Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black History and the North Carolina National Guard

 By Obie Oakley

(In commemoration of Black History Month, I wrote an op ed piece for the Observer should they choose to use it.   Since  it hasn’t appeared, I am assuming they “chose” not to.
In any case, it was a significant time for me and our Band of Brothers in 1965 and one of which to this day I am still very proud.)



By Obie Oakley

          Terry Sanford was elected Governor in 1960.  Across the South, he and other governors were dealing with a growing civil rights movement and in states like Alabama and Mississippi; it was dealt with in a manner that served only to further divide the races.  Sanford led the state in a different direction, bringing together the civic leaders to seek ways for a peaceful end to racial discrimination in the eyes of the law.  Certainly Charlotte Mayor Stan Brookshire was among the more progressive voices.

          Sanford could not change the hearts of the people, but he could move to enforce the law, and the Supreme Court had struck down laws which discriminated based on race.  In the spirit of his sweeping changes, Sanford removed any barrier that prevented Blacks from joining the North Carolina National Guard.

Bobby Mobley
          With that as a background, it becomes significant that, according to the limited records available, Company B of the 20th Special Forces Group (Green Berets) in Charlotte was the first unit in the state to integrate.  The soldier was Bobby Mobley and the year was 1965.  Mobley had been a paratrooper on active duty.  He worked for a company with whom I did business and though our friendship I recruited him to join the unit.  The color of his skin had nothing to do with it.  He was a paratrooper and we had an opening.

          Looking back and interviewing those who were members of the unit at that time, including Roddey Dowd, Joe Epley, Fritz Mercer and Harold Eddins, no one remembers it being a “big deal”.   Considering the civil rights climate of the time, this was a rather remarkable position for the Green Berets so Mobley took his place alongside others in this Band of Brothers.

          There was one incident however, the infamous Orange Bowl confrontation, that illustrates Mobley’s courage and the unit’s support of one another.

          The men were en route to Fort Bragg on a Friday evening and Rockingham was chosen as the rendezvous point.  Plans were to stop at the Orange Bowl restaurant, eat and proceed on the Bragg for airborne operations the next day.

          By best accounts, troops in the first truck were being seated in the restaurant with others waiting in line.  When Mobley came in the waitress informed the group that the restaurant refused service to blacks.  They would seat everyone else and prepare a take out for Mobley.  Almost as one, all those who were seated stood up; leaving plates that had been served and joined the group at the door.  By that time, those in the second truck had arrived and were inside the restaurant and words were being exchanged.  Rockingham was a known KKK hotbed.

          It was a very tense moment.  The locals were all waiting to see what would happen and the members of the unit were rallying around their brother.  Former City Councilman Joe White recalls how, in a very short time, there were a number of police and law enforcement cars coming on the scene.  No one doubted whose side they would take.

          After ascertaining their unwillingness to serve “all of us”, every man walked out, en masse.
          I think it was one of our proudest moments.

          Thanks to the courage and conviction of men like Bobby Mobley, the cause of civil rights was furthered and what he did continues to be an inspiration.


Robert Mobley

( Mobley is retired from his long employment with Arts Engraving Co., still in Charlotte and is a regular attendee at the unit’s reunions.

Obie Oakley

Oakley was the Executive Officer of the unit.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

KXW 1788

Those were the call letters of the first and only radio station I ever owned. I don't brag about it, because most people don't consider it a real radio station, But it was.
Heck, I paid $20 to the FCC for the license back in the middle 70's. Later, these stations became so popular that the FCC gave up trying to regulate them after they started getting over a million requests for licenses a month.

I'm speaking, of course, about the CB radio craze of the 70's and early 80's.
Breaker, Breaker One Nine

There was a very good reason for the truckers, who began the craze, to embrace the CB. After the 1973 Oil crisis, the Federal Government imposed the 55mph speed limit to ostensibly relieve the fuel shortages. The radios were crucial for truckers to inform each other of gas stations that had ample supplies and also to warn each other of “Smoky Bears” waiting in the bushes for “customers.”

