Junior Year-Missing the Ball or Hitting the Net

 After spending a year convalescing from the polio my being thirsted for involvement in everything that I could get into at Mendel.  I needed to make up for lost time.  Although the polio kept me from playing football I participated by going to the games.  During the second half of sophomore year I became buddies with Stan Kantor, an old rival from Burnside. Stan is one of the tough guys from Avalon Avenue who went to Perry School. He and his neighbors liked to think they were meaner and tougher than the rest of us on Avalon. We were about the same height and weight.  At Mendel, I learned that Stan was one of the nicest guys I ever met. He played quarterback position on the football team.

Father Theis started a booster club which I joined.  We designed and painted posters advertising the football games.  We hung the posters all around school to promote attendance at the games.  Some of my posters were good enough to hang in places where the hall traffic was the heaviest all day long.

My ability to do the posters got me recognized in the school club scene, and Father O’Neil invited me to join the year book staff as art editor.  On the yearbook I met some really nice guys who became great friends.  One of them is Jim Geil.  He and I became inseparable for several years after. Jim and I still correspond regularly by e-mail. because there are eighteen hundred miles between us.

The school dedicated a new chapel and monastery in time for the start of Junior year.  The monastery led me into a new opportunity.  One day, an announcement came over the PA about a job.  I applied, and got the job as the monastery phone receptionist.

In the new monastery, each priest had a room with a pager.  All of the calls came to a single phone in a small cell at the front door. The cell had a desk, a chair, a phone and a large light board on the wall. Each priest’s name was on the board.  If the priest was in, and the light next to his name was on, he took calls.  When the phone rang, I answered it, and determined who the caller wanted.  I placed the caller on hold, and buzzed the priest.  He answered and I announced which line his call was on. The priests let me know when they left the building, and I took messages.   The job required that I be on duty four hours a day from four until eight.  This meant that I got to screw-off after class until four.  Sometimes I walked up to Michigan Avenue.  Most of the time, I did homework, worked on a poster, or the year book.

In the spring, I tried out for baseball and made the fourth string.  Father Burns placed me at third base.  Throughout the time I played sandlot baseball, I always played second base. Third base was never my position but I was happy to play.  I fielded the ball very well; in fact, I robbed some hot-shot hitters of line drives by spearing the ball on the fly.  My reactions were very good.  unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the strength to throw the ball to first base on the fly.

I also tried out for the tennis and made that.  I often played against myself by stroking the ball against the wall of the handball court at Palmer Park. It was another way  to fill time after school before answering phones.  I never played a real game of tennis with anyone so when I joined the team I had to learn the rules as well as the strokes and the serve. That is when I met Jim Murphy.  We became lifetime friends, and roomed together in college. Jim also stood up at my wedding.

Although I played tennis well in practice I never won a match in competition. Years later I realized why.  During a match, I was so worried about making a mistake, I kept seeing myself missing the ball or hitting it into the net.  That problem stayed with me until my forties when I finally realized the power of positive visualization, that is, “see it in your mind and believe it”.  Why did it take me so long to realize that?

By the end of Junior year things were starting to come together for me.  The effects of the polio were still there, but my sports and weight lifting helped me overcome any handicap that I had.  Life was good.

Send Money

On this Memorial Day Weekend let us not forget those who have defended our flag and the people of Joplin Missouri who have suffered great losses as a result of the tornado.

As a member of the Frankfort Lions Club, I appeal to the people of WordPress , and all my friends to consider sending donations to the address listed below.  Here is a copy of a letter I received from the District 1B Governor  Lion John J O’Brien.

1-B Lions, Lioness, and Leos,

A Forwarded Message from Our District Governor John O’Brien and MD-1 on assisting in Joplin, MO

After a few calls from club members in our District asking what we can do to help in Joplin, Missouri, I was able to get thru to the District Governor in Joplin to ask what we could do to help.  She thanked us for the offer and she went on to say that seven (7) Lions in her district lost everything the owned, cars, houses, computers with years of photographs stored on them. They only had the clothing on their backs. Her Zone Chair and her husband went to the crawl space of their house only to emerge to open sky.

If Clubs in our District or individual Lions wish to help or contribute financially, below is the mailing information you need.

If you want to help out personally, the Lions Club House on the edge of town in Joplin,  suffered minimum damage and has become a gathering point in town.  They will be cooking food all weekend at the club house. Volunteers are able to stay at the club house, but there are no showers available at the Lions Club building. She asked if you come down to help, to wear your Lions Shirt or vest or bring your lions ID card to get past security.

Those wishing to offer monetary relief; please makes checks payable to:

MD26 M6, Joplin Relief Fund,

and mail to:

PDG Jim Wilson, Cabinet Treasurer

1551 E. Powell

Springfield, Missouri 65804

Thank you in advance for any help you send.

In a Pub Eating Fish and Chips While Sipping Single Malt Scotch

Nothing defines true love better than a Welsh Love Spoon. The hand carved spoons date back to the 1600’s. When a young man wants to declare his love to a young woman he presents her with a love spoon. It is a sign of his love and intention.

