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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mama, Daddy and Me! ... little sister and baby brother too

MamaDaddyWhen I was born, Mama and Daddy lived in a small three room apartment ... we had to move when I was three ... that little thing just wouldn't work, what with a baby sister on the way ... Daddy bought a house, seven rooms ... eight, nine blocks away ... paid cash ... $7,500.
Daddy didn't know any other way ... if he didn't have the money, he didn't buy it ... fifteen years later when he became an officer of his Company, we moved to Chattanooga and he bought another ... him and Mama living there the rest of their lives.
He didn't quite have enough that time and having always paid cash, expressed serious concern over having never established his credit!
Mimosa TreeIn the front yard was a giant oak whose main purpose would turn out to be providing me with countless hours each year of raking leaves and picking up acorns ... in the back another, and a very large Mimosa.Arcola Heater
The house featured a large Arcola Heater in the kitchen ... coal powered steam heat with radiators in each of the rooms ... an Ice Box on the back porch kept things fresh and cold ... it was ours!
The first week came a dump truck full of Coal for the "coal house" attached to the garage ... the second brought two loads of pea gravel ... our back yard "grass."
We were at war when I started to school in 1943 ... 5 1/2 blocks using a shortcut I found in the second grade ... but a 7 1/2 block walk the way Mama went, eight if you went to the main school entrance.
Our '39 FordWe had but one car, a 1939 Ford bought new for $600 and Daddy used that, so we walked ... besides, Mama didn't drive. She was a Tennessee farm girl who was somehow well acquainted with some of Atlanta's most prominent ... coming to Atlanta after High School, she enjoyed some success as a young hair stylist, having an elite clientele that included a member of the Coca Cola Chandler family and a young Anne Jefferys before she became Anne Jefferys, though she wasn't of Atlanta. Rumor is that Mama made more money than Daddy ... it could have been Mama what started that rumor, not sure.Stork
She learned to drive, with him teaching her, but when the Doctor told her to expect a visit from the stork, all that stopped. She never got her license, never again drove, best I know ... though she considered it after Daddy retired ... and, when I was born, the shock was too great ... Storkshe was expecting a visit from a bird ... she never fully recovered, never again worked ... except as a housewife and a mama.
And so we walked ... every day, come rain or shine. I'm not sure when I first realized that Mama knew who lived in every house along the way ... on both sides of the street, including most who lived in the one apartment complex in the area ... she didn't just know who they were ... she knew them! Mama and Daddy were on a first name basis with all the merchants in the area too ... but you wouldn't know it unless you just knew it, 'cause most called them Mr and/or Mrs ... McBrayer or "Mac" in public ... good friends of long standing called Daddy "Mister Mac" even in private.
That was Mama, she never met a stranger in her entire life ... it sometimes got her in trouble, but she most always won the day .. Miss Bette Davisonce, she met Miss Bette Davis in a hotel elevator ... hours later, there was a bit of a panic in the hotel when they couldn't locate Miss Davis ... the mystery was solved when Mama called down for more tea.
She was a bit like Will Rogers ... Mama never met anyone she didn't like ... her attitude was "if you're can't find something about somebody to like, you're not looking hard enough ... keep looking!" No, everybody wasn't like that ... and few if any knew everyone living within a nine or ten block radius ... it sounds crazy, but it's true; well, close enough for horseshoes, grenades, and me.
Truth is, everyone in our immediate neighborhood knew everyone else ... rather well too, including the dogs, maids and the kids. It was a way of life ... like living in a small town inside a city.
Certainly, my parents had a greater influence on me than all the other folks and forces combined ... but I'm not sure which influenced me most ... near 'bout a tie, I guess.
BobbyIt's said that I was spoiled rotten, and I suppose it's true ... not only was I the oldest, same as both Mama and Daddy, I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Wanting to be good parents, they were both extra careful not to spare the rod so as to make matters worse ... spankings aplenty, that's for sure and for special occasions, Mama had her hickory switches, Daddy had his strop.
Like I said, near 'bout a tie.
I was closer to Mama, she was always there when I came home from school ... there to fix my little boo-boos ... "Mama fix it!" I had a lot of boo-boos and I kept her busy with a lot of boo-boo fixin' to do!
IceboxAt about 9 months, I'm told I crawled into a old icebox, somewhere out back of where we lived, and the door slammed shut ... Mama sensed I was missing and somehow found me ... opened it with one hand and took me out with the other. World Champion Baby Fly Weight at 98 pounds ... hours later she went back and repeatedly tried but couldn't open it using both her hands and all her might. A fireman called to the scene told Mama that 20 more minutes and I would have suffocated.
When I was three, I threw a brick up in the air as high as I could ... it came back down as I thought it would ... yes, on top of my head! Mama fix it!
