July 24th, 1979, was my last day at work at the National AudioVisual Center. In fact, it was my last day of work anywhere for a paycheck. Just two months earlier I had seen a motor home for sale and both Darlene and I decided it was just what we wanted for our retirement years. We were ready for some more traveling and on the 25th we headed across the country.
Our next destination was Oakland, where Jean and Brian were expecting their second child. Nine days after we arrived, Jeffrey Brian Cole made his appearance. This was indeed a happy time for all of us as we welcomed a healthy baby boy!
Jeffrey Brian Cole, born Sept 19, 1979
Dad & Grandpa, Mom & Grandma, Jacqueline & Jeffrey
Now we were blessed with two granddaughters and two grandsons. Little did we know then how much all four of them would mean in our lives through the years.
On our way back to Maryland, we were able to visit more capital cities: Carson, Nevada; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Lincoln, Nebraska. I have mentioned before that Darlene had the goal of visiting every capital city in the country, and going into each capitol building possible.
The real highlight of my trip back was a stop in Indiana where I visited my Army Air Corps buddy, who was my tent mate for many months in the South Pacific during World War II. You can imagine how much talking we had to do! He was the only one I saw from my service days until 1992 when I decided to organize a reunion of my 54th Troop Carrier Wing. Unfortunately, by that time my pal Bill Lockman had died. In fact, his death and that of another close buddy stimulated me to see how many members of the Wing I could find. More about our reunions later.
We returned to our home and our usual activities, mostly connected with our church and with Glenda’s family. We had always been glad that Glenda and Doug had moved to Maryland near us when Doug finished his years of service in the Air Corps. We spent many happy times with them and our grandchildren, Dan and Debra.
Doug has a hammer as they were in the process of remodeling their house.
Early in December we got some threatening news from Glenda’s husband Doug. Glenda’s gynecologist had told her he didn’t like the looks of a mole he found in her crotch and sent her to the National Institutes of Health hospital to have it removed. Doug called to report to us that it was a melanoma. At that time we had never even heard the word. Doug explained that it was a cancer. Then we learned that it was a very vicious kind of skin cancer—one with no cure except removal. Even today in 1999, it is still a dreaded cancer and no real cure has been found. If it can be removed before it has spread, sometimes all is fine. However, even when the doctors think they have gotten all of it, it will show up again a number of years later.
We waited with hope for the doctor’s assessment after Glenda’s operation. He felt that he had gotten all of it and tests of the lymph glands showed no signs it had spread. Of course, recovery from the operation was still long and painful. She was told to report every three months for further evaluation.
In February 1980, we were on the road again back to California. This time we had decided to sell our house in Culver City and gave the renter notice that he should move. He was already several months behind in his rent. On our way we stopped at Little Rock, Arkansas, to visit yet another state capital. President Clinton was governor at that time. A Boy Scout reception was in progress and we heard him give a talk to the boys. We had no idea that we would be seeing and hearing lots more about him in later years. I must say that he made a very good impression on us that day.
When we arrived in Culver City, we could see that the renter had not made any preparation to move. In fact, he said he wanted to buy our house for $75,000. We had been checking sale prices for Culver City homes and we knew this was much less than the house was worth. We told him no deal. We made it plain that he must be out by March 14. Then we went north to Oakland to visit Jean’s family until that day.
Upon our return to Culver City, we discovered the renters still in our house. The man claimed he had fallen through a hole in the bathroom floor and was going to sue us. By then, we knew we needed a lawyer, and we took the renter to court. The judge had no sympathy for him and told him the sheriff would serve him with a two-week’s notice. After two weeks, the family still hadn’t moved. They said they hadn’t seen any eviction notice. Sure enough, the paper hadn’t been served. The sheriff found it under a pile of papers on his desk. That meant another two weeks of waiting to get into the house.
Finally, in the middle of May, we decided they were gone and then we began to wonder how we would get in, as we didn’t have a key. We didn’t need to worry as we found the back door lying on the patio. Even after all the trouble, we weren’t prepared for what we found inside. Filth! Dead rats! In one closet, we found juice cans that had rusted and the juice leaked out! It was too horrible to even describe. They had several layers of linoleum in the kitchen. I guess when one got dirty they just put another on top. In the back yard and along the driveway we found piles of junk. There were old tables, umbrellas, bicycle parts, an old stove, scraps of iron and steel, and miscellaneous stuff. The place looked like a junkyard instead of a home. In the front room a relatively new rug had a big hole cut in it. We had noticed hanging plants when we had been in the house, but what we didn’t know was that when they watered them, the water soaked into the rug, leaving many rotten spots. There was a hole in the bathroom floor through which the renter had stuck him leg, claiming the fall had caused him to have a heart attack. The hole was the result of letting water from the shower stay on the floor, soaking it until it became rotten. Incidentally, some time later, the man’s son told me that his Dad didn’t have a heart attack and that the whole thing was an effort to sue us.
Hole in the front room rug
Hole in the bathroom floor
Oh, I could write page after page about all it took to get our house in livable condition. There were many decisions to be made about just how much to do to get the place ready for sale. However, the most important decision came one Sunday morning. Darlene and I were trying to repair the closet doors in what had been our two daughters' bedroom. Suddenly, Darlene looked at me and asked, "Are we sure we want to sell this house?"
My reply was, "You know, I don’t really believe we do."
So I went to the corner and removed the "For Sale" sign. Then we got ready and went to church. As we sat there among our friends of many years, I whispered to Darlene, "Yes, I believe we will keep the house and move back to Culver City," and she nodded in agreement.
Jean and Brain came down from Oakland to help us clean the house. Jean went immediately to her old bedroom to scrub the mold off the walls. Since the renters had the walls covered with curtains, we had no way of knowing about the mold when we had walked through the house earlier. We did know that the whole house had some bad odors.
Since there is no way to really describe the condition of the whole place to give you, the reader, an accurate picture of what we found, I’ll just continue with my story.
Since we had already paid for a trip with our church travel ministry to Israel and Oberammergau, we just left the house in a mess and returned to Maryland. Naturally, we had a wonderful trip and the Passion Play in Oberammergau was a highlight of the journey. I had known about this famous production for many years, but had never dreamed I would get to see it. Since our first priority upon returning home was to get ready to move, we had no time to make an audiovisual presentation of this trip as we had of the ones to England and Rome.
Immediately, we posted "House For Sale" signs and started to gather things for a yard sale. Luckily, one of Greg’s friends was newly married and they bought our house. So selling the house was the easiest part of the move. The yard sale helped to get rid of quite a few things that wouldn’t have to be packed.
Since our car was a small Mazda, we decided to pull it behind the motor home. I didn’t really want to drive a moving van. Besides that, on our trips we always took turns behind the wheel so neither of us would get too tired. Therefore, we wanted to find a third driver. In the paper we saw an ad for a man who wanted to share a ride to Southern California. We contacted him and learned that he had only a few belongings to move and that he would be glad to drive the moving van. With the help of Doug and Bill Blume, we got our household goods into the van and were on the road the first of September.
The trip across the Untied States had been uneventful and we were thankful for our safe arrival in Culver City. However, when we disconnected our Mazda from the motor home, we discovered that since we hadn’t prepared the Mazda properly for being towed, the transmission was ruined. Of course, that cost was nothing compared with the cost of getting our house livable. We got acquainted with Ray Dixon at our church. He was a real handy-man! With his help our kitchen got a new floor and linoleum. With the help of a plumber and a furnace man, we had toilets and a way to heat the house. Gradually, we bought enough furniture and appliances to move in. In the meantime, we were lucky in that we could live in our motor home
One Sunday morning while we were living in Maryland, I was surprised to see a big picture in the paper of the Maynard Memorial Methodist Church we had attended so many years when we lived in Culver City, California. It had been sold to the Hari Kirshnas and was to become their United States headquarters. We had known that since the Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches nationally were now united, neither Maynard nor a nearby Brethren Church would accommodate the combined congregations. By the time we moved back to Culver City, the Brethren Church had also been sold and a church had been built at a new location. Naturally, we transferred our memberships to the new Culver-Palms United Methodist Church. .
Before long we were perfectly at home in Culver City and were enjoying the same friends that had meant so much to us through the years.
We did miss our family in Maryland. When the Christmas season approached, they thought we should come back to be with them. That idea suited us fine as we had spent every Christmas with them since Debra’s birth. Little did we know that our two weeks there would lengthen into four months.
When we arrived, Glenda was complaining of flu-like symptoms and allergy
problems. Two days after we had celebrated a joyous Christmas together,
Darlene went to the doctor with Glenda. They came home with doctor’s orders
for her to check into the National Institute of Health (NIH). We all knew
what that meant. He feared that the melanoma had spread through her body.
And he was right.
When the doctors at NIH removed Glenda's melanoma a year earlier, we had been told that there was no other treatment for this form of cancer except surgery. Still a year later, they still had only one experimental drug to offer which so far hadn't really been effective. Nevertheless, they gave it to Glenda, but she felt no effects whatsoever. She became sicker and soon was bedridden. On February 2, just a few days over a month after going to the NIH doctor, she died. I guess that time was about the saddest time of my whole life. I had told her that I was the one who should go first, not her. I also told her not to be afraid.
Glenda said, "Dad, I’m not afraid. I just wish I could be with my children as they grow up."
Greg and Rhonda came to visit while Glenda was sick and left there to go to Florida where Rhonda’s father was ill with terminal cancer. Jean came to be with us during Glenda’s last week and her whole family joined her for the Memorial Service.
Jean Klauda, one of the ministers at our church had been with Glenda during her illness and she gave a beautiful tribute to her at the Memorial Service. The choir sang one of my favorite choral numbers, "Open Our Eyes."
That we may behold Thee walking beside us in our sorrow.
Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant
For through its portals we enter into the presence of the living God."
"Open our eyes, O loving and compassionate Jesus,
That we may see to follow Thee,
Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer."
Glenda and Doug had decided on cremation several years earlier so this was done. The ashes were then kept by the Maryland Funeral Home until Doug and the children moved to Culver City the next fall.
Truly 1981 held some sad times for our family. We not only lost our daughter Glenda, but also Doug, Glenda’s husband, lost his father and Greg’s wife, Rhonda, lost her father. That was certainly a time for us that fit the old superstition that deaths in a family come in "threes."
One month after Glenda’s memorial service, we decided we should leave Doug and the children alone for awhile to make their adjustment to life without Glenda. We went on a month-long trip in our motor home.
We drove south along the coast all the way to Key West, Florida. There were short visits with my old boss, Jim Gibson, and his wife; my secretary, Mrs. Kay, and her husband; Rhonda’s parents; and our Maryland Sunday School Class friends, the Krouts.
All along on the trip we used our AAA book to locate many interesting and historic sites. One Saturday we saw on the map that we were close to former President Carter’s home in Plains, Georgia. Purposely, we arrived there on Sunday morning hoping to attend his home church. We found the church and went inside to the Sunday School Class. In a few moments someone came to ask who owned the motor home. It needed to be moved to accommodate the secret service entourage with the President and his wife. We moved it promptly, of course, and were happy to know that they were there. Soon they came in and sat in front of the class. Although President Carter wasn’t the teacher that day, he answered the first question the teacher asked.
In church we sat in back of the Carter’s and were amused when the offering time came. We heard Mrs. Carter asked her husband if he had the offering envelope. He fished it from his pocket when the plate came his way.
The big surprise came when the President announced that they were having an open house that afternoon and all were invited. It was the first since he had left office. You can bet we found our way there. It was quite a thrill to be greeted by him and Roslyn and then be shown through the house and his workshop. I felt quite proud to see that he had a Sears saw just like mine.
Naturally, there were many reporters there and one interviewed us. He asked how we knew about the open house and our thoughts about President Carter's future in politics. The next day we bought a paper and saw that they quoted me saying, "We sat behind him in church." They also quoted some "visitors" from California who said they thought that President Carter was too good a man to get mixed up in politics, and that he should be an ambassador somewhere. That was what Darlene had told them.
Our trip ended in time for us to stay with Debra and Danny during Easter Week vacation. Since Doug had made after school baby sitting arrangements for the children while we were on our trip, it was time for us to return to California. We took our usual route, stopping in Kansas to visit family and friends.
On Sunday, May third, we were able to celebrate Darlene's father's 90th birthday. His wife, Charlotte, had a nice reception for him at the South Hutchinson United Methodist Church. Darlene's father drove a taxicab for many years and that explains the decoration on his cake.
Charlotte, Sam, and Charlotte's niece admiring the 90th Birthday Cake
In September, we got an invitation to my nephew’s wedding in Topeka. Of course, we wanted to attend Ronald’s wedding. Also I realized that if we went a week early, I could go to the Kansas State Fair. Since there was no reason for us not to get on the road again, off we went. It was fun to visit the State Fair and reminisce about the times I had taken my Zook and Jetmore bands there in 1941 and 1949. The next week we enjoyed being at the wedding and seeing all the other members of my brother’s family.
In November Doug and his children moved from Maryland and he bought a house in Culver City. Now all our family was back in California. Of course, Jean and her family were nearly 400 miles north, and Greg and Rhonda were in Woodland Hills, just 20 miles north. However, that was lots closer than when we were across the country in Maryland.
Greg and Rhonda still had their two dogs and two kitties, Sunny and Patches. Greg and I built a nice little house for them on Greg's front porch. There they could feel safe from the dogs.
Again Sunny showed us another of his lives. If you have already read about Greg and Rhonda's wedding in the previous section of this story, you will that remember Sunny was lost for weeks when he got away from the kennels. How happy we were when we got a call saying he had been found at a nearby house. That was back in Maryland. Now some years later, he just disappeared one day from Greg's home in Woodland Hills. One day several weeks later, he came limping home. The vet had to reconstruct his collarbone and shoulder, but he survived. We think that a car had hit him.
Patches also had a couple lives. One day after she had been gone for sometime Greg looked in his neighbor's yard and saw her. When he picked her up, her stomach was wet and he discovered it was blood from a big gash. He had no idea what caused it, but the vet was able to sew her shut and after a few days she was up and around again. The next time she disappeared, they were not so lucky. She never did come home. We just hope someone found her and took her in.
When Greg moved to Pacific Palisades, he decided Sunny would be safer with us in Culver City. We were glad to have a kitty again. Sunny lived to be 19 years old. We guess he just died of old age because he got weaker and weaker until one day he went to sleep and didn't wake up. I called Greg and he came to help us bury him in our back yard. Sunny gave us many years of pleasure.
Jean and her family came down from Oakland for Christmas. This was a big help for Doug as it was the first year for him and the children without Glenda. Also while they were here, we had the service of interment for Glenda at Glendale Forest Lawn Cemetery, Columbarium of Evening Star, Court of Freedom.
Darlene’s father died March 5, 1982, a few months before his 91st birthday. This meant a trip back to Kansas. I knew that when we next returned to Hutchinson, I would miss having breakfast with Sam (that’s what I called Darlene’s father). He always wanted to take me to breakfast as soon as we came to visit and I always enjoyed that time with him.
After visits with Hutchinson friends and Burrton cousins, we went to visit Darlene’s Aunt Phoebe in Oklahoma. Then as usual we used our AAA book to see all the interesting sights along our trip, sometimes going off the direct route home. We visited the Oklahoma City Stock Yards, took the Arbuckle Mountains Wilderness Drive, enjoyed the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, and took in two National Monuments: White Sands in New Mexico and Saguaro in Arizona. Our motor home made traveling and sightseeing easy and inexpensive. Most of our nights were spent, along with many other trailers and motor homes, at Interstate Highway Rest Areas.
We were home less than two weeks when off we went north to Visalia to attend the celebration for Darlene’s cousin Art and his wife’s golden wedding anniversary.
After the anniversary dinner, we went on to Oakland where we celebrated Easter with Jean’s family and also Doug and his children, who came from Culver City to join us.
Still in quest of state capitals we proceeded on north to visit Salem, Oregon and Olympia, Washington. Still farther north we went across into Vancouver, Canada, and visited the Grouse Mountain Ski Area. We didn’t ski, but did take a ride on the ski lift.
On this trip we visited my niece Nancy, her husband Ron, and their two sons in Washington. They took us on an interesting and historic tour of "Underground Seattle."
While in Oregon, we spent a couple days with my college roommate, Harry Albrecht, and his wife. He’s the one about whom I earlier wrote the "water on his cereal" story. I later learned it was because he and his brother had no money for milk. Both of them became Mennonite ministers. I have always kept in touch with Harry. When I was teaching at Jetmore, Kansas, he was at Hanston, only eleven miles away, serving the Mennonite Church there.
Harry and Irma taught us how to play "Chicken Track Dominoes" and we have taught many others the game through the years. It’s a good game for any who don’t want to count all those dots, and for children who haven’t yet learned their five’s multiplication tables.
We got back to the Cole’s (our daughter Jean’s family) in time to celebrate their daughter Jackie’s sixth birthday. Her name was Jacqueline, but, naturally, she was called Jackie, until she was in high school when she wanted something more distinctive and changed the spelling to Jacqui.
One day I took the bus and metro to the Cow Palace in San Francisco to see a "Travel Show." On my trip home, as I was getting ready to board the bus, I saw a package on the sidewalk. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a frozen turkey. I always wondered if someone had stolen it and in running away dropped it. Of course, they may have purchased it and dropped it as they were hurrying to catch the bus. As it was still frozen solid, we all decided it would be perfectly good to eat. On Mother’s day we had a regular Thanksgiving type dinner, turkey and all the trimmings.
Since we had been at Cole’s for Jackie’s birthday in May, they thought we should come back for Jeff’s third birthday in September. Being doting grandparents, we got back in our motor home and drove north again. This time we returned through San Jose and visited the famous Winchester Mystery House.
In October when we saw an advertisement for the World’s Fair in Knoxsville, Tennessee, we knew it was time for another trip and more state capitals. First we drove to Nashville, where we visited my nephew Bob and his family, the Parthenon and the state capitol building. Nashville is also the home of the inspirational "Upper Room" and the publishing house for our United Methodist Church. Naturally, we were happy to have the opportunity to see them.
After spending a fun day at the Knoxville World Fair, we kept going toward Florida, our destination being EPCOT and Disneyworld. What a place! We enjoyed three days at EPCOT, but skipped Disneyworld, since it was so much like California’s Disneyland, which we had seen many times. Going through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on our way to Texas we took the southernmost route. In Texas we saw two of Darlene’s cousins and her old hometown of Christine. She was able to find one old neighbor that she remembered. Both her home and her grandparents homes were gone.
We finally arrived home after stops at El Centro, California, to visit
the Guettesche’s, who were longtime friends from Hutchinson, Kansas; and
near San Diego to see our dear friends, the Blumes from USC days. This
time we had been on the road one month and had accumulated many happy memories.
In 1983 we took two great trips. The first was to Mexico to visit the Copper Canyon. To reach the Canyon one rides on a train that took over 100 years to build. Starting at Los Mochis, it passes through the primitive wilderness of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, and climbs up to 8,000 feet elevation. During the ride it crosses 39 high bridges and goes through 86 tunnels. There are several times when one can see the end of the train on the sharp u-turns. At our over night stop at Divisadero we viewed the splendors of the canyon, which compares quite favorably to our Grand Canyon. Near and along the canyon walls are cave homes of the Tarahumara Indians, who are living much as they have for centuries. Most of the Indians, however, now live in and around Creel, a one and one-half hour ride from Divisadero. There we got caught in a snowstorm. There was no electricity, and therefore no heat in the hotel rooms so we all congregated around a fireplace in the lobby. We watched the Indians outside walking through the snow. They had blanket-like wraps, but on their feet they wore sandals which were really only soles strapped to their feet. The next stop was at Cuauhtemoc, a center for German Mennonite farmers who have settled there. The last stop was in Chihuahua, the capital city of Mexico's wealthiest state. Points of interest there were the murals in the capitol building, an old Spanish aqueduct that is still working, and the prison still showing bullet holes made by Pancho Villa and his troops. Our trip ended with a flight from Chihuahua to Tijuana and a bus ride across the border through U S Customs into San Diego.
The second fabulous trip we took was called "The Footsteps of Saint Paul." We happened to see a small ad in the paper about this three-week trip, which was to be led by the Rev. Don Shelby, minister of the Santa Monica First United Methodist Church. We will always be thankful that we answered that ad. Having a minister to explain and interpret the places we visited with names right out of our New Testament gave a spiritual dimension to our sightseeing.
The trip started in Athens with its Acropolis, National Archaeological Museum and Temple of Poseidon, which overlooks the Aegean Sea. Next came a four-day cruise to the islands of Myconos, Crete, Santorini, Kos and Patmos. On Santorini some rode donkeys on 500 terraced steps zigzagging up the mountainside to the village of Thera. Unfortunately, Darlene got on her donkey just long enough to have her picture taken before he fell and she went over his head. You can imagine how bruised and shaken the fall left her. Luckily, no bones were broken and, although her glasses were knocked off, they were found intact. That experience taught us the lesson of taking an extra pair of glasses on our excursions.
