signature aircraft slide through and fold back buckle.

   One thing this vehicle did not have was a heater. I can’t remember whether it was a standard to have or not to have one in this car. Needless to say I always wore plenty of winter garments when riding with John of a winters day or night.

   After leaving the confines of Andrews AFB via the Forestville Road gate, at that time a mere opening in the fence line around the base, we proceeded north on Forestville Road to Central Avenue where we turned east and then north again on Brightseat Road. This was all before the Washington Beltway (495) was built.

   During this phase of our travel the rain began to freeze on the windshield. As passenger I was required to place my hand on the windshield in front of John until the windshield wipers could remove the melted ice. When the left hand had cooled so it no longer provided enough heat I would replace it with the right hand. Then I placed the left under my clothes, close to my body so it might heat as rapidly as possible and be ready for another shift as defroster. This effort continued for the twelve miles we drove to arrive at my home in Kent Village just off Maryland 202.

   Arriving at my home we both felt a break and a weather delay were needed in John’s trek to his Hyattsville home. We entered my house and sat down in the living room. I broke-out a bottle of my Christmas cognac and we began sipping and talking. I can’t remember how long we tippled the cognac, but, eventually John left and made it home safely.

   Sometime later John and I were assigned to different crews and had to disband our driving pool.

   John, who had like me, been hired by the Federal Aviation Agency directly from the U.S. Air Force as the FAA staffed the control tower and RAPCON at Andrews, was the only controller I  know of, who resigned for personal reasons. He continued his education and made a career as an artist, writer and general bon vivant of Northern Maryland. I continued my career in the FAA until retirement a year before the Berlin Wall was razed.




Chapter 1

I first boarded a troopship in March 1953. My orders were to report to the 1973rd AACS Squadron in Taegu, Korea.

Leaving Camp Stoneman, named after George Stoneman, a Civil War cavalry commander and early Governor of California, aboard the Yerba Buena, a ferry boat which took us from the camp to an embarkation onto the troopship for the ocean voyage.

The troopship left the dock and sailed through San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge by afternoon. I have little memory of anything other than the name of the ferry and passing under the bridge.

Once on the open ocean the ship enjoyed the rolling waves of the continental shelf through the next morning, of which I do have a bright memory.

Rising from sleep on the stretched canvas bunks in the forecastle area we were shepherded to breakfast. It was a fine breakfast. There was freshly baked bread with fresh salted creamery butter, which I love. The main course was chili, why, I never could discern, but, chili it was and well prepared.

After that bracing meal we went back to our sleeping area and made our bunk ship-shape. That entailed folding our blanket, placing the pillow on top of the blanket and arranging that pile on the head of the bunk. Nothing fancy but, orderly it was.

We were then assigned duty at various places aboard ship. Some too sweeping detail, some to the galley and mine was to assist the ship store in running supplies to various portions of the ship. Besides the many troops aboard we had a passel of dependents, women and children, bound for Japan.

To get to the main ship store location I had to maneuver from the forecastle to a hold area near the stern and in so doing I passed the galley area. Now one must remember we were still in the rolling waves of the continental shelf which extends some 1200 miles west of California. This kept the ship in constant three axis movement. Then the smells of hot soap and water on hot steel and cooking food emanating from the galley assaulted my senses as I passed that galley. I was in a long passageway just wide enough for two people to pass if they swung their shoulders when passing. Men ahead and behind so I could not stop or lollygag.

I had always had a propensity for motion sickness and it came to the fore while in that passageway. As I began to gag and regurgitate I knew I wouldn’t want to affect those around me and the rule was one must clean his own mess. I clamped a hand over nose and mouth, brought up and then swallowed what was brought up and held the openings tightly closed until coming to the end of the passageway. By great good fortune or a prescient mind there was a large GI can immediately at the end of the passageway. I grabbed the lid handle and ripped off the lid and spewed what had been pushing so hard to leave my stomach. It was all contained by the GI can and I felt much better, if one can classify being sea-sick, much better.

The sailor in charge of the ship store recognized my inability to do other than exist that day and allowed me to rest on some mattresses piled in the corner of the hold.

I have little further memory of that 12 day Pacific crossing other than it being smooth and comfortable. I had no more instances of sea-sickness.


Chapter 2

The next ocean trip was from Yokohama to Bremerton aboard another MSTS troopship with similar accommodations.

This time, being an experienced troopship traveler I volunteered for duty with the Chaplain’s office. I had noted that those working for the Chaplain had some special privileges in the chow line and often could wear Class A uniforms and mingle with the dependents on-board.

My most salient memory is of passing the International Date Line. The Chaplain’s office hosted a birthday party for all who had a birthday during the ten day voyage. I served ice cream and cake to those dependent children and wives aboard. It was also on my birthday.

There was some disappointment on my part for I had planned that on my 21st birthday, which this was, I was to party on the block of whichever town I was near which housed the most bars. Usually this is known as “The Strip”.

I had planned to enter the first bar, order a drink. If the bartender asked for my age identification I would show it and then depart the bar without accepting the drink ordered. If, however he would serve me with no question I would buy him a drink before moving on to the next bar and repeating the process until at the end of said “Strip” or unable to continue.

 All this came a cropper when the vagaries of chance put me in the galley serving ice cream and cake. It probably saved me a headache and possible other misfortune from a night of dissipation.

Again the trip was as enjoyable as one can enjoy a troopship. We arrived in Puget Sound of a morning and I watch as we passed Mount Ranier. I now had 24 days sea duty in only two years two months of service in the U.S. Air Force.

We disembarked at Bremerton, processed and went to a downtown Seattle hotel bar, where I promptly ordered a plate of freshly shucked oysters and a real good local beer.


Chapter 3

My final troopship encounter was a 10 day trip across the North Atlantic from Sheepshead Bay to Bremerhaven. It was during late November and the weather is never compatible in those climes at that time of year.

Remembering my two other experiences I again volunteered for the Chaplain’s office and because I volunteered and had a good singing voice I got the job. I could see no other reason for I had no clerical skills.

This trip I had no serious problems with my motion sickness proclivity and the trip proceeded with no memorable moments. We celebrated Thanksgiving Day aboard ship as we docked in Bremerhaven.


It seems strange that I can remember so little from these experiences, but, I have tried time and again and nothing more comes to mind. Just the simple days of traveling with hundreds of other fellows in the same ship is lost to my memory. And so ended my 34 days sea duty while a member of the Air Force.

My return to the United States at the end of four years in Germany was by aircraft so it wouldn’t fit this articles title.

