Tag Archives: HISTORY

Mushroom Memories From the Cold War Era

Like so many of you, I am a child of the Cold War. Those decades when the United States, China, and the Soviet Union kept the world on the edge of nuclear holocaust 24/7-365.

During those decades we all learned to “duck and cover“, be aware of strangers asking questions, fear Communism (even if we didn’t know what it was), accept the cost of a strong military, permit the government to conduct highly secret operations, and stand quietly by while the House Un-American Activities Committee stripped many Americans of their rights because they wouldn’t roll over and drink the Kool-Aid.

On our black and white TVs, we allowed our fears to be intensified by watching such shows as I Led Three Lives, the story of Herbert Philbrick who became an agent for the FBI and infiltrated the Communist Party in America. In our theaters we got cold chills watching such movies as The Manchurian Candidate. Continue reading Mushroom Memories From the Cold War Era

Nukes v. Nukes

FACTOID: In 1982 the American v. Soviet Union stockpiles of nuclear weapons reached its apex. The US had 2,032 launchers compared to the USSR’s 2,490. The US had 11,000 nuclear warheads to the USSR’s 10,000 and total mega-tonnage of explosive power showed the US with 4,100 to the Soviet’s 8,200. In 1961 the USSR detonated a nuclear weapon that was 3800 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.

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“History Yes, Nostalgia No”

Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Political Science, Tulane Univ.

I’m a member of a group on Facebook composed of current and former residents of my hometown, Greenfield, Ohio. This group was formed several months ago by a woman who lived in and went to school in Greenfield during the early 1960s. She, like so many others, long ago moved away but never forgot what growing up in a small town was like.

There are over 300 members of the group now and most of the conversation centers around “do you remember” kinds of things. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned much from being privy to the collective memories of those who take part.

One recently asked question was, “What do you miss most about Greenfield?” My answer was different from many. While many people could generate a specific list of things they seemed to genuinely miss, I could only create a list of those things I enjoyed experiencing but wouldn’t particularly want to experience again. I have fond memories of, but don’t miss the past. Continue reading “History Yes, Nostalgia No”

Dick Waterman, Helping to Keep the Blues Breathing

Photographer & Blues Promoter, Dick Waterman, Oxford, MS 2009

I’ve known of Dick Waterman for a number of years and got to spend half an hour with him and his wife before the opening of a Mavis Staples concert in Oxford, MS several years ago. He is the only inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame who was not a performing artist or involved in the recording industry. Dick Waterman is a music historian with a camera at the ready.

Over the decades he has taken thousands of photographs of people in popular genres of music who were, or have become, household names. He discovered and promoted new talent such as Bonnie Raitt, and rediscovered legendary talent like Son House and brought them back into public view. If the blues ever dies it won’t be because Dick Waterman didn’t spend his life trying to keep it breathing.

In the current online version of Blues Festival E Guide there is a nice interview with Waterman along with samples of his photographic works. You can see more Continue reading Dick Waterman, Helping to Keep the Blues Breathing

HANUKKAH BEGINS

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar.

In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication.” The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods. Continue reading HANUKKAH BEGINS

National Growler Day, Damn I Missed it!

Growler boy working for a Milwaukee iron works in 1892.

Back in the 50s I would occasionally spend a weekend with the family of a man my father worked with. They lived across the river from Cincinnati in Newport, KY. Being hardcore Germans the drank lots of beer and most Friday and Saturday evenings were spent at the neighborhood tavern. It was a time and place in America where a friendly tavern could be found on most corners of residential areas. The TV hadn’t began to keep people glued to their sofas yet and the tavern was the neighborhood’s living room.

In the Cincinnati area there were businesses known as pony kegs. These were the equivalent of today’s drive-thru carry-outs where you could pick up a few six-packs or a quarter keg (pony keg) of locally drafted beer. We had a Continue reading National Growler Day, Damn I Missed it!

All Along the Border People are Fleeing America

Since 2008 and the financial collapse in America I’ve seen consistent reports that the number of illegal immigrants in this country is shrinking. To the political right, however, it is of no matter. They continue to pound the spike of immigration fear into the hearts of their fearful, xenophobic, followers.

But, if there is some fearful soul, cowering beneath the four-poster in their bedroom, who can be reached with a little light of truth, here’s a brief piece that appeared on The Daily Beast. Oh, don’t let the name scare you, it’s just a news site and not really a monster.

Border Crossings Drop Sharply

Illegal immigration isn’t as rampant as some Republican debates Continue reading All Along the Border People are Fleeing America

Shoe’s Deep Cuts

For you youngun’s out there, a deep cut refers to a song that was buried deeply on an album, probably somewhere toward the end of side two. The song probably wasn’t expected to be a hit, hence the song placement. Wait. Does anyone under 40-years old even know what an album is? Does LP ring a bell? Nothing? Sigh. Let us continue . . .

We all have personal favorites of a particular artist or band, songs that may have never been a hit or played on the radio. Songs that weren’t critically acclaimed but just struck a chord with you. Struck a chord, get it? Musical reference. That, my friends, is writing. Wannabe scribes take note. Anyway, it’s something that can’t be explained, that chord, that something that can bring tears to your eyes or make you want to listen to the song over and over. Sometimes the song can be something you’re afraid to admit you like. Full disclosure: “If Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson comes on the radio, I always sing along. That’s Kelly up top. Killer pipes, lemme tell ya. Continue reading Shoe’s Deep Cuts

America’s Two Wars, the One in Afghanistan and the War on Christmas

Rick Perry is absolutely disgusting. Last week he released a campaign ad in which he claims that President Obama is waging a war against Christmas and that gays can serve in the military but children cannot celebrate Christmas in their schools.