Each island has its points of interest. For example, Kos is the legendary birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. On it is the city of Rhodes, built during the Crusades. And, of course, on Patmos is the grotto where it is said St. John lived while writing his book of Revelation.
The last stop on the cruise was at the Turkish port of Kusasasi where we caught a bus to Ephesus. Here we really felt we were walking in the footsteps of St. Paul.
After a day’s excursion to Corinth, we took a six-day bus tour through Greece, stopping at Delphi; Meteora with its monasteries atop 1500-foot columns of rock; Pella, the home of Alexander the Great; Thessaloniki and Philippi.
The trip continued with a flight to Italy. There we visited the usual historical sights in Rome and worshipped at the American Church. While in Italy, we went to Naples and took a hydrofoil to Capri. That was a rough ride and many people got very sick before we reached Capri. However, Darlene and I got along fairly well. The last important sight of our trip was the ruins of Pompei.
Mere words cannot possibly explain the wonders and the blessings of all we saw during those three weeks as we traveled in the "Footsteps of St. Paul." We were also doubly blessed to be able to take movies of our trip. Greg supplied us with a new video camera. Such cameras were relatively new at that time, but it wasn’t long before they were to become a common sight wherever one saw tourists.
Those two trips out of the country were not enough for us this year. In September we were off in our Rogue motor home for six weeks. The main reason for the trip was Darlene's 45th High School Class Reunion in Hutchinson. Then, we just kept going east and went all the way to Maryland. There we visited our dear friends, Dean and Jean Bonnell, and also attended our church at Hyattsville where we still felt very much at home.
Coming through Tennessee on our way home, we visited my cousin, Ted Shaw, and his wife, Roberta. Although we didn't know it at the time, it was the last time I would get to see them as both died within a few years.
As it turned out, we were lucky to have had so many wonderful trips in 1983.
One day when I was at the VA hospital for a routine check-up, I asked if anything could be done about my thumb joints.
"Frankly, Doctor, my joints hurt so much I'm afraid I am going to have to quit playing the piano, or using my computer."
"Let me take a look at those thumbs...Ummm," he said. "How long has that been going on?"
"It has been a gradual thing. At first I though all I had to do was to keep exercising my thumbs and the pain would go away. Now, the pain is so severe that a simple brush against a coin in my trouser pocket causes me to wince."
"You're lucky that you asked, Mr. McMurry. It happens that we have one of the country's foremost hand surgeons from UCLA medical center here on our VA staff. I will make for an appointment for you to get x-rays and see Dr. Meals."
When I saw Dr. Meals, he was very encouraging. He was sure he could fix my thumbs. He said he would do the left one first, as it was the worse one. He also warned me that it was a major operation and there was always some risk.
I was so excited that my hands might work OK again without the constant pain, I disregarded the risk factor. On December 12, my left thumb was fixed by having the cartilage replaced with a part of my thumb the doctor says we never use. .
My real troubles came two days later after I came home from the hospital and began having severe chest pains. When Darlene took me to the hospital, the doctors were sure I was having a heart attack and immediately put me on a heart monitor. They used the type machine that inserts a tube down through the shoulder toward the heart. I understand this machine is no longer used because of the danger of blood clots. How I wish that it hadn't been used that time!
"Mr. McMurry! Mr. McMurry! Can you hear me?" was about all I remembered. I was being rolled on a gurney and just as I got into the elevator I felt a little burning in my head and there was a flash of light in front of my eyes. That was it. I had had a stroke. They rushed me back to my room with several doctors gathered around my bed. I had lost my ability to speak as a result of that incident. About the only name I could remember and say was my wife's name, Darlene, and that was with difficulty.
What a present for Darlene when she arrived early the next morning on her birthday to see how I was doing! The nurse immediately explained to her what had happened and that she should try to get me to talk. Although I was aware she was asking me questions and talking to me, all I really wanted to do was sleep.
I learned later the spot where the clot hit my brain had affected my speech, my reasoning and, especially, my ability to work with numbers. Luckily, I had little physical impairment. One of the first shocks I had was when I found that I couldn't say the Lord's Prayer. That was something I had prayed it since I was a child. I also had no luck in saying the 23rd Psalm, which I had known for years
The Rev. Chuck Mabry, my minister at the time, visited me in the VA hospital and I told him that I couldn't say the Lord's Prayer. In fact, I couldn't even remember it when I tried to think through the words. I broke down and cried when I told him.
"Glenn, don't worry about it. God understands. Your dues are all paid up," Chuck said with the greatest of compassion. "There are three or four words I'm sure you can speak. When you wake up in the morning, look out the window and say, 'Good Morning God.' Then when you eat your meals during the day, say 'Thank You God.' At bedtime just say, 'Good night, God.' That's all that's necessary."
I was relieved. Those simple phrases made the difference. I realized that my faith would see me through.
My therapist spent many hours with me. In addition to my speech problem, I had also lost my ability to write and to comprehend certain things. One of the tests the therapist used was having me identify four simple items on the table before me. There was a fork, knife, spoon and comb.
"Study those items and when I point to one of them tell me what it is," he would say.
What a simple command. I thought, "Of course I can say what it is"
One after the other, he pointed to them. You know, I couldn't speak the words aloud. I knew what they were but couldn't make my throat form the words and speak them.
"What's wrong? I know what they are, but I can't say them," I complained to him.
"It will take time, Glenn, but you'll improve with time," he said. "Your stroke was not severe. Physically, you have only a slight weakness on your right side. All your trouble is in your comprehension and your speech. Don't worry, I have a feeling that you'll get along just fine. One of these days, you'll be speaking without so much difficulty."
Ever since that time I've been trying to get on top of the problems caused by that stroke. I lost a lot of my thinking processes, especially anything related to numbers. Although I was never very good at math, I am even worse now. I finally began to say more words and after lots of therapy, could make fair sentences. However, I often said the wrong words, such as calling my hands my feet. Still after all these years, I too often say just the opposite of what I mean. At times words just don't come when I want to talk.
Not only did I have speech therapy, the VA sent me to the psychologist for years. His job was to help me accept my disabilities, and keep from getting depressed. He was a big help, but some time, after all these years, I have bad days when I have to fight depression.
I'm thankful that for the most part I have been able to play my piano. Of course, I can't play nearly the way I used to play. Likewise, I found that my fingers could find the right letters on the computer keyboard even when I couldn't actually think how to spell a word I wanted to write. I have tried to continue to write on my autobiography. Until about a year ago, I kept writing and Darlene corrected my work. Recently (it's now 1999) Darlene has had to continue the story for me. She is incorporating some notes I wrote a long time ago and I tell her she does a good job saying things the way I would say them. As you read, you will have a difficult time knowing just which words are hers and which are mine, but it doesn't really matter. After our 54 years together, Darlene knows most of my thoughts and ideas.
All these years since my stroke, I have had wonderful support from my
wonderful wife, all the other members of my family, and my friends, especially
those at my church. I am thankful for all of them.
This year is filled with visits to the VA speech therapist, the psychologist and physical therapist to manipulate my thumb. The thumb operation was very successful, but due to my other health problems we decided to wait to get the right thumb fixed.
Chest pains occurred frequently and were accompanied by fever at times. A TB test turned out to be very positive and in July x-rays showed my lungs full of liquid. One side was taped and drained, but when they started on the other, I experienced an extreme seizure attack. After another such attack the next day, my long time experience with anti-seizure medicine began. They also gave me the whole anti-TB course of medicine.
The Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984. Although we didn't attend
any events, we certainly spent lots of hours watching them on TV. There
is nothing quite like the excitement that is created when this affair is
taking place right in your own backyard!
By February the doctors thought it would be OK to have my right thumb fixed. It was done and again after weeks of therapy, the operation proved successful. Now I had two good hands and could use the computer without pain. I was thankful for that.
During this year I felt that riding my bicycle would be good exercise. I still had some unsteadiness in my walking, but felt very comfortable on my bike. Weekly three friends from church and I would ride our bikes to the beach.
Lou Mohr, Fred Marvin, Sid Jeffries and I have just biked to the beach.
Through the year I continued trips to the VA once or twice a week for speech therapy, seizure clinic and counseling with my psychologist. In spite of my health troubles, Darlene and I decided to continue traveling. The motor home made it easy for me to rest any time I felt the need.
In April and May we made a 5,200 mile trip, first to Hanston, KS, for
my 50th high school reunion and then north all the way to North Dakota
and west across to California. Naturally, we ended our trip by stopping
to visit our daughter Jean in Oakland, CA. In July we explored all along
the California coast for a couple weeks. We didn't realize until then how
many state parks there are along the Pacific Ocean.
Because of my health problems I felt we needed a larger, more comfortable motor home. I wasn't about to quit going, but just wanted a better sleeping arrangement. We found a neat motor home called a Rogue. It had a bed above the cab. I learned to love that bed and spent many hours in it, not only at night, but also during the day while Darlene drove.
In March and April we were on the road again for three weeks, exploring more California parks, attending the a friend's Quaker wedding in Stockton, and spending two weeks at our daughter's home. While there we attended a music recital, Jeff at the piano and Jackie on the violin. We were proud of our talented grandchildren.
We also celebrated Easter at the Cole's and Doug and his children came up from Culver City to be with us. Here we are with all our family except Greg and his wife Rhonda.
We were home for Mother's Day and were treated royally at the home of Rhonda's brother, Arlene. They had arranged a three-mother celebration for Darlene, Rhonda and Arlene's mother, and Arlene's wife's mother. Each mother received a lovely corsage and a musical jewelry box.
Mom Gunner and Rhonda Three well-celebrated mothers
At the end of May we motored back to Kansas to attend the 100th Anniversary of Darlene's hometown of South Hutchinson. Of course, we visited all our Hutchinson friends and relatives and then went through Enid, Oklahoma, to visit Darlene's Aunt Phoebe. We were glad we had made that stop as she died just a year later, a few months before her 100th birthday. We finished our trip home through Colorado this time instead of taking the southernmost route. Our motor home performed great through the mountains.
In August we had to make a return visit to our daughter's family to see their new home in San Carlos. After staying two weeks, we got home in time for a two-week cruise to Alaska. We sailed from San Francisco to Victoria on Vancouver Island and then over to the city of Vancouver. There we had a few hours to visit the World's Fair. That was a disappointment because we were supposed to have a whole day. We were able to visit the Japanese pavilion and watch the artists paint inside bottles. Of course, we bought a small bottle as a souvenir.
Our cruise ship sailed on the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland and stopped next at Port hardy. In Alaska we visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Sitka.
