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Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement
Issue 40April 1999Volume 4 - Number 5

Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.

The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:

Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062

ATS History


by Will Naeher

There were two elements of training, which the contractor was required to perform: (1) system operators and telegram analysts; and, (2) Programmers.

To determine the extent of training required for operator personnel, we formed a committee composed of the section chiefs in the communications center. The name of each of the personnel in the communications center was placed on lists, which designated the extent of the type of training that would be required for each individual. It was determined that as a matter of policy, "on board" personnel would be trained and no new hires would be brought in as a result of the ATS.

We obtained two aptitude tests to test all personnel who volunteered for training as a programmer. The reason for two tests was to have one test confirm the other. The contract required that the contractor train State personnel as programmers, to preclude the necessity for the Office of Communications having to contract for any outside program maintenance. This was done in house. Each Office of Communications' programmer was to be trained in two areas of the program. As a result, each programmer was proficient in other areas of the program so that if any programmer was unavailable another programmer knew how to maintain his/her program areas. This also prevented any programmer from being indispensable.

After the test, ten candidates were selected. Half way through the training, five candidates were selected to complete the training. The following personnel passed the test and subsequent training: Ray Wolf, who became the Chief of the Programming Section; Jim Meador, John Garland, Jim Hawk, and Robert Ramsey.

The programmer training program was very successful and cost effective. The ITT programmers, Bernie Weinstein and Marvin Frishman, did an outstanding job. ITT programmers remained associated with the ATS as contract change orders were negotiated that required new programs or major changes to the present system. John Bordi was also an ITT programmer. He became associated with other ITT contracts and did not remain with the ATS.

The operator training was also very successful. To determine the extent of training for each individual, we established a grid chart with each operator's name. The chart indicated the extend of training that would be required for each individual in each section of the new communications center so that a minimum of new skills would have to be taught. I learned later that the personnel on the evening shift, who had access to the charts, became concerned about the color coding and number system and what it meant to them. When I learned of this, I met with all shifts and explained to them what was happening. Many times you get engrossed in a problem and forget to clue in the personnel who are being affected. A lesson well learned.

The Office of Communications' programmers did an outstanding job in dealing with a very complicated system and with bringing it to its final and successful operation. This was as a direct result of the training and assistance rendered by Messrs Marvin Frishman, Bernie Weinstein and numerous other members of the ATS team.

Letters to The Editor

The following letter, edited for content, was received from Bernie Weinstein. It is in reference to an article written by Will Naeher, in the February issue of the CANDOER News:

Dear Bob:

As to the article written by Will Naeher, it appears that Will left out a few names that I felt were heavy contributors to the success of bringing the ATS on-line:

1. Ray Harris ITT Program manager. He put the implementation team together and made some very good moves. He adopted good benefits program for travel and use of Mike Schementi for system design.

2. Louis Zervakos, Dave Kinnerman(?), Mike Schementi, Tony Orlando, Frank Kerner, and Willie Gotthardt. These men, individually and collectively, added quite a bit to the project.

3. Ed Barret was the one person who listened to good advice. He put Herb Charmers in charge of the cut-over and replaced Kinnerman with the finest possible Section Head. Without his numerous interventions, the project might have languished through most of 1967.

4. Louis Zervakos was one of the three key programmers who were most responsible for the eventual system cutover. He was quite sensible and helped steered the new Section Head into making some good decisions. Finally, he was able to get the section message feature of the ATS working.

5. Marv Frishman was technically a superior Programmer. At the very start of system design he was convinced that the then existing Output Program was poorly conceived. Against prevailing design conventions at ITT, he went his own way and was proven to be correct in his revised design as development ensued. He also backed the revolutionary concept of input character assembly, in and out of priority. His support convinced Ray Harris that the new Input Program concept was the way to go. This method is currently used in modern systems to this day. Mr. Frishman could also recognize when a Programmer was surplus and was quick to act in sending them home. This helped to allocate more time for more key personnel to debug the System and kept costs down, so that showing a profit was possible.

6. Denis Combs was not involved in the cut over. In Paris, he had been a member of the maintenance team. Mr. Combs stayed on for a year or so after the Paris cut over. He left when the State Department decided to replace the maintenance group with what was an ineffective "fly by night" outfit.

7. The team in Paris was:

1. J. Connolly
2. V. Mazzone - A truly fine programer.
3. B. Weinstein - Also a member of the ATS cut over team.
4. D. Halliblian - Maintenance
5. J. Finch - Lead Engineer
6. D Smith - Conservative type but a bulldog finding hardware problems.
7. S Pelosi - State Department representative who was a Captain assigned by U.S. Army. He was instrumental in seeing that the System conformed to specifications.

This system was a replacement for the STRAD (an ITT hardware switch which was unworkable).

