Archive for December, 2009

Here’s to the Spirit
by Job Conger

(refrain). . .Oh, here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts:
. . . . . . .  . The spirit, the ghost or the flame
. . . . . . .    That shows you the sun with the gift of a smile
. . . . . . .    Regardless of credo or name.
. . . . . . .   In the darkest of winter, a wam breath to brighten
. . . . . . . . Horizons of all who are dear.
. . . . . . .  Yes, here to the spirit that moves us to love
. . . . . . .  And here’s to a happy new year.

Life is a voyage through tumbling tides
In the quest for safe harbor and land
As we seek sweet surcease from our sorrows and pain,
When the going’s not smooth as we planned.
Blame your dad, blame the devil, blame a deck of bad cards
But they won’t wreck your ship on the shore.
When you stand at the helm, show the world how you care,
And you’ll reach where you’re going and more.


The world will be better from what burns inside you
Not from cold-hearted running away
To a bottle, or needle, or palavering cult.
What you need, you should be. Show the way.
Let the glow of your passionate dreams light the world,
And the lasting rewards they will sing
At the dawn of each new day to arise to our hopes,
And we’ll know life is worth everything.


writen December 21, 2005
This is my most recent “holiday” poem/song. Though 2009 was the best year I have lived in the past several, I am as connected to fulfillment and a sense of arrival in harmony with my destiny as I am to the planet Neptune. I share the poem/song — you should have me play it with 12-string guitar and sing it to you sometime — to infuse hope into my “tomorrow” as I share it to infuse hope into yours. Here’s to the spirit. Here’s to you!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Yeah, I heard. They mentioned in class yesterday that he was at Memorial Hospital, so I went over and said “hello.” First time I’ve visited anyone in a hospital. His leg was in a cast, but he said he’s in good spirits. He sure seemed glad to see me. Said he won’t be back to Springfield Junior College for a few weeks.  – SPRING 1966 –

. . . . . Wow, Bob Waldmire’s back. I haven’t seen him in years! Ran into him downtown; said told him I’d like to write an article about him for Springfield Business Journal. Lisa Rigoni approved the idea, and we’re meeting at the newly reincarnated Cozy Dog restaurant today.

. . . The interview went great. Says he’ll be back in September for the Route 66 Festival. Gave me his Mustang calendar. It’s a year old, but it’s solid art! – DECEMBER 2004 –

Chuck Martin, I’ve been in your shop (Parkway Printers, 3755 North Dirksen Parkway) two seconds and I see my old friend Bob Waldmire’s drawings all over the walls. You do his printing for him? Nice work. Good to know he’s back in town for awhile. When he comes in to pick these things up, stick your head into The Granite Guy showroom and let me know; aye? I brought my camera today, and I want to catch up with him.

He really seems to be in destiny’s groove of life. He told me after the camera work was done how he was glad I hadn’t asked him to put on a shirt the way most photographers would. I told him I wanted to show him as he wanted to be shown. I photograph the person; not my idea of the person. Chuck’s going to give copies of these to him when he comes back Saturday. I hope he likes them. – JULY 2008 –

Yeah, I heard. Back home to die. I’m totally depressed by it all. Sorry, but I don’t want to visit him. Let those who knew him better and can deal with the screaming mortality of it all do that. I was lucky to know the man. When I said goodbye at the printer, he was 100% the same kid I knew at Springfield Junior College, full of life and appreciation of those he met along the way. We should all be lucky enough to live in memory as we live in the present. He will be; that’s for sure.

Bon voyage, Bob Waldmire.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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If you lived in the age when breakfast cereal was “crisp,” those halcyon days before it was re-formulated and sold as “crispy,” you better batten down your hatches, because a new tide of lingo-drool is about to flow from the packaging whiz-duds and onto your shirt or blouse, thanks to the phine fokes at Nestle, which rhymes with Presley and not nestle and trestle. It bodes ill for the mother lingo, so if you don’t give a rat’s patoot, get the heck out of my blog! Just hit “Back” and return to where you came from because I am steamed, man, and I may be par-boiled before I’m done here . . . . .  . . .

Before Christmas, and in celebration of winter, I bought some chocolate flavoring for my coffee. Hot chocolate without caffein is like kissing your doggy: fun, but what’s the point? I bought Swiss Miss, but I also splurged and picked up some Nestle Hot Cocoa Mix: the flavor labeled on each packet
Chocolate Mint

Each packet also carries the cozy sentiment “making Chocolatey MEMORIES” apparenly to explain to the purchaser that he or she is going experience something quite extradordinary and beyond the sensory range of most of us since Dr. Timothy Leary passed away. YOWza! I’m not making mocha or hot choc’ friends and enemas, I’m making c h o c o l a t E y . . . . what? SAYITAGAIN, YAAWL! I’m making chocolatey MEMORIES HalleLUyah! Can I get an AMEN, amigosy aMIgasses!

