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19th Street South, Elmer, and a hamburger steak . . .

At some time in my preteen years, one of my sisters—the pretty one, the one named Lorene—married a man named Elmer, a tall slow-walking slow-talking quick-thinking fellow that would come to figure prominently in my life. The newly-weds lived for awhile in the city within walking distance from our house on Nineteenth Street South, then later went to live with his parent’s in south Mississippi. Elmer’s father was minister to a small church just a short walk from his home. I spent a summer vacation with them as a small boy, and another summer vacation with Elmer and Lorene after they bought a small farm, built a house on it and began farming. Those two vacations include thoughts and events that will be the subjects of numerous postings, each of which should be of vital interest to any viewer—honest—stay tuned!

This posting is all about me and Elmer and a hamburger steak—except for the lack of rhyming, that could be developed into a parody of Lobo’s song from the 1970s, Me and you and a dog named Boo. Maybe I should work on that—it could well be something for Ray Stevens to consider, similar to his songs about The streak—don’t look, Ethel—and Ahab, the Arab and others. I may work on the lyrics for a future posting—stay tuned!

Eating out was a rarity for me when I was a kid—we didn’t eat out because we couldn’t afford the cost—in fact, there were a few times that we didn’t eat in either, and many times that we ate sparingly—besides, the walk to a cafe would have been prohibitive. Although everything in Columbus, Mississippi in those days was within walking distance, we would have been hungry again by the time we returned home. There was no MacDonald’s, no Burger King, no Jack-in-the-Box, no Sonic and no Dairy Queen. In my town there were only two drive-in restaurants, only remotely related to those we have today. The two establishments had no drive-through services. People simply drove up and parked near the building and a carhop would come out, take the order and return with food and drinks.

Trust me when I say that my town had only two eat-outside-in-your-car restaurants—I should know, because I worked as a carhop at both of them for varying periods. Believe it or not, in those days Mississippi state law prohibited girls from working as carhops. I suppose our legislators felt that young girls would be subjected to harassment, up to and including suffering—shudder, shudder—a fate worse than death. You know, like loonies and flashers exposing themselves and showing pornographic photos through the window and committing various lewd acts and raping and beating carhops and similar untoward actions following arousal caused by a young girl in a low-cut blouse and French-cut shorts, leaning through an open car door window tempting men, usually dirty old men—-I think I’ll stop there—I’m becoming a bit excited just thinking about it.

In retrospect, I have decided that our legislators thought that young boys would never fall prey to such predators—either that or they considered it and discarded it—perhaps none of them had young sons, or perhaps they had sons but none needed or wanted to work. I am a living witness to the fact that young boys were and are far too often targeted by predators, even in the long ago of my preteen and teen years—I hasten to add that in my case they never were successful—they never hit the target. And yes, that’s a subject for a future posting if I ever manage to get around to it—stay tuned!

I have digressed from my subject, and I apologize—back to Elmer and my very first hamburger steak:

Elmer had business in town and invited me to go with him. Around noontime  he suggested that we have lunch at a local eatery. I remember the place clearly—it was located near the top of the river bluff on which Columbus is built, within sight of the bridge spanning the Tombigbee river. The restaurant was Garoffa’s Blue Front Cafe. The proprietor’s son, Johnny, was a senior in our high school, a first string football player that suffered a serious injury that left him crippled in one leg. He walked with a decided limp, but his deformity neither lessened the number of girls that seemed to always be around him nor his ability to make the most of their attentions—Johnny was, as was Wyatt Earp, a legend in his own time.

Kids in my day, at least in the circles in which I moved, were never asked what they wanted in a cafe. The adults pored over the menu and eventually selected the items that provided the most food at the lowest cost—in effect, they ordered from the price list rather than from the list of entrees. We kids were simply asked what we wanted on our burger. I didn’t care what they put on my burger, just so it had plenty of mayo slathered on, looking like ocean waves or rows of sand dunes.

Elmer was different—before that day I liked him—after that day I loved him. We entered the cafe and he said, Hey, Mikey, let’s belly up to the counter. We did, and he took a menu and handed me one, and following a brief glance at the menu he said Hey, that hamburger steak looks good–think you might want to try one?

