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NIFTY 50’S

The 1950’s were called the Nifty Fifties.  I remember the excitement of the 1950’s…the beginning of rock and roll, the flashy cars, the space race between the USA and Russia, the scare of being attacked by Russia, and the dawning of so many new things in technology.

The “back room” as we called it was a large bedroom for all of us boys including George, Jerry, and me at first. Later Glenn, but George had moved off by then. Sometimes at night, we would turn the lights off and watch the dancing glow of the tubes in the back of the old radio and pretend that it was a television. At that time, in 1954 when I was four years old, we knew of one or two nearby neighbors who had televisions, but we had never actually watched more than a minute or two of a show. That old radio though served as great entertainment, and to this day I can smell the hot tubes and feel the warm bakelite plastic as it heated up while playing.

Finally in 1955, Daddy went to Sears and Roebuck (He called it Sears and Rareback) and bought our first television.  He put it on the Sears revolving account but couldn’t afford a TV antenna. So our first antenna was the spokes of a bicycle wheel attached to the side of our chimney.  I think at the time I really thought it looked like a TV antenna and hoped everybody in the neighborhood could see it.

My strongest memories of that early black and white set are the Valleydale Sausage Co. pigs parading and singing “Hurray for Valleydale!”  My favorite show was “Ding Dong School” with Miss Frances. It was the early “Romper Room” or “Sesame Street” but not nearly as colorful or high-tech. Just a plainly dressed woman and a few plainly dressed white children doing some exercises in early reading and math, and some artsy things, …but to me it was a whole new world.

The 1950’s and early 60’s were scary times though in many ways. As a little boy, I had two big fears. One was  being attacked by Russia and and the other was being visited by alien spaceships. Both of those fears were real fears for many back then. Rumors continued to fly about people spotting UFO’s and that the government was covering up actual UFO landings.

I remember one night when I was alone in the back room all night. George was out of the house for a few months again, and Jerry must have been spending the night with a friend. But late that night I couldn’t go to sleep because I felt that the air was heavy with the presence of aliens.

Suddenly a red glow, a flickering red glow filled the front yard outside my bedroom. The flickering and flashing glow became more intense as the night went on. I sweated profusely as the light reflected off my bedroom window and onto my bed. As hot as it was, I finally, after about two hours of horrifying fear, decided to close my window to keep the aliens out. I surely knew the light was a landing light from a spaceship. I moved carefully, ready to quickly close the heavy wooden window. But I had to take a peek…and as I did, I saw it… a new neon light flashing at the restaurant next to Dan Hunt’s gas station on the 291 Bypass, about 200 yards from my window.

Imagine, all that sweating and fear, for nothing…

I guess the second fear wasn’t just on the minds of children, but on the minds of everyone as the war of words between the U.S.and Russia turned into a war of weapon building and threats. They called it a “Cold War”…and indeed it sent chills right through me.  And then suddenly, we learned that Russia had moved missiles to Cuba and had them pointed at the U.S … At all of us. We took the threat and the fear very personally. Every time a plane would fly over, adults and children alike would look up afraid that it may be the enemy.

Many people built, or bought bomb shelters. The Civil Defense put out brochures on how to stock and prepare a bomb shelter and suddenly everyone knew where the nearest public shelter was, at a school or public building.

Our bomb shelter was set up in the corner of our dirt basement. We had a full basement, but it was there as a utility area only to house the coal furnace and coal storage. In the corner of this basement, Mother put canned goods, jugs of water, matches, candles, crackers, and first-aid items,… pretty much set up as neatly as the Civil Defense brochure had shown. Thank goodness we never had to use it because of an attack from Russia.

No,we never had to use the shelter to hide from aliens or from the Russian bombs… But I do remember enjoying some saltines and lighting a candle down there one evening during a thunderstorm.

E.T..Phone home

The Lord says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.”  PSALM 32:8

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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

BLUE-JEAN CROSS

Eugene Cross lived near us on Worley Road. His house was right where the white folks’ houses ended and the colored folks’ houses started. His daddy, I was told, sold illegal whiskey out of his house.

Eugene was a fast-talkin’, fast cursing, little spitfire. Many of the kids in the neighborhood didn’t stand in his way when he came bullying around.

My Daddy, in his witty attempt to mispronounce things decided that “Eugene” was really “Blue-jean.” The name stuck around the neighborhood and many people called him Blue-jean.

One day when I was about 10, I was out in the side yard pitching horseshoes, when Blue-jean, aged 9, walked up donning his dirtiest play clothes. He let out a string of bad words I was sure my mother would “whoop” my tail over. He asked if he could play horseshoes with me. I had to think a brief second and decide what my options were. Say no and get a black eye, or say yes and take my odds from there.

