Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nature's Canvas

This is a nature story that has nothing to do with bears in the woods.

It happened to our own barrister extraordinaire, Warren Sparrow, one morning last week. He went outside, got in his car and guess what he saw splattered on his windshield?


It was, what could best be described as nothing less than a “work of art!” drawn by mother nature herself!

Now those less sensitive souls, not properly schooled in art appreciation would probably just think it was nothing  more than leaves that had fallen overnight on Warren's car.  Balderdash!

Warren and the rest of us might have thought the same thing once upon a time when we were young and hungry and climbing ladders.

But as age begins to slow us down, I believe it brings with it an enhanced appreciation of the incredible beauty that has surrounded us all our lives.

Either that, or Warren was hungry that morning.

 From:  Scientific American Magazine
Brain areas such as the anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex that are activated by pleasant smells or tastes are also the parts of the brain that are active when we are awed by Renaissance paintings or Baroque concertos. There is virtually no evidence that artworks activate emotion areas distinct from those involved in appraising everyday objects important for survival. Hence, the most reasonable evolutionary hypothesis is that the aesthetic system of the brain evolved first for the appraisal of objects of biological importance, including food sources and suitable mates, and was later co-opted for artworks such as paintings and music. As much as philosophers like to believe that our brains contain a specialized system for the appreciation of artworks, research suggests that our brain’s responses to a piece of cake and a piece of music are in fact quite similar.

Nevertheless, Warren, I still like it!
It sure beats what Mother Nature's little feathered painters leave on my windshield every morning!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Veterans Day 11/11/11

Veterans Day in Charlotte was a special day, particularly for a group of men and women from the NC National Guard who left for a tour in Afghanistan.

Our own Obie Oakley can always be counted on to help honor fellow veterans. And this special occasion was no exception. This video is an excellent documentary of what the ceremony was like. Some of the footage was shot at Charlotte's Vietnam Memorial, which was a project that Obie played one of the major roles in building on the old Thompson Orphanage site.

Our classmate, Charles Mateer, the first American soldier killed in Laos, has a special mention on the memorial.

Watching this video reminds us of how much our veterans sacrifice for the rest of us.

They're a special breed!!

A look at Veterans Day 2011 in Charlotte, NC through the eyes of three generations of Veterans: Two men who served their country and another who is still serving, recently back from Afghanistan. These men share what this day means to them, while on that very morning, more men and women left from the NC Air National Guard to serve in the War in Afghanistan.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What if...?

He was an Irish farmer's son with only a 10th grade education, who immigrated to America in 1929 and worked as a chauffeur and later joined the US Navy during World War Two. In 1945 he applied for a job with the government and wound up driving for this country's Presidents beginning with Harry Truman, and ending that day in Dallas in 1963.

I met William Robert Greer in 1964, when, as I understand it, I was the only reporter he had allowed to interview him since that awful day the year before.

Total BS
I could certainly sympathize with Greer's reluctance to talk to the press, which even then was not above twisting stories to fit their own agenda. The latest totally insane conspiracy going around the Internet today is that Greer shot Kennedy.


I was hoping to do a soft news feature for CBS radio's “Weekend Dimension.”...which broadcast five minute audio vignettes on the half hour throughout the weekend.

Imagine my surprise when Greer agreed to my request. (He told me later that it was his wife, who watched me regularly on local TV, who convinced him to invite me over.)

Norelco cassette recorder 1964
I arrived at his home in nearby suburban Maryland carrying one of the latest (at the time) technological wonders in modern recording devices called a “cassette recorder.”  My particular machine was made by Norelco, which allowed radio reporters to record good quality “on the scene” reports without the aid of a engineer and cumbersome recording equipment. This was a major breakthrough.

William Greer
Rare photo of JFK wearing hat
William Greer was very gracious and invited me into his home in suburban Maryland where we talked for about an hour....with my amazing small recorder doing its thing. He seemed to light up when talking about the happy times he spent driving Kennedy from place to place. He was especially pleased on several occasions when the President unexpectedly had him stop in front of a church and ask to borrow his hat before going inside.

Greer was technically a Secret Service Agent. But, realistically, he was what he'd always been; a chauffeur. He was not trained as a “protector” of the President, he was simply a driver. The Secret Service procedures in place at the time did not allow Greer to take action without orders from a senior agent.
Roy Kellerman, was the senior agent who sat to Greer's right that fateful day.

Kenneth O'Donnell (special assistant to Kennedy) who was riding in the motorcade, later wrote: "If the Secret Service men in the front had reacted quicker to the first two shots at the President's car, if the driver had stepped on the gas before instead of after the fatal third shot was fired, would President Kennedy be alive today?"

He also stated that after the death of the president  "Greer had been remorseful all day, feeling that he could have saved President Kennedy's life by swerving the car or speeding suddenly after the first shots."