/s/ Bernie

Before publishing the previous letter to the Editor, I sent it to Will for comment.

Dear Bob,

I appreciate Bernie's amendment to my story and suggest that you publish his letter to help complete the ATS story. As you know, my document is the result of my memory, not backed up by a journal. Many of those who participated in the development of the ATS I did not know. Nonetheless, they were major contributors to what was considered by many government agencies to be a state-of-the-art improvement to communications.

My thanks to Bernie for his expert input.


/s/ Will

Cat's Corner

The article, found later in this issue, entitled "Long Russian Train Journeys" by James Meek of The Guardian, was furnished by Jim Steeves.

Luncheon Log

The luncheon in Rockville was canceled due to the slippery road conditions from the heaviest amount of snow fall in the Washington metro area so far this winter. Here in Southern Maryland, when it finally stopped, we had 5 inches on the ground.


The following was received from John Kennedy


There's been a change in Grandma, we've noticed here of late,
She's always reading history or jotting down some date.
She's tracking back the family, we'll all have pedigrees.
Oh, Grandma's got a hobby, she's climbing Family Trees.

Poor Grandpa does the cooking and now, or so he states,
That worst of all, he has to wash the cups and dinner plates.
Grandma can't be bothered, she's busy as a bee
Compiling genealogy - for the Family Tree.

She has no time to baby-sit, the curtains are a fright,
No buttons left on Grandad's shirt, the flower bed's a sight.
She's given up her club work, the serials on TV,
The only thing she does nowadays is climb the Family Tree.

She goes down to the courthouse and studies ancient lore,
We know more about our forebears than we ever knew before.
The books are old and dusty, they make poor Grandma sneeze,
A minor irritation when you're climbing Family Trees.

The mail is all for Grandma, it comes from near and far,
Last week she got the proof she needs to join the DAR.
A worthwhile avocation, to that we all agree,
A monumental project, to climb the Family Tree.

Now some folks came from Scotland and some from Galway Bay,
Some were French as pastry, some German, all the way.
Some went out west, some stayed near by the sea,
Grandma hopes to find them all as she climbs the Family Tree.

She wanders through the graveyard in search of date or name,
The rich, the poor, the in-between, all sleeping there the same.
She pauses now and then to rest, fanned by a gentle breeze
That blows above the Fathers of all our Family Trees.

There were pioneers and patriots mixed in our kith and kin
Who blazed the paths of wilderness and fought through thick and thin.
But none more staunch than Grandma, whose eyes light up with glee
Each time she finds a missing branch for the Family Tree.

Their skills were wide and varied, from carpenter to cook
And one (Alas!) the record shows was hopelessly a crook.
Blacksmith, weaver, farmer, judge, some tutored for a fee,
Long lost in time, now all recorded on the Family Tree.

To some it's just a hobby, to Grandma it's much more,
She knows the joys and heartaches of those who went before.
They loved, they lost, they laughed, they wept, and now for you and me
They live again in spirit, around the Family Tree.

At last she's nearly finished and we are each exposed.
Life will be the same again, this we all supposed!
Grandma will cook and sew, serve cookies with our tea.
We'll all be fat, just as before that wretched Family Tree.

Sad to relate, the Preacher called and visited for a spell,
We talked about the Gospel, and other things as well,
The heathen folk, the poor and then - 'twas fate, it had to be,
Somehow the conversation turned to Grandma and the Family Tree.

We tried to change the subject, we talked of everything
But then in Grandma's voice we heard that old familiar ring.
She told him all about the past and soon was plain to see
The preacher, too, was nearly snared by Grandma and the Family Tree.

He never knew his Grandpa, his mother's name was ... Clark?
He and Grandma talked and talked, outside it grew quite dark.
We'd hoped our fears were groundless, but just like some disease,
Grandma's become an addict - she's hooked on Family Trees!

Our souls were filled with sorrow, our hearts sank with dismay,
Our ears could scarce believe the words we heard our Grandma say,
"It sure is a lucky thing that you have come to me,
I know exactly how it's done, I'll climb your Family Tree!"

Author Unknown

Retiree's Report

On February 24, I received a call from Allan Friedbauer. Allan had just retired and wished to join the CANDOERs. He heard about us through Jay Johnson, who was TDY at his assigned post (I am sorry to say I do not remember where ... old age I guess) and gave him a copy of the CANDOER News. On February 26, I received a letter from Allan with his snail-mail address and a donation to the News fund. Allan's snail-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On March 1, I received an e-mail message from Dick Hoffer. In the February issue I mentioned that Dick now had an e-mail address and that it could be found on the last page. I failed to put his address in either the February or March Issues. It may be found in this and future issues for sure. Dick, please accept my apology.

On March 5, I talked on the land-line with Janine Liebau. Janine is doing fine and asked me to pass on her greetings to all the CANDOERs. I learned from Janine that Gail Bishop, the late Rod Bishop's wife, died February 28.

