Archive for January 2010

How I met your mother

January 24, 2010

 I met Patty on a blind date.   I had mustered out of the Navy in June in Long Beach and bought a ’55 Ford and drove home.  I went to work for Bob Moody, my brother-in-law, moving houses.  I lived with Bob and Millie at their house at 1953 Riverview St. in Eugene.  I was having a great time since I idolized Bob and Millie and they had a great home with a daylight basement on the backside of Hendricks Park hill. 

 My friend, Dave Wildt, fixed me up with blind dates and Patty was one of them.  Dave’s family and Patty’s family had known each other for years, since the mill closed in Vernonia I think.  Anyway, to their way of thinking, Dave and Patty were a natural fit.  Dave and Patty didn’t see it that way and Dave started seeing Patty’s best friend, LaDonna Wyant.  So then Dave and Donna started trying to fix me up.  First they tried Phyllis but we didn’t hit it off very well.  We only had one date.  Then they fixed me up with Patty but we had to cancel our date because my dad died about that time.  He died in August of 1962 at the age of 70 at the same hospital I was born, Sacred Heart in Eugene.  The same place he was injured ten years before while working on an expansion of facilities. 

 It was several weeks later that Dave and Donna finally arranged for Patty and I to go out on a double date with them.  I picked Patty up at her home on Kathryn Avenue in Springfield and we started off with dinner at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Eugene.  I think Patty was self-conscious because Donna had told her that I remarked on how much Phyllis, my previous blind date, ate.  Anyway, I believe we went to a movie and then we dropped Donna and Dave off and I took Patty home.  On the way to her home I arranged to stop at the Springfield airport and tried to get to second base but was only mildly successful.  Anyway I figured I had blown it so I was a little surprised when Patty called me up a few days later to tell me that she was going to the Oregon State Fair in Salem.  Of course, I immediately asked if I could take her and we were pretty much inseparable from then on.

 It was a pretty difficult romance since Patty was working at three jobs at the time; the cannery was her day job, the Arctic Circle at night and she worked at a car wash on the weekends.  Meanwhile, I was getting up at 5 or 6 AM and moving houses all day which was extremely hard work.  At night I would park at the Arctic Circle and take Patty home when it closed.  Patty moved out of her parent’s home and in with her brother, Freddy, and we would park out in front of his house for a time every night since that was the only time we had to see each other.  More than once I fell asleep on my way home and once woke to find myself in a ditch on Riverview Street

When we did find time to go on a date it was frequently to the drive-in movie in Glenwood near what used to be the Holland Market.  One time, on the way to the movie, I pulled into the Holland Market and ran inside to get some apples and snacks and when I got back to the car I started putting on my work jacket.  Patty asked me what I was doing and I explained that I was going to get into the trunk so Patty could drive in and we’d only have to pay for one.  Patty said to go ahead but she was going to pay for two and tell the attendant that I was in the trunk.  I guess we both should have known what we were getting into from that episode.  We often fell asleep on our dates since we were so tired and once we woke to find that we were the only ones left in the drive-in. 

 Another time Millie and Bob took us to the Laurelwood Golf Course Clubhouse and we had a steak dinner with drinks afterward.  Bob and Millie were friends with the manager and he showed us special consideration.  I remember that he could recite most of Robert Service’s poems from memory and that made him special because Robert Service was a favorite of my dad.  We had a really good time and when we got home to Riverview Street, Bob and Millie went to bed and left us sitting on the couch.  Well, what with the drinks I’d had, (I think Patty had a sip or two of Kaluha) and our natural state of constant exhaustion, we fell asleep and never woke until about 7 in the morning. 

 The minute I woke I knew we were in big trouble!  I called out to Millie and told her that we’d fallen asleep and she went bonkers.  She called back that Patty’s folks had probably called the police and that I’d really messed up this time.  I said that I was just glad that mom hadn’t come home last night and seen us asleep together on the couch (mom stayed in the guest bedroom when she wasn’t at her home in Waldport).  At that, I heard mom call from the bedroom, “I saw you!”  I don’t know why she didn’t wake us up. 

 Patty and I jumped in the car and I took her to her brother’s home.  I went in and was explaining to Freddy what had happened and I remember he was smirking at me when Patty’s mom arrived.  I kind of melted into the drapes by the living room window and Opie stormed in and took one look at Patty in her high heels and evening dress and demanded to know why she was dressed like that at this time of the morning.  I guess I must have blacked out then because I don’t remember much more about that morning. 