Backyard oakRemember the oak in the back yard? Well, when I was five, I decided I was Tarzan, and with the aid of some bricks to help me get started, climbed to the first limb and did my best yell; impressing the two little girls visiting next door. Then, as I was trying to descend, their dumb little three year old brother knocked over the bricks ... I fell, grasping a metal hook, once used to anchor a clothes line ... mangling my left hand ... blood everywhere, Grady HospitaleI panicked but thankfully, Mama didn't. She couldn't fix it and she couldn't drive but called a neighbor, Mrs. Smith; a nurse who could.
I was rushed to hospital ... all I remember is the hospital nurse trying to put my hand in alcohol ... I remember that ... and the Doctor stopping her with "Stop, we'll do that after he's asleep" Five hours later I awoke with a cast covering my left arm and hand ... I couldn't suck my thumb or take a bath for over two months. The miracle worker was Dr. Gadston Gay ... you don't forget the name of the one who saved your hand! He put 156 stitches in that little hand, most were something he called "pin stitches" ... his initial diagnosis was that I would probably lose the middle one, have a stiff index finger and no feeling in my ring finger.
Thankfully he was the world's greatest surgeon ... and worst prognosticator! It was a twelve week ordeal but after that, I had full use of all three.
We said our prayers together then she tucked me in and kissed me good night ... always told me she loved me ... and always from her bed, said good night one more time ... that continued throughout my life, anytime I was home ... a little awkward after I was married but my wives soon got used to it, and understood. Mama's Tools Her advice to me ... and to them ... "Get mad, fuss and fight ... but never go to sleep at night without saying I love you" ... Mama was Mama.
It's easy to nod your head in agreement, in one ear and out the other, but that there's mighty powerful good advice. My Miss Carol and I followed it ... I'd say, "I love you!" ... she'd say "I love you too ... but I'm still mad!"
Love is a mysterious phenomenon ... never understood it and still can't explain it. Madder than a wet henLittle sister and I have fumed, fussed and fought for longer than she'll admit to being on Earth ... we'd rant, rave and fuss about anything ... and nothing ... still do! Baby SisterWe must have a special kind of love ... she can make me madder than a wet hen ... and two minutes later it's all okay ... she's my baby sister!
Mama helped with us our studies, me and baby sister ... other parents helped their kids too, but Mama was smarter than most ... she knew the right answers! She praised us when we did well ... sometimes when we didn't. She took care of us when we were sick ... mustard plasters, Vicks, ST37 and soup were her tools of the trade ... though our family baby doctor was kept busy making house calls day and night, more for baby sister than for me ... when she was just two, she had Pneumonia, Measles and Scarlet Fever all at the same time ... her temperature was as high as 104 ... while at the same time, I was sick with the Measles. Not sure where the germs came from but, for a while it seemed like Dr. Davenport lived with with us. Yes, Dr. Tom Davenport, an Atlanta legend!
She taught me games, to play cards, bowl ... and was active in school activities, helping coordinate our "paper," "tin can" and "clothes hanger" collection days during the war ... she went on field trips with us ... helped give parties too, for Valentines Day, Easter, and Christmas; always making sure everyone got something ... not just once in a while, but every year through seventh grade ... not just for me, but baby sister too. She was active in the PTA and helped out with my Cub Scout troop.
Wood StoveIf you're one of the many who think their mama was the world's best cook ... you lose! Her mama might have been just a mite better baking biscuits but she had the advantage of cooking on a wood stove ... and the further advantage that she was my Granny ... just the smell of her kitchen made me hungry!Baby Brother and Mama
You could eat off of Mama's floor ... but being the oldest, she was extra careful to see that I didn't. It's amazing that she survived the ordeal but she wised up ... little Billy, who came along 12 years after me, even got to eat some of baby sister's mud pies! It didn't seem to bother him none, but he has lost most of his hair and what's left is white ...he has two babies, and they each have one ... four girls! Truth is, he's been very successful at just about everything he's ever attempted ... could be the dirt, but some say it's mostly 'cause of the guidance and direction he received as a kid ... from his big brother. I'm not saying who says that, but it's true ... at least it's true that we used to sit on the sidewalk curb, look up at the sky, engage in "pure thought" and ponder the universe ... he was three.
Big Brother and Little SisterI also looked after baby sister ... she too owes me a lot! When she was in the 3rd grade, a little boy from up the street smashed her in the head with the butt end of his cap pistol, with purely evil intentions. I came to her rescue as I always did ... took him down into the woods behind the house and tied him to a tree ... found me six big mud clods and threw 'em at him, from about ten yards. I think the fact that I missed all six times saved me from a lot of grief ... his daddy worked for mine. Euclid Theater
He never bothered her again, and didn't dare tell on me, but he later paid me back! The Saturday Matinee Double Feature was fifteen cents, including a nickel for popcorn ... a dime more when you turned 12. I didn't look my age and would have had a good thing going ... until that kid smiled and innocently said to the cashier "Did you know that Bobby just had a birthday ... he's 12!"
I said Mama was smart ... for over 40 years, we played Scrabble ... Mama and me ... sometimes with family but usually just the two of us ... cutthroat! I went for words she didn't know, hoping for a challenge ... and the big play; double and triple word scores, and bonuses for playing all seven letters. I really can't remember her ever getting a bonus ... it wasn't her style. We were evenly matched but I won more games ... from a combination of what she called "bonuses, cheating and luck" ... but luck had nothing to do with it!
At the 2nd Annual McBrayer World Scrabble Grand Championship ... between me, Mama, baby brother and his pretty wife ... I led for the entire game while poor Mama had a bad day and brought up the rear. Well, until a seven letter word ... on a triple word score ... on the last play of the game ... Mama finally had her bonus word ... eternal! She passed away the next year ... no reason to hold another tournament ... the trophy is where it eternally belongs.
Nothing was more important to Mama than her babies ... not sure she had a favorite ... she loved her three babies, and we were still her babies when she left us in 2002.
Daddy taught me to work, to be a man ... or at least he tried hard ... "always do a good job the first time so you won't have to do it over" was a lesson that took me a long time to master but he made sure I learned it!
The depression hit just before he was to finish high school and enter college ... could have gone, as his grandmother had the money but chose to go to Atlanta and work with his uncle instead. Without a college education the road to the top was usually long indeed, even back then ... it was long for Daddy too ... he made it with long days extending well into the night, always giving his employer the same effort as he would had he owned the Company ... taught me to do the same ... "the reward," said Daddy "is that if you do, you'll always have a job!"
During my entire life, I never heard him used hard language ... nobody did 'cause he didn't use it! He once hit his thumb so hard with a hammer that blood spurted and tears came to his eyes ... "Goodness" is all he said ... that, "shoot" and "doggone" were his only oaths.
Mama introduced me to "duck pin" bowling when I was about seven ... gave me my own ball for Christmas, but Daddy never saw me bowl ... never. In 1962, I gave him my special trophy, received for having recorded the highest sanctioned series ever rolled at my favorite local bowling establishment. We never talked about it but it was on display in his office until he retired ... and in his bedroom until 1992.
Georgia Tech Rat Hat
Georgia Tech logoAS a freshman at the North Avenue Trade School, I had to wear what was known as a "Rat Cap" ... part a long, proud tradition of the school. We had to write "TO HELL With Georgia!" On the back of the cap. Upon seeing my cap, he asked if I could change it to "To HECK With Georgia!"
Well Dressed Daddy
Not many ever saw Daddy in casual clothes ... he always came to the kitchen table in white dress shirt, suit pants and dress shoes, replete with tie ... and the same for supper. Well, sometimes pajamas, robe and slippers on Sunday morning. It was much the same when he was washing or waxing the car; working in the yard or garden ... well, frequently, at Mama's behest, he loosened his tie when working outdoors ... sometimes even removed it.
He instilled in us all what he considered most important ... "Your word is your bond! Bring credit to your family name in all that you do!" When talking about my father, folks used words like "honest, integrity, honorable, sincere, dedicated, dependable, just, loyal, moral, and wise" ... those were not just words, folks truly respected my father, I never met one who didn't ... neither did I ever hear him use the word "virtue" ... but he was a virtuous gentleman! He himself gave me his definition of a gentlemen ... I remember one of the attributes ... "a gentleman never asks for the return of something lent ... because a gentleman always returns things when able, without having to be asked ... and gentlemen do not lend things, except to other gentlemen" ... shades of Polonius to Laertes, methinks!
Multi-Band RadioSome of our best times were just listening to the radio together, especially out on the front porch after dark in the summertime ... a nightly event for as long as I can remember, up until we got our first TV ... Joe Louisespecially the "championship fights", Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, People are Funny, "Our Miss Brooks" ... and broadcasts about the war ... Churchill, der F├╝hrer ... most in English, some in German and Italian.
Our weekends were special ... Saturdays were when Mama and Daddy did most of their shopping but we also visited the Farmers' Market on Sunday afternoon , the Zoo, the airport and train stations ... and went to all types of special events, many at the auditorium. We never missed the Circus or the Fair ... nor the "Globetrotters" or the "House Of David" basketball teams when they came to town. At the All Night Singings, "Big Jim Waits" was the best of the best ... got to sit in the "Tucker Torpedo" in 1947 ... and of course, sometimes we drove to Granddaddy's farm about 50 miles away.
Daddy ran a well organized, tight ship, at home and in the office ... getting the most out of us and those who worked for him. His office was usually among the Company leaders and frequently won awards for being the best in different categories. Sometimes he would take me with him during the summer, give me a vacant desk, and put me to "work" ... mostly, I just sharpened pencils and listened to them talk ... but I knew most of his men and kept tabs on how each was doing! It was exciting!
