Friday, November 30, 2007

No Letter Today, but Plenty Yesterday ...

Don’t you just love to get mail? I do. Especially do I enjoy mail from those who read my column. Most reader response is in the form of e-mail while some comes in as “snail-mail.”

Mail has come in from old South Park High School Greenies, Beaumont High Purples, French High Buffaloes, St. Anthony’s High Bulldogs, members of the Pipkin Street gang, other old friends as well as strangers. I lost the first 135 letters to a computer crash. Wish I had those. Since then, I back up the emails along with the columns.

Ronnie Berwick and others wrote to inform me that Collier’s Ferry did not have an outboard motor as I reported but rather had an inboard old Ford engine. I suspect that they are correct. All I really remember is the thrill of riding across the Neches River on that old boat.

Then there was the lady that didn’t like it because I told about having a pet raccoon in 1948. My family rescued the infant animal when its mother was run over by a car in Louisiana. My sister fed the raccoon milk and tonic with a doll baby bottle. We kept the little creature until it grew up. Then we had to give it to the Beaumont Zoo because it persisted in terrorizing the neighborhood dogs. The lady wrote, “You must think you’re pretty mancho”. Since there is no such word as “mancho” I had to guess she meant “macho.” Oh well …

Tommy Leicht wrote about when he and some buddies climbed around on the underside of the Rainbow Bridge. He stated that it got pretty scary up there.

Retired Lamar Professor David G. Taylor sends me lots of mail. After I wrote a column sharing some original jokes, Taylor stated, “Please don’t give up your day job for a career in humor.” I got a big kick out of that, but you know it’s probably the best advice I’ve ever received.

It was a nice surprise to hear from Sammy Havens. He was the little boy who lived on Edwin Street behind our Pipkin Street house. Sam wrote that I should share about the night in the 1940s when gasoline storage tanks exploded at Magnolia Refinery. The fires were so tall and bright that the night turned to a flickering daylight. And today, Sam is Professor Sam Havens of St. Thomas University in Houston.

David Bean, who designed and maintains an outstanding web site on South Park High School, always sends me interesting tidbits of information. David and I hid some Monopoly Money on the back campus of Giles Elementary School. We had treasure maps but lost them. The money never again will see the light of day.

Of course I’ve heard from Jimmy Cassady. I call Jim a, “… pal of my misspent youth.” We came close to burning down the woods out at Twin Lakes. When we fished at the canal off of Avenue A, those sun perch never had a chance. And that night we nearly wrecked his dad’s Hudson Hornet still haunts me. We learned that night never again to race the Tinlin brothers down Highland Avenue.

When I wrote a column about First Security National Bank, I called Jack Darling for information. Guinn Busbee, also from my banking days, still sends information from time to time.

Church acquaintances and fellow employees of the Jefferson Theater have written to say, “hello.” Oh yes, almost forgot about the fellow that was upset because I professed a belief in God. So, you see, there’s a little bit of it all.

I have several columns coming up that will reply to my mail. Stay tuned and if you get a chance, drop me a line.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Forgotten Memories ... Really ... ??

Several of you have asked me how I seem to remember so much detail about my childhood. Really I do not know. I just do it. I was there when my memories occurred so I just remember. Certainly you do the same thing.

I have forgotten a lot of things that happened in my life. One day, I tried to make a list of forgotten memories. Did you know you can’t do that? You cannot make a list of forgotten detail. Oh, something may flash to mind that you had forgotten, but then it can’t go on the “forgotten” list because it is no longer forgotten. So put it on your “memory” list before you forget it again.

Here are some tips on how to pull up memories into the conscious portion of your brain. I am not aware of the scientific or medical terms so I’ll just explain it in terms I do understand.

Sometimes it helps not to try too hard when remembering things. Just let the memories flow. If you think too hard about it, the memories may go away. In other words, you should not force a memory. Just let it happen. Have you ever said to yourself, “His/her name is on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t recall ...” Well the name is not on the tip of your tongue … rather it is on the tip of your consciousness. And if you try to think, that name will further elude you. Just relax and think about that person’s facial features. Sometimes, you can incidentally recall the name by remembering your experiences with that person. If you try going through the alphabet attempting to remember a name, do not go A to Z. Rather go Z to A. This may help your mind to shift gears thus allowing memory to get off of dead center.

