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Jane Russell, 38D, The Outlaw, Air Force, Hitchhiker . . .

Jane Russell, the tall brunette movie actress with the dark eyes and the 38-D bra is dead. Born in 1921, she died on Monday, 28 February from respiratory failure—she was 89 years old. When the news of her death was widely reported on television my memory took a long journey into the past. I felt that my thoughts of the star might be of interest to my viewers, hence this posting, and I know that at the very least it will be of interest to my daughters—they have never heard of this incident, a memorable event in their father’s life.

The year was 1946 and I was fourteen years old—wait, let me check that—1946 versus 1932—6 minus two = 4, and 4 minus 3 = 1. Yep, that’s 14 and in 1946 the Dixie Theater in Columbus, Mississippi, well ahead of its time, would not allow me to see Jane Russell in The Outlaw because of my impressionable youth, yet black-and-white movie stills in the display frames outside and the ones placed on easels in the theater lobby placed lots of emphasis on the twin outcroppings that brought fame to the statuesque brunette.

Had the theater been a carnival sideshow, I could have sneaked around back and crawled in under the canvas wall of the tent. That method had worked in the past with similar sideshows of carnivals that came to the city’s fairgrounds, but was of no use in this matter. And had I been accompanied by an adult family member, I would have been allowed to see the movie, but I knew that it was useless to ask my mother or one of my elder sisters, and my brother was off somewhere in the northern climes. And my exalted stepfather, Papa John, had once again shattered and deserted our little family and retreated to the Fraternal Order of Eagles club in Midland, Texas where he spent most of his nights losing at the club’s poker tables.

Eventually I despaired of seeing the movie and it finished its stint in Columbus and departed—it was heart wrenching because I was an avid western fan and that was the only reason I wanted to see it—yeah, right! While it was showing, I made numerous trips to drool—oops, I mean dream—over the still photos, and if the ticket seller did not look familiar I would try again to buy a ticket, but I was rebuffed each time.

Now fast-forward to Chanute Air Force Base located on the outskirts of Rantoul, Illinois, a small town some 125 miles south of Chicago. Much of the US Air Force technical training was centered at the sprawling air base, and I arrived there in the spring of 1949 to train as an aircraft electrician and engine mechanic. Chanute AFB was closed in 1993 by the Department of Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

I left Chanute a year later in the spring of 1950 after finishing my training and headed for home in Mississippi for a 10-day leave en route, and then on to San Francisco to board an Army troop ship bound for Yokohama, Japan to start a three-year tour in the Far East. That tour was shortened by a year because of the US intervention in the Korean War.

But I digress—back to Jane Russell and her movie, The Outlaw. While in casual status waiting for my classes to start, I learned that the movie was playing in Champagne, the site of the University of Illinois some 25 miles from Chanute. I had no access to private transportation, neither mine nor that of others, and I couldn’t count on buses or trains to get me to Champagne and back overnight, so I opted for the only transportation available. I walked to Rantoul and found the highway leading to Champagne and assumed the position of a hitchhiker and positioned my thumb properly to show my need.

Hitchhiking in those days was somewhat different than now. The papers and radio waves and billboards were not filled with information on serial murderers, kidnappings, rape and child abuse. There were no Amber Alerts, or Jessica’s Laws, nothing worth mentioning that would make drivers hesitate to pick up a boy-child hitchhiker pretending to be a member of the US armed forces. Yes, I was in my US Air Force uniform, the one with all the stripes indicating my lofty rank—one small stripe on each sleeve, a Private First Class—hey, don’t laugh—after all, I was in the first class of all the privates in the Air Force. That should count for something!

I towered around five feet, six inches tall and weighed in at 110 pounds, an image unlikely to strike fear into any driver whether young or elderly, male or female, gay or straight and regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. My thumb was elevated and pointed in the proper direction for no more than ten minutes before a kindly driver opened his door to me, drove me to Champagne and dropped me off in front of the theater where The Outlaw was being featured.