In Juneau we had time to go inside the small, but interesting, capitol
building. Now Darlene had only Hawaii's state capital left to complete
her goal of seeing all 50 state capital cities and capitol buildings.
In March, we went on one of our most exciting trips. First we flew to Hong Kong and took several day-trips around the city. What fun to try to decide what to order in a restaurant where the menu was not in English. Also it was fun to go to McDonald's where the food tasted just like it does here! From Hong Kong we flew to China, our main destination being Beijing and the Great Wall. This whole trip seemed like an impossible dream, and today I find it hard to realize that we were really there! However, we had our trusty video camera and luckily we can relive the dream.
The Methodist Church nationally is divided into conferences. Each conference holds an annual meeting. Our conference has for many years held its meeting in June at Redlands University. The meeting is three or four days long and ends on Sunday, usually on Father's Day. During my days at USC when I worked with the Television, Radio and Film Commission of our conference, I always attended this annual meeting. This year Darlene and I were elected as delegates from our Culver-Palms United Methodist Church. It felt good to be there after all those years away. We attended every year through 1993, except in 1991, when we were off on a trip. We always went in our motor home and although I didn't always feel well enough to attend all the meetings, Darlene was a faithful representative for our church, never missing anything!
Right after conference we headed for the Calgary Stampede. We went north to Washington and east across Montana to Glacier Park. There we crossed into Canada and finally arrived at Calgary where we enjoyed four days taking in the Stampede events. On the way home we went further north and then west all across Canada, ferried over to Vancouver Island and then finally turned south again toward home. We visited the following places: Paleontology Museum at Drumheller; the huge mall (said to be the largest in the world) and the Space Sciences Center in Edmonton; Jasper, Banff and Yoho National Parks; Revelstoke Dam; Butchart Gardens (which we visited on our 42nd wedding anniversary), The Wax Museum and Miniatures Show in Victoria; and finally our California Redwood Forest. Along the way we also visited some friends and relatives. What a wonderful five weeks!
The rest of the year was filled with church activities and good times
with friends and family.
After spending Christmas and New Year's with our daughter Jean and family at San Carlos, we actually stayed home until February 11, when we left on an eight-day United Methodist Men's cruise in the Caribbean. The high light, besides the interesting and uplifting programs while on board ship, was worshiping in a little country Methodist Church in Jamaica.
In April and May we spent three weeks in San Carlos with Jean and family, in June we were back at Redlands for our Church Conference, and in July we went on an eleven-day trip to Hawaii in celebration of 100 years of Methodism there. While there Darlene was able to see the capitol building and thus complete her goal of visiting all the capitol buildings in our country.
From September 24 to November 9 we traveled in our motor home. First stop was Hutchinson, Kansas, for Darlene's 50th high school reunion, then to my alma mater, Bethel College at Newton, Kansas, for the Homecoming and Fall Festival. Traveling on to Ohio, we went to Cincinnati, for their Tall Stacks Celebration; and to Circleville for the Pumpkin Festival. Next we turned back west to Canton, Missouri, to visit our friends, John and Dorothy Morley, who showed us how the locks work on the Mississippi River and took us to Hannibal to visit Mark Twain's home town. Heading south we stayed as close to the Mississippi River as feasible enjoying interesting small towns along the way, until time to go west into Texas. Our last stop was the very small town of Christine, about 50 miles south of San Antonio, which was Darlene's home before her folks moved to Kansas when she was nine years old. There she met her cousins and took in the annual Thanksgiving Homecoming Festivities. How could we possibly be thankful enough for such a wonderful adventure and a safe return to home!!
In less than a month, on December 7, we boarded the Crown Odyssey, a Royal Cruise Line Ship, at Los Angeles Harbor for our two-week Panama Canal adventure. Before arriving at the canal there were stops in Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo and Acapulco, Mexico; and at San Jose, Costa Rica. To make the Panama Canal Transit more interesting, there were lectures on the history and the equipment built to make navigating those locks through the canal possible. After crossing the canal, there were stops at Cartagena, Colombia, the island of Aruba and San Juan, Puerto Rico, before landing at Miami and flying home. On Aruba we ate at McDonald's where we bought some Christmas tree ornaments for our family members. We thought none would know anything about this island, but when we spoke with our grandchildren, they already knew about it because of the song about it, which was popular at the time. So again we were reminded one has to "get up early" to get ahead of this younger generation.
One especial good time on the ship was a celebration of Darlene's birthday during the dinner hour on December 15th. They gave her a special cake and the waiters sang for her.
We celebrated Christmas morning at Doug's house. Very few years since
our granddaughter Debra's birth in 1971 have we missed Christmas morning
at the Calhoun's, both before our daughter's death 1981 and afterward.
During 1988 Doug had married Sharon. This year we had Sharon's children,
Stacie and Brian, as well as our Debra and Dan, to share with around the
Christmas tree. Then, as so often is our custom, unless they come south,
we left the next day to spend the next couple weeks with Jean and her family
in San Carlos.
This was the year I got a pair of new eyes. One eye was operated on in June and the other in September. What a blessing to be rid of those cataracts! Since then I can see without my glasses except for close-up reading. In the process my astigmatism was also corrected. It's still hard for me to believe that a condition I had had since grade school has been corrected and that those cloudy lens that developed as I aged have been replaced with clear man-made ones. The miracles of modern science!
Although we had visited our daughter and her family in January and again in May, we returned in October for three weeks. This time we went to help keep the household going and get the grandchildren to all their after school activities. Jean had to have her gall bladder removed and had quite a long recovery period. She has always wished she could have waited a year or so because by that time the new procedure for removing gall bladders was getting to be common practice. This new operation leaves only a small hole in the abdomen, whereas she was left with a large incision that had to have time to heal.
While we were there we experienced what is known as the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. I was alone in the house as Darlene, Jean and Jacqui were on their way to Jacqui's violin lesson. Needless to say they returned soon as there was no lesson that day. Since their house is built on rock, they had no earthquake damage. However, I still felt the shaking and it was quite a scary time. They tell me that the man who built their house is a geologist and picked the location because he wanted a house on "solid" ground for just such a happening as an earthquake.
Once you take a cruise everyone has your name and you get all kinds of interesting advertisements. One that got our attention was called "Paths of Magellan." Consequently, on November 20 we flew to Miami to catch a plane to Rio de Janeiro. While there we took a side trip to see the famous Iguacu Falls which are located at the junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Quite a sight! They are 50 % higher and wider than Niagara Falls. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, " Iquacu makes Niagara look like a kitchen sink."
Back to Rio to resume our trip on the "Ocean Princess" to the tip of South America and the Island of Tierra del Fuego. On the way down we stopped at Puerto Madryn, Argentina, and Punto Arenas, Chile. At the city of Ushuaia, on the island, everything we saw was reported to be the southernmost of its kind--restaurant, church, park, etc. After rounding the island we headed back north with stops at Mar del Plata, and Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Florianopolis and Santos, Brazil, before arriving at Rio again to catch our plane back to Miami. Always before stopping at a city, we were given lectures about it. Although this was the longest cruise we ever took, covering 20 days, it had to be one filled with the most diverse adventures.
After we, along with Greg and Rhonda, had celebrated Christmas with
Doug and his family, Jean and her family arrived to spend the last few
days of December and New Year's Day, 1990, with all of us in Culver City.
In January we changed our health plan from Eatna to Kaiser Permanente. Since there is a Kaiser facility close to us, it seemed a good thing to do. Of course, I had been using the Veteran's facility for my care, but Darlene was under my retirement plan provided by the government. Although I hadn't had any real seizures, I was still taking anti-seizure medicine and was becoming more and more unstable in my walking. On my first visit to the neurologist at Kaiser, he suggested we gradually quit the medicine. I was still going to the VA speech therapy classes, but really felt that I had gotten about as far as I could go, considering the fact that my stroke had been seven years ago. The psychologist at the VA had finally dismissed me and one doctor suggested that I should just stop seeing so many doctors and get other interests to take my time. That proved to be good advice and stopping the seizure medicine also helped to make me feel better in many ways. Of course, it now made me hyper so I had to have some calming pills for awhile. However, I got off them as soon as possible and decided to live my life without so many doctor visits and so much medicine.
In March I was ready to take another Caribbean Cruise with the United Methodist Men. This time we asked our good friends, Dorothy and John Morley, to go with us. Despite the fact that they were and still are dedicated Baptists, they agreed to come along. We were glad for that.
Our ship was the Commodore Cruise line ship ms Caribe, which they called "The Happy Ship." We had many interesting and challenging speakers, inspirational worship services and great group singing during the week on the ship. Our first tourist stop was at historic Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic, founded in 1502 and site of the oldest fort in the "New World." The next day we stopped at San Juan, Puerto Rico, to attend the United Methodist Puerto Rican Annual Conference. The service was in both Spanish and English. One would speak in Spanish and then another would repeat the message in English. This proved to be quite an interesting experience.
Our last stop was at St. Thomas Island. We took a bus tour of the city and had a fascinating submarine tour. What fun I had trying to photograph all the sea plants and animals we saw out the portholes. As for all Caribbean cruises, we landed at Miami. Of course, the flight back to California was the most uninteresting part of the trip.
We spent the month of October in San Carlos. Our son-in-law Brian was on a scientific expedition in Antarctica and Jean needed help transporting Jacqui and Jeff to all their music lessons and other after-school activities. As always, we enjoyed our visit and were happy if we could be of help.
The year ended with our usual Christmas celebrations and again Jean
and her family came here after Christmas and stayed to celebrate the New
Year and go to Disneyland. I didn't have as much energy as one needs at
that place, but nevertheless I enjoyed being with my family.
During the second week of January when I had an angina attack it became plain why my energy was so low. Kaiser sent me to the Good Samaritan Hospital for an angioplasty procedure. Since it didn't hold, in May after another attack I was sent to Kaiser Hospital for another angioplasty procedure. My recovery seemed to proceed normally and the OK was given for us to take our planned trip in June to Yellowstone.
Naturally, we had to make a longer trip than just to Yellowstone and back. We proceeded on to Seattle, Washington. While there we ferried over to Orcus Island and spent one night, and also visited my two nieces and their families. As we headed back toward California, we stopped for visits with two of my high school friends, my college roommate, and the daughter of one of my college professors.
If you have read my story about my college days, you know about Willis Rich. We visited his daughter and her husband on our way back south. They live in what could be called an artist colony in Deadwood, Oregon. Their home is a converted schoolhouse. Her husband is a landscape artist and her specialty is flowers. In fact, a famous Italian manufacturer of dinnerware commissioned her to paint flowers for its fine china. She gave us one of the plates, which is one of our prized possessions.