On March 6, I received a letter and check from Floyd and Patti Hagopian. Their snail-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On March 22, after returning from 11 days in Florida attending a family reunion, I found in the snail-mail a Personal Data Form and check from James P. Kelley. His complete bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

Also received in the snail-mail, while on vacation, was a snail-mail from Frank Meyers. Frank furnished his assignments list. This information may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On March 23, I received an e-mail asking for information about the CANDOERs from Bill Ford. I sent Bill my normal canned e-mail message. Bill's e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and future issues.

On March 23, I received an e-mail from Francesca Kelly. Francesca is a Foreign Service wife and publishes a quarterly newsletter called the SUN (Spouses' Underground Newsletter). Francesca and I are going to exchange information about our organizations. You will hear more information about the SUN organization in the future. For those of you with Internet capability, you can read all about the SUN by going to their Web page,

DEATH - Gail P. Bishop

It is with deep regret, I inform you of the death, on Sunday, February 28, 1999, of Gail P. Bishop, wife of the late Rodwell R. Bishop. Gail is survived by their three children, Karen, Robyn, and Michael; daughter-in-law, Eileen and granddaughter, Megan.

Funeral services were held on Tuesday, March 2, at the Lee Funeral Home in Clinton, MD. Interment was at the Maryland Veteran's Cemetery, Cheltenham, MD.

Gail died after a courageous flight against cancer.

Remembering USIA Wireless File Radio Operators
by Graham Lobb

In Kabul, USIA had an American radio operator who copied the daily Wireless File, which was relayed from Tangiers, then an International settlement.

The Wireless File was copied direct to a stencil in the manual typewriter; then ran off on a mimeograph machine and distributed to the Afghan Foreign Office and foreign missions in Kabul. It contained the daily political-economic news including baseball and football scores.

Henry Payne was the USIA radio operator. His station was at the Morgue, where I also took up residence, after my stay in the Hotel Kabul, which I can say was not a Hilton!

Harry toiled into the wee hours of dawn when reception wained and the signal became faint. As he copied Morse, he combined other duties such as eating ice cream, talking while recalling his long career starting with the Reading Railroad in Philadelphia.

Harry made me think back to Ed Dailey, Chicago, a radio operator, in the 18th Radio Station, a unit I first served with in WW II. Ed was a bit more versatile than Harry, in that he could send 35 wpm by "bug"; drink a code, and whistle or hum, ‘Heart of My Hearts,' a Chicago favorite.

Harry moved from the Reading to Wall Street, New York, where he was on duty the day a bomber hit the stock market in the twenties. Later, he served in Greece in the civil war following World War II.

When I arrived, Harry's tour was ending and he was anxious to leave and marry a Greek girl in Athens. He was a true telegraph operator rambler.

When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1960, he was on the air until such a time as the signals faded.

After Harry left Kabul, I never heard from him again!

In the meantime, a TDY Wireless Operator, Jerry Steffens came up to Kabul from Bombay, until Dave Miller arrived to take up his tour.

The USIA Wireless File Station was now located in the Embassy compound.

Jerry Steffens was an old hand, having traveled all over the sub-continent.

Dave Miller arrived and the station moved to his compound. He was a former member of OSS stationed in Yunan Province, then under the Red Chinese. Dave, although small in build, could put away the chow at Embassy parties. He was know to take on "thirds" at a good buffet.

By 1952, when I left Kabul, Dave had also departed. An Afghan was hired to take down Joe Leeming's Bulletin. He was often seen on a cold evening at the Embassy compound wearing a long overcoat.

In 1960, I again ran into USIA radio operations, in the person of Carlos Etienne, at Port-au-Prince. But technology had caught up with USIA and the Bulletin was received by radio-teletype on a fixed frequency. Carlos kept the equipment in good order. But it was necessary to keep paper and a good ribbon in working order, so I was called on to check the equipment in between Carlo's visits. Fred Quinn was the PAO at post who went on to Vietnam, Yaounde and other posts.

Today, Fred Quinn is author of "Democracy at Dawn" about his visits to Eastern European and Russian posts, as courts and justice are introduced in the former Soviet Bloc.

Carlos Etienne will be remembered, especially in Latin America.

Perhaps, Jim Prosser, Bob Lucas and other Foreign Service "Old Timers" can recall USIA Radio Operators in remote FS Posts.

Long Russian Train Journeys
By James Meek of The Guardian

It would be misleading to say there's nothing to do in Ivanovo ("City of Brides") at 5:12 a.m.

To say there's nothing to do at that hour would suggest that if only the train arrived at six on a Saturday night you would have time to dash to the hotel, shower, slip into a casual ensemble and launch into the multiethnic dining, world cinema and hallucinogenic clubbing that is Ivanovo by night.

