Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Circus: Now and Then

When just a mere  kid I dreamed of  possible careers in which I was an astronaut, the center fielder for the New York Yankees, or a circus star.  As it turned out, I became a teacher, which did indeed have some aspects of a three-ring circus, but I digress.

In just a couple months the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will strike the big top for the last time.  Sadly, many folks have moved onto other forms of entertainment.  Since the circus was giving a performance in our state, my wife Bev and I decided to attend.  I’m glad we did. 

Many years ago this famous circus traveled even to small towns.  In 1954 it came to my hometown, which at the time had a population of about 40,000.  Three separate trains arrived in our downtown area, bringing tents, workers, food, performers, and many animals, including lots of elephants.

The local paper featured an article about one of the elephants: “Take it from Big Babe, heaviest of the nine herds on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey lot. It’s all a matter of exercise.  Babe’s normal weight is around one-half ton.  That’s when she is on the road during the 40-week circus year.  But when the circus goes into its winter quarters at Sarasota, Florida for the remaining four months of the year, Babe leads a life of comparative ease.  There are relatively few chores for her to perform there…  Babe’s weight immediately begins to increase.  By the end of the first month of rest she has picked up a quarter-ton, and before the end of the month she is more than a half-ton overweight.” 

Today’s circus has no elephants, but it did feature camels, horses, tigers, and dogs.  Amazingly, when a “big cat” stood on its hind legs it was taller than the trainer!  Being a dog lover, I thoroughly enjoyed that part of the show.  The camels were kind of like horses with humps.

My favorite act was seeing a lady shot out of a cannon.  She literally flew across the arena, landing on what looked like a giant air mattress. 

The current circus featured an exciting tight wire act, as did the 1954 circus that visited my hometown: “There’s a big difference between a bull ring and a circus ring, but they have one thing in common-folks risk their lives in both.  And that’s one of the reasons why Con Colleano, veteran of the tight wire and only living man who can perform a forward somersault on one, is oft times referred to as ‘toreador.’”

I have no idea what arrangements are made for feeding the current circus performers and workers, but in 1954 the food traveled with the circus: “The world’s largest mobile refrigeration plant keeps meats, fish, fowl, butter and eggs fresh for the more than 1,000 workers and performers who travel with the Greatest Show on Earth.  The monster unit was designed and built right on the grounds at the Ringling winter quarters in Sarasota, Florida, and was constructed of extra-heavy steel plates so that it could withstand the punishment of bruising travel.”

In 1954 the three trains bringing everything and everybody needed for the circus performance rolled into the downtown train station.  From there the entire cargo was taken to the fairgrounds on the south side of town.  Several tents, including the big top, were set up.  In many ways it resembled a fair. The current circus was held in an indoor arena; the show lasted about two hours. 

In thinking this over, I’m happy for the new format.  I love a good circus, but two hours of it is just about right for me.  My wife, on the other hand, likes to “get her money’s worth” whenever she attends a fair or a circus.  If the current event had been held at a fairgrounds, with multiple tents, animal displays, and so forth, I could see us staying for five or six hours.  For me, I got my money’s worth in those two hours. 

For many of us, who are kids at heart, whether we are nine or ninety, or somewhere in between, being at a circus is still a wonderful experience.  We are going to miss the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, but we do have wonderful memories, for which we are thankful. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who Said It?

* The following statements were made by various Presidents of the United States.  Take the quiz and see how much you know.

1. “No man who ever held office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.”  A. Harry S. Truman   B. Richard Nixon   C. Barack Obama   D. John Adams.

2. “I never did give them h***; I just told the truth and they thought it was h***.”  A. Harry S. Truman   B. Ronald Reagan   C. Lyndon B. Johnson   D. Theodore Roosevelt.

3. “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Abraham Lincoln   C. George Washington   D. George W. Bush.

4. “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Ronald Reagan  C. Barack Obama    D. James Madison.

