They Can’t Help It

Okay, Kids, this is about your Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma, Patricia Ann Lee. It was during World War II, and Pat was living with her Grandma, Maude Lee, in the small town of Eureka, Kansas. Pat’s mom, Melba Lee, was living in Wichita and working at Beech Aircraft as a “Rosie the Riveter” and supervisor.

First grade had been a snap for Pat. She had read her books before school even started, and enjoyed all she learned during that first year.

Pat was really looking forward to second grade. Her school was near home, so on that first day, Grandma Lee walked to school with her and got her settled in. It was only a couple of days before things started going sideways. It turned out that little Miss Pat had become a talker. She talked incessantly from morning to night, and had the rest of the girls talking and giggling all day long. The teacher got tired of trying to shush her, and moved her to a desk that was surrounded by boys. “I’m not sitting with boys!” she yelled. “Boys are dirty, and they stink, and I hate them.”

For the next couple of days, Pat went to school then came home and complained about the dirty, stinking boys. Then, on the way to school, she had a brilliant idea. Between home and the school, there was a lush stand of bushes. Pat ducked into those bushes and found that there was plenty of room for her, and that she was well-hidden. She settled in to enjoy her first day as a truant. At noon, she could hear the kids get out of school, so she, too, went home for lunch.

That first day went well, but was dreadfully boring. Pat took care of this problem the next day by taking books and coloring books to her hideout. Pat enjoyed this subterfuge for a couple of days, but then her teacher walked over from school and knocked on Grandma Lee’s door. After greetings were exchanged, the teacher said, “Pat hasn’t been to school for a couple of days. Is she sick?” That opened the ball, and the two women quickly figured out what was going on. “I’ll take care of it,” said Grandma Lee. “Well, what if she does it again?” asked the teacher. “Don’t worry,” said Grandma Lee. “I’ll take care of it,” she repeated. The teacher left, and Grandma Lee grabbed her yardstick, and went looking for Pat. After a few whacks, Pat decided that attending second grade might be a good idea.

I felt that it was my duty to pass this story along so you would have it for reference. If one of your kids is acting up , and your mind is filled with words like “stubborn,” “bull-headed,” “willful,” and “obstinate,” maintain your calm. You should cut them some slack. It’s in their DNA.

Dave Thomas

9/9/2021

1940 Chevrolet

The 1940 Chevrolet was a car with a much more stylish look. The 1939 models still had the roundish look that was so common in the 1930’s. The new look had some style. The running boards had disappeared, and the body had a more sleek and aerodynamic look.

On the inside, the most exciting change was that the shift lever had been moved from the floor to the steering column. You still had 3 forward gears and reverse, and it was a lot handier.

The shifting mechanism turned out to be the thing that gave the car a black eye. The engineers thought that shifting gears might be a problem, so they incorporated a vacuum assist. When the car was new, the shifter worked great. But, over time, it failed and you could hear the driver grinding gears from a block away.

In 1950, my Dad bought a 1940 model. It was in perfect condition, silver gray, and not a mark on it. By 1950, the vacuum assist for the transmission was going out. Dad could usually shift gears without making a noise, but it took all the finesse he could muster. Dad was an excellent driver and prided himself on his skill. He had driven a truck for a couple of years, hauling sand and gravel, so had a lot of miles under his belt. The shifting kept getting worse, and Dad, who hated working on cars, finally said “to hell with it,” and parked the thing in the back yard.

Meanwhile, I was working after school at Howard Motors, the local Chevrolet/Buick dealer. The head mechanic was Kenny Dickenson, who had a 1940 Chevrolet, just like Dad’s, that he drove to work. I talked to Kenny about Dad’s car, and he said he would show me how to fix it just like new. The shop closed at 1:00pm on Saturday’s, so Kenny told me to get the car down there that weekend. I went home that night and asked my Dad if I could have the car if I fixed it. He agreed and gave me the keys.

Saturday morning, I drove the car to work, grinding the gears after every stop. Right after 1:00 P.M., I drove it into the garage and parked in Kenny’s stall. We jacked up the car and Kenny showed me how to remove the vacuum booster unit from the transmission. We cleaned the unit thoroughly and used the parts from a kit to re-build it. I forget what was in the kit. It was probably a gasket and a couple of “O” rings. After re-installing the unit and adjusting the mechanical shifting mechanism, we went for a test drive. The thing shifted like a new car. It was smooth as silk. Kenny Dickenson had made my day.

The car was working so well, I was afraid my Dad might want it back. However, he found a perfect 1942 Chevy, the last model produced after WWII started.

I enjoyed driving the car for a year of so and then traded it for a 1950 Ford.