Man, it tasted . . . . . it tasted very good. I’m going to limit myself to one packet a week, not because of the flavor, but because I can’t face the kitchy evisceration of a simple noun-turned-adjective, and I’m too much the kitchen klutz (with a “k;” right?) to make it blind-frikkin-folded. I’ll be okay with Swiss Miss in between.

It’s only a little bit “funney” and I’m not “happey” to witness this minor lingo “atrocitey.”  “Plainley” there should be a better way to enhance the purchasers’ “discovery” of a new taste sensation, don’t you think? What a sad short-cut to “originalitey” this is!

I mean “REALLEY!”

Live longley . . . . . .and properley.

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6th Grade — concluded

My only brush with major school trouble occurred in 6th grade. Though dad’s photo lab downtown had closed, he brought a lot of the darkroom equipment — enlargers, trays, papers, chemicals, photographs, etc. — home and set up a small darkroom in the basement. One day I was exploring stacks of papers and discovered some small photos of an illustrated “ABCs,” What made them special was that they illustrated naked men and naked women in positions that formed the upper case letters. At the time I didn’t know about “making whoopie” and saw nothing more than “funny” about the drawings. But soon after taking probably 20 of these prints to school with me and passing them around to friends wyo found them VERY INTERESTING, I found myself in Principal John Blair’s office and mom and dad coming into the office in a state of high wrath. I was lost to the importance of it all, though I was clearly in deep trouble. Soon the hammer of justice came down, and I was expelled for three days because I had passed around “dirty pictures.” For all I know, I’m still on file somewhere as a sexual threat to society, though I’ve never put an angry hand on anyone in my life. (Maybe that’s why I never made it to the board of the Vachel Linsday Association. Hard to say.) Dad explained how the pictures were in a pile of material he had brought home from downtown after his business closed, and he didn’t know they even existed. The aftermath, following my return to school is lost to memory. I don’t remember being shunned by students or being treated differently by the teachers. Decades later I encountered former Black Hawk principal Blair at a social occasion, ad he remembered the incident and me. He smiled about it; said he did what he had to do as a principal, and I never blamed him for that. He seemed to respect me as we chatted –after all, I had lived into my mid-20s without going to the electric chair — and as I always had, I thought the world of him. He was one of the good ones.
. . . . Sixth grade music classes were held behind the closed curtains of the auditorium/gym/lunchroom stage. Often during my first experiences singing with other kids, I would test the patience of the music teacher by intentionally singing just sharp or flat enough so she could hear the dissonance from somewhere in the middle of the class. I might also sing with a Southern accent, which I had picked up from mom and Cochran, Georgia. Other times, I’d hold the beat for half a step for a measure or two, just to add a syncopated edge. Most of the kids around me didn’t seem to notice, but the teacher sure did, and I always stopped before she became angry. But occasionally, she’d comment as we all sang, or after we stopped, and that was all I needed to get me back in key and in sych. The hardest part was stifling my own giggles and playing innocent while enjoying the smiles of a few students who were aware of my mischief, understood it, and enjoyed it.
. . . . . . That year, two “mostly talking” records made it to the top 40 hits list played on  the radio. One was “Transfusion” by “Nervous Norvus,” — not a real name. It was an “adult” kind of hit which dad discouraged me from reciting. (“Going down the highway, 85/Crash into a car, why man alive./Transfusion, transfusion/It’s a lot of common darn confusion./Shoot the juice to me, Bruce.” That’s all I remember, and the words may not be as sung.) I delighted in the words and the production. It was a cult classic.  The other was “Russian Bandstand,” a comedy farce that did not have a long time on the “frequent play” rotation. Even so, I memorized both in short order and could mimic the voices and sounds the way a comedian/impressionist would. It was great fun “reciting” them in class when we had the moment before concentrating on learning. Lee Halberg particularly, requested “Russian Bandstand” a lot. Great fun!
. . . . I had became a patrol boy (traffic guard) in 5th grade and continued in 6th grade, We wore white patrol belts in a “Z” pattern across our chests to designate our authority. Gloria Owen, a classmate of mine, was the student traffic guard leader in 6th grade. We arrived at school earlier in the morning and dismissed five minutes early from class at the end of the day so we could be at our assigned intersections in time to stand in the middle of the street to let kids pass while grownups in cars waited patiently. We could arrive late for our first morning class since we followed the kids into school when the five-minute bell rang. It was also great fun. At the end of the year, the 5th grade party was at Moonlight Gardens where a Shop’N Save supermarket is today. The 6th grade year’s end party was at the Coca Cola Bottler on 6th Street, south of the Springfield Mass Transit bus garage and Iles Park. After the 6th grade party, I walked home, the longest walk I had taken, and I was very proud to do it. ‘Twas an adventure: a straight shot west on Ash and a left on Whittier to home. I had covered it all riding my bike, but I really got to see it on foot.
. . . . . For about the first four weeks of 6th grade, I was a student of the cello. Mr. Bowen, the orchestra teacher, based at Lawrence School (who was still doing well as the elementary school music teacher I had known when I attended there)  had visited our 5th grade class late in the year, announced plans to form a young persons’ symphony at the new Benjamin Franklin Junior High that was being built that year on west Outer Park. He explained the symphony instruments, and I was attracted to the cello from the start. I liked the musical mid-range and the sound when he played one briefly during his visit. I was also impressed by the fact it was the only instrument in the symphony that had to be played sitting down. During his 5th grade visit, I signed up to learn the cello, and in 6th grade, the orchestra lessons began in the form of lessons by instrument type. All the string players met in the music room weekly with Mr. Bowen. There were four or five violinists, an acoutstic bassist (there were no electric basses then) and I was the only cello player. The only problem was that cello players needed to have a “tree:” a simple T-shaped two pieces of wood with holes drilled for positioning the rod extending from the bottom of the instrument, holding it steady for playing. The tree would be placed under the chair, the side “top of the tee” butting against the chair legs and the vertical with holes drilled extending out from the center. The tree kept the rod coming out of the bottom from damaging the floor and stabilized the instrument better, especially if the floor was hard-surface.  I might as well have been asked to procure one of Saturn’s moons.  For some reason I was afraid to ask dad to build me one. He was an excellent carpenter, and could have fabricated what I needed in half an hour for $1.38’s worth of lumber, with one hand tied behind his back.
. . . . . Another factor working against my becoming the next Pablo Casals was my patrol guard duty. I was also still delivering the Chicago Daily News. Quickly into the year I realized I could not be a patrol guard, return to school to pick up the cello, carry it, walking, all the way home to practice and then back to school. I tried: carried it home one day and knew for certain I could not continue that way. My then-friend Marty Rogers agreed to walk it home for me, but the first day he said he would, I was approached at my patrol guard station by a friend. He said Marty was PLAYING the thing, out of its fabric case, in the middle of the street. I left my intersection (time was almost up, anyway) and ran to the corner where I saw him standing over the instrument with his foot on its neck and sawing in the strings with the bow as though he was cutting firewood! I regained possession of the cello, carried it back to school and walking away from my star-crossed career with a wonderful instrument.  I had cherished the three or four lessons I had in the Black Hawk School music room, learning how to bow, and how to really read music. I always wanted to learn to read music, better, more proficiently than I had during my piano lessons, and I blew it because of unkind circumstance. I still love the cello. How many cello concertos or records/CDs of cello music do I have today in my recording collection? None. How many CDs of Vladimir Horowitz playing piano do I have in my collection? About 12 and probaby 30 more by other piano players.
. . . . . . . In the spring of 1959, dad gave me a simple box camera that changed my life. The first pictures I took were of the beautiful silver-grey Buick Electra (the first 1959 Electra purchased in the city) and kids in 6th grade on the final day of school. Those pictures were later lost. I also took my first airplane pictures — a guided missile, actually: a Talos ship to air missile on a flat-bed truck trailer at the Illinois State Fair. I still have those pictures.