Our last visit before arriving at our daughter's in San Carlos, was with my college roommate, Art Tubbs. I also wrote about him in my Bethel story. He was the one who played football and took up more than his share of our bed so that I moved out. While reminiscing about college days, he admitted he had been the student guilty of running naked down the road in the dark to put snowballs on Bethel's administration building.
At the end of August we took a weeklong trip, first to visit friends at Ojai and then to spend time on the beach at Carpinteria. In Carpinteria we discovered an interesting hat factory. Actually, they imported the basic hat forms, supposedly from Panama, and did the finishing there. I bought a hat, which I enjoyed wearing for many years. After it became worn, I kept hoping to get back there again. Finally, just last year we were able to stop and were happy to find the place was still there and hats were selling for only a couple dollars more. The one I bought was slightly different, but enough like my old one to satisfy me, and allow me to stop wearing the old very dirty and beat-up one. Since the old one is covered with pins and various mementos, it cannot be discarded completely. Therefore, it hangs on the wall in my shop
It was during the last few months of this year for some reason I began to think more often about my WWII experiences. How much fun it would be to see the members of the 54th Troop Carrier Wing with whom I had served in the South Pacific nearly fifty years earlier. I still corresponded with three and each of them had some names and addresses. One encouraged me to spend some time and money to try to find others by sending $100.
From that beginning a reunion was planned to be held in Las Vegas in June the next year. We spent lots of time using names from my WWII book trying to find more of the vets. My book had only home addresses and we soon learned that sending mail to them was not productive after nearly 50 years. We bought floppy discs that were supposed to have info on everyone in the US and searched them. This was before the Internet had lots of programs for finding people. We found a few men and sometimes they would give us a good address of another vet.
Darlene and I spent hours preparing for that reunion. We made a reunion sign and posters with pictures of all those in my "Moresby to Manila" book and name tags for the attendees on which we put their picture from the book.
We used this poster by the hospitality room door of the Hacienda Resort Hotel. For the reunions in '94, '96, and '98 we just changed the location and date and used the same poster.
This is one of two three-panel displays we prepared. We color-coded each name to indicate the deceased, those with up-to-date addresses and those who planned to attend the reunion.
This Christmas we spent the morning at Calhoun's and the evening at
our son Greg's home. Greg and Rhonda left for Aspen, Colorado, on the 27th.
This was to be the last chance to spend Christmas with Greg and Rhonda
for a number of years. Beginning the next year, since they had such a good
time and Greg loves to ski, they started making yearly reservations to
spent Christmas and New Year's at Aspen. Jean and her family came after
Christmas and stayed to see in the New Year.
In February my heart troubles returned. This time the decision was for a by-pass, as the two angioplasty procedures had not succeeded. The last week in the month at Kaiser Hospital the doctors performed a triple by-pass on me. Now I'm just one among a number of my friends who have a scar on one or both legs from which blood vessels have been taken to repair bad ones near hearts. Many of us owe our very lives to a by-pass operation.
After a couple months of exercise therapy and frequent check-ups with the heart doctor, I was pronounced in good shape and the by-pass surgery was declared successful. I still had my residual stroke disabilities, mainly speech problems. However, Darlene and I went to work seriously on our upcoming 54th Troop Carrier Wing Reunion to be held in Las Vegas in June.
I have already written some about all we did to prepare for the reunion. Finally the date arrived. As the 28 vets arrived, some with wives and other family members, we felt well rewarded for all our work seeing the happy expressions on the faces of the 54th members when they greeted those they hadn't seen in nearly fifty years. Needless to say, the reunion was a great success! All agreed we should have another in two years.
Following the reunion, we started to send a newsletter several times a year, and placed ads in military magazines searching for other 54th members. We kept getting surprise phone calls and letters from those who someway got our address. That way our mailing list kept growing. Also Greg, who had a home page on the Internet, established one for the 54th Troop Carrier Wing. (To see all about the 54th Troop Carrier Wing, some newsletters and pictures from all the reunions go to http://www.gregssandbox.com/54th
In August, we were off on a two-month trek in our motor home. Our ultimate destination was to visit Disney World and Epcot with the Good Sam Club. Good Sam is an organization for trailer and motor home travelers. We left two weeks early so we could travel leisurely and do some sightseeing and visiting along the way. First stop was at our daughter's then west to Yosemite Park. In Longmont, Colorado, and Topeka, Kansas, we visited childhood friends, Katy Keckler and Juanita Mitchell. Also in Topeka I found Solomon Humbargar, who was my principal at my first teaching job in Zook Kansas. I can't remember now how I happened to learn he lived in Topeka, but it was certainly great to see him after 51 years.
After those stops we drove straight to Florida to get to Fort Wilderness, where we would camp during our visit to Epcot and Disney World. The Good Sam Club had made all the arrangements and the five days there were great fun. I used an electric cart part of the time to travel around the park. That was a wise thing to do, because I had little endurance those days.
Leaving Fort Wilderness and Disney World behind we headed further south to Sun City to see our friends, John and Dorothy Morley. From there we went to Nokomis where friends from our Maryland church, Donna and Bob Krout lived. Our next destination after leaving Florida was to see Oma and Julian McManus, Culver City friends who had moved to Cherokee, Alabama. On the way we saw that we were near Plains, Georgia, so took time to stop there again. This time we visited the small museum the town has started in President Carter's honor.
Cherokee is in the northwest corner of Alabama near the Wilson Dam. Our friends took us there as well as to the home of Helen Keller. On Sunday Julian and I watched the "Wings in the Autumn Air Show" while Oma and Darlene attended their little country church. Darlene said it reminded her of our South Hutchinson Methodist church.
Julian took us to two interesting homes of his friends. One had a yard full of limestone figures, which the owner had collected. The stones resembled various things, mostly different animals. He had a sign over the entrance to his yard saying "Stone Unhinged." He must have seen, or at least known about, England's prehistoric Stonehenge Monument. The other home was decorated with figures and pictures made with arrowheads. Some items were also made with beans. We met the owner who was an eighty-five year old lady. She had made one large sculpture of a horse with arrowheads. She said that it took three days to make. We all agreed it would take us a year if we could do it all. She used no paint on her pieces of art. She just collected arrowheads of various colors to get the effect she wanted.
On this whole trip we hunted for 54th Troop Carrier Wing members. We had made a list from my Wing memory album, "Moresby to Manila via Troop Carrier," of the names with home addresses when each entered the service. We watched for these cities and used the telephone to call anyone in the directory by the name of the Wing member. Too often when we called, we learned that we had the wrong person, or that our Wing member had died. Happily, we did find three of my South Pacific comrades of nearly 50 years past, one in Alabama, one in Arkansas and the third in Arizona. What good visits we had with them!
In Arkansas we saw Darlene's childhood friend, Ferne, who had recently lost her husband. They shared memories of walking each other home the one block they lived apart throughout their grade, high school and Junior College days. It seems they stopped in the middle of the block and spent hours just talking together. You can imagine that on this visit they just continued their talking. Ha!
We spent some time at the Hot Springs National Park, made famous by President Roosevelt. In Little Rock we attended the Arkansas State Fair. Then we got over to Dallas in time to go to the Texas State Fair. These I really enjoyed, as I'm a "fair lover." I've enjoyed fairs since my childhood days when we attended the Kansas State Fair every year, come rain or shine. (I described events at that fair in Chapter 2.)
Near Dallas we discovered the Biblical Arts Center, a collection a religious art from around the world, including pictures, sculptures, icons, and an audio-visual interpretation of the huge "Miracle of Pentecost" oil painting. Nearby at Irving, Texas, we marveled at the "Mutangs of Las Colinas" sculpture. It consists of nine near life-size horses that appear to be splashing through a stream of water.
Next stop was in Austin at the Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum. It is an impressive building surrounded by a large beautifully landscaped area. We enjoyed going through the well-organized interesting museum.
While at the museum we asked for directions to Oakwood Cemetery where Darlene's paternal grandparents are buried. Luckily, it wasn't too far away. When we arrived, a caretaker was able to show us the Williams plot. This meant a lot to Darlene as her grandmother had died when Darlene was only five and she has only a faint memory of visiting in Austin during Grandmother Williams' final days. She had been injured in an automobile accident. Grandfather Williams died after Darlene's parents had moved to Kansas and they had not been able to go back to Texas for the funeral. All these years Darlene has had a large picture of her grandmother's grave given to her by her father, and now she finally was able to visit the cemetery.
Several years before on one of our trips through Texas, we had discovered SAS shoes (San Antonio Shoes) in a big mall along the highway. This time we again saw a SAS sign and followed the directions to another mall where we planned to purchase some shoes. When they didn't have Darlene's size, the salesman asked if we were going toward San Antonio. When we said we were, he suggested we visit the SAS shoe factory. This we did and were given a tour through the place. Part of the intrigue of the place was their visitor's lobby in old-time décor where they sold 5 cent pop, coffee and pop corn. Sitting at an old player piano was a life-like figure, a dummy, of course, playing away. To show the farm roots of the owners, were some real hens on nests. There were even eggs for sale. Since they had shoes in all sizes in all styles, we were able to purchase more shoes there and at a discount. I might add that since then we have discovered an SAS store in Los Angeles and still buy SAS shoes.
Our purpose in going so far south in Texas was to get to Darlene's hometown of Christine, fifty miles on beyond San Antonio. Each year at the end of October the town has a big homecoming celebration. There is a turkey dinner, a quilt raffle, crowning of a king and queen and a prize for a former resident who has traveled the farthest to get there. Darlene came in second because only the distance from one's home is counted. Of course, if they had counted the miles we had traveled before even getting to Texas, she would have won by many miles. She had lots of fun visiting with many cousins. Although none live in Christine now, they try to make a family reunion of the day each year.
Leaving Christine we next stopped to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Though we had been there some years before, it is a place one can enjoy over and over. We also stopped again at White Sands Monument.
We had left Culver City on August 24th and finally got back home on October 24th. Thank goodness we had our video camera with us and also kept a written log of our trip. Otherwise after these seven years, I would never have been able to reconstruct all the wonderful experiences we had during that two months. Also I gave thanks for being able to take such a trip after starting the year with a triple by-pass.
At the end of 1992, we had our usual Christmas morning at Calhoun's.
This was special because our grandson who had joined the Air Force was
able to be home. The next week and our New Year's celebrations were also
special this year. Jean and her family arrived with their exchange student
from Bolivia. I have told of my introduction to and involvement with the
American Foreign Student Exchange Program .in chapter 10. It was a thrill
for me to have my daughter and her husband get interested in taking a student.