Dave Thomas

7/8/2021

Land of Enchantment

We lived in Augusta, Butler County, Kansas. During World War II, Mom and Dad worked at the White Eagle (later, Mobil) Refinery. Mom was hired in 1942. She was hired as a replacement for one of the men who had been drafted. She was placed in the chemical lab, a job previously held only by men. Dad had started at the refinery prior to the beginning of the war. Jobs at the refinery were considered to be vital to the war effort so that and the fact that he was married and had two kids caused him to be deferred from the draft. He tried to enlist, but for the reasons given and the fact that he had rheumatic fever as a youth, he wasn’t allowed.

When our folks left for work in the morning, my sister, Sylvia, and I had to leave, too. We walked the block to the high school and then crossed the school grounds to State Street where we waited under the one street lamp to be picked up.  Those winter mornings were pitch black and sometimes there was a heavy fog that made it seem even more frightening. I was only six, and Sylvia was five, so we were easily spooked.

We would stand under the street lamp and wait. Cars would be coming down State Street on the way to the refinery. Sometimes a car would stop, and we would be offered a ride. I would say “thank you” and explain that Uncle Dave and Aunt Rachel would be picking us up in a few minutes. Pretty soon, that big green Packard with Uncle Dave driving would stop for us. Then, Uncle Dave would drive to the refinery where he would stop and get out. Aunt Rachel would slide across to the driver’s seat, and take us to her home.

Their home was at 124 High Street, and they had it build in 1923. It was across from Garfield Elementary and Intermediate School which made it perfect for Aunt Rachel to babysit us before and after school.

You may be wondering why they didn’t pick us up at home. I’m wondering the same thing. It may have been that Cliff Drive was a narrow street ending in a cul-de-sac that was hard to turn around in. Or, it may have been that our folks wanted us to meet them in an easy pick-up spot and save them some effort. Aunt Rachel was probably baby-sitting for free anyhow.

Rachel Ana Wright married my great uncle, David S. Peebler, and they have been our closest relatives both by relationship and geographical proximity.

Aunt Rachel loved the Southwest, particularly New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment,” and she and her good friend, Eunice Cooper, took a number of trips to that area from the 1930’s to the start of WWII. They visited the pueblos in the south, Taos, Santa Fe, and everything clear up to Gallup.

Eunice was married to John Cooper, owner of Cooper Drugs. For the life of  me, I couldn’t remember where the Coopers lived as I prepared to write this story. I could see that 2-story purple brick house in my mind’s eye, but didn’t know where it was. I finally asked Keith Scholfield, and he reminded me that they lived on Santa Fe Street, next to the old hospital. Santa Fe Street! What could be more fitting?

Aunt Rachel and Eunice Cooper were forward-thinking ladies and ahead of their time. At a time when you didn’t see that many women driving or gallivanting around the country, they were doing a serious job of exploring the southwest. 

Eunice was a serious collector. She displayed her beautiful collection of Native American art in an alcove, located off the living room of her home on Santa Fe Street. The space looked like the area of a trading post used for the display of “old pawn.” There were squash blossom necklaces, concho belts, silver bracelets, Navajo rugs, pottery, and probably a lot of things I have forgotten. I was completely awe-struck when viewing all of it.

Aunt Rachel was a lot more conservative. She had some Navajo rugs, a Navajo saddle blanket, some baskets, and some pottery. Her favorite possessions, though, were the beautiful black pieces of pottery made by Maria Martinez. In the early 1900’s, Maria had figured out how her ancestors had made the black pottery and had perfected the technique.

When Aunt Rachel was baby-sitting us, she made sure we were entertained. We played Chinese checkers, Old Maid, and other games. The best times, though, were when she told about her travels. She would unfold the Navajo rugs and tell us where she got them and how they were made. She had a small tom-tom made from a hallowed out cottonwood branch with a skin stretched over it that she would demonstrate and then hand over to one of us. She told about the pueblos and how the people lived.

The best part was when she told about Maria and the making of the black pottery. She would pick up one of the bowls and as he told us how it was made, she would be rubbing her hands over that slick glaze almost as if she were caressing it. Then, she would hand it to one of us to enjoy while she picked up another. I think I learned to love and appreciate that black pottery as much as she did.

Of course, the beautiful vases and bowls that are now considered as Native American art were originally produced as common kitchenware utility items. Though Aunt Rachel love the black pottery, she felt that the items should be seen, used, and enjoyed around the house. She had a beautiful black wedding vase, unsigned, but purported to have been made by Maria, that she used as a door stop. Some bowls were used to store paper clips or candy or whatever else needed to be contained. Chips and scratches appeared on some items, but that was okay because they were doing a job while providing beauty and interest to the household.

My time in the Navy was mostly spent in San Diego, but Pat and the kids and I made regular trips back to Augusta to visit relatives and friends.  When visiting Aunt Rachel, we always talked about her New Mexico trips and the treasures she brought home.