5. “It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.”  A. Martin Van Buren   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Calvin Coolidge.

6. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”  A. Jimmy Carter   B. Franklin Roosevelt   C. Theodore Roosevelt   D. Dwight Eisenhower.

7. “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. John Kennedy   C. George Washington   D. Bill Clinton.

8. “Always remember that others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.  And then you destroy yourself.”  A. Thomas Jefferson   B. Richard Nixon   C. Millard Fillmore   D. George W. Bush.

9. “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm.  There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.”  A. Lyndon Johnson   B. James Madison   C. George Washington   D. Grover Cleveland.

10. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  A. Abraham Lincoln   B. Ulysses S. Grant   C. Ronald Reagan   D. Jimmy Carter.

11. “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job; depression is when you lose yours.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Jimmy Carter   C. Bill Clinton   D. Ronald Reagan.

12. “We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Jimmy Carter   C. Gerald Ford   D. Calvin Coolidge.

13. “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists-to protect them and to promote their common welfare-all else is lost.”  A. Bill Clinton   B. Dwight Eisenhower   C. Barack Obama   D. George Washington.

14. “An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”  A. Thomas Jefferson   B. Franklin Roosevelt   C. Dwight Eisenhower   D. George W. Bush.

15. “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”  A. Abraham Lincoln   B. John Adams   C. Woodrow Wilson   D. Calvin Coolidge.

16. “Frankly, I’m fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values.  Our families have values, but our government doesn’t.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Theodore Roosevelt   C. George W. Bush   D. Bill Clinton.

17. “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”  A. Woodrow Wilson   B. Abraham Lincoln   C. Gerald Ford   D. George W. Bush.

18. “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Thomas Jefferson.

19. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to slaughter.”  A. George Washington   B. Barack Obama   C. Abraham Lincoln   D. James Madison.

20. “Thomas Jefferson once said, ’We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’  And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”  A. James Madison   B. Ronald Reagan   C. Andrew Jackson   D. George Washington.

21. “Truth is the glue that holds government together.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. George W. Bush   C. Abraham Lincoln   D. Gerald Ford.

22. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”  A. Dwight Eisenhower   B. John Kennedy   C. Ronald Reagan   D. Theodore Roosevelt.
23. “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”  A. Franklin Roosevelt   B. Ronald Reagan   C. George Washington   D. Calvin Coolidge.

24. “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Calvin Coolidge.

25. “Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.”  A. George W. Bush   B. Ulysses S. Grant   C. Grover Cleveland   D. John Adams.

ANSWERS:     1. D.   2. A.   3. C.   4. D.   5. A.   6. C.   7. B.   8. B.   9. A.   10. A.   11. D.   12. B.   13. C.   14. B.   15. A.   16. D.   17. D.   18. D.   19. A.   20. B.   21. D.   22. D.   23. A.   24. D.   25. B.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We just Lost a Good Man

Jack Hampson, my father-in-law, recently died at the age of ninety.  He was never a football star or a famous singer; his story will never appear in any history books.  Yet, he lived an extraordinary life that affected so many people in so many positive ways.

Jack was a gentle, caring man, a man who was sensitive to the feelings of others.  He lived with the credo that God doesn’t make junk and therefore, all lives matter.  During our thirty-five year association I never heard him say anything negative about another human being.

My brother-in-law once told me about his first meeting with Jack.  Arriving to pick up his date (now my sister-in-law), Keith thought to himself, “This is the nicest person I’ve ever met.”  I’ll second that.

For some strange reason Jack’s mother-in-law, who in most ways was a wonderful person, believed that Jack was not “good enough” for her daughter.  Many times Jack opened his heart to me, explaining how badly it felt to be regarded as somehow inferior. 

Many years later, however, when his mother-in-law was elderly and no longer able to live alone, he invited her into his house, even adding a new bathroom so that she wouldn’t have to climb the steps.  I’m not so certain that I could be that big a man.

