|Issue 54||June 2000||Volume 5 - Number 7|
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
I am afraid some of you may have misinterpreted my request in the last issue in regard to receiving the Hard Copy version of the CANDOER News. I do NOT want anyone to stop getting the News. I will continue to publish a hard copy version as long as there are those of you who want to receive it. I am only asking those of you who can get it on-line, to consider doing so. If you choose not to, you will continue to get it via snail-mail, for as long as I continue to publish it, which I hope is for another 20-30 years.
The following was received on May 27, from Charlie Christian and is repeated for your information:
Just got back from the beautiful retirement community of Oakmont, Santa Rosa, CA and a deck party, in great weather, with a fantastic view of the local mountains, vineyards, golf course, etc., (loads of foreign food and local wine, Hic!) for the spring get together of the Santa Rosa Hosts. They do hosting and arranging for individuals/groups from overseas, who do a 30-day tour of the U.S., under the auspices of USIA/State. (Selected on the basis that they might be future Business/Govt. leaders in their countries). Most of the hosts are folks who have overseas experiences and lived there, the type you would meet at a Diplomatic function overseas. I really look forward to it all and I felt right in and played up the State background and downplayed the other. They agreed that would be the way to go, to not spook the guests. Now, this could be something the rest of the OC retirees could fit in with. Hopefully, Cat will put something in the next Newsletter to suggest such, and for the folks to see if it is being done in their area. I would say Communicators are more down to earth then some other F.S. types would be, and be highly qualified for this endeavor on the basis of their overseas careers, and that is what this outfit seeks in it's hosts.
The following was received from Jim Prosser via e-mail:
Herb Walden's "Do You Remember" article in the May CANDOER News was truly enjoyable. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane for a lot of us.
How about riding through the countryside reading those BURMA SHAVE signs?
We'd love to have a list of all those clever, short poems!
Or riding in the rumble seat of my uncle's Willis Knight roadster through the forests of northern Wisconsin over new gravel roads at the unheard of 35 MPH speed.
Swimming in the lake, catching a mess of fish, cleaning, grilling and eating them right on the shore?
One could go on forever.
The following was received on May 5, from The Hospice Foundation of Lake and Sumter, Inc. FL.
On behalf of Hospice of Lake and Sumter and the Board of Trustees of its Hospice Foundation, thank you for your donation. Your thoughtfulness in sending a gift in memory of Barbara Gregory is a wonderful tribute.
More than 1,200 terminally ill patients received the specialized care of Hospice of Lake and Sumter last year. Friends and supporters like you enable Hospice of lake, etc., etc.
/s/Ted. E Williams, Director
/s/Lou Arasi, President
It is with sadness and regret that I inform you of the death of Elaine C. Couch, on Sunday, May 14, 2000, at her residence in Herndon, Va. Elaine is survived by her husband, Thomas M. Couch Sr; daughters Sandra E. Couch and Kimberly C. Markee; son, Thomas M. Couch, Jr.; and, grandsons, Matthew, Leif, and Luke Markee. She is also survived by her mother, Mary Techentin; her brother, William Techentin; her nephew, Scott Boamars; and, a niece, Shelly Hall.
Services were held on Friday, May 19, 2000, at 11:30 a.m. at Reston Bible Church, 11979 North Shore Drive, Reston, VA. Interment was at King David Memorial Gardens in Culpeper, VA.
A card has been sent to the Couch family in the name of the CANDOERs.
The following was received from Bob Sandberg.
It was my first day in Bonn and a stapler whizzed past my head! I soon learned, when you worked with Barbara Gregory, this was an occupational hazzard. When you followed Barbara on a shift, you greeted everyone while leaning into the large burn bags to retrieve empty staplers.
Sadly, Barbara passed away on April 21st from breast cancer. Although her body failed her, her spirit, optimism, and jovial humor remained intact to the end.
Barbara celebrated life daily. She loved people and laughter and travel and cooking and was a loyal and generous friend. Those of us who knew and loved her have lost a special friend who brightened our lives and leaves us many cherished memories of our times together.
/s/ Bob Sandberg
On May 16, I received the following from Jean Reavey:
With regret and sadness, I must report that my husband, Hank, suffered a massive blood clot stroke on April 16, 2000. Paramedics took him to the Emergency Room at Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, VA. The stroke paralyzed his whole left side and he remained in the Critical Care Unit for two weeks, while in a coma for 11 days. Finally he awoke, first to speak and then open his eyes. He is recovering but slowly and has been moved, temporarily into the Iliff Nursing Home for long-term care. It is located only three miles from his house in Vienna. The prognosis is not good and recovery is somewhat limited. He is bedridden presently. His long-term memory is intact and short-term is returning. Only time will tell what mental acuity returns and to what extent he recovers his physical mobility.
