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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Red Cross vital in WWII victory

With Memorial Day, it is appropriate to discuss the work of a group of women who contributed mightily to the United States’ war effort during World War II. I’m referring to the women of the Red Cross.
For the many women who stayed on the home front and did not work in industry, the Red Cross was a way to get involved with the war. Many Red Cross volunteers also went overseas and by the end of the war, 7,000 Red Cross "girls" had served in that capacity.

More than 3.5 million women joined the Red Cross in the U. S. pulling such duties as assisting medical personnel in hospitals and boosting the morale of patients. They also rolled millions of bandages for military hospitals at home and abroad, put together food packages for POWs, and produced care packages for soldiers. They were also vital in collecting blood and plasma and shipping it to hospitals to care for the wounded.

The 7,000 volunteers who went overseas staffed 1,800 clubs near wherever the troops were stationed. Some of the Red Cross women ran "clubmobiles" which were traveling kitchens from which they made coffee, doughnuts, and any other available refreshments. These vehicles followed the men to the front on all major campaigns and as a result, 29 Red Cross women were killed while on duty overseas.

The women of the Red Cross were unique compared to their counterparts in the military branches. To be a member of the Red Cross, they had to have a college degree and be at least 25 years old. Some thought that for women with such qualifications to be serving coffee and doughnuts and organizing dances was a waste of their skills. However, it was the 1940s and to join the Red Cross meant it was an opportunity for some adventure never before available to women. The Red Cross and the USO were the only organizations sent overseas that were not under the tight regulation of military discipline.

One Red Cross girl wrote home to her mother telling of the kick the soldiers got out of the "little red and white apron you made." "Just like home," they say. In some ways, that was the main mission of the Red Cross women. They were to bring the men a little bit of home.

Gysella Simon, a Red Cross club director in England, wrote to a friend back home on May 21,1944 about the changes she saw in herself since she joined the Red Cross. She seemed to speak for most of the women who served overseas during World War II.: "At last, here in this forgotten place, I have found myself....I have lived with men preparing for combat..... and wonder why I didn’t get into this sort of work sooner.....I am doing a real worthwhile thing and it makes me glow with satisfaction. I should like to share this feeling with every American girl back home."

(Some of the information in this column was obtained from "Our Mother's War" by Emily Yellin, 2004.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sheriff Joe versus Wilcox

I love it when someone like County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox criticizes the food and cleanliness of Sheriff Joe’s prison kitchen. Montini reports today that the sheriff’s kitchen gets good reports while her restaurant is a dump. Her place “has been savaged by inspectors for everything from ‘toxic materials not properly labeled to food, drink, and/or ice not protected from cross contamination to sewage not properly disposed of.’ ” Why is this joint not being closed down by the county? I know, it’s a rhetorical question.

Wilcox doesn’t like Joe’s illegal immigration tactics either. How dare he obey immigration laws that he was elected to enforce! She also doesn’t like it that the prisoners in the sheriff’s jail are threatening a hunger strike because the food tastes bad. It may taste bad but a nutritionist has determined that it is healthy. That’s more than we can say about Wilcox’s kitchen.

I guess the bad guys miss their Big Macs and fries. Too bad, fellas. You should have considered that before you decided to break the law and land in Joe’s slammer. The good news for you is that the jail meals now cost 60 cents per day instead of the former 34 cents. Who said the sheriff has no compassion?

I wonder if the crooks even think about jail when they perform a crime. From some of the stories I read, these guys are not too smart which tells me they figure they can get away with anything. Hell, why work when you can steal? Imagine their surprise after they hold up some poor working guy trying to provide for his family or knock off a Circle K and in the process shoot some poor sap working there as a second job to pay his tuition. Suddenly, the big. black, sinister, Sheriff’s Ford arrives and they are hauled off to Durango muttering “Damn, Leroy! Where did we screw up!”

People like Wilcox and Montini love to criticize law enforcement but I never hear them support the VICTIMS of crime. They would rather complain about jail conditions for the crooks who ruined the victim’s lives. And we are supposed to worry about whether jail food “tastes bad? Give me a break! To paraphrase ex-president Clinton: “It’s jail, stupid!”

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recession? What Recession?

I love this time of year. As soon as the first 100 degree day hits, my Illinois neighbors and their yapping little dog point the hood ornament north and scurry home to the land of Lincoln. Green fees at the golf courses get lower as temperatures get higher and if you can bear the heat, that is a good deal. Just be sure you have plenty of ice. The restaurants are empty, as are the resorts, so they offer summer deals to entice you to visit them. Throw in recession deals and you can have a nice time in Scottsdale this summer if you have at least a few bucks.

Speaking of the recession, if watching activity in parts of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills is any indication, you wouldn’t notice much difference in lifestyles because of the economy, particularly with cars. There has always been the array of new Mercedes, BMW’s, Lexus’s and other boring, highly financed luxury cars. Now, I am seeing quite a few Bentley’s and Maserati’s driving around, especially in DC Ranch and Silverleaf. I can’t say how much equity is in those cars or whether they are leased, but they are there.