I was driving quite a bit back in those days, and could see first hand how valuable a CB radio could be.
So I installed CB's in both my cars AND in my house (called a “base station.”)
I was “wired” baby!

And the times I truly needed it, it never let me down. I'm still overwhelmed at how willing complete strangers are to help other complete strangers.
Although channel 9 (the truckers channel) was quite busy....and often not appropriate for young ears, there were 39 others channels available. I settled on one of the seldom used channels and the kids and I had a blast! Getting stuck in rush hour traffic was still a common occurrence, but cold dinners were a thing of the past.

I don't remember how it began, but before long other like minded neighbors who had base stations in their homes began talking with one another (the range of the normal CB was probably only about a 5 mile radius).
This became a nightly community event. This was happening all over the country. We would talk a couple of hours a night. Imagine becoming friends with so many of your neighbors. Unheard of!
We even started meeting at a local restaurant every Saturday morning for “eyeball” sessions.

George Washington Parkway
There was one other group of CBers I talked with every day. There were about 20 of us who drove from Virginia into DC on the George Washington Parkway during rush hour as we commuted to and from work. We “met” everyday on channel 22 to basically learn which bridge across the Potomac was the least crowded at that particular time. We also got together for “eyeball” sessions on Friday afternoons at one of the “overlooks” (built primarily for tourists to pull off the parkway and enjoy the view of Washington from the high banks of the Virginia side of the river.)

The overlook next to ours was the entrance to Fort Marcy, which was then unknown to just about everybody in the world except those of us who regularly traveled the Parkway.

The most memorable “breaker” (one who asks to talk) I ever heard on the CB happened during a business trip I took to Tennessee. Just outside of Nashville, a fellow came on and said his handle was “Merle.” A trucker came back and said, that's a nice handle Buddy, too bad you ain't the REAL Merle.
The breaker replied, “I don't know who you're thinking about, but I'm THIS one.". At which point he began singing about 4 bars of his latest record.

It was Merle all right. Merle Haggard

People rarely look like they sound, but usually on the CB there was a logical relationship between the handle and the person.  For example:

Breadman worked for the Baker”s Association
Boston Wireman sold grocery carts to Grocery Stores
One Armed Bandit indeed had lost an arm in Korea
High Government Official was a federal worker who loved happy hour.
Raghauler was a sailing enthusiast. (He lived 4 houses from me and we had never met until we began talking on the CB.)
Tomato Man's hobby was gardening and he was famous locally for growing roughly a thousand tomato plants each spring.
Sue Jitsu was a nice lady, but you never wanted to make her mad.
Wild Irish Rose had seen better days.
Biff Stew was a very rotund man who was the typical “jolly fat man,” until he went on a diet and lost a lot of weight. Unfortunately, the “jolly” went with it.

There were about 35 of us at the height of the craze which lasted about 2 or 3 years....then, almost as quickly as it had started, the fad disappeared. Neighborhood groups like ours just dissolved .

The rush hour bunch broke up little later as traffic increased and it became obvious that ALL the bridges into DC were jam packed at ALL times.

Some say that in many ways the CB was the forerunner of the Internet.. Others say that people just naturally hunger to socialize with others at a safe distance.

I don't know about that, but for me, the CB was my inner Dick Tracy making the most of his long awaited wrist watch radio!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ho Hum

I always look forward to the first couple of weeks of February.  That's when nature whispers in my ear....that "Yes, Virginia boy, there WILL BE a spring!"

At my age, whispers in my ear and being called a "boy" again are usually enough  to bring on an emergency nap.

Without continuing this poor attempt at cleverness any longer, the birds deliver the message.  The same birds that have been around all winter start singing a different song...and NOT because the temperature has risen just a bit, because often our coldest weather arrives around that time. What cues them to turn the page in their hymn books  is the change in the length of daylight.

That's one of the advantages of old age, you have the time to pay attention to stuff like that.

But this year the thrill of knowing that winter is finally over, was a dud.  We didn't HAVE a winter.

