Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

WWII Thoughts on the 4th of July

July 4, 2011

On this, the most patriotic day of the  year, I reflect on the most patriotic time of my life, World War II.

I was eleven when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The nation immediately united behind  the war effort.  With 14 to 16-million Americans in the armed forces, just  about  everyone had someone  in potential harms way. Not so now. Few have a friend or relative in the  services. A relatively small minority is bearing  the  sacrifice as the rest watch.

My late sister Betty and brother-in-law law Jack Gibson during world War II.

Both my brother Elbert and brother-in-law Jack Gibson were drafted.  Jack, a machine-gunner, was wounded a few days after landing  at  Normandy, and awarded a Purple Heart medal.  My sister Betty made her first trip out of the South when she took trains to Wisconsin to see Jack a few days before he went overseas.

My late brother Elbert in Germany, 1945

Elbert, who was younger than Jack, was drafted near the war’s end. He was in the UK, heading for France when Germany surrendered.  He drove a Jeep for a lieutenant around Germany looking for the lieutenant’s German relatives.  Before he shipped overseas, my mother decided she and 13-year-old me would visit him in Joplin, MO, where he was getting  Signal Corps training.

What an  adventure that was for untraveled me. The railroads had every car that would roll in service. With gasoline rationing, you took a train or bus, especially on  a long  trip. When we boarded the train in Columbus, there was only one seat available. I had no seat from Columbus to Birmingham, sitting in other folk’s seats when they would go to the restroom or to smoke.  We did get seats when we had lunch in the  diner, my first  diner experience. I loved it.

13-year-old me

There  were no hotel rooms available in Joplin, but people in private homes rented rooms to visitors like  us.  My mom and dad did the same  thing, renting out a room to Ft. Benning soldiers and  their wives. One couple had a little girl. She was meaner than any boy I knew, and I couldn’t  hit her becaused she was a girl.  Wanting to keep their room, her parents tried to make it up to me by taking me to a movie with the three of them. It helped.

Keeping everyone involved in the war effort, we were encouraged to buy war  bonds and stamps. Kids like me would buy dime stamps and put them in a book that we could cash in or use toward buying a $25 bond when the book was filled. Folks also saved and took tin cans, old tires and scrap paper to collection centers to be recycled  to make things for the armed forces. Just  about  everyone I knew did it. As a Boy Scout, I remember riding  in the  back of a truck, going door to door to pick up scrap paper people were saving.

Yes, it was a very different time and a very different war. Today, people do respect and support our troops, even though most are war weary and want  us out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  But, there is definitely not the involvement and  the  sharing of the sacrifice as there was then.

A Unique 80th Birthday Gift

November 28, 2010

Andrew Cashen, of Prestige Helicopters, Inc. at McCollum Field, Kennesaw, Georgia, asked me “Have you ever flown in a helicopter before?” 

Me and my helicopter lesson instructor Andrew Cashen, McCollum Field, Kennesaw, GA

“Yes. I flew in Hueys, Bells, and a Georgia Power helicopter that flew me from Columbus to Plant Vogtle.”

“But, never at the controls.”

“No, never at the controls.”

He also asked me if I had ever flown a fixed-wing aircraft, and I told him I had, that I was not a licensed pilot, but I knew how to fly. As a teenager, the first time I ever went up in an airplane I flew it.  On learning that I had never flown before, a friend of my accompanying older brother, Elbert, told me if I paid half the price of the gas in a rental plane, he would take me up.  When we got into the small two-place tail-dragger, he informed me that I was going to fly it. Following his instructions, I taxied it to the runway, took it off, and  flew it around for a little while, and, lined it  up with the runway for a landing. He insisted on landing it, which I agreed was an excellent idea. 

 Over the years other pilots, including the late legendary Tuskegee Airman instructor Chief Anderson, had let me take the controls some.  Anderson, who was 80 at the time, even let me, with a little assist,  land his Cessna, apply the brakes and taxi it to the hangar. What a great guy he was.

Andrew explained to me that, while there were some similar characteristics in flying a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter, there were some distinct differences.  And he pointed that understanding those differences was important in preventing a crash. He definitely got my attention with that remark.

Me on the left, Andrew on the right.

  He told me about the three main controls, which you have to coordinate for successful flight.  He said that he would let me handle each one separately while he controlled the other two, and if I did that all right, he would let me control all three and actually fly the chopper. I did end up controlling all three, and after we landed, I said, “I actually flew it!”

He replied, “You actually did better when you controlled all three.”

That keeper memory was made possible by stepson Ken Champion and his wife Katrina, who bought me the helicopter lesson for my 80th birthday.  It was a unique and very enjoyable experience.  One of the main reasons it was so enjoyable was because of the sunny personality of the instructor. He had a great knack for giving orders without sounding like he was giving orders.  As we were walking back to his office building after the flight, I asked him if he flew other helicopters. He replied that he did, including a Black Hawk.  Turns out that he is also a National Guard helicopter pilot. 

If you’re interested in a lesson you can contact him  at 770-655-3976.  Tell him Dick sent you. I liked him. In fact, I don’t think I ever met a pilot I didn’t like, including the one who gave me my first fixed-wing lesson. I guess there is something about wanting to fly that makes for happier people. On the back of Andrew’s business card is the Gover C. Norwood quote, “Because I Fly, I envy no man on earth.” 

Ken and Katrina, along with my granddaughter Shannon, witnessed the flight and took some video of the takeoff and landing.  You can actually see me inside the R-22. I’m the one in the khaki pants.  The R-22 is, as you can see,  small and light. You really know you are flying when you are in a small one like the R-22.  It is quite popular as a trainer, and can perform incredible areobatics. 

