Friday, January 30, 2009

Facebook craze

Have you gotten caught up in the latest craze – Facebook? Recently, I started getting several notices from people asking me to join Facebook as a friend. Naturally, my lack of knowledge of computers made me wonder who was sending me all these requests and why so many lately.

My curiosity got the best of me, however, so I tried it. I received several from people I knew and one or two from people I didn’t know, but when I got one from Judy Johnson, I had to find out who this person was. So, I had to set up a password and went from there. Come to find out, it was the wife of a friend back in my days at LeTourneau University , the baseball coach, Elliott Johnson. Elliott and I were good friends, enough so that I visited his home several times for a meal, so naturally I knew his wife well, too. I was even Elliott’s baseball assistant for one day while I was the SID (sports information director). I quickly found out I didn’t have the time to be an assistant coach, because of the time I already had to spend as SID. Elliott required a dedicated person to help him with on-the-field situations, such as pitching during batting practice, hitting during fielding practice, etc.

While I may have enjoyed doing those things, I just didn’t have the time. Anyway, to make a long story short, Elliott moved on to another school in Illinois but last year came back to Oklahoma to coach. I followed his career and continued to do stories for the Longview News-Journal, just to let folks know of his progress.

Cynthia and I went to his sons’ weddings, one in Denton , TX and another in Cedar Hill , TX . while he was in Illinois and we plan to go see him when she retires, especially since he now lives in Oklahoma City . Anyway, back to my original story. I received a Facebook invitation from Judy. As I said before, I didn’t recognize the name, so I agreed to join, to mainly find out who wanted me as a friend. To my surprise, it was the wife of a friend.

I’m glad I did now, because she has pictures of their new log home as well as photos of Ben’s new baby. Since I became “friends” with Judy early last week, I’ve received the same Facebook notification from Nancy Shore and Bud Thompson, two friends from Heavener, and found another Heavenerite, Ron Johnston, whom I’ve already been in touch with, to check on his mother, Kathryn. It’s really amazing. I haven’t added my photo yet, but I plan to do so (when I find out how to do it), and talk back and forth with friends one-on-one. It’s much like the Heavener blogs we write now, except it’s more of a personal thing, or even e-mails. Check it out on and see if there’s anyone you know.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not a moment too soon

Everybody here in Texas that knows us very well accuses me of “the countdown.” I say, retirement? Retirement? Don’t talk about retirement. Retirement!” With tongue in cheek, I use the same tone as the commercial with Jim Mora, the ex-New Orleans Saints coach. Instead, he says, “Playoffs? Playoffs? Don’t talk about the playoffs. Playoffs!” That’s because Cynthia isn’t far from retirement, and, frankly, I’m thrilled. In 19 weeks, or 266 days, Cynthia is planning to retire. Or, even further, 456 hours, or 27,360 minutes. Now, if that’s not counting ‘em down, I don’t what else you would call it. She works for the federal government, and at age 56 (minimum) she can retire and still keep benefits.

She said she would like to work 25 years, but that would mean until next October. I said, “Why? Twenty-five is just a number. Nobody but you will remember the number.” After some consideration, she agreed. So, June 5 is her last day, because that’s end of a pay period. My retirement came so quickly, I hardly noticed it and haven’t looked back since. Shortly after we got married, Cynthia had to have some surgery done on a thumb, which was followed by a lengthy rehabilitation. So, I quit my job as sports info. director at LeTourneau University to help with her rehab. I didn’t quit writing, however, a weekly bowling column for the newspaper. I continued to write it for about a year. I saw one of the bowlers recently and he asked me if I was retired now or just half-way. He knew I was no longer writing the bowling news, but wasn’t sure if I was doing anything else. I told him, Yep, I had retired … officially. I didn’t tell him that all I do now is write a blog every once in a while. Writing this blog is a way of keeping my writing skills sharpened, and I use the word “skills” loosely. No, I don’t miss my job as sports info director, definitely, because of the time it required anyway (every Saturday and lots of nights, especially during basketball season) and I don’t miss writing the bowling news (rounding up all the bowling scores at three bowling centers and a weekly interview with whomever had a good bowling night). Mercy!

Enough was enough. I left the newspaper business, thinking that PR work might be a little slower, but was I ever wrong? It still required ample travel time and working nights and weekends. Keeping up with statistics and reporting them to the proper national, regional and conference organizations and on a timely basis. With me, the number of years I did it wasn’t important. When June rolls around, if I haven’t mentioned it once or twice before, Cynthia and I plan to do a little traveling with our RV. We can enjoy the countryside and being together.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

East Side Elementary

When you think of elementary school in Heavener, you automatically think of old Westside Elementary. Was that it's official name? I don't remember, but that's what I called it.

However, as I've mentioned in previous stories, when I first started elementary school in Heavener, I was assigned to a classroom in the high school building. It was 1950.

I've always assumed that ours was the first elementary-grade class assigned to the high school building. Maybe it was the only elementary class assigned there.

Nevertheless, that's where I spent my first year of public education. I don't have my yearbook handy, but as I recall, there were about 25 of us in that class. That year there were 72 first-graders beginning their education in the Heavener School System. Our teacher was Ms. French. Bill has mentioned having her as his teacher a few years earlier, but I'm guessing he had her at the Westside building.