On occasion, I set up a projection screen in my mind and then call for my childhood. When the memories start up I sit back and watch the movie. There are times when my memories are in color. But most of the time they are black and white and green. I can understand the black and white but not the green. Weird, huh?

I remember being in a department store in 1938 when I was three years old. I looked out of the front window. Every few minutes a green streetcar passed. I do not know if I was in Port Arthur or Beaumont. All I recall is that those streetcars were the most fascinating things I had ever seen. You see, they did not have a steering wheel and I wondered how they managed to go straight down the middle of the road.

Then there was the king snake that stayed in our chicken house at Beauxart Gardens. He was black with yellow lines decorating his slithery body. I remember watching him crawl around. I wondered how he walked because he did not have any feet. My mother was nervous about my liking the king snake because she feared I might like all snakes and try to make pals with the wrong one.

Sometimes you can run a “search engine” in your mind. Think of a subject, lock it in then hit “search” just like you would on a computer. Your consciousness will run around inside of your head checking all the files it can find. If anything is found, you will become aware of that memory.

One of these days I plan to read up about memory and see what the experts know about it. In fact I’m going to do that next week.

If I don’t forget.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm Thankful For My Space ...

My, this year is flying by. Here it is Thanksgiving already. I do not know if my older age has anything to do with it or if time is just speeding up. I do know that time is fleeting and waits on no man.

The thoughts whirling around in my head have to do with this ever-rapid passing of time and the season of Thanksgiving. Everyday should be a day of Thanksgiving but do we get into such a rush that we fail to pause and be thankful? Recently, one of our astronauts caused me to think about our hurried lifestyles. Allow me to explain.

Glenn Nichols and I attend the same church in Sugar Land, Texas. A few Sundays ago Glenn shared an interesting story with our Bible class. Glenn along with his wife Jean were among guests invited by Doug Wheelock to view the recent launching of space shuttle Discovery. Wheelock is the astronaut who assisted Scott Parazynski with the space walk repair of a torn solar wing outside the Space Station. Doug’s reflections follow:

“ … It is an incredible experience out here in space and it quite frankly takes my breath away and brings me to tears when I look out the window at the Earth just hanging there in space! It’s almost as if my mind has such a difficult time comprehending the sight, that it doesn’t seem real. Last night while Scott (Parazynski) and Dan (Tani) were in the airlock, I took just a few minutes, by myself, and just looked out the window at the Earth. I figured out that tears don’t stream down your face in space. They just combine into one big tear-ball and float away! I just can’t believe I am here! I just keep singing to myself, “How Great Thou Art,” when I look at the power and majesty of God’s beautiful creation! Being outside on a spacewalk was so surreal … “

I looked up the word “surreal” to double-check the meaning and found it to be: “ … a process that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.”

Well, I had to do a little more dictionary research to clarify all of that first definition. Astronaut Wheelock was saying that it was mind-boggling trying to grasp the scenes he was seeing. In other words, taking what seemed to be so illogical and uncustomary and placing them side by side with reality in true time.

As Glenn Nichols was sharing this with our class, a Bible scripture came to mind. Psalm 19 is one of my favorite Bible passages. If you have not read this Psalm in a while, please give it a review. A portion of it reads as follows:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.”

I believe Doug Wheelock was attempting to describe just what the Psalmist was expressing in Psalm 19.

Certainly, if Doug can pause for a few moments in a spacecraft to enjoy meditations of praise and thanksgiving by “ … observing the majesty and power of God’s beautiful creation,” then we should take time daily to reflect with thanksgiving the blessings we enjoy.

I do thank God that I live in this great country where there is freedom to express views such as this. In fact some may exercise the freedom to disagree. I am thankful for that, too.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Friday, November 16, 2007

When You Hear "C. Q.," What Do You Do?

Amateur (Ham) radio is a very exciting hobby as well as an extremely beneficial one. I received my first F.C.C. (Novice) ham license in 1965. A ham named Bob Stephens gave me the initial exam. I bought an old shortwave receiver for $50 and an Ameco transmitter kit for $15. The transmitter had a power output of 3 watts and was designed only to transmit with morse code. The beginner’s license was valid only for code. Now-a-days, I understand there no longer is a code requirement to become a ham.