Jmb 6/9/2011



I once dreamed
of an idyllic place
a time where I sat in a chair
in a sunlit room
 soft breezes of early summer
tickling my toes
 a Viennese waltz
pleasing my ear
while I read
some interesting tome of history.
Through the window
I could see the work of nature
renewing the foliage on shrub and tree
as azaleas began their annual show.
By great good fortune
I have arrived at that dreams end.
I can have all my dream presented
 it still is not enough.
I want to erase thirty years
 return to the days
when it was all a dream.
Sadly, time,
will not allow that to be.
Ah, the good fortune of age
when the dreams
could be made reality
except for the reality that is.
April 2011

1940 - 2010
My first memory of making music is in Ives Elementary School auditorium. Miss LaFontaine was the auditorium teacher. She instructed us in the cultural ways of the world from “Nanook of the North” films to snippets of Mozart and Beethoven from recordings. The music teacher, who in my later years at Ives was Miss Jefferies, had us two or three hours a week, but, the performances and “real” cultural activities were in the Auditorium.
The auditorium was on the second floor on the street side of the school. All the rooms in Ives had 11 foot ceilings so there was plenty of vertical room to have an elevated stage with draw curtains at one end of the room. The seating was arranged with fixed rows of chairs on both sides of an aisle. Seating capacity was about 150 persons.      
This is the graduating class of Ives Elementary 8th grade in 1948 on the steps of the north entrance to Ives Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan. I am the boy in the back row, third from right counting the girl in the white dress and corsage at the extreme right as number one.
I first sang a solo as the “echo” in a song celebrating the Indian culture (Native American). I was placed in the rear of a choral group and because I was only a third or fourth grader, elevated on a stand so my voice would not be muffled by those in front of me. No I can’t remember the words or music, only that I did it.
We learned many songs in Miss Jeffries class. One has stayed with me all these years began, “One World built on a firm foundation…”. This was at the end of the Second World War and the United Nations was just getting started. 
In my last year at Ives, I attended there from Kindergarten through the eighth grade, my voice descended from boy soprano to bass-baritone. This happened over a summer. I didn’t have that bane of the male, a long three or four years of breaks from treble to bass and back again. At the time I thought nothing of it other than the fun of singing in the lower range.
My next big solo was in Jackson Intermediate. Mrs. Williams, the music teacher, organized an Americana celebration pageant. Of course the Civil War was represented. I sang the old camp song “Tenting Tonight”. This performance was attended by my parents. My Mother asked me after the show, “How can you do that in front of all those people?”. Really, I was a 15 year old teenager showing off my wares.
Sometime after that performance I was involved at a performance at the Hannan YMCA. My mother saved the bulletin of that performance. I guess she was becoming inured to my being a performer. 
Then I went into a period of silence until I began singing with the Senior Choir at Faith Lutheran Church. That’s where I found the bass section was the best for we were always in the rear or back bench. That allowed much more latitude in our demeanor and dress during performances and services. You also had the wall to lean on for a short nap.
I had met my first love at the church and when I went to 10th grade at Southeastern High School she was not there. She had been accepted at Cass Technical High School in the music department. She played French Horn. What a dilemma. Only one solution available and that was for me to transfer to Cass Tech. This required my audition for Mr. Glenn Klepinger, the head of the Music Department. My voice and such little musicianship I had was apparently sufficient. I transferred to Cass Tech after only one semester at Southeastern.
The courses at Cass Tech for a student in the music department were, of course, tailored for music and light in the academics. For example we had a course in “Concepts of Geometry” and believe me that was all it was. The rest of the time we spent on music. Sadly, I was a poor student with terrible habits. I carried my books back and forth from home to school, but, didn’t look inside them except in extreme cases. This is strange indeed for someone who enjoyed reading as much as I did and do.
During my time at Cass Tech from early 1949 through the end of 1951 I was exposed to the intensity of Dr. Harry Begian, the band leader. The soft and quiet, yet, strong musicianship of Mr. Biztritsky the orchestra director and the firm and fun leadership of Mr. Klepinger our choral and voice director.
My primary function as a musician was singing. I was in the a cappella Choir and we did magnificent work. When singing at state adjudications we were far and away the best of that group. The singers in concerts with the band or orchestra performed  works from “Pirates of Penzance” to the Coronation Scene from “Boris Godunov” by Mussorgsky. I remember those pieces because I did solo work in both. The Admiral in “Pirates” and Boris in the Mussorgsky. 
I have a recording of the Boris solo with band and chorus. Mr. Blood, the manager of the instrument room recorded all the concerts from front row in the balcony of the auditorium of Cass Tech. He used a wire recorder and then transferred the sound to soft-cut disks. I bought a few but not all the recordings he made during my time at Cass. The recordings leave much to be desired in today’s digital world though Mr. Blood did as best he could with the technology of the day.
I didn’t return to school after the 1951 Christmas break and volunteered for the military, U.S. Air Force to be precise. I was accepted and sworn in on February 2, 1952. I then was transported to Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX for basic training. I can’t remember any musical experiences at Lackland. After 8 weeks of training and a bit of waiting I was flown to Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS for technical school. I was enrolled in the Air Traffic Control Tower  course and began 10 weeks of training which eventually became the whole summer when another course was “996”, Air Route Traffic Control, was begun and completed.
While at Keesler I somehow became involved with a pageant presented by a young women’s school in Gulfport, a town just a few miles west of Biloxi. It was an outdoor performance and I sang a duet with a young lady, sadly I don’t remember her name. The song was “Only Make-Believe” from Showboat. That was in the summer of 1952.
Because of my relatively rapid movements around the world I had no significant musical experience until October 1953. I was then located at K2, an airbase just outside Taegu, Korea. I had been there since April. The Service Club had opened in the summer of 1952 after the armistice was signed. The director of the club was a lady, whose name I can’t remember, though I have a picture.
This is the service club director. She was a former member of the Rockettes. 
Members of the cast. I remember Casey. He’s the one at the left in this picture.
Casey played the piano.
The club director organized a camp show using talent from the airmen. It became a variety show with various elements, a dance band from the 24th Division Band and an Master of Ceremonies from the Marine Base at Pohang (K3). I sang a solo using the music of Moulin Rouge and we finished the show with a 3 minute slapstick version the Anvil Chorus using all the performers dressed in various drag costumes. Some with mop-head wigs and  breast architecture al la Brunhilde in a Wagnerian opera.
On my return troopship journey from Yokohama to Bremerton I volunteered for extra duty with the chaplain’s crew for I knew that was an easy ride. I helped at Sunday service and general office work. I did help sing Happy Birthday while serving cake and ice cream to the family members transported on the upper decks. Not what I had expected to do on my 21st birthday.
