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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Well, we have happy news in the Smith family: my son Dustin is officially retired from law enforcement. He served 20 years in the business, first with Family & Children Services, then with Athens-Clark County PD, then with University of Georgia PD.

As you can imagine, his work involved risks and challenges that were downright ugly. Now we all can rest easier about his physical safety and emotional well-being.

Dustin plans to focus on his new business, Sporting South Photography. Check out his website.

On Dustin’s last day with UGA PD, his wife Leslie posted this on Facebook:

“Today, Dustin retired from police work after 20 years. The first picture is from his ACC Police Academy graduation and the second is from UGA.”

Dustin 3-03

Dustin 3-19a

“He has served his community with dedication, loyalty and professionalism. He has made life-long connections and lost a brother. Thank you to everyone that supported him and prayed for him throughout his career.”

Dustin 3-19b

“He will begin a new journey with sports photography, that we hope will give him renewed focus and success, and maybe a little less stress.

“Congrats to you Sgt. Smith! Enjoy your next chapter in life.”

The lost brother Leslie mentioned is a fellow officer, Buddy Christian of ACC PD, who was killed in the line of duty a few years ago.

Dustin’s police career was filled with superlatives. He was not only a crackerjack officer, but also the kind of person you want to see in law enforcement: intelligent, empathetic, and compassionate. He recognized the importance of the work and the obligation to do it well.

That was apparent when he was named the Honor Graduate of his class at the Police Academy. It was apparent again when, in his first assignment on patrol in a section of Athens with a large Hispanic population, he went the extra mile and took Spanish lessons.

In time, Dustin was assigned to the Domestic Violence unit, a notably stressful job. But he was good at it, and Athens PD kept him there, even after the work began wearing him down and he asked for a reassignment.

Eventually, he was moved to Investigations, where he excelled again. In recent years, owing to his skills and years of experience, he ran the UGA PD Training unit.

Dustin told me some years ago that one of the toughest aspects of police work is knowing that half the people you contact on a given day hate your guts.

He probably wasn’t exaggerating. He had to deal with the worst people, on their worst behavior, often in the worst parts of town. As the cop confronting them, he was the enemy personified.

That’s why he and I see Athens differently. To me, Athens is the UGA campus, the special vibe of the downtown, the stately old neighborhoods, the Botanical Garden.

Dustin remembers rundown neighborhoods where a shooting, stabbing, or beating just happened. He thinks about dealing with drunk and belligerent frat boys and working on Saturday when the Bulldogs have a home game.

Maybe now he can get acquainted with a more positive side of the city.

Anyway, the page has turned, and Dustin starts his new life as a civilian.

And he promptly marked the occasion by making a delightful video that, in my humble estimation, knocks it out of the park. I can’t get enough of watching it.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/a-day-in-the-life.mp4

That’s my boy.

 

 

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Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), the “dean of science fiction writers,” was a stickler for scientific accuracy in his fiction. No surprise for a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an engineer. Science was in his genes.

In 1952, Heinlein published a story in Galaxy Magazine in which he predicted where science, technology, and society would be in the year 2000.

Most of the predictions were misfires, not that you or I would have done better. But Heinlein was gutsy enough to go on record.

Here is what he wrote.

———

So let’s have a few free-swinging predictions about the future. Some will be wrong but cautious predictions are sure to be wrong.

1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door — C.O.D. It’s yours when you pay for it.

2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure.

3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space.

4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a “preventive war.” We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend.

5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a “breakthrough” into new technologies which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies.

6. We’ll all be getting a little hungry by and by.

7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called “modern art” will be discussed only by psychiatrists.

8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing “operational psychology” based on measurement and prediction.

9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish “regeneration,” i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb.

10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be a-building.

11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple inquiries, and transmit vision.

12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars.

13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speed.

14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity.

15. We will not achieve a “World State” in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet.

16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance.

17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a

multiple electronic “brain.”

18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear.

19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will “Civilization” be destroyed.

Here are things we won’t get soon, if ever:

— Travel through time.
— Travel faster than the speed of light.
— “Radio” transmission of matter.
— Manlike robots with manlike reactions.
— Laboratory creation of life.
— Real understanding of what “thought” is and how it is related to matter.
— Scientific proof of personal survival after death.
— Nor a permanent end to war.

