Category Archives: 1950′s

Photos VA Chapel and Weston, MO house courtesy of Jeanne

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Possumly Jesse James, or a Younger or Dalton or someone else lived here, or visited here, or rode a horse by the place and gazed at it as he/she went by.

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!895 Chapel for VA Center at Fort Leavenworth in seriously bad repair. Protestant downstairs, Catholic further downstairs though the signs are somewhat misleading. No harm in a protestant attending Mass or a Catholic racking up some fire and brimstone occasionally, I reckons.

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Interesting stained glass work. Dunno whether it’s Catholic or the other one.

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Gargoyles are shared equally by Catholics and Protestants.

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The VA hospital environment surrounding this seems obliquely appropriate.

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The metalwork on those doors is probably symbolic of something, but everyone who once knew what it was is dead.

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This end of the building is in bad repair threatening collapse in places, but ain’t likely to get any better.

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Directly across the street from the chapel. It’s been through a long series of declines and repairs but we need another World War of considerable duration to bring it back to full bloom. Need to conscript all these young houdilums and get them on track to need a place such as this.

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The sign above the door reads, THE DUGOUT and can still be made out with a bit of squinting. I’m thinking it was a club for the people going through treatment, might have been used as recently as the Vietnam War.

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The Dugout

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If the shoe fits burn it off

shoe store xray machine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope

Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

During the 1950s wisdom used to bunch itself up and spread itself around at the local barber shops.  That’s where I first learned God was going to destroy us the way He did the Tower of Babel and for the same reasons.  The USSR had just put Sputnik 1 into orbit.  Too damned high in the sky to be tolerated by God.

That barber shop was also where I first learned all this uproar about radiation was a damned Communist lie intended to scare everyone out of their wits.  The proof of it was just around the corner of the square at the shoe store.  They had a machine over there where you could put your foot in and they’d shine radiation on it so’s you could look right through your shoes at the bones of your feet.

Anyone dying from it?  Anyone getting sick?  Heck no!

That shoe store had it all over J.C. Penny Company because of that machine.  We kids would go in there and they’d let us look at our feet anytime we wanted to.  And when shoes were to be bought the salesman could look through the viewer on one side, mama look through it on the other, and the kid through the third.  The salesman could then point with the pointer that the shoe wasn’t squeezing the toes, or was, etc.  Everyone loved that machine.

But government interference ruined it, same as it ruins everything else.  They made them take that machine out of there so nobody could look at his feet anymore.

Here’s what the sissie fuddyduddies say was the reason:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope

“Although most of the dose was directed at the feet, a substantial amount would scatter or leak in all directions. Shielding materials were sometimes displaced to improve image quality, to make the machine lighter, or out of carelessness, and this aggravated the leakage. The resulting whole-body dose may have been hazardous to the salesmen, who were chronically exposed, and to children, who are about twice as radiosensitive as adults.[7] Monitoring of American salespersons found dose rates at pelvis height of up to 95 R/week, with an average of 7.1 R/week.[5] (Up to ~50 mSv/yr, avg ~3.7 mSv/yr effective dose)[5] A 2007 paper suggested that even higher doses of 0.5 Sv/yr were plausible.[8] The most widely accepted model of radiation-induced cancer posits that the incidence of cancers due to ionizing radiation increases linearly with effective (i.e. whole-body) dose at a rate of 5.5% per Sv.[9]

“Years or decades may elapse between radiation exposure and a related occurrence of cancer, and no follow-up studies of customers can be performed for lack of records. Without such an epidemiological study, it is impossible to conclude whether this machine actually caused any harm to customers.[5] Three shoe salespersons have been identified with rare conditions that might be associated with their chronic occupational exposure: a severe radiation burn requiring amputation in 1950,[10] a case of dermatitis with ulceration in 1957,[11] and a case of basal cell carcinoma of the sole in 2004.[8]“

Those guys sharing their wisdom at the barber shops are mostly all dead now.  I’m guessing if a person wants to get smart in Portales he has to go to a hair stylist.  Can’t help wondering what they’re talking about in those places.