Again I had a multiplicity of station assignments in fairly short order which precluded   establishing myself in the performance community of the areas which I served until I arrived in Germany in November 1954. Somehow I was invited to a Christmas celebration at a boys school in Rüsselsheim. The school was attached to the Opel Automobile Factory. I serenaded the boys with my rendition in German of “Stille Nacht”, the German version of “Silent Night“. Not bad for having been in Germany for only one month.
After that performance I had no more musical moments until 1956 when I began practicing with the Frosin Sangverein (Men’s Chorus) which rehearsed at Zum Adler in Walldorf, Hessen. My father-in-law was a longtime member and sponsored me into the organization. I can’t remember my participating in any performances with the organization but did attend some of their concerts. My stay in Germany was essentially a four year hiatus from any music making on my part.
After returning to the U.S.A. I was much involved with work and not very interested in joining. We were on a military salary and just making ends meet. Extra travel and such was a bit too much for the budget. I was also working rotating shifts and rotating days off which made any rehearsal schedule which followed normal work hours very difficult to accommodate with my work pattern.
After leaving the military and acquiring a better paying job, though still an Air Traffic Controller, things opened up and I started searching for venues and groups with which I could sing. I found in the 60’s a group in downtown Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia Recreation Department Opera Chorus directed by Dr. Frederick Fall. 
The chorus practiced at Roosevelt High School and presented one concert version opera each spring. The performances were sponsored in the main by foreign embassies. The French for “Carmen” and “La Boheme”, etcetera. The venues were the prime performance locations in Washington. We sang at the Carter Baron Amphitheater, Constitution Hall and one year at the White House.
One memorable performance was presented at Roosevelt High School. It was “Die Fledermaus” and was a fully staged production, costumes and all. The stage director was Davie Marlin-Jones who at the time was a well-known art critic in the Washington area. He affected a style and appearance which was unmistakable with his large, round, black-rimmed glasses.
The performance at the White House was in the East Room where a stage can be constructed in the North end of the room. The event was an entertainment on the evening Lady Bird Johnson had her Christmas Party for children. We presented a truncated version of ‘The Wizard of OZ”. It was the original musical, not the later “Wiz” version.
I was the General.
During this time I started singing again in church choirs. I sang a few months at a Lutheran church in Hyattsville, Maryland and then because we moved to Bowie, Maryland I began a 7 year association with the Ascension Lutheran Church there.
I have a few tape recordings of my work as a soloist while there. A favorite story of mine is of a rehearsal. Nancy Twiet was our director. We had about 16 or so voices and did a creditable job for that size organization. 
One evening during rehearsal Nancy distributed a new piece of music. It had a section which required eight part singing and because of our amateur status Nancy wanted similar parts to sit together. We practiced various pieces of music and then took our traditional break. Upon returning we were all seated and ready to begin on the new music. Nancy asked, “Are we all sitting in our split parts?”  A few minutes later when the merriment quieted down we began again.
Because of my work schedule for most of my working career I had great difficulty in meeting rehearsal and performance schedules of most volunteer musical organizations. I work rotating shifts with rotating days off which meant I would work many evenings during the week and was therefore unavailable for rehearsals. In addition I worked many week-ends and that precluded availability when amateur groups normally performed.
I was asked to try out for a part in a Bowie group which was producing “Oklahoma” and was awarded the part of Curly. By switching shifts with various people I was able to practice and perform. It was an imposition on those fellow workers which I then had to repay in kind at various times. But I was hooked on musicals.
A couple of years later in 1977 I tried it again. Gordon and Wanda Gustin were producing and directing “South Pacific” and picked me for the part of Emil. The production was a great success and we had to put on extra performances. During this run my wife and I had bought a new property in Mechanicsville, Maryland and I had to accommodate my travels to rehearsals and performances to that new location, some 50 miles from Bowie.
Now in Mechanicsville I was again required to find organizations in which I could participate. I read an announcement in the local paper of tryouts for “Oklahoma” with the Port Tobacco Players and since I had done the part of Curly once, thought I’d be a shoo-in. Sadly the part was already filled when I auditioned, however, I was given the chance to do Jud. I was not the star but, the evil nemesis was a challenge. I think I did it well enough for after one performance a young girl said that I really scared her. Good enough for me.
After that I did Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls”. This was in 1980. It happened that in the final week of rehearsal we got word that my father-in-law had died. He was in Germany and that meant a major interruption in my plans. I did go to Germany but, to my wife’s great dismay and chagrin I returned to open the show two days before the funeral service. 
Interestingly, on the trip over I had taken my libretto and lost it on a layover in Brussels. Returning the night before the opening I asked Gordon Brown and Gordon O’Neil to run through the show the next afternoon. They did and I apparently had a good enough memory that all went well. 
My last part at the Port Tobacco Players where I had performed Curly and Nathan Detroit was Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”. I much enjoyed this part and because I was no longer working shift work but had a regular 8 to 5 job with no week-end work was compatible with the rehearsal and performance schedule.
During most of this time I had also been a part of the choir of a small Lutheran church in New Market, Maryland some two miles from my new home in Mechanicsville. Rehearsal at this church was on Monday which is a bit out of the normal Thursday rehearsal that I had been accustomed. This will reflect later in the narrative.
One day I noted an advertisement asking for soloists for a performance of “Handel’s “Messiah”. I arranged for an audition and that is where I met Sandra Willets. She was a professor at St. Mary’s College at Leonardtown, Maryland. She let me down after the audition but invited me to join the Southern Maryland Choral Society. I did. The only problem was that Monday rehearsal at the church. I had to give in to one or the other. I gave up the church.
Thus began a 36 year association with the Choral Society. Dr. Willets was rehearsing them for Verdi’s “Requiem”. I walked into my first rehearsal a bit late. They were already doing a first time run-through of the music. When I heard the beautiful chords produced by the group from the back of the room, I said to myself, “You are home!”.
I can’t remember all the music I participated in over the many years. I missed only about three or four concerts. I did have solos in a few. We did a Disney songs arrangement and I sang about Davey Crockett. I did a reprise of one of my first solo performances with the Coronation Scene from “Boris Godunov”. Only separated by 40 years. I have recordings of both performances. I was the Phantom of the Opera for one song.
While with the Choral Society I was privileged to be instructed and directed by some wonderful and musical people including, Dr. Sandra Willets, Dr. Craig Jessop (later Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director), Dr. Samuel Gordon, Julianne S. Turrentine, Ernest Johnson, James Holloway, Dr. Don Armstrong, Jeanne Kelly and Dr. Richard Giarusso.
My last participation with the Choral Society was the Brahms “German Requiem” in 2010. Finally, for whatever reason my original liking for the bass positioning in most concerts was thwarted. Dr. Giarusso placed me in the front row and I had to make a pretty appearance for the whole concert.