It's fair to say that whatever time the train arrives in Ivanovo, early, late, or high noon, the prospects are going to be the same: a dozen kiosks selling Turkish champagne and Ukrainian chocolates, a drunk with a face the color of an overripe strawberry on a park bench, and a tram held together by prayer and baling wire to take you to your friend's apartment to freshen up.

You do have friends in Ivanovo, don't you? Why else would you go there? "City of Brides"? That was long ago, before the mills closed, when the streets were thronged with nubile textile workers. "City of Bribes," more like.

The designers of Russian train schedules thought that way. Why else would the main train from Moscow to Ivanovo, a distance of 200 miles, Train No. 662, leave the Russian capital at 10:05 p.m. and arrive at 5:12 a.m.?

And don't think that gives you a couple of hours to lie dreamily in your berth, sipping an exquisite cup of Turkish coffee and nibbling a cinnamon bun. You have five minutes to get out - otherwise, it's off to the depot.

There are trains like the Moscow - Ivanovo sleeper all over the former Soviet Union - astonishingly punctual, or leaving too late, or arriving too early and anyway giving just enough time in between to settle into a sleep that's far too short. It's hard to see why there's a sleeper from Moscow to Ivanovo at all, let alone why it's the main train. My seven-hour night crawl by rail turned into a three-hour breeze by car on the way back.

There are some phenomenally slow trains creeping about the ruins of the empire under cover of darkness. My record is in Georgia - Kutaisi to Tbilisi in 12 hours, an average speed of 20 mph, a portrait of Stalin looking down all the way.

Old, buckling tracks play their role - those road crossings where the rails creep, almost disappearing altogether, into slits in the warping tarmac - and ancient rolling stock. I used to fantasize that these interminable journeys over distances a Western train or car would cover in three or four hours were relics of some totalitarian plot to keep the Soviet people in ignorance of the topography of their country.

It seems now that I misunderstood for a long time the point of the slow night trains. I thought the idea was to get from A to B as quickly and conveniently as possible, and they represented failure. Now I realize I forgot that something happened between A and B - that the aim is to delay arrival as long as possible, to linger on the journey.

Most Russians live in cramped city apartments, without any escape to a pub or cafe culture or warm evening streets. If they travel, it's to stay in some vile hotel or another cramped apartment in someone else's city.

The slow night train, with all its rituals, is a brief release, away from the family rows and worries. A berth of your own, changing into track suit and slippers, the conductor bringing a glass of tea - ties and responsibilities are suspended and you can share a drink and some bread and sausage with a stranger, argue with them, sing with them, without risk of involvement.

You look at those gray, unhappy faces blinking out of the windows of Train No. 662 over empty bottles and sandwich wrappers as it pulls into Ivanovo at 5:12 a.m., thinking: "Poor bastards, having to get up so early." But the unhappiness is in the arrival and the hangover, not the early hour of the morning.

Nothing to do in Ivanovo? But they did it all, on the train, the night before, on their way to bed.

That Gypsy - Part 4 (At the Farm)
by Jim Steeves

Gypsy was about five months old when we took a trip from Budapest to Austria and Bavaria. Our first stop was in the lovely little city of Graz in Austria, near the Hungarian border. We spent some time walking around the old city and climbed the long cobble-stoned incline that led up to a castle overlooking the city. That Gypsy had a smelling good time in Graz.

On the highway to Salzburg we found a B&B several miles south of Salzburg. It was a picture-perfect farm and a sign indicated vacant rooms, so we drove up the long dirt driveway to the farmhouse. Everything was as neat as could be. We asked to take two rooms, since one daughter was 5 and the other nearly 7 but the farmer's wife wouldn't hear of it; she refused to charge for the girls' room. (Note: This generosity was repeated at several other B&B's in Austria.)

Having made our arrangements and gotten our luggage up to our rooms, we showed Gypsy around the area in back of the house. A barbed-wire fence separated the back yard from part of the pasture. Many cows stood around ready for milking or beer or something. He was pretty curious about all those cows but contained any excitement he might have felt. Then we returned to the car and drove into Salzburg to do some sightseeing. (Nope; we didn't try to find the place where "Sound of Music" was filmed.)

When we returned from Salzburg, after dark, I walked That Gypsy around to the back of the farmhouse for one last piddle of the day. Stars were out and a bright moon lit the pasture. No cattle were in sight; I reckoned they had gone to bed, too. Gypsy and I took our time, sniffing here and there (Gypsy did that, mostly) and I thought about what a nice day it had been and how well the trip was progressing.