Hence, the title of this post.  HO HUM.

That should be the end of this story. BUT NO!

In this age of national insanity, using the word HO is a NO NO.  It's politically incorrect.  Someone might be offended. Imus got fired for using that word.  A producer at ESPN got fired the other day for using the common phrase "chink in the armour" when alluding to the loss of a basketball game featuring a Taiwanese player named Jeremy Lin

It's almost impossible to keep up with what's no longer permissible to say.  So as a public service, I'm beginning a new feature on this website listing words you can no longer say.....and how you can circumvent their use:

FAT is out

Horizontally gifted is in

STUPID is out

Intellectually challenged is in

Tree is out.

oxygen exchange unit is in 


Non-traditional shopper is in          


Prisoner is out

.Guest of the correctional system is in

Wrong is out

Differently logical is in


Midgets is out

Vertically Challenged is in

Oh to heck with it!

Let's just hope sanity returns soon....and the nut cake liberals go away and keep their cotton picking hands off our language.  (Damm, I just gave them another phrase to ban!)


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ellouise and Jim

For those of us who have been following Ellouise's wonderful blog, the news that her husband Jim has been moved to the Montgomery Hospice near their home in Maryland is not a big surprise.
Sadness is as much a part of life as happiness, but we will all be enormously blessed if we get as much loving care as Ellouise has given Jim during his lengthy battle with cancer.

"Jim has been in Sibley Hospital since last Wednesday with fevers - bacterial and now we know tumor fever. The latest chemo treatments are not working. The cancer has spread. After tests, treatments and lots of consideration it is clear that the best move for Jim is to go home under the care of Montgomery Hospice. So, that is what is happening tomorrow mid-day. Please keep us in your prayers.
Jim and I will be happy to hear from or see anyone who wants to visit or call. 



Let's all keep them both in our prayers!


Eat Your Heart Out Hallmark

Valentine from LDL Bunch
I've been walking on air since Saturday when the postman delivered the wonderful Valentine that last week's LDL attendees made for me.

I've seldom been this excited about a valentine since I received my first one in Miss Chalk's class at Elizabeth school in...oh....1942 (or was it 1842 ?)

Anyway, there were a number of reasons why it went straight to my heart. The main one was, of course, from whom it was sent. And it came from A LOT OF WHOMS!  All of them having been my friends for close to three quarters of our lives!

One valentine. Signed by 30 or so friends.

Not only that, but it was "homemade;" written and signed on a sheet of blue lined paper from a yellow legal pad, (also known as "Old Yeller)  by far the most commonly used writing paper in the free world and in my opinion, the most sincere writing paper in existence.  Everything from bank robbers' notes to President Nixon's resignation speech have been written on those yellow sheets.

That, fellow Wildcats,  was a NUCLEAR valentine!

When you care to know
The "homemade" aspect of personal notes has long been a favorite subject of mine. And not just because an inordinate amount of time God allotted to me on this earth has been used up waiting for, first my mother, then my wife, to pick out birthday,  get well, congratulations, etc cards from the Hallmark display at the grocery store, but because I sincerely feel that store bought cards are  a little ....uh......plastic.

From the neighbor girls

From a grandchild
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate those assembly line cards, they're OK, and certainly you don't want to send a "straight from the heart home made message" to your boss, or someone you're not real close to. They would think you were nuts.  But for family and friends (especially those who have hung in for 60 years or so)  Home made is best!

Even if you can't draw a straight line, like me, and have no idea what word rhymes with another, "home made"   ROCKS!

If you don't believe me, check out your own kitchen  and tell me what kind of notes are enshrined on your refrigerator of fame.

Of course most of them are from your children and grandchildren. However if more people discover the secret of hitting the bulls eye on the hearts of old friends with your written arrows of love, like the LDL bunch did for me last week, the sales of refrigerator magnets will go out the roof!

Luckily, I had a spare for my latest addition.

Oh, by the way.............