I came across the love spoon while touring Wales in the nineteen-ninety’s. Busia Barbara and I were tag-alongs on a musical trip sponsored by the Park Forest Singers. The Park Forest Singers is a group of seventy plus voices dedicated to using the voice as an instrument. Barb sang like an angel, and could easily have become a member of this prestigious group. She chose not to, but loved to hang with the members. We attended their concerts and parties. We were  Singer groupies. When the SIngers announced a trip to visit England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight, one of Barb’s girl friends invited us to join them.

At first, Barb was reluctant to ask me. She explained what the group was doing and when they were going, and other details. I floored her when I suggested we go too. I’m positive that was her intention all along; she just didn’t know how to approach old Grumpy.

The trip was twelve days long and the choir would sing four concerts, three of them in churches. Each church was in a different part of Great Britain. Our landing was at Heathrow airport and followed by a sleepy-eyed tour through the city to our hotel. We slept within four blocks of Buckingham Palace and two blocks from Harrods. “Harrods, what the heck is Harrods?” I learned that Harrods is a large, upscale department store, similar in scope and pricey inventory to Marshal Field’s, Nordstrom’s, and Macy’s. None of it made sense to me. I looked forward to drinking in a Pub, eating Fish and Chips, sampling single malt scotch whiskey, and ogling the local women.

Harrods Christmas lights 2008

Image via Wikipedia

The night of our arrival the Singers performed in a London Cathedral. No, it wasn’t Westminster Abbey, it was a lesser church that is  actually  more beautiful than Westminster. In spite of jet lag and fatigue, the Park Forest Singers  performed their repertoire flawlessly and with great enthusiasm.

Our group filled two buses as we traveled the English countryside to Oxford, and a number of other towns now faded from memory. I loved the countryside, and the walled-towns too. There is something about spending time in places of antiquity. It brings one a sense for how short a span we spend on planet earth. Sleeping in hotels that are hundreds of years old, walking around the town (literally) on a fortress wall, wobbling along cobblestones carved from quarries centuries ago, all added to the excitement.

The most vivid memory I have of this trip aside from the singing performances is a mental image of the English countryside. All of the places we traveled are stunningly  beautiful.

Wales was very different from Scotland and England. It has a unique language that is near impossible for the first time visitor to comprehend. The Welsh use too many consonants and too few vowels in their words (Llanfairpwll-gwyngyllgogerych-wyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch). Thank God we were on a tour and had a guide who could interpret for us. The road signs were absolutely scary. Once off the bus we quickly learned that the Welsh speak English too. God save the Queen!

It was in a small town in Wales near the origin of the movie, Little Engine that Could where I spotted a wooden spoon with a unique design. I picked it up and read the descriptive tag. I fell in love with the Welsh Love Spoon.

The singers had a marvelous joint performance with Welsh Men’s Choir. The concert delayed for half an hour because the men were late getting in from their farms. Afterwards, our group joined for a late dinner. The real fun began after that. The evening turned into a singing version of Can You Top That? Each choir rotated singing favorite songs, each trying to outdo the other. It was a draw, both groups sang their hearts out.

A year later, I came across a pattern for a wood carving. It was a beautiful love spoon. The instant I saw it, I felt a need to carve the spoon for Barb as a re-declaration of  my love for her. The last time I had a carving knife in hand, I was fourteen, but it didn’t deter me. I bought several chisels, and a friend from work gave me the wood. I started and continued  chiseling away for several weeks until the finished spoon satisfied my eye. I lovingly presented it to Barb. She was happy. The spoon went on display with her prize depression glass bowls.

I still have the spoon. It now resides within a dark drawer out of harms way awaiting my departure from this earth. That is when the kids get to decide where it goes next.

Insanity-Doing the Same Thing Over and Over and Expecting a Different Result

The creative side of my head keeps telling me to draw a cartoon depicting a hybrid semi-truck. Before I go to the trouble to make the drawing, I felt it wise to find out how much oil truck use as compared to cars. The current gov’m’n’t  push is to conserve oil by telling us buy expensive hybrids that will increase gas mileage from 29 mpg to 48 mpg.

Now, more than ever, I am convinced the USA can live without the Department of Energy. For the last week, I have been researching the Internet for data regarding the amount of fuel used by various modes of travel. This should be easy, I thought; just go to the DOE site and search. Wrong. I needed to visit many websites for each type of transportation to find one simple number. How much fuel do the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the USA consume within one year?

What I have learned is that every time Barack Obama or one of his denizens begins spewing rhetoric about man-made global warming and the oil shortage, it is best to change the channel. Another reason for channel flipping is any dialog about the urgency to sell your gas hog in favor of a hybrid.

There is one thing this research did for me. It made the USA Energy Policy stand out. The policy is to make everything run on oil.

Oil is the organic compound breathing life into the modern era.

The hybrid trade off for me is about 170 horsepower and a lot of comfort. Hybrids with high mileage are tiny puddle jumpers that run on four cylinders and weigh less than three thousand pounds.(A puddle jumper in my day weighed 1800 pounds, how did the  Prius get so fat? Batteries?) I spent twenty years driving puddle jumpers at a time when even the most Left person in the country had not awakened to the fact that maybe burning gasoline will pollute the air.