Coming next: 7th Grade at Ben Franklin Junior High

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Passion Flower

Passion Flower
by Job Conger

To a virgin in the night, in the night
In a land almost forgot
And a time when faith grew dimmer by the hour;
From a manger’s meager light,
Came the dawn of a new day
With the birth of God’s own son: his Passion Flower.

(chorus) Passion Flower, planted simply to atone
For the hurt and the pain not of his own
And to show: show the way beyond the pain
To eternity and sweet salvation

Joyous news by angels came
To the shepherds with the flocks
And the wisemen with their majesty and power
Heard the word shared in God’s name,
Journeyed far to find the town
And the manger with the mighty Passion Flower.


Many saints have come to be
SInce the seed of God’s desire
To restore His covenant with souls grown sour
Bloomed for all humanity;
Yet how many still don’t share
The joy and hope of the desert Passion Flower.


May the love — that heaven scent —
Reach the hearts of everyone
And then lead wayfaring strangers grim and dour
To the lofty firmament
Promised to the ones who seek
To know God’s son,
His redeeming Passion Flower.

written December 2002
Merry Christmas everyone.

Live long . . . . . and proper,

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If I Tweeted, this would be an extended chirp.. . . . . .

I knew when I headed home from shopping this morning that I should extend the trip to the west side and Famous Liquors to pick up a bottle of my traditional Christmas treat to my addled brane: a bottle of 101 proof Wild Turkey. I’ve done this once a year since I started reading Hunter S. Thompson back in 1976 , the way 10 year old boys MUST have the kind of basketball shoes that Michael Jordan wears. Famous Liquor is the traditional lowest priced place for booze, and the only one still in town is out near the Shop ‘N’ Save where I needed to visit to get some more ice cream bars and Carlo Rossi Burgundy. There were only two of the former in the fridge and about an inch point five of the latter in the bottle. That would never do for Christmas Eventide.