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LDL #40 Report

(I heard through the grapevine that the LDL extravaganza on Tuesday  (Valentine's Day) was one of the "best ever" proving once again that the older and more experienced something is, the BETTER it is.
Which is no surprise since all of us chronologically gifted Wildcats are living proof of that!

I wasn't there, but judging from the pictures Jerry forwarded to me this year's Valentine edition of our luncheon was one hoot and holler for the books.
Jerry didn't go into all the details, but I'm assuming that Gene Moore won the "good looking legs" contest and the Valentine Candy eating contest was a tie....shared by all the attendees.

Here's Jerry's report:)

By Jerry Gaudet

CHS’54 celebrated Valentine’s Day with good times at Jimmies. Mary Burnett gave us table decorations appropriate for the festivities…and most were edible. We’ll check this table later…

As we were gathering, L to R, Vic Brawley, Gene Moore, Gene’s friend Shirley Burns, Sylvia Brawley, Beverly Smith Garmon, Sylvia Dunn Cross, Ronnie Rallis Pourlos and Gayle Barrier Austin…

Even though it was a chilly day, if you came up from Florida as Gene Moore did, you wear the state uniform…

Bee Garnon and Sylvia Cross get some one-on-one
conversation before lunch
Anthony and Christopher Burnett, grandsons of Mary Sue and Clyde Burnett, are wonderful helpers in setting up for our lunches and have endeared themselves as our “youngest class members”. We all feel that young, don’t we?…

Clockwise around the table are Mammie Goodwin Baucom, Mack Baucom, Mary Sue (standing), Lou Palomba, and Betty Rose Templeton Palomba…

Here we have, L to R, Harold Cullingford, Carolyn Cullingford, Vic Brawley, Sylvia Brawley, Pat Hill, Martin Hill, Shirley Burns and Gene Moore.

Special thanks to Mary Burnett and Ronnie Pourlos for Holiday appropriate treats…

And as you can see, we ate the whole thing, well almost…

While you may have missed this gathering, come be with us next time when we have an equally good time on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 11:30 AM, again at Jimmies.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

La bohème (the young bohemians)

Remember the story about the man many years ago who became so obsessed with his idea of inventing a new tool of communication that he cut all ties to normal life and became a hermit to work on his invention?

It took him 20 years, but he finally successfully completed his work and rejoined society to show off his invention to the world.

He had reinvented the typewriter.

I feel like that hermit sometimes when I get some great “revelation” that only old age has afforded me the luxury of time to even think about.  It turns out that everybody else already knew what I had just discovered.

Take modern music (PLEASE) for example.

The famous English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham is quoted as saying that the sound of the harpsichord is like “two skeletons making love on a tin roof.”

Mr. Wise, my old violin teacher at Piedmont Junior High said one time that “whoever invented the saxophone should be shot.”

Both men passed away before they had the chance to be assaulted by what pretends to be music today.

Why in the world would anyone in their right mind think that modern rock and roll is anything more than mindless robots banging on pots and pans and who knows what loudly as possible until their adoring fans ears bleed?

The answer is found in the teenage brain. New medical imaging techniques have shown that the teenage brain is truly different.  It is not fully developed until usually about the 25th year and explains, for once and for all,  the main reason we all think and act differently from the way we did in our teens.

Of course, there ARE exceptions. And you know who they are.

Now as far as music is concerned, it's long been known that as we grow we associate music with what's going on in our lives at the time. Experiments have shown  that if classical music, for example, is played on the school PA system during recess and lunch hour during a class of kids' high school years, the majority will graduate preferring that kind of music. 

I know first hand that there is a lot of truth to that.

Silent Sam at UNC
When I was a freshman in college, there was a boy from New Jersey who lived right across the hall from me who every morning turned up his HI FI loud enough to listen to while he was showering... half way down the hall.

Everyone on the floor was annoyed by this at first, but nobody had the nerve to complain because the guy (I don't remember his name, so I'll just call him Biff) was the biggest and meanest player on Carolina's football team. A knee injury which kept him off the squad that year, was the reason he had been re-assigned a room in a “normal” people's dorm instead of the athlete's dorm. The music blasted down our hall every morning and began again at only a slightly reduced volume each evening.