Author William Manchester reported in Death of a President, that at Parkland Hospital, 

“Those who had been in the motorcade were racking their brains with... if only this, if only that. One of them, Bill Greer, came to her [Jackie Kennedy] his face streaked with tears, took her head between his hands and squeezed until she thought he was going to squeeze her skull flat. He cried, ‘Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, oh my God, oh my God. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t hear, I should have swerved the car, I couldn’t help it. Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, as soon as I saw it I swerved. If only I’d seen in time! Oh!’ Then he released her head and put his arms around her and wept on her shoulder.” [Death of a President, p.290]

It was reported that Mrs. Kennedy felt so sorry for Greer that she requested that he drive the naval ambulance containing the casket to the naval hospital.

I believe that Greer admired the young President as much as most Americans did. Perhaps more so.

CBS Radio aired my story, but if my interview were to be graded by any modern journalism professor, it would receive a big fat F.  I didn't ask any of the questions that a reporter these days is taught to ask, such as “how did you feel?”  “What was it like....., describe the scene.." etc.

But, for what it's worth, I'll tell you how I felt:

To me, William Greer was like the typical kindly uncle; humble, thoughtful, and  honest. I could still detect a hint of an Irish accent in his voice. His home was modest and warm, but just below the surface, there was a sadness that was almost palpable. He retired on disability from the Secret Service in 1966 because of a stomach ulcer that rapidly grew worse following the Kennedy Assassination. He died in 1985.

I like to believe that I was able to offer him a few short moments of relief by getting him talking about some of the good times in his American Dream....that so suddenly had turned into a nightmare.   -Ed

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Better in the ...........

By Don Nance
(via email)

Carnival Cruise Line

As you may remember Letty and I were married on June 24,1961. To celebrate our 50th anniversary we took our 
children, their spouses, and three of our grandchildren
on a Carnival Cruise Line to the Bahamas.

The picture below is the family on the ship. Start at the top:

Donnie and Ronda, Tommy and Stefanie, Charlotte and Roth is with the children, Patrick and Kim, Letty and Donald, and the three grandsons: Sam, Gabe, and Jackson.

It was wonderful have the family together. Nathan our oldest grandson was working, and Asher our two years old was to young to take on the cruise with us.
Talk with you later,

Monday, November 07, 2011

Back to Kansas

By Warren Sparrow
 Becky and I flew to Kansas City from Raleigh on Friday, 28 October 2011.  On Saturday morning we set out from Olathe, KS, the home of our daughter Cathy, for Manhattan, KS, the Little Apple.  Manhattan is the home of Kansas State University.  Two of our grandchildren graduated from Kansas State.  The third one is a freshman there, a member of the KSU Classy Cats  who lead the band onto the field.

Charlotte Peele
Believe it or not, her name is Charlotte. And KSU is the Wildcats!  What a hoot, Central fans.  We got to the game two hours before kickoff.  The lots adjacent to the stadium were full.  So we parked in a nearby neighbor's yard for fifteen dollars and walked a few blocks to the stadium parking lot.

 Once there we rendezvoused with K-State fans who were friends of our granddaughter.  A good time was had by all until the game was half over.  Oklahoma blitzed KSU in the second half, winning 58-17 and spoiling KSU's undefeated season.

But, we had a wonderful time.  Attached are some photos from our trip.

This is one of the KSU band coming onto the field before the Oklahoma game.  Charlotte and her 23 pals are in front.

This one (from left to right) shows Melaine Peele, Charlottes' older sister who is a KSU grad, then Charlotte, then me, then Charlotte's mom, Cathy, and then grandmother Becky in the stadium parking lot after the game.

This  is a Decemebr 2009 picture made when Granddaughter Lydia Peele graduated from Kansas State. She lives in Arlington, VA, and teaches in DC as part of the Teach for America program.

And this is the K-State football stadium on Graduation Day.          Global warming, anyone?

                    And this one... well, I am not sure what to make of it.  Decide for yourself.  -WS

 (Warren, I recognized it immediately.  It's the plane you flew out of Raliegh on.  I once flew on it myself.  The stewardesses got prettier and prettier....the higher.....uh..... it went.  -Ed)

Monday Report

Frank Clontz's (CHS class of 55) wife Shirley writes that

"... Frank was released from the hospital (I am sure the nursing staff worked overtime to make him well as he is not the most complacent patient), but he is still very weak. It will just take time to rebuild his stamina. He is hoping to feel well enough to attend his class luncheon on the 15th. He was a very sick fellow, but is on the road to recovery.
Again, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.


Mr.Gil Ballance's excellent book, Leah's Journey Home, got a big boost from one of North Carolina's most celebrated academics. The endorsement reads as follows:

"When young, unwed mother-to-be Leah embarks on a May-December arranged marriage with a Civil War veteran thirty years her senior, moving to his circa-1900 farm hard by the Great Dismal Swamp, she does so with the determined soul of a schoolteacher and suffragette.

Gil Ballance's social drama, modeled in part on his own family's history, his precise, good-hearted and uplifting novel is a welcome addition to the literature of Eastern North Carolina."