I would appreciate it if you would let his friends and colleagues know of his illness. He can read, so e-mail and cards sent to his home address would be appreciated. He would also welcome visitors or a phone call to help pass the boring days in the nursing home.
Thank you Cat,
Henry's wife, Jean Reavey
May 16, 2000, I received the following from Dolly Markham:
I was able to see the Paes family during the weekend of 12-14 may. Ned is home from the hospital afer two brain surgeries, and he started radiation for the tumor on the brain, Monday, May 15th. He did amazingly well on this first radiation treatment. He still has a cancerous growth on the outside of his lung which the doctors need to address. As soon as I get any more details on how they will handle that area, I will let you know. Please, keep those prayers and e-mails going for/to him. He and Joyce really enjoy hearing from friends. Continue to keep hone calls to a minimum. He is still experiencing some difficulty with his voice. It is not easy for him to speak on the phone.
Radiation treatments are every day at George Washington University Hospital. It is difficult for Joyce to drive into DC. Are there any CANDOERs who live in Northern Virginia interested in driving Joyce and Ned into Washington starting next week? If any one can volunteer, please give Joyce a call. If we can get enough people it would only be one day a week that anyone would have to drive. I believe treatments are scheduled for 10:30 a.m., every day. Late enough so there is only a little traffic going in, none coming back.
Thanks in any and all CANDOERs.
8/3 - Day 9 - 80.6 miles. Vertical climb 2,940 feet. We were told that this would be one of our hardest days and it proved to be correct. The vertical should have been our first clue. We will be heading toward Clarksville, and looking further ahead to our arrival in St. Louis the following day. About 35 miles into our ride today, we came to the town of Hannibal, Missouri. For those who are familiar with Samuel Clemons, and the adventures of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer, the name of this town would be familiar. I stopped for quite a while in this town, visiting several of the sites familiar to me from the stories I read as a lad. Saw Tom Sawyers white washed fence, Becky Thatcher's house and several other familiar sites recognizable from Clemons' boyhood stories. Like any other place, it was geared for the tourist. Reluctantly, we had to move on so we would get to Clarksville, our next stop, at a decent hour. Almost 70 miles into our ride took us to a town called Louisiana which was named after the Louisiana Purchase. There are about 4,000 settlers, many of whom are descendants of the original settlers The river begins to widen in this area, sometimes up to a mile wide. The ride was the average 80 miler, but it was much more difficult due to the hilly terrain. Our route today would take us up several long hills, the longest being 1.9 miles long. I thought I would never see the top. We had several more 2 mile hills, which seemed short in comparison. Arrived in Clarksville about 4 p.m. After a nice shower, met some of the group at a local, colorful bar for a drink before dinner. Once again, this was a small town and the restaurant we ate in was glad to have us and gave us first class treatment, as well as good food. This particular place had been open for only 3 months, so they were especially anxious to please. I should comment here that throughout the day we had trouble with Missouri drivers, especially the truckers. They do not like bikers and they will come as close to you as possible. Unfortunately, the roads are not built with shoulders which creates quite a challenge for bikers on the road. There were several close calls today but fortunately, there were no accidents.
8/4 - Day 10 - 64.8 miles. Vertical climb 1,320 feet. Everyone is upbeat and anxious to get started today, as we know we have a relatively short ride today and we end up in St. Louis, our second layover day. It certainly wasn't the best ride of the tour. The first 43 miles was riding on roads with no shoulders and I addressed that problem earlier. After the first 43 miles, the remainder of the ride was city riding. It was still not as bad as the first part of the ride. The group leader determined that the ride to the hotel would be to dangerous, so we were routed to the airport where we would take the metro into the city, bicycles and all. There were only five in our group, but we still raised a few eyebrows when taking our bikes on the metro. We were told that permission had been given to do this, but you could have fooled us. We rode the metro directly to the bottom of the hill that would take us to our hotel. Our hotel was right downtown, with a wonderful view of the infamous Arch. Once we were showered and a short rest, we were all transported to the residence of parents of one of our staff members. This stately home had large rooms and a swimming pool in the back. The garage area was made into a recreation room with bar, tables, etc. They fed us well and soon we were all ready to head back to the hotel in anticipation of a busy day of sightseeing the following day. We have just about reached the half way mark having ridden 726.6 miles so far.