 By December of that year, Patty and I had decided to get married and, being the practical fellow that I am, I wanted to do it before the end of the year so I could get the tax deduction.  Patty’s dad, Joe, said he was going to claim Patty for the year.  I said to go ahead but I was going to do it legally.  Patty was upset because she said neither one of us should be claiming her as she paid her own way.  I guess Patty has always been an IRS agent at heart. 

 Bob was always telling Patty about how he was going to finish the daylight basement into an apartment for us and he made it sound really great.  It was really nice with picture windows all across the front and its own driveway and entrance from the street below.  Also, it had a couple of acres of field and an open fence at the bottom.  We never got to live in that apartment because the house-moving business, always a boom or bust business, was going through some bad times then.  So, just before we got married, I went to work for Georgia Pacific at their sawmill and I was stacking lumber and loading boxcars just like Patty’s dad did for Weyerhauser across town.  We rented a second-floor apartment on the corner of 10th and Lawrence just a couple of blocks from Sears where Patty was now working. 

The Union was after me to join since the sawmill was a closed-shop but I didn’t want to because I knew they’d go on strike and I’d be out of work.  I finally relented and paid my money to join and they promptly went on strike.  My brother-in-law, Don Redfield, was the Superintendant of Ponds at Georgia Pacific and he got me a job at the plywood plant pulling off the chain and grading plywood.  I worked swing shift for $2.13 an hour and I totally hated that job.  I would dread coming back the next night while still at work.  I finally went down and talked to the Navy recruiter and asked what kind of a deal I could get,  He said no deal but I could come back as a Petty Officer 2 just like I was when I left.  I didn’t want to do that because I was in a specialty that was always at sea.  So, I talked to the Air Force and agreed to take a reduction in rank for a guarantee of an electronics school. 

 I got a promise of Ground Radio Repairman and an assignment to Keesler AFB for Technical Training School.  I was planning on leaving Patty with Millie and Bob until I could send for her but Millie convinced us that we should go together and she was very right.  We left in my push-button ’57 Dodge Royal for Biloxi, Mississippi and started what, so far, has been an almost 50 year adventure together.  I was pulling slivers from my belly for months after I left the plywood plant and I always felt that I did the right thing in joining the Air Force and in taking Patty with me every step of the way.   

 

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Mortality

January 13, 2010

There is truth to the saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’.  I have found myself making deals with God on several occasions.  The first was when Patty came to join me in Panama and I watched through a window her dealing with the bureaucratic assholes in Panamanian customs who pretended to not speak English and had no idea why she should be allowed into their country until she just happened to show them my orders assigning me to Albrook AFB.   I asked for intervention then because she was so close but yet so far and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Another time was when Patty was undergoing surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University and had a whole group of specialists operating on her.  They had told me that if it went over two hours it would mean they had trouble and it went at least twice that.  Turns out that it went longer because they were cleaning up problems from a previous surgery at David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB and she came out OK.  And, of course, the birth of both Traci and Susan were emotional Everests in my life as was the problems that Susan had with her bi-polar affliction as a teen.  But I’ve never been compelled to make a deal having to do with the end of life.  I’ve lost my mother and father and five sisters and a brother as well as Patty’s parents and her brother Freddy and the husbands of my sisters and I never felt the need to implore God to intervene.   Also, I was in a very terrifying car accident as a teenager where I was sure I would die and, other than the ‘Oh shit’ response, didn’t even think about asking for God to save me. 

I’ve been very lucky that the deaths close to me were all associated with aging and disease and were natural and expected or I may have felt differently.  In all of these cases, the people in my family died well and, in Edythe, Millie, and Dolly’s cases, exceptionally well.  I hope to do as well.  I remember Edythe making a deliberate choice to refuse treatment that would have lengthened her life and the pain and suffering that would entail.  And I remember Millie making plans and preparing for her death in ways that would ease the suffering for those she would leave behind.  And Dolly’s good cheer while talking to me on the telephone despite knowing her death was imminent and that she was half a world away from her home and family.  In all cases, death was a natural result of the end of a life and certainly not to be feared. 

 In my own case, most of the joys allotted to me in this life are already memories.   I’ve had more than my share and it certainly would not be tragic for my life to be over.  I can still experience joy and I am still in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.  Which reminds me of a toast from my Air Force days: 

 ‘Little brown dog, sound as a ring;

Be 10 years old if he lives ‘till spring.

His eyes bulge out and his ass sucks wind

But he’s in pretty good shape for the shape he’s in!’

(There’s a little more to this toast but it’s pretty risqué)

 …well, that’s me.  Although I’m in pretty good shape, there are two important areas where I can see a difference; my brain and my strength.  They’re still OK but somewhat diminished and so the experiences that I have now are not what they once were.   Not that I’m ready to throw in the towel.  No, I’m still enjoying life and Patty and I are having a great time.   We’ll continue to do that as long as we can and I’m pleasantly surprised that my life is still as good as it is. 

 I guess where I’m going with all this is that, one of the things I want Chronospots to do is to relate my views on this subject and maybe to help with the way I want to be remembered.   I remember that the memorial service that Maile Clein’s kids gave for her was just about perfect.   Friends of the family gathered and had food and drinks and a few dozen helium-filled white balloons were released over Puget Sound.  A few people spoke about Maile and her life; things that they felt they wanted to share, but it was not a sad ceremony nor was it suffused with any artificiality.  I’ve been to a few funerals where a priest who never knew the deceased spoke about him.  I felt that was an attempt to hedge bets in case there really was an afterlife and no one wanted his chances for it to be reduced.    One of the worst memorial services that I remember was Millie’s.  Even though she bought an insurance policy that gave Bob several thousand dollars to spend on her cremation and a memorial service, he screwed it up.  He couldn’t pay to get Millie’s ashes and Patty and I did that.  Also, he arranged for a memorial service in a chapel in Springfield with a minister and the Sweet Adelines singing tributes, which I’m sure Millie would have hated since she was a life-long agnostic.  Patty and I had a family get-together at Ona Beach near Newport where we spread both Millie and Bob’s ashes and I’m sure Millie would have approved of that.   And I’m also sure she would have forgiven Bob for screwing up, she always did. 

So, what I want, and what Patty wants, is this:  No heroic or expensive efforts to prolong a life that is essentially over.  That would diminish the life we have lived.  No last-minute attempts to achieve salvation that we never believed in while we had the chance.  No priest saying things that they have no business saying about someone they never knew.  The least expensive cremation service possible and the ashes received in the plastic box provided.  The ashes treated with respect but disposed of with no worries about it being the perfect place or that a future homage to the site is necessary.   And memories of us as having loved one another and having lived life to the fullest and that we wish the same for our kids.   You’ll notice that I never stipulated where the site should be, that’s because it doesn’t matter to us.  If it matters to you, select a site that makes you happy like we did with Millie and Bob.

 Please don’t think of this post as maudlin or morbid, I didn’t mean for it to be.  I just want it to be there for guidance and so there is no doubt about what we want for ourselves. 

Woodland, CA ~ A Bicentennial Community

January 7, 2010

Woodland, CA~ a bicentennial community

 In the summer of 1976 I was the office manager of the downtown Sacramento USAF Recruiting Office located in the Post Office across the park from the State Capitol.  My particular recruiting area was Yolo County which was a large area that included Dixon, West Sacramento, Davis, Winters and WoodlandWoodland was designated a Bicentennial Community which was a big deal even though there were hundreds of communities across the country that had that designation.  My fellow recruiters from the Army, Navy and Marines and I all agreed that we should do something special to commemorate this occasion. 

 Woodland was going all out with a big celebration at the Yolo County Fair that included a carnival, rodeo and demolition derby among other attractions.  The Navy recruiter had been in rodeos and convinced us that we should enter to ride the Brahma bulls.  None of us were too keen on the idea but didn’t want to chicken out to the Navy.  We all were enthusiastic however, about getting cars and entering the demolition derby.  We would also have booths and displays for our services at the fair. 

 I was a Master Sergeant at the time and the highest ranking of the recruiters (and the oldest).  In accordance with military protocol, I sent a letter to my Commanding Officer who was a Lt. Colonel stationed at Travis AFB, requesting permission to enter the events and explaining my plans for representing USAF at the celebration.  I felt this was just a formality and proceeded with plans for the events.  I had a good buddy who was a fellow recruiter with the Air Force and who moonlighted at painting motorcycles.  It was a very lucrative sideline and every so often he would quit because he got so swamped by bikers wanting their motorcycles painted all fancy.  I talked him into painting the cars for each of us recruiters.  We approached the local wrecking yard in Woodland and talked them into donating cars for us to drive and then we went to the paint store and got paint donated. 