About 2:15 I exited Casa de Pepe headed west. I might have taken the easy way: South Grand past Washington Park to come out on Chatham Road, stopped at the grocer first and then hit Famous Liq second. I took MacArthur down into Wabash instead because I have memories of that route, past Town & Country Shopping Center, past West Grand School Yard (where I used to fly model airplanes with Mike Evoy and Phil Arndt whom I’ve not seen since junior high, and besides, if anyone decided to break into my truck with no functioning door locks in a parking lot, I’d rather have tham steal my wine and whiskey while I was buying food than steal my food while I was buying wine and whiskey. It seemed the “moral-high-ground” way to go.

The rain was as intense as a thunderstorm in July without the noise. The parking lot at Famous was as packed as I’ve ever seen it. There must have been 15 vehicles in the parking lot that seems to have not seen maintenance since 1972. From the truck I stepped, distracted into a puddle that seemed 18 inches though it was probably only 10 . . . . okay, four inches, but it was a deep four inches. The interior was stacked like Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 premier edition of Playboy. Everywhere I looked there was something tempting, something nice to see. The place had more aisles than it did last time I visited and a huge glass-enclosed humidor of cigars in the entry aisle. If I had a real employer I would have lingered there awhile and probably turned over a new leaf or two. Wines are arranged by type — Merlot, Australian, Muscatel, you can imagine. There was an impressive array of boxed wines, the kind that come in plastic bags packed in boxes with a nozzle that lets you dispense from the fridge; like a keg only more “high society.” There were also large bottles of wines — Paul Masson, Livingston Cellars —  I’d probably buy if I weren’t so income-gravitated toward Rossi.  Only problem: there was no Rossi in that area where most grocery stores display it. I was asked by a “Famous” associate if I was finding what I wanted and on learning I wanted Rossi he walked me to a corner of the store which — if it were an ocean liner — would be called “steerage.” He asked what I wanted, I replied “the Burgundy” and he handed it to me as he “steered” me to the checkout lanes. “Not so fat,” I thought. “Let’s look at a price,” I then said to the associate. “HMMM,” I said. $12.97! Did you know CVS Pharmacy sells it for $10.97?” He explained Famous used to match prices years ago, and he wished they still did. He also said they used to have the lowest prices in town on everything.

I returned the bottle to “Carlo Rossi Corner.” I was also told Famous used to have prices for the lesser Rossi wines (including Burgundy) and slightly higher for the higher end varieties, but they’ve discontinued that as well. “Tuff tookas!” I mumbled. “I still need some Wild Turkey,” I said and left him in my soggy dust. I knew from earlier trips where it would be, and it was.

It didn’t occur to me that Shop ‘N’ Save would sell Wil’ T’ for less than Famous, so I carried a fifth to the checkout lane, paid $23.95 for it (the bottle I bought last Christmas cost me $15.95) and departed for S’ave.

Sure enough, Rossi Burg was $12.97 at the grocer as I feared it would be. CHEESES I’d have to head back over to the CVS in my neighborhood to get it for $10.97. Coneinuing up the aisle, I found Wild Turkey 101 for $19.97. CHEESES in-fripping-DEED! Next year, I’ll know where to go. I’ll make up on savings for WT what I spend on CRB and won’t have to shop another store.

I didn’t buy ice cream bars because the chocolate shell is a challenge for my newly installed upper plate. I bought a gallon of Prairie Farms Neapolitan instead. For Christmas eve dinner, I bought some  “deli” (term for something that’s as “delicatessen” as pork barbecue and baseball) chicken salad and Hawaiian salad.

I took the short way home, passing by Illini Country Club en route to the Washington Park perimeter on South Grand. The stream that meanders through the elegant golf course was two inches from overflowing. I’d never seen it close to that high, and it was flowing as fast as a stream of vitriol from Glen Beck’s radio show. There were LARGE puddles of water all over the grass. The sand trap near the street would have made a good swimming hole for Lilliputians if it hadn’t been so chilly. Something fascinates me about Springfield under major rain, and often in recent weeks, I have wished I had a camera to capture the fast-passing H2O tableau. Thank God I didn’t. It would be a one-way ticket to pneumonia and its companion malaise, oldmonia.

I had been pondering the five-block extension of my return home to get some Rossi Burgundy, and as I headed east on South Grand nearing the decision to turn onto Henrietta Avenue and a fast right to home or continue to Sixth Street . . . . . . I decided to skip the wine. I am incredibly luckin’ frucky,  and the realization hit me as I passed through the green light at Walnut . . . . and hit my left turn signal. For the last three blocks I KNEW this was a story I would have to share wtih you, so as soon as I put away the groceries and Turkey 101, I sat down facing a glowing computer monitor and did just that.

Merry Christmas eve, eve eryone. I pray that you are as blessed as I!

Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

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to be sung to the tune of . . . you’re bright; you’ll figure it out . . . .

Oh Well, Oh Well
by Job Conger

Every year is a marathon race from the start
As we seek satisfaction in home, head and heart
And the point of this wild crazy game that we play
Is a red and green bottom line called Christmas Day.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well
Surely next year will make up for this one.

As we strive toward sweet dreams that may never come true
We endure slings and arrows as good folks must do.
It’s amazing the things people swallow that hurt
As we pray the big day will bring our just dessert.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well,
We’ve been luckier than some sorry b_s_a_ds.