Whenever I wanted to do something requiring permission, I'd ask Mama first ... she'd say "ask your daddy" ... I'd then go to him with "Mama said it was alright with her if it's alright with you" ... Daddy was tough! Lynda never had much trouble ... she could usually wrap him around her little finger with a grin and a "please" ... and when that didn't work, she'd pout a little bit, get up in his lap, put her arms around his neck and say "pretty please" ... he was goner ... but it never worked for me.
That's just the tip of Little sister's iceberg ... she always been emotionally expressive and her enthusiasm can reach levels that most can only imagine ... she likes having things her way but she's always been a good sport ... always had a big heart too. At those things she excels ... at least partially explaining her success in sales ... she could sell ice to Eskimos! It also serves her well in her Christian Ministry. I'm a bit prejudiced ... but those things you'll find to be true ... like Mama said, truth is truth,
However, it was her ingenuity that always impressed me most when we were young ... when Daddy would ask her the time, Kitchen Clockshe would go look at the kitchen clock, come back and say something like ... "the big hand is 'tween 4 and 5 and the little hand 'tween 8 and 9" ... over time, he taught her what that meant ... about 8:23. One thing she's never been is "good with numbers" ... while that's the only thing at which I was ever any good! Well, when I started teasing her about not being able to tell time ... Mama secretly taught her the First National Bank's telephone number ... back then it was 8550. Dial that number and a recording said "at the tone, the time will be" ... I smelled a rat but Mama said she had taught Lynda to tell time ... best I know, Daddy never knew, at least until after she really had.
There are many other examples, but here's just one more ...
War Over NewspaperLittle sister started school just after the war ... and her first grade teacher had been a Wac Sergeant ... word around school was that she thought she still was. One day Lynda brought home a nice little present ... she was all excited at having won the award for being the best in her class!3 Presents
About two months later, she won again ... and, sometime later, a third! Only the third time, pinned to her dress was a note from the teacher. It simply read ... "When is Lynda's Birthday?"
Mama called the teacher ... it turned out that she gave a party, including favors and a present, each time a child celebrated a birthday ... Lynda didn't want to be left out but her birthday is July 25th ... during Summer Vacation ... so she made one up! Three, to be exact ... ingenuity!! Falsehoods were never permitted so little sister got scolded and a good spanking ... but not real hard ... the birthdays were on file with the school. Mama seemed more upset with the teacher than Lynda!
I guess Daddy was more serious than most ... it was very important to him that he always set a good example for us but he didn't take himself too seriously and had a wonderful, wry sense of humor to go along with it!
That said, he was truly self disciplined and expected me to be the same ... that expectation started when I was about six weeks old I think ... and continued for the rest of his life ... he never gave up. Of those things he counseled, the ones I remember best are ... "always do and give your best, Ditch Diggingwhether it's digging a ditch or solving the problems of the universe" ... "never do anything that might bring dishonor to you, your family, or your good name" ... "If it's right, do it ... if it's not, don't ... no ifs, no ands, no buts!" ... and "you can't tell much about a man based on his well rehearsed, memorized spiel"
Daddy wasn't always right; he had his prejudices, his faults, and made mistakes ... but he always did what he thought was right ... and never what he thought was wrong ... that was Daddy.
Yes, it seems redundant ... that's because it was ... Daddy had but one message!
He strived for perfection in all that he did and again, expected me to do the same ... though he knew it wasn't achievable for either of us; well, at least not me.
We played "catch" together and he took me to Cracker baseball games ... yes, white dress shirt, dress pants and dress shoes ... even at Company picnics ... but no, he drew the line when we went fishing or 'possum hunting ... no tie!
On more than occasion we attempted to paint the outside of the house ... him doing most of the work, me being his helper. We got more paint on us and the driveway than the house ... thank goodness for Al, the neighborhood handyman!
Another thing about Daddy ... he was a man of habit ... during my lifetime, he had but three barbers. Daddy was frugal too, perhaps sometimes to a fault ... but he always dressed well ... and he put food on the table ... well, he worked hard to earn the money that bought the food that Mama cooked and put on the table.