In retrospect I humbly state, with all humility aside that I was a cute little dude, an innocent baby-faced wayfarer, and that appearance could well have been the reason that I fared so well with the hitchhiking process. I have not retained any of those credentials today—well, perhaps the height, but the innocent baby face and the low poundage have gone the way of all good things, the victims of passing time.

Well, that’s it—that’s my tale of Jane Russell and the black-and-white movie The Outlaw. After dreaming of seeing the movie for three years I came, I saw, and I conquered my obsession, but many years later it returned tenfold. I found the movie on a VHS tape cassette and rescued it from its humble position on a garage-sale table. It now has a featured position in my collection of similar western-themed movies—nay, belay that—no  movie is similar to The Outlaw—thanks to Jane Russell it stands in a class all by itself. I have a very vivid recollection of Jane Russell and one of her 3-D films. That’s the subject for a future posting, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Letter to Dockie, November 1993 . . .

Sixteen years ago I was pulling night-duty at San Antonio’s International Airport, waiting for and working flights coming in from Mexico. Since I had long ago mastered any and all U. S. Customs rules and regulations as they related to my duties, I felt justified in passing the time and staying awake by writing letters to friends and relatives. I began this letter that evening, and added to it over a period of several days and sent it snail-mail on the above date.

November 13,1993

Hi, Dockie and Jackie,

Don’t faint, it’s just me. I realize you folks are not very accustomed to getting letters from me (especially since this is the only one I ever sent you), but the shock should wear off pretty soon. We found the picture of Philip in the flower bush. I mean we found the picture which shows Philip in the flower bush, not that we found it in the flower bush. I figured I would send some words of wisdom along with it. The picture has faded a lot over the years. It was made 18 years ago, so I guess it’s in pretty good shape considering the time that has passed.

I’m working a swing shift at the airport, from 3-11 p.m., and have a lot of free time on my hands. Well, actually I’m not working 3-11 today, I’m working 8-5, but usually I am 3-11. There’s not much to do and I really get bored, so I decided to use the time to write letters and bore the people I send them to.

I’ve written my sisters more since I started working nights than I have in my entire life. I’ve even written Aubrey and Evelyn and Winnie and Clyde and Bill several times. One thing about the letters I need to warn you of—they are long. Writing on a computer is a little like running downhill, eating peanuts or having sex—once you start, it’s hard to stop.

We really had a great time in Georgia, especially at the cookout. Seeing you and Jackie and Jean was a real treat, and seeing that gaggle of kids and grand-kids and in-laws and outlaws was great. Of course, the years weigh a bit heavier when you see that the kids now have kids, and their kids will soon be having kids, and you wonder where the years went. I can remember so clearly us playing jacks in Montgomery. I’m not sure but I think I remember winning, at least some of the games. Tell you what—you and Jackie come on out for a visit, and I’ll buy some jacks and challenge you to a game—I think I can still beat you!

Cindy spent 10 days with us recently, from October 23 until November 2. She left this past Tuesday, but has already bought tickets to return during Christmas. The house sure seemed empty for awhile after she left, and we’re already looking forward to her return in December. She is doing well in her work in Virginia—in fact she will make more than her ol’ pappy this year if she keeps on like she is going. The only problem is that she has learned how to make money, but has not yet learned how to hold on to any of it. When she masters that, she will have it made. Her sister Kelley is running her a close second on that—not in making the money, but in spending it.

I think the people in Mexico are still talking about the visit you and the others made to Laredo. In fact, in Mexican folklore they refer to you as “la senorita loca con la pela rubia y el sombrero gigante,” which means “the crazy lady with the blond hair and the giant hat.” When you folks come out, we’ll try to fit in a trip to the border so you can terrorize the natives some more.

I just got back to my office. One of the ladies I work with is a garage sale freak like me, and we went hunting garage sales. They were supposed to have a giant sale at Trinity Baptist Church today, so we went there first. There were at least 100 cars there, so we figured it would be a great sale, but we couldn’t find where they were set up. We finally asked a motorcycle cop at the corner about it, and he said that the cars were there for a funeral, and that he didn’t know anything about a garage sale. I guess we have sunk to a new low, trying to get a really good bargain at a funeral.