-Bland Simpson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing Co-Director of the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, UNC Chapel Hill

Our 92 year old English teacher and founder of one of the first Radio Production Departments in the North Carolina public school system has begun his new career as an author with a "bang!"

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Mark it down on your dance card.....for THIS TUESDAY!

Go here for DETAILS

My Visit to an Art Show

I'll bet you can't wait for this one.

I wasn't expecting much either, but stick with me.

Around 1986 or 87 a friend of mine dragged me to an event at the Virginia Bader Fine Arts Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia for a showing of a new series of Aviation Art.

This particular show was highlighting the airplanes of World War Two.

"Hurricane Scramble" by Robert Taylor

But, I soon realized that the paintings were just part of the show. when I heard the gentleman standing next to a large painting labeled Hurricane Scramble say that he was very familiar with that plane because during the summer and autumn of 1940. he would sometimes spend 4 or 5 hours a day in “one of those.

He introduced himself to me as Peter Brothers, and he said his only form of relaxation during what came to be called "the Battle of Britain," was on returning from combat when he would open the cockpit canopy and light up a cigarette.
Brothers personally shot down a number of German bombers and fighter planes.

Peter Townsend and Virginia Bader

He introduced me to the man standing nearby as a man who "also spent many hours in Hawker Hurricanes..." .and in fact was the pilot who shot the first German plane out of the ski over Britain in 1940. Peter Townsend was his name. (Like most Americans, I  remembered his name more for his romantic association with Princess Margaret rather than his daring WW2 heroics.)

It soon became apparent that the many British accented conversations going on around me belonged to some of the best Royal Air Force pilots of World War Two. Men who Winston Churchill called “The FEW.”

(After visiting an RAF Operations Room during a day of watching one of the battles Churchill told Major Major General Hastings Ismay Don’t speak to me, I have never been so moved’. After several minutes of silence he said ‘Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.’  He would later use almost those exact words in one of his most famous speeches to parliament.)

It was truly an evening to tell my grandchildren about.

It wasn't until later that I learned how such an historic gathering of heroes could possibly have been organized for an “art show.”

Virginia Bader (the owner of the gallery) was a cousin of Sir Douglas Bader, the most famous fighter pilot Britain has ever known.

Douglas Bader
“Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and was commissioned in 1930. In December 1931, while attempting some aerobatics, he crashed and lost both his legs. After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot.
On September 7 1940 Bader and the pilots of three RAF squadrons engaged the Luftwaffe in battle over London. Twenty German planes were destroyed, 10 by Bader’s squadron.
However in August 1941 his combat days came to an end when he was forced to bail out over northern France and was captured. -Wikipedia”

The fact that Bader had lost his legs in that accident years before actually saved his life, because one of his prosthetic legs had become trapped in his aircraft.....and had been pulled off when his parachute opened...thereby separating Bader from his falling plane.

German forces treated their famous prisoner with great respect. He and General Adolph Galland, Germany's most famous fighter pilot, became friends.
Galland arranged safe passage for the British to air drop a new prosthetic leg for Bader.
He might not have been so gracious had he known that after "Operation Leg Drop," the British plane would continue on to bomb other German installations.

While captive, Bader was a thorn in the side of the Germans. He was a master of what the RAF personnel called "goon-baiting"... considering it his duty to cause as much trouble to the enemy as possible.
He attempted to escape so often that the Germans threatened to take away his artificial legs. Finally, they just sent him to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle....where he remained until the war's end.
Bader's reputation as the “leader of the few” was enhanced by the 1954 best selling book and film, Reach for the Sky.

After Bader's death in 1982 his family and friends, many of whom had flown with him during the war formed THE DOUGLAS BADER FOUNDATION a charity honoring his contribution and work on behalf of the disabled. The Foundation's motto is, "A person who fights back is not disabled, but inspired."

General Adolph Galland

Surviving airmen from both the British and the German sides are strong supporters of the Bader Foundation. Bader's old friend, General Adolph Galland was in attendance and spoke that evening. He told of the time he had invited Bader to speak at a reunion of his fellow Luftwaffe pilots. He said that Bader looked around the rather crowded room and remarked,

"My God, I didn't realize that we had left so many of you bastards alive."


My autographed program from that magic night. -Ed

Thursday, November 03, 2011

You Mean It's That Time Again Already?


Jerry Gaudet, our official notifier, reminds us that you should make plans now to attend!

CHS'54, "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on
Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 11:30 AM

at "Jimmies Restaurant"
off Hwy. 51 (in Mint Hill)
7024 Brighton Park Dr.
Mint Hill, NC


Please share this word with others! Invite other classmates to come!
Even better, bring someone with you!

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
-Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Class of 55 News

(News from the Class of '55 Website)

By Joan King Hargett

OCTOBER 28. 2011





(Frank has also been a good friend of this website, offering news tips and encouragement to this CHS54 site!
 Get well soon, Frank!!  -Ed)