Old Jules

A Communist behind every tree

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Back in the bad old days between the Korean War and the Vietnam War a person could land himself in a peck of trouble for saying he was a Communist.  My granddad was a man crosswise with the world, and one day in a cafe in Dora, New Mexico, a bunch of farmers were talking about the Communists, and Papa announced he was one.  Proceeded to debate the matter with the entire cafe.

Point-by-point.  He didn’t have any friends around there anyway, but doing that didn’t win him any.

Wasn’t long before he had himself a visit from two FBI agents.  Said they’d had a report he was an atheistic Communist.  Which thoroughly pissed him off.

So Papa began studying Communism, began building all manner of reasons Communism was better than representative democracy.  Which he was happy to pass on to my young crosswise-with-the-Universe mind.

Sophomore, or Junior year of high school I entered a class on government being taught by Ira Bogard.  Me being the smartass trouble maker I was, and being generally an outcast, a few days into the semester I answered a question by saying I was a Communist.  Mister Bogard paused and glared at me, then went on with what he’d been saying.

But at the end of class he was assigning the class an essay.  Except me.  He pointed to me and told me to give him five pages explaining why I was a Communist.

I turned it in on time, and a few days later he handed it back to me with questions in the margins:  “How do you explain the Siberian camps?”  “How do you explain Stalin?”  “Why do you say Roosevelt’s New Deal was Communism in disguise?”  5 pages.

This went on the whole semester.  The only essays I wrote were answers to his questions about Communism.  Naturally I consulted my granddad every chance I got, but I also spent a lot of time in the library, even had to visit the ENMU library to get answers to some of his questions.

Hell of a good teacher.  I still smile thinking about him.

Old Jules

Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank – sculpting post-1959 culture

Before Alas Babylon hit the bookstores and was made a movie the US population hadn’t yet done any heavy thinking about the implications of Sputnik 1 and hydrogen bomb arsenals capable of being delivered to the US heartland.  Strategic Air Command was centered in Omaha, NE, and B47 bombers filled the skies.  Civil Defense was mostly the local mortuary because they owned the ambulances.  Complacency with having been victors of WWII, affluence, abundance and confidence in the future were the rule of the day.

Then along came Alas Babylon.   The story of a small piece of Florida spared the bombs and fallout from an attack by the USSR and a prolonged nuclear war.   Because it was early in the day the post-nuclear-holocaust genre hadn’t yet decided everyone had to die or turn into mutant barbarians.

The story was subdued enough to be believed.  And Americans believed it.  Beefed up Civil Defense, began the individual preparedness planning that would be required if they were to survive.

The first 20 pages of Alas Babylon describes the days leading to the war, all the usual suspects you’d hear tonight if you watched the evening news, minus the USSR.  A buildup of tensions, a US Navy fighter-bomber pilot mistakenly releases a bomb over a port in Syria destroying an ammunition train.  Secondary explosions and the beginning of mutual destruction for the US and USSR.

The book is a microscope look at the minds of the US citizenry as they existed in 1959, before ICBMs, before the moon launch, before the oceans were filled with attack and missile launching submarines.  Martin Luther King was still in the future, along with the Vietnam War, race riots in US cities, Kennedy assassinations. automobile seat belts, gas mileage and foreign cars.  Women were there to be protected, first into the lifeboats of whatever safety could be constructed during and after a nuclear war.

Alas Babylon is a good read, a great study in sociology and a particular slice of history frozen in time. 

Old Jules

 

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Tags:  alas babylon, pat frank, nuclear war, books, book reviews, reviews, history, society, sociology, human behavior, movies, psychology

Confederates and Non-Confederates

Me, trying on caps at the JC Penny store:  Why are some of these blue, other ones grey?

Store Clerk ladyWhy the grey ones are Confederates.

Me:  Oh.  Okay, what are the blue ones.

Store Clerk lady, frowning:   Um.  Those are Non-Confederates. 

Back when Keith Kelt and I were struggling through grammar school in Portales, New Mexico, a movie briefly drained our bluejeans pockets. 

Suddenly every kid in town had to have a blue, or a grey cap with a shiny bill and crossed rifles at the front.  Half-dollar at the JC Penny store had us all scrambling.  Each of us tripped down to JC Penny the instant we could scrape together the gelt. 