So after about 30 minutes of pitchin’ and cussin’, Blue-jean was angry because I was winning. He became so angry that he jumped me and threw me to the ground. We rolled and tumbled a few times. I knew if he started swinging, I was “done for.” At this point he had me pinned to the ground and had my legs swung up high so that my stomach was jammed into my throat. I could barely breathe. I struggled for what seemed to be eternity and thought that I would die any moment.

I heard the front door open and my mother stuck her head out and said, “You boys O.K?”

She slammed the front screen door fast to keep the flies out and I grunted out something that must have sounded like, “Yep.”

But I really was saying, “Help!”

I decided I wasn’t ready to die. I grunted with all my might, threw Blue-jean over on his back. Straddled him on his chest, and pinned his dirty hands to the ground. Now I had him. At that age I was a little chubby and he was scrawny. If I could do anything, I could squash him with my weight!

The only problem was that if I let him go, his fast fists would drive into my face and boy did I know it. So I sat there and listened to him call me every bad name any drunken sailor might have ever said. For over an hour I sat, listened, pondered , and poured sweat. When could I let him go?   ….I decided…..never.

After an hour and a half, Blue-jean ran out of bad words.

He said softly, and without a profane adjective, “Hey man, if you let me up, I’ll go home.”

So I did, and he did. Although he lived just a few streets up the road, I rarely saw him again.

A couple of years later Blue-jean’s daddy was murdered in their home. I heard how Blue-jean went out in the yard and screamed and cried and I really felt sorry for him.

Eugene Cross was just a guy like me who wanted friends and wanted to belong. In another time and situation we could have been good friends.

But I will always remember the lesson I learned from him that hot, summer day.

If you can’t whip your enemy any other way, sit on him until all the fire is gone.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4 NIV

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

That’s What It’s all About

I saw someone post a link to a performance of Johnny Cash’s “Were You There?” hymn.

I remember a teacher singing that song in a school assembly at Parker High School in  1966. Johnny did a great job on it though…and Elvis could sing “Let There Be Peace in the Valley” until you were wiping tears… and my brother George, even after three beers did a wonderful job singing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”

So you know? It is Ok for imperfect people to sing about the Perfect Person. That’s what it’s all about. We are not perfect, and that Glory that Christ brought to us in His Birth, Life, Suffering, Death and Resurrection is what makes the whole picture of salvation.

When my wife Joy’s mother was living with us in her final months, we would sing with her. And when she told us she was ready to move on to Heaven, we sang with her every day…many hymns. We laughed and cried so much that we will never forget those songs.

At her funeral our son Anthony paid special tribute to her in song, and was able to get through it because he knew how much music and hymns meant to his Memon.

At this celebration of her life, I was speaking and posed this question;

What do people who have no faith sing to a family member who is dying?

What a shame. It breaks my heart tremendously to think of lost people…They have no song!

In the 1970’s Diana Ross had a popular song. It worked at graduation ceremonies. Maybe this is the only song a lost person can sing.

It was called “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”

Praise God I don’t have to have that one sung at my funeral.

At that time, my mom and I , along with Memon will already be singing,

“I’ve Got A Mansion.”

Hope you will come see me sometime?

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.   I Corinthians 1:18  KJV

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Gone Fishing

Our youngest grandson asked me if we could go fishing when Nana got out of the hospital. I told him we would go fishing very soon, but had to get Nana well enough for us to leave her for a few hours, which he understood.
I remember going fishing with my dad when I was a child. We would drive from Greenville to Lake Greenwood and park our ’57 Ford Fairlane near the pier and tackle shop. Dad would always rent the children a cane pole for fifty cents and we would all fish overnight. I can still hear the crickets, tree frogs, katydids and bull frogs. And I remember the mosquito bites. Mother would fish too, but some nights she would get sleepy and she and I would curl up in the car for a nap. My brother Jerry would always catch more fish than I because he didn’t take a nap time. Vienna sausages and potted meat on crackers was the night’s menu. Potted meat smeared on crackers is especially good if you have a little earthworm residue left on your fingers.

The water had a magic glow from the pier lights and I imagined what it would be like to jump in at night….something I  did later as a teenager (no parents around for that trip.)
I have a memory of when dad brought home a large catch of catfish. Mother taught me how to nail the head to a plank, cut the skin and then pull it off with pliers. Hope you are not queasy yet, because the description of gutting comes next…Quite an experience if you have never done it.