Aunt Rachel passed away in the late 1980’s, but left a lot of vivid memories. A few months after her passing, her daughter, Maxine (Peebler) Fisher, and her husband, Woody, came to California from their home in Denver. It turned out that their motive was more than just a vacation. Maxine surprised me with a box containing all of that beautiful black pottery.

Dave Thomas

6/17/2021

From the Older Guy

Labels are getting to be too important, and they are getting out of whack. The first and foremost label you should apply to yourself is “American.” The next level would be a party affiliation such as Democrat, Republican, or whatever. If you need to go further in defining yourself, you can use liberal, conservative, or whatever feels good.

The problem, right now, is that the sub-classifications are taking priority. When considering a vote, instead of asking if this person or bill is good for America, we are asking if it is good for conservative Republicans or liberal Democrats.

What it boils down to is that we are wasting our time, energy, and resources on items that do not contribute to the common good. Let’s broaden our thinking.

Spell Check

Trump says he wants to make America great again. He probably means “grate,” as in the cover of a sewer pipe. This would be apropos of his plan to take us back to the dark ages by rolling back the rules and regulations that protect our health and well-being. Who needs clean water, clean air, the FDA, the CDC, the FAA, or OSHA?

Dave Thomas

05/20/2021

Don’t Quit Until It’s Over

Does the governor of Texas wear cowboy boots because he never learned to tie his shoes? He has got to be the dumbest bubba alive. He has lifted the mandate to wear masks. You could even be fined for wearing one.

We have killed over 580,000 Americans because we couldn’t stand up and stop this virus in its tracks. We couldn’t cover our pretty faces with a mask, couldn’t stay 6 feet apart, and couldn’t refrain from going to parties.

The governor could have said, “Folks, we are going to continue wearing these masks until the entire country goes 2 weeks without reporting a death from the virus. We are going to finish this!”

Finish the job. Don’t quit until we reach the end.

Dave Thomas

05/20/2021

The Mask

The mask situation should be chosen as the dumbest story of the year. All day long, the TV puts out mask stories. People don’t want to wear masks, and people are thankful that the mask-wearing mandates are being lifted. It’s one story after another.

The mask thing means that our people, the American people, have completely lost focus. The mask is not the enemy;  the enemy is the virus.

This mis-direction or distraction is the kind of thing that allowed the flim-flam man to become president. He spent 99% of his time blowing smoke until half the American people believed it. All day long, we heard about Hillary’s emails, crooked Hillary, fake news, and rigged elections. It was one lie after another. Nothing but smoke. I hope we regain our collective sanity.

Dave Thomas

5/20/2021

 

 

Focus

I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer. We are surrounded by fools. We are not even close to the “greatest generation” as this is a generation of morons. We are at war! 580,000 Americans have died! If some foreign power had done this, we would all be in an uproar. Instead, we are acting like a bunch of school kids. “You can’t tell me to get a shot or wear a mask!” When this started a year ago, if we had all come together with a determination to whip this thing, it would be behind us now, with few lives lost and our resources intact. Instead, a bunch of fools politicized the problem, and we are not over it yet.

 

The polls say that 39% of our fellow Americans will not get the Covid 19 vaccine shot, and many more refuse to wear a mask. There are two important things to know about the vaccine and two important things to know about the mask. If you get the shot, that vaccine causes your body to create little critters called antibodies. It’s like having an army inside to protect you. The other benefit is the protection of others. The antibodies kill any invading virus and keep you from becoming unknowingly infected, and accidentally infecting your grandma.

 

The mask also protects yourself and others. The virus amounts to a bunch of evil little bastards floating around in the air. The only way they can enter your body is through an opening. Your nose and mouth are your greatest liabilities. They will act like vacuum cleaners and suck up all that virus stuff if you don’t keep them covered. If the work “mask” is too scary for you, then let’s use the word “barrier.” Place the barrier over your nose and mouth, fasten the loops around your ears, and you are good to go. You are protected.  The second benefit, of course, is that if you unknowingly become infected, the barrier will keep you from blowing the virus all over grandma.

 

See how simple this is? Stay focused, folks. There is an evil, rotten enemy out there, but it’s not your fellow Americans.

 

If you have placed yourself in harm’s way by refusing the vaccine shot and refusing to wear a mask, you have committed a selfish act. If you have brought children into this world, it is your duty to protect and raise them. To say that if you should get sick and die would be God’s will is some kind of misguided, macho crap. It is your duty to do your best to stay healthy and alive for you kids. Use your head. Quit running with the herd and do something right for yourself and your family.

 

P.S.- That book that asserts that vaccines cause autism has been widely de-bunked. Do your research.

 

Dave Thomas

5/13/2021

Be Careful

I always like to go to the zoo.

It’s fun to see what the animals do.

But when you pass the Simian cage

Look out for any signs of rage

’cause you might get hit by some monkey poo!

 

Dave Thomas

4/22/2021