Ms. French lived in a house at the corner of Morris Creek Road and Avenue C, one block South and up the hill from my home. I only mention that because I remember my Mom sending me over there one day to deliver a note to her and I saw a 'spinning wheel' for the first time. It was positioned in a corner of her living room. I always wondered if she really made yarn with it.

I don't recall too many details of that first year of school. What little I do recall wasn't that pleasant for me. For example, on the first day of class, I remember that the girl sitting in the desk in front of me, wet her pants. Back then, all of the girls wore dresses, and her accident caused a major disruption in our first hour of class. I think I can speak for all or us when I say that we were all scared that first day. Everyone we saw around us was much older than we were. Even the Junior High kids were "big kids" compared to us. We didn't really know what to expect from school (there wasn't kindergartens back least not in Heavener). I'm sure that fear had something to do with her accident. So, within the first hour of class, a mop had to be dispatched to our classroom.

Our classroom was located near the back door of the Junior-high part of the building. I imagine they picked that classroom to facilitate our moving from the classroom to the tennis court area with minimum interaction with the older kids. We spent our recesses on or around the tennis court that was located just outside the rear of the building. Since this was a short-term solution to the large first grade population that year, no playground equipment was installed for our class.

Ms. French would usually provide some kind of ball to kick around on the tennis court, for those interested in doing it. Sometimes we would just play catch or spin tops (can you imagine that?). We had been given just a few basic rules during our first week of school. One of the most important, I guess, was that we never leave the school yard, but we rarely left the safety of the tennis court area.

All of the kids in my class lived on the East side of town, and Billy Ray Holt was one of my best friends. He lived just up the hill from my house, one block over, across the street from the home of Ms. French.

If it hadn't been for Billy, I would have probably made it through my first year without being subjected to corporal punishment at school. But one day, during recess, Billy convinced me that we had time to visit the little store that was located across the street from the high school, without getting caught. His reasoning made sense to me at the time. The 'normal' area for our recess was on the East side of that wing of the building. That's where Ms. French ALWAYS stayed during recess. We would be crossing the school yard on the West side of the building...out of sight.

Our plan went off without a hitch. We ran across the school yard, jumped the rock wall, and crossed the street. We were in the store and out within 5 minutes of our arriving there. We back-tracked across the school yard with our pockets stuffed with all the Tootsie Rolls and bubble gum that our dimes could buy.

All was well until we turned the corner at the Northwest corner of the building. There was a cedar tree at that corner of the building and it prevented us from seeing that Ms. French was watching our approach from behind that tree. She already had a paddle in her hand. I don't remember how many 'licks' we received, probably just one or two, but they sure hurt. That was the first time I had ever been paddled with anything that wasn't made out of leather...or a tree branch (I guess those were used for 'whippings', though, huh?)

Our plan had failed to take into consideration that Ms. French might count the number of students within her sight at regular intervals.

Later that same year, some of the high school athletes convinced Ms. French to allow two volunteers from her class to participate in a 'boxing demonstration' (or whatever they called it). How I ended up in that little party, I'll never understand, but my buddy probably volunteered me. Sure enough, it ended up being Billy Ray and myself. The 'demonstration' ended up like this: Billy Ray and I would each be fitted with leather boxing gloves (10 sizes too large for our hands) and then placed in the boxing ring that was set up in the middle of the gym floor. It had poles, ropes, and a canvas floor that bounced as you moved around on it. Billy got the hang of it right away. As soon as the high school guys positioned us in the center of the ring...and rang the bell...Billy started swinging at me. Before I could make a good contact with Billy, both my ears felt like they were burning and my nose didn't feel that good, either. I don't remember the "fight" lasting that long, but it was plenty long enough for me. As we walked back to our classroom, I remember that my face was a lot redder that Billy's.
He and I weren't on very good speaking terms for awhile after that.

Like I said, I don't recall much from my first year of school...and what I do recall, wasn't that enjoyable.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"The Indian Rock"

That's what we called the Runestone that is now the center of the Runestone National Park.

When we were boys we used to hike up there to the "Indian Rock" and camp. We would build a fire and cook and climb all over that rock. We would write on it with chalk or whatever we had and we would also do what boys do, pee on it.

Now look at it, encased in glass, you can't even touch it! Mercy!

I think we used to call that area "Kitchen Canyon". It was a great place to hike to and camp at.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Heavener obligation

Since I spent over 20 years as a newspaperman, I know of what I speak, or, say, that is. Writing obituaries is a thankless job, usually for part-timers, weekend warriors or maybe newcomers trying to break into the business and will do whatever it takes. But, apparently, I have become the unofficial “obit writer” for Heavener folks, and I am glad to do it and darn sure proud of it. After all, at least it gives me something to do, a purpose, so to speak. You see, it has become part of my morning routine to check the Fort Smith Times-Record webpage for obits from Heavener. I’ve been doing it for a while and I copy them and send them out as an e-mail to all my ‘Heavener contacts’, of which there are 90 or so. Folks in Heavener have come to expect of me, so much so that when they hear of someone with a Heavener past who has passed on, they seem to e-mail me the info.