My heart swelled, my pulse accelerated accordingly and when I finally found my voice I replied as nonchalantly as I could, and said something on the order of Yeah, why not, might as well. I had been spinning around on my stool soaking in my surroundings, and I purt near fell off when Elmer gave me the choice of a hamburger steak instead of asking me what I wanted on my burger.

The woman behind the counter smilingly placed a full-grown hamburger steak before me, served on a full-grown platter, covered with gravy and mushrooms and onions with a full-grown pile of french fries on the side. I tried mightily to transfer the entire load on that platter from outside me to inside me—I made a Herculean effort but try as I might I couldn’t handle that mountain of fries. I reluctantly left a few fries on the plate, but I walked out with every ounce of that huge hamburger steak—and none of it was in a doggy-bag.

That hamburger steak moment and that day qualify as one of the happiest days of my life. I was treated as an equal by Elmer, and in later years I received that same treatment throughout two summer vacations I spent with him and my sister.

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

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Declaration and covenant—dad and daughter . . .

Away back in 1995 my daughter, the one living at home at the time, slipped her bonds from her parents in San Antonio and migrated to Dallas to accept a position with a real estate corporation. She met a really nice guy and married him, and they now live near Dallas with their two children and a puppy. Before she left home I wrote the document below for her to sign—she never got around to signing it, but had she signed it she definitely would have compromised the conditions outlined in the covenant, and would have accepted and been subjected to the punishment outlined below.

I am posting this covenant to remind her of how far she has come, and to offer it to any father that may find himself in a similar position. I offer it freely, without need of recompense—just say thanks.

Declaration and Covenant

To any and all presents, to all who have gone before and to all who may come later, let it hereby, forthwith and forever be known that I, Kelley, being of sound mind (?) and body (!) and in no way under stress or duress on the part of any person or persons, known or unknown to me, living or otherwise, do hereby, hereon, herein and forever promise and swear that I will treat this magnificent sum of money (which is being tendered unto me by my omnipotent, beneficent, munificent and prescient ol’ pappy) in such manner that it will not hold itself at its present amount but that it will  increase under my administration, although it may from time to time be reduced in varying amounts for varying periods of time due to the many vagaries and exigencies of life, but it will then be restored to its original amount in the shortest length of time possible, but in no event later than one day following my next paycheck, said restoration to be accomplished by returning to the account (which I will establish) the amount withdrawn, plus an amount equal to ten percent of the amount withdrawn from the account, with the initial (and entire!) tendered amount of $500.00 to be placed in a Money Market account with Security Service Credit Union, San Antonio, Texas to draw interest at variable rates depending on the economy and to be maintained without charge to me provided my withdrawals  are limited to three or fewer per month, said withdrawals to be for nothing other than the purpose of paying just, legal and due (never overdue!) debts, and I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, without any hesitation, mental reservation, or secret evasion of mind in me whatsoever, that I am firmly determined to follow and perform everything to which I have promised and sworn, and if I fail to abide by the terms of this covenant I promise that I will, filled with remorse and shame and clad only in a smile, push a peanut with my nose from my father’s house to my sister’s house, a distance of one mile, repeating loudly all the way at 10-foot intervals (to be measured by my sister Debbie and witnessed by my friend Thelma) the phrase, “Pappy, you da most!”

So help me Hannah and keep me steadfast in due performance of all the above.

Signed __________________  Date ___________

Witness  ________________   Date ___________

An afterthought: Who would have thought it! Some folks actually push peanuts with their nose, as shown in this photo. I found no female peanut pusher photos, but I did find a competition that ended in crowning a king and a queen in a peanut pushing contest. Had my daughter acquiesced to the punishment outlined above, she may well have entered the book of Guinness World Records as the first naked woman to push a peanut with her nose, regardless of the distance involved.

Alas, fame is fleeting, and one should reach for the brass ring at every opportunity! The fellow pictured here pushed a peanut with his nose seven miles to #10 Downing Street in England to protest his student loan debt—I understand that he is now known as The student with no nose, and adding insult to injury, his protest was ignored by the Prime Minister of England.


 
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Posted by on May 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Royal reflections on a wedding . . .