Like Mama, the farm boy who came to Atlanta fresh out of high school at the beginning of the Depression seemed to somehow know just about everybody ... but in a slightly sense. He really didn't know everybody, it just seemed that way to me ... Senator Russellbut he did know Senator Russell 'cause "Papa,"his daddy, did; ... Whitlow Wyatt
Dodger pitcher Whitlow Wyatt he'd known since they were kids; he and Earl Mann, General Manager and Owner of Crackers, were good friends ... and many of the players knew "Mister Mac" ... and "Little Mac" too. During the summer of 1950, I had complicated oral surgery ... three hours worth, leaving me groggy, wired, minus a front tooth, puffy faced and numb. Daddy took the day off from work ... the trip home took us by the Ponce De Leon Hotel, across the street from Ponce De Leon Park, Home of the Crackers. Earl MannWe stopped for a Coke and some soup ... The lunchroom looked empty, except for one large group ... and I was surprised when someone yelled out ... “Mr. Mac!” Daddy and Earl Mann had secretly arranged for me to have lunch with some of my favorite players ... My Magic Moment! It was one of the best ... and one of the worst moments in my young life. I looked a mess, could neither eat nor talk!The Atlanta Pen
The Assistant Warden of "Atlanta," Ben Overstreet and his family were our best friends and we sometimes visited them inside the walls of the pen, Warner and I playing catch with the trustees that took care of their home ... got to go inside the "Big House" once ... when I was about eight ... it was exciting, but once was enough!
Daddy was several years older than Rankin Smith, the original Falcon franchise owner ... one quite rich, the other middle class ... Rankin Smithand they were worked for different companies, but they enjoyed both a business and personal friendship that lasted almost 50 years, 49 to be exact ... Rankin was one of the few outside of family that ever called him by his middle name. The Cully A Cobbs
Cully A Cobb was his Sunday School Teacher and the President of the Atlanta Society of Magicians was in his class ... Mrs. Cobb was Mama's teacher.
Daddy was a friend of Piney Woods Pete ... Like Rankin Smith, Daddy's third cousin, Bo Callaway, was much younger ... but I remember them as friends when we visited Callaway Gardens ... we usually paid to get in ... Daddy explained "to Cason Callaway, third cousins are distant kin!"
He was a lodge brother of the manager of the Stone Mountain properties and after their secret handshake, we always got special treatment and some fantastic stories ... Stone Mountainthough back then there was but a small building with pictures, historical newspaper clippings and a telescope.Herman Talmadge
In the early years, Daddy had office space in downtown Atlanta, next to that of a young Herman Talmadge; often having lunch together, they became good friends ... another friendship that lasted a lifetime. It's good to have friends with farms that cure country hams and Betty's were some of the best, almost as good as we got when we visited Mama's relatives on the farm.
Like I said, he knew just about everybody ... and they knew him ... who else was there to know?
Well, Santa Claus maybe ... it would have been good if he had known Santa Claus ... Santa Clauswhen I was nine and Lynda five, somebody in her kindergarten class told her that Santa Claus wasn't real ... she was distraught, devastated is a better word ... I was too as I figured it meant fewer Christmas presents!
A couple of nights before Christmas, there was a knock on the door ... and you could have bowled us all over when it turned out to be Old Saint Nick himself ... truly, it was a surprise ... I don't think even Mama knew!
This was no made up department store Santa with a rented outfit ... he was the real deal! Best looking and most genuine Santa I've ever seen ... before or since ... even let us pull his whiskers. Seems he'd heard that somebody was spreading upsetting rumors and he just wanted to let us know that he was alive and well! He spent maybe 30 minutes with us ... totally convincing throughout, gave us all some special Christmas candy as he left. He convinced me ... I was especially good the next two days!
He left an impression, that's for sure! It's hard to compete with Santa Claus, but both Mama and Daddy left lasting impressions on most everyone they met, just by being themselves ... in a word, they did good without being "Do-Gooders". Daddy sold insurance for several years bufore being promoted into sales management; training and supervising 5-6 agents as a "staff manager" ... promoted again in 1944 to Assistant Manager of an office of 4-5 Staff Managers, before being given his own District Office in 1945. Both of his brothers served during WWII but Daddy had suffered a severe and permanent hernia, saving one of them from drowning, and was classified 4F in early 1942.
The InterstateImmediately following me misadventures serving my country and getting married, I worked in Atlanta ... one day in 1966, my lunch tab was a bit more than expected,... causing me to carefully examine the check, and indeed there was an error ... but, more than that, on the back side was a picture of the Interstate's Home Office Building. Intrigued, I asked the elderly cashier why they were promoting insurance in a diner, explaining that my father worked for the company. She answered with a question ... "Do you know Mr. McBrayer? He's my Insurance Man!"
Daddy was conservative ... but he was a lifelong Democrat ... most Georgians of his generation were ... both.
Growing up, I knew that there were Democrats and Republicans ... not sure that I knew any Republicans ... none what admitted it. When I reached High School, the only presidents we'd had were FDR and Truman. I remember a politician saying that Georgians would always vote Democratic just as their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers had done before them ... because it was the right thing to do and wrong to break such a proud tradition. Made sense to me but Granddaddy said we were Democrats mostly because Republicans had treated us badly following the war where Sherman burned Atlanta and Miss Scarlett had to go back to Tara ... that and the fact that voting Republican in Georgia was like wasting your vote.