May we count all our blessings this season of hope
And resolve not to hang ourselves with our own rope.
May the people we care about know joy sublime.
We’ve a mighty long haul until spring time.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well,
May the mirth of good friends and fun linger.
Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.
May the mirth of good friends and fun linger!

written 1 pm, December 18, 2002
I’ll have a more up-beat Christmas poem song here tomorrow. I commented on Facebook a few days ago how I’ll never forget Mel Torme’s wonderful song in which he sings, in part, “Everybody knows a turkey . . . ” I believe that many of us at Christmas enjoy the trimmings as much as the turkey, and that’s part of what makes the season special. The season’s “turkey” that I know this year is the rain. I drove through a major downpour to attend Rock Circus’ party yesterday, and it was a mite frightful on Chatham Road, even with new windshield wipers and great brakes for the first time in two years. I did it not for the “main event” but for the trimmings that come with the main event: getting away from the showroom, convivial conversation with the owner and his fine wife, and even the food was almost incidental. I hope your day is more than the turkey that may be part of it. I hope the trimmings nourish you grandly.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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6th Grade

My sister Dorothy knew Miss Edith Kolaz, my sixth grade teacher, but that didn’t keep me from “falling in love” with her.Probably  a few years older than Dot, Miss K could have been a fashion model, same as Miss Allen in second grade.
Writing — more accurately the business of reading writing — became more important than ever in my life. That’s because Miss Kolaz had a book report program and a time at the end of the week set aside for book reports.Students who gave 10 through 19 received a certificate suitable for framing. For every ten books after the first ten, a gold star was placed along the border of the certificate. Many students read ten more than the first 18 I reported on either orally with a short unwritten oral report in front of the class or by written reports two or three pages in long-hand turned in Friday afternoons. At the school awards ceremony at the end of the year, my friend Jeffrey Halden received a certificate with 19 gold stars! I was knocked over by his accomplishment, he was the smartest kid I knew, and I knew he had done the reading. On the other hand, had not read 18 books though I made 18 book reports.
. . . . Decades later, a few days before I was to leave Springfield to manage a Lums restaurant in Carbondale, Illinois, Heff Halden called me, and I drove over to visit him at his apartment on the 700 block of west Monroe. He told me his life story: that he had served in the US Navy in Vietnam — intelligence office in Saigon — and was now working with  Illinois Bell Telephone Company, bored as hell with the service calls he was making. We parted as friends again, and I headed for Carbondale, promising to call him back again when I was back in Springfield for a few days. I did not call him. About three weeks later, I learned that he had committed suicide. I can’t drive down Monroe to this day without looking at the duplex where he lived that summer and wishing I had known him better.
. . . . In sixth grade I joined the Junior Scholastic Paperback Book Club and purchased books regularly for 25 cents and 35 cents apiece.  One fiction book I chereished at the time was Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Machine. I re-read it often and held onto it into junior high. Another I purchased from the JS Book Club was X-15 Man’s First Flight into Space by Martin Caidin. It’s probably the first book I ever bought, and I still have it — well-worn but complete — today, copyright 1959. Since we didn’t have to show the books reported on to the teacher, I gave a report for a book that I did not read, that did not exist. The oral report went like this. . .”The name of my book is Bird Dog, the Story of the Cessna L-19 and I forget the author.. . .” and I yammered about the airplane and neat pictures for two minutes. I never did another false book report. I never did another book report in school, though as an adult, I would review several for various publications and my web sites.
. . . .Miss Kolaz had a problem with my book reports, not with the quality of my writing or style of oral presentation, but with my consistent choice of non-fiction and almost-always aviation subjects. One day she walked me to a book shelf by the window and placed into my hand Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. She told me that the next book report I shared with the class would have to be FICTION: this book or any other fiction book. I thumbed through it, standing there by the book shelf, took it home, read something about huddling below decks . . . . and gold . . . . and stopped reading. This kind of book didn’t interest me. I returned the book to Miss Kolaz. My final “book” report had been about Burd Dog, Story of the Cessna L-19.
. . . .
Before winter set in, I ended my career as a newspaper carrier, and never saw another Chicago Daily News.
. . . . .During the school year, Dot came to Springfield with her husband Bob and  gave birth to Robert Lee Shymansky, their first child, at St. John’s Hospital. Months later, Bill and I spent about a week visiting them in St. Louis at their home in the suburb of Gaywood — maybe that was the street they lived on — without mom and dad. During this time, we visited the big St. Louis airport Lambert Field, and Bob took pictures of F-101 Voodoos taxiing to and from test flights from McDonnell Aircraft Company across the airport form the terminal’s observation platform. It was a wonderland. I still have pictures Bob took and gave me. I can’t look at them today without thinking If only we had had a telephoto lens! During the visit I purchased the Revell model kit of a Vought F8U Crusader. I started building it on Dot’s dresser and accidentally spilled some white model enamel on it. That was the worst trouble I would create during my interaction with Bob and Dot. They knew how to be parents. There was not physical punishment; just great disappointment at me for spilling the paint.
. . . . . I considered myself pretty lucky when it came to discipline. All it took at home with mom and dad was to accidentally knock over a glass of milk reaching for the mashed potatoes at dinner for dad to send the OFFENDER (Bill or me) to our room without finishing dinner, even if we had just started. Later we’d be allowed to come down and eat cold dinner. We never went hungry for long.
. . . . . In sixth grade, mom and dad gave me my first guitar, a Kay, purchased at Fishman’s for a price of about $15. Mom brought home a few books from the library about “how to play guitar” in the hope I would teach myself from what I picked up in the books. They were written for grownups, and they were far beyond my understanding, even with the piano lessons years before. I should have asked for guitar lessons, but I was so disenchanted with music teachers that I didn’t imagine I could ever handle six strings no matter how much I loved the music.
. . . . . Still I wanted to learn. Two years later, parents gave me my first Mel Bay guitar instruction book which I could understand, and I began to have fun with the instrument.
. . . . . In the meantime, I began memorizing lyrics to my favorite rock ‘n’ roll songs and pantomiming them for the amusement of myself and parents. It’s called lip-synching now. In sixth grade music class, I took my 45s and guitar one day and pantomimed the Everly Brothers “Problems, Problems,” “Bird Dog” and Neil Sedaka’s “I Go Ape” — the original crazy wild version; not the later version he performed and recorded. I also loved Elvis and learned (for pantomime) many of his songs.
. . . . . My introduction to social dancing — as in the square dance, the Virginia reel — was uninspiring. I was a clutz with big feet on the dance floor. It all seemed so complicated. Beverly Sheretz was a dance partner frequently. Thank God she was patient with me and had a great sense of humor.
. . . . . Soon after Virginia reeling at Black Hawk School,  I was “forced” by my parents to take dance lessons at the YMCA, at the time still on Seventh Street across from City Hall and Lincoln Library. I attended, was a nice guy (didn’t bite anybody) and learned some steps, but it was clear I had been born without “the dance gene.” That said, I always had a deep yearning to somehow move with the music. At home after school, with no one home (Bill would be out playing with friends.) I would play an LP of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” and “An American in Paris” and dance around the living room like a ballet star, sweeping my arms, jumping, letting something inside and in the music move me. No one ever knew about this. At the end of about six months to a year, I decided I would never make a good ballet dancer. I could never deal with the cloths and dancing on my toes. Gradually I concluded my future lay not with tights and talcum powder, but with words.
. . . . In sixth grade just before Thanksgiving, I wrote my first poem and held onto it for several years. Miss Kolaz asked us to wrote a poem or short story about the big day. In about half an hour, I wrote a three stanza poem. All I remember of it today is the first:

