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Saturday, May 13, 2017

STEARMAN AIRCRAFT COMES TO SCOTTSDALE

A vintage Stearman PT-17 biplane aircraft arrived in Scottsdale recently and will eventually become a display piece hanging from the ceiling of the future Thunderbird Field II Plaza and Memorial at the Scottsdale Aviation Business Center.  The plane’s flight originated in Cotter, Arkansas and made several stops on its way to Scottsdale.

You may be wondering what the Stearman aircraft was.  I spent four years in the U. S. Air Force in the early to mid 1960’s and must confess that I never heard of it until this year when I read a great book called “Flight of Passage” written by a guy named Rinker Buck.  In that book, Mr. Buck recounts a trip he and his brother Kern made as teenagers in 1966 from New Jersey to California flying in a small unadorned Piper Cub aircraft.

Rinker and Kern’s father was an old time stunt pilot who flew many different planes including Stearmans in an earlier era and had been highly impressed with the crop duster pilots of the mid-west who he referred to as the “Stearmen men of the west.”  More about those guys momentarily but for now I’ll say that Rinker and Kern Buck discovered that some of those guys weren’t exactly the romantic heroes that Mr. Buck senior envisioned.

As far as the Stearman PT-17 Trainer, the company had quite a history after being founded by Lloyd Stearman in 1927 as the Stearman Aircraft Corporation.  Their factory was built in Wichita, Kansas and by 1934 the company was bought out by Boeing.  The PT-17 was a tough little plane and was usually the first aircraft a pilot in training would fly when becoming a U. S. Naval Aviator or Army Air Corps Cadet.

Although the U. S. Army Air Corps needed new bi-plane trainers by the mid 1930’s they were hampered by a lack of funds needed for purchasing them.  Fortunately, after the Navy’s purchase of some Stearmans in 1935, the Army was able to follow in 1936 with a purchase of 26 of their own.  By 1940, 3,519 Stearman trainers were delivered mostly because of the threat of World War II.  It was a popular plane as it was rugged, easy to fly, and very forgiving of new pilots which takes us back to the previously mentioned “Stearmen men of the west.”

Barb, me, and the Stearman
After landing their Piper Cub in Brinkley, Arkansas to get fuel and spend the night, Rinker and Kern got a reality check when they found that the so called “Stearmen men of the west” would never receive any awards for congeniality.   While being lauded by their father, the boys found that the crop dusters had no use for what they called “prettyboy pilots.”  To say those guys were obnoxious and ill mannered would be to give them credit.  They were far from having the great “Stearmen men of the west” label given to them by the boys’ father.

Later, the airport manager explained that a lot of those guys were rejects with bad accident histories, license violations, and poor medical histories who would never be hired by the military or any airlines.  In a word, they were “down and outers” doing crop dusting for a living to support their welfare checks.

Fortunately, the Stearman PT-17 that arrived in Scottsdale is in mint condition and before it is put on permanent display, it will be flown to various locations as a fund raising tool.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: THEN AND NOW

I have been a fan of major league baseball for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio so as a kid I kept close track of our home town Reds.  During those days in the 1950’s the Reds had an exciting team but didn’t usually win more games than they lost because they lacked one of the first ingredients for success in the game:  good pitching.  They were exciting to follow because although they gave up a lot of runs, they also scored a lot with great hitters like Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Jim Greengrass.  Consequently, we saw a lot of 10-9 games with the Reds on the short end but they won their share of those high scoring games too.

Regardless of their inadequacies on the pitchers’ mound those Reds teams and other major league teams of their era were a lot different from teams of today.  A major reason is that they didn’t make the high salaries that players make today.  During the early to late 1950’s players were fortunate to make $10,000 for a season.  Most of them had second jobs like pitcher Bud Podbielan of the Reds who worked part time at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Cincinnati to make ends meet.  In 1957 a great young pitcher on the Reds named Jim Maloney held out in spring training for a $20,000 contract; chicken feed by today’s standards.  As good as he was, he wound up signing for $17,000 as the team wouldn’t budge on its offer.  A guy like Maloney would be making millions today.

That era was also different from today because of the players’ attitude toward fans.  Those guys were a lot more accessible that the millionaires we have on the diamonds today.  I remember when Jerry Colangelo was involved with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003, some of the players balked because Colangelo insisted that they sign autographs for ten minutes before games.  It doesn’t seem like much of a hardship but with the millions those guys were making some felt it to be a burden. 

As a comparison, I remember going to Reds games in Cincinnati as a kid and collecting autographs from the players before games.  They used to hang out under the grandstand at old Crosley Field to grab a few puffs off a Camel or Lucky Strike before they went out to warm up.  That area was where we kids invaded to get autographs.  Those players were of a different mindset than many of today.  They were happy to sign our books and many even seemed flattered to be asked for an autograph.