And yes, Daddy also knew the man that managed the Cyclorama at Grant Park and I more than once got to walk on part of the "painting" among the horses and soldiers ... well, twice is more than once.
Dorian GrayMamaDaddyHad I not known better, I might have suspected that my folks made a deal like that of Dorian Gray ... when Daddy was young, he looked a bit older than he was but he seemed to age very slowly ... before his stroke, chances were better than good that you would have missed guessing his age by 10 or more years. However, he a was pauper compared to Mama ... more than one waitress rued having accepting a triple or nothing dinner tab wager from baby brother that they couldn't guess her age within 15 years.
Not looking your age may just run in the family ... little sister looks better and younger than most do at 50 ... while I enjoy the same wagering success as did Mama with the waitresses.
I got real mad when little Frank told 'em I was twelve when I looked younger ... but it's okay that they think I'm older than I am, so long as the meal is free.
Mama had but two jobs; the one before I arrived, and the one after ... well, technically three ... she was the good woman behind the successful man and took an active role in Company sponsored functions and events. She truly excelled at all three. Daddy, "he was her man" but he never done her no wrong! Yes, Daddy worked but for that one company his entire career of 47 years ... making him a member of a small, elite club ... but long tenure with the Company was the rule rather than the exception ... in the field offices as well as the Home Office. It was like family to them ... and the role of the wives were truly important ... it wasn't "work" to Mama ... all she had to do was to be Mama. It was important to him that she didn't have to "work" He rose from office boy in one of the agencies to Vice President & Manager Of Agencies over a field force of more than 5,000 but to us he was always just Daddy. When he died in 1993, he gripped my hand hard as he passed ... the church was packed, as it was again in 2002.
Daddy's TieThey will always be with us ... their love, spirit, inspiration and influence. Yes, I guess it was just 'bout a tie ... not one of Daddy's Countess Mara's, just a tie.
Comments and Discussion

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good Government ... Good Grief!!

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Who among us would disagree with the notion that good constitutional government demands the active involvement of a virtuous electorate ... well informed, interested and accountable;Balot Box having a genuine and vested interest in the long term well being of their community, state, and country?
You would think that would be something upon we would have almost universal agreement ... libersl, conservatives ... everybody ... but, were that the case, would we be where we are?
The question becomes, "why"' ... actually two questions ... that is ... (1) why do we not have such universal agreement? and (2) why do we not have the active involvement of a virtuous, well informed, interested and accountable electorate?
Not sure on either ... maybe there actually is universal agreement but it's that second question that gives folks trouble. Maybe some just don't think that having good government is important, at least not enough to commit to all those things ... "I'd like to, honest I would, but Mister Bob, where's a body to find the time? Being actively involved and staying well informed is demanding ... hard work!"
With over half a million residing in our least populous state and 300 million folks now living in the fifty, it's easy to conclude that one person is of no consequence or can't make a difference. So, while it's a limited and flawed perspective, my guess that many see no compelling reason to be interested in government, what's being done or how ... good or bad.
More to the point, government has a Brobdingnagian amount of competition for our interest ... sports and entertainment, sex, school, church, work, money, travel ... fishing, the weather, computers and blogging.
Ask the more than 30 million of us if we have a genuine and vested interest in the long term well being of our community, state, and country and my guess is you'll get and almost universal "Yes!" ... "Of Course," or words to that effect. Well, there are more than 30 million of us ... something like 308 million, just checking to see who's paying attention. Unfortunately, the long, expanded answer for too many of us includes "so long as it doesn't interfere with my making money and having fun!"
I don't know the answer but that's the way it seems to me ... we each have our own impression and no doubt those who share mine can express it better. Everything's FineOh MyViews range from "Everything's fine!" to "Things are so bad I just don't want to think about it."
Well, what about being virtuous and accountable? I didn't forget those, but danged if I want to upset anybody ... we'll get back to them just as soon as I find my 20 foot pole!!
Well, actually ... the way I see it, good government requires good folks running things ... folks what are virtuous and accountable ... and that requires good folks deciding who those folks are, that is, the electorate. Garbage in ... garbage out ... if undesirables are doing the electing, undesirables will be the ones elected! Tell me it ain't so ...
I'm like Dr. Ben ... just not as smart ... that is to say, "the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others" ... what do you think?
Before joining Elvis and leaving the building, one thought that keeps begging for attention concerns what just one person can do if they're interested, and get actively involved.
BedWindowAll of us have read or heard about some great or personal tragedy prompting someone to passionately champion a cause ... it's more common than it is rare, methinks. They make such a clatter, folks spring from their beds to see what's the matter ... then join in the fight, ... and dramatic positive change often occurs as a result.