We thank the Lord for all of these:
For honey sweet and honey bees,
For flower so small, and trees so tall
And for the people that we call
Mom and Dad!

When I read it aloud, everyone was impressed, and Miss Kolaz asked if I really had written it myself, and I replied that I had. There were no books and my desk, and I didn’t copy anyone else’s poem. When I took it home, my parents were impressed too.

Coming next: Dirty Pictures and Expulsion — Sixth Grade part 2.

Live long . . . . . and proper

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That’s because I gave him an autographed copy when I went in to lighten my head by 10 teeth and get my new upper plate. It wasn’t a trade. I’m paying for the work (by the grace of God), but as a gift to a dentist rightly and well-recommended by a friend. I could have gone to the last dentist I saw — Dr. Curt Floyd who I knew from First Methodist Church — but he’s retired from his practice now and his son runs the show. I know this because Curt and I talked when I started getting serious about getting replacements. Dr. McDermott is less than five minutes from me, and I understand he’s done some great work in Haiti.  I decided a gift of the book for his waiting room, where I have enjoyed his large hardbound book of Calvin & Hobbes cartoons since my first visit would make this ultimate visit special.

It did.

He was fielding emergency and priority patients when I arrived at 9 for my 9:10 visit, and I read the wisdom of Calvin until 9:50 when they told me to put the book down and take a seat in a treatment room. As luck would have it, I’d opened the book to a part that allowed me to read a large snowy weather and Christmas series by the time I was called in.

Nine on top and one on the bottom were due to come out. They came in two shifts. The right side of my mouth was numbed with a dabbed topical anesthetic before the novocained was needled in. About five came out fast and painlessly. There was so much  twisting and rocking of the teeth, I thought through closed eyes that Chubby Checker had stepped in. Time: 10:20. More anesthetic was given the left side, I was left alone a few minutes for it to settle in, and things got “complicated.”