8/5 Day 11 - 2nd Layover Day - On this leg of the trip we will have nine people joining the group and five people departing. The purpose of the rest day is to sleep in and take it easy. However, I was up at 7, as I couldn't sleep. Got an early start at getting laundry done, before heading off to the Arch and a day of sightseeing. It is quite an impressive sight, especially when you are standing right under it. I was not aware that you could actually go to the top of the Arch, via small elevators. There are 4/5 elevators that take a maximum of five persons at a time in each one. The space inside is very small and if one is claustrophobic at all, they would have problems. One fellow in our group would not take the trip. It is interesting to note that the Arch is taller than the Washington Monument. I found the history of the Arch very interesting. Later, I toured the Old Court House building which is a short distance from the Arch. This is the oldest building in St. Louis. I found my way back to the casino once again. I was lucky at the slots. By the time I left, I had won about $250, some on slots, some on roulette, and some on black jack. It was a good thing I had to leave for dinner or I probably would have lost it all. I bought drinks around, when I arrived at the restaurant, with some of my winnings. We had dinner at Hoolihans at Union Station. This place is very similar to Union Station in Washington, with lots of shops, etc. With some of the money I won, I purchased a couple of Xmas things, which I had shipped back home. Another rest day nearly over and I'm not sure if I am ready to move on or not. Doesn't matter, I have to.
8/6 Day 12 - 79.3 miles . Vertical climb unknown. Our tour director elected to have our group depart St. Louis in a convoy, beginning at 6:40. He felt the route of our departure could be dangerous, due to the areas we would be traveling through. We immediately crossed the bridge at St. Louis, into Illinois. There were no incidents and the ride continued without incident. The road conditions and the driver mentality toward bikers was much better today. This was one of the big differences between riding in Missouri and Illinois or any of the other states for that matter. One of our 70 year old bikers called it quits today, after continuous trouble with his equipment. He was scheduled to ride the distance to New Orleans and physically could have done the trip, had it not been for his equipment. Fortunately, we have ridden all this distance with this number of people, without any accidents. Sore muscles, yes, but no accidents----until today. One of the riders hit a pot hole and was thrown from his bike. He was taken to the hospital and although bruised and a few stitches he would be able to continue the ride. After riding together for this distance, you get to know these people quite well and everyone was concerned for his well being. The ride today was generally flat, except for the last 10 miles. Rode several miles along the levees. Not real scenic. We were supposed to stay in the local armory but I just couldn't bring myself to sleep on the floor again. So, I shared a motel room with the other Virginian. This would be my choice from here on out. Another thing that finally dawned on me, at the end of each ride, my desire for a beer was very strong. It finally became clear to me that as we entered most of the towns where we would be staying there would be a convenience store of some type. I started stopping at these stores and picking up a couple cold beers and putting them in my pack to have later, after I arrived at my days destination. What a difference this made. As my spirits would dampen during the day (and they did several times) all I had to think was that when it ended I would have this wonderful image of two beers waiting for me. I should explain, that I am not really an alcoholic, but you do get pretty thirsty on these rides, and you know it is important to replace the fluids. Arrived in Chester, Illinois, today about 1:30 p.m. We had our first hard rain of the ride today, soon after we arrived in Chester. I'm sure everyone knows Popeye the Sailor Man. Well, this is where the author lived who created this comic strip character. Of course, we all traipsed off to see Popeye's statue.
8/7 - Day 13 - 88 miles . 800 foot vertical climb - Woke to a light rain today, with rain carrying us through most of the day. The good thing is that it made for a cool ride. Not a whole lot of scenery today. Did travel along the Mississippi River for a short while. After 13 days, I finally have my first flat tire. Not one, but two. Fortunately, as I mentioned previously, we had excellent support throughout the whole trip. I knew, that it wouldn't be long before someone would come along to assist in repairing the flat, even though I had all the necessary equipment to make the change. I was tired and elected to wait. Finally, made it to Cairo, Illinois, our next stop on the trip. I found Cairo to be an interesting stop, as this is where the Ohio River runs into the Mississippi River. When you stand at the confluence of these two rivers, you can look south across the Ohio River and you will see Kentucky. If you turn and look west across the Mississippi River, you'll see Missouri. Of course, the land you are standing on between the two rivers is Cairo, Illinois. This is also one of the widest sections of the Mississippi River. We were taken to this location, shortly after our excellent all you can eat buffet. We all begin to get a little excited as we close in on Memphis, Tennessee, our next rest stop. However, we must ride almost 190 miles more before arriving in Memphis. Maybe we are getting a bit over anxious and could be looking for the end of the ride. Anyway, again it was early to bed getting ready for the next days long ride.
