Category Archives: History

The Almost Lost Art of Bent Willow Furniture

Back in the ’50s, it was quite common to see bent willow furniture sitting on people’s porches and patios. A childhood friend had two chairs on their porch and I always loved sitting in them. They were handmade by an older man who lived in a small shack along a nearby creek. The creek and surrounding wetlands gave him all the raw materials he needed.

He would build single chairs as well as couches and side tables. The fellow didn’t have a car or truck so he pushed a large two-wheeled cart loaded with his furniture up and down the village streets peddling his wares. On days he didn’t have furniture to sell he would push his cart around town hauling away people’s scrap metals and newspapers.

I believe the only piece of willow furniture we ever had was a small child’s rocking chair that one of our daughters used for her children.

Several years ago I was driving through the Florida Panhandle and came upon a large pickup truck with a cab-over rack. The vehicle was heavily loaded with beautiful bent willow furniture. I don’t know where they were from or where they were going but I sure wish I’d chased them down and brought a couple of chairs home.

It’s been a long time since I gave the subject any thought but today I came across a video of a young man in Kentucky who’s keeping the craft alive. If I wasn’t so damned old now I’d look the guy up and place an order. I’ll post the video below and hopefully, this will bring back some pleasant memories for you.

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To Smoke or Not to Smoke?

Recently I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and in front of me was a car with two teenage boys. They weren’t paying attention and keeping up with the line. So, expecting a flock of angry birds I honked my horn. It woke them and from then on they mostly paid attention.

What I noticed, when their heads weren’t bobbing to something I wouldn’t recognize as music, was that both were either smoking cigarettes or vaping. I could fault them for that but at their age, I was on my way to becoming totally nicotine addicted and working my way towards two or more packs a day.  The brief experience made me reflect back on my own experiences.

Ironically the Marlboro Man died of cancer.

I guess that I began smoking around age twelve, if not younger. That would have been 1954 and I continued smoking until 1982 at age forty when I attended a smoking cessation class and six weeks later snuffed out my devil weed. So, I smoked 28 years and have been smoke-free for 36 years.

In 1954 a pack of cigarettes in New York was .23 cents and I was smoking one or two a day.  By 1960, the year I graduated from high school the price was .26 cents and I was consuming a pack a day. In 1982 cigarettes were .82 cents a pack and I was smoking three packs a day and if I went bar hopping on Friday night it would be another two packs for a total of five.

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President Bone Spur’s Letter of Exemption

What follows is part of a New York Times article regarding the way in which the Trump family may have used its influence to obtain a bogus letter exempting Trump from the military draft.

“The New York City podiatrist who gave Donald Trump a letter stating he had bone spurs on his heels—which enabled him to dodge the Vietnam War draft—issued the document as a favor to Trump’s real-estate developer father, Fred, from whom his office space was rented, the doctor’s daughter has told The New York Times. “I know it was a favor,” said Elysa Braunstein, now 56, who said the implication from her father was that the future president did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. Braunstein’s surgical office in Jamaica, Queens, was owned by the Trump family until 2004. Braunstein said that after the letter was issued, her father received preferential treatment from his landlord. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.” Larry Braunstein died in 2007. A second podiatrist, Manny Weinstein, who was also allegedly involved in testifying to Trump’s condition, was a close friend of Braunstein’s, she said. Weinstein lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump. He moved into the first space during the year Donald Trump received his exemption. In an interview with the Times in 2016, Donald Trump said a doctor provided “a very strong letter” about the bone spurs in his heels, which he then presented to military draft officials. He said he could not remember the doctor’s name. “You are talking a lot of years,” Trump said. He had been declared available for service two years earlier and underwent a physical exam, records show. Officials again declared him available for service in July 1968, by which time he had exhausted four education deferments and finished college. However, the last-minute diagnosis of bone spurs, which has been widely mocked, kept him out of military service.”

Patton on Walls

My wife and I were recently talking about how much of an exposed border America has. In light of that, I saw this meme that is such a good visual illustration of how meaningless a Southern wall is. There also appears to be some evidence that more illegals cross the Canadian border than the Mexican. Regardless, America is a very porous nation and no fence is going to keep people out. Once again, walls don’t work, just ask the Chinese or the French. I know that Trump knows more than his generals but just bear in mind these words from General George S. Patton, “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome, anything made by man can be overcome.”

Our cold war effort in vain

If you came of age during the 1950s you should feel pretty angry with the current relationship between America and its cold war enemies, Russia and China. In 1917 the Russian Empire was overthrown by Bolshevik communists and the empire became the Soviet Union. From its inception, America and other nations have viewed communism as a synonym for totalitarianism and a direct threat to freedom and Western-style democracy.

WW2 Grand Alliance between England, America, and the Soviet-Union.

Even though we allied with Russia during WWII we still viewed them with many grains of suspicion. When the war ended the Soviets didn’t retreat to their pre-war borders. They stayed and took control of those countries they had pushed the Nazis from. The Soviet sphere of influence grew and the goal was to grow more. This expansionism prompted Winston Churchill to warn of an “iron curtain” descending upon Europe, one side free and the other imprisoned.

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The Cost of Living with Trump

According to CNBC  Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminum will add $1,800 to the cost of a Toyota Camry sedan, assembled in Kentucky. A similar cost would occur for a Tundra pickup truck and around $2,900 on a Sienna minivan. To some degree the same will happen to all automobile costs because so many materials and parts are imported.

Trump loves to brag about the economy and takes major credit for it. He mostly points to the rising stock market and falling unemployment rates. What he doesn’t mention is the stagnation of wages  for the working class, the shortage and rising cost of housing, the skyrocketing cost of education, the in-affordability of medical care, and the enormous tax breaks he’s given to the super wealthy.