In fact, they have now had three different students live with them and
each of their children has gone abroad on the program. Furthermore, our
son-in-law Brain has acted as chairman of the chapter in their area for
several years. They were eager to show Martin Los Angeles sights and also
took him to Pasadena where they helped to decorate a float for the New
Year's Parade. On New Year's, since we promised to show him videos of the
Rose Parade, everyone decided to spend the day at Disneyland instead of
attending the parade. We couldn't pass an opportunity to take our exchange
student to that famous place. .
In July we took quite a detour on our way to visit our daughter in San Carlos. Our grandson, Dan, who was in the Air Force, was transferred from Mississippi to Dugway, Utah. He had a few days at home between assignments. Since we were planning on a trip north, we volunteered to take him to Utah on the way. It wasn't exactly on the way, but gave us a chance to see where he would be stationed and also see soon different scenery instead of just the usual route along I5. There is not much along I5 between San Francisco and us except desert and, where irrigated, orchards, vineyards, and various other crops. Oh, yes, one place the strong barnyard odor announces a large cattle-feeding lot. So we enjoyed a different, although, longer route. The night was spent on the base in our motor home after unloading Dan and his things and getting him settled in his quarters. The next morning we were on our way to San Carlos.
After staying ten days, Darlene drove home alone. She wanted to attend the United Methodist Women's School of Christian Mission, but didn't want to leave me alone. For many years she had gone yearly and always enjoyed those three days of fun, study and inspirational times. On Sunday I had a nice ride home on the train.
From September 12 to October 8 we had another long motor home trip. We have called it our reunion trip. Before the reunions started, however, we spent three days in Hutchinson, attending the Kansas State Fair. Both Darlene and I had been to that fair every year since our childhood days until we moved to California. This was the year bungy jumping was in vogue. That was the first thing we saw when we entered the fair ground. Our home church in South Hutchinson has, and I believe, still does, run a cafeteria at the fair. There we saw many old friends. There was a Rascal electric cart salesman at the fair and I rented a cart from him. That made a believer out of me, because I certainly couldn't enjoy walking around all day. Our friend Bert, who has walking problems, also rented a cart. She bought one immediately and I decided that before long I'd have one, too.
After taking in the State Fair, we went back to Zook, Kansas, for our first reunion stop. Zook is where I first taught school. They have a reunion each year, it seems, although the school is now gone. Some of my former pupils were there and also one of my fellow teachers, Lester Adams, the coach. One of our pupils gave us a wonderful tribute. He said, "Through all my grade school, high school and even college years, I never had as good teachers as Lester Adams, Glenn McMurry and Margaret Kagarice." (I have written more about my Zook days in chapter 5.)
The second reunion was with friends from my high school days. Knowing I was coming, a group planned a luncheon at the Senior Center in Hanston. There were twenty of us who shared common memories of our times together in the 1930's. (More about my high school days is in chapter 3)
The third reunion was in Jetmore where I taught just before coming to California in 1950. We had dinner and parked overnight at the home of two of my pupils who were now husband and wife, Alison (Sayler) and Charles Guthrie. That evening Charles Hastings and two other students who were now married, Mary Joan (Schauvliege) and Jim Sorem came. Pete Hastings, knowing we were going to be at Guthrie's, called from Texas. How rewarding to know that these students had appreciated my time with them. I certainly cherish my experiences at Jetmore High. (More about Jetmore days in chapter 9)
The fourth reunion was actually Homecoming Sunday at the South Hutchinson United Methodist Church. Although a new sanctuary had replaced the building where we were married and some had moved away or gone to their heavenly home, there were still a number of friends left. After the morning worship service, we enjoyed visiting while eating delicious food at a potluck dinner.
The fifth reunion was with all my cousins at Charles Deal's home in Hutchinson. We could not remember just when we had all been together but knew it had been many years. My Uncle Ed Deal's three children were there, Virgie Beth, Jay with wife Jackie and Charles with wife Marianne. My Aunt Nellie had three sons, but only Marion is left. He came, but his wife Pat, who was recovering from heart surgery, wasn't able to come. The reunions with friends were great, but nothing takes the place of reunions with dear relatives.
Reunion of cousins: Charles Deal, Virgie Beth Deal, I, Joe Shaw, Jay Deal
The sixth reunion was in Newton. Linda Regier-Brown, who was a Hanston High schoolmate, also attended Bethel College. She invited some of those Bethelites who still lived around the area to her home in Newton for the evening. One lady even returned a piece of music to me that she had borrowed while we were in college. That brought a big laugh from everyone.
The final reunion was Darlene's 55th Hutchinson High School reunion. All the time we had been in and around the Hutchinson area we had parked our motor home at Bert and Harold Koestel's home in South Hutchinson. We enjoyed many good times with them while there. Bert is a friend Darlene has known since fifth grade. At the reunion Bert and Darlene were glad to see Juanita (Burleson) Mitchell and Harold Potter. The four of them had not only graduated from high school together, but had also graduated together from the 8th grade at South Hutchinson Grade School.
In addition to these seven planned reunions both Darlene and I saw other relatives and friends. We visited Darlene's half-sister and her family and Darlene had breakfast with her cousin Arthur Goatley. We also took time to go the Pleasant View and Fairview Cemeteries south of town where our relatives are buried. We drove to Goessel to see the Mennonite Heritage Museum and visited the relatively new Reno County Museum in Hutchinson.
On our way back home we stopped at Liberal to see the "Land of Oz" exhibit and walk on the "Yellow Brick Road." Although the place was closed for renovation, the lady walked us through when we told her we had stayed an extra day to see the place. We had arrived on Monday and noting that it was closed on Mondays, had stayed overnight. I guess she thought if we were that eager to see the place, she should let us in.
Being in our motor home and not on a fixed time schedule was a great way to travel! Coming home we took a detour near Seligman, Arizona, to leave the Interstate and drive on old historic Route 66. In recent years there has been interest in restoring some of the old roads and a few pioneer exhibits and souvenir places are being opened. We had driven Route 66 back and forth from California to Kansas during the 50's and watched the various sections of the Interstate take its place.
As usual we were thankful to arrive home safely and with many wonderful memories of our trip. It was time for us to stay home for awhile, carry on our usual church activities, play cards with our friends the Mohr's and Ramsdell's, keep up our 54th Troop Carrier News Letter in preparation of the '94 reunion, and begin to think about buying Christmas presents and making our usual ornaments for all three families. The ornaments each year were getting to be a problem, not only because we were running out of ideas, but also because two of our grandchildren no longer lived at home so we felt we had to make a separate ornament for each of them also. I have explained in an earlier chapter about the ornaments, which we started making when our first grandchild, Debra, was born 22 years ago.
Another wonderful year and a good ending as we celebrated the holidays
with family and friends.
This year literally started with a bang. On January 17 we experienced the strongest earthquake in this area since we have lived here. There was lots of damage further north of us, but luckily we lost only a couple trinkets which fell from our shelves. It was a scary time for those few moments of shaking that happened early in the morning before we had gotten out of bed. We immediately started to think of all the precautions we had been warned about, such as having a flashlight handy and shoes nearby so we wouldn't walk around in bare feet. The noises from the kitchen made us think that all the dishes were broken. We could hardly believe our eyes when we got there and not one cupboard door was even open.
Our granddaughter Debra was attending Northridge State University and that was an area very badly damaged. Debra happened to be away on a YMCA trip, but her apartment was trashed. She was not allowed to move back into it, and the occupants were given only certain short periods during which they could try to recoup as many of their belongings as possible. Her bedroom furniture was damaged beyond repair and things from drawers, cupboards and the refrigerator were scattered everywhere. We were always glad she had been away. Her roommate got trapped in and had to be rescued because she couldn't open her doors. She had a very nerve racking time. Nearby lives were lost and there was much devastation. Each year since, the January 17th date is remembered.
I had a scare the first of May. A trip to emergency ended with my staying long enough to have the doctors take care of an ulcer. I was thankful when it was over and I knew I would still be able to go to my Wing Reunion. We had been making plans for it for months, with the help of Morris Sherman, a member of the Wing who lives in St. Louis.
In May we made a motor home trip to St. Louis for the reunion of my 54th Troop Carrier Wing. As usual we did some sightseeing and visiting on the way. I was able to see a friend from my childhood, Clayton Robertson, in Arkansas City, Kansas. Also detoured somewhat to visit my nephew Bob McMurry and his children in Rogers, Arkansas.
The reunion in St. Louis was a big success! We had a tour of Scott Air Force Base, which was where many of us spent time before going overseas, took a ride on the Casino Queen Gambling Boat, and visited the beautiful Missouri Botanical Gardens. Between those trips we enjoyed visiting and lots of good food.
I had bought my Rascal Electrical Cart in February and two times I especially was thankful for it were at the St. Louis Reunion and at the Los Angeles County Fair, which we attended in September. What a blessing to enjoy seeing all the things I wanted to see and not be exhausted!
During the Christmas holidays Jean and her family were with us. With
them was their exchange student from Columbia. While here they tried to
show him as many of the sights of the Loa Angeles area as possible.
In April we made our first motor home trip of the year to the Antique Farm Implement Show in Tulare. Again I was thankful for my electric cart. One night they had a barbecue dinner and the speed at which they were able to feed about 500 hungry people amazed us.
A plus on this trip was a chance to see Darlene's cousin in nearby Visalia. As she died just a little over a year later, we were glad we had taken the time to stop. It taught us a lesson that one should take every opportunity to visit loved ones. The relatives of our generation are getting to be very few in number.
July 22nd was our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Some weeks earlier Jean wrote to everyone she could think of and asked him or her to send something for a memory book. Using the responses and notes and pictures from our family, she put together a wonderful book. There is a section to represent the various places we have lived and all pages are beautifully decorated. Each member of Jean's family and their exchange student had a part in doing the artwork.
On Sunday July 9th was our big party. Greg and his wife Rhonda were responsibility for the catered food and valet parking. Our back yard was full of tables and chairs made festive looking with many balloons. Over 120 of our friends came to celebrate with us. Our granddaughters acted as greeters, giving everyone a nametag and a copy of the original newspaper article about our wedding. Greg had taken a picture of us earlier, which he enlarged to 24 by 30 inches and put on an easel for our guests to autograph.
I have written earlier about Darlene's parachute wedding dress. She took it from the shoebox where she keeps it and put it in the washing machine. Believe it or not, that nylon looked just like new again. The only trouble was that Darlene doesn't have the waist measurement she had when we were married. That didn't bother her, however, as she had leftover material that she used to put an addition on the back. The veil, being cotton, had a few holes in it, but still looked good. I bought a new pair of pants to wear with an army shirt I still had decorated with my patches. During the party we donned our wedding clothes and came out the door as our grandsons manned the sound equipment to play the wedding music. As far as I could tell, our day was perfect in every way!