The following was received from one of my, now retired, high school teachers, Mrs. Bette Davis.
The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc., and on Dec 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On Dec 19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sunk when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 6 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.
The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in.
One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.
She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"
The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were.
These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve! The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again or all the 35 years in between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
True Story --- submitted by Pastor Rob Reid
The following people attended the May CANDOER luncheon: Jim Casey, Bob Catlin, Lou Correri, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Tom Forbes, Pete Gregorio, Charlie Hoffman, Mel Maples, Will Naeher, Ray and Judy Russell, Bob Scheller, Val Taylor, and Tom Warren.
And attending, all the way from Albuquerque, was Larry Ward. Well recovered from his heart attach and looking great. Nice to see you and say, "Hi!"
April 24, I received an e-mail membership application from Lafayette and Linda Greenfield. Their bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web page. Their e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web page.
April 25, I received an e-mail membership application from Leo and Ann Cyr. Their bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web page. Their e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web page.
On April 27, I received a telephone call from Dave Collins. Dave needed some information about one of the CANDOERs. I also talked with Joe Sting. Both are doing well.
On April 28, Mel Bladen notified me that he has a new e-mail address. His new address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issues and on the Web page.
On May 9, John Thomas joined the CANDOERs. John's address was already in the Directory of Members. He will furnish his full bio at a later date. Welcome aboard, John.
On May 10, I received an application for membership from Thomas Barnes. His bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web. His e-mail message may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the web.
On May 13, Hal Gerwig notified me he has a new address, new telephone number, and ne e-mail address. The e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web page. The new address and telephone number may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web page.
May 20, I received word from Wayne Cashwell that he has a new e-mail address. His new address may be found on the Pen and Ink page, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web site.
I retired from the State Department in 1988 and almost immediately became a WAE Employee, serving at various overseas posts for two-three month periods per year.
In the early Spring of 1992, I received a call from the Chief of what was then IM/SO/FO/SSD/TDY, Dulce Lawton, asking if I would go to Kiev for a couple of months. Of course, I accepted and, having never served in Russia, was interested in seeing how the newly established Republics were coming along.
After arriving in Washington, for a three day "briefing", I started to wonder if this had been such a good move. First thing I discovered was that since the Embassy had recently moved into the former Communist Party General Headquarters building, it lacked a few of the "luxuries" that we Americans were used to, namely western-style toilets. The Bureau said they were "working on getting in toilets," but so far they had not been able to secure them, and employees were currently using the "hole in the floor" type of toilet.
My second shock was that I was going to be responsible for carrying large sums of U.S. currency with me to Kiev (many thousands of dollars consisting of new 20 dollar bills B no folds, tears, etc.), as the new Republic did not accept credit cards, checks, or any payment other than U.S. Dollars.
I departed Washington and changed planes in Frankfurt (where else??) for a Luftstansa flight to Kiev, arriving there on time, about 2:00 p.m. The "on-time" arrival soon turned into a joke B I was told I would be issued an "airport visa" upon arrival. One hour later, I received the visa and then it was time to claim my luggage. Keep in mind, I was going to be in Kiev for two months or more and was told to bring enough "food" to supplement what I could get at the hotel. In all, I had six pieces of luggage, which I discovered piled on a flat bed truck and of course nothing like a Sky-Cap or anyone to assist me getting the luggage from the cart up two flights of steps to go through customs. After some frustrations, I started waiving my Diplomatic Passport and finally someone assisted me with the luggage. Thank God the CPO I was replacing was waiting on the other side of Customs to "whisk me away" to my new "home," the New Intourist Hotel.
The Hotel left a lot to be desired --- they had brand new computers on the front desk --- but did all of their calculations using the "Chinese Abacas." The room was very small and with all my luggage, I had to climb over bags and trunks to get to the window to open it. The bathroom looked pretty modern and clean, but beds were a different story. They looked like a cot that sunk down in the middle and the pillows were as hard as bricks. Luckily, I had brought my own linens and pillows so figured I'd get by for my stay there.