The purpose of this posting is to formally offer my congratulations—somewhat belated—to my daughter Cindy and her husband Michael on their conversion, during my reign, of some 19 years of conjugal bliss to the status of a lawfully wedded couple under the auspices of the Great State of Texas, and to thank the many family members and friends that gathered for their wedding at a lakeside home in a rural province near San Antonio, Texas (the city of Seguin) in October of 2009. My expression of thanks is also somewhat belated—hey, being the King of Texas is not an easy job—I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!

Check out my Royal Reflections here:

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/about/

Beautiful photos and a cogent analysis of details—intelligent even—of the wedding may be found at:

http://cindyandmichael.wordpress.com/ (Come on, join the party—a trip to Seguin is well worth your while).

And you owe it to yourselves to view and enjoy some of the world’s finest photography here:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/

A letter to my daughter

Dear Cindy,

I have never seen, nor do I expect to see in the future, a more beautiful assemblage of people than those you brought together for your wedding, regardless of the venue. The beauty of that event—the families of the bride and groom, their guests and their families and the many unrelated friends that came from far and wide to honor the event—has no parallel, at least not for me, and not at this point in my lifetime of memories.

A parallel may appear at some time in the future, but I doubt it. In my learned opinion the assemblage of people at your wedding ranks right up there—nay, surpasses—that of Hollywood’s Academy Awards, the Cannes film festival, the Country Music Awards, People magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue, and any other ranking of beautiful people that may exist.

For the benefit of any doubters that may find their way to this posting, I hasten to add that beauty, as applied to people, begins internally—it comes from the inner being and appears to others as a mirrored reflection of one’s soul (dang, I love it when I talk like that!).

As for Photoshop’s contribution to the event, I give it a total of one percent with the remaining 99 percent attributed to the talents and superhuman work you and Michael and others expended to make your wedding a success. Had I worn a vest, I would probably take that one percent contribution away from Photoshop and give you the full one hundred percent.

Your wedding gathering was—and in memories and printed images still is—a wondrous assemblage of a royal family and others. It showcases the bride and groom, the king and queen, the royal minister and his wife, the royal family’s members including our princesses and princes and their families, the bride groom’s family, and other friends and families from near and far, both in time and distance.


The assemblage included court jesters and noble knights, lovely and loving couples, cruel temptresses and impossible loves. I won’t linger on the cruel temptresses and impossible loves, but you can be assured that such may have been present—they can be found in any significant gathering of people, beautiful and otherwise.

I used the term assemblage because its definition best describes your wedding. I only added the term event to a machine or object: Assemblage: a machine or object or event made of pieces fitted together, as in a vast assemblage of gears and cogs, a work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects—the action of gathering or fitting things together. The phrase a work of art says it all—that definition satisfies the most exacting critic of all—the King of Texas!

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

 

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Third time is charm—but not always . . .

In March of 1969, I had the privilege of taking a 13-month tour of South Vietnam with all expenses paid—my tour began in the the capital city of Saigon and ended at Da Nang Air Base in April of 1970. While at Da Nang I made two week-end visits to Hong Kong. The first was rather harrowing, but turned out okay. To read my posting on the first flight click here.

The second week-end trip was even more harrowing, and I wisely declined  all invitations for additional trips. Had another aircraft been available—another model a bit less vintage, I perhaps would have returned—no, belay that—the only circumstance that would have gotten me on a third flight to Hong Kong would be the imminent fall of Da Nang to North Vietnamese regulars. In that case I would have made a third flight to Hong Kong on any conveyance that could get me off the ground, whether on the Gooney Bird, in a lawn-mower-powered ultra-light or under a parasail towed by a child in a rowboat.

This posting will reveals the details of the second flight, details that would cause anyone, particularly my mother’s youngest son, to forego a third flight to Hong Kong.

Saturday dawned bright and clear at Da Nang, South Korea on a day in 1969,  and we lifted off for our flight to Hong Kong, the star of the Orient. We were ensconced in a C-47 transport plane affectionately nicknamed Gooney Bird. Powered by two reciprocating engines, our Gooney Bird was assembled in the late 1930s or the early 1940s—a durable bird, but not exactly a state-of-the-art conveyance. However, its age and its continued use by the United States Air Force were testaments to its reliability.

