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Thursday, December 17, 2015

MISCELLANEOUS RAMBLINGS: THIS, THAT, AND SOME OTHER STUFF

 It was announced this week:   Pete Rose’s lifetime banishment from baseball in 1989 for betting on games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds will not be lifted.  The pros and cons of this decision have been argued back and forth but I hold the same opinion I had in 1989:  The ban is appropriate regardless of how times and attitudes have changed.  He knew better but made the bets anyway.  Time does not heal such a wound.  He betrayed the game that made him rich and famous………..

Are the number of college football bowl games getting out of control?  One look at the schedule should answer that instantly:  YES!  I understand the greed factor; it’s a way for schools to make a few extra bucks by being selected but do the fans of schools with 5-7 or 6-6 records really get excited over these games?  For example, if I lived in Minnesota I would not be thrilled to go to a garden spot like Detroit during the winter to see my 5-7 alma mater play Central Michigan, 7-5. There are 40 bowl games this year; that’s too many...…….. 

"Tinker" says "Merry Christmas"
Paul Messinger of Scottsdale recently mentioned how Levis were the overwhelming choice of blue jeans when he attended high school in the 1940’s.  It was wartime and acquiring a pair of those precious jeans was not easy but at Paul’s high school in Scottsdale, they were still a must if a guy wanted to be considered “cool.”   Some might say, “What about Wranglers?” Although they were a fine product, kids of the 1940’s were very brand conscious as they are today and nothing, including the otherwise fine Wranglers, would be accepted but Levis.   As a high school kid in the 1950’s, I can identify with that mentality.  Levis were still a ‘must” during that era………. 

I like this quote from writer Jonah Goldberg of the National Review.  He is referring to some of the college kids of today who think they need to change the scholastic attitudes to reflect a more liberal tone:  “You kids think it is somehow rebellious to be liberal. So, let me see if I get this right. The administrators at this school are liberal.  The professors are liberal. Your textbooks are, for the most part, liberal. Hollywood is liberal. The music industry is liberal. The fashion industry is liberal. The mainstream media are liberal, Silicon Valley is liberal. Believe it or not, most corporations and the overwhelming majority of charitable organizations are liberal.  And yet, you think you are sticking it to the man by agreeing with them?”  Goldberg’s comment reminds me of some of the 18 year old classmates I met after I returned to college after serving a hitch in the Air Force from 1961-1965. They felt a need to change the world even though it had already been changed to their liking; they just didn’t know it………..

Whether one likes or dislikes Donald Trump or hard rocker Ted Nugent, I think this is pretty funny if you have a sense of humor.  It was sent o me recently by one of my readers:   Ted Nugent walks into a Muslim bookstore in Chicago and asks the clerk if he has a copy of Trump’s book about the U. S. immigration policy regarding illegal Mexicans and Muslims.  The clerk angrily responds:  “GET OUT, GET OUT AND STAY OUT.”  Nugent replies, “Yes, that’s the one.  Do you have it in paperback?”……….

Have a wonderful Christmas holiday and New Year's. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

JUST WONDERING…….

Is it just me or does anyone else think Obama has his priorities mixed up?  ISIS is a serious threat to the U. S.  They have already wreaked havoc in other parts of the world and recently were responsible for the carnage in Paris.  Is Obama concerned? Apparently not enough since he is willing to let 10,000 Syrians into the U. S. with only minimal screening. Two of the participants in 9-11 actually trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wouldn’t that indicate how easy it is to enter this country with bad intent?

It looks like Obama is more concerned over whether the ocean will raise a couple of inches in the next million years than he is in destroying ISIS.  Dana Milbank is normally a left leaning columnist who writes for the Washington Post.  However, in his column of 11-29 he is not very complimentary to Obama; a guy he normally places on a pedestal.

Speaking of a recent East Room meeting between French President Francois Hollande and Obama, Milbank stated that Hollande and Obama were “united in their goal of defeating the Islamic State but separated by a stylistic gulf as wide as the Atlantic.” 

Milbank continues:  “On the left, facing the cameras, was Francois Hollande, war President. He spoke of ‘cowardly murderers’ who ‘dishonor humanity,’ of a ‘relentless determination to fight terrorism everywhere and anywhere,’ of ‘an implacable joint response’ of ‘hunting down their leaders’ and ‘taking back the land.”

“On the right stood Barack Obama, President Oh-Bummer.” (After reading that definition, I almost fell out of my chair as it was uncharacteristic of Milbank to mock the president.)

Milbank continued:  As far as defeating the Islamic State, Obama replied:  “That’s going to be a process that involves hard, methodical work. It’s not going to be something that happens just because we take a few more airstrikes.”

When questioned about a political settlement in Syria Obama replied: “It’s going to be hard and we should not be under any illusions.”

When asked if the Paris attacks could have been avoided, Obama replied that “it’s hard; that’s a hard thing to track…That’s a tough job.”  (Really?  Was Charlie Hebdo any indication of what was to come?)

Obama continued with “Some of them think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that it would make a difference.”

In reply to the above, Milbank made a great reply: “Well, yes.”

The result of this meeting showed no surprises:  The normally unpopular Hollande saw his support numbers increase while Obama’s poll numbers decreased.  Hollande was “upbeat and can-do” while Obama was “discouraging and lawyerly.”

Maybe Obama was more concerned about the glaciers.                                                                        

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

GROCERY FUN: PLASTIC SACKS AND PURPLE KETCHUP

When I graduated from college in 1969 I felt pretty good.  I was still in my 20’s and I had served four years in the Air Force to get my military obligation out of the way (that’s right, “obligation” since we all had to serve in those times but that’s a story for another day).  I had a beautiful wife (still do!) who taught school plus a new job with Lever Brothers Company as a salesman selling household products to the grocery and drug trade.  I made $7,200 a year and had the free use of a ’68 Ford company car.  That was a good deal in those days of $1 six packs of Budweiser and Schlitz!