I went into Embassy next morning. My predecessor had thankfully passed on his driver to me, as public transportation was almost unheard of and the Embassy was a five-mile walk, uphill from the hotel. The driver would pick me up each morning at 8:30 and drive me to work, returning to the Embassy at 7:30 p.m. and would wait until I left to go back to hotel (usually about 10:00 p.m.) My first surprise, upon reporting for work that first day, was that our "security guards" were former KGB guards (or so I was told) who would cheerfully salute us as we arrived each morning. Second surprise was, we indeed did not have western toilets, but that they would be "coming in any day now." Furniture was at a premium and some of the officers actually were working off of packing boxes. I sure did not envy the Admin and GSO who were trying to turn this place into a working Embassy.
Things started to get better during the second week when our toilets actually arrived and in the same shipment some real desks and chairs for the officers. The days were long and hard, the food sometimes difficult to come by, but time passed, and I made some good friends and have fond memories of my time in Kiev.
The months passed and the time came to leave. Remember, I mentioned all the U.S. Dollars I had to bring with me? Well, for some reason even though I had U.S. Dollars, I had to pay the hotel bill in Rubles B (can't remember the exchange rate at this time). Anyway, I had to have the desk figure up what my total bill would be in Rubles, then give the dollar amount to Embassy driver who took it to local bank and returned with the appropriate amount of Rubles to pay the bill B in two large grocery bags! I took all these Rubles to the desk and it took three hours for them to count it out (using the Abacas I mentioned earlier). Finally, all the financial arrangements were cleared and I left Kiev the next day, still shaking my head in wonder that anything got done there.
Many of us have a story we could tell about the events in our lives which prompted us to become communicators. I'd like to share mine with you.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. It was the type of town where everyone knew their neighbor, and their neighbor's relatives. Cars and homes were left unlocked and people seemed to have time to help each other. Anyway, it was a nice place to grow up.
In 1946, my parents moved from South to North Main Street, near the business area of town. My mother had just became a beautician and it would be better for my parents to rent a house that had a front room that could be converted into a beauty shop. The house was one side of a brick double. We paid $40.00 rent, per month.
I would be six in August and would begin first grade in September. I had all summer to find playmates, make friends, and just play. I didn't have to take a nap anymore, but had to go straight to bed after listening to the Lone Ranger and Tonto on radio. Before saying my prayers and going to sleep, there was always a story. When it was my Dad's turn, I would always ask for stories about when he as a Boy Scout. The story would end with my dad singing taps, between his hands to make it sound like a bugle. Then I was a happy little boy ready to fall asleep and dream of becoming a boy scout, just like Daddy used to be.
The other side of the house was rented by a family who had a son, David, who was my age. I was happy because at our first house I had two playmates. They were girls. I wasn't allowed to play with Willie and Chickie (Charles) because they were too rough. Now I had a boy playmate. David and I soon became pals. We played Cowboys and Indians. He always became Roy Rogers because he could run faster. I had to be content being Gene Autrey. His brother Doug, who was four, and sister Pam, three, were the Indians. The Indians always lost and so did I in a final shootout with Roy. Roy always won because, as you know, he was "King of the Cowboys."
I soon tired of losing on a daily basis. One day I ventured into the next block. There were six to eight boys building some kind of structure next to the alley. They were school aged kids, from six to 11 years old. I said I had just moved there and asked if I could be their friend. So for helping them that afternoon, as best I could, and a nickel dues, I could be a member of their club. That structure became our club house and I was a member of the "Dead End Kids." It was something like a real Spanky and our gang atmosphere. Dues were a nickel a week. I guess a parent bought the material used to build the club and the dues eventually repaid the loan. The clubhouse stood for more than 30 years.
One weekend that Summer, my Dad came and gathered up the club members and took us on our first hike, which lead us to a nearby creek. Other hikes would follow and soon included learning names of trees, what wood to use to start a camp fire in the woods, and how to keep it going low and steady, like the Indians used to do. We'd bring hot dogs along to cook and use a special young tree shoot so the hot dog would cook but the tree shoot would not catch on fire. Eventually, we went on an over night trip to the old Scout cabin, which was built when my dad was a Scout. I was so happy to be my Dad's boy. I though he was the smartest, strongest, and bravest man in the world. I wasn't alone. All us kids had good parents. Some just made more time available than others.