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A Little Political Science & History

I watched the attached video and had no problem whatsoever seeing the parallels and similarities between Mussolini and Hitler as compared to the rise of Donald Trump.

I’m not saying they are a perfect match or that the times are exactly the same. But, I do believe that Trump craves total control, has contempt for intellectuals, fears opposing political parties and ideologies, wouldn’t hesitate to stomp out the free press, curtail free speech, align himself with the military, and wouldn’t turn down an enabling act if offered one.

I don’t live my life in fear of Trump but I do keep aware of how close he comes to walking in the footpaths of Il Duce and the der Führer.

Jump Jim Crow; A Lesson in History

In my lifetime been a witness to much of the efforts to weaken or eliminate segregation in America. Unfortunately, I’m now witness to the reemergence of those forces that contributed to American segregation in the first place. I came across this short video covering  the highlights of post Civil War race relations and I think we all might benefit from a refresher course.

How about a little Russian History lesson?

On July 16, 2018 Donald Trump claimed that what Vladimir Putin says is more truthful than whatever is said by America’s entire intelligence community. He endorsed a leader, a nation, and an international viewpoint that no American president or government has ever endorsed. No American government has ever viewed Russia as an ally, a friend, a co-equal, or a friendly force in world politics. In fact, for the past 80 years America and Russia have been diametrically opposed, often at the threat of open military hostility.

Unlike Belgium, Norway, Holland and France, who were directly and almost immediately swallowed up by Hitler’s armies, the Soviet Union entered a 1939 non-aggression pact with Hitler that swung open the doors of Eastern Europe. The Soviets have to share some of the blame for the outbreak of WWII and total blame for the eventual invasion of their homeland by Hitler’s forces.

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In pursuit of a more perfect union & other things

I took an afternoon nap, watched a little news, and found myself angry enough that I just have to hold a little American History class. This nation is not and has never been perfect. But our basic documents give us goals and a purpose to believe in. The Declaration of Independence addresses the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of liberty. It also speaks to all men being created equal. The main document, the US Constitution speaks in its Preamble the reasons we formed a government. It clearly states that one reason is to create a more perfect union. While we at times have made great progress with all these things, we have also failed miserably. Mixed in with all that is bright and shiny are some pretty damned dark and shameful events.

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Orange County, California

I lived in Southern California in the 1960s and went to college and taught for a year in Orange County. At the time the word on the street was, Orange County is the most conservative in America. We didn’t have Google back then so I really didn’t know but much of what I witnessed agreed with common beliefs.

California is having their primary elections today and in recent weeks much has been said about the Democrats being able to flip conservative Orange County. Out of curiosity I did a little snooping and found more than one article refuting the conservative claims.

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It’s a New World That’s Coming

By the spring of 1969 I had two more classes to take to fulfill my requirements. I needed to take public speaking and a literature elective. Public speaking was required of all students seeking a career in teaching. I was so fearful of it I put it off till the very end. Turned out I feared for not, I loved it.

The literature class I decided on was Science Fiction Literature. Both classes were summer classes and I quickly learned that Catholic nuns went to school in the summer and they were serious about getting all the As. The other lesson was that literature teachers who are serious fans of Sci-Fi also take summer classes.

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BJs are OK Today

I remember being one of those loyal Democrats who for a short time tried to support Bill Clinton getting blown and enjoying a fine smoke afterwards.

When the red sphinctered Republicans accused him of having sex with that woman I pointed out that even Eisenhower got his socks knocked off a few times while overseas. There’s a long history of presidents having sex in places other than the second floor of the White House.

There’s also a long history of men lying about their sexual exercises to keep their wives happy and in the dark. When the GOP finally got down to asking him if he had engaged in sex with Monica, Clinton messed up by saying it depended on how one defined sex. That’s when I stopped supporting Clinton and the aroma of family valued impeachment heat wafted over the great DC Swamp. Well, the self-righteous impeached, the wise men of the Senate refused to convict, and William Jefferson Clinton became member two of the Andrew Johnson Boys Club.

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The Southern Way of Life

My father’s family was centered in Northwestern South Carolina. I was born in Charleston, SC and lived for several years of my early life in Columbia. My Uncle and Aunt owned a grocery store in the heart of a large black Columbia neighborhood and on several occasions I spent the summer with them and my cousins.

At the time segregation was the rule and the rule was total. I was too young to understand why the rules but I soon learned what the rules were. The last summer I spent in SC was 1954 and I was fourteen. They say things are different today but I not always convinced of that.

Back then it was common to hear Southerners talk about The Southern Way of Life and that Yankees and liberals were determined to interfere with it. I came across the following video and as I watched it I was taken back to the 50s and it all was so familiar. While I never heard my family members talking like this it wouldn’t surprise me if in private they supported the basics of the Southern Way.

Mississippi; what’s wrong with it?

If your state is possibly the poorest, least educated, most conservative state in the nation; well, that’s what’s wrong with it. It also doesn’t help if your state’s flag still includes a version of the Confederate flag. Having too many of the people portrayed in the attached video also doesn’t speak well.

I’ve been to Mississippi many times and things are slowly changing. The state and local governments have done some amazing things in creating a blues and music based tourist economy. But despite the steps forward there are too many people who would take it back to the pre civil rights era. Mississippi’s overwhelming support of Donald Trump is a strong statement to this.

Couple of years ago I heard a black Mississippi judge speak of the new Mississippi. The fact that he was black and a judge speaks to things new. Unfortunately there’s too much old in Mississippi.