This week, I received an e-mail from Bo Shupert telling me of Billie Jane Bogner’s passing, from Van Buren. Billie was once married to Dutch Shupert, Bo’s late brother. He said I apparently had missed it since she was living in Van Buren now. I went back, and sure enough, I had overlooked it. Bo had a little side note that he appreciated me sending out others. I sent it back out and Pat Burroughs replied, “Hadn’t seen it, either. I knew her when the kids were little.” I’ve sent several to which Pat has replied. When Cynthia and I were in Poteau recently for Grace Coggins Kidwell’s memorial service, Jim Hall, a ’65 classmate, was there and he said he was afraid something had happened to me because I hadn’t sent anything out on Billy Martinez’ passing away earlier that week. Well, I told him I had been vacationing at Lake Texoma all week and hadn’t been at home. So, folks have come to expect it of me. Bill Pitchford is good about replying and making a comment, telling me a side note about so and so.

This week, Jim Patterson’s uncle Ralph passed. Ralph was married to Rena Hall, Craig Hall’s grandmother. So, naturally when Craig found out and knew Jim and I were close friends, he e-mailed me to find out Jim’s e-mail address and also asked me to forward the info on to Jim. I did, and Jim was not yet aware, since it had happened just the night before and wasn’t in the Times-Record either. There have been several instances when I’ve sent out an obit that somebody from Heavener didn’t know about. Or, just news about someone from Heavener being sick or not in good health. Freddie Cox has sent me news, because he knows I will turn around and let my Heavener contacts know. I do it because I love Heavener and believe it is my obligation. John Tatum asked me to quit sending so many obits to him because it made him sad to get only bad news about Heavener.

When Craig did HOL (Heavener On Line), he could put news on line and it became very popular, but since he’s quit publishing his website, that’s where I come in, I guess. So, anyone with news of Heavener that needs sent out, feel free to e-mail me at

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

'Low school' memories

Glen and Bill, I have to admit, I’m impressed with your memories. To be as old you guys are and still have such sharp minds is remarkable. Actually, you know I’m just kidding, because all us retired bloggers should plan a reunion of sorts before it get too late, and I think you know what I mean. Glen, Bill, Chuck, Bob Collins , Bill Babcock , Bob Babcock, Pat Burroughs , Bud Thompson and Janie Hinds Naylor (the latter two are still working at last report) ought to get together at a place and time to be determined.

Seriously, I noticed in a little exchange of comments late last week in Bill’s blog concerning grade school antics – my dad always referred to ‘low school’ and ‘high school’ -- that both of you still remember a great deal about grade school and, according to my research in some trusty old Heavener annuals, that must have been in the late 1940s. You both remembered B.J. Keller and Ruby Owens and even Mrs. Moore.

Course, I’m telling on myself a little, because I remember them well, too. Like I said in my comment, B.J. and Mrs. Moore both lived on 2nd Street just a few houses from me. The Parkers, Winnie Marie Dowden’s parents, lived next to me, Mrs. Eaton, a wonderful old lady, lived next to them and B.J. lived with his parents across the street from Mrs. Eaton. Mrs. Moore lived on the other side of 2nd Street , a couple of houses up with her husband Pinky directly across from the Babcocks, and next to Virgil Mathis, who lived next to Mrs. Wise, Mrs. Moore’s mother. Carl Twidwell , whom you both played for, lived next to Mrs. Wise and directly across from me. B.J. was quite the singer with a magnificent voice and was the song leader in the First Christian Church, if I remember correctly, and as he proved in school also by leading his students in God Bless America and other songs. The First Christian Church was on the corner on 3rd Street , a block north from B.J.’s house.

As I said in my comment, B.J. and Ruby went to World Burger in Ft. Smith every Saturday night. That seemed to be their standing date. Other grade school teachers were Miss Betty and her little canary bird, Mrs. Sallee, Mrs. Himes, Mrs. Wynn, Mrs. Dozier and Mrs. Stewart. They all seemed a little elderly to me, but they were probably just young teachers in those days. Mrs. Wynn and Mrs. Dozier lived on 2nd Street , too, just a couple houses from Cynthia. In fact, I suppose they all had a hand in teaching Bill and Glen. So, see, I remember a few things from grade school, too. I just never pulled pranks like Bill mentioned.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bowling and golf not so easy

Playing the role of a kegler is not easy as it looks. Kegler is defined in Webster’s dictionary, new revised edition, simply as (n), a bowler. Well, that’s a little debatable, as far as I’m concerned.

Just going out and rolling a bowling ball down a lane hopefully between two gutters is not a simple task. I used to write a weekly bowling column and someone asked me why and how did I get involved in writing about it. Well, I said, my bowling scores and golf scores were getting closer and closer together, so I decided it would be easier to just write about keglers, rather than be one. The same can be said for linkster, if you get my drift. Scores of something like a 130 in either sport aren’t acceptable on the links, nor in the bowling alley, or as I quickly learned, the bowling ‘center.’ A true-to-life kegler doesn’t appreciate his or her place of business/pleasure being referred to as an ‘alley’. Sorta bad for the image, I guess.

I started early on as a junior bowler, joining the league at Lucky Lanes in Poteau. My mother was a bowler, too, and even won a couple of trophies. I continued bowling in college at a four-lane bowling center in the student union, and in the military, the bowling center was right across the street from my house and I bowled enough for green stamps that I was able got get a record player. Plus, my team was lucky enough to win a league title in California . Also, in the military, I worked part-time at night in a bowling center on base … as someone who cleaned the lanes, but still it gave me plenty of time to practice, because it was late at night and nobody was there but me. So, I practiced and practiced and practiced, but I wasn’t dedicated, so I never really improved. The same thing can be said for becoming a golfer, too. I wasn’t totally dedicated, so I really never improved.