Very early the following morning, I got the usual elbow in the ribs and recoiled out of bed; hauled on a few duds, got his leash and carried him down the hallway (the whole place was as clean as an operating room) to the back stairs. Outside I saw no cattle in sight and thought there'd be no need to keep his leash on. I unhooked it. Instantly he ran toward one end of the house and disappeared around the corner. I stood there a second wondering what had happened then I went after him. I got to the front of the house just in time to see him cross the driveway, run under the barbed wire fence and head into the tall grass. By the time I got to the fence I could just see him bobbing into and out of sight as he bounded across the meadow. He was headed for the highway about 150 yards dead ahead where there was some early morning traffic. I guessed he heard the sound of the trucks or whatever and decided to go get one. Naturally I feared that the silly thing would be run over. My heart raced as I ran after him. Though he was quite a distance ahead of me he wasn't going very fast or straight because he could only get his bearings when he was at the top of each leap. Then he disappeared. I couldn't see what had happened but when I caught up to him he was a sight to behold. He didn't know he had been approaching a brook covered with green scum. He had splashed down in it then pulled himself out on the far side. He stood there looking shocked, head and long ears drooping, what little tail he had dripping slime. I was so disgusted, I felt like dragging him to the highway.

It was about 6:45 in the morning; the farm family would surely be up and busy about their business already and I had this dog covered head to tail with stinking pond scum. I hooked his leash to his collar and pulled him back toward the farmhouse, wondering what I was going to do. All I could think of was to wrap my wind-breaker around him and carry him back in the way we had come out, praying we wouldn't be seen and that he wouldn't drip scum on the floor or stairs.

We made it back without being seen but my wife was incredulous. While we had a tiny shower stall in each room we only had one very tiny towel for each of us and three of them had already been used and were soaked since my wife and kids had showered the night before. What else to do but strip and hold him in the shower? My wife took the girls down to the kitchen and I prepared for the impossible. Perhaps at this point I should remind anyone who hasn't bathed a dog in a while that, normally, two or three big thick towels can do a fair job of drying a small dog and that, even after the creature shakes off a gallon or two, he's still wet. Well, Gypsy only weighed maybe eight pounds at that point but clearly no tea towel was going to even come close to drying him or me much less both of us.

It was a long, long shower. Scum flowed off him and down me and out the drain; hot water ran out of course and it became even less enjoyable. Of course I hadn't shaved yet either. I remembered the dirty but dry clothes from our first day of travels and used the ones I'd just taken off to help dry us. Then I remembered my wind breaker which also stunk so I had to hold him in there while I washed it off under the cold water too.

Between his shaking and my dirty clothes he was a little less wet so I used the tea towel on me first and then on him. Ever put your clothes on after an impromptu jump in a lake with no towel around and people approaching? It was a lot like that except I was in a farm house and thought the folks who ran it wouldn't take kindly to a sight like me and Gypsy. But then, they might have thought it hilarious.

My wife had got the girls started with cereal, toast and juice then returned to the room to help me clean up the mess. After restoring some semblance of order I took Gypsy back out the back door and, with a firm hand on the leash, led him to a fence post at the back of the farmhouse. He did his job, then we went to the dining room and had breakfast. It was a very nice breakfast; nothing was said to us about the incident and we parted with a fond farewell. I resolved to buy some towels for the rest of the trip.

Vital Message Lost
by James F. Prosser

In recent issues of the CANDOER, a couple of articles appeared by Jim Steeves and myself relating how in the early 1960s State communications facilities at Foreign Service posts took over U.S. military communications responsibilities, invariably without any increase of personnel. It had been my experience that in most cases the reliability of service vastly improved for the outfits served.

One of the very important features of State Department communications reliability was the use of message continuity numbers (MCNs) on all messages between posts to assure reception. A message conceivably could be delayed, but eventually it was repeated when the recipient reported an "open" MCN.

This system of MCNs and the absolute degree of reliability made other U.S. government agencies envious of State's success record.

Loss of an extremely vital message, especially in war time operations and conditions, can and does result in loss of life.

Many readers will recall that in June 1967 Arab nations and Israel fought a brief and decisive war.

The United States had an intelligence-gathering ship (the USS Liberty) operating off Israel in the Mediterranean at the time. Because of its proximity to war action, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) sent a FLASH precedence message to the ship directing it to immediately move out of the war zone.

The message was never received. Without warning Israeli aircraft and ships attacked the USS Liberty, notwithstanding all U.S. flags and identification being clearly visible. Thirty-four personnel were killed, with 171 wounded. All because of one lost message.

Many books and accounts of this catastrophe have been written. Those of you who have INTERNET capability can go to to read a fascinating report of this tragedy. It is written by a U.S. Navy communicator who is a USS Liberty survivor.

Of course, there was the inevitable investigation as to what happened to the "withdrawal" message. It was discovered that it was received at the U.S. Army's European primary relay station (RUFP) at Pirmasens, Germany, but never relayed onward. The investigation further revealed the relay station was inadequately staffed, flooded with very high precedence traffic, and was an antiquated torn-tape relay system.

