Tag Archives: HISTORY

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

Boswell’s Grocery, A Bygone Reality!

Typical black shotgun homes of Columbia during the first half of 20th Century.

Fifteen years ago I was standing in front of a huge meat cooler in an IGA store in Monck’s Corner, SC and seeing a part of my youth pass before my eyes. I was looking at a massive variety of fresh and smoked animal parts, pigs feet, ham-hocks, jowl meat, pig ears, turkey legs, chicken feet, ox tail, and fat back. These were all the things that my Uncle Johnny sold in his Columbia, SC grocery during the 1950s.

My brother and I spent the occasional summer visiting our South Carolina relatives and working in Uncle Johnny’s store. Boswell’s Grocery was located in the middle of a largely black district of the city and impoverished blacks were the main walk-in clientele. The store also had a sizable “white” trade but that was mostly by telephone and delivered via a Chevrolet panel truck. One of the main joys of spending summers in the store was getting to run around the city in that truck and get a South Carolina driver’s license at the young age of fourteen.

On Saturdays, the rural people would come to town and Continue reading Boswell’s Grocery, A Bygone Reality!

As Rome Burned the People Refused to Watch

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Affairs, retired General Stanley McChrystal reported that the US has always had a “simplistic” view of Afghanistan and after ten-years of fighting neither America’s military or that of NATO are much more than half way finished in achieving the major goal of establishing a stable government in that nation.

With major troop reductions scheduled to begin by the end of this year (2011) it seems the prospect of our total involvement in that nation being a waste is rapidly being confirmed. I am not a military person, my years as a Navy Radioman gives me no more insight Continue reading As Rome Burned the People Refused to Watch

Mr. Wert Ash’s Legacy, Let’s Make it Right!

Mr. Wert Ash, June, 1960

If you live in a city of 18 million souls the legacy you’re remembered by may not count as heavily as it would in a small town of less than 5000. Mr. Wert Ash lived and died in a small town and for decades his legacy has been stained by what small town’s are good at; accepting rumor and half-truths as fact.

During much of his life, this descendant of a grandfather who had experienced slavery first hand, was known as “Hammerhead” or “Hammer.” Few knew his real name but most in town knew him by those nicknames, didn’t know why he was called them, but knew that shouting those words at Mr. Wert Ash would drive him to a fit of anger, evoking oaths, threats, and at times hot pursuit.

I’ve recently been privy to a discussion about Mr. Wert Ash and no one present knew what his real name was but most knew who he was and what his nicknames were. Just as they didn’t know his real name, they didn’t know how he Continue reading Mr. Wert Ash’s Legacy, Let’s Make it Right!

The Panic is On

Hezekiah Jenkins, circa 1930s

You’re probably aware that I’m a great fan of blues music and when I’m in the car I’m usually listening to BB King’s Bluesville on XM Satellite Radio. Recently a song being performed by Maria Muldaur, a contemporary performer, titled The Panic is On began playing. It had a sound from the 20s or 30s and the subject was economic hard-times. The lyrics were so familiar I couldn’t tell if the song was addressing hard-times today or hard-times during the Great Depression. Muldaur had added a last verse containing the name of our current president, further confusing my thoughts.

So, later in the day I did some Googling and discovered the song was written by and first performed in 1931 by Hezekaih Jenkins and Muldaur had resurrected it for Continue reading The Panic is On

Gossett’s, The BOO(k) Store of My Youth

L-R: Thad Gossett, Wilma Gossett Everhart, & Cheryl Stuckey. Click photo to enlarge.

Recently I wrote a piece about the demise of the old-fashioned hardware store. Well, another retail business genre that’s dipping below the horizon is the local book and office supply store. Shot from the saddle by the young bloods in town, Staples and Office Max.

In my hometown, Greenfield, OH, we had Gossett’s Bookstore. Gossett’s began selling paper, pins, thumb tacks, gifts, books, accounting supplies, typewriters, adding machines, ditto machines, postage scales, staples, paperclips, pencils, pens, crayons, tempera paint and artist supplies, all-occasion cards, Sunday School supplies, school supplies and workbooks, and much more since before Saint Peter strolled in one day and ordered some very large blank journals.

Seriously, every person who ever walked the streets of Greenfield, beginning in 1841, could relate some pleasant memory of doing business at Gossett’s. If a chemist were to enter his lab and synthesize the aromas of all the items I’ve listed above and then Continue reading Gossett’s, The BOO(k) Store of My Youth

The Transformation of a Kid: February 1964

Let me tell you story, my Chapman’s General Store patrons. ‘Twas way back in the winter of ’64, and my music world consisted of listening to the likes of Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka, yes, even Andy Williams. Hell, we didn’t even have much Elvis in the house. My sister Karen had some Elvis soundtracks but even The King was way too controversial for Bourneville, Ohio at the time. Mom and Dad had some Dean Martin stuff I could throw on the turntable, if that clarifies my situation at all. I was 8-years old but listened to music as often as I could. I was too young to buy 45s, so I was dependent on whatever was brought home by Mom & Dad or my two older sisters. Bleak times indeed. Those times had become bleaker in November of ’63 when my 2nd grade teacher walked in the room to tell us that JFK, a man for whom I’d passed out flyers around Ross County with my strongly democratic family, had been blown away in Dallas. I was shaken, even at my young age. Seeing your dad cry for the first time will do that to you. With the country knocked down to one knee, it certainly needed a wake-up call. I, and everybody else, got one in February.