By 1976, I had left Lever to work for a grocery store supply distributor.  It was great; I received a commission on my sales and didn’t have to sell consumer products anymore.  

 In 1978 we introduced plastic grocery sacks with handles to the grocery trade.  They were called “Marketotes” and although they were plastic instead of paper, they eventually overtook paper in popularity and are considered the norm today in most retail establishments.  That isn’t to say they were readily accepted as a substitute for paper sacks.  A good example of that is an unfortunate presentation I made to an IGA supermarket manager in Mexico, Missouri on a 100 plus degree day in 1978.

The main part of my pitch was to demonstrate the strength of the sack.  To do that I had bought four six packs of a cheap Midwest beer called “Goetz.”  I would put the four six packs in a plastic sack and swing it around to show the strength of the plastic vs. paper.  Then I would punch holes in the sack with a ballpoint pen to further illustrate its strength.  Unfortunately, the beer had been in the hot car too long and when the pen touched one of the cans, it caused a pinhole which then sprayed hot cheap beer all over the store manager.  Needless to say the guy wasn’t happy as he frowned through the beer dripping off his glasses.  Fortunately, at a later date he did let me install them mentioning that another demonstration was not needed. 

In those days we had a saying: “Selling is fun.”  In most cases that is still true but as I look at some of the items that have been presented to grocery stores over the years it makes me wonder what some companies are thinking.  Phil Hawkes of the Arizona Food Industry Journal points to some real head scratchers in that publication’s October edition.  

YUM! PURPLE KETCHUP!
For example, somebody at Heinz once decided it might be a good idea to sell Heinz Ketchup in an EZ Squirt bottle.  That’s not a bad idea in itself but they decided that it would be neat to present ketchup in colors of green, blue, and purple. Now I ask you, how ridiculous was that?  Did they actually expect the most particular eaters in the world (kids) to eat colored ketchup?  Of course the product was a flop; everyone wants red ketchup.

Do you remember Wow potato chips?  For whatever reason the number one maker of snack foods, Frito-Lay, came out with a line of products containing “Olestra” which was a fat free substitute for making potato and tortilla chips.  It was later discovered that there were several unpleasant side effects caused by Olestra and the products with them were discontinued.

Phil points out that probably the most prominent member of the failed product Hall of Fame would have to be New Coke. He mentions that it was the “Edsel of the food industry.”  I agree and at the time it appeared on April 23, 1985 I was still a member of the food business.  My first thought was, why would they change a successful 99 year formula; especially since Coke was by far a number one selling brand?

Coke quickly returned the original coke recipe a couple of months later and called it Coca Cola Classic.  It was a lesson well learned proving that success isn’t something to be tampered with.

(You can also check me out on Twitter at JimMcAl97307903)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

CHEAP GAS AND CADDYING: A LOOK BACK

30 CENT GAS? YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING!

Unless you are a certain age, you probably don’t remember when buying a tank of gasoline for your car was quite a different experience from what one would get today.  It’s easy to describe today’s experience as it consists of you getting out of your car, turning on the pump, and filling the tank yourself with gas that costs well over $2 a gallon most of the time. You may even clean your windshield if you wish provided cleaning materials are provided for you to do it yourself.

For many younger drivers, that has been the only experience they have known for their entire driving days.  For those of us who have been driving for a long time we remember when gasoline was sold at “service stations.”  The word “service” describes exactly what they were:  Places where your car was not only filled with gas by an attendant  but the engine oil level was checked, the windshield washed, tire air pressure checked, battery water checked, along with the brake fluid. If the attendant was really thorough, you may have even had your floor brushed out. In those days “service” meant what it said.

These days we celebrate when gas prices drop into the low $2 range.  When I was stationed in Missouri with the Air Force in the early 1960’s, I can’t remember ever paying more than about thirty cents a gallon.  I used to fill up my 1961 Chevy for about $4; a sweet deal by today’s standards. Did I mention that a lot of stations used to also give trading stamps like S & H Green Stamps?  Yeah, that too.

CADDYING AT THE LOCAL COUNTRY CLUB

With the introduction of electric and gasoline golf carts years ago, I doubt if any public golf courses or private country clubs today offer the services of caddies anymore but when I got out of high school in the late 1950’s, caddying was still going strong and although it was pretty hard work, it paid more than jobs like sacking groceries or making deliveries for the local grocery store.

1967 Masters Champion Gay Brewer 
played in my foursome at Cincy 
Country Club in 1958.
I caddied at the Cincinnati Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It was fairly close to my home but more importantly, it‘s membership consisted of the cream of Cincinnati society which hopefully meant some decent tips.  I would arrive early in the morning at the caddy shack so I would be one of the first called out, hopefully to carry “doubles” or two bags for eighteen holes.  If my players were fast enough, I usually had time left before dark to get another group for the afternoon.  At $3 per bag plus a hopeful tip, I usually could make about $15 on Saturday or Sunday; not bad dough for a teenager in those days even though it meant carrying two heavy bags through eighteen holes of golf twice in one day.

Besides most of the players walking the courses, another difference in those days was at the practice range. Players would warm up the same as now except there weren’t vehicles that drove across the range to pick up the balls. It 
was the caddy’s job to take a sack out on the range to shag 
his player’s golf balls and take them back to the pro shop. 
Needless to say, we gave our members plenty of room to hit the balls although I did see a fellow caddy get conked once!

In retrospect, caddying was a worthwhile experience.  It taught me the value of a dollar and the importance of going to college to better myself in life after serving Uncle Sam in the USAF.  It also taught me to enjoy golf, a game which I still play regularly today.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them below. You will receive a reply.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

SEXY VEGETARIANS AND FREEWAY ART: WELCOME TO SCOTTSDALE

We hear “Only in Scottsdale” comments a lot from those suffering from “Scottsdale Envy.” If you read between the lines you know that what they are really saying is “Gosh,  I sure wish I lived in Scottsdale!”