At my current age, I want enough horsepower to climb a hill without the need to downshift four times and have to crawl to the top. I also prefer a seat large enough to handle my wide body, air conditioning to minimize discomfort, a quiet cabin, and a trunk large enough to carry my luggage.

Here is the chart I made using the data gleaned from many sources. Even I have a hard time believing what I see.

Chart by Grumpa Joe May 18, 2011, Data from various Internet sources

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Why on earth are we picking on cars to save oil when trucks, ships, and trains consume more than cars?
  2. Why isn’t Obama pushing the truck industry to buy hybrids?
  3. Is there such a thing as a hybrid truck?
  4. Why do we buy oil from the other side of the world when the largest polluters are the ships hauling the oil?
  5. Why is Obama pushing high-speed passenger service when he should be pushing high-speed electric freight?
  6. Is Obama aware that the country’s average mileage for a car is 18 mpg? (Most likely tilted to the low end by illegals buying two hundred dollar cars that are low mpg.)
  7. If diesel-electric locomotives are so fuel efficient, why don’t we use the same principle on semi-trucks?
  8. If all electric trains are so much more efficient than diesel-electrics why aren’t we pushing for that?

The questions can go on and on, but no one is asking them.  Instead, we get a bunch of BS from our leader about the urgency to trade in the SUV.

Return to Civilization From a Polio World

Coming home for the Christmas holiday from Michael Reese Hospital created a high level of activity.  It was a good thing for me.  We had lots of company and I went to church a lot.  The holiday action gave me an opportunity to get into living at home more gradually.

The connection to the hospital did not end by any means.  Three times each week I rode the Cottage Grove streetcar from 93rd Street to 29th Street, and then walked  three blocks to the hospital for physical therapy.  At first, mom came with me, but she realized that I could handle the trip on my own and I began taking the trip solo.  The hot packs were gone but the stretching and resistance training continued.

When I first transferred to MR, progress was fast, but now it became tedious. The exercises turned into the sweat of building muscle and learning to use those that still worked.  In the case of my badly damaged neck and hip, it was a matter of finding available muscle fibers and retraining them to do new things.  The process required constant repetition of exercises and stretching.  In many ways a physical therapist is a personal trainer.  They are with you to push you toward a goal without hurting you or damaging a muscle.  In addition to therapy at the hospital, I did a set of exercises at home everyday.

The holidays ended and the next big adventure after traveling to MR was returning to school.  I missed an entire semester, and wondered how I would make it up.  In my mind I was ready to repeat sophomore year and graduate a year after my classmates. Unbeknown to me, Mom kept in touch with Father Grace and the priests at Mendel. Not only were they praying for my welfare, they assured her that when the time came for my return, they would give me an opportunity to catch up.

The toughest aspect of returning to school was answering the questions from my classmates about what happened to me.  It didn’t help that the collar and the crutches broadcast my condition.  After answering and explaining for a week, things were pretty well accepted.  It became very clear that I was seriously behind in every subject, and the prospect of repeating the year challenged me. Each of my teachers gave me counsel and assigned extra reading and homework to help catching up. It became my responsibility to accept the challenge and do the work. Religion, English, Social studies, etc. were easy. They involved reading and some one on one with the instructor. Plane Geometry was another matter. The entire concept of geometry as mathematics was totally new. I thought geometry involved shapes. Later, I learned that solid geometry is the mathematics of shape. Plane geometry was Greek. My head buzzed with new words like “proof, axiom, theorem, congruent.” Father Burnell recognized the dilemma quickly, and assigned a student to tutor me. The second semester work relied on knowing all the definitions and basic proofs presented in the first semester. My classmates literally bowled me over with their knowledge while I trembled at the lack of it.

God bless my classmate Bob Zimmerman.  He was in the Scientific curriculum and the editor of the school newspaper.  I liked him and everyday, after school he spent one hour with me going over all the first semester work.  His patience and persistence to stay with me until the lights went on in my head saved me. At the same time he coached me on the basics I had to absorb the new material and solve daily homework problems.

With all the extra reading, geometry problems to solve, and three trips a week to Michael Reese, there was no time for extra curricular activities. My days of managing the basketball team ended last spring. I had to give up metal shop because of the late start and my condition made it unsafe for me to work with machine tools.  Father Hartigan didn’t want me getting hurt. Instead he suggested I use that time to do my catch up work in the library. I did, and it helped. Would you believe that machine shops became an part of my career? They did, and I am proud of my accomplishments in the field of precision tool making.

The semester finished too fast, but I managed to get through finals with average grades.  All of the teachers were very generous and understanding to my plight and I thank them for that.  On the other hand, I studied very hard to make up the lost time and to catch up.  It worked, I moved into my junior year. I suppose I could chalk up the first semester as experience, but I will brag and say that I came through it with straight A’s in Swallowing, Walking, Smiling, and Living.

The cherry on the cake came when the basketball team awarded me a Varsity letter for participating as their manager in spirit.  By August, on my sixteenth birthday, I gave up the last crutch and my physical therapy ended at Michael Reese.

Thank God for Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine.