Archive for August 2011

Omie

August 26, 2011

Omie

I’ve done a posting on mom, dad, Millie, Dort, Pete, Theresa and Edie so far.  Omie and Ginnie I haven’t done yet although I did cover Omie some in ‘I Started Out As A Child- The Sequel’ and I’ll repost those references here *. 

Omie was born in Eugene in 1936 after the infamous cross-country trek from Philadelphia and her name was Naomi Barbara Ware.  I don’t remember the date except that it was in the fall, probably November.  She was born at Sacred Heart as I was and the same place that dad was hurt and eventually died.  She died in 2002 at the age of 66 and suffered from emphysema and arthritis as did several in our family.  She smoked all her life and alcohol was not her friend.  She didn’t have an easy life and I’m fairly certain that she and mom shared a manic-depressive personality disorder that made it very difficult for them and anyone near them.     

She graduated from Springfield High School in 1954 and left home as soon as she could to live with Millie and Bob in Spokane.  Bob was in the Air Force and stationed at Fairchild AFB and Millie worked at the Crescent department store in Spokane.  They had an apartment and Bob had the basement fixed up like a bar with a purple egg-crate ceiling, a bar and stools, a Wurlitzer juke box and his sound equipment.  They were fun and Omie probably felt that her ship had come in.  She was involved with a friend of Bob’s by the name of Joe Deluccio who was a hot-blooded Italian from the east coast and was always getting into trouble.  However, that never got very serious and when Omie met another of Bob’s friends, Gene Hayes, she immediately fell for him.  Gene had been stationed in Morocco with Bob and Bob said that Gene was always well-groomed and self-contained, even in Morocco where a lot of guys weren’t.

Omie married Gene and they had two beautiful kids, Kelli Ruth and Scott.  They were sent to Germany for a few years and when they returned to the states they were stationed at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls.  In looking back at it now, I think they must have been in Germany at the same time that Millie and Bob were in Madrid.  I don’t know if they ever traveled to visit each other or not.  Omie and Gene had some marital difficulties and maybe Gene’s tour to Vietnam and absence from the family contributed to that.  I know that Omie had attempted suicide once in Klamath Falls and, when they were stationed at Eglin AFB she wrecked their car in the woods and they had to track her down there.  Shortly after that she left Gene and left Kelli and Scott with Patty and me in Mississippi and went home to start over.  We kept Kelli and Scott for a few weeks but they were terribly unhappy and wanted to be with their mom.  When Omie got a job at a rest home in Eugene she had us send Kelli and Scott to her.  She found a pretty nice home on Princeton Street in Eugene and got a government mortgage from Farmers Home Administration (my future government employment) and put down roots in Eugene.

She eventually went to work at a plywood mill in Eugene because the pay was a lot better than she got at the
rest home.  She met Bob Murphy there and they married and seemed as happy as Omie could ever be.  Bob Murphy seemed to be good for Omie and he had a fun and outgoing personality that tolerated her frequent periods of depression and her conflicts with those around her. 

Omie had a lot of sharp edges and was frequently feuding with one or more members of the family.  She also was quite willing to express whatever displeased her and seemed to like to take a contrary position to that of mom or her sisters on any issue.  One way to put it was that she was always spoiling for a fight and usually found one.  The last years of her life she was frequently in poor health and seemed depressed.  She kept her house rather dark and had migraines where she would stay in her bedroom.  She maintained a close relationship with Millie throughout her life and that is one of the great things about Millie.  Millie resisted getting involved in any family disputes and was non-judgmental to everyone.  I think Omie always felt that Millie was there for her.   When Millie died in ’93, it may have hit Omie even harder than it did me because she needed Millie so much. 

Omie was my nemesis during our childhood.  She was five years older than I and we fought throughout our childhood and although, at the time, I was convinced that she was possessed by an evil spirit, in retrospect I can see that she had reasons to hate me.  The one thing she particularly resented was that I had new boots.  I remember those boots, they were similar to army combat boots and I could stomp up a storm in them when I was about five or six years old. They are evident in this picture of the family as it was at that time on our front porch. 

* This is the excerpt from ‘I Started Out As A Child~ The Sequel’…

Until Millie, Pete and Dolly left, starting in about 1947, it was pretty crowded and Omie and I had to sleep in the attic.   The attic was never finished and so the planks for a floor were unfinished lumber and spaced about an inch apart. The walls were similarly constructed and were only in the front part of the attic where Omie and I had our cots. The rest of the attic was rafters and storage and to get around you had to step on the ceiling joists. There were birds and, I suppose, other critters living in the attic and Omie and I could hear them while trying to go to sleep. The only light was from a 60W bulb hanging from a rafter.  One of the things that made it difficult to sleep was Mom’s artificial arm hanging from a rafter as you came up the stairs.Also, dad had a back-brace hanging from a rafter and there were other frightful things about the attic that were more in my imagination than any real threat.  It didn’t help that Omie was an evil person that loved to tell me ghost stories as we were laying there –‘Who Stole My Liver’ comes to mind.

In the summer Omie and I got to sleep in the screened-in back porch and we loved that. During this time, Aloyisus was building a house next door for him and Theresa to live in and he kept his tools and some materials on our back porch where Omie and I slept. We had gotten in the habit of having a coffee can to use- sort of our ‘Can-O-Pee’ bed since we generally slept in the attic and Omie used the coffee can of 16-penny nails she found to do her business one night. The next day Aloyisus came to get his hammer and nails and as he got to work, he grabbed a handful of nails and stuck them in his mouth, which you do since you’ve only got two hands to hold things.  Well, you could hear him yelling and cussing for miles. THAT was a red-letter day for memories.


Omie was in trouble as much as I was and she had a long list of accomplishments. She burned down our barn, she stole alcohol and replaced it with water and she frequently stole cigarettes.  Although, I gotta admit that sometimes she just got blamed for stealing cigarettes because everyone thought I was too young to be doing it. We fought like cats and dogs, had nothing in common and didn’t like each other much.  I’m sorry about that. 

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Hurricane Camille

August 8, 2011

Hurricane Camille Aug ‘69

August of ’69 means Woodstock to a lot of people but I wasn’t even aware of that iconic event at the time, I had other things on my mind.  The same weekend that Woodstock was becoming a legend on a farm in New York we were living a terror-filled weekend with the most powerful storm to ever hit the U.S. mainland.  There may have been other storms that have caused more death or destruction but there has never been a more powerful Category Five storm with sustained winds of over 200 MPH and spawning hundreds of tornados.  The reason Katrina caused so much more destruction is because of the failure of the levee system in New Orleans and the massive construction of casinos and development along the beach on the Gulf Coast in recent decades. 

In the summer of ’69, Patty, Traci and I were living in a mobile home in Back-bay Biloxi also known as D’Iberville.  We were set up on about an acre with live oak and pecan trees and I commuted into Keesler AFB where I was teaching electronics.   I had received my electronics training here six years before and I had
applied and been accepted to return as an instructor.  I had just cross-trained from teaching Ground Radio and was currently teaching Space Systems Command and Control.  I worked in something called a Transportable Terminal which was a mobile Command/Control center for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) which was actually a spy satellite system. 

We had been watching the development of Camille with our satellite dumps since its birth in the South Atlantic but couldn’t share information because of the Top Secret nature of the program.  However, one of my fellow instructors, Mike Shofner, was living in a Mobile home in Back-bay Biloxi right on the water and he went down and bought insurance on his home a few days before Camille hit.  He got totally wiped out and collected on the insurance and even got a refund on part of his deposit, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Anyway, that weekend it looked like Camille was heading for the panhandle of Florida and my sister Omie and her family were living on Eglin AFB, near Fort Walton Beach so we hopped in the car and drove there to help them get ready for the storm.

Then the storm started moving westward and it looked like it was heading for New Orleans so we jumped back in the car and headed back to Biloxi.  Then the storm started tracking eastward again and we just got through the Bankhead tunnel under the bay of Mobile before they closed it due to rising water.  We headed right for Keesler AFB where it appeared it would be safer to ride out the storm in the computer building which was next to the site where my Transterm station was located.  This was a huge concrete building two stories high and resembling a big Costco (although Costco wasn’t invented yet). The building had a crushed rock roof which, in 200 MPH winds, became lethal and rained destruction on all the cars parked nearby.  Luckily we were late getting there and our Chrysler 300 convertible escaped damage since it was so far away from the building.  We spent the night listening to the wind and watching things like the roof of the gas station on the corner flying by.    There were several hundred of us in the building and nobody got any sleep that night. 

The storm surge was about 20 foot high and left freighters and shrimp boats in downtown Gulfport and wiped out the businesses along Highway 90 from Biloxi to Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.  The eye went over us and we could hear it become quiet and then pick up again like a freight train roaring through.  The next morning,
as it became light, we could see that all the cars along one side of the building were heavily damaged and had no glass left in them because of the rocks from the roof.  We were hearing radio reports and stories of inflated death counts because of bodies that bobbed out of a cemetery near Bay St. Louis.   Also in that area, a family that had weathered many hurricanes and lived in a home they had built to withstand hurricanes invited friends and neighbors to a hurricane party to weather the storm.  One of the hundreds of tornados spawned by Camille made a direct hit on the house and it was completely destroyed.

They let us go about 10:AM but warned us that HWY 90 was out because the Ocean Springs bridge was gone.  The bridge was four lanes of concrete and had been built just a few years before.  We headed out Howard Street, the main street of Biloxi at that time, and saw the destruction that the hurricane had left.  About a block to the south where the antebellum homes and resorts used to be was a wall of debris 15 to 20 feet high, maybe higher.  I remember seeing an old woman sitting on a mattress on the sidewalk rocking back and forth and crying on Howard St.  There were a lot of people wandering around as if in a daze.  When Patty and I had been here six years previously when I was a student, we lived in an attic apartment of an antebellum home called Harvey House.  It was a beautiful home with a large front lawn and slave quarters out back.  It was less than a block from Beauvior, Jefferson Davis’s last home, which was heavily damaged but still standing after Camille.   I don’t know if Harvey House made it but I don’t think so.     

When we got to the back-bay bridge it was closed too so we  headed back east through town to Popp’s Ferry
Road about halfway to Gulfport and joined  several cars making their way to the back-bay area.  It was slow going as we had to clear trees from the road to get through.  
When we got home we found that several big pine trees had fallen on our house and we had no power or water.  We secured things as best we could and we all got back in the car and stopped by our other mobile home, which we had rented to another couple from Keesler.  They were in bad shape too so we took them with us and went back to spend a couple of days with Omie and Gene at Eglin.  We actually had a pretty good time with them at Fort Walton beach but we had to get back to the base since the Air Force wanted me to help with disaster relief and clean-up in Biloxi as soon as the roads were open from back bay (the Ocean Springs bridge wouldn’t be open for quite a while).

When I got back to our house, I had to get a bow-saw to cut the trees off from it and try to patch the holes in the roof enough to keep the rain out.  We had bottled water and would be without power for a while yet.  When I went into the base I found that the disaster teams were poorly organized and I spent a lot of time standing around not knowing how I could help.  Some teams were clearing roads to the beach and Highway 90 but that was really a job for a bulldozer.  They finally realized that there were a lot of people standing around with their thumb up their- well, you get the picture, and they let us go.  I went home to finish work on what was left of our home and to be with Patty and Traci. 

Camille made a believer out of a lot of Gulf Coast residents that had a cavalier attitude toward hurricanes.  It was a terrifying demonstration of mother nature’s most destructive and awesome power.  There were a lot of stories about hurricane parties that didn’t go well and I heard that a photographer had tied himself to the Ocean Springs bridge to experience the hurricane first-hand.  I sort of doubt that one but there were a lot of Darwin Awards given out during that storm. 

After the storm the Gulf Coast was swampedwith insurance adjusters writing checks for damages and not looking at much evidence.  Also, the government moved over a thousand manufactured homes into the area for emergency housing which bothered me since I had two of them that I wanted to sell and they were flooding the market.  Luckily, I had them set up on pretty good property and so I sold them and moved into base housing
on Thanksgiving Day that year. 

The construction company where Patty worked, Balboa Construction, reaped a bonanza after the storm, mainly through government contracts.  The storm was really very good for business and the Gulf Coast enjoyed a resurgence that would set it up for more destruction from subsequent storms.  I benefitted from it by buying a ’68 ford pick-up from a Mafioso nightclub owner on Pass Road between Gulfport and Biloxi who had an ‘in’ with the Harrison County Sheriff and was able to get a clear title from a vehicle that was supposedly lost in the storm.   As a side-note, the Sheriff of Harrison County Mississippi was one of the ten highest paid executives in the country and that was just on his declared income (not counting payoffs from bootleg distillers, etc.).  

I guess my two tours in Biloxi with the Air Force has influenced my feelings about the deep south but, as far as I’m concerned, I’ll believe anything about the political corruption, racism and shady dealings that are endemic to that part of the country.  Patty and I could tell you stories…

The Marvelous Wonderettes

August 2, 2011

Springfield High School Class of '58 Senior Prom

Patty and I went to the Oregon Cabaret Theater last night and were delighted and surprised by the production which was the Springfield High School Class of ’58 SeniorProm and the second act was the 10 year reunion.  They nailed it!  The production was ‘spot on’ with the songs of the time and the girls were absolutely fabulous with their taffeta prom dresses and petticoats.  They were all very talented and I caught myself laughing aloud with delight throughout the show.  Although I was SHS ’59 and Patty was SHS ’62, we felt we had stepped back in time.  It was especially timely since we both have re-unions coming up later this month in Springfield (on the same weekend!).

http://www.oregoncabaret.com/current.html

The only thing they got wrong was the school mascot which was a chipmunk instead of a Miller.  When they came out for act two in their go-go boots and psychedelic dresses I was reminded of Patty’s red go-go boots and orange mini-skirt that she used to wear when we went clubbing in Denver at about that time.  I wish I could bottle the show and bring it with us to Springfield for our re-unions.  We’ve been going to OCT since we moved to Ashland in ’85 and that was the year it opened in the ‘Old Pink Church’, so it’s been 26 years, and this is the most fun I’ve ever had there. 


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