The investigation further exposed a very serious vulnerability to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in that rapid, reliable communications were then not available to the western front of NATO in Germany. An urgent meeting was called at NATO headquarters in Brussels to lay out plans for the modernization of NATO and U.S. military communications facilities.

Coincidental with the meeting, it happened that State's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications, Jack Coffey, was in Brussels on other business. At a luncheon, Coffey had the opportunity to meet the U.S. Department of Defense officials attending the NATO meeting.

Coffey learned that the U.S. Army relay station at Pirmasens regrettably was made the scapegoat for the USS Liberty disaster. In defense of the station, an Army general said with pride, that the station was handling over 5,000 messages a day and that from their records it was recorded that RUFP/Pirmasens had a monthly lost message factor of "only 0.8 percent."

Jack Coffey, doing some rapid mental calculations, said "You lose about 40 messages a day and find that acceptable when supporting military operations? In the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service we don't lose any. Not one." The luncheon attendees were flabbergasted. Coffey then explained our system of MCNs, but they all agreed that would not be possible or practical in the U.S. military networks.

Too bad Pirmasens' in-station FLASH handling procedures were not observed with this particular message. Thirty-four lives might have been saved.


Baked Stuffed Ostrich (for a crowd)

by Paul Nugnes


One Ostrich (male or female doesn't make much difference. If your significant other has always coveted one of those feather boas, get the male. The feathers are much prettier. They also make great feather dusters.)

Banana leaves (about three trees worth. If you live up North call 1-800 FLOWERS)

8-20 pound bags of charcoal.

Rocks (about half a dump truck load. If you live in Maine you already have these).

Stuffing (see below).


Kill bird (caution, ostrich feet can inflict severe damage so ringing its neck is probably not the desired method.)

Invite some strong friends as the rest of the preparation requires muscle. You will need a large work surface. That pool table in your family room that hasn't been uncovered since the kids left will do just fine.

Clean and pluck bird just as you would a turkey (save those pretty feathers).

Stuffing: You may use your favorite family turkey stuffing, however, since ostrich is a mild red meat (similar to venison) you may wish to get a little more exotic. The New Joy of Cooking has a few good recipes. Couscous stuffing with dried apricots and pistachios or rice stuffing with almonds, raisins and Middle Eastern spices will both go very well.

Prepare stuffing (just multiply ingredients by a factor of 50).

Obviously, this thing is not going to fit in your oven so while preparing the stuffing send someone over to your neighbor Billy-Bob, the back-hoe operator, and get him to dig you a nice large pit and line it with the rocks.

Stuff and truss the bird; then wrap it in aluminum foil (you'll need about 5 of those giant roles they have at CostCo or similar warehouse emporiums.)

While all of this is going on, get a couple of your buddies to build a nice big charcoal fire in the rock lined pit. When it is blazing like Florida last summer, have Billy-Bob spread it out. When the charcoal is ready, briquets are covered with a nice grey ash, cover it with 2/3rds of the banana leaves.

Toss in the bird. Well, "toss" is relative, it will take about six of you to drag it out of the house, I hope your pool table isn't in the basement, and then have BB lower it into the pit, with his back-hoe. Cover with the rest of the banana leaves and then a nice heavy tarp on top of that.

Ostrich is best medium rare. It gets tough and stringy if overdone (just like that turkey breast you've been gagging on all these years). This is a slow cook method, so assuming you started out with a mature bird, we are looking at just about 14 hours.

Now is the time to crack open that expensive case of South African 1994 Bellingham Pinotage, $18.00 a bottle in the USA, $5.00 in SA or Zimbabwe. Pass the glasses to your helpers and sip (I said s I p damn it, you've got 14 hours to wait. On second thought go get another case - what the devil, you've already blown the farm on this menu anyway).

Oh, give BB a six pack of Bud and keep him around. You'll need him to uncover and retrieve your ostrich 14 hours from now.

Accompaniment: Forget all those extra dishes you do for gobble gobble day and Christmas. Some nice garlic mashed potatoes will be plenty.

14 hours later, have BB uncover your pit and gently raise your bird (hopefully, he is still fairly sober otherwise you could have a heck of a mess). Remove the foil and let it rest for about an hour.

Carve and enjoy. If some wise guy asks for a leg, throw it at him.

And keep the Pinotage flowing.

Serves: A whole crowd.

This recipe was prepared by Paul Nugnes, "The Forager", in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was thoroughly tested in his (well, his spouses) back yard. (He's just along for the ride.) There are now eight pits back there. Paul does not want to even look at another ostrich feather and he is wondering if USAID will make him (well, his spouse) fill in the pits prior to departure. On the other hand, they do cull elephants here and by joining a couple of those pits together.

Stay tuned.