Time passed and I was 11 years old. I could become a tenderfoot Boy Scout. Now, I could experience all the things at camp that my Dad told me in those bedtime stories. I had already been encouraged to try to "Do a good turn daily," just like the Scout slogan says, and the meaning of "be prepared," the Scout motto. This would be a new adventure. My uncle had just given up being Scout Master (I didn't know that for many years later.) to Mr. William Schultz, who must have been in his early 30's. He was a good leader, who led a small troop of about 20 Scouts, as my Dad had led us kids a few years before. Over the next six years, beside my Dad, Mr. Schultz would become the greatest influence in my life, because he not only taught us young Scouts but also set a good example. He was still active in Scouting after I retired in 1991 and was in good health when I saw him last month. I still introduce him as Mr Schultz, my Scout Master.
Where am I going with this? ZUJ. I was a Second Class Scout and was preparing to become a First Class Scout, when at camp I was nominated for the "Order of the Arrow," and honor society within Scouting. This was commonly known as "The Order" or "WWW," which stands for three secret words known only by members of "The Order." To join, one must be at least a First Class Scout. I lacked one thing - learning and passing the Morse Code requirement. So I studied and passed those dots and dashes, both in sound and light. Now I was ready to go through my ordeal, a camp outing beginning at night and continuing throughout the next day, testing survival techniques and other Scouting skills. I passed all the test (many do not) and became and "ordeal" member, the lowest of three grades in "The Order." I had learned the secret of the three W's, plus other subjects within "The Order." For those of us who left scouting, we never forget our oath to not reveal what occurred in the ceremonies of "The Order." That was my first introduction to the world of security.
Within the next few years, I became a "Brotherhood," the next higher grade in "The Order." Still a Scout at 17, I was ready to graduate high school and had already been accepted in the Air Force. Those of us who are veterans took an aptitude test upon entry into the service. Wouldn't you know it, my highest score was in radio, which was derived from a test where one had to identify the I, N, and T in morse code, at a very slow speed. I had turned 18 a few days after basic training and was sent to Keesler AFB, Mississippi, to learn Ground Radio Operations. I received my first security clearance at that time.
Just a little related story, that can happen when you open your mouth without knowing all the facts. I didn't know that promotions were automatic in radio school. When asked who could type, I raised my hand. The up side is that I was advanced several weeks and began studying Morse Code. The down side was that while others behind me in my former class were promoted in school. I was not, because I had already graduated. I was told sorry, but I'd have to compete for my next grade, based on my evaluation report. I was assigned as a CW operator at the 1240 AACS at Athens AFB, Greece. The motto of AACS was "Dedicated Service." I liked that. It had a good ring to it. As Murphy's law would have it, I was transferred to Izmir, Turkey, just prior to getting my E3. Two promotion cycles passed and still no E3. There were four of us E2's. You know what? The E2 rank was not supposed to be assigned to Izmir, so no E3 promotions were given. I finally received my E3 grade just prior to leaving Izmir along with the three other forgotten radio operators. That taught me a lesson. I spent my last tour in Hawaii, was discharged after achieving E4 and went back to my home town in Pennsylvania, working with a contractor and shooting pool on rainy days. I was 22. One night, after work, I was drinking a beer with a high school buddy, who had been in the Navy. He said, "Lets join the Department of State." I said, "Are your crazy? I don't want a job repairing roads for the state." He said, "No dummy, the Federal Department of State. We can work in the Foreign Service." He, having done his homework, explained that I could do the same type of work as I did in the Air Force. We both went to the employment agency to be tested. I don't know how I passed the typing text. My hands were hard and cracked from cement and lime and typing had been the farthest thing from my mind for the past year. My friend failed the test.
Four months later, and 23, I was sitting in Washington talking to Elsie Crim and finding out all she knew about this place called Bukavu, in the Belgium Congo. Four months after that, I was at the Embassy in Leopoldville, prior to arriving at my first Foreign Service tour. That's when I met two of our CANDOERs, Jim Prosser and Vic Maffei. The next week, I was in Bukavu sending Morse Code.
Another 26 years overseas and 14 Foreign Service posts later, I was assigned to Mexico City. One morning, out of a clear blue sky, I went to the Embassy and announced that I was going to put in my paperwork to retire. As much as I liked my job, and those who I worked for, and those who reported to me, there was no turning back. I had done a "good turn daily." I had been "prepared." I had performed with "dedicated service." That morning, I realized that almost 45 years had passed since my friends and I had been on those first hikes with my Dad. Now it was my turn to help my Dad, my mentor, and the smartest, strongest, and bravest man I've ever known.
