Archive for the Autobio Category

FOUR STARS OF DAVID

BUSH & SHARON – THE HAMHANDED EFFORT TO GET THINGS RIGHT
Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

DIRECTOR OF ESSAYS – SHIRLEY MORGANSTEIN
To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

ARYEH RON NEE LEO RITTER OF VIENNA
When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

MAN MOUNTAIN GIDEON LEV
Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

GENTLEMAN JAKE HABERFELD
I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.

E. E. CARR
3-28-02

AN AFTER THOUGHT OR TWO

I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

E. E. CARR
March 28, 2002

ADDENDUM

After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.

E. E. CARR
4-2-02

~~~

The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.

THE KING WHO STUTTERED

Over the recent Christmas holidays, my daughter and her legally-wedded husband went to a movie which must have had to do with George VI of England who stuttered. Apparently my daughter was impressed by the film, which my mother would have called a “picture show.” Eva Baker and Frances Licht, who are associated with these essays, also saw the movie and were favorably impressed by it.

My mother’s belief has always been that picture shows are the consummate work of the devil, which accounts for the fact that I did not see a picture show until I was 13 years of age. At that point, “The Sign of the Cross” was being shown at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton, Missouri. I persuaded my mother to permit me to see that show on the ground that it contained religious content. It was an atrocious film and for the rest of my life I have avoided movie theaters. Nonetheless, my daughter and her husband thought that the film about George VI was impressive and for that reason Suzanne, the daughter, made a request of me. Rather than interpreting her thoughts I simply offer her email for your consideration.

Suzanne’s email request for an essay January, 2011.

Pop and Judy –
Yesterday Carl and I went to see a movie. We rarely do this, but it was a holiday, so we did. We went to see “The King’s Speech” which is about the stuttering problem that King George VI had and his relationship with an unorthodox speech therapist. The relationship had to be kept hidden at first. It was actually well done as a movie.
What struck me about the movie that I thought would be of interest to Pop was the depiction of the importance of radio in the lead-up to WWII (George VI had to make speeches to rally England, of course, so being a “stammerer” was quite a problem), and the introduction of news reels in the late 30’s. In the movie, everyone in England was basically glued to their radio as George VI announced the declaration of war on Hitler, as Hitler refused to relinquish Poland.

I said to Carl on the way home that it was sad that in less than a century we’ve gone from radio/newsreel/TV broadcasts of major events that the whole country collectively sees and experiences together — to today, when the news is splintered into internet and cable TV news and everybody gets their news their own way at the time they choose. That led us to speculate about the news reels that were shown in theatres. Did everybody see them in the late 30’s? Once a news reel of Hitler came out as he invaded one country and then another, would most everybody be in a movie theatre in the next week or so to see it, or would just a few people in the US see it?

Pop, how about an essay about living in the US and the run-up to WWII – news reels, what you remember about it, what was the prevailing opinion in Missouri about what was happening in Europe and how did people get their news.

That is my request for 2011.

-Suze

As a preliminary to my response to my daughter’s request, there are some points that need to be made. If there is any one else in this world who is less of an authority on movies and pictures shows, I would like to meet him. I believe that I own that title exclusively.

A second point that must be made at the outset is that the generation to which my daughter belongs is unacquainted with the thought that there was a time in this country when there was no television at all. None! Furthermore, there were no computers and ipso facto there was no such thing as email and internet. None! This may be hard to choke down, but as we used to say in the Army, “Them are the facts.” No television, no computers, no email, no internet.

Our means of communication were local radio, national radio, newspapers, and news magazines and the local and long distance telephone system. There was no such thing as saying, “I saw it on television last night.” Charles Osgood appears on a CBS television program on Sunday mornings and always uses his long term radio sign-off, “I’ll see you on the radio.” But Osgood was not around in the pre-war period that we are talking about. And so, let us proceed to parse Suzanne’s email with the hope that in the end it will make a bit of an essay.

At the outset, there seems to be a misconception that newsreels were a major source of information for the American public. While I was not a theater goer, I believe that is hardly the case. If I understand the concept of newsreels, they are short features of news reports shown between films. It must be remembered that in the pre-war period, those newsreels had to be shot by hand, developed, and then distributed. My guess is that the newsreels that you might have seen at your local theater reported events of perhaps two weeks prior. Also, it is my belief that newsreels had to show such things as successful bombings and the stance of our troops in victorious poses.

May I suggest that nowhere was the Bataan death march or any similar event shown on a newsreel. That would have been a downer and I suspect that downers were not the subject of newsreels. My belief is that newsreels were designed to give the audience a pumped-up feeling that everything was right in this world. For the first two years of World War II, there were very few things American audiences could feel encouraged about.

So the net result is that newsreels had their place in the theater between the major attractions as a source of information. They were not intended as a major source of news. I would have considered them unreliable and late in arrival.

Our main source of information came from the radio and from newspapers. Curiously, the news on the radio was usually confined to a fifteen-minute segment which had few commercials in it. What we got was 14½ minutes of news rather than the current situation where we cannot tell what is news and what is advertising. The news, in my recollection, came on at 6:00PM. It was often followed by orchestras such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

There was no such thing as “all the news all the time” stations. We had entertainment and at 6 PM or thereabouts we had the news for 15 minutes. It is possible that there was national news on for 15 minutes followed by local news resulting in a half-hour news broadcast. But of that I am not quite so sure. The reader here must remember that in those days of 1942 until August of 1945, I was not a resident of this country. By enlisting in the United States Army, I found myself in Africa, Sicily, and Italy.

It was the custom of the broadcasting companies in this county to station correspondents in many of the major capitol cities where news events were to be anticipated. The foremost correspondent abroad belonged to CBS. He was Edward R. Murrow and was stationed in London throughout the war including the “blitzkriegs” of the German Luftwaffe. When correspondents could not get their reports to the United States, they would use Murrow to establish that link. Murrow was a jewel as it relates to the news during the war.

But during my overseas service, when noontime approached, we would search for a radio receiver that could pick up the news broadcast from the BBC in London. I can remember with great clarity that the programs usually started with a signal followed by an announcer saying, “London calling.” The BBC broadcast had almost no propaganda and no commercials. It told the news as it was, good or bad. As a result, the troops paid a great deal of attention to what the British Broadcasting Corporation had to say. If there are any kudos to be passed out for the run-up to the war in Europe, it must go to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Now we advance to the question asked about the prevailing opinion in the great and glorious state of Missouri. For many years, probably starting in the 1920s, a major voice in the run-up to the war were the reports in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When I was overseas, my mother read those dispatches faithfully in the hope that she would find my name in them. But that was not the case. The Post Dispatch had bureaus in Washington and published reliable news during the period when Hitler was invading several countries and when Tojo, the head man in Japan, was doing the same in the Far East. The Post Dispatch did not hide the facts from the people. In the early part of the war, we were losing. It was after this time in early 1942 that I joined the American Army. There was no good news during those days, and I suspect that my parents may have believed that their youngest son was going away for good. But the fact is that the mainstay we were able to rely upon were the newspapers such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I gather that there were other newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune run by Bertie McCormick, who published glowing reports of our successes or near successes. But that was not the style of the Post Dispatch or the New York Times. So in retrospect, I must conclude that the main source of news came from newspapers and radio.

Prior to our entry into the war, a group of senators led by Robert Taft of Ohio seemed determined to keep us from engaging in that conflict. Taft, for example, was wildly opposed to the “lend-lease” program which released destroyers from the United States to Great Britain to help in their defense. But I must conclude that the general outlook in Missouri was that there was a job to do in the war, and that we should set about doing it promptly.

On the other side of the ocean in Great Britain, the Prime Minister was a gentleman named Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain and Taft were two of a kind. History will record that Chamberlain made a trip to Germany and came back with a document that he said would guaranteed “peace in our time.” The ink was hardly dry on that piece of paper when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

Finally we turn to the question about the generational divide. There is some debate as to whether we are better informed today than we were in the run-up to World War II. The recent disclosures in the private dispatches from our diplomats as demonstrated by Wikileaks would lead me to conclude that in many cases, we are being hoodwinked. But before the Second World War, most Americans could trust what appeared in reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow. I cannot say the same thing for the news that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

In all likelihood, we must be better informed today than we were back then. On the other hand, if you want a biased opinion today, on the Republican side you must tune in to Fox News. If you wish to have a biased opinion in favor of Democrats, you must tune in to MSNBC.

St. Louis, which was a sophisticated town, had the Post Dispatch, as I have mentioned. We had the National Broadcasting Company appearing on the KSD station of the Post Dispatch. Then we also had the Columbia Broadcasting System outlet on station KMOX. If the American Broadcasting System (ABC) existed at that time, I am unaware of it. Mind you, I am speaking as a person who has long ago kissed the 80th birthday mark goodbye. It seems to me that between KSD, KMOX, and the Post Dispatch, we were reasonably well informed.

But if I massage this question a bit, does anyone believe that the Bataan death march would be included in the news broadcasts of the current era? And that was not the only example of thoroughly unpleasant news.

But again, I am a biased reporter. You realize that at this juncture in my life, I cannot see a damn thing. Accordingly, all of the information I receive has to come through my ears. May I assure you that the oral presentation ain’t so bad. This is precisely where I started in the years before television intruded on our lives. For a St. Louis native, that would have been around the period 1948 to 1950 when television came into being there.

With my sight being the way it is, I now receive my news orally and I am not here to complain about it. Now I do not recommend that all of you lose your sight so that you may enjoy oral presentations of baseball games and the news of the world. I am here to say that television has added a new dimension to our lives. But on the other hand we were getting along quite well without it.

In conclusion, my hope is that Suzanne’s email has been sufficiently parsed, and that you have some idea of the feelings of the American public as World War II approached.

Now as to the story about King George, I must add that the inspirational speeches were made by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The King often was found at flower shows and receiving Boy Scouts and wholesome things of that nature. The job of informing the British public and inspiring them was left almost exclusively to Winston Churchill. King George was regarded as a nice person but when compared to Churchill, he was clearly the second, or third or fourth banana. During that time, I was serving with British troops in Italy and Africa. I believe that I am correctly assessing their views on the Royal Family. The King’s job was to visit military hospitals and occasionally say a few words to the British public. Before and during World War II, George the Sixth was more of a bit player than a person of significant influence. And as for newsreels, my belief is that they had limited newsworthy qualities during that trying period.

Unfortunately, I dictated this essay on the same day when the killings were taking place in Tucson, Arizona. All of this accounts for my making hash of this essay. Next time, I will try to do a bit better, providing we don’t have more murders by deranged people with guns.

E. E. CARR
January 8, 2011

~~~

I don’t think this was a botched essay whatsoever. It’s interesting to encounter another medium that Pop was deliberately closed off to, though. No fiction, no movies, very little internet. Clearly his strategy worked for him, but it’s hard to imagine being isolated from so much content for no convincing reason.
I think the 24-hour news cycle probably does more harm than good. Presenting news only when newsworthy things happen, in my estimation, makes the news more reputable. As it is, it’s constantly full of meaningless fluff content, and news channels grow ever more indistinguishable from entertainment channels. Fox and CNN are the worst offenders. Fox is just a joke, whereas CNN pretends to be a news channel but is basically just theater; it hires talking heads to come say insane things, then reacts to those things.