My wife and I lived in an older house on Harriot Street in Beaumont. I did not yet have an antenna so I attached the transmission line to a metal screen window. I sent out a call in Morse code hoping to hear a reply. My very first contact was a fellow named Henry, who was in Cuba.

My next contact was with London. Not England, but London, Ontario, Canada. Within a few months, I made contact with 4 foreign countries and 26 of the 50 States using that little 3 watt transmitter.

Finally by 1967, with the assistance of another ham, Roger Dillon, I earned the highest (EXTRA) class ham license and purchased a nice station with a microphone and proper antenna. My new station ran 200 watts in power.

One day, Mike Gulley and I were adjusting my transmitter. Speaking into the microphone, I said, “Hello … hello.” A voice replied, “Hello.” Turned out to be a ham who was working with a U. S. Weather Station at the South Pole. He was inside of an ice house that had been cut into the actual ice cap. He could transmit for only a few minutes because his transmitter crystal would get too cold and cease functioning. He would have to warm the crystal up in hot water on his stove. Then he could transmit for another ten minutes or so. He had a copper wire antenna laid out on the ice. Since the ice was nearly 100 feet above the ground, he had a great transmitting signal without needing an antenna pole or tower.

Other interesting contacts included Mission Control during the Mariner IV Mars probe. They were asking Hams to give them signal strength reports. Also, I was fortunate to have a “first-day” contact with the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colorado, when they began frequency and time transmissions from that location. I communicated with the Senate Office Building ham station in Washington D.C. Also with hams in all 50 States and numerous foreign countries.

Probably my most intriguing contact was while using Morse code and contacting a ham who was blind and deaf. He copied the code by placing his hand inside of the speaker cone in his receiver. He read the vibrations. Amazing.

On more serious notes, there were opportunities to assist with emergency communications during the Alaskan earthquake in the late 1960s. Also, as a member of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service Network (RACES), I served as the radio liaison for Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beaumont. Hams all over the world have innumerable opportunities to assist with communications during times of local, state, national and international emergencies. When all electrical power fails such as during a hurricane, hams stand ready to jump in and provide communications using batteries and/or generators.

Any ham will be more than happy to share additional information with you about this fascinating and very worthwhile hobby. Three of those hams are:

Walt Lombard, President, Beaumont ARC, (409) 727-1071.
Tootie Heintschel, President, Jefferson County ARC and County Emergency Coordinator, (409) 962-1435.
Mike Faucheaux, VP, Beaumont ARC, and teacher of ham license classes,
(409) 727-1071.

Winston Hamby, KF5D
The Beaumont Enterprise

Friday, November 09, 2007

You Can Lead A Bulldog To Food But You Can't Make Him Sing For His Supper ...

A sad if not ironic announcement came over the car radio recently. The announcer was describing traffic conditions in and around the various areas of Houston. He said, “And here’s some good news for those of you traveling I-45 North. The fatality accident that has been blocking all lanes for more than two hours has been cleared to the shoulder so now, you should be able to enjoy clear sailing on into Conroe.” Now, think about what was said. It’s like saying, “I’m sorry someone got killed because it tied up traffic for hours.” What about the family of the deceased? Was that “good news” announcement a consolation to them? Sometimes our spoken and/or written words just do not come out the way they should.

Some of my favorite “bloopers” are those written in church bulletins. For example:

“Your fee for the Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.”

“Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.”

“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”

“Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.”

“This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.”

“Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.”

When I was in the ministry I had my own share of typos and mis-speaks. Once I announced to the congregation, “Be sure to attend our evening service. We’ll be discussing the Godance of Guide.” Another time I explained to a crowd of about 500 that, “Holiness is not a mild little grandmother sitting in a rocking chair with a lap in her Bible.”

And to encourage the congregation, our church bulletin reported that, “One of our mission program goals for the New Year will be to send Michael Seymour to the Philippians” (meaning Philippines).

Another goal in that same bulletin was, “We want to improve our pubic image.”

One time, my college newspaper printed the following item: “Geoffrey Benson will be on stage Friday night performing a guitar rectal.”