The senses capture an awe inspiring and beautiful scene around you. Shallow breathing accompanies the lightheaded feeling. A cool wind blows across flushed cheeks, as your heart beats faster in anticipation of the challenge ahead. Sounds like a pleasant morning with your spouse?
Perhaps that was a fleeting thought, while checking the assembled slabs of wood and steel for one last time before trusting the only sense that counts --- hanging on for dear life. My teenage kids yell; "come on Dad, we will see you at the bottom." Within seconds, I push off for a winding and extremely fast 3-kilometer journey down the mountain. Between cringes of terror and smiles of joy, I felt as if riding a roller coaster, while experiencing this exhilarating feeling. "Space Mountain" at Disneyland? No, this is the real thing - the Swiss Alps - at 6,000+ feet and I am in control.
For the past three years, my family has taken advantage of the International School's week long "February Ski Break" to vacation in Switzerland. Staging out of an Embassy Bern TDY apartment, we spent our daytime traveling to various ski resorts and other locations with designated and specially snow-cat plowed "sledding" trails. We actually discovered organized sledding by accident during the 1998 trip. Our plan to ski was tempered, as beginner and lower-level intermediate runs had minimal snow. Many ski trails were closed. During a gondola ride up to the higher-levels to survey other skiing options, we had spotted dozens of people riding runner sleds down a special prepared trail. After completing the winding and very scenic downhill run, generally at your own controllable pace - using boots to brake and steer - sledders and skiers ride in gondolas back up to the mountain top.
Subsequently using rental sleds, we joined the happy folks enjoying their rides and have been hooked ever since! The Swiss Tourist Bureau sent us specific information regarding sledding locations that helped us perform on-site research during our 1999 trip, including testing a five kilometer run - I believe the second longest in Switzerland. We actually had to walk a lot on that trail, due to several relatively flat portions, and too much snow. Remember the avalanches in France? We were only 15 miles away. Armed with the knowledge of favorite locations, we spent this year revisiting "Lenk".
Judging this year's clientele on the slopes, there are slightly more adults than children sledders. However, all ages were represented, from infants strapped into mounted "child seats" with a parent riding on the sled's rear, to the elderly out for a leisurely sledding stroll together. Perhaps I will try snow boarding next (they share the skier's runs,) but it is hard to beat snow spraying on my face, while racing a sled down the mountain. It reminded me of childhood days in western Michigan, but actually sledding down relatively small hills.
"Come on Dad, we will see you at the bottom." Oh yeah? I shall cherish their look of surprise as this grinning old man went flying past them. Well, it sounded like a challenge to me. Now what was that sense? Ah yes, Y hanging on for dear life. I'll never really admit that one though, especially since the only sense I felt for many days later was a lot of aching bones. Happy winter Y it is downhill from here.
Ever wonder what you'd be doing if you hadn't been in this business? I'm sure we've all appreciated the fact that we've had the opportunity to do fairly extensive travels during the course of our careers, experienced different cultures first-hand, and had pretty exciting lives. This next little yarn (true) illustrates but a page out of our collective unorthodox existence.
It was 1982, and I was stationed at my favorite place: the American Embassy in Tokyo. Having always been fascinated by Japan, its multifaceted culture, and, particularly, its martial arts, I was truly where I belonged. I had participated in judo and karate in previous stints with the Air Force many years previous, and wanted to master the ancient art of kendo ("Way of the Sword") this time around. Kendo was one Japanese martial art that truly went to the heart of the living Japan, the sword being one of the symbols of Japan's national soul. This was an opportunity to study this unique martial art as well as delve deeper into the foundation of the unique Japanese national character.
While practicing karate many years hence in Japan, I had observed kendo being practiced at many training halls (dojo). I thought it looked highly interesting, and vowed, if I ever returned to Japan, to take up the study. Thus, one of the very first things I did upon arrival in Tokyo was to ask around the Embassy where I could find a kendo dojo. I was in luck: the Mail room supervisor, after asking over/over what my motives were in pursuing something "so Japanese," sent me up to Nakamura-San, the Security FON on the 7th Floor. It seems Nakamura held a sixth-degree black belt rank in kendo.