Here we are at the party with all the family:
Back row: Lynn Anderson, Brian Cole, Dan Calhoun, Doug Calhoun, LaFaun
Middle row: Jacqui Cole, Jo Cole, Ernie Cole, Sharon Calhoun, Debra Calhoun (now Brau). Jean Cole
Front row: Jeff Cole, the Bride, the Groom, Rhonda Gunner, Greg McMurry
The day after the big party we left on a trip to the British Isles and Iceland. We flew to Southampton, England and boarded the Island Princess. Our first port was Leigh, Scotland, near Edinburg. After a tour of the city we sailed on to Inbergordon, the locale of the famous Loch Ness Monster. Of course, the only monster one sees is quite stationary in a pool of water near the shops where tourists can spend their money. The guide does tell the interesting story about the monster legend.
From Scotland we sail on north to the Shetland Islands where we had a bus ride through the countryside around Lerwick, the capital of Mainland, the largest island. Sights along the tour route included ruins of Viking longhouses and circular fortified towers as well as pasture lands with sheep and, sure enough, Shetland ponies.
There were two stops on Iceland, Akureyri and Reykjavik, the capital. In Akureyri the tour included a botanical garden and museum. On a bus tour of Reykjavik we saw lava fields, glaciers and geysers. In the city is a huge outdoor swimming pool, which can be used all during the year as it is heated by geothermal water. Unfortunately, there was no time for a swim.
Leaving Iceland the cruise went south to Dublin, Ireland. Boarding a bus we were taken to a shopping area and then to the famous Jurys Irish Cabaret for dinner and a wonderful two-hour show of song, dance and laughter. What a great evening!
There were three more stops before returning to Southampton and our flight home: Holyhead, Wales, with quaint villages and historic castles; Falmouth, England, where a place called Land's End is the farthest point west on the English mainland; and St. Peter's Port on Guernsey Island. During a bus tour of the island we saw the famous Guernsey cows grazing on rich pastures, cottages with beautiful flower gardens and a tiny chapel with an interesting history. Early in the 1900's a French Monk spent years building this chapel by covering the mortar of the structure with pieces of colorful shells, pebbles and pieces of broken china. His goal was to have a chapel reminiscent of the Grotto of Lourdes. It is 19 by 15 feet in size and only three people can enter it at one time.
Back at Southampton we boarded our plane for home. When we arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, a uniformed chauffeur was holding a sign with our name on it. Greg had arranged for a private limousine to take us home. What a grand ending for our wonderful 50th anniversary adventure!
For many years we had always had a cat in our home. When Sunny died, we decided that since we wanted to do some traveling, it would be unwise to get another cat at that time. Now that we had done lots of traveling and it seemed time to stay home more, we were eager to have a cat in the family again. On October 5 at the SPCA we found a cute little kitten who put his paws up on his cage as if asking us to take him. How could we refuse!
The SPCA has forms one must sign agreeing to keep the cat in the house, and declaring that if we are no longer able to care for him, we will find him a home. Of course, all animals taken from the SPCA must be spayed and given a clean bill of health by a vet. After five days we were able to bring our kitty home. Since he was very lively, we decided to name him Skippy. Since the day we got him he has been a joy for both Darlene and me. He has his own pillow on a chair in the front room and a special blanket on the divan in the computer room. Sometimes he likes to get in my chair, but if I motion to him, he knows I want to sit down and he moves to his chair with the pillow. When we go to visit Jean and her family, as we do a couple times each year, Skippy goes along. They have a cat also and we all enjoy their interaction with each other.
Of course, Skippy is a very smart cat! He sees and hears everything that is different and has to investigate. Each morning when we open the door to let him into the front part of the house, he has to have a drink of water from the bathroom sink. If we are still lingering in bed awhile, he likes to be there with us and get petted. We call it his "purring hour." When he hears the noise of my spoon in my cereal dish at breakfast time, he comes to get his morning treat which is a little milk left over in my cereal bowl. Toward evening he comes and sits in front of Darlene looking up at her asking to be fed. She feeds him and then shuts the door between the dining room and hall so he won't crawl on us in bed at night. If she forgets to shut the door, he is back again sitting and looking up at her until she goes back and shuts the door on him for the night. You can guess by all this that we are very fond of our Skippy and get lots of enjoyment from having him a part of our family.
The year ends with joyous celebrations at our church and with all our
family. After Christmas morning at Doug's, we come home to pack our car
so we can drive to Jean's the next morning and spend the next two weeks
In February we had a big project. Just before I came home from the South Pacific our group published a book, similar to a school year book. It is called "Moresby to Manila via Troop Carrier." Many of the vets who didn't get one of the books kept asking how they could get one. Since the publisher was out of business and the book was already 50 years old, I was able to persuade our local printer that he wouldn't be breaking any copyright laws by making copies. He made 100 copies and when we put a notice in the 54th Newsletter that we had them for sale, we were deluged with orders. Addressing and packaging the books was quite a chore. The 100 were sold very quickly. We still have requests for them, but don't have the energy to get another 100 made, addressed and mailed.
The third reunion of my 54th Troop Carrier Group was held at Buffalo, New York, October 17-20. Again I was thankful for my Rascal and again it was easy to take it on the plane. For the first time we left Skippy at home and our neighbor took care of him.
Jay Heckman, our host at the reunion had arranged for us to go to Niagara Falls, see and go on board one of the latest C-series planes at the 914th Airlift Wing Reserve Air Base, and visit Buffalo's Museum of Science and Art Gallery. Even though there were fewer members in attendance due to illness and family health problems, the fellowship was good, and spending one evening playing Bingo was fun.
In November we got a new roof and had a complete air conditioning system installed in our house. How we enjoyed that automatic heater during the cold weather! We also looked forward to using the air conditioner when needed in the summer. I have to admit that we don't need it often here in Culver City, but we learned how great it was when we had some hot days the next summer.
As I was driving less and less, the decision was made to sell both our motor home and our Ford and buy a larger car that would accommodate my Rascal. We found a great used Grand Dodge Caravan LE and had a lift installed for the Rascal. We felt sad the day the lady who bought our motor home drove away in it, but we knew it was a wise decision. How thankful we felt for the many hours we had spent in it and our earlier trailers and motor homes. However, life circumstances change and one must adapt.
The day after Christmas we drove to Jean's in our new car. How easy it was to load the Rascal as compared to loading it in the motor home. Of course, Skippy went along, and again we celebrated the New Year in San Carlos. This picture of us at midnight is typical of many New Year's celebrations with our daughter and her family. It's too bad there is no sound to go with this picture!!
In Las Vegas, April 21-25, the United States Air Force held it's 50th Anniversary celebration. All Air Force Groups were invited to have booths. This included those of us who were originally in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor organization. It was a huge affair with more than 10,000 in attendance. The industrial exhibits were awesome! Every company or government agency that had any connection with the U S Air Force was there. There was a full-size replica of the Bell X-1 rocket plane, the first experimental jet to break the sound barrier. Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, who flew that plane on Oct. 14, 1947, was there to autograph pictures of the plane.
Preparing, packing, unpacking, and setting up our display was lots of work. However, we really enjoyed the entire program for the week and felt the time we spent was worthwhile. Because we had so much material to take, we thought it best to drive, rather than fly. Everything went well until the last night. We had a very nice hotel, but when we tried to get in for our last night, the door was locked. There had been a misunderstanding about how many days we wanted the room. Since it was Friday night, they had already booked every room. We had to pack quickly and drive almost to the California border to find a place to stay. There were a few anxious moments because Darlene didn't want to be driving after dark and we got off on the wrong road for awhile. All ended OK as we finally found the place that had a room reserved for us. It's hard to believe with the thousands of rooms in that city, that they can all get filled over the weekend.
During this year and 1998 we made several improvements to our house: a better ramp on the patio and a protective railing (all needed for my Rascal); new double storm windows in the front rooms of the house, treatment for termites, all new paint inside the house, and earthquake proofing of the foundation. For most of this work we had financial assistance from California State and Culver City home improvement programs for senior citizens. Something else for which to be thankful!
The biggest event of this year was the wedding of our oldest granddaughter, Debra. First there was the engagement announcement party earlier in the year. Then the groom's family hosted a rehearsal dinner to which we were invited. The wedding was on August 16 at our United Methodist Church. So far as I could see it was a perfect affair--the bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, the church was full of well wishers, and the minister presided over a lovely, meaningful ceremony.
August 16 also happened to be my 80th birthday. At the reception after the wedding Debra had arranged for a small cake and everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me. How pleased I was for her thoughtfulness.
The day before the wedding we had a visit from Gundolf Goethel and his wife from Germany. In 1953 he had been the first student in Culver City High School under the American Field Service Student Exchange Program (AFS). (I have already told all about my involvement in this program in Chapter 10)
John Morley, whose family had hosted Gundolf during the year that he attended Culver City High School, came down from Washington State to see Gundolf, now Dr. Goethel, and to attend Debra's wedding. Unfortunately, Mrs. Morley had died several years earlier, but John's new wife and also his son, who lives in a nearby city, were here also. What a great visit we all had together!
Jean's daughter, Jacqui, had been in Mexico for a semester of study
and came home in time for Christmas. That gave us a good excuse to drive
up there to enjoy Christmas festivities with them. We all missed having
our grandson, Jeff, there for Christmas, but he was having an interesting
year in Ecuador on the AFS program.
Since we moved from Maryland back to California it has been our custom to visit our daughter Jean and her family in San Carlos two or three times each year. As everyone would be either at school or at work during the week, we would plan to stay at least two weekends. This year was an exception. Jacqui graduated from college with honors on June 21 so we had to be there for that. Jeff, who had been in Ecuador all year, wasn't due home until July 20. We had to stay to greet him and have at least a week to visit with him. Therefore, we were away from home for six weeks. We sometimes felt we were "wearing out our welcome," but they all insisted that we had to stay. It is such a blessing to be so welcome in our daughter's home. Every member of the family acts as if he or she is glad we are there, and, of course, we enjoy it very much.
In October at Colorado Springs, Colorado, was our fourth and last 54th Troop Carrier Wing Reunion. Not only does our attendance continue to decrease but also no one else will take the responsibility for the planning. Because of my decreasing ability to do the "leg work," Darlene is left with doing everything. We both decided to announce that this would be our last unless someone else wanted to take over. As we expected, so far there haven't been any volunteers. We are well aware that all WWII vets who are still alive are getting up in years.
