Remembering V-J Day – August 4, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Sixty-nine years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 80,000 people instantly.

When I heard the report on the radio, I sat on the back steps of our home and shed tears of joy. I did not realize the enormity or the horror of the event at the time. To me, it meant my three brothers, who had served in the military, would soon return after an absence of over three years. (We dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki days later.)

Our neighbor’s precocious 5-year-old boy came running toward me, excitedly waving his little arms in the air. “We dropped a bomb on Japan and now my Daddy is coming home and everybody!”

The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, and papers were later signed in September to make it official.

My parents and I did not know back then that one of my brothers, who had fought on Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands of the south Pacific, was on his way back to the United States to be discharged from the U.S. Army because his feet were so swollen he could not walk. He had contracted “Jungle Rot,” from wearing Army boots and socks in foxholes for weeks without bathing.

He told us how fiercely the Japanese fought throughout the many battles he fought, and he said they would have never surrendered. It has been argued ever since whether it was the right thing to drop those bombs. I am not trivializing the catastrophic fact that so many innocent lives were lost.

I simply don’t know if it was right. I leave that subject to the experts. In a recent obituary of the last crewman who was aboard the Enola Gay that dropped the historic bomb, it was said that “he thought he did his job.”

We have so few World War II veterans remaining today (my three brothers are all gone) and their number keeps dwindling. If you see or know any veterans still alive from any of our wars, be sure to tell them, before it’s too late, how much you appreciate what they did for all of us.

I’m sorry I did not say it when I had the chance. Blame it on my youth. I regret I did not show my gratitude to them often enough.

A Love of Paper – July 20, 2014- Chicago Tribune

          I’m a big fan of personal computers and enjoy mine with its access to the Internet and the ability to keep in touch with distant friends via e-mail, but my first love was always paper.

          A clean, white 8-1/2 X 11 inch sheet of paper begged me to fill it with words. 

          I was content with my Smith Corona typewriter.  I’d roll a sheet of paper into it and think of the possibilities before me to write something, anything.  Not great literature, I know, as I am not that gifted. 

          A personal letter to someone, my thoughts on current events, memories from my childhood, etc., was the usual result. 

After marriage, I worked a few years and then took time out to raise a daughter and son.  I was pretty much in the dark what was going on in the world of technology while I dealt with domestic chores.

When I resumed my secretarial career, I was fascinated by the changes in technology that had transpired during my absence.

          I loved learning about all the new gadgets that were now part of office equipment.  Copiers that collated and stapled the results had replaced the old mimeograph and Ditto machines (the one with the purple ink that stained your fingers and clothes). Imagine that!

          Instead of wand keys on typewriters that used to jam up if we typed too quickly, there was that little ball on a Selectric typewriter spinning around, typing letters on paper…but that was soon replaced with personal computers.

          Earlier, direct long distance dialing was only done by a long distance telephone operator.  I remember placing a call for my boss to Seattle and he was amazed at how quickly we had a connection.  If he were alive today, I wonder what he’d think.

          A Girl Friday, (secretary) became an Administrative Assistant.  We still performed the same duties but with more gusto with that high-fallutin’ title.

We’ve come a long ways but we aren’t there yet. 

There was talk about a paperless world but it seems like more paper than ever can be found.

          These are only a few of the changes and these new developments came into being in the last fifty+ years.  How I loved being a part of it all.  I’m sorry I won’t be here to see what the next fifty years will bring. 

          But a sheet of paper still appeals to me.


A Happy Childhood Memory – July 9, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

When I see children at play I wonder what childhood memory will stand out for them when they reach adulthood.
My favorite is a series of spring and summer visits to a farm owned by friends of my parents in the 1930s. They did not realize what happy memories they created for me so long ago.
We usually awoke to the crowing of the barnyard rooster. Mondays were laundry day, without the modern conveniences of an automatic washer and dryer. The agitator in the washing machine was operated by a lever of some sort. The washed garments and linens were put through a ringer into a galvanized tub of cold water for rinsing and then the ringer process repeated once they had rinsed them by hand. I “helped” by following behind their daughters, handing them clothespins as they pegged the wash on the line.
When gathering eggs, I was taught to distract the sitting hen with one hand and quickly grab the freshly laid egg beneath with the other. I often got pecked until I mastered the deft art.
In the morning and late afternoon, I accompanied one of their daughters to a nearby pasture to bring the cows in for milking. One time I ran ahead and spread the two pieces of barbed wire fence apart for my companion to crawl through, she just stood there, mouth agape. I later found out that it was an electric fence and the reason I did not get a shock was because I was wearing crepe-soled shoes!
Milking time was a favorite time, when the cats and kittens gathered round waiting for a squirt of milk into their open mouths. I often was given a cup of milk, still warm from the cow. Today’s health nuts would be horrified at that!
Picked strawberries soon ended up in shortcake, but many more strawberries found their way into my mouth than into the container I was to use.
The family never made me feel I was a nuisance and always praised me for my efforts.
I came across the following quote recently: “When you remember a past event, you are actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself.”
I do not agree. I remember it with great fondness and clarity.
I hope children of today will have such happy memories.