CityNorth is in Phoenix on the western edge of Scottsdale. In a recent review of the Ocean Prime restaurant there, Howard Seftel mentioned the place was crowded with people sipping $13 drinks, eating $15 tuna tartare, $31 salmon, and $43 steaks. No recession action there. They also don’t have to worry about ever seeing me; not my kind of place.

For those who don’t have the bucks for fancy cars and restaurants, the good news is you can still fire up the old heap and eat cheap in the Scottsdale area if you know where to go. I have been going to Randy’s at Chaparral and Hayden for 20 years and recommend it highly, especially for breakfast. Goldman’s Deli at Hayden and Indian Bend is also a good no frills place that serves all three meals. The Wandering Horse CafĂ© in the Casino AZ at Indian Bend and the 101 has reasonable prices and good specials on a varied menu. McDonald’s still has their $1.00 menu where you can get a doubleburger, fries, and a Coke for $3. As far as good happy hour places, our friends at Cien Agaves on 1st Avenue just east of Scottsdale Road have good deals on drinks and food.

The recession has hit some folks harder than others. As you can see above, there are ways for you to get out of the house for an evening if you look around. Now, if only we had those 12 cent White Castle burger joints I grew up with. Their slogan was "Buy ‘em by the sack." THOSE were a good deal.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hitchcock, PSYCHO, and Phoenix

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius in the movie industry and television. Although he died in 1980 at age 80, many younger movie fans know him from his works being shown on TV and at film festivals. For those of us who saw his work in first release, we were able to see him gain stature in the entertainment business through the years.

To most movie fans, the most remembered films of Hitchcock are probably Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960). My personal favorite is Psycho because, not only is it a great movie with all the Hitchcock twists and turns, but it was done on a low budget, involved Phoenix, and contained some innovations that changed the style of how films were made and marketed in its era.

We know the opening scene where downtown Phoenix is panned but did you know that Janet Leigh’s character’s name had to be changed from Mary Crane to Marion Crane because there was a Mary Crane in the Phoenix phone book? Also, most of the highway scenes were done in California although when Leigh drives out of town, she is supposedly in downtown Phoenix although none of the actors or Hitchcock were ever here.

Psycho was a low budget film costing only $800,000 so Hitchcock had to let us know that the date in the movie was December 11 as Phoenix had Christmas decorations on the streets at that time and the cost to remove them by his crew for the film would have been too much.

Another innovation of Hitchcock’s was to have the star (Leigh) get eliminated early in the film. Because of that he insisted on having theaters not allow seating after the film began. By doing this it removed the complaints of those who showed up late to see Janet Leigh only to discover that her part in the movie was over.

In spite of several bad reviews, Psycho was a huge hit proving that word of mouth can overrule the critics in most cases. The combination of Hitchcock’s direction, a fine cast including great character actors of the day getting a chance to shine, Phoenix locations, and Bernard Herrmann’s eerie musical score, made Psycho a film as enjoyable today as when it was released in 1960.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Summer golf in Phoenix

This guy's shirt was one color before his round of Golf in Phoenix during the summer.
Summer is around the corner and with it comes some great rates for golfers in Arizona. If you play golf and are new to the Phoenix area, don’t get your hopes up yet. Do you remember that 100 degree day we had last week? If you thought that heat was a killer, summer golf in Phoenix may not be for you because that was a template for what you can expect almost every day from mid May through about mid September.

Playing golf in Phoenix during the summer is not for the faint of heart. If you hate the heat and have experienced illness because of it, drop me a note and I will give you a list of air conditioned bowling alleys to satisfy your need for summer recreation. If you can tolerate spending four to five hours cursing because of your inability to hit a little white ball in 110 degree heat without a cloud in sight, please read on.

We all know about golf in Phoenix in the winter. There are the lush, green, over seeded fairways, the 72 degree temperatures, minimal wind, and the joy of always having a good lie on the perfect grass. Who couldn’t play great golf with those conditions? Oh, yeah, in order to enjoy that situation, be prepared to pay about $150.

The real golfers make their appearance in the summer. Those $150 green fees are suddenly in the $30 to $40 range and many courses will throw in a free lunch. The courses are well watered so they are still relatively lush and the beer cart girls are much lovelier in their summer outfits than when they are bundled up during the winter season.

Always drink plenty of fluids and slather on lots of #50 sun block and you may just make it through 18 holes. You may even feel good enough to gulp down the free lunch and guzzle a few beers in celebration of your still being alive. Always keep in mind the mantra of the Chamber of Commerce: "But, it’s a dry heat." Uh...., yeah, right!

If you play golf this summer, check out the "Golf Now" website for some good deals. Usually, the longer you wait to book a tee time, the better the deal. Some courses are in financial straits so they should have good deals. Those include Sun Ridge Canyon and Sanctuary in Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. The Biltmore courses and the Wigwam are in foreclosure so they will also be glad to see you. The Wigwam is already at $35, a good deal.

Desert Ghost, JD, Jennifer H. and I will be playing. Hope to see you this summer on the links.

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