At which time probably all of us discovered we didn’t know enough to be making the decisions as we took cap after cap out of the bin, trying them on.  Those of us who’d seen the movie weren’t educated enough to know much about it, aside from the fact it was bloody, violent, and exciting. 

All we knew was that every kid who was anyone was wearing one of those caps.

Not until I made a fool of myself in class several years later in Junior High did I learn that the US Civil War wasn’t fought between Confederates and Non-Confederates.

Old Jules

Ever wondered who the Vietcong were?

Eddie Adams

Eddie Adams photo 1968

Last night I came across a thrift store book I’d never gotten around to reading.  One of those ‘last resort’ books set aside again and again.  A backup for a time when I would be desperate for anything besides the labels on sardine cans.

But as I thumbed through it I was abruptly captured.   When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace, by Le Ly Hayslip.

Here’s a woman born in 1949 in a Vietcong controlled village near Danang where her family’s spent the previous generations fighting, first the French, then the Japanese, then the French again.  As a small child she watches relatives and neighbors in her village raped and slaughtered by French mercenaries.  Then:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Ly_Hayslip

“Hayslip was born in Ky La, now Xa Hao Qui, a small town in central Vietnam just south of Da Nang. She was the sixth and youngest child born to farmers. American helicopters landed in her village when she was 12 years old. At the age of 14, she endured torture in a South Vietnamese government prison for “revolutionary sympathies”. After being released, she had fallen under suspicion of being a government spy, and was sentenced to death but instead raped by two Viet Cong soldiers.[2]

“She fled to Saigon, where she and her mother worked as housekeepers for a wealthy Vietnamese family, but this position ended after Hayslip’s affair with her employer and subsequent pregnancy. Hayslip and her mother fled to Da Nang. During this time, Hayslip supported both her mother and an infant son, Hung (whom she would later rename Jimmy), while unmarried and working in the black market, as an occasional drug courier and, once, as a prostitute.

“She worked for a short period of time as a nurse assistant in a Da Nang hospital and began dating Americans. She had several disastrous, heartbreaking affairs before meeting and marrying an American civilian contractor named Ed Munro in 1969. Although he was more than twice her age, she had another son with him, Thomas. The following year Hayslip moved to San Diego, California, to join him, and briefly supported her family as a homemaker. In 1973, he died of emphysema, leaving Le Ly a widow at age 24.

“In 1974 she married Dennis Hayslip. Her second marriage, however, was not a happy one. Dennis was a heavy drinker, clinically depressed and full of rage. Her third and youngest son, Alan, was fathered by Dennis and born on her 26th birthday. The couple filed for divorce in 1982 after Dennis committed domestic violence. Shortly thereafter, he was found dead in a parked van outside a school building. He had established a trust fund, however, that left his wife with some money, and he had insurance that paid off the mortgage of the house.”

So here’s a woman, a real, no-shit Vietcong, tortured by the South Vietnamese, suspected of being a traitor by the Vietcong and sentenced to death, raped and escaped.  Married a US civilian and became a US citizen.

Probably a person couldn’t be more caught-in-between from birth than she was.  Surrounded by hundreds, thousands of other peasants caught in-between.  Trying to dodge the steamrollers of forces they didn’t understand, South Vietnamese and US rifles pointed at them daytimes, Vietcong rifles pointed at them nights.

Yep, this lady is one of the people the guys with Vietnam Veteran caps walking around mining for praise and ‘Thank you,” spent their tours in Vietnam trying to kill.

Damned book ought to be required reading for anyone buying a SUPPORT OUR TROOPS sticker.  Because at a foundation level, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS isn’t about the troops.  It’s about people who are being defined as ‘the enemy’ those troops are going to do everything in their power to ruin the lives of.

People in US government who couldn’t locate the place on the map defining one side as ‘the enemy’ and the other side as ‘friends’.

Old Jules

Grandkid:  Granpaw, what did you do in the Vietnam War?

Old Vet:  I helped Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon kill a lot of people who didn’t need killing, helped destroy a country that didn’t need destroying, helped get a lot of GIs killed and maimed in the process.  And I’m damned proud I did.

Grandkid:  Oh wow!  Thank you Grandpaw!