While only in her sixties, Anne, Jack’s wife, became ill and eventually was totally dependent upon him.  Although Jack was active in many organizations, he gave them up so that he could care for his wife and keep her at home.  Thanks to him she never spent a day in a care center.

Jack was a deeply religious man but he never tried to pressure others to see it his way.  Instead, he set a good example which others came to emulate.  He saw good in every man and woman, for he viewed them as sacred children of God. 

My wife, her brother, and her sister hit the “Dad Lottery” with Jack.  He tried to teach them the best values he knew and he loved them with all his heart.  Most of all, when the time came he let them be adults.  Jack realized that when our children grow up they might make decisions counter to their parents’ beliefs and customs, but he realized that if his children were to truly be adults they must think for themselves.  But always Jack loved them unconditionally, and he let it be known that he was there for them if his help was needed.

For the last five and a half years he has been living in assisted living in the town where Bev and I live.  Jack’s children-Bev, Dave and Val- sadly watched as dementia slowly stole their father’s personality-the personality that they had long ago come to love, admire, and respect. 

But even in the darkest days he never lost his basic kindness and modesty.  Eventually he could not remember his loved ones’ names, but his eyes would light up whenever a family member walked into the room.

It was a pleasure and an honor for all his children and in-laws to serve him, just as he had so long served his children, his spouses, his church,, his community, and his country (he was a WWII vet).  We will miss bringing him his favorite foods-chocolate milkshakes, theater popcorn (with bunches and bunches of butter), pickles, and anything else as long as it was covered with mustard or jelly.

Certainly he was not perfect; no person is, but when your biggest fault is that for years you rooted for Penn State instead of Ohio State you have indeed lived a special life.

If every man, woman, and child had Jack’s gentle and forgiving nature, if every person  was filled with the love and patience that he displayed, I believe that there would no longer be war, murder, and other such atrocities. 

No doubt upon reaching the Pearly Gates, St. Peter greeted him with the following: “A job well done, Jack.  You have earned a spot here for eternity.”  Our hope and our faith is that one day we will once again meet this extraordinary man.

Monday, February 6, 2017

You Know You're Getting Old When...

1. …your back goes out more than you do.

2. … a hot meal trumps a hot date.

3. …an “all-nighter” means you didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

4. …you hear “snack, crackle, and pop” at the breakfast table but the sounds are not coming from your cereal.

5. …your birthday candles cost more than the cake.

6. …you can do anything that you could do forty years ago, but it hurts more and takes longer.

7. …it takes longer to rest from an activity than it does to get tired from doing it.

8. …happy hour is a good nap.

9. …someone compliments you on your turtleneck sweater, but you are not wearing one.

10. …your knees buckle but your belt won’t.

11. …your doctor tells you to slow down instead of a police officer giving that warning.

12. …you describe your knees as “the good one” and “the bad one” instead of “right” and “left.”

13. …you and your teeth no longer sleep together.

14. …for safety reasons the fire chief will not allow you to use your full allotment of birthday candles.

15. …your favorite TV station is the Weather Channel.

16. …you turn off the lights to save a little money instead of for romantic reasons.

17. …you need either stronger glasses or longer arms to read the newspaper.

18. …it takes twice as long to look half as nice as you once did.

19. …your old clothes stored in the attic are once more in style.

20. …your little black book contains mostly the names and addresses of medical doctors.

21. …most parts of your body hurt and the other parts don’t work right.

22. …all your public school teachers are either dead or living in rest homes.

23. …your pharmacist becomes your closest friend.

24. …upon awakening you actually look like your driver’s license picture.

25. …you know the lyrics for elevator music.

***** Remember, getting old is merely mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!  Have a great day!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The "Good Old Days?"