Who can blame them? Where else can you find a city that preserves its classy individuality along with the ability to laugh at itself?

For example, a woman from Scottsdale once made it to the finals of a contest to determine PETA’S “sexiest vegetarian next door.” Even better, she had gone vegetarian 16 years earlier as a tribute to her dog! Unfortunately for her, she didn’t win the contest but it wasn’t because her dog didn’t vote for her.

Even funnier was the “Tuesday Night Book Club,” a CBS reality show that ran for two episodes in June, 2006. To say this show was “reality” would be stretching the truth a bit.

The premise was for a group of typical Scottsdale housewives to get together once a week to discuss recent books they had read. Unfortunately, there was very little book talk but plenty said about sex and gossip. Besides that, only a couple of the women were even from Scottsdale and while the meeting place was supposed to be the home of one of the ladies, it was actually a rental used only for the show. I think they did well getting through two episodes before the inevitable cancellation.

In February of 2010, Scottsdale decided that with the population explosion in the northern part of town it would make sense to widen Pima Road north of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. It was a great idea as two lane Pima was becoming a bit of a bottleneck south of Pinnacle Peak Road.

Today, north Pima runs smoothly with its extra lanes all the way to and from Pinnacle Peak Road. However, that doesn’t mean that the final result was obtained without the usual construction difficulties that are typical with extensive roadwork.

The construction with its many barricades became reminiscent of riding the roller coaster at an amusement park. To make it even more fun, the barricades were changed regularly to accommodate the construction.  Every day was a new adventure especially for cell phone users as they had to actually pay attention to their driving. Fortunately, it ultimately was worth the hassle.

North Pima Road construction, 2010 (Mark Henle, AZ Republic)
Speaking of classy individuality, can anyone name another city with public art displayed on its freeway walls? Scottsdale has it plus when they built original sections of the 101 freeway through the north part of town, there were some complaints from homeowners living near the road that the surface that was used created a bothersome noise from the friction of the car tires. A special rubberized coating was applied to the road in that area and the complaints ceased. I doubt if many other places would have been so accommodating.

Can you name which city was the first to use the mechanized, one armed, garbage collection trucks we see today? If you said “Scottsdale” you may go to the head of the class. When compared with art covered freeway walls, garbage collection doesn't seem very romantic but having the “Godzilla” truck come by weekly to empty one large container on wheels sure beats dragging several cans to the curb on garbage day.

Unfortunately into every life some rain must fall. With the economy foundering a few years ago, Scottsdale had to announce some cutbacks in city services. The City Council at that time was looking for some viable method to increase revenue and one suggestion was to sell advertising space on city owned property. They may have actually done that somewhere in town that I don’t know about but the first thing I thought of was the possibility of a large billboard on the edge of town reading “Welcome to Scottsdale, brought to you by Walmart!” If that would have actually happened, one can only wonder what McDonald’s restaurants would have dreamed up for McDonald Drive.

As far as rain actually falling rather than metaphorically, one of the fun pastimes in Scottsdale before a bridge was built, was to visit the Indian Bend Wash between Hayden and Scottsdale Roads during a heavy rainfall to watch some foolish people try to navigate their cars through the rushing water only to be disappointed when the car stalled and they had to be rescued. It was an expensive proposition for them to pay the towing charge plus a fine from the city for acting a few levels below what most would consider normal intelligence.

I remember one guy in particular who had a new Lexus practically destroyed by attempting the crossing. He was an older, distinguished looking guy who looked like he was successful at making money but not intelligent in the area of water since he said that the next time it rained he would try again. For him, “Only in Scottsdale” seemed appropriate

Thursday, August 27, 2015

MISCELLANEOUS RAMBLINGS.......

This 30 second commercial from BMW is one of the best I have seen.  It's cute, different, and easily gets the point across in two words without the usual mind numbing oratory of most car commercials.  It's a nice example of how less is more.

Have you been to McDonald's lately? Either have I but there was a time when they were a dependable place to eat for a small amount of money.  In my case I refer to my years in the USAF in the early 1960's when my buddies and I were looking to spend more on partying than on food.  My standard order cost 60 cents.  (2 burgers, fries, shake.) Try getting by on that today.

(Tim Boyle, Getty Images) 1962 McDonald's
Although the name "James Harrison" may evoke some bitter memories in Phoenix because because of his 100 yard touchdown interception of a Kurt Warner pass in Super Bowl XLIII, I admire the guy for his outlook on kids receiving trophies for simply participating in various sporting events.  Harrison believes trophies should be earned, not just handed out for showing up.

We live in a "feel good" society where a lot of parents think there should be rewards for doing nothing and that eliminating such awards may cause a lack of self esteem. Perhaps, but to me it is a good example of how life really is; they will hopefully get over it. Coincidentally, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner agrees with Harrison and he is the guy who threw the pass that Harrison returned for the Super Bowl touchdown.

Who would have thought?  Columnist Froma Harrop reports that the so called "Millenials" (those who are 14 to 31 years of age) are not drawn to the allure of  the automobile!  Does that mean that they have no idea what a GTO or a Little Deuce Coupe are?  I'm not surprised as the ones in that age group seem more interested in iPhones, texting, and living in cramped downtown apartments than they are in tooling to the drive-in with the top down on a warm summer night. I think the times will change as the young tend to be fickle and are always antsy to try the next fad.  After all, a guy can only send messages on an iPhone while taking a girl to a drive-in (if you can find a drive in!) can be a much more enjoyable experience; especially if you insert a Jan and Dean CD into the player!