———

Fascinating stuff.

To me, the lost opportunities represented by the failures of the first and 10th predictions are particularly painful. Not to mention stupid and counterproductive.

Just as the space program was gaining momentum in the 1960s and early 1970s, the politicians — the conservatives, of course — crippled it by cutting NASA’s funding.

In time, the Space Shuttle replaced the Moon landings, and then the Shuttle was retired, too. Now, here we sit, hoping SpaceX can do something.

Heinlein would be steamed, too.

Heinlein quote

 

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Friends, I am truly jaded when it comes to fads.

To be clear, I’m referring to fads, not trends. Beanie Babies and pet rocks were fads; electric cars and ebooks are trends.

These days, when I learn of a new craze or obsession — the latest sensation in attire, style, or whatever — my reaction is either a chuckle, a sigh, or an eye roll.

The only reason something clicks and is deemed cool and exciting is that, for a brief time, people have a chance to feel cool and enjoy the excitement, right? We all know the novelty will wear off and the mania will fizzle.

Consider the many fads that came and went in recent times. Bellbottoms, drive-in theaters, fallout shelters, ant farms, tie-dyed clothing.

Zoot suits, leg warmers, eight-track tapes, Rubik’s cubes. Members Only jackets. Break dancing, yo-yos, hula hoops.

The Twist. The Macarena. Bermuda shorts. Mom jeans. Overalls with one strap dangling.

Nothing wrong with a shared enthusiasm, mind you. But, wow, fads sure do lean toward the dopey and pointless.

What, you ask, brings me to opine that embracing the next new thing is dopey and pointless? Simple. I was thinking about myself back in the day, when I was young and foolish, too.

Back in high school, I was — you can trust me on this — a hip and savvy dude. I knew what was happenin’, and I put much energy into following the fads du jour.

Note, for example, how I rocked the epitome of cool in those days, a flattop haircut. Not to mention this stylish tweed blazer.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), about 1959.

Before long, I advanced to a glorified flattop — AKA a Detroit, AKA a “flattop with fenders.” That baby was flat on top and long on the sides, tapering to a handsome ducktail in the back.

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When I went away to college in the early 1960s, the times were a’changin’. Flattops were becoming passé on campus, so I heeded the call to go preppy. It was sort of the astronaut or folk singer look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), freshman year in college, 1960-61.

By the time I graduated from college, the hippies were in ascendance. Long hair was the new thing for men.

But not for me. Alas, I went immediately from college into the Air Force, which tolerated no longhairs. I was obliged to keep the preppy look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), Cannon AFB, NM.

By the time I was a civilian again, I was married with kids and working 9 to 5 in an office. Becoming a longhair would have been ill-advised as a career strategy. Thus, for a goodly time, the only variation in my hair style was the length of my sideburns.

Eventually, I got tired of worrying about whether my sideburns were the fashionable length of the moment, so I grew a beard.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), 12/25/1984.

That was in the mid-1980s. I haven’t shaved since.

Also, to be honest, a sobering personal reality was becoming obvious in those days: the signs were undeniable that male pattern baldness was in my future. Being a longhair probably wouldn’t be in the cards anyway. Nature can be cruel and without pity.

So can some people. My dad, who kept a full head of hair to the end, found this turn of events greatly amusing.

Anyway, as a result of how the hair thing worked out for me, I bypassed half a lifetime of men’s coiffure fads.

I say that with no regret whatsoever.

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And, hey — don’t get me started on skinny jeans.

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Wrecking Ball

On the day Donald Trump took office as President, I put an American flag decal on the rear window of my car, upside down.

It is, of course, a symbol of national distress, as well as of my outrage that a modern-day Benedict Arnold, who also happens to be an unqualified, immoral crook, occupies the White House.

To be clear, displaying the flag upside down can be deemed an act of desecration, depending on the circumstances. I don’t seriously expect to get busted. And I will remove the decal the day the Orange Vulgarian leaves office.

The decal has been in place for two years, and it’s a fact that I drive the car almost literally every day. Plenty of people surely have noticed that the flag is upside down. Yet, not a soul, whether family member, friend, or stranger, ever mentioned it.