It's only natural that we applaud such efforts ... they truly deserve our praise, and besides, such stories make us feel good too! A long time ago, Benjamin Franklin posited that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" ... not sure if he was the first. It's a rotten shame that folks have to wait until tragedy strikes to become interested and get involved ... to make such a clatter ... maybe if they had earlier so done, we'd have fewer tragedies.
That the laws and penalties relating to speeding and drunk driving have been inadequate, and enforcement too lax are matters of long standing record ... as is the public's knowledge of their dangers. Strides have been made in increasing public awareness, strengthening the laws, and reducing incidence rates ... with much of the credit going to such champions who became involved ... only after losing loved ones as a result of accidents involving speed and/or alcohol. . Perhaps more to the point are the champions in the fight against drugs ... illegal and prescribed ... who became involved only after tragedy struck close to home ... how different things might have otherwise been. While not the story of a resulting champion, perhaps saddest of all was the report of a distraught mother who, upon hearing of her eight year old's having shot and killed a schoolmate, said ... "I told him not to take that gun to school ... it wasn't even his."
Don't wait until tragedy strikes ... become interested, get involved!
Rick Monday was one who didn't wait ... you remember him ... he was a Marine ... played baseball too ... for the Athletics, Cubs, and the Dodgers ... and is now a Dodger broadcaster. Monday FlagWell, one Sunday, Monday was playing center field for the Cubs in a game at Dodger Stadium ... between the top and bottom of the fourth, two guys ran out into left center and proceeded to douse an American flag with lighter fluid ... cutting to the chase, Rick ran over, faster than Jesse Owens, scooping it up and away before they could burn it. Tragedy was avoided! That was April 25, 1976, the year of our bicentennial.
Many call it the "Greatest Play in Baseball History" ... his attitude was that "anyone would have done the same thing" ... maybe then, not today! We were taught to honor and respect the flag ... never to let it touch the ground. The very notion of flag desecration should be repugnant to every American and surely our laws should protect us from vermin who would so spit on our country.
Well it did on 25 April, 1976 ... the Flag Protection Act had been passed by Congress eight years earlier in response to flag burning demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War ... almost all of the states followed suit.
However, in 1989, the High Court ruled 5-4 that public expression through flag burning was constitutionally protected. What a message it sends ... "If you don't like what your country is doing ... go buy a flag and burn it in protest. Worry not, you're entitled ... it's your constitutional right!" ... what an outrage!!
Another tragedy demanding our involvement, methinks!
Jo Ann EmersonOrrin HatchRenewed efforts are currently being made for a constitutional amendment ... Jo Ann Emerson has introduced legislation in the House that would restore to Congress the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag ... a companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch, later this month. The Joint Resolution reads, “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
We can make a difference ... please contact your senators and representative urging them to actively support this legislation so that it can be approved and submitted to the states for ratification.
Some of the enlightened have called me the "2,000 Year Old Man" ... Oh Mybeing that old wouldn't be too bad if they could guarantee that I would look and feel like I was 100, like I do now! Back when I was a boy, we wouldn't dare let the flag touch the ground ... a tradition going back to before our independence, methinks.
The National Association of Secretaries of State's 1999 New Millennium Report found that our youth believe government and elections are irrelevant to things about which they care. Scary ... if that don't grab your britches, nothing will!! That, and more, on page two ...
Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't always old ... as kids, we always looked forward to being age 21 ... that magical age when we were deemed adults and could do we wanted without asking permission.FDR Declars WarI became interested in war when I was three ... heard the President's "a date which will live in infamy" speech ... wanted to be a soldier and kill Japs ... had to wait until 1962 to serve my country, but by then I didn't want to kill nobody, 'cept maybe the Drill Instructor. I was in bed with the measles when he died ... heard a report on a local station ... nobody would believe me until it was confirmed several hours later.
BedI was born during FDR's second of four terms and became interested in politics when I was four ... listening to Eugene Talmadge on the radio and at picnics; him and his bright red galluses(my first big word) ... wanted to vote for him, like Mama and Daddy ... had to wait until 1960 to vote, and by then it was too late ... Mister Gene died in 1946.
In our infinite wisdom, we extended the right of franchise to 18 year old kids in 1971 ... I suppose it was in recognition of their being well informed, interested, and accountable young adults and that it would improve our government.
I'm sure most of the under 21 crowd thought as much .and said so too ... albeit few had yet to read Houseman's poem. After we reached the magical age, most of us stopped thinking about such things ... but until then, it seemed so unfair and preoccupied the thinking of many. No, not voting ... drinking and doing things that you weren't allowed, at least not without permission.
AnnMy first intended and I were to be married in the First Presbyterian Church on Easter Sunday ... a big wedding was planned, church reserved, and all that ... but, a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum and things didn't quite work out as planned.