I had never really had much exposure before to the music he played, but being 19 years old my brain was wide open for the sounds that accompanied the joy of being an American boy away from home for the first time in the springtime of my youth.

By the end of my freshman year, I was hooked. The seed had been sown and over the years its roots have grown deep. To this day, the music blasting down that dorm hall in Chapel Hill that year still run chills up my spine. 

The beautiful operatic arias of Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Bizet...

Thanks Biff.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Do you know what day it will be...

or not!

Hint: According to Jerry Gaudet, our senior reporter, record keeper, number ONE fan and all round good guy,

" This month's "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on

Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 11:30 AM

at "Jimmies" in Mint Hill.

We hope you'll join us. Our theme? You know what the day is, don't you?

Spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! Even better, bring someone with you! Be sure YOU, come!

For answers to any conceivable lunch questions, please contact Mary (Sue Banks) Burnett,

Plan to join us...there's plenty of room.'ll be glad you did!



Sunday, February 05, 2012

Oil and Water

 By Warren Sparrow

Sparrow in 1952
In the spring of 1952, those of us in the Central High Class of 1954
were about to complete our sophomore year. I was 15, too young to drive.

There was talk about the Korean War. I paid it no mind. I was working
every Saturday night in The Charlotte Observer mail room, inserting the
comics into the Sunday paper. The hours were bad but the pay was good:
Union scale.

USS Hobson

On April 26, 1952, James Laughter, a 22-year-old Winston-Salem sailor was in his bunk below the main deck of the USS Hobson (DMS-26), a

The Hobson and her sister ship USS Rodman
(DMS-21) were part of a Navy battle group operating near the Azores in the Mid-Atlantic.

USS Wasp
The group’s flagship was the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18). The
Hobson and Rodman were “plane guards” for the Wasp, assigned the task of
picking up downed pilots around the Wasp. It was around 10:25 p.m. when
Seaman Jim Laughter felt the Hobson take a serious hit.

Fortunately, he had his life preserver close at hand. Instinctively, he
did what he was trained to do: He put on his life preserver. Water began to
rise in the compartment. He and other young shipmates scrambled up the
compartment ladder to escape. They were stopped by a jammed hatch.

They heard cries for help but were powerless to do anything. With
the water rising and the seriousness of the situation frighteningly apparent,
a more experienced and stronger sailor forced his way up the ladder and
cracked the hatch. When the hatch opened, Laughter was catapulted free.

Laughter does not remember anything about those fateful seconds,
only that he was carried up by a great rush of water and found himself
beneath the surface of the ocean. Again, his training served him well. He
made it to the top and some top it was. The Hobson was sinking close by.

There was thick oil in the water. He swam away from the sinking ship as
hard as he could, afraid that he would be sucked under.

The Hobson sank, by some accounts, in four minutes. Somehow,
Jim Laughter was alive, adrift in the cold Atlantic and covered with black
oil from the Hobson’s ruptured tanks. More than 170 of his shipmates
perished that night, including the ship’s captain. Laughter had no idea about
what had happened. He had no idea that he, for the moment, had survived
the worst “peace-time” disaster in the history of the United States Navy.

The aircraft carrier Wasp had T-boned the Hobson directly between the
destroyer’s two smoke stacks.

  Oil soaked sailor pulled to safety
Laughter was in the water for about 45 minutes when a life raft
floated near him. He swam to it and climbed aboard. He waited. Other
oil-soaked sailors climbed into the raft. They waited for what seemed an
eternity. Laughter does not remember how long it was until the raft was
alongside the Wasp. The Wasp crew threw a fairly thick rope from its flight
deck which was about 50 feet above the water. Laughter grabbed it and
truly held on “for dear life.”

He tried to pull himself up the rope but believed it was hopeless until
he discovered a knot in the line after a few hand-over-hand pulls. At least
he had something to grip.