When visiting teams came to Cincinnati to play the Reds, it was time for me to take the trolley bus downtown and hang around the hotel lobbies where the visiting teams stayed.  I acquired many great autographs from guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin of the 1954 World Series Champion New York Giants plus the rest of the Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and , of course, the Reds..  Willie and Monte even took the time to add a message to me next to their name.  Monte died recently but Willie is still hanging on in his late 80’s

Those were fun days to grow up.  It was an era when sports weren’t taken as seriously as now and people seemed to have more of a sense of humor.  Today there are guys making millions who couldn’t make a team in the days of fewer major league clubs.  It’s lucky timing for them.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

GLANCING AT TV HISTORY

Although the early days of television hurt the movie business, they didn’t ruin it like they did radio. Sure, starting in the late 1940s TV was new and exciting even if it was on a 7” to 16” black and white screen. However, not every home had one for two main reasons:  Sets were very expensive and they were hard to get.

As a kid in Cincinnati, I can remember our first TV. It was a 16” B&W “National” and it cost about $500. Those were big bucks in 1949 and there was no remote, just 3 channels, and “rabbit ears” on top of the set for an antenna. When reception got bad, a little Reynold’s Wrap around the antenna helped a bit except when an airplane passed over. Nothing could help that but it at least was just a brief interruption.

Most of the shows were local but NBC from New York had a network followed shortly after by CBS and ABC. One of the events responsible for the great interest in TV in the late 1940s was NBC’s successful broadcast of the 1947 baseball World Series. One of the popular showcases for TV was the local bar. Almost every one of them had a TV and packed in the customers who wanted to watch sporting events.
It took about six months to get a set as the demand was high. Everyone was in the business including brands you probably never heard of like Muntz, Hallicrafters, and Capehart. I mentioned above our National was $500 but if you wanted an “entertainment center” you could get a 7” TV, 78 rpm record player, and AM radio combination for about $800!

TV broadcasts in the early ‘50s usually came on about 5:00 in the afternoon and signed off at about midnight or 1:00 a.m.  Popular network shows were the Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle (Uncle Miltie), Arthur Godfrey, and Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” which, a few years later, would cause a controversy when Elvis appeared with his swiveling hips. The camera could only show him from the waist up because of protests.

For the kids, there was Howdy Doody. Before we had a set, the kids in my neighborhood would crowd every afternoon at 5:30 into the living room of a girl up the street and watch Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, and the Peanut Gallery. The TV was a 14" Admiral B&W table model but it looked like a 60" color flat screen to us.

A 1956 Emerson 16" Black and White screen set
If you turned on the TV before “sign on” you would see a “test pattern” which was a bullseye looking thing usually with an Indian’s head that showed on the screen accompanied by an annoying hum.

It all sounds primitive now, but at the time it did a lot of damage to theater ticket sales. From 1948 to 1953, home ownership of TVs in the US increased from 1% to 50% and by the 1960s was 90%. Suddenly, color films were flowing out of Hollywood in response to the black and white one eyed monster in all those living rooms across America.

In 1952, a gigantic screen with three projectors and a superior
sound system made its debut in select theaters. It was called Cinerama and was followed closely by 3-D with its flimsy cardboard glasses. Other attempts by the film business to thwart TV were Cinemascope and Vista Vision.
Cinerama was discontinued in 1962 and 3-D only lasted a couple years in the 50s. Both systems plus the more standard wide screen stuff were basically stopgap methods used to try to win customers back into the theaters. Eventually, both genres found their niche and gimmicks gave way to more quality films while the movie studios started working with TV making “made for TV” films.
The dust had settled.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

REMEMBERING MY '61 CHEVY AND BOWLING

LOOKING BACK

If you like vintage cars, the photo below should interest you.  It was taken in the parking lot of my Air Force barracks at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri in 1964.

The red and white‘61 Chevy in the foreground was mine.  I had recently traded in a 1960 Volkswagen bug for it as the Volks was just a bit too small for me at 6’ 5” in height and it didn’t have a radio or heater.  That was too Spartan for me but at the time it was all I could afford with an Airman 2nd Class paycheck from the Air Force.  I paid $1,400 for that Chevy and it was well worth it.

The Chevy was a great car with the small V8 engine of those days.  Gas at that time in Missouri never went over about 26 cents a gallon and was usually at about 23 cents so it was pretty economical to run on an Air Force paycheck.

Another interesting aspect of this photo is that many of the cars parked in the background, which were routine for the time, became quite popular in later years as some of the great wheels of the past.  From right to left notice the ’60 Chevy convertible, ’57 Chevy 4 door, ’55 Chevy Convertible, and at the end of the line, a ’57 Ford Convertible.