RITA, MAY I INTRODUCE YOU TO ROLLAND?

…And Both of You Ought to Get to Know Frances Day

A few essays back, I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes and dictated an essay about the most bitter woman I ever knew in my life. That woman was my boss’s secretary. You may recall that she is the one who told me, when I quit smoking, that I would be smoking again before the week passed. It has now been more than 50 years since I quit smoking and I wrote the essay to commemorate that fact. If Rita is still alive, I would like her to see it.

The woman in question was Rita Snedicker, a secretary in the offices of the headquarters of AT&T Long Lines in New York City. Rita was a heavy smoker herself, and there was no mistake about that. The lines in her face told the world that she was a heavy smoker. On top of that, Rita had been born with one leg shorter than the other and she walked with a limp. She lived with her bachelor brother in New Jersey and, as far as I know, Rita never married and I suspect that her boyfriends were few and far between. What I am suggesting is that Rita had plenty of reasons to be bitter and she carried it off with great aplomb. She seemed to dislike everyone.

Now the scene shifts to the Division Five headquarters of Long Lines in Saint Louis back in 1941. When I was hired, I became aware of an Engineer named Rolland Crow. Rolland had a certain expertise with open wire lines which are mounted on telephone poles.

When I returned to the St. Louis office after more than three years in the military service, AT&T was preparing to replace its open wire lines with a coaxial cable plowed beneath the surface. To the extent that AT&T replaced its open wire facilities with cable, Rolland Crow’s expertise became much less important.

Shortly after I returned to AT&T, I was given a desk in the engineering department not far from where Rolland Crow held court. Rolland actually held court because at lunch time he played chess at his desk with other people and seemed to enjoy beating them. Tiger Woods says that he likes not only to beat his opponents but to “kick their butts.” This was the attitude displayed by Rolland Crow. It was not enough just to win the game; his opponent had to be annihilated as well.

The fact that Rolland’s expertise was no longer in such great demand did not help his attitude. I soon came to learn that Rolland hated physicians. The source of the dislike had to do with an illness of his wife’s. As you know, physicians call their group of patients a “practice.” On many, many occasions Rolland would say about those physicians, “When are they going to quit practicing and play the game for keeps?” Whether Mrs. Crow’s physicians were adequate or not is not for me to say, but I suspect that the greatest physicians would not meet Rolland’s standards. He hated them all.

Throughout all of this period of years, Rolland used to dictate on one of the original Dictaphones which used a wax cylinder. Most of the other engineers and lesser folks would simply write out their letters or comments in longhand and give them to a stenographer in the typing pool and in a day or so the letter would be returned. But that is not the way Rolland did things. He dictated on this ancient Dictaphone with the wax cylinder, which gave him the prerogative of complaining about it not being returned soon enough and also gave him a reason to growl that the stenographer had missed a word.

Aside from those facts, it should be observed that Rolland dictated into this ancient machine in such a loud voice that the rest of us in that department had trouble concentrating. When I left St. Louis in the summer of 1951, Rolland was approaching retirement and as far as I can remember he still used his wax cylinder Dictaphone.

There is one other indication of Rolland’s dislike of other people. When one of the bosses or, particularly, one of his wife’s physicians became sick, Rolland would say, “I hope it’s nothing trivial.” Rolland was, as you can see, an equal opportunity disliker or hater, if you will. He simply disliked almost everyone, or at least that is the impression he gave.

Being a young member of the engineering staff, I was taught to look up to the engineers. But Rolland was a difficult man to be around. More or less, old Rolland exuded dislike and hatred for just about everyone. His remark about “I hope it’s nothing trivial” seemed to encapsulate the essence of Rolland’s personality.

A lot of time has now gone by since I first knew Rolland in 1941 and I suspect that he is no longer with us. It was an object lesson for me to know Rolland because it taught me what not to do. And if I were a physician in the St. Louis area, I would tell Rolland and his wife to go look for some other doctor rather than to saddle me with their loathsome spirits.

Rolland was a bitter man who would make a perfect companion for Rita Snedicker. He worked in St. Louis and she worked in New York, so they never had a chance to meet. But if they had met, I would say it was a match made in heaven: the most bitter woman and the most bitter man that I have known in all of my years of working experience.

Both Rolland and Rita by now have probably gone to their heavenly reward. Perhaps they will meet there and enjoy life for all eternity, bitching and moaning from morning until evening.

By now I suspect that all of you have had your full share of negativity about Rolland and Rita. Let us turn now to a happy woman who will provide a bit of inspiration.

In February, 1998, I was a patient in the Morristown Hospital awaiting an operation to repair my aortic valve. The diameter of the older valve that I had from my birth had shrunk from the size of a quarter, which it should be, to the size of a dime. Breathing during exercise became very difficult. So something had to be done. In this case, as in all such cases, the chest is opened and a new valve, this one from a pig, is inserted in place of the old valve. There were comforting words from the surgeon, who told me that if the pig valve failed over the next several years, they would happily replace it free of charge. I was not particularly comforted by this disclosure.

The night before the operation, I had a conversation with my fellow Missourian, Howard Davis. For reasons that are now unknown to me, this conversation led me to write a letter to the editor of the Hutchinson News. The subject of my letter, which was printed in an extended weekend edition, had to do with women and young girls meeting almost every troop train that passed through Hutchinson, Kansas. They boarded the train to pass out apples and cookies. On two occasions, on my way to an army camp at Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was on such a troop train that passed through Hutchinson around midnight. Even though the hour was late, those women and girls got on the train and passed out the cookies and the apples and tried to cheer us. I appreciated that very much.

The editor of the Hutchinson News printed my story and a woman named Frances Day called me to tell me that she knew those women. I was thoroughly delighted to know that someone who had knowledge of meeting the troop trains was still alive and would be willing to meet me. My wife and I flew to Wichita and then drove up to Hutchinson, which was a big division point on the railroads. My belief is that the division point belonged either to the Missouri Pacific, the St. Louis-San Francisco, or the Santa Fe Railways. In any case, Hutchinson was a major railway division point.

Arrangements had been made to meet Frances Day, who had written me the letter, and her husband. We met them and enjoyed lunch with them. Frances appeared in her wheelchair, which her husband, Bill Day, took from the rear of their van and wheeled into the inn. Frances and Bill Day were delightful people and we promised to keep in touch with them. Many of these promises to keep in touch don’t really work out, but in this case it did. I was obliged to Frances for representing the women who met those trains in Hutchinson during the war and it was a pleasure to meet Bill Day, who was also a gunner in the American Air Force.

Upon returning home, we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day. As time went on, we found out a little more about the Days. Frances suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She plays the piano and sings at a home for the aged and sings at church as well. She has borne her burden of less-than-spectacular health with good grace. Her husband Bill has had a stroke in recent years. Both of them are wonderful people.

After we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day, each one was marked by a return postcard. The postcard gave us news of what was going on in Hutchinson, but most of all it was meant to thank us for sending each issue of the essays. We have the most recent postcard, which tells us that Frances and Bill Day are approaching 80 years and are thankful that they are still at home together.

So here is a girl who went from handing out cookies and apples to the troops during World War II to singing in church and playing for old folks, much of the time in recent years from a wheelchair. I believe it is an inspiring story and one that I wish I had known about in previous years so that I could have quoted it to Rita and Rolland. The postcard from Frances tells you all you need to know about their outlook on life. When I have said in previous writings, “Don’t look at what you have lost but at what you have left,” that is the essence of what Frances and Bill Day are doing. And so you see, this story, which started out on a morbid note, actually has a happy ending. If any of you are wandering around western Kansas and decide to go to Hutchinson, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Frances and Bill Day. Judy and I were inspired by our visit and by our correspondence with them, and I think that you will be too.