The Washington Memorial Masonic Temple Auditorium.
Venue of the German Requiem.
During my ten years working at Patuxent Naval Air Station I volunteered and sang the opening National Anthem of the air shows about 6 times. Once we had the participation of the Snow Birds from the Canadian Air Force and I sang their anthem “Oh Canada” also. That is a nice song. 
In 1988, the year of my retirement from the job at NAS Patuxent River, I was again asked to do the honors. Although I retired in April and the air show was in May I remained local and was available for singing duty. I prepared and was ready with my costume of blue blazer with brass buttons, white shirt, red tie and gray trousers.
On the day of the air show, I arrived early, parked in my assigned spot and reported to the show coordinator. I had with me a pitch pipe so I would start singing on the proper pitch for my voice range. The plan was for a paraglider to jump from a helicopter hovering over the runway area. When he left the helicopter I would begin singing. On this occasion I had no band or other accompaniment therefore the need for the pitch pipe. The anthem at moderate speed takes about two minutes and 20 seconds for one verse. The singer and the ‘chutist must coordinate their activities As soon as the paraglider’s chute opens he was to unfurl a flag attached to his side and keep it waving throughout his descent. My singing was to be completed and the his arrival on the ground was to be at the same time.
On this day the helicopter was on station and in addition three acrobatic biplanes, who would later perform in the air show, circled at a fairly high angle of bank around the helicopter. I was handed a microphone and waited for the ‘chutist to begin his descent. I blew my pitch pipe to establish my starting pitch, but the circling biplane’s engines and propellers produced a pitch of their own, different from my desired starting note. I tried the pitch pipe again hoping the correct pitch would stick. 
Out came the chutist, Now or never for the singing. I began. All went well until I approached the change which so many dread, “And the rockets red glare,”. Up, up into the higher range of the singers voice. As this approached I knew I was doomed unless I resorted to the screeching such as Rosanne produced so infamously. I could no longer continue, but, I did. I descended to the lower octave and completed the song. How ignominious! The coordination with the paraglider was good, but I was so ashamed of my lack of musicianship that I left the stage immediately, went to my car without speaking to anyone and drove home, never to sing the anthem again as a soloist.
Though properly chastised to the difficulties of solo, a cappella singing of the anthem I still blame those three biplanes with their constant droning pitch which overcame my pitch pipe and embarrassed me in front of 50,000 people, my last big audience.
Another performance was memorable. When Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Airport dedicated their new terminal building in 1976, I was invited to sing the opening National Anthem and closing “America’ with the King of Prussia High School Band. I had had a temporary assignment there the previous year and become friends with the airport manager, Wiley Post, no not THAT Wiley Post.
While driving from my home in Bowie, Maryland to Allentown the day previous to the dedication with my wife and two friends, Dolores and Ernie Kisselbach, Dolores said, ”All I remember is, “Oh, say can you see any bed-bugs on me-”.” We laughed.
The next morning arriving at the airport I began asking the band director if he had the music for the two songs. He said,” Of course.” But not the words. Oh my! All I could remember was what Dolores had said the previous day during the drive. Now two hours before the ceremony was to begin and all I could remember was “bed bugs”.
Finally I asked Helen, Wiley’s secretary if I could use her typewriter. I sat at the desk and typed - OH SAY CAN YOU SEE - and looked at the page - and looked - and looked. Bed bugs. The typewriter was an IBM Selectric with an “all capitals” ball installed. At least that was an advantage.
As I sat there, without a clue as to the next words I needed ,the minutes ticked away. Closer and closer to the time of the beginning of the ceremony. Still nothing!
Where or how the words came to me I don’t know, but, faster than I could type, BY THE DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT - and the remainder flowed. I finally had it on paper in front of me. Now type the words to America - done. Oh happy day.
I went down to the concourse, shook a hand here - there - talked to the director about  the intro - and we’re ready. All went well. Bed bugs indeed.
Because of physical problems I have been unable to perform any more. The spirit and voice is willing but the rest of the mechanism is very, very weak. And yes Sandra I was able to sing well past my 55th year when I thought things might disappear. I actually made it to my 77th year before I was felled by physical infirmities.
April 13, 2011
Below is a program of songs I would like to perform as my last testament to music.
We begin with a young man finding his way:
A passing fancy -  he sings to a girl on a balcony as Romeo to Juliet
Lonely as a desert breeze
I may wonder where I please
Yet I keep on longing
Just to rest a while
Where a sweetheart's tender eyes
Take the place of sand and skies
All the World forgotten
In one Woman's smile
One alone, to be my own
I alone, to know her caresses
One to be, eternally
The one my worshipping soul possesses
At her call, I'd give my all
All my life and all my love enduring
This would be a magic World to me
If she were mine alone
Still he is seeking his fortune out in the world and in the Orient
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!
Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be --
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea; looking lazy at the sea
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay
And then one evening he sees her
Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know,
You know even then
That somewhere you'll see her
Again and again.
Some enchanted evening
Someone may be laughin',
You may hear her laughin'
Across a crowded room
And night after night,
As strange as it seems
The sound of her laughter
Will sing in your dreams.
Who can explain it?
Who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons,
Wise men never try.
Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love,
When you feel her call you
Across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side,
And make her your own
Or all through your life you
May dream all alone.
Once you have found her,
Never let her go.
Once you have found her,
Never let her go!
Being dragged in after being caught but not yet understanding how the system works he still thinks he is in charge.
When I take you out, tonight, with me, 
Honey, here's the way it's goin' to be: 
You will set behind a team of snow white horses, 
In the slickest gig you ever see! 
Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry 
When I take you out in the surrey, 
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top! 
Watch that fringe and see how it flutters 
When I drive them high steppin' strutters. 
Nosey pokes'll peek thru' their shutters and their eyes will pop! 
The wheels are yeller, the upholstery's brown, 
The dashboard's genuine leather, 
With isinglass curtains y' can roll right down, 
In case there's a change in the weather. 
Two bright sidelight's winkin' and blinkin', 
Ain't no finer rig I'm a-thinkin' 
You c'n keep your rig if you're thinkin' 'at I'd keer to swap 
Fer that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top! 
Would y' say the fringe was made a' silk?
Wouldn't have n' other kind but silk.
Has it really got a team of snow white horses?
One's like snow, 
the others more like milk.
All the world'll fly in a flurry 
When I take you out in the surrey, 
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top! 
When we hit that road, hell fer leather, 
Cats and dogs'll dance in the heather, 
Birds and frogs'll sing all together and the toads will hop! 
The wind'll whistle as we rattle along, 
The cows'll moo in the clover, 
The river will ripple out a whispered song, 
And whisper it over and over: 
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever? 
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever? 
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever and ud never stop 
In that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top! 
I can see the stars gettin' blurry, 
When we ride back home in the surrey, 
Ridin' slowly home in the surrey with the fringe on top! 
I can feel the day gettin' older, 
Feel a sleepy head near my shoulder, 
Noddin', droopin' close to my shoulder, till it falls kerplop! 
The sun is swimmin' on the rim of a hill; 
The moon is takin' a header, 
And jist as I'm thinkin' all the earth is still, 
A lark'll wake up in the medder. 
Hush, you bird, my baby's a-sleepin'! 
Maybe got a dream worth a-keepin' 
Whoa! you team, and jist keep a-creepin' at a slow clip clop. 
Don't you hurry with the surrey with the fringe on the top!
Final caught in the snares of womanly wiles 
and enjoying every moment.
Because, you come to me,
with naught save love,
and hold my hand and lift mine eyes above,
a wider world of hope and joy I see,
because you come to me!
Because you speak to me in accent sweet,
I find the roses waking `round my feet,
and I am led through tears and joy to thee,
because you speak to me!
Because God made thee mine,
I'll cherish thee,
through light and darkness through all time to be,
and pray His love may make our love divine,
because God made thee mine!
Only blind with love he enjoys the labors for his family
Set my hands upon the plow
My feet upon the sod.
Turn my face towards the east
And praise be to God!
Ev’ry year the rains do fall
The seeds they stir and spring;
Ev’ry year the spreading trees
Shelter birds that sing.
From the shelter of your heart’
Brother drive out sin.
Let the little birds of faith 
Come and nest therein.
God has made his sun to shine
On both you and me.
God who took away my eyes
That my soul might see.
What I wish for my wife with a little daydream on the side for myself.
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.
I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.
There would be one long staircase just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show.
I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks
For the town to see and hear.
And each loud "cheep" and "swaqwk" and "honk" and "quack"
Would land like a trumpet on the ear,
As if to say "Here lives a wealthy man."
I see my wife, my Susy, looking like a rich man's wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart's delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she's in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.
The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
"If you please, Reb Jimmy
"Pardon me, Reb Jimmy..."
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!
If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the garden and think.
And maybe have a seat by the shady spot.
And I'd discuss the all kinds of books with the learned men, 
several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
Lord who made the lion and the lamb, 
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan? If I were a wealthy man..
After many years of marriage
Do you love me?
Do I what?
Do you love me?
Do I love you?
With our daughters all married
And this trouble in the world
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion
Do you love me?
You're a fool
"I know..."
But do you love me?
Do I love him? 
For fifty-five years I've washed his clothes
Cooked his meals, cleaned his house
Given him children, milked the cow
After fifty-five years, why talk about love right now?
But, Do you love me?
I'm your wife
"I know..."
But do you love me?
Do I love him?
For fifty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Fifty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
Then you love me?
I suppose I do
And I suppose I love you too
It doesn’t change a thing
But even so
After fifty-five years
It's nice to know