It was a great time to be young.  The kids of today don’t realize the benefits of serving in the military and enjoying the memories and friendships from it. 

I doubt very much if I would have ever been able to enjoy a summer in Germany but I did in 1963 thanks to the Air Force “Operation Short Spurt” program of that era. Not everyone got great duty like that but serving one’s country was a great feeling and I have great memories from it.

REMEMBER BOWLING?




I used to love to bowl.  My wife Barb and I bowled in many leagues in the Kansas City and Scottsdale areas and we would rarely miss the pro bowlers on Saturday afternoon TV broadcasts of the Pro Bowlers Tour. 

The attached photo was probably the high water mark of my bowling experiences.  Each July I joined a group of about thirty guys from Kansas City who bowled in the prestigious Petersen Tournament in Chicago and although most of them were better than I was, I was always invited to join them in the Windy City.  Fortunately for me, I upset all of them and won the Kansas City squad that day in July of 1987.  Needless to say, it was quite a thrill to pull an upset like that.  I only wish my hair today was as dark as it is in that photo! I also wish I could still average 200!

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Monday, January 16, 2017

SMARTPHONES COULD BE RUINING YOUR LOVE LIFE! YIKES!!

I think the following column by Professor James A. Roberts of Baylor University is interesting.  I do not own a smartphone simply because I don’t think I would ever use it.  I have an old flip cell phone which is a convenient dust gatherer so I doubt if I need it or anything even more sophisticated.  I certainly don’t feel any need to be “phubbed” by a smartphone as I have seen enough bad manners for a lifetime just by the way people use the old fashioned cell phone which is now a member of the bad manners hall of fame.
How do you feel about Smartphone etiquette?  Leave comments below.  JM
SMARTPHONES COULD BE RUINING YOUR LOVE LIFE
By James A. Roberts, Baylor University
The majority of our relationships are in shambles.
The U.S. divorce rate hovers at 40 per cent but that’s not the whole story. Many intact relationships are on life support. According to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, 60 percent of people in a relationship say they’re not very satisfied. There are some familiar culprits: money problems, bad sex, and kids.  But there’s a new relationship buster: the smartphone.
My colleague Meredith David and I recently conducted a study that explored just how detrimental smartphones can be to relationships.
We zeroed in on measuring something called “phubbing” (a fusion of “phone” and “snubbing”). It’s how often your romantic partner is distracted by his or her smartphone in your presence. With more and more people using the attention-siphoning devices -  the typical American checks his or her smartphone every 6 ½ minutes, or roughly 150 times each day – phubbing has emerged as a real source of conflict. For example, in one study, 70 percent of participants said that phubbing hurt their ability to interact with their romantic partners.
Most know what it’s like to be phubbed: You’re in the middle of a passionate screed only to realize that your partner’s attention is elsewhere. But you’ve probably also been a perpetrator, finding yourself drifting away from a conversation as you scroll through your Facebook feed.
In our study, we wanted to know the implications of this interference.
We surveyed 175 adults in romantic relationships from across the United States and had them fill out our questionnaire. We had them complete a nine-item Partner Phubbing Scale that measured how often some felt “phubbed” by his or her partner’s smartphone use.
Sample questions included “My partner places his or her smartphone where they can see it when we are together” and “my partner uses his or her smartphone when we are out together.”
Survey participants also completed a scale that measured how much smartphone use was a source of conflict in their relationships. Participants also completed a scale that measured how satisfied they were with their current relationship, how satisfied they were with their lives and if they were depressed.
We found that smartphones are real relationship downers – up there with money, sex and kids.
People who reported being at the receiving end of phubbing also reported higher levels of conflict over smartphone use than those who reported less phubbing. Not surprisingly, higher levels of smartphone-related conflict reduced levels of relationship satisfaction.
Something as seemingly innocent as using a smartphone in the presence of a romantic partner undermined the quality of the relationship. This can create a domino effect: As our study also showed, when we’re not happily in love, we are also less likely to be satisfied, overall, with life. We’re also more likely to report that we are depressed.
Why, might you ask, does partner phubbing wreak such havoc between romantic partners?
At least two possible explanations for such relationship tumult exist. The “Displacement Hypotheses” suggests that time spent on smartphones displaces (or reduces) more meaningful interactions with your lover, weakening the relationship. I call a second theory “Smartphone Conflict theory.”  Simply put, the device is a source of conflict and leads to fighting. Fights, of course, can only serve to undermine your satisfaction with your partner and the relationship.
So what can we take away from all of this? Even if we act like it’s no big deal, it still stings whenever we’re phubbed by our romantic partner. In a sense, our romantic partners are choosing their phone over us.

We probably feel a little less important and the relationship feels a little less secure.