E. E. CARR
July 18, 2006

~~~

Not sure I ever expected to hear Pop describe someone as a “hater” but hey, the shoe clearly fits. That said I think it’s probably fair to cut a little slack to someone whose wife is chronically ill. If someone close to you is being hurt by something serious like that, it can definitely change your personality and make you more on-edge for long periods of time. It’s not an excuse to be an asshole to everyone, of course, but it might explain some of the other behavior.

The part about making friends with the Days made me smile. Plus it answers a very tiny mystery, namely who the “Day” column belongs to on the original distribution list for mailing the essays. Said distribution list suggests that a total of 492 essays were sent out to the Days — it seems like that friendship definitely lasted!

REFLECTIONS ON A LONG WORKING CAREER

One Sunday morning recently, there was a series of reports about mosque bombings in Iraq. One sect would try to bomb out the other sect. John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia and the head of the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, got things terribly confused. Warner, who is a mature man, confused sectarian with secular. They have opposite meanings, of course, but on two occasions Warner referred to the violence in Iraq as being secular rather than sectarian. Perhaps his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor impaired his mental capacities.

That put me to thinking about some of the people I had known during my career with AT&T, as a filling station attendant and as a soldier. Some of those people also had a tendency to screw things up when they pronounced a word.

In 1937, I finally found a job at age 15 with Carl Schroth, who managed a Mobil gas station at the corner of Clayton Road and North and South Roads in Clayton, Missouri. Carl was a veteran of the First World War and he invariably referred to himself as “yours truly.” Being new in the business world, it took me a while to figure out who yours truly was. It was simply old Carl Schroth.

Carl needed a truss or so he said. Rather than buy a truss, Carl put a plywood board down the front of his pants. In this filling station, we served some of the most exclusive residents of St. Louis County, who lived in large homes and drove expensive automobiles. They represented the cream of St. Louis society. Sometimes when Carl would go out to wait on a female customer, he would thunk his board in the front of his pants and would say to the female customer, “What do you think of that?” I suspect that the female customer did not think much of “yours truly’s” performance.

Carl was a good guy who wrote me an effusive letter when I enlisted in the US Army. There were several peculiar aspects about working for Carl Schroth. For example, he had a safe sunk in the floor under the desk in his office. After I went to work for Carl, I wondered why I had not been paid. It turned out that Carl’s employees were expected to go take money out of the safe in the floor and leave a note saying “Charlie Kosta took $12 today” or something of that sort. I never was a fan of that arrangement, but that was the way that Carl did business so it soon developed that when I needed some money, I would go withdraw it from the safe in the floor and leave a note there.

Carl Schroth also taught me about con jobs. Sometimes when I was scheduled for a day off, he would say, “Eddy, you’re too valuable a man to be walking the streets, so I want you to come to work tomorrow.” And I fell for it, at the start. So I got very few days off. Fact is – if you wanted to keep your job during the Depression – you went to work.

There is one other incident that has remained with me since probably 1938. Lake Forest is an exclusive community about a mile from Schroth’s filling station. It has very large homes and the people there drove Packards and Cadillacs, and had chauffeurs and maids. On one occasion on a very snowy night we were called to pull a large car out of a ditch in the Lake Forest subdivision. The driver had had perhaps a bit much to drink and had wandered off the road and had become stuck. When Carl told the driver of the car that it would cost him $12 or $15 to get pulled out on a Saturday night, the driver of the car agreed. When he was winched out of his position down in the ditch, he tried to stiff Carl. He said that he didn’t have $12 or $15 and that he would only give Carl $8 or $10. There were three of us there: Carl Schroth, Charlie Kosta, and myself. None of us believed that this gentleman was as broke as he claimed. When it was finally determined that this man wanted to cheat us, Carl simply reached into the car and released the emergency brake. Charlie Kosta was on one side of the car, Carl was on the other, and I was at the radiator in front of the car. Without a word being said, Carl and Charlie began to push the car right back into the same hole from which it had been pulled. When I discovered this was taking place, I joined in that effort. This is called restoring the status quo ante.

We got into our tow truck and drove off. The driver of the car had to find another tow truck operator late that night, which I doubt that he could have done. Presumably he went back to his host’s house and slept there, but that was no concern of ours. We had been stiffed and we had our revenge.

After I went to work for AT&T in St. Louis, there were two or three characters who made an impression on me, and not a very good impression. The first was George Knickerbocker who persisted in pronouncing every letter in the word “miscellaneous.” George pronounced that word as “mis – kell – aneous.” He is also the man who invented the term “pestimistic.” He simply inserted a “t” where none should have existed.

Close by was a fellow named Ken Greenleaf. Ken always pronounced the word “architect” as though the emphasis was on the first four letters. He pronounced that word as “ARCH – itect,” not as “ark-itect.” Ken also became angry one time and wrote a letter to “the editator” of the  St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Near George Knickerbocker’s desk sat a milquetoast named George Kern. Kern had very slim shoulders and a very slight build, but all during the 1930s and 40s, George Kern had been a member of the National Guard, working toward the 20 year retirement plan. The only thing imposing about George Kern was his mustache, which was sort of like that worn now by John Bolton, the Ambassador to the United Nations. It was full and bushy. George was a complete and absolute milquetoast if there ever was one. Yet all during his service with the National Guard, he had become a lieutenant or a captain or something like that. For AT&T, George was simply a low level clerk. At the end of World War II, George presented himself upon his return from military duty as a Brigadier General in the US Army. I suspect that if the Germans had known that George Kern was one of our Brigadier Generals, they would have died from laughter.

About a year after I went to work for AT&T, World War II came along and I enlisted in that effort. One of the fellows I met in Africa was named Merle Yocum. His wife’s name was Elmira. They were Iowa hog farmers. It always struck me that Iowa hog farmers ought to have proper names such as Merle and Elmira.

Elmira had a desire to keep Merle up to date so she sent him the newspapers from their local press. Military etiquette demanded that anyone receiving a newspaper should leave it in the latrine where it could be read by other soldiers. The Merle Yocum newspaper was read extensively, particularly when some of the hogs became, I believe the word is, “in foal,” which means that the hogs are going to have some little piglets. We followed the hog’s pregnancy with great anticipation, all thanks to Merle and Elmira Yocum. By the time we read the news, those piglets were out of the diaper stage, I suppose.

My last assignment overseas after coming out of combat was at an airbase in Accra, which is now the capitol of Ghana. It was a British base which the Americans used for their air transport command operations. Soldiers who worked at this base were like soldiers throughout the world. They tended to demean other soldiers by telling them that they were ugly and unattractive to females. There is no harm meant whatsoever; it just simply flows with being a soldier that other people are not to be praised.

Ordinarily when a soldier is told that he is ugly, he will respond by saying, “You’re not so pretty yourself,” or things of that nature. In one group of American soldiers, there was a man who had come to this country relatively recently. He was of Russian origin. I do not remember his name, but for purposes of this essay let us call him Ivan. Ivan did not understand the nuances of the English language, having only recently been introduced to it. There was one occasion when Ivan was told that he was ugly and instead of responding as the ordinary American soldier would do, he attempted to use an American expression that he had mangled, much as John Warner mangled the secular/sectarian reference. When Ivan was told that he was ugly, he replied, “You don’t like my face, piss on it.” This occurred while two men were on a workstand several feet above the ground working on an engine. They came fairly close to falling off from laughter after Ivan’s remark.

I had not thought of the incident involving Ivan for 60 years or so, but credit John Warner with bringing it back to mind.

Now we move to two individuals, one of whom was the meanest man I ever knew in the Bell System and the other was probably the dumbest person I have known in my life. Let’s take the meanest man first. The Bell System, when I was hired, was basically an organization of electrical engineers. They had the mistaken belief that electrical engineers could perform any function with great distinction. Consequently, they assigned engineers to run the personnel department, the public relations department, and so forth. My recollection is that perhaps some of the accountants were also engineers. They did not try to perform legal functions, which were reserved for lawyers.

The meanest man I ever knew was Henry Killingsworth. He was the executive in charge of the Long Lines Department where I worked. Long Lines had to do with interstate calling and international calling as well. Killingsworth was mean for the sake of being mean. He was a small man in stature. Perhaps that may have accounted for his meanness. There are two examples that I will cite for Henry Killingsworth.

At Christmas time it was the custom for the head of the Long Lines Department, a Vice President of AT&T, to write a letter to all employees wishing them happy holidays and expressing hope for the future. That was not Henry Killingsworth’s style. He used the Christmas letter one year to record the thought that “We have to take up the slack in the trace chains” from now on. This meant that everybody had to work harder and Henry Killingsworth reserved the right to pay them less. To write a letter at Christmas time saying that we had to take the slack out of the trace chains infuriated all of us. Taking the slack out of the trace chains refers to a plow being pulled by a team of mules or horses. We were working as hard as we could and Killingsworth’s letter simply brought to mind visions of a slave master whipping his employees.

Henry Killingsworth had a mean streak that was quite wide. On one occasion in St. Louis, two executives who had wood-paneled offices with secretaries, angered him. When we moved from St. Louis to Kansas City as part of a big reorganization, Henry Killingsworth saw to it that these two people, Bill Haywood and Chester Hotz, were punished. The secretaries and the wood-paneled offices disappeared. They were placed out in the bull pen at steel desks. Clearly their careers were over and they were men in their forties. Parenthetically, it should be noticed that both Haywood and Hotz died from heart trouble within 18 months after their demotions.

There was a gentleman in New York City who worked for Long Lines named Larry Pierce. Larry was a commander in the American Legion and each year he sold poppies on Memorial Day. Killingsworth required Larry Pierce to come to him every year to seek permission to sell the poppies. In any other case, Pierce would be told to go ahead and sell the poppies and don’t bother with coming to ask the big boss. But the big boss had to have Larry Pierce come in and plead with him.

During the time in question, there were nuns who sat at the top of the subway steps which were located within the Long Lines building. The nuns bothered absolutely no one. They simply had a basket into which contributions could be made and the most I ever heard them say was a murmured “Thank you.” The nuns were absolutely harmless.

On this occasion, when Larry Pierce went to see Killingsworth about selling his poppies for Memorial Day, Killingsworth heard Larry Pierce out and then said “Hell, no” to the idea of selling poppies. Then he added, “And while you are at it, get rid of those God damned nuns.” So you see, I believe I am right in stating that Killingsworth was an abominable person, given to bullying and destroying other people’s happiness.

Well, so much for Henry Killingsworth. Now we turn to another Vice President, named Ben Givens. Ben started as an assistant vice president and after a time in a reorganization he was upgraded to a full vice president. He served in what we called the “Washington office,” which was our official terminology for the AT&T lobbying effort. I worked for Ben Givens for three and a half years, and during that time Givens never gave me any instruction whatsoever. There were other vice presidents from New York who came to Washington to talk to me because of my previous labor work, who asked me to accomplish certain things, but Givens was not among them. In any event, Givens was given to malapropisms. For example, he always referred to rare items as “iters collectums.” During the time that I worked for Givens in Washington, there was a saloon known as Duke Zeibert’s, which was supported raucously by Redskin football fans. I once wandered in to Duke Zeibert’s to see what the excitement was all about and ordered a luncheon meal. It may have been among the worst I ever endured in Washington. Duke Zeibert’s was a saloon, no more no less, which appealed to Redskin fans who apparently knew absolutely nothing about cuisine.

In any case, when Ben Givens referred to that saloon, he made hash out of its name. He called it “Zoot Diebert’s” and some other combinations that brought to mind the idea of “iters collectum.” After I returned to New York, I had occasion to pass through the Washington office and went in to talk to Givens to pass the time of day. Givens’s wife had died about a year earlier and on this occasion he went over to the far wall of his office where a picture was mounted on the wall which measured perhaps two feet by three feet. Givens was also a golfer who seemed to believe that all of the people that we were lobbying in Washington were equally nuts about golf as he was. He played at the Congressional Country Club, which he viewed as the epitome of all golfing establishments in this country. Givens told me that on either the eighth or the ninth green at the Congressional Country Club, his recently departed wife would put in an appearance. He pointed to the picture on the wall and said that she appeared to him as an apparition of about that size. He said that they talked to each other about how he was doing and what was happening to the furnishings in the house and apparently the two must have enjoyed a very real conversation. My eyes were rolling while Givens related the story of his conversations with his departed wife. In the end Givens retired and, of all things, became a bishop in some sort of Protestant church. He lived to be ninety years old, at which time he died and so he and his wife can now enjoy their conversations in person rather than at the Congressional Country Club.

We will close this essay with a couple of stories involving reminiscences from the American Army. Not long after I had enlisted in the Army, I was sent to the Embry-Riddle School for Aeronautics in Miami. Because of the urgent need to train many of us as aerial engineers, we were assigned to both day and evening classes. During the day we would march around a little bit, and at about three thirty or four we would start our work as aerial engineers in training. Because we were working in the dark after the sun went down, we had to make accommodations for that fact. At that time of course every airplane was driven by propellers which were mounted in front of the airplane itself. To see if the engines were operating properly, it was necessary to start the engines and to “run them up” to see how their performance was doing. This posed a problem in safety which our instructors were always careful to point out to us. One instructor in my group told us that if we backed into a rotating propeller, it would make “hamburger meat” out of you. I had no intention of sticking my backside into a rotating propeller, but I thought that the hamburger meat was a tautology of considerable importance. And so for more than 60 years, I have always endured the thought that one should not square off with an airplane propeller because it would make hamburger meat out of you.

All of us survived the training on the night shift without being made into meatloaf.

Early in my career as a soldier, there were endless days of marching back and forth on a dusty field in Las Vegas, New Mexico – not Nevada. The field was dusty, the barracks were dusty and so was the mess hall. In any case, there was a person who had identified himself as a former member of the United States Army who was assigned to help train us in our marching. He instructed us on forward marching, on marching to the left and right, and on such things as oblique marching. Somewhere along the line, this drill instructor became confused and I spoke up in an effort to help him with his work. The drill instructor absolutely leveled me with his retort, which has stayed in my memory since the summer of 1942. The drill instructor said to me, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.” I am here to tell you that indeed soldiers do not get paid for thinking. They get paid to go do what they are told, and what they are told is usually some directive from a politician.

Colin Powell is perhaps among the prime examples of the “you don’t get paid for thinking” dogma. Colin Powell knew that the adventure into Iraq was absolute folly yet he kept his peace and did as he was told. Powell could have resigned in protest or he could have leaned all over Bush in an attempt to avert this disaster in Iraq. Yet, Powell went along and the most dramatic thing that he said was the story about the Pottery Barn rule that if you break it, it is yours. And so you see that my admiration for generals in the American Army is very limited.

Indeed and in fact, soldiers don’t get paid for thinking. They get paid for carrying out orders, including those that result in their deaths. I regret that these are the facts that cannot be changed.

A final note here. For the last 13 or 14 months of my overseas tour, I was serving in Accra in what used to be called the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is now called Ghana. They ran off their British conquerors and they are now on their own. Most of the people in the section of Accra where I served spoke the Ga language. It seems to be a happy language. I learned only one phrase. It is “i-ee-ko.” It was years before I found out that “i-ee-ko” means well done. On the other hand, the Ghanians actually use it as a greeting. They would walk by our barracks where the natives were working and would shout “i-ee-ko” and the fellows who were working around the barracks would respond with the same remark.
“I-ee-ko” is a gentle reflection of the Ghanian people. I am sorry that I learned no more than that small phrase. But it served me well when three refugees from Ghana appeared in our local market. We all regard each other as friends and indeed Daniel Commodore, his English name, said that when I come around, he feels like his father is visiting. I regard Daniel’s remark as the highest compliment available.

Well, these are reminiscences from a long career and they were triggered by John Warner not knowing the difference between sectarian and secular. I enjoyed recalling some of these events because most of them were pleasant. The Killingsworth expressions were abominable, as he was. I suppose it is true that old men like to reminisce. It seems to me that that’s what memories are made of. So I enjoy recalling the incident about the Russian soldier who was told that he was ugly just as I enjoy recalling Merle and Elmira Yocum’s pig farm. These are not monumental thoughts of course, but they please me, which is, in this case, all that is necessary.

E. E. CARR
March 18, 2006