We finally found several small yard sales before we had to return to work. I bought a 35-millimeter slide projector for $2.00. Does it work? I don’t know yet, haven’t tried it, but even if it doesn’t work I’m only out two bucks, and I’ll probably value it at $50 and donate it to Goodwill Industries and take a tax deduction, so how can I lose?

How are the goats doing? Boy, we really have some ritzy relatives—they keep a BMW parked in the yard just so their goats will have something to climb on! Alta and I liked your house, and you have it so nicely decorated. She is still talking about her visit with you. I guess you two sat up and talked all night.

Hope your Cocker Spaniel is alright now. She is a friendly little thing —well, not so little, I guess. And I know now not to blow the horn when I come to visit, or the white elephant will come out and chew off my bumpers. You call him a bulldog, but he’s more elephant-sized than dog-sized.

I told you that the letters are long. You’re probably getting an Excedrin headache from reading this. You know you can always stop and come back to it later if you want to. Of course the news will be that much older by the time you return.

Did we have our patio covered when you were out here? I don’t think we did. Anyhow, it is covered now, and we are going to extend the patio cover across the back of the house, probably about 50 feet all together. Hope to get it finished by the end of November, before the weather turns cold and wet. We had a cold spell last week. The temperature got down to about 27 degrees, but just for a few hours. We put all the plants in the garage and haven’t put them back out yet. Actually we have a 2-cat garage. They stay there at night, and are in and out of the house all day. They are having a ball climbing the ficus trees in the garage.

Took the tom cat (Dumas Walker) to the vet yesterday for his shots. It took three of us to give him the immunizations—two to hold him down and one to use the needle. That cat does not like to go to the vet. We gave him a tranquilizer before we took him in, but all it did was make him mad. I mean he was a real tiger, but normally he is a very gentle and loving cat—spends a lot of his time lying on my chest while I’m watching television. After seeing him in action at the vet’s office yesterday, I don’t feel quite as comfortable having him lying there.

I suppose I’ve rambled on long enough, so I’ll close. Tell everybody hello for us, and give Jean our love. We know that you have a tough row to hoe, and you are doing it alone. We’ve never been in that situation, but we understand your problems and frustrations, and support you in everything you do.

Lots of love,

Janie and Mike

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2009 in Family, friends, Humor, pets

 

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A tale of two sisters . . .

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of—oops, wrong story—I’ll start over:

I’m posting this letter in its entirety, just as it was written, mailed and received more than 15 years ago, on the off-chance that the relationship at that time between me and two of my older sisters might be of interest. Fifteen years ago we were the only members left from a family comprised of two parents, one step-father and seven children (two boys and five girls). Not all at the same time, of course, because the total fluctuated with new births and deaths. Now the family has dwindled to one—I’m the last one standing—that’s not too unusual, since I was the last one to join the family. It’s a classic case of “last one out, last one standing.”

San Antonio Int’l Airport
February 22, 1994

Dear schwesters,

Schwesters is German for sisters. It gets worse. You are schwesters to me, but to Alta you are schwesterschafts, or sisters-in-law. And you thought being a schwester was tough! So that’s our German lesson for today and will probably be our only German lesson, because I’ve forgotten almost everything else (except for a few of the naughty words).

President’s Day has come and gone, and I’m sure we are all the better for it. A school teacher was telling her class about George Washington, and how he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” A kid in the back row (probably little Johnny) hollered, “Yeah, but he married a widow.” That was funny when I was a kid. I never really figured out just why, but it was funny. We told it over and over, and it got funnier every time we told it.