My most important jobs.  I don't believe I could list in this space ALL the jobs I have ever had. However, I have been fortunate to have had jobs that taught lessons in life and others that paid well. The best example of the former is the four year hitch I did in the United States Air Force.  I grew up in the era where guys had to serve a minimum of two years in the military service of the U. S.  Very few were exempt; even Elvis and Willie Mays had to serve and they did. Unfortunately, the draft was discontinued after 1973 thus ending a life altering experience that did a lot of guys a lot of good; me included.

As far as jobs that paid well, I have been lucky enough to have been born with the ability to speak decently and convince people that they should buy stuff from me. I was paid commissions on what I sold so I did well in that career.  I advise any wannabe salesmen to never take a salaried sales job. If you do it's like saying you have no confidence in your sales ability and you will never make as much money as you could on commission.

Will Rogers quote of the day:  "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."

("Comments" can be left below.)






Monday, August 03, 2015

FIVE AND DIME STORES OF YESTERYEAR

If there is anyone reading this who remembers “Five and Dime stores” please raise your hand.  That’s what I thought; not too many.  Don’t feel bad, the old Five and Dime stores (or variety stores as some refer to them) have basically disappeared from the American landscape but in their days of popularity during most of the 1900’s they were very popular outlets for household goods and other “notions.” Many also had booming lunch counters where one could purchase a nice meal for a reasonable price.

One of the most popular of these stores was Newberry’s.  It was founded in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania by J. J. Newberry in the early 1900’s and by 1919 consisted of 17 stores.  If you wanted anything from bed sheets to goldfish, small appliances, to spools of thread or a pair of blue jeans, Newberry’s was the place for you.

Typical small town Newberry store.

By 1965, Newberry’s had 565 stores across the country doing yearly sales of $291 million.  By 1972, they still had 439 units as they were sold to McCrory Stores.

With changing times bankruptcy was declared in 1992 and 300 stores were closed by 1997.  As late as 2001, the last store was closed in Portland, Oregon.  Other Five and Dime stores like Kresge’s and Woolworth’s were similar to Newberry’s but they also faded with the changing times.  Those companies went on to survive with large discount department stores and food centers carrying the names Woolco and K-Mart.

It was easy to spot a Newberry’s store during their boom times.  The signs usually were the width of the store and contained a red background with gold lettering.  As a kid growing up in Cincinnati during the 1940’s and 1950’s I spent a lot of time in those stores.  My mother bought lots of dry goods from them and occasionally I would get toys, yoyos, or maybe a turtle or a goldfish if I behaved myself! (Some of above acquired courtesy of “Wikipedia”.)

The Newberry's store in downtown Phoenix (c.1955)















Lunch counter at Newberry's c.1950's. Sliced ham sandwich 10 cents?



Friday, July 17, 2015

MY 700th GOOGLE PLUS BLOG

( Left:  Me with a fave book: "Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime" by John Dunning) photo: 2006

From November, 2005:

“Thanks for checking out the new blog. It will be a continuation of the old blog which was an expanded version of my newspaper column in the "INDEPENDENT" papers of Phoenix/Scottsdale. I hope you continue to check it out; updates are usually on Wednesday each week and for you regulars you know the stuff I write about (radio, TV, movies, music, books, sports, or whatever).

“Thanks again for tuning in and tell your friends where I am at 
http://jmcallister.blogspot.com
.”

That statement from 2005 was the beginning of the current blog I write through Google+. Today’s blog is a sort of celebration since it is number 700 written since that November day.  

Besides my personal blog, starting in 2006, I used to do a blog for the Arizona Republic, along with a few other writers, which was eventually discontinued in 2011 when the newspaper decided that a lot of the political comments received were not suitable for publication. An attempt by the paper to publish them through Facebook was a failure.

A couple years after that I, along with several other writers, was asked by the Republic to do another blog that leaned toward politics specifically.  It ran for a while but was eventually discontinued during one of the paper’s austerity moves.

During those busy times, I still managed to do something with my personal blog and as you can see, it survives today mainly because I am running the show and enjoy writing enough to keep the thing going. I also enjoy the feedback from readers which shows me the success or failure of blogging.

Here are a few statistics.  These are the kind of numbers that keep me doing this:  Total published comments: 14,297. All time number of page views: 283,757. Most page views for one blog: 242, “The Stoneman Military Road” (published October 1, 2008.)

Thanks to everyone who reads, and I hope enjoys, my stuff. I have a list of people I automatically send new blogs to. If you are not on my list but would like to be, please let me know your email address and I will add it.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

ARIZONA AND THE GADSDEN PURCHASE OF 1854

I advertise that American History will be a subject of my writings from time to time.  The following is a piece that deals with the  U. S.- Mexican War of the 19th century.  I hope you enjoy it.

If you have taken courses in American History you probably can remember a mention of incidents like the Boston Tea Party, The Revolutionary War, and the Civil War of 1860-1865. You probably also remember the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 that basically doubled the size of the United States with the large acquisition from France of land west of the Mississippi River.  

Another acquisition of land perhaps less known nationally at the time but important to the growth of Arizona and New Mexico, was the Gadsden Purchase of 1854 between the United States and Mexico. As seen on the map, the purchase of the land by the United States from Mexico for $10 million added 29,670 square miles to southern Arizona and New Mexico. Although the purchase increased the size of the two future states, especially Arizona, it also accomplished its primary goal of providing a flat land area on which to complete an important rail line to the west coast.

It sounds simple enough but it was a lot more complicated beneath the surface than one would imagine before a final agreement was accomplished. For example, Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836 and became annexed into the United States in 1845. Mexico had not recognized the Texas independence and considered it to still be in their possession.