~~~

My favorite Killingsworth essay is here. I wonder if one of his decedents will find this site someday. If by some SEO miracle this happens, feel free to leave a comment!

Man, so many of the quotes referenced here come up or are more fully investigated in other essays, but short of appending a big list of related essays in the comments, there’s not a great way to easily navigate you around. I think that after all these are done, I’m really going to rethink site navigation as a whole to make it more useful.

ANNETTE, MILDRED, OPAL AND ESSIE | A Retrospective on Women

This is an essay about the unfairness’s that life seems to have reserved for women. In nine years of writing essays, this is the fourth essay on these meaningful inequities.

As I set out to write this essay, lines from two songs come to mind. The first is from a traditional folk song called “The Waggoner’s Lad.” It says,

“Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind,
They are always controlled, they are always confined.
Controlled by their parents until they are wives.
And slaves to their husbands for the rest of their lives.”

The second thought that comes to mind as this essay is started is a line in the Eric Bogle piece called, “There Must Be A Reason For It All.” There is a counter melody sung by a tenor to Bogle’s baritone voice which holds, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t make it that way.”

In sum and substance, the unfairness’s that are visited upon women seem to be nobody’s fault. That’s just the way it is. I suspect that if men were to undergo the unpleasantness of menses, childbirth, menopause, hysterectomies, spinsterhood and being widows, there might be a more intense effort on the masculine side to even things up. But that is not the way it is.

In this essay, I propose to tell you about four women I have known who bore their trials with great good grace. The first one is Annette Anderson, a secretary who worked for AT&T in its Overseas Headquarters in New Jersey.

As I recall it, Annette was a divorcee with two or three children. Working in suburban New Jersey meant that she had to own and drive a car to get to work. After a time, the oil in the crank case of every car must be changed. I am more or less an expert on draining crank cases because I spent four years as a youngster working in filling stations when it was a practice to change the crankcase oil every 1,000 miles. In my career, such as it was, I suspect I may have drained as many as a thousand crank cases.

Usually, when I drained crankcases, I had a hydraulic lift inside the garage to raise cars up to chin level. When the plug is removed from the crankcase, there is a surge of oil that must be caught and drained into a barrel. It is a job that requires work clothes rather than dress clothes.

In Annette’s case, economic circumstances conspired to require a less expensive means of draining the crankcase oil of her car. She once told me that she lived on a dead end street. When it was time to change the oil, she would drive the front wheels of the car over the curb and park it so that the front end of the car was higher than the rear end. Annette was a pretty woman with blonde hair. She was also slender. When oil changing time came, she would bundle her hair in a scarf, don old clothes and wiggle under the car to unscrew the crank case plug. Her tool was an end wrench. She took a bucket under the car to catch the oil as it drained from the crankcase. When the oil had drained, she replaced the plug and wiggled her way, with the can with five quarts of used oil in it, out from under the car.

I have drained enough crankcases to know that Annette’s method was a primitive one. But with children to feed and secretarial salaries being what they were, this is what Annette had to do. As an old automobile mechanic, I considered Annette a bit of a heroine. I have not seen or talked to her since 1984. I hope she is well and now has enough income to take her car to a proper garage where the engine oil can be changed by a mechanic.

Now we have a case of Mildred Simon, a supervising force clerk in the Chicago traffic office of AT&T. Each day Mildred would arrive in the office around 7 A.M. and would count the tickets from the prior day’s traffic. Chicago was a big hub in the AT&T network, so there were many tickets to count. Mildred had two helpers for this purpose. The object was to make sure that each ticket was billable which meant that it had to be classified properly. There was also the matter of straightening out any handwriting mistakes.

Mildred Simon was always a most cheerful person. One way or another, I discovered that Mildred had suffered a terrible accident as a child and had lost both her legs. At this late date, I cannot tell you whether the legs were lost below or above the knees but in any case, the loss of the legs seemed to be hideous enough. Mildred sat in the back of the office and whenever any one of us walked past her desk to enter the operating room, Mildred would smile. She knew the loss she had suffered; she was just making the very best of it.

In back of Mildred’s desk was a bulletin board. After I had adopted a child while I worked in Chicago, Mildred was always on me to bring in pictures of my little girl so that she could post them on the bulletin board behind her head. Even after I left Chicago, I sent pictures of Maureen, the little girl, to Mildred. Here was Mildred worrying about my adopted daughter, knowing that to go home at the end of the day, she had to fight the buses and the subways in the loop district of Chicago. It was no easy task even with two good legs, but Mildred had to negotiate this ordeal with two wooden legs. When it comes to heroes, or heroines, I think of Mildred Simon. I have not seen her since 1955, but I think of her often.

The third person in this essay is Opal Audrey Carr, my sister. In the Great American Depression, it was necessarily for the Carr children to go to work at every opportunity. Opal was my senior by seven years. It meant that at an early age she took a job at Joe Gonnella’s saloon on North and South Road in Brentwood, Missouri, serving drinks and occasionally singing. Opal taught herself to play chords on the piano to accompany her singing.

In addition to all of the problems of the Depression that came to Opal, she was also the object of a domineering older sister. In the end, Opal moved from the house to escape the domineering by my eldest sister. As I recall it, Opal had at least two marriages that did not work out. On one occasion, I borrowed a truck and took it to her residence to move her belongings to another location.

While I was in the Army, Opal became associated with dog racing in Florida and in Arizona. As time went on, the family heard less and less from Opal, but we knew that she was racing her greyhounds. As it turns out, she lived in a trailer in Florida and died there before her 60th birthday.

Opal was a good, generous woman. Life didn’t treat her fairly and the Depression was another burden that she had to bear. I suppose that in Opal’s case, the line about “Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind,” applies in spades. I regret that I was unable to see more of Opal. She was always good to me.

And that finally brings us to Essie who was the wife of George Carr, my father’s elder brother. All things being equal, she was my aunt. She lived with her husband and three or four of her boys in a primitive farmhouse in Elizabethtown, Illinois. That town didn’t amount to much, with the feed store probably being the primary attraction on Main Street.

In any event, on the day before Christmas Eve in 1932, a telegram was received at our home in St. Louis by my father telling him of the death of his father, William Meredith Carr. My mother and my siblings had no interest in traveling 180 miles to sleep in Essie and George’s farmhouse. I was 10 years old and I was drafted because there was no school the next day during the holidays.

As I recall it, my father was driving his 1928 Studebaker which had been his car of choice for many years. The two of us arrived in Elizabethtown late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1932. The farmhouse had no electricity or indoor plumbing. There was a well and an outhouse. Heat was furnished by the stove in the kitchen and by another potbellied stove in the living room. This was primitive living at best considering that it was a cold winter.

In the front room, as it was known in those days, there was a double bed which I assume was used by George and Essie. On this occasion however, my grandfather was laid out on that bed covered by a blanket. For a ten year old, it was an eerie feeling. Nonetheless Essie set about providing us with what was called a supper in the country, or dinner in the city. I only remember that Essie made biscuits that I thought were very nice. When bedtime arrived, Essie, still playing the hospitable hostess, made pallets on the floor in the kitchen which was probably a little warmer than the other rooms. My recollection is that I was cold all night with the covers pulled up over my head.

On Christmas Eve day, three of George and Essie’s boys had dug a grave for my grandfather. With the clay soil, and it being frozen, it was hard work. When the boys, who were much bigger and older than I was, returned from their grave digging, there was no bitching or griping. They were as gentle with me and my father as they could be. When I shook hands with those three farmers, I knew that I was shaking the hand of a workman, not a stockbroker. Their hands showed that they had worked at manual labor all their lives.

When Christmas Day arrived, I looked forward to returning to the civilized world of St. Louis. However, at breakfast, Essie knew that there were three other children of about my age. One way or another, Essie had a very small bag for each of us. In each small bag, there were four or five pieces of peppermint candy. Essie made it clear that she intended to recognize Christmas Day with presents for each of us. The peppermint, of course, was the present. That was 74 years ago, and to this day, I have never forgotten Essie’s generosity.

In 1932, in the Depression and in the country, there were no such things as dentists. When teeth arrived at the point where they were no longer useful, a strong man would tie a string around them and pull them. Essie, who was perhaps in her early 50’s, had only six or seven working teeth in her mouth. All her life she had worked hard and the labor showed itself on her face and on her body. Essie was no beauty queen by any stretch of the imagination, but the generosity in her heart knew no bounds.

On Christmas Day, Essie’s sons placed my dead grandfather in a homemade coffin and carried it to the front yard of the house to be placed upon a wagon pulled by two mules. The graveyard was about a half a mile down this rugged road which I hoped would not puncture a tire. Essie rode with me and held my hand. When we reached the graveyard, Essie’s boys and George gently lowered the homemade coffin into the grave. At that time, no one knew about the word cemetery. A graveyard was a graveyard, pure and simple.

One last thought. Essie and George and their boys lived in this primitive farmhouse which may have been a mile or two from what was known as the “hard road.” A hard road could be concrete or asphalt or even gravel. Getting to Essie and George’s house required negotiating the “unhard” road, which was nothing more than wagon tracks. All those exposed rocks could puncture tires in those days very easily. One way or another, we made it back to the hard road to start the journey to our home outside St. Louis.

I don’t recall seeing Essie after that burial, but she has always had a special place in my memory for her generosity on a cold Christmas morning in 1932.