  As far as my son Todd is concerned, his “old man” grew up during an era not much different from that of the Neanderthals and the woolly mammoths. In fact, when it comes to technology, he believes that the years between 1950 and 1968 were truly the “dark ages.“
    Todd does give me credit for being tough; he admits that he couldn’t survive the summer months without the aid of air conditioning.  Granted, some folks “back in the day” had air conditioning in both their cars and their homes, but in our house we survived the hot summers with open windows, fans, and cold drinks.  The only “air conditioning” Dad’s car had was when we rolled down the windows.
    “Primitive” is the term Todd most often used when I explained that we somehow survived without computers, cell phones, or video games.   He just couldn’t understand that the children of the ‘50s and ‘60s actually had fun  doing things together.  I described how, hour after hour, we neighborhood kids  played basketball, football, softball, board games, and even games that we invented.  He was not impressed.
    However, the most “primitive” part of my childhood, according to my son, centered around the TV set.  “Back in my day,” I explained, “we had a grand total of four stations, and until the mid-sixties we watched each show in glorious black and white.”
    “Black and white sucks,” Todd remarked.
    “So does our vacuum cleaner, so what’s your point?” I  sarcastically countered.
    “Dad,” he replied,” if that’s a sample of humor from your childhood days then that sucked, too.”
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a clever rejoinder.  “Of course, we only had one television set,” I continued.
    “You’re kidding me!” he exclaimed.  “So what did Grandpa do while you watched your favorite shows?”
    “Actually, we kids could only watch what we wanted until Dad got home from work.  After supper we had the choice of watching what he chose or finding something else to do.”
    “Wow! I’m glad I didn’t have to watch your junk!  I could only take so many ‘Bonanza’ reruns!”
    “Hey! Watch it!” I half screamed.  “That was a good show! While we’re on the topic of TV, let me tell you this: back then, if you wanted to change channels you had to actually get off your backside and turn the knob.”
    “Is that what you call those things on the front of the set? “ he asked.  “I’ve noticed them, but I had no idea what they were for.”
    “Listen, son,” I continued, “We didn’t have all the technology that you grew up with, but we had fun.”
    “It sounds like life was pretty rough, Dad,“ the young one observed.     
    “You don’t know the half of it, son; I had to walk barefoot ten miles to school, no matter what the weather was like, and it was uphill  both going to the schoolhouse and returning home.”
    “I don’t believe you, Pop!” Todd laughingly replied.
    “Well,” I responded weakly, “as you can see, without all those doodads we had time to develop our imaginations.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The First Woman to...

1. go into space: Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, aboard Vostok 6, went into orbit on June 16, 1993.  The mission lasted 71 hours and covered 48 orbits.

2. become a  U.S. Senator: Rebecca Latimer Felton, who served only one day in 1922.  The first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Caraway in 1932.

3. Become a jockey in America (1907).

4. become a movie superstar: Mary Pickford.

5. become a professional baseball pitcher: This was probably Jackie Mitchell, who in 1931, while pitching for the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts, struck out Yankee stars Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.

6.  become a bank president: Maggie Lena  Walker (1864-1934).  In 1903 Walker, the daughter of a former slave, founded a Penny Savings’ Bank and served as its president.

7. become a U.S. Army general: On June 11, 1970, Colonel Anna Mae Hays was promoted to brigadier general.

8. be executed in the United States: On July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt was hanged.  She was found to be a part of the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln.

9. win an Olympic boxing title: Nicola Adams of Great Britain won the Gold Medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

10. pilot an aircraft: Therese Peltier of France (1908).

11. earn a p.h.d.: In 1608 Julianna Morell of Spain earned a doctorate degree.

12. become an Egyptian pharaoh: Hatshepsut was at least the first significant female leader of ancient Egypt around the year 1,500 B.C.

13. marry actor Mickey Rooney: Rooney’s first of nine wives was actress Ava Gardner.

14. receive a U.S. patent: On May 5, 1809, Mary Dixon Kies received a patent for a new way of weaving straw with silk and thread in the manufacturing of hats.

15. became a self-made millionaire: Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867-May 25, 1919).

16. graduate from a U.S. medical school: Elizabeth Blackwell in 1849.