Well, I just went to a Christmas (not Holiday) program at my granddaughter’s public elementary school and the program was based on the Dr. Seuss classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, not The Grinch Who Stole the Holidays. I also remember well the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree this year and each year Mr. Obama and his family has lived in the nation’s home.

For the first time I ventured into the marketplace this past “Black Friday.” The stores were Continue reading America’s Two Wars, the One in Afghanistan and the War on Christmas

Ain’t no Post-Racial Round Here!

On Facebook, and elsewhere, I’ve had several recent discussions about the continued existence of racism in America. There are those who insist on claiming that race is no longer an issue in America, with the election of our first black president we have somehow moved beyond it. This is especially true in some GOP circles as they attempt their party as being one of inclusion and not exclusion.

Prior to the New Deal the GOP frequently did champion the causes of race and women’s suffrage. Things began to change during the Great Depression as blacks increasingly turned to the Democrat Party to address their issues. It was New Deal policy that provided aid to impoverished whites and blacks. It was a Democrat president, Harry Truman, who finally integrated the armed forces, it was the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who took on the issues of civil rights and economic opportunity. Continue reading Ain’t no Post-Racial Round Here!

Basketball, an Island, and a Volcano: My Journey to the Caribbean.

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell this story. After all, it happened a long time ago and a lot of people have heard at least parts of it. Still, it has never been written and I thought it might be of some interest and worth hearing. Plus, I have to admit that it’s a pretty incredible story. It’s very long, so grab an adult beverage and relax. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

See that picture? Hours before that volcano blew I was standing at its edge with my Caribbean basketball players, peering down into it. Got your attention? Good. Let’s backtrack . . .

It all started over 16-years ago at the University of Maryland, where I was working at Gary William’s Basketball Camp. At the camp I’d become acquainted with an international coach who had worked in several countries, including a stint as the Greek National coach. He’d also been the National Coach of a tiny island in the Caribbean. The country’s name was Montserrat. I’d never heard of Montserrat at the time, but that would soon change.

A few months later, in the early spring of 1995, I got a call. On the line was a gentleman with a distinct British/Caribbean accent. He informed me that he was a businessman from Montserrat who also happened to be a supporter of their national basketball team. He’d been given my name by the coach previously mentioned, and he informed me that said coach had stepped down and Montserrat was looking for somebody new to train their team. Would I be interested? After getting some details (paid fare to the Caribbean, free lodging and meals, an island in a tropical paradise) I agreed. Hey, I’m not stupid. At the time I had no misgivings. It wasn’t until later that I started to Continue reading Basketball, an Island, and a Volcano: My Journey to the Caribbean.

A Night with Lawrence Welk and Sister Alice

I was sitting at my desk on a recent Saturday evening. It was 7:38 p.m. and I realized I was tapping my foot to the rhythm of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra playing Tequilla. Suddenly I realized just how old I must be if this is what my Saturday evenings have turned into.

Mentioning this to some friends I soon discovered just how popular Welk remains to people of my generation. Even younger people, who not have liked Welk’s musical style have fond memories of their parents turning on his program and singing along with Lawrence and his regular cast of musicians, singers and dancers. One acquaintance said, “Every Saturday night in the late 50’s early 60’s, my grandmother would baby sit me. Every Saturday night, we’d watched Lawrence Welk. I bet I’ve seen more Lawrence Welk episodes than anyone. To this day, when I am surfing PBS and Welk comes on, I pause, listen, and say, ‘There you go Grandma.'”

My mother was a great Lawrence Welk fan. Next to Liberace, Welk was her go to guy for music. Right up to her last days mom would sit in front of the TV Continue reading A Night with Lawrence Welk and Sister Alice

There’s More to Being President Than Being Old Enough!

Seems like every cycle of the news brings new revelations of just how ill-prepared so many GOP presidential candidates are. The US Constitution only requires a person to be a natural-born citizen, lived fourteen years in the US and be 35-years old. But, while these are the legal prerequisites there exist others that are far more demanding.

One of my basic requirements is that my candidate has to be well-educated. That demands they be extremely knowledgeable of American and World History, advanced economic systems, Constitutional law, foreign affairs, policy, and diplomacy. Presidents have lots of people around them to offer advice and can’t be expected to know everything. But, they must bring to the job a deep and broad foundation Continue reading There’s More to Being President Than Being Old Enough!

Old Time Radio, Shoulders of Giants

My generation is likely the last to have memories of the time radio ruled the entertainment empire. When I arrived on the scene in 1942 talking movies were only fourteen years old and TV was still a tinkerer’s toy being played with in a few laboratories.

WLW's famous tower antenna at Mason, Ohio. The Nation's Station.

Radio was the medium you didn’t have to leave home to enjoy. Wherever you lived you could have music, news, commentary, sports, drama, variety, adventure, mystery, and more. You could listen to a station next door or one half way around the world. By my time the magic box called radio was omnipresent and universally affordable. The price of admission was simply listening to the frequent commercial for dish soap, shaving cream, and Chevrolet.

There was no static free FM transmissions. Everything was broadcast in AM mode and subject to all the atmospheric scratches and static discharges Mother Nature could muster up. On a good night one could listen to programs originating in New York, New Orleans, Chicago and other major American cities. If one owned a radio with Continue reading Old Time Radio, Shoulders of Giants