Oh well…I can still smell the smell…It never leaves your nose.

As Anthony was growing up, we took him fishing in the neighborhood pond, and Joy’s mom, Memon, later helped him learn the exciting surprises of pier fishing at the beach.

One day in about 1980 at Lake Greenwood, Memon and Anthony fished off the bank while Joy and I swam. Anthony was young enough and did not need a license.  Memon was over 60 and did not need one. When we finished swimming, Joy and I walked up to help Anthony untangle his line. While I was holding the rod for just a minute or two, a little green boat puttered up with two game wardens on board and they asked me to flash my fishing license to them.

The next day I paid my fine and learned no lesson from it.
Some things in life are just not fair, but funny years later.

“Peter. John, and James in a sailboat out on the deep blue sea”….Sing it with me now.
Are you a fisher of men?

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

No Man Or Woman Stands Alone


John Donne penned the famous “No Man is an Island” poem as a part of a sermon in the 1600’s.

I guess because it was a popular choral tune for school programs in the 1960’s, I have always liked Joan Baez’s rendition of this thought.

Her first two stanzas go like this:

No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man’s joy is joy to me,
Each man’s grief is my own.

We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.


I think the advent of social networking has brought this theory back to light. I have found great support in family, and in friends old and new on Facebook.

I saw on the news last night that there is a new diagnosis by some psychiatrist called “Facebook Depression.”
I think that we can add just about any adjective in front of depression like Sneaker Funk Depression, Cereal Choice Depression, Red Light Depression, and many others. I’m
really stuck on Red Light Depression because I see lot of people lost in thought while waiting out a  traffic light.

Anyway, let’s get back to Joan Baeaz, who was more of of social activist than a social net-worker.
Her lyrics seem to bring about a thought with which many might agree.
As I sat in oncology at the hospital yesterday I met another acquaintance who is affected by cancer. It seems we are all tied together in thoughts and prayers when it comes to
sharing the effects of a disease or disaster. I think it goes beyond, “Misery loves company.”

I think it lends more to the fact that God wants us to share and celebrate with each other whether it includes laughter or tears.

I love the company. The misery can go to people who sadly wall themselves in.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God     2nd Corinthians 4:15

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I took the Road

Walking down the road those days, looking for the easy ways,
I found there’s no give-aways, only dirt to dig.
Looking  for the only one, looking for the love and fun.
Wishing for some race to run, wishing I was big.

Dreaming up the world I’d see, Looking for that harmony
I saw thing’s that weren’t for free, only steps to climb
Looking for someone to hold, looking for escape from cold
Thinking I’d never grow old, heading down the line.

I took the road that Robert Frost said take,
The one that’s less traveled. The one without heartbreak.
I took the road that artists paint so clear
The one with all the rainbows and very few dark tears.
I took the road that led me to you my friend
So take these last miles with me,
This road, This road will never end.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Txt me Papa!

We love to watch children learn. That is why Joy and I went into education… and our son and his wife teach, as did our moms.

We especially enjoyed watching our son Anthony develop a love for music and the music industry. I was riding with him yesterday and he was playing a CD of a new project he is working on with someone famous, who I am probably not suppose to mention yet.

Our oldest grandson Jarron has developed a love of theatre and acting and can’t be stopped now. With his looks and talent…well Pops is bragging now!  He follows in the steps of his dad and me. I worked with over 100 productions over the years with wife Joy by my side involved in some way. This was mostly community theatre and school productions, but we worked with some wonderful people, some who are famous in the entertainment world today.

Now….back to learning. Our middle grandson Tabor is a diligent twelve-year-old learner and loves animals. He will likely become a veterinarian . If not, he can become anything!

Our youngest grandson Hewson texted me this week from school. (He can do this because he attends the school we own and his mom is his teacher.) He asked me if I knew who invented the door knob. He wrote me back with excitement that he had Googled and at least found the name of the man who patented the door bell. Hewson wants to become a bounty hunter! Watch out world.

It made me think for a minute. What questions would I have texted my grandfather if such a thing existed when I was ten years old. That would have been great to have had Google, Facebook, and texting to communicate back in 1960.
“Hey Papa Gravley….Did you know that Dick and Jane can see Spot run?”  Ha
The Dick and Jane readers…. Loved them…No wires attached…and I learned to read and learned to spell without technology.
C U L8DR!

BUT GOOD PEOPLE WILL GROW LIKE PALM TREES; THEY WILL BE TALL LIKE CEDARS OF LEBANON. Psalm 92:12

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Uncategorized