War erupted and after one year and nine months of battle, the Mexican-American dispute ended in a victory for the United States bringing about the Treaty of Hidalgo in 1848. The cessation of previously Mexican territory south of the Nueces River made the Rio Grande the new Texas southern border. Also involved was the U.S takeover of California and a large area comprising New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

Although the Mexican-American war of 1846-1848 was essentially over with the Treaty settlement, it didn’t mean that the two countries were suddenly going to exist on a friendly basis. A lot of bad feelings still existed for the next six years as the Mesilla Valley located in the region of the border between the countries was being claimed by residents of both sides.

One point of consternation was Mexico’s claim that they should receive payment from the United States for attacks that had been made on them by Native Americans. The United States disagreed and refused to pay up since their interpretation of the agreement said that while they would work to stop such attacks they didn’t feel they were liable for financial compensation. In addition, it didn’t help that Mexico accused private American citizens of entering Mexico illegally and inciting local rebellions in an effort to grab more land.

The endless disharmony between the United States and Mexico over the Mesilla Valley continued into the early 1850s as the only viable southern rail route west was through the Mexican section of the area. To make matters worse, in 1853 the Mexican government evicted Americans from their properties in the area. The national government in Washington did not react to the evictions but Governor William Lane of New Mexico did by declaring Mesilla as part of the of the U. S. Territory of New Mexico.

President Santa Anna of Mexico immediately sent troops into the area at which time U. S. President Franklin Pierce dispatched his U. S. Minister to Mexico, James Gadsden, to negotiate with the Mexican President.  Gadsden was instructed to renegotiate a border that provided a route for a southern railroad and arrange for a release of U.S. financial obligations for Native American attacks.

Gadsden met with Santa Anna on September 25, 1853. President Pierce sent instructions giving him negotiating options ranging from $50 million for Lower California and a large portion of northern Mexico to $15 million for a smaller land deal that would still provide for a southern railroad.  Although Santa Anna needed money to quell local rebellions, he refused to sell a large portion of Mexico. Consequently on December 30, 1853 he and Gadsden signed a treaty stipulating that the United States would pay $15 million for 45,000 square miles south of the New Mexico territory and assume private American claims. In return, the United States Government agreed to work toward preventing American raids along Mexico’s border if Mexico voided U.S. responsibility for Native American attacks.

With difficulties that would result in the Civil War already occurring between the established northern and southern states, the U.S. Senate ratified a revised treaty on April 25, 1854. Under the new treaty Mexico was paid $10 million instead of $15 million and the land purchased was reduced to 29,670 square miles.  Any mention of Native American attacks and private claims was removed. President Pierce signed the treaty as did Santa Anna, who signed it on June 8, 1854.

After Gadsden’s Purchase, not all was serene as a new border dispute caused anguish over the United States’ payment.  Disagreements involving items like financial claims still existed but of more importance, the southern border of the United States and Arizona as we know it today had been established.

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Friday, June 05, 2015

THE GHOST ARMY OF WORLD WAR II
 By Jim McAllister

Note:  I wrote this story originally on April 27, 2005 for the NORTH SCOTTSDALE INDEPENDENT newspaperI was fascinated by the ghost army and the bravery of those guys in World War II. With D-Day, June 6 upon us I feel a tribute to them and our current fighting forces is once again appropriate with a reprint of that column....JM, Scottsdale, AZ, 6-5-2015.


You may be wondering, "What in the world was the ghost army of World War II?" It’s an interesting and fascinating story which is not well known.

Ever since warfare has existed, armies have relied on some type of deception to gain an advantage on their opponents. Some ancient armies used plaster dummies, others used fake smoke signals and spies, and we all know about the famous Trojan horse. These ancient examples of deception were carried into modern warfare during World War II with the exploits of the ghost army or their actual title which was the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.

The ghost army was a unique and little known group of American soldiers who played a big part in the Allied victory over Germany through their abilities in the art of deception. Even though information on this unit became available about thirty years ago, not much has been written about them. As World War II faded into history, so did the 23rd Special Troops.


The ghost army was organized by Lieutenant Colonel Merrick Truly. He was the executive officer in charge of these deception experts. Although Truly’s men reported to the American ground commander in Europe, General Omar Bradley, most of the American soldiers did not know of the existence of the Special Troops. They operated at night under strictly special orders and were not even required to give their identity to superior officers.


The ghost army consisted of 82 officers and 1,023 enlisted men. With their eclectic mixture of talents, they were strictly in the deception business. The Special Troops were made up of four units: a sonic deception company, a special radio company, a company of combat engineers, and a battalion of camoufleurs. They served with four armies in five European countries in five major campaigns from D-Day (June 6, 1944) until the end of the war in 1945.


The most unique part of this already unique group was the composition of its members. Many of these men were already famous as artists, sculptors, architects, literary figures, and others from the world of the arts and humanities. Actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was perhaps the most well known for his Hollywood successes, but there was also renowned fashion designer Bill Blass, Olin Dows: a prominent artist, George Diestal: a Hollywood set designer, Art Kane: a fashion photographer, and Harold Laynor, whose artistic works depicting World War II and other subjects, are shown in galleries throughout the country.


The Special Troops used six major methods of deception: camouflaging troops and tanks, placing dummy tanks and artillery, firing pyrotechnics to simulate actual artillery fire, the use of artificial sound effects, using artificial radio communication, and using fake special effects. This created an atmosphere of great danger as they needed to be in close to front line battles.

Although these brave men were involved in at least twenty other confrontations with the enemy, their biggest contribution was probably at the battle between Allied Forces and Germany at the Rhine River on March 23, 1945. Their contributions were essential in weakening the German assault and forcing Germany to surrender two months later in May of 1945.


Although records and information concerning the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops are sketchy, the aforementioned artist Harold Laynor (1922-1991) made a series of fifty paintings covering two years of participating in World War II. His works include paintings of army buddies, aspects of training and, as the series progresses, he relates the brutality and horror of war.