I’d heard rumblings of something strange going on. My older sister Karen, the rebel in the family, had whispered to me the news of a Continue reading The Transformation of a Kid: February 1964

If You Think You’re Middle-Class, You Probably Aren’t. Take This Simple Test

So you think you’re middle-class. I’ve already written several pieces about America’s disappearing middle-class but many Americans still cling to the notion that they remain in the middle-class. I’ve done a little homework and I’m beginning to wonder if many of those who think they are/were in the middle ever actually were.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my family’s gross income close to $50,000 annually?
  2. Is my family’s income secure? Can we count on it being there tomorrow and many tomorrows in the future?
  3. Do we own our own home or are able to meet the mortgage payments with little difficulty?
  4. Is the neighborhood we live in safe?
  5. Do we own at least one dependable vehicle?
  6. Are we able to save enough for our children’s college tuition?
  7. Are we able to save enough for retirement?
  8. Do we have enough disposable income for a few frills?

 

A single income family in 1970 had more discretionary income than a dual income family in the 2000s. By the way, the average 1970s family didn’t earn over $40k and the average today does not earn $75k.

If you’re having trouble answering these questions in the affirmative you’re probably not middle-class. If you’ve never been able to answer yes to these questions then you’ve most likely never been middle-class. According to an ABC News poll in 2010, “45 percent of Americans define themselves as middle class (very similar to a CNN poll that year). They earned about $55,000 a year, compared with about $95,000 for those who defined themselves as above the middle class…” How one sees perceives their situation is often quite different than reality. The anorexic looks in the mirror and sees a fat person.

Continue reading If You Think You’re Middle-Class, You Probably Aren’t. Take This Simple Test

Saucer Sippers; Do You Know One?

We were on a short driving trip recently and I was sipping on a travel mug of coffee I had brewed earlier in my Keurig single-cup brewing machine. I don’t know how many methods of brewing coffee I’ve bought into over the years but Keurig is my current choice. I love the quality and variety of the coffee and having to brew just one cup at a time.

When I took the last swig I remarked to my wife how I, “was going to miss that cup of coffee.” Every mug of coffee is not created equal. It may have something to do with variations in the coffee blends, stage of the tides, or phase of the moon. I suspect, though, it has more to do with the day to day status of one’s taste buds. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

I don’t like coffee when if it’s too hot and usually allow it to sit several minutes before taking the first sip. Once it has cooled a few degrees Continue reading Saucer Sippers; Do You Know One?

I Was Nineteen and the Movie was Exodus

When I was nineteen I didn’t know much about Israel, Palestine, the Mid-East, where oil came from, and many other things. What I first learned about Israel came from sitting through the 1961 screening of Otto Preminger’s film, Exodus in Copenhagen, Denmark.

To keep it brief, the story is about Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust seeking their own nation in what was then Palestine, a place already occupied by people calling themselves Palestinians. Palestine was under the control of Great Britain as mandated by one of the treaties ending World War One and directions of the old League of Nations.

Emigration to Palestine by European Jews, being frowned upon by the British, made the central characters illegal immigrants seeking to force the newly formed United Nations into partitioning Palestine into two nations, one Arab, one Jewish.

With the backing and manipulation of the United States the UN did partition Palestine in 1947 thus immediately setting off a war between Continue reading I Was Nineteen and the Movie was Exodus

You Call That a Dirty Joke?

If you’re younger than I you may have never heard of Rusty Warren or Redd Foxx. Even if you know of Redd Foxx it’s probably from his role as Fred G. Sandford of television fame. But long before Sandford and Son, Foxx was known as the king of dirty jokes while Warren was the queen.

In the 1950s people secretly listened to Redd Foxx and Rusty Warren on long-play, 33 1/3 r.p.m., vinyl record albums which society in general viewed as extremely raunchy humor. Everyone owned a couple of these albums, or had a friend who did. Adults routinely held house parties with a part of the evening’s entertainment consisting of sitting around the record player listening to the latest album from one of these comedians.

Rusty Warren was, and still is, considered by many a major figure in the sexual revolution Continue reading You Call That a Dirty Joke?

Nothing New About the Tea Party

Speaking at a luncheon prior to the dedication of the MLK, Jr. monument in Washington, DC, Jessie Jackson made the statement that the Tea Party was nothing new, “It’s just a new name for an old game.”

The old game Jackson referenced is the argument for state’s rights. When historians examine the causes of the American Civil War they often cite issues involving state’s rights as a major reason Continue reading Nothing New About the Tea Party