It's a long story that's done been told but the short of it is that we eloped so that she could join me in Europe during the last six months of my enlistment ... upsetting 'bout everybody, methinks, especially her father. We ran into one minor problem ... she was twenty and couldn't marry without her parents permission!
Well, so much for eloping, that was that ... or it would have been were it not for the nice lady handling the Marriage Licenses over at the Court House saying "I will issue the license if you will swear that you're pregnant" ... I told her I was willing to swear to that, but she wasn't talking to me! And so she did, this virgin love of mine, though her name was not Mary. It didn't matter to the lady ... we told her the truth ... she said "don't worry about it, now I can issue the license ... you complied with the law."
Young VotersSurely, the popular notion and argument that if you're old enough to serve and put put your life on the line for your country, then you're old enough to drink holds water, or alcohol, as the case may be. I did neither until I was 21.
Voting, methinks, is a horse of a different breed, demanding skill sets and judgments most don't yet possess and would have been rejected by a virtuous and responsible electorate as pure insanity. There is no magic age; 18, 21, or 65 ... but if we are to use a minimum to determine eligibility, let it be one where the vast majority can be expected to be reasonably well qualified for the task at hand.
What's did is did ... good government continues to demand the active involvement of a virtuous electorate ... well informed, interested and accountable, regardless of changes in its demographics. Best I can tell, voting habits haven't changed that much since 1972 ... there have been fluctuations but the percentage of the voting aged population actually voting in presidential elections has remained in the lower fifties ... with highs of 55.2% in 1972 and 55.3% in 2004 ... falling below 50% only once ... 49.1% in 1996.
Campaign ButtonAs expected, the media attention given National Campaigns has a dramatic impact ... in non-presidential years, voting percentages are relatively constant, ranging from 36.4% to 39.8% ... perhaps a reasonable first estimate of the core population that is active and interested in the exercising of their franchise
Presidential Elections
Voting Age PopulationElected
YEAR Population Registered
Registered Voted Voted
Non-Presidential Elections
Voting Age Population
YEAR Population Registered
Registered Voted Voted

The young adults responded with 50% percent of those aged 18 to 24 voting in the 1972 election ... but all that glitters ain't no tinsel on a Christmas tree ... the percentage generally declined thereafter with only 32% percent of that age group voted in 1996 ... same again in 2000, rebounding to 42% in 2004 and 44% in 2008.
The newness and hype surrounding the change in the minimum voting age most probably had a positive impact on participation in 1972 which would explain at least some of the subsequent decline ... candidates especially appealing to young adults (Gore and Obama) would seem to explain the later surge as but 20% voted in the 2006 non-presidential election.

The New Millennium Report, issued in 1999 by the National Association of Secretaries of State, found that our youth believe government and elections are not relevant to things about which they care. Other studies indicate that many feel uninformed about politics and the electoral process. ... a NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) study found only that one-third of high school seniors lack a "basic" understanding of how the American government operates ... however, the percentage of students who performed at or above the "proficient" level was only 13% ... up from 11% in the 2006 study.
Admittedly, things were different back in the day ... in my school, our government was comprehensively covered in eighth grade Civics as a required course with all but the very worst of students having a basic understanding and the vast majority becoming proficient or better. Demanding that students be proficient in a subject may no longer the standard but surely those lacking a basic understanding are not being graduated ... tell me, what were we thinking, giving them the right to vote?
No, not the young adults ... just those not proficient, especially the ones lacking a basic understanding!!! Statue Of Liberty
Interestingly, immigrants wishing to become enfranchised citizens have to pass a test. Thankfully, entitlement doesn't yet extend to driving an automobile ... you have to be responsible, accountable, and to some extent qualified.
Is not our freedom and survival as important?
Do not our parents care enough about their children to insist that teachers fail them unless they have mastered the material?
From any reasonable perspective, the picture painted by the studies and reports is alarming, if not totally unacceptable. No. I'm not being critical of our youth ... there are among them the leaders upon whose shoulders heavy burdens will be placed ... they have the energy, spirit and enthusiasm so vital to good government and the effecting of needed change. It is important to encourage those of our youth who have chosen to participate in the process to be active and diligent in their pursuit of virtue and good government.
PTAMine is a condemnation of those responsible for assuring that our children are well prepared as they start their journey, equipped with good solid values and a fundamentally sound education; family and educators alike. They may be well intending but from where I sit, the reports bespeak a tragedy of the first order ... one demanding we get involved! What say ye?
Well, Mister Bob, since everybody wants good government, you don't need me ... guess I'll go fishin' ... give me a holler when they git 'er done!
A genuine interest in the long term well being of our society ... do you have it? Talk’s cheap ... get involved!
Remember, one man's opinion is but that ... please share yours, together with your reaction to mine ... or any other comments you might have, in the General Discussion Area ... you just never know what might result from your clatter.
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