Until now.

———

Last Thursday, as I left the Target store in Gainesville, I noticed a white guy wearing a backpack standing behind my car, apparently looking at the rear window.

I didn’t think he had nefarious intentions. Nothing of value was on the seats. He wasn’t likely a car thief, because the parking lot was aswarm with people.

(Actually, in the minutes that followed, I left myself open to armed robbery, but that didn’t dawn on me until later.)

When I got closer, I pressed the key fob. The car chirped, the lights flashed, and the doors unlocked. The man turned toward me. He smiled and raised a hand in greeting.

I nodded to him and reached to open the car door.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said. “Can I ask you a question?”

Oh, hell, I thought. A panhandler. I don’t need this.

I stepped back to get a better look at him. He was 40-ish, short, slender, full beard, wearing a knit cap and a camo jacket. The backpack was fairly large and full, which suggested he was traveling on foot. Yet, he was neat and clean. Curious.

“What question is that?”

“I noticed your decal, the upside-down flag. I take it that’s a protest about something?” He lacked a Georgia accent.

“Yes, it is,” I said. “I put it there the day Trump became President. It will stay there until he’s no longer in office.”

“So, you’re not a Trump fan.”

“No. He’s a disgrace to the office.”

“I don’t like him, either,” the guy said. “He’s a con-man. He’s using the position to enrich himself and his family. Plus, he’s been doing business with the Russians for years. Putin controls him because he knows where the bodies are buried.”

Wow, I thought, how refreshing. Most people around here keep their mouths shut about Trump. Being hidebound conservatives, they voted for him and tolerate his behavior, but they are loath to admit it.

“You’ve been paying attention,” I said.

“Well, here’s what people don’t realize about Trump,” he said. “God made him President. And for a specific reason.”

Oh, hell, I thought. A nut job.

“Trump is God’s wrecking ball,” he said. “God is using Trump to break the stranglehold of the nonbelievers who control the federal government.”

How do I end this conversation?

We had been standing there so long that the car re-locked itself. I pressed the fob again, twice, hoping the guy would take the hint and wrap it up.

“Trump will get the job done, God willing. After that, I hope he gets what’s coming to him. He really is an awful person.”

“Agreed.”

How do I end this conversation?

“The atheists took over really fast, in just a couple of decades,” he said earnestly. “They systematically infiltrated the federal government at every level. Very clever, very efficient. But their days are numbered.”

“‘God’s wrecking ball.’ I like it.”

He grinned. “When you realize Trump is doing God’s work, it changes how you see the situation.”

Yes, I agreed, that does put things in a new light.

“Well, I need to get going. God bless you, sir.”

“Safe travels,” I said.

The man turned and went on his way. As I reached to open the door, the car locked itself again.

Decal

 

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Tunes o’ the Day

In 1958, the Kingston Trio’s recording of “Tom Dooley” gave the folk music craze a healthy boost.

The song is a solid, musically-pleasing folk ballad, and the subject (murder, hanging) made it stand out from most popular music of the time. Moreover, the tune is tantalizingly simple and only hints at the events in question.

FYI, Tom Dooley met a young woman, allegedly stabbed her to death, was apprehended because of someone named Grayson, and faced the gallows the next day.

The song may be lean, but the story behind it is detailed, lurid, and sensational.

“Tom Dooley” is based on the saga of a former Confederate soldier who was convicted and hanged for the 1866 murder of Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina. His name was Thomas C. Dula, pronounced “Dooley” in the local dialect.

The tale involved Tom, three women, much hanky-panky, and the fact that all four were being treated for syphilis. Some say the real murderer was one of the women, and Tom went to the gallows out of love for her. Grayson? He was a Tennessean who helped the posse catch Tom.

Not long after Dula’s execution, Thomas Land wrote a poem, “The Murder of Laura Foster,” that seems to be the source of the song. The origin of the music is unknown. You can Google “Tom Dula” for more.

The Kingston Trio version earned accolades aplenty — number one rated, chosen one of the Songs of the Century, and so on. I also like the funkier Steve Earle version from 2002, which added some additional details about the murder from Tom.

Here are both versions.

Kingston Trio

Tom Dooley

By the Kingston Trio, 1958
Based on a poem by Thomas Land

Throughout history, there have been many songs written about the eternal triangle. The next one tells the story of a Mr. Grayson, a beautiful woman, and a condemned man named Tom Dooley. When the sun rises tomorrow, Tom Dooley must hang…

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I met her on the mountain. There I took her life.
Met her on the mountain. Stabbed her with my knife.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be.
Hadn’t o’ been for Grayson, I’d o’ been in Tennessee.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be.
Down in some lonesome valley, hangin’ from a white oak tree.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to — die.

Earle Steve

Tom Dooley

By Steve Earle, 2002
Traditional lyrics embellished by Earle

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I met her on the mountain.
I said she’d be my wife.
I met her on the mountain.
Stabbed her with my knife.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I drug her to the river,
As God Almighty knows.
The man beside the water
Hid her shoes and clothes.

I dug her grave four foot long.
I dug it three foot deep.
I threw the cold clay on her,
Tramped it with my feet.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound — poor boy you’re bound to die.

By this time tomorrow,
Reckon where I’ll be:
Down there in that hollow
Hangin’ from a tree.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound — poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Yeah, that sounds like a phonograph record to me. That one right there.

 

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As I’ve documented often on this blog, my dad was a bomber pilot during World War II. In 1944, his B-24 was shot down after a bombing raid, and he was captured and imprisoned in Bulgaria.

Dad’s two brothers also served, and, by the grace of God, all three survived the war. The night they were reunited in Savannah, they talked into the wee hours about their experiences.

But after that, the subject largely was closed. Except for occasional anecdotes about the good memories, they rarely talked about the war.

The only detailed accounting Dad gave about being a POW came in 1984, when, one evening in Savannah, his sister Betty got him to open up.

It was just the two of them. Dad talked for a long time and in great detail. After he went to bed, Betty stayed up and documented what Dad told her while it was fresh in her mind.

This is her typewritten account.

———

July 21, 1984

As told to me by Walter Anthony Smith, Jr.

Shot down June 23, 1944 — Prisoner of War in Bulgaria

Stationed in Italy — Flying a B-24 Liberator (4 engine bomber)

United States Air Force

Returning from a raid over Ploesti, Romania oil fields, his plane was shot down. After being captured, was imprisoned in Shumen, Bulgaria. (Shumen also called Kolarovgrad)

When he bailed out, he fell several thousand feet before he located the rip-cord, due to the fact that in his haste and excitement, his parachute was upside down and the rip-cord was on the opposite side from where it should have been.

When he landed in the mountains, he hit his head on a rock and was knocked out. When he came to, a peasant woman was looking down at him, probably thinking he was dead. When he opened his eyes, she ran away screaming.

At that time Walter ran, trying to find a place to hide and hoping to contact the underground. The woman must have told the military where she found the American, because about 100 soldiers formed a huge ring around the area.

As they closed in, they kept firing their weapons, trying to make Walter surface. As the circle grew smaller, they stopped firing because they could hit their own men. They continued closing in until they found him hiding in the brush.

The soldiers beat him terribly with their rifle butts in the back, head and all over. When he was down, they all urinated on him and took him to their commander.

The commander placed his pistol on the table and threatened to kill Walter if he did not reveal military information, but Walter refused to talk. He reminded the commander about his rights as a prisoner of war and that he could not be killed after he was captured.

All the men in Walter’s aircrew survived the jump and were captured and brought to Shumen.

Shumen was the only prison in Bulgaria for all Allied prisoners. It held over 300 men from 12 Allied countries. Walter was the highest-ranking officer, being a Major at the time, so he took command.

His first job was the get the men organized and come up with a survival plan. They only had black bread and watery soup to eat and about one glass of water a day for all purposes. They could hear water pouring over a waterfall nearby, but could not have enough to drink, bathe and wash bandages. Walter’s weight went down to 120 pounds while he was in prison.

As the Russians drew closer, Bulgaria was in turmoil. Many wanted to change sides. Some of the guards had deserted their posts. A group of Bulgarians who were Allied sympathizers, mostly educated at the American University in Sofia, slipped guns to Walter and the prisoners. They overpowered the remaining guards and took over the prison.