17. run a four-minute mile: So far, no female has run a mile in under four minutes.  The best time is by the Russian Svetlana Masterkova in 1996.  She was clocked at 4:12.56.

18. own a Hollywood studio: Lucille Ball became the sole owner of Desilu after her former husband sold out his half interest to her.  Note: During the silent era, Mary Pickford was one of the founders of United Artists.

19. become poet laureate of the U.S.: Mona Van Duyn (1992).

20. be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Aretha Franklin (1987).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Don't Blame Me, Ladies; I'm Just the Messenger

***Here is an interesting but outdated newspaper article from 1927.

“Women are in the habit of speaking slightingly of each other so much that it has become proverbial.  Seldom does one hear a woman praising another, and when one does, there is always some string attached to it, some little digging remark that quite nullifies the praise given.

“The chief reason for this almost universal feminine trait is that a woman, in considering the merits or demerits of another woman, invariably places herself in a position of competition with that woman.  A woman will say: ‘Mrs. Jones certainly runs her house well-but no wonder-she has three servants.’

“Again one hears something like this: ‘How young Evelyn keeps herself!  She must spend at least ten dollars a week at the hair dresser’s.’  (remember, this is 1927).

“Or in this way does a woman unburden her feelings: : ‘Mary is so accomplished in so many ways.  Funny she can’t get a husband!’ 

“Always there is a ‘but’ attached to the praise.  Always the woman, although granting an asset or a virtue in the other, sees to it that the woman’s other faults or aids are emphasized.

“Now a man does not praise like that.  If he believes another man deserves credit he gives it to him unstintingly and without reservation.  That does not mean that a man does not place himself in a position of rivalry with men.  He does, but in a sense different from the way a woman views such rivalry.

“If a man sees another achieving in a credible manner he may wish that he himself had been as successful.  But it does not lead him to make cutting, sarcastic remarks.

“What the man always feels like doing under such circumstances is to knuckle down to business and attempt through work and merit to outrival the other.

“A woman, you see, has no definite and absolute standards to go by.  A man lives by the standards that the world at large have built up and accepts.  To these standards he readily subscribes.

“The woman, on the other hand, makes her own standards.  And the standards which she, herself, invents are the ones by which she judges all other women. 

“For example, suppose a woman marries and has a lovely home, an adoring husband and beautiful children.  For her, motherhood at once becomes the standard of excellence.  A spinster (do we still use this word?) however, will live by a standard that may be quite opposite.

“The mother still tends to belittle all achievements made by the spinster, while the spinster will tend to disparage the achievements of motherhood and will hold acrimony (?)  to a father or mother, or devotion to a social service cause or perhaps to politics, as being the finest and highest ideals for which a woman can live.

“Then, again, sex rivalry has a great deal to do with the cattishness of some women.  From the very beginning these women want to be desired.  If not desired they will not be chosen for marriage, which carries with it the (unreadable word) of propagation of the species.

“This urge is distinctive, fundamental and necessary.  And, therefore, if a woman realizes that another woman is more desirable in some particular-personal attractiveness, excellence in housekeeping, or whatever-she at once tries to identify her own particular desirability by belittling the desirability of the other woman and by enlarging upon her own good qualities.

“It’s a sort of squaring of accounts.  Always, however, the woman must somehow justify herself and come out on top.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of feminine conduct the same as there are exceptions to all rules.  There are women who reason more like men, who realize that certain standards of conduct are better for women than others, and who try to subscribe to them and live by them. 

“In the end, these women are the happiest.  The woman who is always trying to disparage the other woman is always upset.  Would that more and more women could see the folly of not being fair-minded. 

“Would that women, as a class, could learn the advantages to themselves of gaining non-personal perspectives both on the good and the bad qualities of their sisters!”

***By the way, if you haven’t already guessed, this article was written by a man, and I think he is completely wrong.  I believe that women are perfect in every way, especially my wife  (I’m no dummy; she reads all my blogs!)