The nightmares of acceptance

high water

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Probably I was four years old, must have been 1947, I was a kid with a recurring nightmare.  I was walking along a raised roadway with my mom, my granddad, and my two sisters.  A deep gravel pit reached alongside the road and my feet slipped, I fell and began sliding into the pit screaming for help.  None of them looked around, none paused, they all just kept walking and I kept sliding and screaming until I’d wake.

With all these decades of hindsight I find that dream of a four-year-old amazing.  I had no business knowing that much about people, about life, about my particular gene-pool at that age. 

At the time my mom was between marriages and we were living in Causey, New Mexico in a two-room shack with no running water, an outdoor toilet, maybe no electricity, though we might have had electricity.  I can’t recall.  My granddad’s presence in the area was the only thing to draw us there.  My mom was doing anything, seamstress work, pulling cotton, trying to operate a miniscule variety store in the house to earn a living. 

A deeply troubled young woman with three kids and almost certainly more nightmares of her own to keep her company than anyone purely needs.  Her financial woes gradually improved when she married again, but my thought is her mental processes turned concurrently to lies and manipulation.  Maybe they’d never been otherwise.

Such a woman!  I don’t believe my sisters ever recovered from the experience of having her for a mother, of always being caught in the vice of ‘love your mother’ and that mother being a destructive, master manipulative sociopath.  I believe I did recover, but it’s just me believing it.  I do know that when she died a couple of years back and I heard the news I felt nothing but a sense of deep relief, of peace.

I suppose it was the neighbor got me thinking of this.  He came down bringing a cup of expensive coffee before dusk.  As we sat he told me about some trial in Florida of a man who killed someone who was beating him up in a parking lot.  An angry tale of violence and racial politics and justice.

As he described it to me I remembered something else he’d told me a while back, off-hand and matter-of-fact, about how his father had murdered two, maybe three people he [the neighbor] knew of.  One a whiskey salesman who didn’t get his purchases for the bar he operated delivered.  Beat him to death on the sidewalk in front of his bar.  Another salesman he beat badly might have lived, might have died.  I can’t recall for certain because when I heard the story I was still digesting the first salesman.

The next homicide by his father he was sure of involved a Mexican [or at least a Hispanic] who did farm work.  Evidently screwed up a switch on an irrigation pump.  That night the neighbor says the father took his .22 pistol and went out somewhere.  The next day the Mexican farm worker was found dead on the railroad tracks shot nine times with a .22, then run over by a train.

The jokes around town proclaimed it to be the most elaborate suicide ever.

When he told me this story it didn’t include any value judgements, no overtones, no repudiation, no anger of the sort contained in the story of the trial in Florida.

I suppose an infinite number of monkeys pounding an infinite number of typewriters will indeed eventually write the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as someone claimed.  I’ve seen enough families and enough parenting this lifetime to accept that some families and some parenting must fall within the ‘normal’ part of the bell-shaped curve.

But to go a step further and suggest there’s enough ‘normal’ floating around among the father and mother components to celebrate seems to me to be a possible overstatement.  I count myself lucky my nightmares were only my own.  When Bobby Dylan’s song offered to let me be in his dream if I’d let him be in mine I was never tempted.  Still ain’t.

Old Jules

Hungry for heroes? Find a thief, a robber, a killer, or an aristocrat

 frank and jesse james

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I was thinking last night before I dozed off about what TV, movies and fiction have done for us that reality couldn’t.  I concluded it all boils down to mythology and self definition.  An attempt to bring little guys into a larger picture where, in fact, they don’t exist.

Consider this:  Can you name a single person involved in the American Revolution below the rank of Colonel other than Paul Revere?  Anyone between then and the War of 1812? 

From then until the Mexican War you might recall Nat Turner and his brief slave rebellion, or Davy Crockett, Travis, Sam Houston, et al.  The mountain men and the fur traders.  Meriwether Lewis and Clark, the Kit Carsons, Bridgers, the Coulters and Joe Meeks.  The wild and wooly.

And all the names from the lower paygrades you might recall from the Mexican War are there because they were colonels and higher during the Civil War.

Follow it right on through from then until the Wars and whatever else is happening today.  Where the hell are the lower-paygrade heroes?

