Saturday, December 30, 2017

They Got Kowalski!

Years ago I was playing army with my cousin. We were fighting in a jungle of a Pacific Island in my backyard. We had been overrun by Japanese soldiers. I thought we were all going to come out alive when I heard Eric cry out.
"SARGE- THEY GOT ME!" Keeping my head down, I made my way over to where he had fallen. Eric looked up with his 13 year old round face distorted with agony. It was quite a death scene. Like always, whenever Eric died, he'd go into one of those patriotic, American pie speeches with a "tell my girl I love her" toward the end.

I stood up, pulled out my 45 cap pistol and put a period halfway through his sentence.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Big Ben

I read in the local obits that Ben Pillitary recently passed away.  It brought back a memory from Junior High School.  It was the early to mid seventies.  I don't remember what grade - perhaps 9th.  I remember sitting in Ms. Trussel's class.  I had a desk near the chalk board along the right wall of the room. I was leaning up against the chalkboard daydreaming.  I had no idea what the lesson was that day.  I was in another world.

I remember her calling out my name in a stern voice.  I guess I snapped-to the second time around. She was telling me to quit talking.  I told her politely that I wasn't talking.  She was convinced that I had been the one and insisted that I did.  I told her a second time that I wasn't talking.  No one around me was taking credit for the chatter and I had no defense.  Ms. Trussel, who was usually a very nice lady, got angry and said that I was lying.  I remained calm (but nervous) and replied that I wasn't lying.

"Yes you are David.  Come up here."

"I don't lie ma'am." I said as I stood up and approached her desk.

"Just be quiet and bend over my desk." she ordered.

All I could do at that moment was comply.  I leaned over her desk with the back of my blue jeans facing the class.  She took the wood paddle from her desk.  It was a paddle made by Mr. Bynum - the shop class instructor.  I believe he made the paddles for all teachers of General Forrest. It had holes drilled into it to assure a nice sting at impact.  Mr. Trussel gave me three solid whacks.

The bell started ringing as I straightened myself up.  I wasn't hurt as much by the sting as much as I was hurt by her not believing that I didn't lie to her.  I would've admitted to her that I was talking if I had actually been talking.  I felt unjustly accused and sentenced for something I knew I didn't do ~ and then called a liar to boot.

My classmates were still evacuating the room, headed to their next class. Another teacher walked into the room as the bell rang and started talking to Ms. Trussel.  Ms. Trussel started talking to her associate with her back turned to me.  I also saw that she had already placed the paddle back down on her desk.  I looked at the paddle and then at her prominent posterior.  Then without giving it much thought or of the consequences that would follow...I picked up her paddle gave her three solid wacks.

I placed the paddle on her desk and took off like Lee Harvey Oswald.  I briskly moved down the hall to my locker and then to my science class.  I chuckled at first, as I briskly moved down the hall.  The smile faded as the adrenaline rush ebbed and I started to think about what I had just done.  I began to sit there with an impending dread.  I sat waiting at my desk as student trickled in - eyes fixed at the loudspeaker over Ms. Cole's desk.

I knew that I was soon going to face the justice of Mr. Ben Pillitary.  Ms. Cole entered the room about the time my name blared over the intercom system.  My heart started pounding as I walked out of the classroom.  The pounding  seemed to get louder as I walked down the long dark hall to Mr. Pillitary's office.

I was nervous as hell.  I knocked on the door and I heard him firmly say "Come in."

Mr. Pillitary was sitting behind his desk giving me direct eye contact as I walked to the door and toward his desk.  Ms. Trussel stood behind Ben with her arms crossed and daggers coming out of her eyes.  I was scared and simply couldn't bear approaching the desk too close.  I could feel a lot of heat coming my way.  A reckoning was inevitable.

Ben wanted to know what happened. "Why did you HIT your teacher!"

"Well, I didn't 'hit' Mrs. Trussel.  I 'spanked' her."  I didn't say it sarcastically or in anger.  I was too scared to be angry.  I knew I was guilty.

He said, "NO. You HIT your teacher" 

"Yes sir." I replied.

"Why did you hit her?"

I told him the story.  I knew I was being honest about not lying to her and I knew that I deserved whatever punishment he had in store for me.

Ms. Trussel remained ensconced behind Mr. Pillitary - daggers still flying.

After I told my story he just looked at me for a minute in silence.  He was weighing the situation I suppose.  I didn't think there was anything at the moment to weigh.  I was waiting for him to pick up his paddle and tell me to bend over his desk.

He surprised me.

He swiveled his chair around and looked back to my angered teacher, "Mrs. Trussel, I've never known David to be dishonest.  I've never known him to be trouble maker.  I believe that he was trying to tell you the truth."
Ms. Trussel fixed glare on me turned to Mr. Pillitary in disbelief.  The Assistant Principal took the student's side.  I was still nervous and awaiting the paddle for 'hitting' my teacher.  Good old Mr. Ben Pillitary.  He told me to go back to class and don't ever do anything like that again.

I told Ms. Trussel that I was sorry but she remained silent.  Perhaps she was in shock.  I was also shocked. I apologized to Mr. Pillitary too.  I walked out the door and felt my legs shaking as I closed the door behind me and walk back down that long hall.  I was still shaking as I sat down at my desk.