The end is near and this is how it is.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
April 13, 2011


Walking out of the main gate of Rhein-Main Airbase and across the bridge over the Frankfurt - Mannheim Autobahn I was intent on seeing downtown Frankfurt a/Main. About a half mile later I reached the Rhein-Main train station. On the west side of the tracks across from the station was a gasthaus run by the relatives of the Meyer family of Mittledick. I checked the schedule and found I had time for a glass of beer. So quickly across the tracks and “Ein beir, bitte”. Hmm good.

Boarding the commuter train I traveled the 12 kilometers to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, the large arched glass roofed station in downtown Frankfurt. The ride was much like any train travel from suburbs to the big city. The scenery was flashes of suburbia, then some trees, then an industrial locale and finally the meeting of many tracks as the main station drew near. There had been one stop, Neu Isenberg, where one might change to a west or east-bound train. The train had gone through Mittledick, Neu Isenberg, the outskirts of the city and over the river Main. 

Alighting from the train in the Hauptbahnhof I was greeted by the cavernous echoic sounds of trains and people coming and going interspersed by announcements on the loudspeakers and toots and whistles of, “I’m ready” and “Here I go” or “Watch out here I come”. The great arched roof was all sooted for the trains were drawn by coal-fired steam engines. The air had a grit to it. 

I quickly walked through the gates into the concourse finding the very standard newspaper and magazine stalls of most any train station. 

Stepping through the outside doors brought me to the Hauptbahnhof Platz a half circled open walking space in front of the station. I came upon my first circular advertising kiosk. Later I was to find them strewn throughout the city. Sometimes they served a dual purpose -advertising outside and relief station inside. Across the perimeter street were a rim of building facades. Some were really only that, facades, for the remainder of the building had been bombed away and  was just a pile of bricks and rubble. Even though the last bombs had fallen 9 years before. .

I saw a familiar sign on a building across the way and headed straight to it. Entering the building was returning to a different time until I went upstairs to the snack bar of a PX (Post Exchange). This was the Schubert building. It had been a theater before the war and the front part of the building had survived the bombings. After a light refreshment I strode out unto the streets of the city, Baedecker in hand. The next corner to the east was Kaiser Strasse. 

Standing on the corner waiting to cross the street, a black Mercedes sedan taxi pulled up in front of me and stopped waiting for traffic to clear. The engine was at idle and I thought, that poor fellow won’t be driving much longer with the engine knocking so loudly. Silly me, I wasn’t familiar with the diesel engine sound. That engine may still be running 50 years later.

The Baedecker showed me the way to various places. One was the Goethe Haus in the old city. That started my walking tour of the old city. The old city had been constructed of wood and the bombing had destroyed just about all the old buildings. Some like the Goethe Haus had been reconstructed while others were merely bull-dozed and new style architecture took its place.

After a few hours of observing and picture taking from the still bomb gutted Opera Haus to the Main River quay, I found myself back on the Hauptbahnhof Platz. On the western side of the Schubert away from Kaiser Strasse was a restaurant. I entered and was seated quickly. It had not many patrons for it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Either to late or too early. The waiter stood waiting for my order. 

Now, my ability in the German language was only a few words, but, I had learned to pronounce what was written quite well. I saw the words herring and kartoffel and knew the meaning of both, so, I ordered my first real German style meal, “Herring nach hausfrauenartz mit kartoffeln”. I was pleasantly surprised when the dish was served for it was indeed herring and with a sour cream sauce and unadorned boiled potatoes. Delicious and the beer was good. too.

Evening came and I made the return trip to the base and my barrack. I knew that I would enjoy my remaining three years in Germany. Only the night life needed exploring. 

King Bar here I come.