Like the above mentioned celebrities participating in the 23rd, Dr. Laynor was highly distinguished in his field. Although he used primarily watercolors for his World War II work, he was also a pioneer in the use of lacquer as a medium of painting and the use of 3D paintings for the blind.


Optical illusions, bluffs, sleight of hand, misinformation, disappearing acts: all part of the ghost army of World War II; a brave and cunning bunch of guys who were instrumental in giving us the lifestyle we enjoy today.

                                                      Scottsdale's Harold Laynor
 Fake rubber tanks were good distractions                                


For more on the ghost army, check out Rick Beyer's Twitter page at https://twitter.com/@ghostarmy23

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

BOB DYLAN'S LATEST AND OTHER STUFF

Some Miscellaneous Rambling…..

Reader “Joy” was kind enough to inform me of a site where you can enter your birth date to find out what was the number one popular song in America on the day you were born. In my case it was “Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)” by Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra. Right now many of you are probably wondering who Jimmy Dorsey was. Jimmy and his brother Tommy were big time band leaders in the 1940’s dance era and they both sold millions of records. Jimmy died in 1957. If you want to check out your own birthday song or any other song simply go to http://playback.fm/birthday-song.

Are you considering buying a new Apple Watch? Do you have tattoos on your wrist where the watch would rest? Apparently you can’t have your cake and eat it too if you have a dark ink tattoo. I realize that for all the cool people out there who wait in line through fog, rain, and the gloom of night to have anything that is new from Apple may be a bit discouraged. Apple has stated that “Many factors can affect the performance of the Apple Watch heart rate sensor. The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor making it difficult to get reliable readings.” So, is your decision yes or no on the Apple Watch? I would advise not buying one. The cheesy one is about $400 and will probably be obsolete before you get tired of it and want something else ridiculous from Apple. Plus, you have probably already paid off your tattoo.

The Movoto Real Estate Blog rates the following cities as the “10 snobbiest big cities” in the United States: 1. San Francisco 2. Washington, D. C., 3. Seattle 4. Scottsdale 5. Oakland 6. Portland 7. Irvine, Calif. (tie) 7. Honolulu (tie) 9. Madison 10. Atlanta.

At first glance it may appear that “snobby” is a type of insult but upon further review it is high praise since Movoto defines snobby as places with enviable qualities. Residents of these places are well educated and well paid. Their homes have high median prices and there are more private schools and art galleries and fewer fast food restaurants. I live in Scottsdale and have listened for years to out of town residents jokingly call the city “Snobbsdale” or the “Beverly Hills of the Desert.” It’s all in fun but if the truth were to be known they probably are thinking about how much they wish they could live here. We have vacancies so if you wish, come on down. It’s always fun to tee off on New Year’s Day with the temperature 70 degrees.

Looking back:  Remembering Bob Dylan.  If you are under 50 your response may be “Bob, who?” It isn't that long ago that such a thought would be absurd since almost everyone knew Bob Dylan. However, Dylan will be 74 on May 24 and his following isn't what it used to be. But, he does have a following which is something that a lot of pop and rock stars would kill for if they could have pulled it off.  Dylan HAS pulled it off and while the road to popularity is strewn with the remains of many other once popular single acts, groups, and genres, a lot of people still remember and enjoy many of Dylan’s songs.

Dylan in the early 1960's.
In a recent AARP Magazine interview, Dylan discussed his latest project which is to record 10 of his favorite American standards under the album title of Shadows in the Night. It will include numbers like “Autumn Leaves,” “That Lucky Old Sun,” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” None of those titles sound like anything Dylan would have done in his protest youth of the early 60s but not many thought he would ever play an electric guitar until he did it in the mid 60s. He says he never thought much about doing standards until he heard Willie Nelson do Stardust in the 1970’s.  

Arriving in New York City from Minnesota at the beginning of the 1960s, Dylan packed a lot into his first five years in the Big Apple. It was the “folk” song era and he rode a wave of success along with acts like Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Kingston Trio, and the Village Stompers who had a huge hit in 1963 with Washington Square. He stayed unplugged through his early successes of Mr. Tambourine Man and Blowin’ in the Wind but by 1965 he went electric to a tumultuous crowd at the Newport Jazz Festival with Like a Rolling Stone. That success led him  to put his standard guitar into semi retirement.

He has had quite a career for a guy born in the icy cold of Duluth, Minnesota. It includes more song writing, some acting roles, and touring with popular acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead, The Traveling Wilburys, and others.

Regardless of his long and successful resume with other musical genres, Dylan is determined to do Shadows of the Night. I think it is a good idea and possibly a final opportunity in his mid 70s to show his love of some great American standards. One of his idols is Frank Sinatra so I’m sure the new album will include a couple of his tunes. It should be interesting so stay tuned.

Friday, April 17, 2015

TEMPE MCDONALD'S WORKERS ARE UNREALISTIC

Either you get it or you don’t get it.  Yesterday (4-16) at a McDonald’s restaurant in Tempe, Arizona there was a demonstration of the latter that definitely does not “get it” in relation to starting pay for lower echelon jobs like working as a burger flipper at McDonald’s.  The protesters were mainly young and obviously uninformed about the correct methods to deal with real life.  All they know is that they want to suddenly have their hourly pay doubled from $7.50 per hour to $15.00.  In other words, they will do nothing to warrant such a ridiculous increase; they just want it because, well, you know, they simply want more money.
This is nothing new.  In our current world of liberal national government giveaway artists, it is up to the rich to “pay a little bit more” in taxes so the less fortunate can have more.  In other words, just because someone sacrifices to get an education so they can get a better job and more money, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have to shell out more tax money for those too stupid or lazy to know that in this country we have a system where many of us have eaten canned beans for four years to get a college degree in order to improve our lifestyles.