 On the Saturday that we had set aside for my buddy to paint the cars, the Marine recruiter weaseled his way out of helping so when we got to the wrecking yard we were all pretty disgusted with him since he hadn’t helped with anything.  The three of us; the Navy, Army and Air Force picked our cars and, since the Marine wasn’t there, we picked a ’59 Cadillac for him.  With big tail fins.  My buddy painted our cars all red, white and blue with our logo’s on the side and they looked real sharp.  For the Caddy, we mixed the red and white together and made hot pink and painted the Caddy with the Marine logo on the side.  It was a thing of beauty!  Wish I had a picture of it. 

 

It wasn’t long after we had gotten our cars and painted them that I got a response from my Commanding Officer.  He said that my request to ride the Brahmas was denied (which I wasn’t too upset about) and that I wasn’t to participate in the demolition derby either!  The people that watched demolition derbies weren’t the caliber of applicants the Air Force wanted to attract. I guess he thought we should be recruiting in libraries!  Well, I was already in so I ignored that particular order. 

 On the big day my Group Headquarters at Mather AFB had gone all out for me and had gotten me a quarter-scale F-15  painted up like the Thunderbirds and a bunch of other neat stuff for my booth.  That morning we had a big ceremony where the other recruiters and I held the flag-raising ceremony for the kick-off of events.  Being in the Air Force, I was the junior service and had little to do and the Army was the lead service followed by the Marines.  The Army sergeant hooked the lanyard to the flag and the Navy held the flag while the Marine hoisted it.   Well, the Marine yanked the wrong lanyard and drove ‘Old Glory’ right into the dirt.  There was a collective ‘Ooohh’ from everyone.  After that fiasco, I set Patty up manning my booth for me while I went out back to work on my car. 

 A Major from Group Headquarters came out with a camera to take pictures of the Air Force display and the model F-16 they had acquired for me.  He asked Patty, “Where is Sergeant Ware?” And she replied, “He’s out back working on his car.”   He came out with his camera and took pictures of me working on my car.  I don’t think I knew about that until later. 

 Later that day Patty and I were out watching the Brahma riders (I found out that the fair wouldn’t have let me ride them anyway as it is considered to be a very dangerous sport and only for professionals) and Patty had told me that they tie those straps around the bulls to squeeze their testicles and make them buck harder.  As I was relating this bit of trivia to one of the other recruiters, Patty broke in and told me that she had made that up.  You really can’t trust her.  Anyway, I was very thankful that I wasn’t riding one of those death machines. 

That night, we had the demolition derby and the Marine car was a BIG hit!  Actually, I think the other contestants purposely tried to avoid hitting it and it went relatively unscathed through most of the heat.   The cars had their gas tanks removed and a small gas can set up behind the driver’s seat for fuel.  The idea is to hit other cars with your back end but you try to hit them in the front to take out their engine or radiator.  I floored my accelerator and flew across the field and smacked into a car that had been hiding out against a log and knocked him out of the field.  Patty was sitting in front of this guy and said he was screaming and pounding his steering wheel with frustration.  The back of his car was a twisted, re-enforced mass of metal so he knew what he was doing but he never counted on me and dumb luck!  Anyway, I had a great time and felt I did the Air Force proud. 

 When I got to work the next Monday, I received a message that I was wanted at Squadron Headquarters.  I went to Travis AFB and the brass from Squadron and Group were there and showed me the pictures that were taken of me and my car.  Well, it was Court Martial time.  There really wasn’t much I could say or do since the Colonel had told me specifically not to do what I did.  However, it worked out about like something from ‘Catch 22’ in that I would either get a medal or an Article 15.  Some of the Group people stuck up for me and I got off with a scolding. 

 I eventually moved to Squadron Headquarters where I worked directly for that Colonel as the Operations Supervisor for all the recruiting offices in Northern California and Western Nevada and including the AFEES in Oakland and in Fresno.  I retired out of that job and for the last two months of my career was given the AFEES in Fresno to run since that is where I was living anyway.  I guess the Air Force treated me pretty well, considering.   


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