Well there you have my thumbnail sketches of four courageous women who continued to smile and carry on even though life was stacked against them. When Eric Bogle wrote the line, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t make it that way,” perhaps he had Annette, Mildred, Opal and Essie in mind. I didn’t make it that way either, but good gracious, men have to do better to provide a level playing field for their women. Unfair treatment and inequities have gone on much too long.

E. E. CARR
December 10, 2006

~~~

He’s quoted this particular stanza a few times now, not that that’s a bad thing. But I’m not sure the particular brand of hardship it captures is reflective of modern-day feminist problems, which perhaps have less to do with domineering husbands and more to do with more entrenched social norms and imbalances.

I wonder if the choice to keep the deceased at home (and having family members dig the grave) is a function of their economic situation, or if this was typical for the time period. I’ve heard that this was a pretty common practice in the states, with some homes even having rooms that were built to accommodate the holding and viewing of dead bodies. Maybe this tradition made that generation more familiar with death, because it was kept in closer proximity and normalized a little more — as opposed to sending the dead person off to a funeral home ASAP for embalming. This effect could be compounded by mortality rates and longer lifespans, since death becomes much less of a fixture in life, and kids can grow pretty old before anyone close to them dies. Compare to Pop’s family, where several siblings didn’t make it to adulthood; I imagine that all those kids must have been much more comfortable with death (vs their modern counterparts), since it played a larger role in their early lives.

 

EHRHARDT’S DAUGHTER

For several days now, I have been thinking about one of my classmates at the Clayton, Missouri public school system. She was the only daughter of the couple who presided over the small restaurant immediately west of the Clayton High School.

She dressed plainly, wore no makeup that could be discerned and had little to say. She was certainly not part of the social circle in the Clayton public school system. I suspect that she was self-conscious in attending the Clayton school system because of the wealth of the children who were students there. In any event, permit me to tell you a little about her parents and the eating establishment they operated.

I am violating a rule here in that I am commenting for the first time about events that took place during the great American Depression of the 1930s. But this episode is about the Ehrhardts and not about me, so technically I am avoiding my own ban of discussing the Depression.

Somewhere around 1931 or 1932, the Clayton public school system erected a large additional building to house its cafeteria and chorus room. Those were on the second floor. On the first floor, it housed the classrooms equipped for the teaching of “shop” and a garage for the school bus.

There was only one school bus. It was driven by an amiable gentleman named “Shorty” Schaeffer. Shorty was a friend to all the youngsters who road his bus.

Across the street from this addition there was an ancient bungalow that housed a place for students to eat. It was a long narrow building with a sun porch in front, a larger room which must have been in former days the living room and dining room; and in the rear of the building was the kitchen. The place was owned by the Ehrhardt family.

Mrs. Ehrhardt cooked the lunches for the students, which consisted almost exclusively of hamburgers and frankfurters, as I remember it. The food was served by her husband, who had responsibility for the counter that was in the main room. The students often ate in the former sun room if the weather were inclement. In more pleasant weather, they would sit outside on the steps eating their lunches.

Some of the well-to-do children attending the Clayton public school system, including the high school, referred to the Ehrhardt establishment as “the dump.” When Mr. Ehrhardt heard anyone refer to his establishment as “the dump,” he became very angry. The Ehrhardts were doing the best they could during the Depression and it hurt him to hear the words “the dump” as it applied to his place.

The menu choices of hamburgers and hot dogs, if my memory is anywhere near correct, cost five cents each. Potato chips cost another five cents. Perhaps in later years, as we got toward 1940, the price may have doubled, but I doubt it. In any case, it was possible to eat with the Ehrhardt’s for a grand total of ten or fifteen cents.

The kids who ate at Ehrhardt’s establishment had very limited resources and could not afford to eat at the new cafeteria across the street where a complete luncheon would cost maybe twenty cents or twenty-five cents. That was clearly beyond the reach of most of the poor students. There were several students who brought their lunches to school and had no money to spend at all. Generally speaking, the children who ate at Ehrhardt’s had to eat there because, again, they could not afford the prices at the cafeteria across the street.

During all those years, I had attended the Clayton system along with the Ehrhardt daughter, who in retrospect seems timid and self-conscious. Like many of the rest of us, that daughter had trouble competing with the wealth of the rest of the students. All things being equal, the Ehrhardt daughter was non-descript. She did not stick out in her dress, or in her makeup. She seemed to just want to get from one day to the next without controversy.

On most days, the Ehrhardts asked their daughter to work at their eating establishment. She seemed to prefer helping her mother do the cooking as opposed to serving her fellow students along with her father. Working with her mother more or less prevented her from having to face the students that she considered to be her superiors.

I knew the Ehrhardt daughter for perhaps eight or ten years while I attended the Clayton school system and I can’t ever remember having a lengthy conversation with her. It was all only “hello” and “goodbye” and there were no extended remarks in between. I suspect now that the Ehrhardt daughter may have had an inferiority complex, which is not hard to understand given the fact that she went to school with so many wealthy classmates.

The Ehrhardt daughter was a good person in an unfortunate situation. There were students at the school who looked down upon those who patronized “the dump” as well as the Ehrhardt family itself. For my money, the Ehrhardts were hard-working people who were doing the best they could and the daughter was dutiful. She wasn’t beautiful and she didn’t wear lovely clothes. She was just the daughter of hard-working people during the Great American Depression. As you can see, I don’t even remember her name, but she made a distinct impression upon my mind.

I left Clayton high school at graduation time in January of 1940, and I have not seen either the Ehrhardts or their daughter since that time. For the past day or two I have been wondering whether the Ehrhardt daughter ever married or had children or had a successful career. She was simply a child of the depression, which may tell you all you need to know about her. Her father was often gruff but her mother was a loving person who extended a welcome to anyone who came to her establishment, whether they were rich or poor. I hope that the daughter took after her mother rather than her father.

And so I am sorry to tell you that she did not wind up being Miss America or winner of the Olympics in 1936 or anything of the sort. In point of fact, there is not much that I can tell you about her. But for the last day or two, thoughts about this inoffensive woman have bedeviled me. I sincerely hope that she enjoyed life after the closing of the Ehrhardt Eatery, which happened around 1945 when the street was widened.

As a matter of interest, in all the years I attended the Clayton public school system, I was never able to afford the prices at the school cafeteria. Paying twenty cents or twenty-five cents for lunch was much beyond my means. On occasions when I had a nickel or two to spare from cutting grass or babysitting, I often invested with the Ehrhardt organization. But mostly I brought my lunch in a brown paper bag which my mother insisted that I should fold up and bring home because, as she said, “They don’t give those paper bags away, you know.”

I am sorry to leave you up in the air about the Ehrhardt daughter, but if you ever see her please tell her that I send my best regards. Because that woman is now well into her eighties, treat her gently when you find her.

E. E. CARR
August 11, 2006

~~~

Whoa whoa whoa. If a hamburger costs 5 cents, chips certainly shouldn’t ALSO cost 5 cents. Cheese and meat are both a lot more expensive than potatoes! Maybe the hamburger was 8c and the chips were 2c; that would make more sense.
Anyway, 25 cents in 2017 dollars is $6.15. I can get away lunch in San Francisco for $7 sometimes; in light of that, the idea of paying 25 cents for a depression-era school lunch in Missouri seems crazy. $6.15 per kid would add up quite quickly. Ehrhardt’s prices seem a lot more reasonable — it’s a shame the kids gave them a hard time.

BLOODY NOOSE-I-NANCE

EEC dictation 11-17-05 1st DRAFT

The subject of this essay today is blindness. No circumlocutions, no euphemisms, just plain blindness. The blindness, of course, has to do with your old essay writer. As time went on during the recent series of eye operations, it became apparent that aphasia began to make giant strides toward erasing my memory of words and phases. Aphasia has to do of course with the inability to recall words.

This essay is written not as a perverse to spoil anybody’s yearend celebrations, but rather an attempt to deal with galloping aphasia in my own case.

It just so happens that the subject I have chosen is blindness because the two are, in my case, closely related.

It is not in my interest to attempt to persuade you to render any sympathy for me. Far, far from it. This essay is simply a device as a means of achieving some more mental agility which will push away effects of aphasia.

The fact of the matter is that once glaucoma takes a hold on your eyesight, there is not much you can do about it but to fight it. But in the end, if you live long enough, glaucoma may be the winner. I am the son of a blind man who lost he site to glaucoma some where age of 64 or 65 years. I am the brother of a man who lost his sight somewhere near his 60th year. I am the brother of another fellow who lost his sight near his 70th year. So the object is to outlive glaucoma but it is not always possible to do so, witness the recent events having to do with myself.

What I would propose to do today is to first welcome all of those who wish me well. On the hand, there are those who offered to say a prayer in my behalf. For those offering to say a prayer, it should be observed that, my attitude for 65 years toward religion has been one of non-belief in organized religion, disorganized religion and unorganized religion. I appreciate the thought, but it appears to me that prayers will not necessarily change things.

The thought today in this essay, is merely to account for certain factors that I had not known before blindness set in. The blind person has no series of reference compass. He does not know if the is facing east or west, north or south. It is easy for him to become confused and it is easy for him to loose his balance and fall down.

Beyond that there is the thought that things are not always what they seem to be. For example, when a room is entered by a blind person like myself, if things go well, in a series of functions, good results will occur. On the other hand, if there is some confusion, the whole deck of cards tends to fall over. For example, it has seemed to me that there are rooms in this house that occasionally have been rearranged. With the door on the one end of the room as opposed to the other end. At the same time, there are occasions that the doors that I count on to get me from one place to another do not add up, and I wind up being easily and totally confused. As things have worked out, logic seems to be the only savior. If I can locate one familiar object, say such as the dresser, then the rest of the objects tend to fall in place. But in the meantime, there is great confusion as to where I am and how I am going to proceed, simply because of the confusion generated by my lack of sight.

At the moment, I am doing fairly well in the familiar surroundings of our house. The bathrooms and the kitchen etc are well known and I can get to them with no great trouble. One the other hand, during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, builders built a large number of home called split-levels. In those split-level, there are a large number of stairways.

Some of the stairways are 6 or 7 steps. No matter how you cut it, they are stairways and they can be fallen down fairly easily. This is the second split level house that I have occupied. And it is necessary at all times to keep in mind where the stairways are located.

Venturing outside the house requires my close association with my wife Judy, who acts as my eyes. Without her, I would be pretty well up the creek without a paddle. Last Saturday we bought a white cane which is a very valuable instrument but it still does not match sight. Going outside requires unfamiliar territory to be negotiated. That is an onerous task in many cases. Being blind tends to wear the blind person down, as every second is consumed with fear of falling down or some other catastrophe. Both when I am with Judy, and the walking stick I tend to get along fairly well.

I think that by this time, you have the fact of life in my case and I am required for better or for worse to deal with it. Blindness is not an adventure as in a pregnancy, but it is a fact that has to be dealt with. All of this leads to this essay and leads me to the title of this essay and reflections on my relationship with my father.