Our flight from DaNang to Hong Kong was routine, uneventful, with nothing to portend the nature of our return flight to South Vietnam. We arrives at Hong Kong in mid-morning and passed the the day shopping—I purchased a a reel-to-reel tape recorder, one of the finest units available at the time, along with a plentiful supply of tape, some jewelry for my wife, and a wooden model of a Chinese junk—the recorder was junked, the jewelry is part my wife’s heritage to our three daughters, and I’m still stuck with the Chinese junk—it’s still accumulating dust and it’s still an eyesore. I can’t decide what to do with it—I’ve offered it as a present to several people—all expressed their appreciation of the offer, but none accepted it. I hate to give it up, and I hate to keep it—bummer!

But I have digressed—back to our return flight:

We left Kong Kong in mid-morning on Sunday. Our flight was routine until a short while after passing the point-of-no-return to Hong Kong—regardless of circumstances we were required to press on to Da Nang—if an inflight emegency should 0ccur, our options would be to ditch into the ocean, land somewhere in China, either on an island or on the mainland, or land somewhere in North Vietnam.

An emergency did in fact occur, and a mayday call—a call for assistance—was made to DaNang. Our #2 engine—that’s the engine on the left if one is facing the nose of the aircraft—began coughing, a series of sounds indicating a problem with fuel intake or ignition problems. The coughs were infrequent and minor at first, but soon  became more frequent and longer in duration. I was privileged to be seated at the window closest to that engine, and each time it coughed the propellers would stop, only for a tiny instant at first, but the stop  was clearly visible.

Our loadmaster told us that a mayday message had been sent to DaNang and that a Navy PBY, an aircraft with the ability to land on water as well as land, had been dispatched to meet us in the event that our aircraft had to be ditched in the ocean. The loadmaster began moving all our luggage and our Hong Kong goodies to the cargo door. I asked him why, and he said our load had to be lightened to help the Gooney Bird remain aloft in case we were reduced to only one engine. I protested—mildly, of course—and was told something to the effect that the load had to be lightened, one way or another, and that it was either my new reel-to-reel tape recorder or me. Naturally I chose to remain on board and sacrifice the recorder.

However—and that’s a really important however—I, my tape recorder, the passengers, the crew and the aircraft landed safely at DaNang. The ailing engine stopped completely several times–all three prop blades became clearly visible for a few seconds—but the engine recovered enough each time to contribute to the other engine’s efforts.

Following the loadmaster’s explanation of our current situation and his description of possible changes to that situation, the passenger section became eerily silent, with each of us enveloped in our own thoughts. I venture that my thoughts were identical to the thoughts of others.

Yep, I prayed. I prayed to my god and to the gods of others, regardless of the nature of their gods. I prayed that the engine would recover, that the PBY would arrive soon, that ditching would not be necessary, and that we would land safely in South Vietnam. If their prayers were anything like mine, then they made promises they knew the would not—or possibly could not—keep.

I have no doubt that our combined prayers were answered, all except my prayer that the engine would recover—it was still coughing mightily when we landed at DaNang. The PBY soon arrived—its pilot made a 180 degree turn and placed his aircraft near our starboard wingtip—a position taken in order to observe the ailing engine—and escorted us to a safe landing. Made all the gods bless PBYs and their pilots!

A quick aside at this point, just in case a viewer is unsure of the difference between left and right in nautical terms—port is left, starboard is right. Running lights on vessels are red and green—red is for left side, green is for right side. Here’s a memory aid that may help one remember which is which—memory aids seem to be items for which I have an ever-increasing need as I advance in years!

Just remember that port, left and red are short words with fewer letters than starboard, right and green, so port and red are on the left side—starboard and green are on the right side.

Got it?

Below is an image of today’s Da Nang—it did not look like that when I was there!

Speaking of inflight aircraft malfunctions, Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic, created a skit to use in his comedy routines, a skit dealing with an inflight emergency on a commercial flight in the United States. An engine caught fire inflight, and a little old man seated near the burning engine prayed long and loudly for his god to rectify the situation, saying “Please get me on the ground safely and I’ll give half of everything I own to the church.”

The fire was instantly extinguished and the plane landed safely.

When the little old man deplaned he was met by his minister and the minister said, “Brother, I heard what you said up there! I heard you tell God that if he got you on the ground safely you would give half of everything you own to the church, and I know you’re going to start right now!”

The little man said, “Nope, I made a better deal—I just now told God that if I ever get back on another one of those things, I’ll give Him everything I own!

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

 

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