Younger, Cole & James left to right

Well, the fact is, they were out there at the time.  They were the outlaws, the killers, the people most successful at taking what didn’t belong to them away from the people it belonged to.  The James Gang, the Daltons, Butch and Sundance, Billy the wossname, Kid, the Youngers.  Buffalo Bill, wiping a species off the face of the continent so’s the trains wouldn’t be troubled by them and cow men could use the land for cows.  Masterson, the Earps, Hickok.  Steely-eyed killers.

The US needed the genre fiction, the film industry and television to clean up history.  The country needed common people out there getting massacred by Apache, Lakota, Comanche, people with names.  People below the rank of colonel with names that weren’t John Jacob Astor and weren’t just getting filthy rich and powerful from it all.

So you want the heroes of the west today?  Well, there’s John Wayne.  Henry Fonda.  Steve McQueen.  Jeff Chandler on the generic Indian side.  Burt Lancaster.  Gary Cooper. 

All of whom also, by coincidence, became the heroes of all the other wars the US fought.  Became the common men of history where none existed before.  Winning the west from the people who owned it, whupping the Germans and Japanese, the Vietcong and NVA, the Chinese and North Koreans. 

All those heroes, frequently below the paygrade of colonel, helping us to understand our great heritage.  Because, after all, our heroes define us in ways we’d be too modest to define ourselves.  Most of us ain’t all that successful at taking shit that doesn’t belong to us, individually.

At least those of us who never got higher than the rank of major.  The aristocratic dynasties went to Washington but the heroes all came out of Hollywood.

Old Jules

Speaking of KENM, 1450 on your radio dial circa 1955

This is Monet George talking to you from KENM, Portales, New Mexico.  The peanut  basin of the nation.  And we’ve got a little song here for you today.

The theme song for the station was “My Adobe Hacienda.”

Lord how I hated that song.  They played it at every opportunity.

But they also loved, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People,” which didn’t exactly describe the local population except in fantasy.

Helped them feel better about themselves than they had any business doing.

“Doing What Comes Naturally” actually fit them better and, believe it or not, they liked that one, too.

I suppose “Buttons and Bows” would have resonated with any but the most stalwart souls in Portales, New Mexico, circa 1950-60, and it sure as hell got plenty of play.

Those were the days of “Knock knock” jokes, and the favorite joke around there was, “Knockknock.”  “Who’s there?”  “Kilroy”  “Kilroy who?”  “Kill Roy Rogers!  I’m Gene Autry’s fan!”

KENM was a Gene Autry Fan.

WWII vintage folks ruled the world then.  If it hadn’t been for “Tennessee Waltz”, Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Fraulein” I expect KENM would have had long silences trying to figure out what to play.

Old Jules

You could jitterbug to it! A weird footnote in music history

This song really pissed a lot of people off in 1958.  The local station, KENM, Portales, New Mexico  [1450 on your radio dial] refused to play it for a while. 

But KENM went off the air at 9PM and most of us first heard it on KOMA, Oklahoma City, same as all the other kids from Texas to North Dakota.  You could pick it up once the local stations shut down.  The leading edge to what was happening.  The 1958 facsimile of the Internet for youth in the Central and Southwestern US.

Rock and Roll was still trying to define itself, trying to separate itself from Rhythm and Blues, and Bop.  Adults were fairly certain it was the work of the devil, same a the Bop.  [I've written here somewhere how much trouble I got into doing the 'Dirty Bop' without even knowing I was doing it.]  It wasn’t even clear yet that Rock and Roll would be the name that stuck to it. 

So when Pat Boone mixed Rock and Roll with religion he was stepping on a lot of sober, somber toes.

But thanks to KOMA, we heard it anyway.  A kid name Chito Smith stood up on a bench in the locker room after PE class and started singing it, all of us with towels wrapped around us jumping around, snapping our fingers, defying authority, singing, “Wellawellawellawella, everybody’s gonna get religion and glory.”

KENM eventually bent enough to play it.  They were already playing such songs as “Wings of a Dove,” by Hawkshaw Hawkins, and “Sinner Man,” by Brook Benton, anyway, and I suppose they figured those might neutralize the devilish side of every body having a wonderful time up there.

Old Jules