March 28, 2011

My first memory of riding in a automobile was when about 4 or 5 standing in the rear well of the back seat of a 1933 Ford being driven by my father, traveling from Detroit to Baldwin. At that time it was a 220 mile drive with no superhighways or bypasses. This distance entailed six to seven hours of driving, at least. As we passed through Flint my mother noted the Purple Cow Café and recited the limerick, which I’ve never forgotten. 
I’ve never seen a purple cow
And never hope to see one.
But, I can tell you anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.
Gelett Burgess (1895)
In 1948 my brother Kenmar came home from a short stint in the Army. He began to revive our fathers 1929 Studebaker which had been stored in the garage since 1942 when the shortage of everything had stopped most personal driving in the country as World War Two was consuming the essentials. The tires were dry-rotted and the pistons were rusted full stop. After a couple of weeks of part-time work the pistons broke free and the engine regained its voice after a six year hibernation filling the garage and alley with an eight cylinder roar. Sadly, the remaining repair required to move the car from relic to rehabilitated was beyond Ken’s financial ability and the car was sold. I believe the cost of repair was estimated at $250. Auto factory workers started at $1.50 an hour.
In 1951, my eighteenth year, I acquired my drivers license learners permit. My father didn’t believe I needed a license prior to that for we lived in the city and the streetcar and bus transportation was more than adequate. Shanks mare was a favorite mode of transportation. By this time my brother had a war surplus Jeep. He drove a cab for a living and the Jeep was often available for my use as a training device. I took sufficient advantage of the situation and became competent as a driver, so I thought. I only received one ticket throughout the process and that was for a malfunctioning brake light. 
A problem became apparent when my buddy, Marvin Burke, let me use his fathers new 1951 Ford sedan for my driving test. I had not driven the Ford before and when I pulled away from the curb with the examiner in the right seat I applied pressure to the accelerator pedal as I had in the Jeep. Big problem. The Jeep’s gas pedal required about twice the force to obtain the same result, ergo, the Ford leapt forward swiftly to a sprightly 35 miles an hour. Sadly, the speed limit was 25. Strike One! After a short drive through the adjoining streets, stopping at stop signs and following all safety rules we arrived back at the curb in front of the examiners office. A question by the examiner, ”What is the speed limit on Conners Avenue?” Answer, “25”. Statement, “Correct, come back in a couple of weeks and we’ll try again”. Apparently strike one was an out in this circumstance. I did retest successfully and was soon driving my fathers 1941 Pontiac sedan. I was allowed to drive it to venues which could not be reasonably reached by public transportation such as Cranbrook Institute where I sang in the chapel choir on Sundays and rehearsed on Thursdays.
Forward to April 1954 – The previous two years had been spent in military training and an overseas assignment. I had just returned from Korea and while on a 30 day leave at my parents home in Baldwin I expressed my desire to acquire a car. My father called an old family friend, Bob Jones, who was in the auto business in Manistee. Bob, a WWII pilot, had his own airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, which he flew to Baldwin, picked me up and took me to Manistee to find a car. I drove back with a Nash Ambassador, 4 door sedan, you know, the upside down bathtub designed by Pinan Farina.  
The Nash served me well from April through October. I drove it from Michigan to Georgia and back. It was a fine automobile for a 21 year old bachelor with its convertible front seats. Canting the front seat back slightly forward allowed release of a catch and the seat then flopped backward to form a bed with the back seat. What a sign! Cyrano would have been proud. Sadly, while home in Baldwin on leave prior to deployment to Germany I threw a rod through the crankcase returning from a movie “The Moon is Blue” and the engine died that night. Luckily I had only a couple days left on my leave and left the car and power of attorney with my mother.
Much has occurred since the Nash expired. I had floated from Sheepshead Bay to Bremerhaven and begun work at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. I met and married, produced a girl child and bought a 1952 Opel Olympia. The Opel was a downsized 1939 Chevy with the 4 cylinder Opel motor. I drove the Opel until one evening while traveling on Kelsterbacher Strasse from Walldorf to Gateway Gardens Theater I hit a pothole on the inside of a curve and ended upright with the rear-end in the ditch on the other side of the road. The car had only rolled once, but, was in sad shape. A couple of young German fellows coming the other way a few minutes later helped get the car back on the road and Sue and I drove home to her parents house where we lived. I parked the car with its steaming engine in the yard, treated our minor cuts and bruises and had a bottle of Liebfraumilch. No theater tonight.
Next I acquired a 1948 Ford Business Coupe. A bit difficult to maintain in 1957 Germany, but, I managed until returning to the land of the Big PX in December 1958 just after the birth of my second child, a boy.
Again a trip from Baldwin to Manistee to buy a car. Again a Nash  of a certain vintage. With a 30 day leave exhausted, we, now a family of four drove from Michigan to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland by Washington, D.C. The “new” car had spent too much time on Michigan’s salted winter roads and I soon found the fenders held together mostly by a new paint job. So, another car was in order. I found one in downtown “D.C.”. A 1955 Volkswagon Sunroof Sedan. It was in my price range with my trade-in of the Nash.
The morning after driving from downtown to my apartment parking lot I discovered a problem. I had nosed into a parking spot and so had to back out. I couldn’t find reverse gear! I pushed the car out of the parking spot and engaged forward gear and drove to a local gas station and explained my dilemma. The mechanic got in, immediately found reverse gear and introduced me to the mysteries of the VW gearbox. The VW  served us well through the remaining year in the military and into the first year civilian life. 
In 1963 when the third child arrived the VW no longer was large enough for our family. Fred Shaugnessy wanted to sell his Dodge Dart and we made a deal. The Dart was a nice car and did the job until the Nor’Easter of 1967. During the aftermath of that 25 inches of snow I banged up the fenders with tire chains and decided another vehicle was needed. 
Now a family of six and interested in camping I found a Chevrolet Station Wagon. A real boat of the 60’s. It afforded us many happy camping trips and a comfortable ride to and from work. 
Why the Chevy had to go is not remembered, but, it was replaced by a Pontiac Catalina Station Wagon. A beauty on the road. Heavy, steady, quiet and true. I really enjoyed it until one evening after too much liquid refreshment I fishtailed it into a farmer’s field off Route 50 between Washington and Bowie. The aftermath is too ugly to recount. Thankfully no one was hurt.
Necessity bought a Ford Taurus Station Wagon. Probably the worst car I ever owned. That era ended after a young chap showing off his newly refurbished car drove through a stop sign and into my left rear quarter panel. I wanted to rid myself of this albatross and I did. Johnny Johnson had a finely kept Mercury Marquis for sale. Sold!
The Marquis was driven until an old man made a left turn from the opposite direction against traffic and we, I was on the way to work with two co-workers, Irv and Gerry, struck him broadside. The man’s wife was somewhat injured even though my braking had slowed us from 50 to about 15 when we came together. The Marquis was declared a total loss, though because of my braking not a headlight was broken. That car really stood on its nose.
1977 – We were in the country now so a return to the station wagon was a natural and a Nash Rambler caught my eye. That was our only transportation for sometime. 
Then for some strange reason a quick succession of cars for various reasons. A ’65 Mustang which needed paint was a companion of a couple of Volvo Station Wagons. Then came a Mercury Montego. It did yeoman duty for some years, even serving as a small truck when I tried to start a horse feed business. 
Finally I found a Mercedes, 1980, diesel, and settled on that for a few years until it spun a bearing. And I then bought another of the same type but of newer vintage. I now had a full car to cannibalize when small parts required replacement. A good idea. 
We now come to some years after I retired and both my wife and I felt we could afford and would like a newer car with all the bells and whistles. I also wanted a van for travel so I could transport lots of stuff and without renting one, have a bed should I need it. We went to one of the big franchise used car dealers and bought a 1996 Ford Taurus with 32000 miles on it and spent more than our first house cost to buy it. That is one definition of being old in an inflationary society. I found a  1986 Chevy HiTop Van  and started enjoying my travels. 
All was hunky-dory until some physical ailments began to intrude into my life. Three years and three major operations later I decided to get a smaller van and stop driving for the neighboring Amish on their long trips. Some local travel was OK.
I am still driving vehicles from the past century. 
My dream car has always been a red 1948 Mercury Convertible with that beautiful V8 engine. 
What a car!
Revised March 25, 2011


The phrase attributed to Winston Churchill under my picture is apparently something similar to the urban legend.
In my poor uneducated mind I went with a common mistake and paraphrased what I remembered as a quote of Winston Churchill. For some unknown reason, today, Veterans Day, I decided to research the comment. When or where Churchill ever used the phrase is not apparent in the historical record. Below is what I found on the net.

The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): 
"Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." 
It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): 
"Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."
No matter the source, the sentiment is accurate.

Rev. 3/29/11



The attached poem might help some of us to remember the immigrant’s tale. Most all of us are from those or are those who immigrated from what we now call foreign lands. Immigrants are all aliens. Rightly, those aliens who entered through the normal legal process of whatever time they came have a beef about those who circumvent the legalities. 

The southern border has always been one which has allowed a pretty free traffic of individuals, legal and illegal. We citizens were not too concerned about who crossed the borders until after about 1900 when the population of our country broke the 100,000,000 mark. Now we are 300,000,000 and more, growing and the pinch is beginning to cause us citizens to groan a bit.

Illegal is what it is. If one has not reported to the bureaucracy upon arriving at the border and received permission to enter this country, one is illegal to the citizenry of this country. All the protestations of the "OneWorlder's " cannot change the facts. All the dreamers of Mexico who think that half the western states are still properties of Spanish Mexico cannot change the extant facts. The religious apologist is kind but mistaken. Those who believe that the illegal takes only the job that a citizen will not do is living in fairyland. Ask my nephew whose labor price has gone down by over one-third because of the illegal’s insistence on working at a low wage.

We immigrants and descendants of immigrants must insist on the rule of law, for upon that is what our country has built its society and culture. No person is above the law, no matter their station, monies, family, religion, country of origin or any other enumerable fact. We must not forget this rule.  That we can be merciful and allow those who have broken the rules to profit from such breaking is anathema to our future as a society. To be merciful and just is what we must be.