Upon entering the Security Office, I noticed a highly unpretentious looking man sitting behind the nearest desk. He had glasses, did not look athletic/threatening, and had a very mild manner. I mentioned why I was there, and he, too, started asking what my "motives" were in thinking about studying kendo. I mentioned my previous black belts in judo and karate, the fact I had my own karate dojo before entering the Foreign Service, and that I was quite familiar with Japan through my college history endeavors and prior military experience. His attitude changed at that and he became quite animated. We had a good discussion about the martial arts in general, and kendo in particular. I started my three-year study that very evening. It turns out I was becoming a new member in one of the bigger kendo dojos in Japan, we had around 500 members. There were some hilarious experiences in beginning the study of kendo, but, due to spatial limitations here, I shall forego them and save them for a longer treatise elsewhere. I did want to mention another experience tied in with all the above, however.
About six weeks into kendo training, and just beginning to get the hang of it, I was selected for CISS training back in Massachusetts. I had to leave kendo for about seven weeks. Not wanting to miss more than was necessary, I brought my shinai (bamboo practice sword) with me to the States to practice the basics. When we hit Boston, I took one of the typical stretch limos that shuffle passengers to/from airports for the one-hour ride up to Lowell (my hometown). There are around 12-15 people in those limos on busy days, and the trips are always quiet and boring. This was a Friday night, around 1830, and it was cold and dark. We drove along for about 15 minutes when the guy sitting next to me said he just could not contain his curiosity any longer, and wondered what was in the long skinny case I was carrying with me. He thought I might be just returning from some exotic and exciting fishing trip in warmer climes --- "Nope." He then surmised I might be some type jet-setter pool shark --- "Nope." I had nothing better to do, squashed in that limo with all these folks, so I launched into my little story about studying kendo in Tokyo, an art started by the Samurai warriors. By this time, ALL heads were turned my way and the gathered assemblage were listening to my every word. I asked them if they remembered the mini-TV series: Shogun, and certainly all had. I gave a slight discourse on the martial arts in general, a bit of Japanese history, and a brief overview of kendo (though I was a mere beginner in the mechanical aspects of kendo, I was very well familiar with its history and rationale). They asked to see the shinai. I obliged. I also showed them a solid oak sword I carried along with the shinai. That sword was exactly the dimensions and balance of a live blade, and it was used to perform the kata, preset routines that are part of most of the martial arts I had studied in the past. By this time, our trip up to Lowell had reached its conclusion. They all got out of the limo (some were still traveling to other cities) and gave me a standing ovation! The guy who sat next to me all the way told me that the vast majority of his business trips were terribly boring, particularly the airport shuttle runs, but that he would never forget THIS trip. I kinda liked that.
One might think that it is fairly easy to predict the weather in the southernmost part of southern California. Well, it ain't!
Take yesterday (Monday) for example. The forecast on Sunday and even half way through the day was for scattered showers all around the San Diego area. This is the rainy season and we only get around 8 inches in a good year so who can grouse about that? Problem is, they can't predict the weather any better around here than they can anywhere else in the country.
Did we get any rain yesterday? Not a drop which, considering the clear blue sky from horizon to horizon is no great wonder. It was a bit cool, around 60EF and, considering it was around 70EF in parts of the Yukon, one has ample reason to grumble. About the temperature anyway. This is southern California right? Supposed to be perfect, right? Well, mumble, grumble.
So the forecast, again on Sunday and yesterday said today would be a clear day and that on Wednesday (tomorrow) it would be rainy again. I'm thinking, I've emptied a near full bucket of water on the patio several times so far so where's this 8 inches of rain a year nonsense come from? Everywhere except Rancho Bernardo?
Well, just a few minutes ago I had to scramble to bring in the tools that I've been using to build a shed because it has started to rain again. Even at 0800, on what's supposed to be a beautiful day, there were dark clouds across the sky. It took until 1300 for drops to start falling and now I'm inside grumbling and mumbling because I haven't put the roof on the new shed yet and there's lots of yard work to do.
This prediction of weather has me confused. It's about as accurate as earthquake prediction and maybe volcano eruption prediction. That is, after one has happened, we've got geologists coming out of the woodwork telling us everything we ever wanted to know about earthquakes or whatever except what we'd really like to know which is when will the next one occur? Where? How big? I don't know how many geologists the U.S. Geologic Survey (in the Dept. of the Interior???) employs but what the heck are they doing? The Japanese are pretty big about this too so why can't anyone predict earthquakes? If they can't be accurately predicted why do we have all these geologists?
Perhaps being housebound because of a intermittent rain isn't as bad as having to go out and shovel the frozen variety so I'll just see if there's any scotch in the bottle and, well it's almost time for a nap anyway. What a coincidence.
From "sunny" southern California, here's mud in your eye!