Technology Has Come a Long Way – June 23, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

         On that date, Steve Jobs of Apple Computers and Stephen Wozniak, an electronics wizard, together created a personal home computer so that for the first time in history a character typed on a keyboard was displayed on a TV screen. (Please note that this is in regard to “home” computers.)

         I came by this information while reading Walter Issacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs.

         After struggling through 571 pages of this biography, I still don’t know anything about the inner workings of my personal computer.  But I don’t have to know.  I know how to drive a car but I don’t really know what’s going on under the hood either.

We have advanced beyond what might be thought of as “the horse and buggy” era when I began my work experience.   Back then, “electric” typewriters were not even found in offices where I was employed.

Many years later, when I retired from the workforce, the revolution in electronic technology had begun.

A search of the Internet (where would we be without that source?),  revealed that the first patent for the typewriter was issued in 1868,  to Christopher Sholes, G. Glidden and S.W. Soule.  They would be amazed to see how far we have come, much like Henry Ford would feel looking at our modern automobiles.

The “qwerty” keyboard has not changed since the first typewriters were invented.   With this keyboard arrangement, salesmen were able to type the word “typewriter” on a single row of keys during demonstrations.   Also, the letters of the alphabet were arranged to prevent the old-fashioned wand keys from getting tangled during typing.  Today’s computer-wise young might ask, “What are wand keys?”

         Listening in on conversations between our son and daughter when they were learning about computers in school, we thought they were speaking a foreign language.  Bytes, gigabytes, mega bytes, hard drives and floppy discs were all alien words.

 “Word processing” was what secretaries now did instead of “typing” letters.  I had not heard of e-mail.  

I haven’t even scratched the surface in the world of computers.   It has been said that “anyone born before 1960 will never know as much about them as those who were born after that year.” But we are never too old to learn.

My motto is, “Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to cast the old aside.”

Growing to a ripe old age is a privilege – June 7, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

          Sometimes you might hear people saying they hate the thought of growing old.  I think we should be grateful to have that privilege.

          During the Memorial Day observance, the programs on PBS honoring our fallen heroes, remembering the anniversary of D-Day, the Ken Burns TV series, “The War,” I thought about the fact that these brave young men and women did not have the luxury of reaching the age to be called a senior citizen.          

          “The War” should be viewed again and again by those who send our young men to other lands to fight and die for our country and maybe they’d stop settling differences in this inhumane manner.

          War does not seem to settle anything given how many we have had since the dawn of time. 

          One line spoken in “The War,” stands out in my mind.  A soldier cried out, “God help us; come yourself, don’t send Jesus.  This is no place for children.” And yet those doing the fighting were just children in the prime of their lives.

          In a few short weeks, we will be observing the anniversary of another war where young men died to give us our independence that we so often take for granted.

          Gray hair, wrinkles and faltering steps go with getting on in years but it’s better than not being able to walk at all because you left your legs on some battlefield, or you died too young to have your hair turn gray or wrinkles to form on your youthful face.

About aging, when I was twenty-three, a 16-year old waitress where I often dined, asked me how old I was.  When I told her, she asked,
How come you never got married?” 

          Imagine that! She considered me a has-been.  To the young, forty is old age but to those of us past that landmark, it is youth.

          This won’t come as news to anyone, but you can’t fight getting older.  Face lifts, cosmetics and other devices can make us appear younger, but the fact remains, we are what we are.  The sooner we accept aging, the happier we’ll be.

If you are in the sunset years of your life, thank a soldier for that privilege.

Being out in cold is for the birds – May 23, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Snow isn’t for the birds.

The joy at seeing the first snowfall is directly proportional to the age of the viewer. That is not an original quote, but to that I would add: “It also applies to the last snowfall.”

We hope the one that greeted us May 16 is our last one for this season. It reminded me of how quickly our weather can change. We are always so interested in having a White Christmas but snow loses its charm about mid February – or sooner, depending on whether you have to go out in it.    

Our furry and feathered friends need to adjust to these changes and, unless they have an inner radar, they don’t know how quickly things can change.

One February a few years ago I started thinking spring when a warm spell came through. I should have known that it was way too early. 