Despite the low attendance and difficulties with our transportation company because of our low attendance, we still had a great time. Max Elliott, who lives near, had been helpful in the planning and we enjoyed visits to the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods, Giuseppe's Old Depot Restaurant, and Royal Gorge. Some also spent an evening at Cripple Creek Gambling Resort.
Originally our reunions were primarily for the Headquarters Group of the Wing. There are other groups under the 54th Wing who are still trying to keep their reunions going. Darlene says she will keep the Newsletter going twice a year for a couple more years. We will try to provide information about reunions of other groups under the Wing so that those interested can attend some of them. Whether or not we get to another will depend upon my health.
As Christmas neared our son Greg announced that we shouldn't be making
that nearly 300-mile drive to Jean's any longer. He knows that since I
no longer drive, Darlene has to do the job alone. Our gift from him and
Rhonda this year was plane tickets. Of course, since we wanted to take
our kitty, we inquired about plane regulations. Yes, we could take him,
but it would cost $50 each way and he would need a certificate for the
vet showing he was physically OK. The joke was that Darlene's and my round
trip tickets were only $96.00 each with the senior discount and our Skippy's
ticket was $100. Since Greg insisted he would also pay for Skippy, we took
him to the vet. Of course, he passed his physical "with flying colors,"
which was no surprise to us. I have to admit it's a less tiring trip, but
it's harder to pack when one has to put it all in suitcases instead of
just piling the car full.
After celebrating Christmas and New Year's in San Carlos, we flew home on January 5. I don't believe our kitty Skippy was too happy with his plane ride, but Darlene and I were happy to make the trip in one and one-half hours instead of the usual seven or eight. With my handicap sticker we are able to park free at the airport. This is a big advantage, as we don't have to impose upon anyone to take us to the airport or pick us up when we get home.
In February Jean and Brain came for four days and Brain installed a sprinkler system in our back yard. He had some help from Dan, our grandson, but our son Greg was having back trouble so wasn't able to be of much assistance. Again in November he came and finished the job putting sprinklers in the front and side yards. How handy they have been for Darlene who has been doing all the watering for several years now.
By March Darlene had persuaded the children that she was perfectly capable of driving to San Carlos. She promised to stay home if there was any threat of rain or bad weather. As fate would have it, however, her plans were foiled. On Sunday the day before we were planning to leave she had a fainting spell in church. She was taken to emergency but they could not discover what caused her problem. Nevertheless that put an end to her plan to drive to Jean's. Our sin-in-law Brain declared that he would fly down and drive us to their house.
Jean, having been promoted to oversee a whole group of state Educational Development Department offices, often has meetings in the Los Angeles area. A couple weeks after we arrived she needed to come to such a meeting so drove us back home.
In July Jean called to say she had a bright idea. She had meetings in Los Angeles the 7th and 8th and again the 26th and 27th. That way she could drive us to her house and home again two weeks later. In other words she would fly down and drive us back with her, and then later drive us home and fly back after her meeting.
During that visit we attended the famous annual Rodeo in Salinas. Our granddaughter and her husband, who live there, joined Jean's family and us for a fun afternoon. It had been many years since I had been to a rodeo. This one had an added feature I hadn't seen at other rodeos, a camel race. I guess the folks at the Kansas rodeos I attended years earlier had never thought of such an addition.
Until recent years Darlene has always attended the yearly Schools of Christian Mission sponsored by the United Methodist Women. These meetings are held mostly on weekends in cities all over the United States. In our own conference they are held at two or three different places. Every four years one takes place in Hawaii. For several years now since I haven't been too well, Darlene has hesitated to leave me to go. This year she decided we would go to the session being held in Hawaii and that I would go along. One interest in going there was to see our friend Mary Blume, the widow of my dear friend, Bill, from USC days. Earlier in this story of my life, I have told about him and the good times that we shared with him and Mary through the years. After his death in 1984, Mary moved to Honolulu to be near one of her sons, and we hadn't seen her all these years.
We packed our bags, loaded my Rascal, and were off to the airport. After Darlene let me out, she had trouble finding a place to park. All the metered places where one is supposed to park with a handicap sign were full that morning. She inquired of a parking attendant what to do and he assured her she could just park anywhere so long as she displayed the handicap permit. Although she felt uncomfortable about the whole thing, she parked anyway as time was getting short for our checking in at the United Airline desk.
When we landed in Honolulu, there were more difficulties. Since the attendants didn't know where my Rascal would be, they had us wait and wait and wait until all the other passengers had caught the connection bus to the baggage area. Finally, they discovered the Rascal was at the baggage area and they had to call a special bus to take us there. This meant more waiting. We knew that the Hawaiian ladies were planning to provide transportation for all of us from the mainland to the site of the meeting, Hawaii Pacific University.
Just as we got out the door after getting my Rascal and our luggage, we saw a load of ladies about to leave. The driver of the car saw us just in time. However, due to lack of communication, she didn't know about my Rascal. She said there was no room now, but that she would be back in about an hour. We had some food, took the cart apart so it would be ready to be put in a car trunk, and waited some more. Just as Darlene started to find a telephone to see why no one had come, a man arrived asking for the McMurry's. The ladies had called for a handicap bus to pick us up. Now he insisted we put the cart back together, put it on the lift and place it in his bus in a special way. This procedure proved more difficult than just lifting it by hand piece by piece into the trunk of a car. It also was a very expensive trip, but our Hawaiian hosts insisted it was their expense. All this trouble because no one had noted on Darlene's registration form that the Rascal came apart and could easily fit into the trunk of most cars.
I'm happy to report that the rest of the conference went well. I even attended the classes with the ladies. There were a few men in attendance so I didn't feel entirely alone. In fact, I enjoyed riding around from building to building. The dormitories, the dining room, and the one large classroom building were all separated by hilly walkways. I fared better than many of the women who had to climb up and down to get from one building to another.
Our dear friend, Mary, who isn't too well, could come for only one afternoon. How good it was to see her. She brought a flower crown for Darlene and a lei for me. She was there during a free time between classes so we had a fine visit. As the meeting was over Sunday afternoon, we had to get a hotel room for the night before catching our plane Monday morning. That evening Mary's son and his family took us for dinner to a famous beachside restaurant.
We caught our plane fine the next morning, but trouble started when Darlene went to get the car. They insisted they had to see my handicap permit before Darlene could leave the lot without paying. I was sitting in front of the United Airlines offices waiting on my Rascal with our luggage, and there was no way for Darlene to get to me without exiting the parking lot. Finally she gave them her credit card to pay the parking fee. They told her to call when she got home and explain the situation to the supervisor. That she did and the next morning she went back to the airport parking lot office and they refunded her money. We learned quite a lesson from all that. Don't always believe what a parking lot employee tells you!
One of my ongoing projects through the years has been my barn. This originally was a birdhouse and there is a picture of it in our Maryland story. After we moved back to Culver City, I decided to make it into a barn. I added a fence and farm animals. Unfortunately, one day I hit it with our motor home so that called for a complete remodel job. Greg came to my rescue and installed a metal post on which I could put my reconstructed barn. Then he and I decided we needed silos by the barn. Greg bought two plastic tubes, which were painted and became silos. I bought lots of additional farm animals to put in the pens in front of the barn.
Sometime during late August Greg suddenly made the big decision that it was time for him and his Dad to have a train. His plan was to put it in our back room, which has always been my shop. First we cleared part of the room and he constructed a nice layout. At the same time he began to buy train engines and cars from the Internet auctions. It wasn't long until one room of track was not enough to satisfy Greg and me and a tunnel was cut into the adjoining room where we have our computer and a divan which becomes a bed for company. Now the train traveled all around both rooms. The next step came several months into the next year when a hole was made in the house so the train could travel around our back yard to my barn. It then went around the barn and back into the house. The train construction job is still ongoing as I am bringing this long story to a close.
My first hobby after retirement was creating sculptures with clay. My son even bought a potter's wheel for me, but because of trouble with my hands and other general health problems, I soon had to quit using it. I just formed my own pieces and took them to a nearby hobby shop to be fired. First I made some bookends for Jean with a figure of a man and a woman. Next for Glenda, I made a pair, one with a figure of their cat and the other a likeness of their dog. Greg and Rhonda had several horses at the time, so their bookends had horses' heads. I have made a cat, a pig, a bear, doves, a swan, a seal, a penguin, and a clown among other things. Here are some of the pieces I have done through the years.
At the present I ride my Rascal to the local YMCA five days a week to swim. My doctor is pleased that I do this as he says it is good for my lungs and heart. Darlene has had to take me in the car only a few times when it was too cold or rainy. However, here in Southern California such days don't come along very often. Those swims in the warm water are the highlights of my week.
Another hobby of mine is "Find a Word" puzzles. In my early retirement
years I made quite a few of them from scratch. However, now since such
a job would be difficult for me, I just buy the books of them and work
someone else's creations.
Brian, our son-in-law again flew down and drove us back home with him for the Christmas and New Year's holiday celebrations. Since this New Year's day would be the first day of the year 2000, it was a very special time. Some said it was the beginning of a new millenium, but some insist that will not begin until January 1, 2001. No matter which way, it was an exciting time. There was much made about the Y2K bug that might disrupt computers and all the many machines that depended upon them. As you will know by the time you read this, nothing exciting or disastrous happened, and people had lots of good times celebrating.
In addition to my hobbies described above and activity around the new train, I'm sure that in the coming years, as long as we are able, Darlene and I will spend our days much as I have already described--church activities, cards with our friends, family celebrations of birthdays and holidays with our wonderful family, and occasional trips. To continue writing about these same activities would be even more boring to others than what has already been written. Thus, my wife, Darlene, my ghostwriter, and I have decided that New Year's Day, 2000, is a good day to stop this autobiography for now. Darlene has actually had to write all of the last section for me and do lots of proofing of other chapters. It's now time for her to write some of her own story of the years before she met me. My autobiography has been in the making for many years. What started as a story for my granddaughter who wanted to know about life during the dust bowl days is now a very long story. I have added picture after picture, making my son's task greater and more time consuming as he prepares the stuff for his Internet page. I hope a few people have found it interesting reading and that others have been inspired to do some writing about their lives. I'm sure there is not a person alive who doesn't have an interesting story to tell. Even if no one else ever reads it, there is pleasure in recalling and writing about one's own life experiences. Thanks to all who have shared part or my entire story with me.
I will close with these pictures of my family. Those of us with our four grandchildren and of Jean's family were taken during the last week of 1999. Debra had the idea and wanted everyone to wear blue shirts and blouses. Greg and Rhonda's picture was taken a few months earlier while they were at a friend's wedding in Newport Beach.
End Of Chapter 12