Anyway, I joined a Friday morning bowling league in my civilian life, and I was lucky enough to get on a good team, though we never won a trophy. I did enjoy bowling so much that I decided if I was ever going to get any better, I needed to invest in some equipment, like a bowling ball, a bag and some bowling shoes. I asked the proprietor once about buying a ball and shoes. He said he would make me a deal; if I would stick with it, he would give me a ball. Course, since I wrote something weekly in the newspaper, he was looking at it as an investment, too. He was getting plenty of free publicity out of it and he wanted to make sure he kept me around. Funny I never thought about it, until now, the owner of the golf course gave me a set of clubs and let me come out and play anytime I wanted, for free. You know, I-scratch your-back, and-you-scratch-mine sort of thing. He wanted to keep me around, too, for the publicity. Oh, well, not having to pay for green fees was nice while it lasted. I eventually gave my clubs away, so I would never be tempted to play again. The lack of dedication thing is all that held me back, from being an avid bowler and golfer, I’m certain

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Remembering Gradeschool Antics

My fourth grade year was highlighted by our beautiful young female teacher named Miss Bethell. I sure don't remember if that is the correct spelling. Certain ones of us, myself, Norris Duncan, Wilfred Bales were the most challenging for her. Wilfred & I had been seated directly in front of her desk. She would give us work to do then when she thought she had a few minutes she would read letters from her fiancee and write to him. Wifred & I would place our hands together and hold them next to our face in a feminine manner and make audible sighing sounds.

We would deliberately do things that we knew she would take the paddle to us and then after she warmed our bottoms we would get together out side and laugh about it. One day we were waiting for her to call us in and bust our bottoms again and on the way in Noris Duncan picked up a flat stick and stuck it in his back pocket. When he came out after the bottom busting he wasn't laughing and the stick he had in his back pocket had ridges in it from where the paddle had hit. I think she was really ticked at us that day! Mercy.

Also in the fourth grade we got a new art teacher, Mr. Hobbs. One day Wilfred and I took our long rubber bands we had made up and waited outside of the school and ambushed Mr. Hobbs and of course made our escape. The next day when we went to art class, Mr. Hobbs had written
on the chalk board - "Bill Hinds & Wilfred Bales meet me outside after school and bring your rubber bands!" I don't know what he had planned but needless to say we were a no show.

In the fifth grade Miss Owens was our target. One day I had a realistic looking rubber snake I put in her desk drawer. I spent hall time for that one.

One time Mr. Keller was hit with the softball right in the face. It broke his glasses and he wore a bandage for quite a while. While he was still wearing the bandage I would run by him and yell "look out Mr. Keller, here comes another ball!" Of course he did some fancy foot work to cover up. Mercy!

There are many more but I will let it be for now. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prime Time Is Not Senior Time

Why does almost every sport nowadays have to show their championship games in “prime time”?

I can remember the good ol’ days when the World Series was played in the day time, bowl games were all in the afternoon, and college basketball championships were on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now almost everything is played on a weeknight and starts around 7 or 7:30 Central time. What about us “old” people who have to get up and go to work? I am doing good to last until 9:30 anymore and usually I only see about half the games. Only the Super Bowl still has a decent starting time of around 5:30 on Sundays.

I rarely see the end of bowl games played at night. Don’t see the college basketball championship anymore. Only got to see the end of the World Series finale this year because it was a suspended game and they just had to play about 3 innings on the last night. Rarely see the end of baseball playoff games (some are played in the afternoon), but never see the end of NBA or NHL playoffs. I don’t watch those much anyway, but I do like to follow the local teams (Dallas Mavericks and Stars) when they get to the playoffs.

I did get to see my beloved Sooners in the national championship football game last Thursday, but had to schedule a day off the next day so I could stay up late to see the end. I don’t see how people in the Eastern time zone do it with games starting around 8 or 8:30 local time and sometimes not ending until midnight or so.

But, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s the world we live in these days. Most everything is scheduled in “prime time” so that more people can see the games. It’s just a shame that us seniors don’t get to see as much of the games as we used to. Or at least, I don’t.

Maybe I can stay up later when I retire, but our cat won’t let us sleep late in the morning. Then again, that’s another blog.

'Bent' a true friend

Ron Bentley, whom I mentioned in a blog recently about tent camping on the Illinois River , was my best friend after high school. I picked him up every morning and we rode to Carl Albert, then Poteau Community College , for a year. I never knew him much until then, but he became a very good, close friend until he died almost eight years ago. I referred to him as “Bent” but eventually called him Ron. At Poteau, we spent quite a bit of time together, and we even double-dated (with girls, of course) a few times. Ron was very particular and shy about asking girls out. I remember once when he wanted to ask this girl out, and we drove by her house one evening for him to stop and ask her. He chickened out, however, so I stopped and took his car keys and threw them at her front door and rang the doorbell, so when he went after them, she might come to the door and catch him there. I don’t recall if she ever came to the door or not.

After a year at Poteau, I transferred to Northeastern State and he moved on to Oklahoma State in Stillwater . We visited each other once, he coming to Tahlequah and me to Stillwater , before we both went into the military. I went into the Air Force and eventually to Vietnam , and he into the Navy and eventually to Midway. Still, we communicated through letters, and we were both discharged a few months apart. He was working in Mesquite/Dallas and I went back to Northeastern in the summer of 1971. He came there in the fall. I was in the student union one day, and there much to my surprise, was Ron. He had not planned ahead on coming to Northeastern, but after working for a few months at a grocery store, he decided he would go back to college.