If these fast food jockeys succeeded in getting their $15.00, they would be making $31,000 a year for a job flipping burgers and emptying the trash.  Many college graduates would love to start at such high pay.  Those grads will eventually get it but only after at least four years in school while the burger jockeys want their pay doubled NOW while they do nothing to increase their worth. 

The protesters don’t seem to realize that they are unskilled which means their services are in far less demand.  Life is about supply and demand and they are not smart enough to see it.  All they know is that they want more dough.  Well, step aside guys, we would all love to get raises without having to exert more effort.   Unfortunately, that is not part of the real world which says that unless you come from a wealthy family that sticks a silver spoon in your mouth at birth, you need an education to advance unless you luck out and come up with an invention like the hula hoop.

I think the younger crowd today has a lot of immature members who think they deserve more than they get.  They have grown up in a liberal atmosphere where government assistance is typical and endless. Therefore, when they are asked to produce on their own, they are cast into a sea of nothingness.  It’s a bad situation for them but the ones with an ounce of sense will hopefully realize that eventually and get themselves in gear.

(Above photo:  Michael Chow, Arizona Republic) 

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

LEARNING TO DRIVE IN 1951

I remember the year 1957 very well.  I was a junior in high school and had the “hots” for a lot of girls who wouldn’t give me the time of day. On March 30 of that year I turned the magical age of 16 which meant that I could finally get my driver’s license.   What a moment that was as I would now have the gift of instant mobility; no more begging rides from other guys, taking buses, hitch hiking, or worst of all: walking!

My dad was cool about such things as me knowing how to drive at an early age.  He was strictly “old school” and felt that when I went to take my driver’s test at 16, I should be an experienced driver.  Hence, at age 11 he gave me my first lesson on our 1940 Buick.  If you Google “1940 Buick” you will see a very large car so you can imagine what it was like for a kid of 11 to handle such a beast.

It was a three speed stick shift or as they said in those days, a “conventional shift.”  For my first lesson we went to a large parking area near a park where we lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.  If one was taking a driving lesson it was a pretty good place as it was wide open and no matter how bad I drove the car I couldn’t kill anyone.

A 1940 Buick exactly like the one I learned to drive on.
When I got in the driver’s seat I noticed that I had to really crane my neck to see out the windshield since I was basically just a little kid. Plus, I had to look through the steering wheel, not over it.  So, there I was:  not even a teenager yet but learning to drive a 10 year old Buick stick shift.  Luckily, I rolled with the flow pretty good and within a few months I was a pretty experienced driver for an 11 year old kid.  We used to vacation for a couple weeks in Atlantic City in the summer so I logged a lot of miles behind  the wheel long before I ever turned 16.  I may be the only kid from Cincinnati in those days who drove the Pennsylvania Turnpike before age 13!

When I finally turned 16, I got my driver’s license a few days later.   I was six feet four inches tall by then and could easily look above the steering wheel of any car so that was no big deal.   There was some humor though as the officer who gave the test was a bit concerned that a kid who supposedly just learned to drive at 16 could be so good at it.  I didn’t dare tell him that I had driven about  6,000 miles between  the ages of 11 and 16.

The 1950’s were a fun time to be a kid.  There weren’t so many people around like today so driving was the way to go anywhere.  Cars were different too; a lot more powerful than today.  Plus, with a car there was always a chance to take a date to a drive-in movie:  a place where movies were seldom watched.  Today, I don’t know of any drive in movies that still exist.

It’s a different world now.  I don’t see kids caring anything about driving or the classic cars like the hot rodders of the past.  When is the last time you heard a great car song like “Little Deuce Coupe” or “Hot Rod Lincoln”?  Driving has become boring and expensive to many as the period from 2000 to 2009 shows that the number of miles driven by 16 to 34 year olds dropped by 23 percent.

One of the great cars of the 1950's.  A '57 Chevy convertible.
Some of that may be because of the Recession and part may be the desire of some to live in an urban environment where walking is a viable and cheaper option.  Downtown Scottsdale has become a mecca for Millennials with its tall apartments housing 800 to 1,000 square foot units that can cheaply accommodate several of the younger crowd.  Bars and restaurants are within walking distance so savings can be made by eliminating the cost of leaving the area.  In recent years public transit has also eased the expense of driving a car.

Dylan once sang that “…the times they are a-changin’” and he was right; they always will change.  Hopefully enough that the younger gang will someday realize how great it would be to put the top down on a convertible and get out of the madness of living stacked on top of each other in a tiny downtown apartment.  If you have been around a while you know it can happen as everything is cyclical.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RUNNING MARATHONS

In 1974 I decided I needed to lose a few pounds. I was feeling a bit sluggish since I had entered my 30’s and wasn’t doing much to stay in shape. I had no clue about exercising until one Sunday morning while reading the newspaper between bites of a couple doughnuts and coffee, I saw an article about a couple in their late 30’s from Leavenworth, Kansas who raved about the success they had getting in shape through running.

The formula they used was simple: They started slowly and worked their way up as they gained strength and distance through their daily runs. They reached a point where they could run five miles out and back from their home. They lost weight, felt better, and had a nice improvement in their blood pressure readings, glucose, and other tests. It was exactly what I needed as an inspiration.

I met some other people who were like me and the Leavenworth couple in their desire to get in shape. We started running together entering 5 and 10 kilometer races and having a good time doing it. The running boom of the 1970’s was under way in America and we were part of it.

As interest intensified, races became gigantic by the standards of the day. In 1970, the first year of the New York Marathon, only 127 runners entered the race while 55 finished. By 2013, the number of runners had increased to 50,750; quite a jump from the lonely 55 who raced to the finish line in 1970.
  