I remember as a teenager reading the following in the Beaumont Enterprise. It was not a typo but the manager of the Circle Drive-In Theater evidently was trying to promote the casual drive-in environment when he submitted, “Don’t bother to dress. Come on out for an evening of fun.”

Slips of the tongue or “Tips of the Slung” were made popular by the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who was Dean and President of New College, Oxford. His name is where we derived the term, “spoonerism.” This describes linguistic flip-flops that turn “a well-oiled bicycle” into “a well-boiled icicle” and other such mess-ups that haunt public speakers.

Spooner was the champion of “slung tips.” One day in history class he reprimanded one of his tardy students by stating, “You hissed my mystery lecture.” Then he added in disgust, “You have tasted two worms.”

Once, Spooner raised his toast to Her Highness Victoria with, “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” And his goofs at chapel were classic such as, “Our Lord is a shoving leopard.” He officiated a wedding and prompted the bridegroom, “Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride.”

Radio announcer Harry Von Zell introduced president Herbert Hoover as Hoobert Heever. And Lowell Thomas presented British Minister Sir. Stafford Cripps as … well, never mind. Let’s just say Thomas made a mess of that situation.

When I hear or read a spoonerism, it tickles my bunny phone.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It Was MANual to Be Automatic

A real shame. That’s what it was. Simply an unfortunate occurrence that could have happened to anyone. But this time, it happened to Mr. Garretson. The Garretson family was our across-the-street neighbor when we moved from Nederland to Beaumont in 1940. I was four years old. Their son, Jackie, became one of my best playmates. He and I initiated what eventually became known as The Pipkin Street Gang.

Anyway, back to Mr. Garretson and his unfortunate occurrence. One day he came home from work driving a brand new car. Jackie told me it was an Oldsmobile. I had never heard of an Oldsmobile but did know that Mr. Garretson’s brand new car surely was pretty.

You may be thinking, “What’s so unfortunate about getting a brand new car?” I’ll tell you. The very first week that he had that new car something went wrong. I was just a little kid and even I could tell that something was not right.

One morning, Mr. Garretson left to go to work. I remember it was a Saturday because I was still in bed. There was a noise that I could not identify. I listened more closely. The noise was coming from that brand new car. The car seemed to roar. Not just your usual everyday kind of roar. This was a roar that was louder than any I had ever heard. I kept listening as he made his way down Pipkin. He turned at the first street which was Chaison. I could hear the roar even after he had gone a block or so down Chaison. “How sad,” I thought to myself.

Later that morning (after I finally dragged out of bed), I told my mother about the sad thing that happened to Mr. Garretson’s car. I explained about the roar. My mother started laughing and said, “That’s the new Hydramatic transmission that Oldmobile is introducing this year. It’s automatic. She explained how you didn’t have to use a manual clutch with an automatic transmission. Of course I didn’t know a clutch from a spark plug so it made little sense to me.

Anyway, that was my introduction to automatic transmissions. From that moment on, I had a new friend. His name was Oldsmobile Charlie. Charlie moved into my brain and has resided there ever since. When Charlie talks, he sounds like an old hydramatic transmission. Charlie used to say, “Hellooo (shift to lower voice) how are youuu (shift to even lower voice) todayyy.” In fact, Charlie spoke to me just this morning. We enjoy talking about old times, or would that be, “Olds Times?”

Later, Buick came out with Dynaflow and Chevrolet introduced Powerglide. These were automatic transmissions but nothing compared to Hydramatic.

Years later when I turned fifteen and had my driver’s license, I learned that a mechanic at Beaumont Motor Company (Chevrolet dealership) had installed a hydramatic transmission and an air-conditioner into his 1946 Chevrolet sedan. I thought that was the neatest thing. The only fancy feature on my 1939 Buick was rear turn indicator lights. Always wondered why that car didn’t have turn indicators in the front.

But I liked the idea of wanting people to think that my Buick had an automatic transmission and air-conditioning. So I would drive on Pearl Street in downtown Beaumont during the dead heat of a summer afternoon with my windows all rolled up. Then when I started up from a traffic light, I would start in high gear (third) and slowly let out on the manual clutch. Hopefully, folks would think that I had spruced up my Buick just like that mechanic had done with his Chevrolet.

I don’t know why boys think like that … maybe it’s just automatic.

Winston Hamby