 Wasp sailors pulled Laughter aboard. He was in one piece, safe at last. It
had been more than two hours since Laughter had been dumped into the dark

Some of the Hobson survivors were plucked from the Atlantic by the
Rescued Seamen

Rodman and three other destroyers that were escorting the Wasp. They were
the USS Stribling (DD-867), USS O’Hare (DD-849) and USS Corry (DD-
817). Some destroyer men risked their lives by jumping into the ocean to
help the stricken Hobson sailors.

At least one Hobson survivor, according to Seaman Laughter, “did not
get his feet wet.” He was on the bow of the Hobson when the Wasp struck
the Hobson amidships. The force of the hit caused the bow of the Hobson to
heave upward, tossing the Hobson crew member onto the Wasp.

The damaged Wasp
Working from the edge of the flight deck, the
Hobson survivors rode the Wasp back to New York. Speaking
of “back,” the Wasp’s bow was so heavily damaged that the carrier sailed
backwards during its return to the United States. The ship entered a dry
dock in Bayonne, NJ, where the bow of the Wasp was replaced with the
bow from a similar aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. Laughter and the other
Hobson survivors were given 30 days leave.

Jim Laughter today

The soft spoken Laughter praised the crews of the Rodman and the other three destroyers that took
part in the rescue effort. “They stayed with us,” he said, “and the Wasp crew
threw more than a thousand life jackets into the ocean.” There were also
many small boats and rafts used to pick up survivors.

Today Laughter calls
what happened “a bad deal.”
But, he speaks freely and without bitterness about the fateful night
when he faced death. He blames no one. He married his fiancée Barbara
Jones on May 24, 1952, at Waughtown Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

In less than four months they will celebrate their 60th anniversary.

About two years ago the U.S.S. Wasp Association decided to honor
the Hobson survivors for the first time by making them lifetime members.

A year ago there was a memorial service held in conjunction with the
Wasp association’s annual meeting. It is important to note that the Wasp
association holds these meeting at various locales throughout the country.
This latest meeting was in Charleston, SC, the Hobson’s home port.

Charleston  Monument
Two years after the Hobson went down a monument inscribed with
the names of all who died that awful April night was dedicated at White
Park Gardens in Charleston’s Battery Park. There are 176 names on this
monument. James Laughter’s is not one of them. He is one of the 61 men
who survived the ultimate “peril on the sea.”

“I wish the Wasp had done this reunion sooner because there are not
many of us left,” Laughter said. Indeed, the November 2011 issue of the
U.S.S. Wasp Association newsletter lists the names and addresses of 14
men. “I always wanted to thank somebody for what they did,” Laughter

Author Sparrow and Laughter
With that, he simply added, “Thank you.” 

Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And, give for wild confusion peace:
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save, 3d v.
Text: William Whiting, 1825-1878
Tune: John B. Dykes, 1823-1876.


(Editor's Note; Warren Sparrow served as an officer on the USS WASP from 1959 til 1962)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Speakers Circuit

The more I learn of the many activities that a number of our classmates are involved in on a regular basis it makes me realize that perhaps 75 really is the new 50.

Isn't this the time of our lives when we are supposed to begin "slowing down?"

Frankly, even reading about all of the activities that some of them are involved in causes me to...well...want to take a nap.

Obie Oakley in the 60's
Consider Obie Oakley for example. Obie has become quite the military historian, having published a couple of books on the subject and is in the process of writing another which he has titled  The 23rd Engineers, From the Trenches in France to the Desert in Iraq. Obie says that it's about 70 percent done.

" I've enlisted the help of 11 others who served in the unit at different times to give me narratives of things that happened during their tours. One is particularly helpful because he came ashore at Normandy with the 23d in 1944."

Joe Epley
 He recently was asked by Amazon to review a newly released book on the battle of Kings Mountain, A Passel of Hate written by Joe Epley founder of Charlotte's Epley Associates and known as the "Godfather of Public Relations in Russia."

Along with his writing, Obie is also in demand as a speaker as you can see by this article in Highlander newspaper.