The Fun of Moving
by Jim Steeves

Some years ago Reader's Digest printed an article related to the various causes of stress. Significant causes of stress were listed, and they included, change of job; change of location to another part of town or to another city or country; change of supervisor; need to engage in all the unpleasant things involved with packing up household goods and hoping to see them somewhere else upon arrival; change of school for children; saying farewell to friends; and several other items, if I remember correctly.

To gauge whether a person should expect to experience stress, he/she checked off any of the items that were listed. I remember going down the list and checking off everything and thinking there were several other things that could be added to it, such as a difference in language and social customs of the new host country and whether the new country was friendly to the U.S. or if everyone there hated all Americans.

It now makes me wonder about some of the experiences people have had in moving from one part of the world to another. I know some of them are funny, at least now, even though they were the cause of anguish and stress to those who were directly involved. I'll list a few here and hope that some of the other folks in our network will add some others.

One of the communicators in Dakar, on his first and only assignment with the Department of State, received his HHE about two months after arrival at post. He and his wife were excited because his shipment contained about a ton of canned goods, cake mixes, toilet paper, pop corn and many other items which were allowed to be shipped to Dakar.

Their joy turned to grief, however, when the container was opened and sea water flowed out. They learned that the container had been on the dock in New Orleans when a hurricane came to town and water somehow got into it. The container was sealed with plastic except for the top! So salt water got in but couldn't get out. Everything except canned goods was ruined and the labels on the cans and the cases containing beans, carrots, apple sauce - you name it, had turned to mush. Except for sardines, they didn't know if they were about to open a can of pineapples or beans.

A second "shipment" situation was told to me by a USIA officer in Dublin back in 1975. His HHE were still on a ship in the Suez Canal, and had been there for about twelve years - since the previous war between the Arabs and Israelis. The Suez Canal was blocked with sunken ships and he knew not when it would, if ever, be cleared. He said he had had several assignments to other posts and to Washington all while his photo albums, books, and other personal items were still aboard the SS whatever.

A third story involved me and my wife. We departed Madrid on assignment to Dublin by way of home leave, including her home town of Hurley, Wisconsin. Now some folks know that the permafrost doesn't yield even to mosquitoes other than July 4th to July 5th. The air freight we sent to ourselves from Madrid contained short sleeved shirts, shorts and....well, summer clothes. Normally it wouldn't matter a lot in northern Wisconsin because if the weather is unseasonal and it doesn't snow in the summer, the mosquitoes will feast on anyone who ventures beyond screened doors. Each day we waited for our air freight to arrive. Each day it got hotter. Wisconsin natives were dropping like flies as the temperature went beyond 80 F and our air freight was nowhere to be seen. Stores were practically giving away summer clothes but I didn't want to buy any because my summer clothes were going to arrive any minute. After a month of feeding the mosquitoes and my dipstick could no longer detect any blood, we left and gave up to the gods of the transportation world. The summer had been miserable because of unseasonal heat; me wearing winter clothes rolled up to the knees and elbows and having lost slightly more blood to the winged predators than I was making.

Six months after arrival in Dublin I sat in the living room one day and noticed an Aer Lingus van pull up in front of our house. They were delivering the air freight sent from Madrid to Hurley, Wisconsin while the temperature in Ireland hovered around 50 F.

The last story took place at a post to which a friend had transferred from Buenos Aires. Again, several months after arrival, he was notified that his Air Freight had just arrived and was in the Embassy basement. He was excited and asked me to come with him to check it out and on the way explained that this container, a trunk actually, contained nothing but the very finest brandy that had been available in Argentina when a dollar was worth two truckloads of Argentine currency - every bottle carefully wrapped in cloth diapers. I got excited at the prospect of a sip of very fine brandy, even though excellent brandy was locally available. This was, however, one of them sad affairs when a grown man had to cry. He immediately noticed that the lock was missing from the trunk; hefted one end of the trunk and yelled a few choice words. The trunk had transited New York where it's precious contents had been removed and he still had no need for the diapers except to cry into.

My Three ‘First' Bicycles
by Herb Walden

Do you remember your first bicycle? I'm afraid I don't -- remember yours, that is. But I do remember mine. In fact, I remember all three of my first bikes.

Mom and Dad got my very first bicycle from a neighbor when I was about eight years old. It was bright red and blue, had 14-inch wheels, and was not equipped with brakes. Looking at old pictures, I see now that it resembled those little circus bikes that clowns and bears ride.

I learned to ride in our driveway --- nice, smooth gravel with a very slight down slope. With my one-track mind, it was hard for me to concentrate on balancing, pedaling, and steering al at the same time. The gradual incline of the driveway relieved me of pedaling, and left me free for balancing and steering.