I didn’t have a hint anything was amiss until I heard “Doctor Jim” (as the staff call him) say to his assistant, “Let’s get the others and come back to this.” No one said anything to me regarding what was going on, and though I was getting concerned, I figured if letting me KNOW what was happening would expedite progress, he would explain. There was enough pressure on a particular part of the gum that if my head had been resting on a 4-inch-thick piece of walnut, the back of it would have left behind a 3-inch-deep inpression into it. I could feel and hear pieces of hard material breaking off and being removed by the assistant. These were a thrilling five minutes! Jim and his assistant frequently asked me if I was in pain. “Please tell us because we can give you more novocain, all you want. We have plenty.” I knew they were concerned, and I kept saying “No” through the gauze. It was the pressure that was uncomfortable. He explained some of the three-prong root remained, and he had to dig it out. I was just sitting in a comfortable chair. HE was working. Also three or four times, he really pulling on a few strands of my beard. THAT hurt. I told him so and he was more careful. I also told him that I would rather loose some beard than impede his progress and we had a slight chuckle; about as much as one can have under the circumstance. The super-sharp assistant told me after things had settled down that my hands and eyes were indicating more distress than I was speaking. I explained discomfort was not necessarily pain. The workout was over by 10:55. I was also told there was some infection that concerned him, and he asked if I’m allergic to penecillin. “No,” I replied. “I’ll take whatever you’ve got.”

The upper plate was inserted with little fuss. The assistant explained the need for salt rinces four times tomorrow and to call if there were problems. Jim took a look, was happy with how they looked and felt with a little Fixodent. And scheduled me for another visit Wednesday morning. He had not removed ALL of the pesky root. My body would probably begin to loosen the interface overnight, and it would be easier getting it then.

Later, I e-mailed the friend who had recommended him that I may have left a pool of perspiration in that chair when I exited it about 11:20, but at least I was sure it was just perspiration and nothing else!

I had told the office staff I had brought a gift book to the office and placed it on a table as I waited for the call to treatment. When the treatment was over, I explained to “dentist extraordinaire” and asked him to come with me to the waiting room so he could see it briefly, and I would know he had seen it.

Someone was reading my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing when I went, with Dr. McDermott to formally give it to him, but she graciously handed it to me. With about six people watching, I explained I was the author of the book, that I had autographed it as a present to his waiting room, and everyone seemed to enjoy the moment. He gladly accepted and thanked me for it, looked it over, showed it to a young boy, waiting with his mother, and handed it back to the woman who has been reading it. After I put my jacket on, had scheduled the visit for tomorrow, I turned to the people in the waiting room and wiehed them a Merry Christmas and exited.

Picked up the preseription (4 times a day, $15), came home, watched a Charlie Rose Show repeat with Richard Holbrook, ate an ice cream bar, drank a cup of hot mint tea, finished my article for the business monthly and posted the news at Facebook.

I am okay with the world.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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5 th Grade, continued