First, we must acknowledge that we have allowed those who broke the rules to do so without penalty or attempt to dissuade them, for many years.

Second, we must be merciful to ourselves for allowing this to happen and penalize ourselves for these sins of omission. That penalty is the acknowledgement of these illegal's presence and allowance of them to remain as long as they abide by our rule of law.

Third, those who have entered this country illegally must acknowledge our sovereignty, come forward and declare their presence and promise to abide by our rules from this day forward.

Fourth, we must make such rules that allow for the above actions and facts and then move forward into another realm of culture and society. 

This group of rules have allowed us to be and absorb the Teutonic and Scandinavian. To absorb the Celtic, the Roman, the Hellenic, the Iberian, the Semitic, the Oriental, the Indian: How many groups must I mention? We can absorb any group which will live by our rule of law.

There being only one caveat: The rule of law must in all cases be that of secular law, not religious law. For religious law presupposes there is somebody, some human who knows a supreme being and receives the law from that being. No one can yet prove by empirical means, that what they, the human says, is actually from the mind of that supreme being. Therefore we will have to bumble along with what we poor humans can devise and agree upon in concert as the rules of community.

Scum of the Earth
By Robert Haven Schauffler


At the gate of the West I stand,
On the isle where the nations throng.
We call them "scum o' the earth";

Stay, are we doing you wrong,
Young fellow from Socrates' land? --
You, like a Hermes so lissome and strong
Fresh from the Master Praxiteles' hand?
So you're of Spartan birth?
Descended, perhaps, from one of the band --
Deathless in story and song --
Who combed their long hair at Thermopylae's pass?
Ah, I forget the straits, alas!
More tragic than theirs, more compassion-worth,
That have doomed you to march in our "immigrant class"
Where you're nothing but "scum o' the earth".


You Pole with the child on your knee,
What dower bring you to the land of the free?
Hark! does she croon
That sad little tune
That Chopin once found on his Polish lea
And mounted in gold for you and for me?
Now a ragged young fiddler answers
In wild Czech melody
That Dvorak took whole from the dancers.
And the heavy faces bloom
In the wonderful Slavic way;
The little, dull eyes, the brows a-gloom,
Suddenly dawn like the day.
While, watching these folk and their mystery,
I forget that they're nothing worth;
That Bohemians, Slovaks, Croatians,
And men of all Slavic nations
Are "polacks" -- and "scum o' the earth".


Genoese boy of the level brow,
Lad of the lustrous, dreamy eyes
A-stare at Manhattan's pinnacles now
In the first sweet shock of a hushed surprise;
Within your far-rapt seer's eyes
I catch the glow of the wild surmise
That played on the Santa Maria's prow
In that still gray dawn,
Four centuries gone,
When a world from the wave began to rise.
Oh, it's hard to foretell what high emprise
Is the goal that gleams
When Italy's dreams
Spread wing and sweep into the skies.
Caesar dreamed him a world ruled well;
Dante dreamed Heaven out of Hell;
Angelo brought us there to dwell;
And you, are you of a different birth? --
You're only a "dago", -- and "scum o' the earth"!


Stay, are we doing you wrong
Calling you "scum o' the earth",
Man of the sorrow-bowed head,
Of the features tender yet strong, --
Man of the eyes full of wisdom and mystery
Mingled with patience and dread?
Have not I known you in history,
Sorrow-bowed head?
Were you the poet-king, worth
Treasures of Ophir unpriced?
Were you the prophet, perchance, whose art
Foretold how the rabble would mock
That shepherd of spirits, erelong,
Who should carry the lambs on his heart
And tenderly feed his flock?
Man -- lift that sorrow-bowed head.
Lo! 't is the face of the Christ!

The vision dies at its birth.
You're merely a butt for our mirth.
You're a "sheeny" -- and therefore despised
And rejected as "scum o' the earth".


Countrymen, bend and invoke
Mercy for us blasphemers,
For that we spat on these marvelous folk,
Nations of darers and dreamers,
Scions of singers and seers,
Our peers, and more than our peers.
"Rabble and refuse", we name them
And "scum o' the earth", to shame them.
Mercy for us of the few, young years,
Of the culture so callow and crude,
Of the hands so grasping and rude,
The lips so ready for sneers
At the sons of our ancient more-than-peers.
Mercy for us who dare despise
Men in whose loins our Homer lies;
Mothers of men who shall bring to us
The glory of Titian, the grandeur of Huss;
Children in whose frail arms shall rest
Prophets and singers and saints of the West.

Newcomers all from the eastern seas,
Help us incarnate dreams like these.
Forget, and forgive, that we did you wrong.
Help us to father a nation, strong
In the comradeship of an equal birth,
In the wealth of the richest bloods of earth.


Snow, a sprinkling
No, more a dusting
No, a bit more
It’s pretty

Snow in the northern climes
Greeted with joy to groans
The first of the season
Groans for the mess
Joy for the sights

To understand snow 
We must to children’s minds return
The coolness on the stuck-out tongue
The bite of blowing flakes on the cheek

The southern latitudes 
Have this great luck
No Snow to chastise or subdue
Those who walk through open doors 
And leave them so
Have not had white flakes 
Blown in behind their passage

To stomp boots 
Before coming inside 
Or watch the clumps sizzle
And disappear on the stove-top
Or fall into a cushion of white
Or push the shovel along the sidewalk
Or wade through drifts as high as your hips
And wish you had snowshoes like
Those who lived on the shores of
Gitche Gumee

To trudge through a virgin snowfall
Feeling like Admiral Perry of the North
Sliding down any available incline
On sled or ski