Ezra Sr., a very proud man, was completely blind for the last 12 or 13 years of his life. The five Carr children all understood that glaucoma was an ailment that could be transmitted from one person to his children. In this case, blindness has gotten to my brother Earl. And Charley died at age 60 and thus seemed to avoid blindness. The two women involved seem to have been able to live normal lives despite acquiring glaucoma.

When my father developed glaucoma, he turned himself over to the Post brothers who operated out of Barnes Hospital, a well known institution in St. Louis. At that time, it seemed to me that surgery was perhaps the only solution in an attempt to handle glaucoma. Before long, my father’s eyes were an unsightly mess. During the Depression, my father went for quite a while without a job, through no fault of his own, until he landed a position that was to care for the grounds in a large subdivision in University City, Missouri. In spite of his ability not to see things, he tried to trim a tree at the end of his career. He said he believed that he was stepping on a limb of that tree, and of course there was no limb. He fell on his skull, fracturing it, and ended up in a hospital. That was the end of his career and for the next 11 years he was housebound.

At first, people used to come and drive him to church, but within two or three months, that came to an end. He was reduced to sitting next to his Atwater Kent and listening to the news reports. Eventually he began to listen to adventure stories about the wild west. He more or less threw himself into the action.

Ezra Senior, as I have said before, was a very proud man who treasured the life that he had left in rural Illinois. He refused to give in to city ways. When he for example, went to a small café near his house, he would order a white sod-ee, not a white soda. The name of the state that contains L.A. was pronounced Cal-i-for–nee, not California. One of my sisters attempted to make his language a little bit more modern, but every time she said something, he reverted to his former ways with greater tenacity. I stayed out of the debate about locutions as I knew where it would end.

Ezra Sr. was a man who honored his Irish forbearers, which resulted in his use of the strongest epithet I have ever heard, which resulted in the word “bloody.” When we were out driving in one of his Studebakers, if the engine talked back to us, he would say, “I’ve got to fix those bloody tappets.” Another one of his mispronunciations had to do with the word nuisances. It turns out that if George Bush, who graduated from Yale and then took a masters degree from Harvard, can say “nuc-u-lear,” then there is no reason for my father to avoid saying noose-i-nance. My old man was not without his faults, but he was a tough guy. He said about his blindness, “Yes, it’s not easy to deal with, but more than anything else, it is a bloody nuisance.”

And so I tend to take pretty much the same attitude that it is a bloody nuisance that will have to be dealt with. I am, of course , not happy about the loss of my sight but I am philosophical knowing that everything that could have been done, was done. So as a pragmatist, I intend to live as best I can, for whatever time remains, with the thought that there could be some good come out of this whole mess.

I appreciate your staying with me thorough this essay during the Holiday season. If things go well, perhaps next year we might have a more pleasant message.

E. E. CARR
November 17, 2005

ADD EARLIER:
Blindness teaches patience. And secondly, blindness has the virtue of never causing anyone to search for his eyeglasses again.

~~~

I’m publishing a draft, because:
1) it gives some fun insight into his iterative process post-blindness,
2) it’s sufficiently well-assembled to stand alone as an essay, and
3) it’s the last thing from 2005 to be published.

I think he got in the remark about not having to search for eyeglasses in a later essay, because that certainly rings a bell.

WHAT WAS THAT GUY’S NAME?

In a previous essay, I commented on the effects of aphasia, which is a stroke-induced ailment. As I mentioned in that essay, aphasia is a brain-related injury as opposed to a heart-related injury. People who have strokes often call for the cardiologist but in fact what they need is a neurologist.

One of the characteristics of aphasia is that it hurts not at all. That is to say, your arm or your leg or your head doesn’t hurt, but the hurt will only be to your confidence and your feelings of well-being. Aphasia has to do with the inability to recall names of people and other items of interest. It is quite possible, indeed it is more likely, that I can describe all of the circumstances surrounding an individual or an item of interest and still be totally unable to recall its name. That is aphasia. As I reported earlier, I could describe the NBC announcer Tom Brokaw, who wrote the book called The Greatest Generation, in great detail but I could not recall his name. At least I am a civilian with no great responsibilities any more but it would be catastrophic if I had aphasia were I to be a druggist. For example, I would mix up a prescription and put it in a bottle; a customer would come in and I would tell him to take two in the morning but I can’t remember his name. He might tell me that what I had prepared for him was an aspirin. That’s fine with me, but I couldn’t recall it.

Another aspect of aphasia is that highways with numbers on them are a blur to me. I can’t really recall the difference between Highway 78 or Highway 80 or any other highway anymore. All of this goes to say that I would not be a great guide to lead you around this part of the country or any place else. Another aspect of aphasia is that I frequently forget its name. In addition to that, I frequently forget the name of glaucoma, the ailment that has taken my sight. As I say, aphasia hurts not at all but it is a problem to be forced to ask my wife or my friends, “Who was that fellow?” or “What was the name of that highway?”

One of the few benefits of aphasia is that the people at the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute told me to write essays as a means of stimulating my brain activity. At this point, I suspect I have written perhaps 200 such essays since 1997. For unknown reasons, I have never enumerated them all. They are in binders behind my desk and the totality of the binders suggests that perhaps 200 have been written. But nonetheless aphasia offered me the opportunity to be instructed by Shirley Morgenstein who remains as one of my treasured friends.

In preparing for this essay, I had forgotten the name of the Kessler Institute and had to be reminded by my wife. Earlier this evening I wrote a letter to William Rudin, the man who bought 32 Sixth Avenue where there is a plaque honoring the dead from World War II among Long Lines employees. I remembered Rudin’s name but of all things I forgot for a time the name of one of the dead men who sat within seven or eight feet of me and whom I knew very well. His name was Bernie Wheeler and he was killed shortly after the war started because he was an army reservist who was called up immediately.

I have been writing essays as you can see since 1997 and I suspect that if I had not written essays, my ability to recall names probably would be much worse. Nonetheless, recalling names of people or places or things still poses a problem. On the other hand, there are names that come to me almost instantly from people I knew not very well at all. For example, I have known Tom Scandlyn for 48 years. Over that span of years, I met his wife perhaps five or six times. Nonetheless I can recall Naomi Green, her maiden name, almost instantly yet I can not fish out the name from my mind for the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation. Please go figure.

My advice to all my readers is fairly simple. If you wish to avoid aphasia and all of its attendant disabilities, please do not lay yourself open to having a stroke. On the other hand, if you are ever afflicted with aphasia, I will welcome you to the club, providing I can remember your name. And as I said at the outset of this essay, aphasia doesn’t hurt at all. There are no aches or pains or anything of the sort. You may become insane from not being able to recall a name but that doesn’t qualify as something that hurts. Again, my advice to you if you wish to avoid aphasia is to avoid having a stroke. But on the other hand, my neurologists have been lovely women. So there may be some benefit after all.

While I am in a state of I am going to torture my baseball playing grandsons by asking them if they know who had the names of “Big Poison” and “Little Poison” and the Detroit pitcher called Eldn Aucker. Those three fellows played major league baseball in the 1930s and 40s, and my grandsons will go nuts trying to figure out who they are. For the private information of all of my readers, Big Poison and Little Poison were Paul and Lloyd Waner, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Eldn Aucker was the submarine pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who pitched in the 1940s and perhaps the early 1950s. It will be a pleasure for me to watch somebody else trying to figure out who that name represents. Those two baseball playing kids may develop juvenile aphasia, which will be my contribution to the lexicon of neurology.
==========================

While we are in the business of extending remarks from previous essays, I thought that it would be well to extend remarks on the essay written earlier having to do with old time language. You may recall that was the essay where my mother, upon learning of the death of my father, commented, “I reckon he was plumb wore out.” As soon as the mailings were taken to the post office, four more thoughts occurred having to do with ancient English language that I had not thought of before. For example, if a lawyer stands up in front of a jury and says, “I aim to prove this man is innocent,” he means “I intend to prove this man is innocent. Intend has apparently simply replaced aim in the American language. There is another aspect here. My parents would consider the word “cemetery” an upscale word. Ordinarily they always referred to what we now call cemeteries as the graveyard. It is hard for me to understand why graveyard was replaced.

Finally, there is the matter of dinner and supper. For example, Tom Scandlyn invited Judy and me over to his house for lunch. In old-time English, my parents and his parents would have referred to the noon-day meal as being dinner. The meal that is eaten at the close of the day is called supper. I suspect that Tom will agree with those designations.

As time goes on, I suspect that more words will pop into my mind having to do with latter day substitutions for perfectly adequate words that existed in the old days. If that happens, I will try to keep you informed.

E. E. CARR
May 17, 2006

~~~
As a fun fact, it seems like this essay never finished its editing process; it wasn’t sent to Pop’s normal mailing list. It featured a few edits from Eva that indicated that it was still incomplete. However, it was the only one I could find that hadn’t yet been put on the site. I’m away from my normal computer where I track all these sorts of things (I’m at a wedding in Austin) so it was surprisingly difficult to locate a new essay to publish, so here we are. I’ll be double checking when I get back that I haven’t somehow missed a year full of essays or something, but from the looks of it this project may soon be complete. Strange for me to think about — I’ll write more on that when it happens.

THE EFFECTS OF APHASIA

There are those in academia who claim that knowledge of Latin gives a student a major leg up when it comes to understanding other foreign tongues. I am a great dissenter from that viewpoint. Latin is of no value in deciphering some of the world’s major languages, such as English or German, or any of the languages of Eastern European groups or of the Asiatics, such as the Japanese or the Chinese. It seems to me that Greek counts most when dealing with non-English words. Take Aphasia. The Greeks say it is the loss or impairment of the power to use words usually resulting from a brain lesion. As far as can be determined now in the 21st Century, the Latin speaking academicians had no word for it. Only the Greeks. So stay with the Greeks.

I have no claim to academic credentials. The Clayton Missouri Public Schools had me as its student through all 12 grades in their system. John Bracken was Clayton’s long time superintendent of schools. They taught Latin, but as far as anyone can remember, they taught no Greek at all. At Clayton, Latin was a subject of great disinterest to me as I avoided study of that dead language. I had no interest in being a priest. On the other hand, after I left school and began to work in filling stations, it was my lot for Tallis Liacoupoulus, a Greek who worked in a small nearby restaurant, to become one of my best friends. He worked for an uncle, Leon Antonapolus. His family spoke Greek among themselves and with my being curious, they would sometimes explain Greek words or sayings to me. So when it was time to join the United States Army, I knew a little about Greek speech and virtually nothing about Latin and I wound up in Italy.

The definition that the Greeks used to describe aphasia is quite accurate insofar as it goes. Clearly, those who experience aphasia will find their ability to use words impaired, and they will have their pride tested. Sometimes the impairment is greater and there are times when the brain simply refuses to function. And there are occasions when an aphasia impaired person has a thought in his or her mind, but it is delivered in a garbled fashion. On other occasions, the aphasia affected person will not enter a conversation to express a thought because it may be forgotten by the time he or she wishes to speak. And there is more which I will try to describe in this little exploration into the effects of aphasia. That is what this essay will attempt to describe.

Since late November, 1997 when I had a major stroke, aphasia has been my constant companion. Fortunately, the stroke did not impair any of my limbs. It seems that the main result of the stroke was the brain lesion which caused, in the beginning, a severe dose of aphasia. So I have wrestled with aphasia for the past five years and I expect it will be with me the rest of my life. So those are my bona fides to comment on the effects of aphasia. I did not plan on becoming a commentator on what causes aphasia. I am not qualified to do that. In my case, it just happened. Now it is my continuing intent to defeat and subdue aphasia rather than having it the other way around. In the main, after five years of trying, I think my efforts have been fairly successful.

When it becomes apparent that the stroke sufferer has lost the power to recall words, there is a chance – or perhaps I should say a danger – that he or she may simply remain silent. This is a matter of pride. There is the embarrassment factor at work here. Forgetting words and concepts is an embarrassment. An even greater embarrassment is to have the stroke sufferer deliver his comment in a garbled fashion. The mind may have a strong idea of what needs to be said, but the tongue mixes up the subject and the predicate so that the comment is very difficult to understand.

For example, at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, while the staff had me in intensive care, there were six or eight other bodies in this small room. It became very warm there so the obvious solution was to turn down the thermostat. I knew what the problem was, but it was impossible for me to express that thought about being hot – or cold for that matter – in any fashion. And thermostat never entered my mind. Finally, a nurse came by and I drew her what looked like a thermostat facing and I showed her how if I moved the imaginary needle to the right, sweat would appear on my brow. Moving it to the left caused me to shiver. She got the idea, but in that whole episode, I couldn’t think of the words “thermostat” or “warm” or “cold.” Having to use a crude drawing might possibly be an embarrassment, but I waded in and let any embarrassment take a back seat.

There is another factor at work here having to do with the intrusion of a word or words that make no sense whatsoever. Let’s say that “carnival” weighs on your mind, as some of these nonsense words often do. And let us say that today, a waiter asks you about your order for lunch only to be told that, “I would like a hamburger and a carnival.” There are dozens of nonsense words that I had to purge before I spoke. In any case, this is another reason to remain silent rather than to risk embarrassment. Pride again.

The dictionary definition of aphasia as we said earlier, is the loss or impairment of the power to use words. Man, that’s only the half of it. What do you do when your brain completely shuts down or goes on strike? In some cases, the better off aphasia sufferer will search for a synonym. Let’s say he can’t think of the word “watch.” If his brain is at work, he may say “timepiece” or “Timex” or “Movado.” But when your brain simply shuts down completely, there is a period of silence which is a major embarrassment. In my case, there is a background of labor negotiations, lobbying and speechmaking where it was necessary to have a quick response to everything. When my brain occasionally shuts down, even at this late date and even at my age, I feel embarrassment. I understand embarrassment. And I comprehend pride.

Perhaps what is more embarrassing is to forget the subject under discussion. This may not happen much anymore, but when there are allied subjects to the main subject, it is a real problem to remember what points B, C and D are when they are ready to be broached. Losing a train of thought can happen very easily and it has not much to do with the impairment of the power to use words. It has to do with forgetting and losing the train of thought. Again, it is an embarrassment even if it happens in private.

This happens often in writing. My handwriting is about like other peoples, I suppose. Sometimes, I will have a thought and it is urgent to write it down before it is forgotten. This results in words that are misspelled or words that make no sense at all. Before the stroke well into my 75th year, I could easily retain those thoughts until they could be written and recorded. After the onset of aphasia, it is important that the thoughts be recorded quickly before being forgotten. As I said earlier, not being able to recall a word is only the half of it when it comes to aphasia. Forgetting is a major problem.

Now we come to the issue of concentration. Since aphasia became a major factor in my life, I find that it is urgent that all my powers of concentration be applied to the subject at hand. When it comes to reading stock tables, it is often difficult for me to remember which letter follows what other letter. “M’s” and “N’s” are good examples. Locating Comcast, for example, is a bit of a problem because it is necessary for me to sound out the word and to realize that it is “Comcast,” not “Concast.” Before aphasia, I never had that trouble. This same problem applies to looking up words in the dictionary or names in the telephone directory.

If I had trouble with the alphabet in reading stock tables, looking up words in the dictionary or dealing with the telephone directory, it all pales in comparison with my bank statements. I never claimed great expertise with numbers, but aphasia really threw a monkey wrench into the gears. All I am talking about is a simple checking account. In a month, perhaps I would write 25 or 30 checks. But when Chase sent me a monthly statement, I knew that a major battle was about to be joined. I am doing much better now, but I still look forward to the arrival of the monthly statement with a degree of distaste and I blame the lingering effects of aphasia for this outlook.

Now a little more about concentration. When driving my car, I never use the radio because it would impact my concentration. As a flyer for the U. S. Army Air corps – later the Air Force – we were trained to listen for noises that might presage engine trouble or for the sound of bullets hitting the plane’s skin. Those factors do not apply anymore, but I am not casual about driving a car. It is important that concentration be applied so that I don’t forget what I am doing. It goes without saying, that cell phone usage does not ever occur in my car. Another long term effect of aphasia.

I find also that words spoken by other people during a TV newscast, for example, are distracting. My concentration on the newscast is broken by the distraction which all goes to show that with the after effects of aphasia, it is largely possible to do one thing at a time – but not two or three things at a time.

Related to concentration is this thought. In a complex sentence where two or more people are involved, it is often difficult for me to determine who did what to whom if the account goes on in great detail. In my letters and essays, I usually deal with only one subject at a time. When I attempt to bring in other characters in an effort to make the account more concise or to save space, even I am unable to tell you who the “he” or “she” is in the concluding lines in the sentence structure. For example, in the attached story by Sam Dillon in the New York Times, I read only a part of the story before I was lost between Father Anderson of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the man who claimed he had been sexually abused, Mr. Andreas. Perhaps if I subscribed to the Catholic faith, I might be able to distinguish between the litigants, but the lingering aspects of aphasia makes it not worth my while to figure out who did what to whom and who is the litigant and who is the defendant. For not understanding Sam Dillon’s story, I am prepared to spend the centuries after my demise in Purgatory. Serves me right for getting aphasia, which was invented by Satan himself.

In the foregoing paragraphs, I have told you some of the reasons for doing nothing about treatment for aphasia. Embarrassment and discomfort with the effects of aphasia are significant factors. Pride is sometimes the major factor. I know that from first hand experience. But those factors are of no consequence when the cost of doing nothing is considered. The overwhelming factor is that doing nothing is not an option. It is not an option to say that overcoming aphasia is too much work or can’t be done. Simply put, it has to be done. Certainly, it is hard, hard work and no one else can do it for you. Early in my aphasia experience, Shirley Morganstein, the Director of Speech Therapy at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, gave me a homework exercise that she thought would take ½ an hour or even one hour. I spent eight hours on that little project. I’m glad I did, but that homework assignment tired me greatly.

As soon as Overlook Hospital released me, Judy and I made a beeline for Kessler. During my two weeks in Overlook, some women who claimed to be speech therapists came to my room and gave me exercises. For example, name 12 vegetables or 10 automobiles makes. They took advantage of my being a prisoner of the hospital and attempted to sign me up for longer term work once I had gained release. Judy and I – mostly me – were put off by their high pressure tactics. So a day or so after leaving Overlook, we were in Shirley Morganstein’s office and she agreed to take me on as her student.

Shirley is a no-nonsense director and teacher who has no patience with people who show no sign of trying to help themselves. Failure to bring homework to the session would result in an imposing demonstration. I made sure to do what I was told even if it took eight hours to do what others would consider a half hour task.

Not long into the three days a week therapy sessions with Shirley, she suggested that I write essays. Our next meeting was on December 8, 1997. That day is of some significance to me because in Italy in 1943, I was shot down. In 1953, my wife at the time and I adopted a little girl. And, our second daughter was born on December 8 in 1956. So that date has some significance to me. In my first essay, I wrote about what that day has meant to me.

Because I had sessions with Shirley on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it kept me hopping to deliver three new essays a week. I am not sure that Shirley demanded three new essays a week, but that’s what I gave her. Shirley traces her ancestry to Poland and Rumania. I had no idea of that fact as I began to write of my travels in Europe. When we got into the essays and I showed her my many souvenirs and my multiple passports, I suspect that Shirley became interested in what I was describing. After she told me about her ethnic background, I took her an ancient Polish flag in a small frame as well as a doll from Rumania.

In the five years since I finished at Kessler, my guess is that about 350 pieces of prose, including dozens of essays and countless letters and e-mails, have been written at this desk. Some are better than others, but there is a hidden ingredient in the written word as opposed to the spoken word. When an aphasia afflicted person is writing, he can take his time about the right word or the right phrase. Perhaps he may consult dictionaries or other reference works to find the right word or phrase. Or he may ask his wife. There is no immediacy to getting the word right and hence, no embarrassment. If my brain locks up while writing, which happens less often these days, I simply wait awhile and after some time passes, the words come back to me.

Writing is the most valuable contribution to speaking orally for me. If I have written about a subject, when I speak it poses much less of a problem. Perhaps the rule ought to be that writing should precede speaking. Obviously, that is not always possible, but writing helps immensely when speaking.

Shirley of Kessler is nobody’s fool. She had no idea whatsoever that I could write an essay. I knew I could but Shirley was completely in the dark on that subject. But in the end, writing is what brought me back from the jaws of aphasia and Shirley Morganstein is a proper heroine.

As you can see, recovery from the effects of aphasia is a long term investment that takes a lot of work. Having people like Shirley Morganstein – a tough teacher – around was a great help. And mostly, having my wife Judy to look after me and to give me thoughts of how I might improve was nothing less than crucial.

Aphasia it not the end of the world. From time to time, it frustrates me particularly when I know a word that I have used 10,000 times, will not come to my mind or to my tongue. Ah, but there are certainly worse things, so to the extent it can be done, I am inclined to laugh about it. The saving grace is that the word which won’t come to my mind or tongue this afternoon, will roll out of my mouth this evening without my even being aware of it.

Now to all those people out there who cluck their tongues and diagnose alzheimers for every word forgotten by older people, I would recommend that they be introduced to aphasia. Or perhaps they ought to talk to me or to Shirley Morganstein or to Judy Chicka. Nobody can claim that he or she is as quick as they were 40 years ago, but when I forget a word, it doesn’t mean that the alzheimers caretakers should ready a bed for me. It is a long struggle, but with the help of my friends and my wife Judy, old Ezra will do pretty well indeed. When I worked for Uncle Sam, nobody in the Army ever heard of anyone having alzheimers or aphasia. Now at this late date, this old soldier does not intend to succumb to ailments that nobody ever heard of – except for the Greeks.

All things considered, it is my hope that after reading this essay on the effects of aphasia, that you found it instructive or that you enjoyed it. On the other hand, if none of those positive factors apply, remember that when I began to deal with aphasia, I was unable to say “warm” or “cold” or “thermostat.” Those words were light years beyond my reach. The point is that with my background and with the help of professionals, I can now say pretty much what I think. A few years ago, this stroke victim was largely mute. If I can do it, if I can come back, surely other people can do it as well. Stay strong and get to work on your exercises and, in my case, on my essays.

This essay is being written for those currently suffering from the effects of aphasia, be that now or in the future. It is not written as a means of attracting sympathy for myself. I need no sympathy. In my case, I have wrestled with the aphasia tiger and I believe he has been largely subdued. So don’t waste any tears or hand-wringing for me. Save that for those who are dealing with the aphasia concern right now or somewhere down the road in the future. If those aphasia afflicted people work hard and stay strong, I am certain that they too can dispatch the aphasia tiger.

E. E. CARR
November 27, 2002

~~~

The revelation here for me was that writing about a given topic “cleared” that topic in his mind, and made it easier to access going forward. That actually seems like it might explain why he went on to double the count from 350 essays to the final count of 700+. (Fun fact, this is the 701st essay to be published to this site!) The way it’s presented, writing about these memories cleared out some mental cobwebs and let him speak more confidently about those topics going forward. I think in a more literal sense that means that these essays were re-wiring the neurons in his brain. New, alternate paths were created to access knowledge that was closed off by the brain damage caused by stroke, which is amazing. I’d imagine that raw persistence and laughing off the hard moments probably helped tremendously.

BANISHED THOUGHTS

Because of its sacredness, this is an essay that should be read in silence, preferably in a monastic setting. On the other hand, if you prefer to read it aloud in the midst of a bawdy house, there is nothing that can be done to stop that. The author would like to have the address of the bawdy house, if that can be arranged.

For all my adult life, my instincts have always led me to men and women at the lower levels of the economic ladder, who do the heavy lifting and the repetitive functions that bring prosperity to American corporations. The people at the lower end of our economy are unfortunately often people of color. No matter how you cut it, prejudice still exists in this country, particularly in the South and West. And so my instincts often lead me to people of color who suffer discrimination and who are barred from the society pages of our newspapers.

Some 60 years ago, those instincts led me to lend my support to a union of telephone workers who were being short changed by AT&T, the most powerful corporation of its day. In that case, women such as the telephone operators were prominent among those being cheated. It pleases me now that my instincts for the underdog have remained unchanged for such a long period of time.

All of this came in to focus the day that Georgia Coney, a long term friend who is a supermarket checkout cashier, made a remark about the great American Depression. The remark was made to Sue Catlett, who oversees checkout cashiers in this market and to Dale Ash, another cashier. Miss Chicka and your old author were part of this discussion group. Georgia, Sue and Dale trace their ancestry to Africa as Judy and her husband trace theirs to Ireland.

Georgia is the fourth child out of 10 of a farmer and his wife who worked the soil near Albany, Georgia. She said that as a child, in spite of the fact that her family was large and times were tough, “We never went to bed hungry.” In those Depression days, that was a significant achievement.

In the Carr family during the early and mid-1930’s, we came mighty close to not having enough to eat on more than one occasion. Holding my thumb and forefinger a quarter inch apart, this old essayist said to Dale, “We came that close several times.” John Gualdoni, a grocer, saved us.

And so the discussion was about hard times brought on by Herbert Hoover, an engineer by trade, who unfortunately happened to be president of this country. Hoover, like Bush, understood nothing about people who had to work to put food on the table. That supermarket discussion led me to deal with one of three subjects mostly banished from my memory. Aside from the Depression, the other two are the divorce of 1983, and the combat phases of my military service in World War II.

The American language has a way of evolving, adding some words that are meritorious and other words whose span of time in the language is ephemeral. In this case, the new phrase used largely by younger people to deal with unpleasant or banished subjects is to say, “I don’t want to go there.” When Bush was on one of his many Texas vacations, and was told of Osama bin Laden’s desire to target the United States, it was an unpleasant thought and Bush did not want to interrupt his bass fishing. He did not want to go there. The result was the attack on September 11, 2001 for which we were given adequate warning by Osama.

In my case, there is no desire whatsoever to relive the deprivations of the Great Depression. Similarly, there is no reason to rehash a divorce case of nearly a quarter century ago or the death and destruction which took place during the combat phase of my military service. That took place some 62 or 63 years ago. All things considered, those three subjects have long been largely and deliberately banished from my thoughts.

Recalling the events of those years is not only unpleasant, but it smacks of asking the listener or reader to feel some sort of sorrow or pity. Those reactions are absolutely the last thing that is desired. Those things happened. They are in the past. The idea is to do better so that they don’t happen again.

On perhaps the only bright note, one of the lessons of the Great Depression had to do with my schooling in the Clayton, Missouri public school system. This lesson is that things are not always what they seem to be.

In this case, the well-to-do movers and shakers of the St. Louis business community did their business within the city limits of St. Louis, but their residences were often in Clayton, a leading suburb. In this case, we are speaking of lawyers, physicians, stock brokers and business owners. Because those occupations are often peopled by those of the Jewish faith, the Clayton school system was just about equally divided between Gentile and Jewish students.

In those days, there was no official recognition of Jewish holidays. If a Jewish kid was not at school on a religious holiday, his absence was ascribed to a cold or to some other transient ailment. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the student body at Clayton was Gentile and basically Protestant. The Catholics had their own schools.

The chorus or glee club at Clayton was both Gentile and Jewish, but sang no Jewish songs. When Christmas came, Jewish students sang about the birth of Jesus in a straw hut near Bethlehem. At Easter, there may have been a song or two celebrating the alleged resurrection of Jesus. As far as anyone knows, the Jewish members of the chorus sang that religious stuff along with the Gentiles, including one non-believing left footed baritone, to use an Irish term. Georgia Walker was the music teacher. It is fairly clear that if the Jewish students failed to sing of the “Great getting up morning in the sky,” Miss Walker would tell them to sign up for a shop or a cooking class instead of chorus.

My parents were fundamentalist or primitive Christians who believed that no one could enter the kingdom of heaven until he or she had undergone full immersion baptism and had the experience of being “born again.” Because Jews lacked those experiences, they were barred from heaven and its suburbs, by all flame throwing fundamentalist preachers.

For the last twelve years of his working life, my father worked as a caretaker for a private, largely Jewish subdivision. It is suspected that he never told them they would be barred from heaven until they submitted to full immersion baptism and being born again. Remember, this was the Depression and jobs were pretty much non-existent.

But aside from failure of other faiths to reach heaven after death, my parents never tried to turn me into an anti-Semite. They were not that kind of people and they knew of my rejection of their brand of Christianity. It had to be painful for them to know of my disbelief, but they seemed to say, “We have four believers and one odd ball. Four out of five is not so bad after all.” They were wrong as my sister Opal, counted among the believers, wound up singing and serving drinks in Joe Gonella’s saloon.

Earlier in this essay, it was said that things are not always what they seem to be. The incident that came to mind was of a successful St. Louis businessman who owned a large house just across the street from the playground for the Maryland Grade School which was part of the Clayton public school system. At that time, we played with a nine inch softball which had outseams as distinguished from an inseam ball. It was believed that outseamed balls lasted longer – which was important in depressed economic times.

All this took place in the fourth through the eighth grade at the Maryland Grade School. The batter would bat at the plate near the chain link fence which ran along side the playground. On the other side of the small street, was the palatial home of an owner of a St. Louis business. His business was located on Franklin Street, that housed dozens of cheap furniture stores and stores that sold repossessed furniture.

At the businessman’s house was an officious maid who growled if one of the boys had to chase a foul ball on the rich man’s property. There was one other character in this playlet, that being a boy about our age who lived in that palatial home, who went to our school and who seemed to have colds quite often. At that age, it had never dawned on me that his colds may have been related to celebrating a Jewish holiday which was not on the school calendar.

On WIL, the St. Louis radio station, there was a program every day sponsored by “Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman.” On St. Patrick’s Day, the celebration went on for a week. Irish music always found its way onto Dick Slack’s radio program.

What Dick Slack was offering was cheap furniture and repossessed items at “Unheard of bargains.” This being the Depression, he apparently sold enough goods to buy a large house in Clayton with a maid and Cadillac and Packard automobiles and a son who attended our school.

Finally, about in the sixth grade, it dawned on me that “Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman” was not Irish at all. He was the father of the boy whose name rang no bells in Donegal. Maybe in Jerusalem, but not in Dublin or Glock-a-Morra. This is hard to believe, but old Irish Dick Slack, the man who gave everyone easy credit, was in fact, Jewish. And his kid went to school with all of the ball playing Gentiles who chased foul balls in Dick Slack’s yard.

So that one got marked off to things are not always what they seem to be. In addition, it is one of the few incidents that can be related that had any humor in it at all during the Depression. The Depression went on from 1929 to early 1942, when World War II started. That is a long time to go without a laugh or two.

And so Georgia Coney’s remark about “not going to bed hungry” caused me to violate a rule on not discussing a banished subject. That rule was also violated in 2002 when on the 60th anniversary of my enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps, an essay was written for my daughters having to do with being shot down on December 8, 1943. This was anything but a happy experience. While essays have been written here about the non-combat phases of my military experience, this is the only time that the banished subject of combat in World War II has been violated. My excuse is that it was written for two daughters who have a connection to December 8th, which makes it no more than a venial sin.

Now about December eighth. In the first case, Maureen became our daughter through the auspices of the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society. Ten years to the day from my being shot down over German occupied territory in Italy, Maureen or Old Blondie, was taken from her foster home at the age of ten weeks. Three years later, on December 8, 1956, her sister, Spooky Suze, was born. So you see, December 8th which started out so bleakly, has worked out very well.

It was my original intention to write an essay on banished thoughts and subjects. It is very difficult to write about something that has been banished and repressed. All things being equal, it is my hope that you took the Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman story to heart, because if things work out well, there will be no more of these banished disclosures. Unless, it was Dick Slack whose house was repossessed and who got shot down in the midst of a divorce involving his Hebrew, Muslim and shanty Irish wives. Now that might be worth writing about, providing his maid would permit me to do a little research on the grounds of his palatial home in Clayton, the heart of the Show Me state.

E. E. CARR
September 5, 2005

~~~

It’s pretty easy to tell at this point when an essay is gonna be a favorite. This one definitely qualified within the first paragraph. Happy late St. Patrick’s day, Mr. Slack.

John Gualdoni the grocer comes up in a number of essays. I think he’s unique to me because his profound impact on Pop’s family was such a clean-cut positive. He was generous when he didn’t have to be.

Every once in a while I think about the sheer unlikelihood of my existence and my mind always snaps at first to how little effort it would have taken from a million different directions to make me not exist. The obvious ones are not the positive factors like John Gualdoni — I’m much more likely to think about how the gunner that shot Pop down could have aimed differently or how the motorcycle that hit mom could have struck her a little more square-on. But it’s also nice to think that behind those scary one-offs which didn’t happen, there’s a whole army of people supporting one another through incredibly tough times that did support each other successfully.

And if you think about it for a second, you realize that by coincidence of your existence, you’re by definition the latest link in an unbroken line of people who have successfully had kids and raised them to adulthood in a chain that goes all the way back to the first humans. When I think of the sheer amount of cooperation that had to have gone into such an effort, it makes me feel like the John Gualdonis of the world who try to lift everyone up probably have a bigger impact on humanity than the occasional sidewalk-motorcyclist, even if the latter can sometimes be a lot more visible.

On another note entirely, I wonder if mom could tell me where “Spooky Suze” came from.