They commandeered a freight train and held the crew at gunpoint while the 300 prisoners got on board for the trip to Turkey and freedom. (A movie “Von Ryan’s Express” was based on this story.)

Walter turned command over to his deputy, an English officer, and flew with the friendly Bulgarians to Sofia, where he was given papers vital to the war. They included information about the locations of the enemy, all about their supplies, positions and movements, as well as the names of the prisoners and what had been done to them. Walter was told to take the papers to the Allied authorities.

They took Walter to the airport and gave him a plane so he could join his men in Turkey. He flew low because the plane had German markings, and he was afraid he would be shot down if the Allies saw him. He followed the railroad tracks for a long way and his plane was giving out of gas.

He frantically tried to find a button or switch that might turn on an auxiliary gas tank, but everything was written in German. While looking down for a place to land, he noticed a handle under his seat. He turned it, and it was the proper handle to switch to the auxiliary gas tank.

He flew as far as he could and landed in a cornfield near Svilengrad, Bulgaria just short of the Turkish border. He was captured again and locked up by Bulgarians who this time treated him well. They contacted the American consulate in Istanbul, who came the next day. Walter was released and went to Istanbul with the consulate.

When the train carrying the prisoners arrived in Istanbul, Walter and the embassy representative were there to meet them. The men were taken to hospitals and treated, some remaining there. 36 of them were on stretchers.

The Turks prepared fried chicken, fruits and vegetables for the men. Not having eaten in such a long time, they all got sick, but appreciated the efforts.

After receiving wonderful baths and resting, the men continued their train trip through Turkey, then around the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt. After 4 days they were back in Italy.

Gen. Nathan Twining received the intelligence from Walter and ordered bombing of the vital points that really hastened the end of World War II in that area. Gen. Twining recommended Walter for the Legion of Merit, our country’s third highest award. Gen. Ira C. Eaker also awarded Walter the Bronze Star.

Walter broadcast from Rome over the National Broadcasting Company’s news program (Max Hill being the reporter) and told about being a prisoner and now released. Although Mother, Daddy and I always listened to the eleven o’clock news, this night we did not. We did not know anything about Walter except that he was missing, so would have been thrilled to hear him speak.

The next morning, Lillian Mynatt, a distant relative, called and told Mother that she heard this program, and she knew it was Walter because he was described as a Major from Savannah, Ga. and she recognized his voice.

Within a few days we heard that he was freed. The newspapers all over the country and the Stars and Stripes had articles about the story. (See scrapbooks)

After staying in the hospital a month with pneumonia, malnutrition and filth sores, Walter was sent back to Bulgaria with an intelligence team to identify war criminals. Some were sent to Nuremberg, Germany for trial, some were turned over to the Russians and a captured German general hanged himself in jail rather than be tried.

When Walter returned to Bulgaria, the men lived in 2 beautiful homes. Quite a change from the prison. The trip was not without danger. The Americans were fired on many times by snipers who were still Nazis.

After the mission in Bulgaria was completed, Walter came home on leave in January, 1945. Mother and all of us did not open our Christmas gifts until he came home. He went to Macon to get Ann and Rocky, then they came to Savannah.

No need to say how grateful we are not to have lost him, as well as Allan and John who were in the service and have many stories to tell.

———

Tom Brokaw called the generation of my parents “the Greatest Generation.” They were born during the Great Depression, had World War II thrust upon them, and shaped the era of growth and prosperity that followed.

I read an article recently that said four factors created “the greatest generation.”

First, that generation of men and women experienced seismic changes. The world changed radically as they matured. And they coped with and adapted to the Depression, the war, and the good times that followed with dignity and grace.

Second, their experiences instilled in them a strong work ethic.

Third, they learned to be frugal. They found ways to deal with scarcity, to think creatively, to make do.

Fourth, from the men at the front lines to their families back home, they had a strong sense of duty and were willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

It added up to a generation noted for grit and strength of character. All my life, I saw it in my parents and aunts and uncles and their contemporaries.

It’s hard to say whether the generations that followed didn’t measure up, or, never having to face the same level of challenges, simply weren’t called upon to prove themselves.

All I know is, thanks to the Greatest Generation, the rest of us had it easy.

War stories-1

Dad (center front) and the crew of his B-24 at their base in Italy. Taken in early June 1944.

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Dad (left) at the Officers Club in Italy after the train ride to freedom.

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The Smith brothers, Walter, Allan, and John, back in Savannah in January 1945.

War stories-4

Dad and Betty before the war.

 

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

Why does aluminum foil have a dull side and a shiny side? Because the foil is milled two layers at a time, in contact with each other to prevent the sheets from breaking. The dull side is where the two layers were in contact, the shiny side is where they were not. Which side of the foil is facing in or out doesn’t matter; both sides perform the same.

In 1900, John Wesley Haynes founded Shamrock Knitting Mills in Winston, North Carolina. In 1901, his older brother Pleasant Henderson Haynes established P. H. Haynes Knitting Company in the same city. The two companies operated independently until they merged in 1965. Today, its trendy corporate name is HanesBrands, Inc.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in 1930 by Abdulaziz Al Saud, whose family finally subdued the other Bedouin tribes in the region. Abdulaziz died in 1953, and six of his sons in succession have reigned as king.

Humans have lived in what is now Saudi Arabia for 20,000 years, existing in isolation and obscurity with two exceptions: in the 7th Century, Islam arose there; and in the 20th Century, vast oil deposits were discovered, making the Al Saud family head-spinningly rich and powerful.

The party game Twister, in which people become the playing pieces on a plastic mat, was introduced in 1966. Sales were poor until the Milton Bradley PR people arranged for Johnny Carson to demonstrate Twister on the Tonight Show. The next day, demand skyrocketed.

Twister was named “Game of the Year” in 1967. In 2015, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

twister

The Hundred Years’ War (England vs. France) began on May 24, 1337, and ended on October 19, 1453 — which is 116 years, four months, three weeks, and four days.

France won. As a result, England had to give up all claims to land on the continent. Civil war erupted in England over who was to blame and, of course, who would control the throne.

That civil war was the War of the Roses, which lasted from May 22, 1455, until June 16, 1487 — which is 32 years, three weeks, and four days.

The last Hollywood movie to be released in VHS format was A History of Violence in 2006.

The breakfast cereal Wheaties dates back to 1921. In 1927, General Mills adopted the slogan “Wheaties — The Breakfast of Champions” to link its marketing to sports figures. The first athlete pictured on a Wheaties box was Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees in 1934.

For years, the photos were printed on the back or a side panel of the box. Not until the 1950s did the photos appear on the front of the carton.

The first cartoon series made specifically for television was Crusader Rabbit in 1950. The program aired for two years in black and white and was revived from 1956 to 1959 in color. One of the creators was Jay Ward, who went on to produce the Rocky and Bullwinkle animated series.

crusaderrabbit

The father of Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” is Homer Groening, usually thought to be the namesake of Homer Simpson. However, Matt claims Homer is named for a character in “The Day of the Locust,” a 1939 novel by Nathanael West. The Homer Simpson in the novel is a slow-witted Iowa accountant who moved to California for health reasons.

The White Sands region in southern New Mexico, 275 square miles of which is protected as White Sands National Monument, is the world’s largest deposit of sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals.

Gypsum is water-soluble, and in most places, it is dissolved by rain and washed downstream to the sea. However, the White Sands formation is located in the Tularosa Basin, which has no outlets. Thus, the rainwater evaporates, perpetually leaving the gypsum deposits behind.

The paint that covers the exterior of the White House in Washington is “Whisper White” exterior paint by Duron. When the White House was renovated in 1992, 32 layers of old paint were removed. The repainting required 570 gallons of Whisper White.

Gene Simmons, co-founder of the rock group Kiss, was born Chaim Witz in 1949 in Haifa, Israel. His parents divorced when he was eight, and his mother took him to New York City, where he changed his name to Eugene Klein, Klein being his mother’s maiden name.

The other original members of Kiss are Paul Stanley (real name Stanley Bert Eisen), Peter Criss (George Peter John Criscuola), and Ace Frehley (Paul Daniel Frehley).

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