"New York New York; it's a helluva town!" (Verrazano 
Narrows Bridge)
In 1978 about ten of us from Kansas City made the trip to New York to give the Marathon a shot. At that time I had been emceeing and running half marathons and 10K’s for a few years.  Some of those races had as many as 2,000 runners. That was pretty big by Missouri-Kansas standards but small time in the Big Apple so when I arrived on Staten Island for the start of the New York Marathon, it was a bit overwhelming to see 17,000 other runners ready to go. I knew at once that the race would be fun but with no opportunity to run a personal best time in a field that large.

My observation was correct as the premier runners were in the front row at the start while we lower echelon guys were far back in the pack. It took me eight minutes to get to the STARTING line! I managed to finish in a respectable 3 hours and 18 minutes to finish in 1,746th place.  It was so much fun, our group returned in 1979.

Now that I have whetted your appetite for running I’m sure you are ready to “lace ‘em up” and go for a run to use up some of that adrenaline. Don’t be fooled; anyone who takes up running with a goal of doing a marathon needs to train accordingly or they are in for a big disappointment. Running 26.2 miles takes a lot out of you so it’s best to be in shape.

When I say training for a marathon, I mean plenty of running including a weekly 20 mile run with some hard-easy running  in between and one or two days off for recovery time. REI has outlined a good schedule at http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/training-for-your-first-marathon.html.

My main goal in running marathons was to break the three hour barrier. When I saw the Fiesta Bowl Marathon scheduled for Scottsdale, Arizona on December 1,1979, I sensed an opportunity.

The course looked easy. It started about two miles west of Scottsdale Road on Dynamite and gradually descended south down Scottsdale Road to the area of Frank Lloyd Wright. It then went east to Pima Road then south to the finish at Scottsdale Community College. The weather was perfect: about 40 degrees at the 7:00 a.m. start and warming up to about 50 by the finish. There was no traffic since all the roads were rural two lanes in those days and the 101 did not exist yet. Our only observers were the few horses standing in the pasture of what used to be Chauncey’s Ranch on Scottsdale Road.

I felt fine all the way; I had no problem with hitting the proverbial “wall” but I still missed my goal of breaking three hours by four minutes and five seconds. As the French would say “C’est la vie.”  “Such is life.” I missed my chance.

I never ran another marathon. Scottsdale was number nine and I figured enough was enough.  Today, I don’t run as much as I once did but I still think of the couple from Leavenworth who were instrumental in my getting involved in the running community.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

ENJOYING THE APPEAL OF SOUTHWEST LIVING

For those who live in areas where winters are long, cold and cloudy, or have snow on the ground most of the time, it sounds like you need a winter vacation to break up that yearly uncomfortable routine. It’s not an impossibility if you book a vacation somewhere in the southwestern United States, preferably Arizona. There are reasons that thousands of people either have second homes in The Grand Canyon State or rent properties there during the winter, especially in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.

The average daytime temperature is 73 degrees between November and March. During that same period, Chicago averages 26 degrees, Montreal averages 24 degrees, and Minneapolis averages 16 degrees. This begs the question: Would I rather (a) freeze in the north all winter under a pile of blankets with basically no interesting outdoor activity or (b) try to spend some time in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area playing outdoors under clear skies and balmy temperatures? If you said (b) you are in for a great taste of the Southwest which could include the following paragraphs and more.

A popular activity for many visitors is a Jeep tour through the desert. The four wheel drive Jeeps travel rough back roads while guides explain details about the habitat. Many tours also offer a desert cook out to complement the experience. I have been on these tours and can tell you from personal experiences, they are a great time.
 
Have you ever dreamed of wearing shorts in December and January? You won’t do that in cold northern cities but it is typical in Arizona.  Be sure to bring your tennis racket and golf clubs if you play those sports and if you enjoy attending a PGA Tour golf event, there is the Phoenix Open. Do you like to hike or jog? The area is full of great trails along with every hiker’s dream: climbing Camelback Mountain.

How about spring training baseball? Games begin in early March for the 15 major league teams who train in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. While your friends back home are still enduring winter you can watch major league baseball in the warm sun of Arizona.

For those who enjoy more subtle activities, there are museums such as the Heard Museum which explores American Indian Cultures of the Southwest. The Musical Instrument Museum celebrates the cultures of the world through music. Also notable are the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Phoenix Art Museum. For a really unique experience, there is the Butterfly Wonderland located on the Salt River Indian Reservation just east of Scottsdale. It is the largest butterfly pavilion in America.

When dinner time arrives, you can choose from a variety of cuisines including popular Mexican restaurants, many of which have outdoor patios for eating or having a cocktail as you watch a beautiful sunset on the Sonoran Desert. There is more but the above is enough to keep you happily busy if you decide to leave winter behind either for a short stay in the Southwest or for the entire season.

Winter golf in Arizona
 Let’s compare the Sonoran lifestyle you could be enjoying this winter to that of your friends huddling together next to a potbellied stove somewhere in the northern climes: you are driving a convertible with the top down in Scottsdale. They are driving a snow covered SUV with the heater turned to “high.” You are having dinner and a cocktail on the outdoor terrace of a high end restaurant. They are eating a microwave hot dog at home because the roads are too icy to go out. After dinner you are going to the Musical Instrument Museum to see a show. They are hoping the roads are clear enough to get to the smoky bowling alley where they attend their mixed couples beer league. The next morning you dress in a tee shirt and shorts and go for a morning run. They put on a parka, wool trousers and boots to brave the cold while they chip ice off their windshields.

Please don’t misunderstand; we all have our favorite activities and if you enjoy being outdoors in a freezing winter climate, that’s entirely up to you. I have known people who take vacations in the winter to go skiing or ice skating in places like Colorado. As for me, that is never going to happen. If I have the choice of living in a place that includes sun, sand, and cactus versus snow drifts, ice, and salted roads, you can win a bet if you pick me to take the former.

To paraphrase the late writer Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again once you have had a taste of the Southwest.”

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