It’s 7:30 in the evening and I’m at work, waiting on a flight from Mexico City. I worked 8-5 today, but stayed to work the 6:30 flight on overtime. So the 6:30 flight is now an 8:00 flight. I guess they had a maintenance problem and left Mexico City late. I sure wouldn’t have stayed if I had known it would be late. I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Hey, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow is up to 40 million dollars, so maybe by the time you read this I’ll be up to my ears in money. Don’t really know what I would do with it. Can only drive one car at a time, or live in one house at a time, or wear more than one pair of pants or one pair of shoes at a time. I guess I could have more than one wife at a time, except Alta would take a very dim view of that. Speaking of wives, Oscar Wilde has been quoted as saying, “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.” No doubt about it, that Oscar was a clever fellow with words.

A guy who recently won $7 million here in Texas was told that $7 million won’t  buy happiness. He said, “Maybe not, but it’ll make one helluva down payment.” Or as Jackie Gleason said when told that money won’t buy happiness, “Just give me the money and I’ll do my own shopping.”

February 25, 1994

Well, I’ve been gone 3 days but now I’m back, and I’ll bet you didn’t even miss me!  It’s Friday now, about 3 p.m., and I’m working the day shift. And I’m NOT up to my ears in lottery winnings. The $40 million was won by a black 36-year-old female city bus driver in Houston, Texas. Only one winner. Her first check was for $2,100,000, and she gets one just like that one every year for the next 19 years. Pretty hard to take, huh!

The lady I work with (Doris) went home with me for lunch and we stopped at a garage sale. I bought a large (14 inch wide) Fostoria punch bowl with 15 cups for $30. I asked the lady before I bought it if it had any chips, and she said no. I got to the car with it and found a chipped place on the rim, under the piece of masking tape that had the price marked on it. So I took it back, pointed out the chipped place, and she gave back my money. I wanted to tell her what Mama always said, that “You’ll go to the bad place just as quick for lying as for stealing,” but I didn’t. Maybe it was just coincidence that the tape was placed exactly over the chip. Yeah, sure it was! If you believe that, you’ll believe anything, right?

We had lunch with Alta, got back to work, and Doris had a new price list on Fostoria that came in the mail while we were at lunch. The bowl is listed for $240 and the cups are $14 each. In other words, I could have bought $450 worth of Fostoria for $30, and didn’t because of a teeny-tiny chip! So I called Alta, gave her directions to the garage sale and told her to go buy the bowl and cups, and to play ignorant and try to get them cheaper because of the chipped place. It’s probably been sold by now, but she is going by there just in case. I’ll let you know how this turns out, probably in a few minutes. Isn’t this exciting? See how bored I am? And I don’t even like Fostoria!

Told you it would just be a few minutes. Alta just called. She bought the Fostoria, but didn’t have any luck trying to jack down the price. So I now have an extensive collection of Fostoria – 16 pieces! Are either of you interested? That doesn’t look right. Is either of you interested? Still doesn’t look right. Anyway, if either of you is/are interested, I’ll make you a great deal – just $300 for all 16 pieces. You’ll get a 33 percent discount of the estimated value and I’ll make a profit of 900 percent—such a deal! Just don’t look under that piece of masking tape!

I’m kidding, of course. I’ll let either of you have the set for $250. And if that’s too much, I’ll give it to either of you, but you’ll have to pick it up in person at our house. And if you both show up, I, with the wisdom of King Solomon, will divide the 16  pieces equally – one half of the bowl for each of you, and seven and one-half cups for each of you. That way you’ll have to get together when you want to party. You can stick the bowl and one cup back together, then split them up again afterward.

February 26, 1994

Looks like I’ll never finish this one. Just to bring you up to date on the Fostoria punch bowl—I had a time finding the chipped place on the rim when I got home. Seems like the “lady” sanded down the rough spot after I left, and told Alta it didn’t have any chipped places. I guess I’m going to have to add garage sales people to my list of less than trustworthy persons. They rank right up there with used-car salesmen, insurance agents and realtors.

The Winter Olympics are over, and I’m sure you’re as happy as I am. I’ve had enough of figure skaters to last me forever. Did you hear about the commercial Tonya Harding has with a baton company? “Who says nothing beats a great pair of L’Eggs?”