So, our paths had crossed once again. Gale and I were living in the old “ Holland house’’ and Ron took an apartment right behind ours. I remember Ron and I were standing out in front and Gale came driving up from class one day. I had mentioned Ron numerous times, but that was the fist time she had met him. Anyway, we began to “hang” together. Ron and I would listen to all the OU on the radio and root for the Sooners. Then Ron got married and his wife became a Graduate Assistant and they moved into a dorm apartment. His wife helped Gale get a job as a DA and we, too, moved into a dorm apartment. Ron and I played flag football and softball together. We also played foosball in the student union, until one of us would get mad and we’d storm off for home, only to turn around before we got all the way home and go right back to the student union and play some more.

When we would go into a grocery store, we’d always circle inside the store and make it seemed as if we ran into each other. We say things like, “Ron, so good to see you. I didn’t realize you were out of the Navy …” Our wives would always be so embarrassed.

Ron and I went to several OU-Texas games in the Cotton Bowl. He always drove down from Tahlequah and I went from whatever high school football game I was covering on a Friday night, and we would meet at about 3 or 4 a.m. Then we would go to the game the next day, go eat that Saturday night, usually at Spaghetti Warehouse, and get up go to a Cowboys game on Sunday (that’s before the days of Jerry Jones, who stopped scheduling a game the day after the OU-Texas bash). Ron would always have to drive back to Tahlequah and teach the next day. I worried about him being exhausted, because of lack of sleep, but he made it back okay.

When Ron divorced many years later, he called Gale and me. We met him in Heavener at the old Crane Motel to hear the sad story. When Gale and I divorced much later, I went to my dad’s house in Heavener and Ron came by, because Gale had called to tell him. After being single for almost 12 years, Cynthia and I met. I never got to tell Ron, because when we went up to the next HHS Reunion that year as friends, Ron was already in the hospital in Tulsa but passed away the same day Cynthia and I had arrived in Heavener. His sister Linda called the house and left a message with dad, to tell me what had happened.

His daughter Raechel later came to Tyler one summer to stay with us before she started Tyler JC. Cynthia and I never got to tell Ron the good news about us getting married, but I imagine he would have approved.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Different Perspectives

The blog by Chuck in which he linked us to one by Ansalee led me to some thoughts.  I was struck by the difference in the tone of the blogs by Ansalee and Mary Lou.  Ansalee’s was directed toward getting out into a wide world to experience many things.  Mary Lou’s was directed towards the quiet pleasures of having a settled home.

I knew both of these ladies back in Heavener.  Ansalee and I even sang in the same choir as early teenagers (I guess I was one of the sinful Presbyterians she mentioned).  I knew Mary Lou while in high school and she was quiet, even back then.  Clearly, they have different perspectives. 

Some time ago it was such a beautiful day that Jessie and I went over to the nearest airport and rented an airplane to go sight seeing.  I flew back over our house and looked over my garden from 2000 feet above the ground.  That flight brought home the concept “perspective”.

When I am manually cultivating the garden it seems to be huge (actually it is only about 80 feet by 200 feet).  From the air it looked tiny.  My perspective had changed.

Then I entered a steep left turn to go back and also to get a better look at the garden.  I asked Jessie what she thought about the small garden.  She answered, “What garden?”  From her side of the airplane (Cherokee with a low wing) she couldn’t see any part of the garden looking across me and through my window.  She had a different perspective.

It was in mid-June, so on the way back to the airport I overflew the site of the  Bonnaroo festival in Manchester. The multi-hundred acre site was dotted with tents.  For those who don’t know about it, Bonnaroo is a sort of Woodstock South.  About 90,000 people drive from all over the US and pay a couple hundred dollars for the privilege of spending three days in the hot Tennessee sun listening to incredibly loud rock groups for 16 hours at a time.  Along with the hot sun and jammed grounds, the attendees also get to live in close proximity to all sorts of drugs and drug dealers.  For me, Bonnaroo is a traffic jam on Interstate 24 up to 20 miles long as the people arrive.  All the secondary roads are also jammed up for miles.  But for those who attend Bonnaroo is three days of continuous music (?) that evidently makes them very happy.  We have a different perspective.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Several years ago, I had the pleasure of exchanging emails with an alumna of Heavener High School that I had only known from a distance while growing up in Heavener.

Ansalee Pilkington
is a 1960 graduate of good ol' Heavener High.

I learned, during those exchanges with Ansalee, that she had certainly not let any grass grow under her feet since leaving Heavener. She was, and still is, a very active individual.

One of the things I learned, after the first email, was how good a writer she is. It's that attribute that I direct your attention here. Since we are so interested in the past and the memories of our youth, I want to point out one of Ansalee's observations.

Ansalee wrote a very interesting recollection of her memories of the Liberty Theatre. I'm sure you'll find yourself saying something like "I remember that". She mentions details that I had forgotten until seeing them in print.

So, without further delay, click on this link "The Liberty Theatre".

...and as an added bonus, on the same page as Ansalee's writing, you'll find the thoughts of another Heavener alumna, Mary Lou "Oglesby" Birmingham (class of '59). Mary Lou shares her thoughts on being retired and the happiness she enjoys.

Yanks get Christmas, Happy New Year all at once

What did you for Christmas? Did you celebrate a New Year by going to a big-time party?

The New York Yankees got a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year all at once. In case you spent the holidays in a cave somewhere and didn’t hear, they spent some $423.5 million on free agents signings which include Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett.

Yep, the Yankees have committed to a guarantee that those three contracts will average $62 million a year. Teixeira's contract pays him $22.5 million a year and includes a $5 million signing bonus as well as a no-trade clause. Together with Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter, the Yankees have the four highest-paid players in baseball. Not to mention, the Bronx Bombers are opening a new Yankee Stadium. And guess what else? They don’t care how much you or I gripe about spending money. They could care less.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, all they’ve done is redistribute their money, because they have removed Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and others from their roster. And they have signed the best pitcher and position player available on the open market. Still, I don’t see how it can be good for baseball to have the Bombers sign so many and pay so much. A salary cap needs to be in place. I love the Yankees, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

5 Miles to School and Uphill both ways!

Chuck Hudlow sent me a picture of the house my family lived in when I was in Jr. High and High School. Now if you know where Cox Addition is and our house was right down there on Walker Street.

Remember the saying that fathers told their children about how it was when they were kids? "We had to walk 5 miles to school in the snow and rain and it was up hill both ways!" OK, how far is it from the middle of Cox Addition to the High School? And, if you notice there was a hill to climb comming out of Cox Addition and when you went to Cox Addition you had to climb the same hill. It was up hill both ways!

And we not only walked to and from school, we came home for lunch! So we walked it both ways twice a day! Mercy!


Who was that girl?

Well, we asked for more comments on our blogs and now we have it. But who is it?

A comment was left on Chuck's, "Have You Seen Heavener?" No, Chuck didn't know who it was, because Jim Patterson asked. All the comment had was:
goooooood girl said...

your blog is so good......

Who left it. and, more importantly, what is her name? And phone number? or email address? Something, anything. Don't just leave us hanging, please. Now, if Cynthia doesn't read this ...
Maybe the same person will leave a comment on mine, so we'll all know.

Tent camping (Part 3)

Every young boy’s life should include tent camping with his dad. It’s a way to build memories for years to come. I did with my dad (and mom), and so did Marcus Blair. Marcus led the memorial service for Gracie Coggins Kidwell last Saturday in Poteau. I had already written the first two parts of my series on tent camping, and, lo and behold, he talked about his experiences.

I never knew Marcus, but I played baseball with his dad, Danny (probably now known as Dan), and I knew that Marcus used to write for a newspaper, so we had that much in common. My step mother used to baby sit with him, too. Marcus is 30 years old and worked at the Fort Smith Times-Record for seven years, before becoming public relations director and journalism instructor at Carl Albert State College in Poteau. I never realized he was an ordained minister serving at the Monroe Baptist Church . I bet Dan is proud of him for several reasons.

Marcus delivered his message by first talking about tent camping with his dad. He said he was more into video games and computers and didn’t really look forward to camping, but his dad seemed to enjoy it, and enjoyed taking Marcus along. Once they got there he had a good time and said after the camping was over, he missed it. The tent is stored in his closet and every so often he sees it and remembers how much fun he had camping with Dan. He then related his tent story to our earthly tent, using 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 as the basis for his message.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Cor. 5:1

I’ll never forget how much fun I had tent camping with dad and good memories of him. It also brings back memories of my life as a kid growing up in Heavener, when Russell Walker and I used to sleep in a tent in my back yard. Around 3 a.m. every morning his dad would get up to load his Holsum Bread truck parked at the Phillips 66 station on the highway. Yep, those were the good ole days when life was much simpler.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Have You Seen Heavener Lately?

No, I don't mean have you BEEN to Heavener lately, I mean have you 'seen' it lately. Okay, so that's my poor attempt to make a catchy lead-in to my short story. Read on...

If you spend much time on the Internet, you've surely spent some time with Google's map program...or Google Earth, if you really want to have some fun. Well, if you haven't visited either of these lately, you'll want to.

I remember several months ago when Google first announced that they were doing something called "street views". This was their attempt to send vehicles with cameras on them around major cities so that you could actually see photos of the city as if you were in a vehicle driving down the street. Years earlier, they had amazed me by making satellite views of cities available on their website. I can remember typing my home address in the Dallas metro area into their search window and being able to zoom down from above and actually see my vehicle parked in my driveway. You could scan the entire city the same way.

When 'Street Views" became available, instead of being miles above the earth looking down, you were at street level
looking directly at the limited sites available....some major cities, National parks, monuments, etc. Finally, you could even "drive" down the middle of Times Square and other major cities and see a seamless view of the storefronts on some streets.

Well, this past week...for the first time...I just
happened to enter my old home address in Heavener, Oklahoma into the Google maps search window. Lo and behold, Google indicated that I could go to a "street level" view of the Heavener address I had just entered. Up until that time, I had only been able to see a very distorted satellite view of Heavener...not clear enough to make out streets, not to mention individual homes. After clicking the indicated button, here's what I saw:
There I if I was sitting in my car in the middle of the street in front of my old house in Heavener. Maybe I'm easily amazed, but I thought this was really something neat. I can't say that they (Google...or, rather, their contractors) drove down every street in Heavener (I didn't check out Cox Edition, Bill), but there was mine. By clicking on those little white arrows you see on the 'line' floating above the street, you can move down the street about 30' at a jump.

So, if you're interested in checking out Heavener and you haven't been there in awhile, this is a quick way to do it. I would say these photos were made within the past 12 months.

I also found street views of Wister and Poteau.

To get there, in your browser type in:

Enter the address you're looking for in the search window at the upper left corner, just to the right of the familiar sign Google .

Have fun...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Allenspark Volunteer Fire Dept

It was in the early 1970's, I had just gone through a divorce and I decided to just take a few years off. I went to Allenspark, CO, I had an aunt there who owned some cabins and property there. She allowed me to use one of the cabins until I got myself settled in.

I had an old green 50's pickup truck and that was about it, besides my personal stuff. I set up my own business, I was the "Handyman". I did anything, thawed frozen pipes, wired cabins and fixed just about anything.

My good friend was the fire chief of the local Allenspark Volunteer Fire Department. It was responsible for a very large area. They had three fire stations with trucks and equipment. One of them was at Meeker Park. They had a genuine ancient fire engine, they kept it in good operating condition, it was beautiful.

We had regular meetings and CPR and advanced first aid training, but our fire fighting training wasn't so good, we pretty much had to do the best we could when faced with real fire fighting situations. Whenever there was a serious accident, the sherif would call us to help. We kept water reservoirs in private homes where people had swimming pools. We would haul the water for them and they would make it available to us if and when we needed it.

My greatest challenge came when we were fighting a house fire. All of our pumpers were doing all they could but we needed someone to go in and make sure everyone was out. I volunteered. I had my mask & gloves and heavy coat and went in the front door. Soon I could not determine where I was, so I dropped to my knees and started crawling real slow. Soon my hand felt the edges of a floor furnace. I put my hand on it and applied pressure, it fell through to the basement! Mercy! If I had stepped on that I'd been a goner. I worked my way around it and determined no one else was in the house.

Needless to say, my Guardian Angle has had a tough job. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Heavener Volunteer Fire Department

It had to be 1949 or 50, we lived just east of the oil branch that ran north - south just east of downtown. The road that ran in front of the Library (east - west) was the road we lived on. I mentioned it once in an earlier blog. From the Liberty Theater north to the first intersection was the police dept and volunteer fire dept in the corner of that building. The fire truck was in the east end of that building. The Hughes lived just east of that and the steam cleaners was directly across the street just east of the Library.

As a gradeschooler I had to walk directly in front of the doors the fire truck came out of when going and coming to grade school.

One day as I was coming home from school, the fire alarm sounded. I had just crossed in front of the Fire Dept. and so I stood in front of the Hughes house and watched as the volunteer firemen came running to get the firetruck. The big overhead door lifted and I heard the firetruck being started and watched the men climb aboard. Then the firetruck started out the door it had to go down a small ramp that took them to the level of the street. When the truck lurched out and hit the bottom of that little ramp the men hanging on the back of the truck really took a bounce. Mr. Schrivener bounced straight up into the air an arched over and landed directly on his head on the cement. I know he was knocked unconscious, but it didn't take them long to get him up and get going to the fire. Mercy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tent camping (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, my memories of tent camping date as far back as the 1950s, but this one particular time was in the early 1970s, probably 1973, as I recall. It resembled something out of the movie, Deliverance, which was actually filmed in 1972. The real Deliverance was about four guys going on a canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River , somewhere in Georgia . The one was about two guys – me and Ron Bentley – going on a canoe trip down the Illinois River not far from Tahlequah , Okla. and could easily have been named Deliver Us From Evil.

Ron and I put in at the mouth of the Illinois , near Siloam Springs, as I recall. We loaded the canoe with all our gear, drinks, food, cots, etc. and set sail on a two-day trip, so we had to spend one night on the river. We tied our drinks behind the canoe, you know, so they could say cool as we traveled down the river.

Within a couple of hours after we sat sail it came a downpour. We weren’t prepared for what we were about to get into, because it rained so hard all our gear got soaked and we lost the drinks the first time we went over a low spot in the river. We finally stopped along side the bank a few miles down the river. Everything we had was wet, but by then it was getting close to dark. At least, the sun had gone down, and we were worn out and tired. We pulled over and got out what we could and prepared to spend the night. Sometime during the night, we heard a rustling noise.

Scared by now, Ron yelled “Stop, I’ve got a loaded gun.” Sure enough, he had a pistol and was ready to use it. Moments later, we discovered it was a cow roaming through the woods. We settled back in to our wet sleeping bags and just about got to sleep. The moon was shining bright on the river, so we see everything clearly by now. About that time, two fishermen came walking out if the woods behind us and said they were going to do some night fishing.

I had never heard of night fishing, but they put their boat in and off down the river they went. All the hullabaloo that night with the cow, Ron’s gun being drawn and surprising fishermen, plus the fact we had already gotten everything wet, made Ron and I decide we would be glad when the trip came to an end. Oh, I forgot to mention one spot on the river, we managed to turn the canoe over and Ron lost his billfold and watch in the spill. Then at end of the trip, we were so tired we could hardly get the canoe over to the bank. After all that had happened, that’s when we decided this would be our final canoe trip.

Later on, we laughed about the whole excursion, but it was indeed our finale.

Tent camping (Part 1)

My earliest recollection of tent camping was in the 1950s when my parents and I went to Estes Park , Colo. Of course it was cold – it was in Colorado , wasn’t it? -- and some of first people we ran across were the Ritzky’s. Harvey , Maxine and Garry ... small world, eh? Garry, like me a class of ’65 grad, much later became my roommate when we both were at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah in the mid 1960s. Anyway, the only problem was that the Ritzky’s forgot their tent. I don’t remember what they did exactly (because it was so many years ago), just that they had forgotten to bring their tent. My mother also slept in the backseat of the car it was so cold.

After the Estes Park adventure, the next time I remember any tent camping came when I was in the Boy Scouts sometime in the 1960s. I mentioned in my Christmas memories blog about how Mike Mattison and I were into the Boy Scouts and our parents bought us all kind of ‘BS’ stuff, then we both unexplainably quit the scouts. Well, this was before we decided to quit. We had gone on a scout trip somewhere south of Heavener. Several of us sat up tents, because I remember Jerry Jack Stewart and Dewayne Bain setting theirs up in a hollow, of sorts. I also remember Dennis West being on the trip. During the night, a tornado roared through and dumped I don’t know how much rain on us. The reason I remember is because Jerry Jack and Dewayne’s tent washed away down that hollow.

The tornado flooded the river close to our campsite and we all had to be rescued the next day by another crew that came down. I remember getting up for breakfast, not knowing what time it was. As it turned out it was the middle of the night, but we didn’t care we still ate breakfast.

Another time I remember also involved Jerry Jack. It would have been in the late 1960s and I was home on leave from the Air Force prior to going to Vietnam . (I went over there in December 1969). We went camping somewhere between Poteau and Wister. It was cold, so cold we almost froze. But we got up the next morning, built a fire and cooked ourselves some breakfast.

A third time also involved Jerry Jack. This time it was the middle of the summer at Roaring River State Park in Missouri . My dad, me, Jerry Jack and Jim Patterson went, so we could all go on to Kansas City and see the Yankees play. I remember Jerry Jack being afraid to spend any of his money (on horseback riding, miniature golf, pinball machines, etc.) before the game, because he wanted to save as much as he could for snacks at the baseball game. One morning, in particular, we got up for breakfast. Dad fixed pancakes and fried some bacon for all of us, but Jerry Jack ate all the bacon before Jim and I even got up. Jerry Jack was a rather large young fellow in those days.

In 1986, my daughter and I went tent camping one night when were in Colorado on a dude ranch. We rode the horses – with a group -- way back up in the Rockies . We slept in a pup tent and, man, was it cold! We had fun, though. Oh, one other time, a friend of mine and our wives went camping at Cedar Lake . Wayne and I were going to show our “knowledge of camping” to Gale and Carol, but we couldn’t even get the lantern lit so we could have light! Needless to say, again we almost froze during the night as we laid their on dirt and rocks.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The KCS and Heavener (Part 6 and Last)

Well, here is the last one.  I thank the readers for bearing with me on this series.  Now it's your turn to add some blogs about your memories.

Most of the KCS tracks were single tracks during the 1940s.  This raised the problem of how to safely operate trains in both directions and how to get very long trains over Rich Mountain with limited locomotive power.  The picture below shows what happens if safe control is not maintained.  Accidents of this sort were commonly referred to as cornfield meets.

The accident in the picture is a mild one.  In a really serious accident the two locomotives would be buckled upwards and cars would be scattered about.

Prior to the use of radios and electronic centralized train control, control of trains was achieved by the use of the telegraph and paper orders.  Trains passing a remote manned telegraph facility would have orders handed up at full speed.  The orders were held in a loop at the end of a long rod.  First the engineer and then the conductor would stick out an arm and let it pass through the loop.  The loop was made of cane or a similar light weight substance.  Attached to the loop were the train orders specifying where and when the train would meet another.  One of the trains would be ordered to enter a side track and hold until the other had passed.  Later electronically operated semaphores were used to denote the status of the track in front of the train for the next block.  A red signal accompanied by a horizontal arm on the semaphore indicated the track ahead had another train in it and that the signaled train should stop or take the siding if available.  A vertical arm and a green light meant the track was clear.  Yellow and a 45-degree arm meant the train should exercise caution.

In addition to the safety operating instructions in the handed up orders there was often also a manifest (to which I referred earlier in discussing the conductor's role) that detailed where the various cars in the train (the "consist") should be set out if they were to be delivered along the route.  These orders were known as flimsies because they were carbon copies on very thin paper.

In a previous blog I mentioned the slack in the couplings.  This slack provided the means for a steam engine to start the train moving when stopped on an uphill grade as often occurred crossing Rich Mountain.  The locomotives did not usually have the drawbar pull to move the whole train at one time.  So the engineer would set the brakes on the train and back down until the slack was gone.  He would then reverse direction and start the train moving one car at a time as the slack came out.  On occasion it would be necessary to leave a portion of the train in a siding and pull the remainder over the mountain and then go back (literally backing down) and get the left portion.

Life in a railroad town like Heavener was dominated by the trains.  Then, as now, the trains often blocked the crossings that led from the west side to down town.  We all grew accustomed to the sounds of trains passing through at all hours of the day and night. For those of us whose fathers worked the freight service we became adjusted to having our fathers coming and going at all hours also.  It was different but we learned to live with it.