However, if I steered, I lost my balance. If I kept my balance, I forgot to steer, which invariably caused me to slam into the only tree along the driveway. It was a thorn tree, too. The more I thought about the dumb tree, the more likely I was to hit it. Sometimes I'd start off and get everything together and be going right along. Then I'd glance at the tree and uncontrollably head right for it!

I might have stopped if I'd had brakes, but that would just have been something else to think about. I never got hurt, but I did lose my temper several times a day.

Training wheels weren't around in the early 1940s, but I'm willing to bet that the guy who invented them had a thorn tree near his driveway, too.

At around ten, I got my first real bike.

Slightly used, it had 20-inch wheels and a coaster brake so that I could actually stop when I wanted to. It had a wire basket on the handlebars, as many bikes did back then. The theory was that you could put stuff in the basket and transport it. The reality was that the stuff bounced out when you rode over even the slightest bump, like a leaf or a worm.

One thing this bike didn't have was a chain guard. Lots of bikes were chain-guardless back in those days. "So what?" you say. Well, unless you took the proper precautions, a pants-leg could get caught in the chain and sprocket. That could yank a kid off a bike in a big hurry. The least that could happen was a very greasy pants-leg with a couple of holes punched in it.

One popular remedy was to roll up your right pants-leg, which is what I always did. Another was to wear a clip, like a lady's bracelet, that went around the pants-leg and held it tight. I never had one. They looked too much like bracelets to me.

Along came Christmas 1948, and waiting for me that morning was a brand-new "Roadmaster," my first full-sized bike!

Now let me remind you of what bicycles were like in those days. They were big and heavy, unlike the present skinny, little lightweights. My new bike weighed darn near as much as me. If my bicycle had been a living thing, a bike of today would look like its skeleton.

The seat was large and comfortable, quite different from the thing you find on a modern bike (which, if it were made of wood, would be called a"stick").

I added a sheepskin cover to mine to make it even more comfy. We didn't have gears on our old bikes. None of this 5-speed or 10-speed stuff. No, sir! We didn't need all those fancy levers and --hmmmm. Well, maybe gears aren't such a bad idea at that.

When I was a kid, there weren't too many of the Roadmaster species around my old home town. My friend Ted had one, but it was a different model. Bud, who lived next door, had a Schwinn , and my cousin Donnie had a Rollfast. Some kids had J.C. Higgins bikes, which was Sears and Roebuck's brand. Montgomery Ward's was Hawthorne. There were Columbias and Western Flyers and even an Iver Johnson, which I knew only from ads in the Boy Scout handbook.

There were as many brands as there were kids to ride them.

My bike had a dandy big headlight, which I didn't use much. Mostly because I rarely rode after dark and the batteries were dead most of the time anyway.

There was a horn enclosed in the decorative tank that fit between the cross bars.

It was okay, but it quit working before I really had a chance to annoy anyone with it.

Those horns never seemed to work for very long on any bike.

Behind the seat and over the rear fender was the luggage carrier. No one I knew ever carried actual luggage, but you could strap on other things, like school books. You could also sit on it, if you weren't too heavy, and go for a ride as a passenger. But most passengers chose to sit side-saddle on the cross bar.

There was a time when Ted and I thought we were bicycle repairmen. Our repairs consisted of cleaning and greasing the coaster brake. Mostly, we oiled things.

I don't know whether coaster brakes are still around, what with gears and hand-brakes. If you aren't familiar with the device, the coaster brake allowed you to coast without the pedals going around. A bit of a backward push on the pedals applied the brake. Two of the major kinds of coaster brakes were Bendix and New Departure. Our Roadmaster bikes had Bendix brakes, so Ted and I were authorities on taking them apart and re-assembling them.

One day, we made a deal with a neighbor for his old bike. We were going to fix it up, sell it, and become rich.

The old bike was rather dilapidated, but we thought a little paint would hide that. So we started on our lubrication binge. We oiled everything that moved, looked like it had moved, or appeared that it should move.

Then came the coaster brake. It was a New Departure (aptly named, we found). We expected it to be similar to our Bendix brakes, which were composed of about a half-dozen parts. Not so the New Departure. When it came apart, about 8,000 little washer-like things jumped out. (I'm exaggerating. It was probably more like 7,000). Some had little tabs on them, some were plain. We decided they went together in some definite combination, but we never stumbled upon it. We tried a dozen or more times with the same results: Everything worked all right until we applied the brakes.

It took three or four backward turns of the pedals before the brakes caught, if they caught at all.

I don't remember whatever happened to that old bike. I'm quite sure we didn't sell it, because I don't recall being rich.

I still have my Roadmaster; although I haven't been on it in years. It's kind of rusty and in poor condition, but then, so am I.

It would be fun to get it oiled up and ride it, but it's been so long, I'd probably have to learn all over again. I'd do it too--but there's this thorn tree growing down along the driveway . . .


See you next month.

Issue Index    Issue 41