Old Man Winter returned and our bird feeder was swinging to and fro in the breeze.  What am I saying? A breeze? In the Midwest? A gale is more like it!

I saw a little bird, hunched on the perch, trying hard to hang on as it attempted to grab a few seeds to fill its little beak. I felt such sympathy for it.

What a life … depending on the largesse of people who put feeders out in the cold.  And then hang on desperately. 

Perhaps many people would not have a weight problem if they had to dine the same way.     

I looked at the miserable wretch clinging to its perch so precariously and was thankful we did not have to depend on other people’s generosity for food, especially in the cold weather. Or try to eat through the piled up snow on the bird feeder with the wind blowing it away before you can get a mouthful. 

Not only are the elements against them, other birds often shove them aside and take away their food. If you think this is a silly observation, how would you like it if you were dining out and someone sat down next to you, shoved you aside, and started eating your meal?

Think about that next time as your food is placed before you and don’t forget to say grace. 


The Paper Clip Caper – May 2014 –

I am down to about three paper clips in my home office.
Where did they go? It brought back memories of when I
was employed. I was picking up supplies one day in the office
supply room when a co-worker walked by.
Seeing the box of paper clips in my hand, he remarked,
“Why do we ever have to replenish our supply of paper
clips? No one ever throws one away. They should be constantly
re-circulating throughout the office.”
“Good point, Bob,” I replied. “Why don’t you and I see if
we can unravel this mystery?”
“Nope, sorry,” was his smug reply. “I’m an old Army intelligence
officer, and I don’t work with amateurs.”
By Mil Misic
I whipped out my old IRS badge, bearing my secret code
name, “$.001. (Get it? My name is mil with a small “m,” —
it’s a tenth of a cent) and said, “With whom do you think
you’re dealing?”
I could see he was somewhat impressed, and though
not totally convinced of my sleuthing talents, he agreed to
meet me while the office staff was out to lunch.
At first, we found nothing amiss in the first cubicle, but,
as we were leaving, I observed, “Do you notice anything
strange about those framed snapshots on the wall, Bob?”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Those are the weirdest looking kids
I’ve ever seen.”
“No, no, you ninny,” I exclaimed. “I mean how crookedly
they are hung?”
Taking down one of the framed snapshots and turning
it over, we saw that crude picture hooks had been fashioned
from bent paper clips.
“There’s part of our answer,” I said. “Flagrant misuse of
five paper clips. They’ll never be used as paper clips again.”
Moving on to a secretary’s desk. Bob could find no violations,
but, as a fellow secretary, I knew just where to
look. I took out the removable tray in the middle drawer
and exposed an 18-inch necklace made out of linked paper
clips. By this time, Bob knew he was working with a real pro.
As we passed the photocopier in various stages of disassembly,
we heard the repairman cry out, “Why do people
always leave paper clips on the photocopier? There’s your
problem,” he said, pointing into the bowels of the machine.
Three twisted, almost-beyond-recognition paper clips
were stuck in the mechanism.
We continued our search of the cubicles, looking under
keyboards of the computers, file boxes, etc. “Don’t forget
the corners of the desk blotter holders, “I reminded Bob.
“Boy! You do know your stuff,” he grudgingly admitted.
About 12:55 p.m., we had accounted for a large
number of unorthodox uses of paper
clips. Just as we were tallying them up,
a co-worker came limping in with the
straps of her sandals held together
with (of all things) a paper clip.
Seconds later, Bob pointed excitedly at
an accountant returning to his desk, “Look,
there’s a man with a sterling silver toothpick.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I chided. “Take another
look. It’s a straightened paper clip.” (Another
paper clip that would never hold two pieces
of paper together.)
By now, he was so impressed that all he could murmur
was, “Wow!”
One cubicle remained to be searched. Everything looked
normal. Or was it? Why was the desk locked?
“Step back,” Bob said. “I’ll have that open in a second.”
“Bob,” I shouted, “what are you doing?”
“I’m picking the lock,” he calmly replied.
“But what are you using?” I shrieked.
“Oh, my gosh,” he moaned, “a paper clip.”
Case closed.