I really deserved punishment that day - but I was given a reprieve.  The incident showed me that Ben was a good guy who could get to the bottom of the matter without necessarily using a paddle.

I have a great deal of respect for that man.

Thank you Ben. God speed.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

remember us

Two of my uncles served in the United States Navy during World War II - Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson and James Murdoch Finlayson. They survived the war and lived to be old bachelors.  Murdoch passed away in June of 2008 and Pat died April 2011.

It was a few years after Murdoch's death, while visiting in Columbia, Uncle Pat told me something before we retired for the evening.  I was headed to his guest room when he said that he deeply appreciated my journaling/blogging about his and Murdoch's wartime experiences.  He said something to the affect that having never married, having never had children, that he did not want to be forgotten.  Pat told me that it meant a great deal that their service be documented and not forgotten.

The next day my brother and I took Aunt Jennie Llew and Uncle Pat to The Lizard's Thicket - their favorite place to eat.  Pat was the first at the table and I sat across from him.  I don't know where Brook and Jennie Llew were at the moment - but Pat and I were at the table for a few minutes a lone.

Pat put down his menu and told me something that had recently happened while in the sitting area at Still Hopes Retirement Community.  He told me that a group of high school students were visiting the community ~ mingling with the old residents.  Pat said that a young man approached him and asked if he had served in the military.  Pat told the boy that he served during World War II in the United States Navy.  I don't know if Pat told him that he was part of the Amphibious Landing Force with three campaigns under his belt that included the Normandy Invasion.

Pat's eyes began to well.  I leaned forward to hear what he was saying through the noise of the restaurant clatter and chatter.

He said, this young man then reached out his hand to shake his hand and said "Thank you for your service sire."  At first I didn't understand why he seemed so emotional about the incident encounter.  I kept eye contact with Uncle Pat.  He paused and then raised his hands from the table and said, "I didn't respond.  He caught me by one had ever thanked me for that."  He was taken off guard a boys gratitude and couldn't respond. The moment left him speechless.

Then a small wave hit me from his side of table.  I felt a little pang guilt for having never personally thanked him before that moment.  The dear old veteran lived into 90's with only a young stranger to thank him for his sacrifice.

My eyes welled too upon my realization of the impact it had had on him. The conversation changed as the rest of the party seated themselves around the table.  Pat's head ducked behind his menu and I followed suit.

My eyes well up each veterans day since.  My eyes well as I write this memory.  Pat said he didn't want to be forgotten.  He didn't want Murdoch to be forgotten - their service.  It meant something to him that we remember, to not be forgotten.

There are men and women around us who have served.  I believe each and every veteran needs to hear it from our own lips, whether we be family, friends or the stranger.

Thank you!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

America's Sweetheart

My streaming device broke a week ago, so I've been watching DVDs I have around the house.  Gina came home this chilly wet night, slipped under a blanket on the sofa.  "You got anything good to watch?" she asked.  I pulled out Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) starring Shirley Temple. Katie came home from school and sat down for the last half of the show.

It had been a very long time since I watched a Shirley Temple movie. They are all simple, predictable plots ~ but I have always found them enjoyable to watch. Sitting there watching tonight, my thoughts went to my mother and how she loved Shirley Temple throughout her life.

I remember my parents having an LP around the house of Shirley Temple songs recorded from her films.  There was a time I knew every song and lyric on that album.  From time to time, you might hear me humming or singing one of those old tunes.

I remember Sunday afternoons after church, the family watched Shirley Temple Theater on public television. I don't know how many times I've watched her movies, mostly during my childhood.  I never grew out of enjoying her, as silly as those films can be.  I know she'll always come out on top ~ but I'm rooting for her until the credits roll.

Shirley's movies seem to travel well through time, with the ability to entertain folks young and old from generation to generation.  Katie remarked, "I never saw that one." 

Well, she made a bunch of them.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

still creepy after all these years

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) still holds up after all these years.  I was just a lad, too young to pick up on the underlying political connotations that people drew from the film.  McCarthyism and Communism was an issue for grown-ups.  I saw it only as a great scare-the-pants-off thriller.  Still, if you want to have an understanding of the concerns and paranoia that obsessed post WWII America ~ you might want to watch this flick. 

Even so, I still enjoy the movie on the surface, as a well executed thriller.  The movie was a low budget film that starts out in a very believable world then quickly propels the protagonist (and the audience) into a high speed roller-coaster ride.

The imagery is stunning.  The props/effects are not elaborate but adequate. Now over a half a century old, the movie still holds together and still thrills.

There have been three adaptations of this film, all of them with larger budgets and more elaborate special effects, but are mere soulless replicas of the original film.

"People began to read meanings into pictures that were never intended. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an example of that. I remember reading a magazine article arguing that the picture was intended as an allegory about the communist infiltration of America. From personal knowledge, neither Walter Wanger nor Don Siegel, who directed it, nor Dan Mainwaring, who wrote the script nor original author Jack Finney, nor myself saw it as anything other than a thriller, pure and simple."
~Walter Mirish