All the medal winners in figure skating are coming to the Alamodome in San Antonio in June. Alta wants to get tickets, but she’ll have to get someone else to go with her. Too many people, and too much hassle getting into town and back out again. They built the Alamodome right in the middle of downtown San Antonio where parking was already at a premium. People use Park and Ride areas, then take a city bus to the Dome. And they wait sometimes for two hours and more for transportation after the game is over. Not me. No way. I’ll stay home and watch it on television.

Did I mention that I got a scanner for my computer? Well, I did, about two weeks ago. I now have the capability to scan in just about anything, change it in just about any way I want, then print it out. Maybe I’ll add a few photos to this letter— a picture of the house perhaps, so you’ll be able to tell the taxi driver where to stop when you come to visit. Lauren just had some really nice school pictures made so I’ll try a shot of her also, and maybe one of Landen.

The scanner is a lot of fun. I put in a recent snapshot of some friends, a couple we knew in Donna, and spruced them up a little—took all the lines from the lady’s face and neck, touched up her hairdo a bit, de-wrinkled him and took the light reflections out of his glasses, straightened his eyebrows and gave him a full head of hair (he is nearly bald). Boy, they look great! Yep, I’m having fun with the scanner, but I’m not making any money with it, naturally.

It’s about 3 p.m., and I’m at work. Nothing to do, as usual. We have three flights from 9 to 11, 1 at 3 p.m., then nothing else until 6:30 p.m. Saturdays are nothing days, because we do no administrative functions, just work international arrivals, and since they drop down to almost nothing on Saturday, our biggest problem is staying awake. I guess I’ll stay and work the 6:30 flight—not because I want to and not necessarily because I’m needed—it’s mostly because I get paid double-time for the overtime and it counts on retirement, so I’m not turning any of it down.

Did I mention I bought a barbecue grill? Did. Didn’t want to but I did. The results are not worth the effort of getting ready and cooking and cleaning afterward. But I got out-voted on the matter. Alta wanted me to get one, so I did. I feel a bit better about it because I discovered a great way to clean the grill. No muss, no fuss. We grilled two nights ago and I put the cooking grate between newspapers, hosed them down and left the grate in the yard overnight. My dog Mikki got the paper off and you wouldn’t believe how clean she left that grate—it was ready for the next cookout.

What is it they say about necessity being the mother of invention? I have accidently invented a no-cost hands-off way to clean barbecue grill grates. Well, there would be some initial cost to my system if a person didn’t already have a dog, because they’d have to go out and buy one – unless they could borrow one from a neighbor. Come to think of it, that might well be an ideal entrepreneurial enterprise, renting out dogs overnight to serve as barbecue grate cleaners, with special rates for a full weekend. I know there are some companies which have rental guard dogs, so maybe the guard dogs could be utilized for my system and do double duty for the renter.

Hey, don’t laugh! Just look how much money the hula-hoop and the slinky and the pet rock made for the people who invented them. And I saw on television that some people in a small town near San Antonio have begun selling manure—no, not artificial manure but real manure, bono fide manure, as in horse-apples and cow-pies (dried, of course) sculpted in the shapes of animals. They give them such names as turdles (get it?), doo-doo birds (get it?), barnyard bagels (get it?), cow-pie pigeons and other shapes and names I don’t remember.

The odiferous objects d’art are intended to be placed in flower and vegetable gardens to enrich the soil as they slowly dissolve in the rain and sun and wind. I know – you’re wondering who did the sculpting, and how. So am I, but I don’t want to know bad enough to call the station and ask. Anyway, I believe if people will go for manure in the shape of animals, my COMBINATION BARBECUE  CLEANER AND BURGLAR  CHASER should be a winner.

Guess I better wind this thing down. I’ll take it home, add some photos on Sunday and mail it on Monday.

Lots of love, from all of us and ours to all of you and yours.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2009 in Family, Humor

 

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