The Kitchen Table – May 1, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

I recently dined at the same old kitchen table that my parents bought when they first married around 1920.  When they died, we broke up their home, and my son inherited that table. It’s not remarkable, but to me, it’s a family heirloom.  
The table’s beautiful wood grain was revealed when one of my brothers refinished it years ago.  Under the table, a center post with a board across the top of it, braced the extra leaves my mother added when we had guests on rare occasions.   
That board was our secret place to stash bread crusts from her homemade bread that we did not appreciate at the time. When our mother found them as she scrubbed the kitchen floor on her hands and knees each Saturday, we’d receive a stern lecture. I can almost hear her voice now. 
Today, she would be amazed at all the modern conveniences my son and daughter have in their homes. There were no prepared foods back then that would have aided her as she prepared meals on a very limited income for the six of us.
I found myself thinking “if this table could talk… .”
I tried to conjure up past conversations we might have had as we all gathered around that table each meal.  
There was no television or radio to lure us into a family room.  Our kitchen was our family room. Grades in school were often the topic after one of us said grace. Bullies have always been with us and that could have been one topic. We were always told to turn the other cheek.
I wanted to ask, “What if I run out of cheeks?” But I know that would not have gone over very well. I’d have been scolded for sassing.
Don’t interpret this as a sob story. Many people lived as we did back then. Poverty is sort of like a communicable disease you don’t talk about while you have it … only after you’re over it.
Before Mother’s Day, we’d ask her what gift she’d like. Her answer was always the same.  
“I don’t need anything, just be good.”
Now, when my son and daughter ask me that same question, my answer is the same as my mother’s.  
If you still have your mother, ask her what she’d like. I bet that’s all she would ask as well.  Mothers are like that.  

Happy Mother’s Day.

Email Addict – April 11, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

I received an email recently that listed items that were not available around 100 years ago. There was one glaring omission: email. I am so glad I live in this era.
I admit it – I am addicted to email. I am not a phone person and do not like phone calls.   That insistent ringing demanding that I drop everything and answer is very intrusive.  But that little “pling” on my computer, gets me to it at my leisure. My curiosity does drive me to it quite promptly though, I will confess.
It’s a great source for jokes, interesting facts and inspirational messages too.  Threatening emails telling me to forward them or suffer the consequences as well as those that promise wonderful results get deleted immediately. I believe there is a higher power governing our lives.  
It is much simpler to stay in touch with a friend via email without having to type or hand-write a letter, print it, address an envelope, stick a stamp on it, seal it and carry it to a mailbox or post office to get it on its way. The U.S. Postal Service does a good job of getting the mail to the addressee promptly, but it’s just not as immediate as email.
Some of my acquaintances who do not email and are not familiar with the concept of a computer and the source of information it can be, pooh-pooh my addiction.
If I did not have email, where else would I learn that around 100 years ago, women washed their hair only once a month with borax and egg yolks?
Or, that Coca Cola, back then, contained cocaine instead of caffeine.
One hundred years ago only 8 percent of homes had phones and a call from Denver to New York cost $11.
Forwarded e-mails often show me wonderful places (with accompanying music) in the world that I would never visit.
Shopping online is a blessing and not having to deal with crowded malls and long waits at the checkout line. Trying on garments ordered online in the privacy of your own home is another plus.  
I also might never have heard the word lexophile without email. Lexophiles like to play with words. They meet and compete by coming up with something like the following:  A guy fell into an upholstery machine and is now fully recovered. Or: A thief who stole a calendar got 12 months.  

Television Noise – April 9, 2014 – Chicago Tribune

When I took a course in anthropology in college, I first heard the word “anomie.” Webster’s dictionary describes it as a collapse of the social structure.
That word comes to mind when I try to find something on television these days. I hope that the following won’t be dismissed as just the rants of an aging senior citizen.
We senior citizens have had our time in the sun and must make way for the younger generation, but there are some things that I find hard to accept without comment.
It’s no secret that as we age, some of our senses deteriorate, as in the case of sight and hearing, to mention just two. Loss of hearing isn’t bad when it comes to the level of noise on television and radio these days.
Commercials are louder than regular programming despite protestations of the networks. Why else do we wake up while watching an old movie during a commercial? The sudden change in decibels disturbs our slumber.
It’s difficult for me to keep up with the breakneck speed of the newscasts. Major headlines are rattled off so quickly, it’s hard to grasp it all. Some times I look at the clock and see all this has been told in five minutes.
When did they start using all that background noise? I refuse to call it music even though musical instruments are used, like percussion, horns and possibly some stringed ones. There is one television channel that has some very nice dramatic programs. But I usually turn it off because there is an annoying and constant plunk, plank, plink in the background.
How about the absence of good taste? Any time of day or night now you might hear a commercial for a product aimed at improving a man’s sexual performance. Judging by how many times it airs, this must be a very serious problem. Wouldn’t it be better to discuss this with one’s family doctor? Let’s hear more about improvement in a cure for cancer or heart disease instead.
Don’t you miss the good old days of Dave Garroway? Remember the slow pace and relaxed way he conducted his “Today” show?
I know. I know. I’m just an old fuddy-duddy.


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