The first real snow 
Makes puppies of grizzled old dogs

Damn the tracks on the carpet

December 2007

My Changing Book

At sixteen I was still being formed both physically and intellectually. I had been reading since I can't remember. At age thirteen Valerie Floyd touted a book to me, "The Three Musketeers" by Alexander Dumas.  I went to Montieth library up on Kercheval and found it on the shelf with the other Dumas, pere and fils, books. At a hefty 1200 pages it was a whole lot bigger than those animal adventure books about horses or dogs I had been reading. The Musketeers was my first serious book. It started me on the path of reading anything which came my way. Thank you Valerie. 
Often, when sent to the basement to for spring clean-up my mother found me sitting on the bottom step reading old  news magazines that my father had put in cardboard boxes and stored for further examination, which as far as I know never came.
To return to my sixteenth year: It was summer, August, I was sitting on the front porch, a fully screened house wide porch, it gave a good view onto Philip Avenue. Philip was a street on the east side of the city of Detroit inhabited by mostly lower middle class to middle class families. The buildings were flats and single family homes except for one four family building, one sixteen unit apartment building and an elementary school, all built in the 1920's and 30's. We had lived next to the school since my seventh year and I attended that school, Ives Elementary, from Kindergarten through eighth grade. The city was still booming with industrial might. The auto factories were in two and three shift operation. Hudson, Chrysler, Ford, Chevrolet, Packard were all still active automobile factories. 
I was attending Cass Technical High School downtown on Second Avenue. Mr. Glenn Klepinger had accepted my transfer from Southeastern High because I had a good bass singing voice. My academic work never lived up to my singing and I eventually dropped out of  high school to join the Air Force, but, that's another story. I had a sweetheart who attended Cass and was a member of the Lutheran church which my mother, brother and I attended. That church was just across Jefferson Avenue at the south end of our block. OK, back to the book of the title of this piece.
Remember that porch, I do. As I said, it was August and the day was a bit dark with an approaching weather front. The air was humid with a south wind. I was sitting in a chair on that porch. Next to me was a mattress with attendant bedclothes. I slept out on the porch most of the summer because of the summer heat in my upstairs bedroom. Somewhere I had acquired a book written by Somerset Maugham. As I noted before I was a voracious reader. I cared not for the subject I only wanted to read. The family was out of the house, gone where I can’t remember. This in itself was highly unusual for we had had no private transportation since parking the 1929 Studebaker in the garage in 1942 during the war. Only recently Dad had bought a 1940 Pontiac which was parked out front on the street and only used for special occasions. Just can’t escape those digressions can I.
I began reading, “The Razor’s Edge”.  Sometime in the evening I finished the book. It was in one of those lingering evenings of summer in the northern latitudes. Though still dark for a summer day, the looming frontal passage with its attendant summer storms made for a fine time to brood and think on what really had I read. It was in the waning light that I had my teenage epiphany on religious philosophy. It has followed me to this day. 
I received the idea from Maughm’s writing that one might search the world over for a belief system to support the spiritual side of the human experience but it was in one’s self that the answer exists. The outer accoutrements of any man-made system may be based on a written or aural tradition, but, only the inner workings of the human mind can bring peace. Accept the acquired wisdom about human relationships and how the world works expressed in the traditions because they are mostly lessons learned by many generation, but, don’t accept the faith described by manmade writings requiring ideas about Gods and Devils or angels or minions from Hell. 
Today with its foaming fundamentalists of all religions stating that there is only one way, theirs, to follow in the quest for morality, happiness, human relationships and eternal life merely continues to confirm the insight allowed me at age sixteen. 
I have not always followed the path I saw then but my mind still follows the train of philosophy begun that quiet summer day in my sixteenth year.
Thursday, 25 May, 2006

What do the moderate Muslims believe and want?

Do they believe that any just society must adhere to Sharia law in all cases?
What is Sharia law?
Is Sharia law just an application of the truths expounded in the Quran?
Is Sharia law any law which has been set forth in the last 14 centuries since the beginning of Islam?
Who decrees Sharia law?
Is it the law decided by the people or their representatives?
Who are the people’s representatives in the Muslim philosophy?
Can a Muslim live a proper life without Sharia law?
Why does the Muslim believe they should be judged by Sharia rather than common and statute law of the geo-political entity in which they reside?
If a  society becomes predominately Muslim will Sharia law be imposed and replace the laws previously controlling that society?
If one opposes Sharia law must they be removed from society? And if so by what means?
Can a society with a large Muslim population maintain a political system which is not conformal to the Muslim faith?
Is there an absolute need by those of the Muslim faith to control the society by the tenets expounded in the Quran and interpreted by Imams?
What qualifications do Imams have to control a society?
Why are Imams considered all knowing about matters of faith and philosophy?
Why can any Imam declare a death sentence on any person? 
What are the education and testing qualifications to be considered an Imam?
Can a population controlled by Islamic Imams replace those Imams by popular assent? If not - why not?
Though it has been written that a Muslim controlled society will allow other than Muslims to peacefully reside in that society - will the Muslims allow those others to be full participating members of the political and legal population?
September 12, 2010

(Letter to the Editor about 2008)
I have read many Letters to the Editor from believers in the religious experience. Many explain why I should do or not do something because the ‘‘word of God” has rules about the subject.
I would like to express an opinion that may be disturbing to some and thought provoking for others.
I am not a learned man. I have not studied deeply the texts defining the faiths of the believers. With that said, I have thought about these things for many years.

The believers I speak of are diverse and call their belief systems by many names, primarily Christian, Jewish and Muslim. All these believe there is but one God. But they kill or hate each other. It seems to me to be a totally ridiculous response to a belief in the same one God, who has inspired the writing of books that are similar in content. All the destruction is caused by individuals who purport to have the ability to discern what God wants either through direct contact or by interpreting the contents of 
Let us take the two groups called Christian and Jews. First we must explain that these two groups base their beliefs on a group of writings called the Bible. Though both groups use the older portion, that is, the Old Testament or Torah, only the Christians use the New Testament. Though men had to actually write the books, they are considered the word of God. There are or were many writings considered for inclusion in this canon, but men decided which were to be. 

Why is it believed that the God of the universe would select a small insignificant tribe of desert nomads to be the only humans to understand what he wanted in the way of obedience, societal behavior and worship? Are there no people in existence since this initial choice who merit the same treatment? And why would he manifest himself in the guise of a poor itinerant preacher of that tribe? And why does this God require us to worship him? Is he of such low self-esteem that he requires his creations to acknowledge him constantly? Isn’t this just all a human mind game trying to understand our place in the vast universe?
This one tribe had the temerity and ego to suppose they were a ‘‘chosen people.” Many other tribes and people seem to have accepted this because this tribe was a successful group. This selected tribe developed a system of human behavior and society, which followed reasonable, successful basic rules that became codified in various forms.
The morality of these rules is the basis of our Western laws and morals. Other parts of the world and its citizens developed similar codes of societal behavior.

Now we find another group, the Muslims, followers of the faith of Islam. A group who believes that one man from the Arabian Peninsula was privy to the revealed The Golden Rule has proved to be the one constant of human relationships However, instructed or not, many often interpret the written word on which the beliefs are discerned in their own way. 
Now some more questions.
What explains the remains of humans and their endeavors found in various parts of the world, which predate the stories this small tribe ascribes to itself and its history? Is all the found evidence false or falsified? Is the science which dates these artifacts a sham or totally mistaken?
How does one explain the fossil remains of obviously extinct forms of life? Did a creator make mistakes and those mistaken entities died because they could not
compete for resources? How would an all-knowing creator come to make a mistake?
How does one explain the differences in the human form? Are they merely different tribes created by God⁄Allah or are they mutations of genetic matter? Science says the genetic differences are miniscule, but because they affect the outer appearance they are perceived to be wide differentiations of the human form. If they are genetic mutations, then that proves a part of the theory of evolution, does it not?
Is the story of creation just that; a story to explain the world and its people to a relatively naive people? Various tribes over the world’s surface have various creation stories.
It is requested that the word of God as explicated in the Bible or Quran be viewed as merely one opinion among many and not be used as the controlling, absolute law of the world. To use the general rules and common sense of these books is a good idea for they are, in many cases, the distilled wisdom of many people and their experiences. But, to condemn, kill or force any person to do anything because of the interpretations of these books is to avoid the greatest truth shining from it all: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 
And how do we explain the remaining people of the earth? In the Asiatic and African regions, a population of about 3 billion to 4 billion people have many religious beliefs which do not comport with the three mentioned above, which require a written book to define the relationship between God and human. Are they condemned to have no contact with the God of creation?
Because there is no answer to most of the questions posed, why can’t we just admit that there probably was or is some force or being which started this universe and we don’t know what it is or was. Accept that as fact and apply the Golden Rule stated previously, because it has proved to be the one constant of human relationships which produces the greatest good.