Jim Austin of the J.A. Show on WCVS 1450 arranged to broadcast a stay awake marathon live talking on the air and spinning the latest hits from the showroom of R.E. Broe Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth downtown on the east side of Fourth Street, north of Governor. Parents took Bill and me down to see him in action. While records were playing, he was talking with people who had come to watch him (like us), and I was one happy kid when I asked him for his autograph, and he gave it to me. On a card he wrote “Later! J.A.” I didn’t understand what “Later!” meant, but it affected how I would autogaph my poetry books 40 years later.
. . . . Delivering the Chicago Daily news in all kinds of weather was a matter of pride with me, and I enjoyed it.  My greatest challenge was late, darkening winter afternoons in heavy sleet, which I encountered probably five times. On the worst of them, halfway into my route, the streets and sidewalk became too icy to ride, so I walked my bike. Along the way, sometime after 5:30, mom pulled up in the car and offered to let me put the bike in the trunk of the car, and drive me the rest of the way. That really touched me, but I thanked her and sent her home. I knew I’d be okay, and I was. Dinner tasted great when I arrived home.
. . . . . On Saturday mornings, dad would awaken me about 6:15, and the two of us would fold the thick weekend editions at the kitchen table, talking and drinking coffee. Minutes after I’d walk through the back door from delivering papers, he’d have a terrific breakfast cooking for me. I was always done by 8 am, and had the rest of the day for fun if I had done all my collecting from the people on my paper route, which I usually did on Thursdays and Fridays after dinner.
. . . . As long as dad and I lived at 2016 S. Whittier, he cooked breakfast for the family. He was always up by 6 and cooking mom’s breakfast. Eggs or pancakes or French toast, bacon or sausage and coffee. Every evening, when I’d day goodnight to him, passing through the living room and on my way up the stairs to bed, dad would ask me what I wanted for breakfast the next morning. He as a superb cook. I still cook sunny side up eggs the way he taught me. Early into kidhood, I drank coffee because it was the grownup thing to do. Milk was great the rest of the day. Mom and dad would breakfast together, then she would come upstairs to get ready for work, awaken Bill and me if we weren’t already, and we’d head down for the second shift. Then we’d head upstairs, shower seperately, get ready for school and head out seperately. Then dad would get ready for work and head down to Roberts Bros., sometime driving when we had a second car, but nost of the time taking the bus. Bill had his friends and his way of doing things; I had mine. We never went anywhere together unless it was with the rest of the family, and even then only if we had to go.
. . . . Besides delivering the paper, a few times a year a station wagon full of newspaper boys went canvassing — selling the Chicago Daily News door to door — in strange and interesting neighborhoods all over Springfield. Mr. McDaniel, our branch manager, drove the station wagon and would pick us up at home, deliver us in pairs to streets he had selected, and check on us, waving or nodding as he drove slowly down the street. There were sales contests, and I always did okay with them. I often had no clue where I was out canvassing, and though I knew not where I was, I was never “lost” because I knew if my partner working the homes on the other side of the street and I continued walking for the next two or three blocks, Mr. McDaniel would pick us up. When the other fellow and I found ourselves leaving a house close to the other one across the street, we’d meet in the middle to discuss how things were going. Somewhere on the west side — Park, Douglas — my partner was having a bad night; no sales. I was having a good one, probably four new subscriptions. On a whim, I suggested we trade sides of the street, and maybe his luck would improve. The next house — on HIS side of the street — which I visited subscribed to the paper from me, and he sold nothing! We resumed selling on the sides of the streets we had started the evening on. Another night has stayed with me. I don’t remember where we had started, but it was getting pretty dark, and I was starting to worry exactly where we were. I happened to glance eastward and was startled to see the Illinois State Capitol Building bathed in floodlights as it was in those days. I had never seen it from that angle before, and I never forgot that perspective. I had been working the north side of Monroe walking east when there were many more residences there than today. I rarely drive east on Monroe and glance at the Capitol without remembering as a fifth grader I sold the Chicago Daily News to nice people on that street on a dark spring evening many years ago!
. . . .The only part of my career with the newspaper that I did not enjoy was collecting the money, knocking on doors and asking for anywhere from 55 cents to a few dollars from people who sometimes tried to avoid me. A major annoyance to my parents and unhappy potent of traits to come, was my habit of spending money I collected from customers and spending it on hot dogs, Hires Root Beer, model airpland kits and candy at Sears. Oten they made up my shortages with tieir own money. They never let me forget my stealing from the newspaper and their coming to my aid frequently. To this day, I regret stealing and spending money that was not mine that way.
. . . .Around 4th & 5th grade my new friends Bill Marshall, Make Price and Mark Swartout shared the thrill of smoking cigarettes and Tiparillos (with plastic tips to be placed into the mouth) for the first time. On a warm Saturday, they came over to my place, and we went roaming the neighborhood, looking for a nice back yard to smoke in. Any nice back yard would do, and it didn’t take us long to find one. It had the first weeping willow tree I’d ever seen in the back yard, on Pasfield south of Ash. About half an hour into the smoking, Bill Marshall and I threw up so violently under that willow tree that it scared us all. I would not pick up another cigarette until high school.
. . . . My paper route continued with little inconvenience and thrills a plenty. When I was still in Miss Ruppelt’s class, Dorothy married Bob Shymansky, a movie-star-handsome fellow whom, I believe, she met two or three years earlier. The first time I had met him, he had pictures from his service int he US Army and the tanks he drove or helped crew. He was a nice guy and so were his parents, John and Margaret Shymansky who lived in a house on north Fifth, south of the junior college.  After they parried, Dot and Bob moved to St. Louis where he worked for Selig, ca chemical company. Dot stayed home and took care of the house. After they settled in, my family visited them one weekend. We visited a huge amuesemanet park which I believe has since been torn down, the St. Louis zoo. I also learned that all the kids in St. Louis were playing theis new game called soccer. We watched people playing it as we drove by parks. Bob and Dot predicted it would become as popular as baseball in the USA.
. . . . Another nifty part of 5th grade was establishing some healthy, innocent relationships with some 5th grade girls. Diane Wilborn was almost forgotten. In her place were Mary Ann (forgot her last name) and Linda Walden. These were days when eye contact and smiles meant a lot. Conversation was consistently fun with Linda with her black hair, light complexion and convivial “hail fellow well met” outlook. It would be more fun in the years to come.
. . . . .Soon after I had been posted the words just shared at an earlier Internet site, Linda, then living in Arozona, e-mailed me and we traded notes via e. She had been married a few times (at age 50-something, who hasn’t been these days?) and we discussed meeting somewhere between Arizona and Springfield. We didn’t, and that’s okay. My memories of her are golden.
. . . . . .Sometime between fifth and sixth, I discovered a hobby shop on South Grand between State and Glenwood. I visited there twice on my bike. It is still kmy dream of a perfect hobby shot: small enough to see the  owner when entering the stor, full of the fragrance of Aero Gloss dope, balsa and glue. The fellow who owned it built flying models, adn several hung from the ceiling. I didn’t spend  money there but I wanted to. I always wanted to return wtih enough dollars for some plastic models, but by the time I found they money, the shop had disappeared, replaced by a big funeral home that still stands there. During my second visit, I watched a man come in and explain that his son was illl and he wanted to buy him a model kit. He departed the shop with an ITC kit of the Stinson Model U Trimotor. Many years later I added an example of that kit to my model kit collection.

Coming next:   Sixth Grade

Live long . . . . and proper.

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