My Garden

February 2, 2009

Some time ago I made the statement that, while I can’t promise a post every day – blogging is not my life – I would always make an effort to post something new on Mondays.  This Monday, there are a number of weighty issues I could get into,  especially with the legislature going back into session, but that would take a lot of energy,  and this epic chest cold I have isn’t leaving an abundance of that for anything but fighting it;  therefore, this Monday it’s going to be light and personal.

As I said, blogging isn’t my life.  For instance I am gardening now.  My second crop is coming in so I thought I would show it to you.  My first crop was herbs, and this one is varieties of lettuce, including Romaine.  The crop is not fully grown yet,  but will be ready for harvesting soon.

My hydroponic lettuce crop

My hydroponic lettuce crop

I can’t say that my gardening takes a lot of time and energy,  but the results are dependable and impressive.  The hydroponic garden was a Christmas gift (not this Christmas) from my niece Janet Sue Gray,  her husband Gordon, and their three sons.  It just keeps on giving.

Passionate Blogging

December 4, 2008

  Maybe I’ve been doing this blogging thing the wrong way. Instead of trying to post a well-written think piece, I should simply give vent to my passions and not worry about details like literary excellence. That’s what I took from Arianna Huffington when she was interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. She was on the show to plug her book on how to blog. It’s titled The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.

  She said the key to successful blogging is to write about your passions, and to not worry about a blog post being a finished product.  In other words, don’t spend a lot of time trying polish your posts.

  I don’t spend a lot of time doing that, but I do try to make the post readable and get the grammar as correct as possible. I take a few liberties and sometimes use sentence fragments because that’s the way I speak and just about everyone else speaks. I remember one of my English Literature professors saying that before you can get away with breaking the rules, you have know them. She said, “When you are writing for me, you have to convince me that you know the rules. Don’t break them.” I don’t claim to know the rules flawlessly, but I’m not being graded by her any more so I’ll break the ones I do know when I feel like it.

 Arianna said that when you blog you should write about your passions. Once I figure what they are now, maybe I’ll concentrate on them. They have changed over time. Once I was very passionate about being an actor.  I acted in a few plays for Theater Atlanta when I was working at WSB Radio, and I appeared in a number of Columbus Little Theater productions before CLT morphed into the Springer Opera House, and then a few more productions there. I decided that the pay for all that work wasn’t adequate.  All the local actors did it for “the love of it,” but the Springer started bringing in outsiders who did it for the money. Once a dollar value was put on playing a lead in a play, I decided, no pay, no play.

I definately had a passion for being a radio announcer, which I satisfied by doing it, and when television came to Georgia, I decided I had a passion for that and did it for more than forty years. I got paid for that so I knew I was valuable. But, that passion has been satisfied and I don’t have it any more. I could still do it because…well, I know how.  If I came up with a specific topic I wanted to do a documentary on, I could become passionate about it.

I am passionate about my family, my children and grandchildren, and I have occasionally written about them, but I don’t want to invade their privacy so I keep that to a minimum.

I still love music, good theater, music, literature, art, and my interest in football has been rekindled. I am enjoying the Falcons this year. Maybe it’s because they are winning a few games. Also, I have been watching Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Auburn games.  Alabama is awesome. “Awesome” is a much over-used word, but, in this case, it really is an accurate adjective. I was glad they beat Auburn because losing six in a row in that classic rivalry made me feel sorry for them. The same with Georgia Tech and Georgia. Tech had lost seven in a row. That’s too much so I was glad they pulled off that three-point win.   

And, yes, I am passionate about politics, and I do occasionally write about that.

Maybe I’ll make Arianna happy and buy her book, or maybe I’ll check it out at the library and save the money, or maybe I’ll ignore it. It will just depend on my passion about it.

Sorry, but I Gotta Brag!

August 4, 2008

  Pardon me, but it’s family bragging time. My niece’s son just made Eagle Scout so I have a right. I am not just bragging about Schafer Gray, though I am indeed proud of him, but also his parents, Janet Sue and Gordon Gray.


   When you see a young man getting his Eagle Scout Badge, you see not only him, but the mom and dad who raised him, who influenced him to be not only an achiever, but to be an honorable, caring contributor to society.


  All of the four Troop 11 scouts who were awarded their Eagle Scout Badges at a ceremony at the Smyrna United Methodist Church this week had to work hard to earn those badges. Besides all of the merit badges they had to earn to become an Eagle Scout, they all had a special project.  Also, they put in many hours of public service doing such things as tutoring young children and building handicap ramps.


  You can usually count on most Eagle Scouts to do well in life. Just look at this list of some famous Eagle Scouts: TV news legend Walter Cronkite, actor James Stewart, Georgia U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, Indiana U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, movie Producer/Director Steven Spielberg, U.S. President Gerald Ford, business leader and former candidate for President H. Ross Perot, Astronaut James Lovell, and Harrison Salisbury, Pulitzer Prize winning Author.


  Yes, I was a Boy Scout, but I never came close to being an Eagle, but it was a valuable and enjoyable experience. Congratulations to Schafer, David, Zack and Matt!    


Eagle Scouts Zach Hofmann, Schafer Gray, David Thomas, Matt Simpson

Eagle Scouts Zach Hofmann, Schafer Gray, David Thomas, Matt Simpson




 Gordon, Schafer and Janet Sue Gray

   Gordon, Schafer, and Janet Sue Gray